Criminal justice reform leaves unexamined the way the concepts of ‘crime’ and ‘criminality’ are produced by particular modes of social organization. If we don’t begin by asking why societies deem particular operations of desire deviant in the first place, we will only replicate the demonization of difference that characterizes the status quo.
Murray 2010.Jamie Murray, Liverpool John Moores University. Book Chapter: “Germinal Deviance: Deleuze & Guattari and Criminology.” In New Directions for Criminolgy, pp 59-61.
Deleuze & Guattari’s theretical work is complex and involving, and does not specifically address matters of crime in any depth. However, the question is nonetheless whether there is a possible cross over between the world of criminology and the world of Deleuze & Guattari (a transversal, as Guattari would theorise a cross over concept). In this paper the theory of Deleuze & Guattari will be introduced, largely by way of a number of primer sections, but within the framework of a cross over concept of germinal deviance, which it is hoped allows a productive cross over of the worlds of criminology and Deleuze & Guattari.
Germinal deviance is deviance in itself: it is not deviance in relation to a departing transgression of a norm. It is the swerve or clinamen, a deviance on a a fractal attractor, which is creative in all processes in the cosmos, nature and social organisation. It is a concept that translates and connects up to so many of the key working concepts within the work of Deleuze & Guattari, and it is a concept designed to connect into criminology through the concept of deviance (at the risk of marshalling a monstrous, hybrid, cross over concept of deviance). It is in Deleuze’s Difference & Repetition that a concept of germinal deviance is first most thoroughly worked through in terms of his discussion of difference and repetition. There Deleuze sets out, in explicit contrast to the dominant approach in Western thought, the thought of difference in itself as opposed to difference in identity, with difference in itself as pre-representational and pre-propositional singularity. Difference in itself operates in ontological processes of genesis that through repitions on the this difference in itself give rise to our extensive – i.e. physical, perceptible, - world where difference in identity and representation thought tend to accumulate and obscure the more profound and germinal operations of a) difference in itself, b) repition, and c) the eternal return. Alternatively, in the conceptual language of Deleuze & Gurattari’s Anti-Oedipus germinal deviance is desire, desiring production, the body-without-organs, a schizz, becoming, desiring machines. Or, in the terminology of A Thousand Plateaus, germinal deviance is the plane of immanence where cosmic processes machine self-organising assemblages in cosmic, natural, and social registers, moving through processes of deterritorialisation that prevail over territorialisation and reterritorialisation to work to create new earth.
What could be the consequences of pouring all of this thinking into the concept of deviance for a thinking through of the concerns of criminology? I think the consequences would be that a Deleuze & Guattari approach to criminology would not ask a first question ‘What are the causes of crime?’, and not a first question ‘What are the workings of the criminal justice system?’, and not even a first abstract question of ‘What is crime?’. Rather the starting point would be the further exploration of theprofound and creative operation of germinal deviance in terms of the problematic of social organisation. On the basis that germinal deviance comes first, is primarily productive, and prevails, the problematic of social organization for Deleuze & Guattari presents an inescapable and unresolvable tension between germinal deviance on the one hand and the constitution of sociality on the other *field of immanence of germinal deviance, field of transcendence for normative sociality). For any society to bring itself into being a portion of the germinal flow must be blocked in order to constitute extensive social structures. Societies take a portion of the germinal flow of deviance and code it as prohibited, and it is the prohibited that takes up the inescapable and unresolvable tension in sociality between the forces of immanence and the forces of transcendence. It is from the coding of the prohibited that a society would constitute its concept of crime, and it is this social coding, repression, and the regulation of the prohibited and allowed flow of germinal deviance that becomes a criminal code and criminal system(Deleuze & Guattari, 1984, 139-165)
Thus the starting point,the first question, for Deleuze & Guattari approach would be more abstract than even ‘What is crime?’. Once the context of germinal deviance has been set out, one can then ask the question: ‘What flow of germinal deviance needs to be blocked to constitute that society?’.Different social machines will address the tension between germinal flow and sociality differently, and so for a Deleuze & Guattari criminology the first task is to understand a) the problem field of social organization that different social machines self-organise as answers to, and b) the concept of crime that this social organisation produces. It is in this setting that a next question about the nature and workings of any given criminal justice system could be considered. Here for Deleuze & Guattari, I think the line of question would run, just as it did with Foucault ,in the direction of how particular social machines and accompanying social assemblages(dispositif) operate through (both trascendant and immanent) power to produce crime – or ‘deviance from the norm’ – as the capture and conversion of germinal deviance into normative deviance. Whereas germinal deviance is the operation of creative forces in intensive (i.e. virtual; see later in this chapter) organisation, the development of extensive (i.e. actual, located in time and space; see later) social institutions of power (e.g. systems of criminal law and crime control) lead to the production of deviance as ‘deviance from the norm.’ It is then in the context of this criminological theorization that questions could then be asked as to the causes of crime, but already here realizing that the causes of crime would involve an investigation of dynamic complex of germinal deviance, social machines, desiring production by subjects, the operation of power in social assemblages, and the production of ‘deviance from the norm.’