III. Capitalism, the War Machine, and the Body Without Organs

[21] To answer the previous questions, it is necessary to recall Deleuze and Guattari’s insistence that all production stems from the substantive, and not simply metaphorical, action of machinic processes. So far we have seen that this process is fundamental to all production: flows of consumption and production, subjectivities defined by their shifting placement within a complex assemblage of flows, objects that carry within them the constraints of their historical development. We cannot naively assume that only the heterogeneous assemblage of a rhizome is constituted by the contingency of machinic flows, and that tree-root systems like the State apparatus, or most of all the slippery artifice of capital, are devoid of machinic influences, and by extension socio-historical contingencies. Yet, neither can it be concluded that these processes are all the same. We can no more clearly say that the rhizomatic act involves an effacement of the totality of its contingent imperatives (always the transgression of limits), whereas the State apparatus constantly expands the totality of its contingencies (always postponing its limit). Refusing to think any form of reality outside the process of machinic production—be that reality a desiring-machine, a schizophrenic machine, a subject-machine, a mouth-machine, etc.—Deleuze and Guattari complicate this seemingly liberal and disinterested flow of productive forces with the qualification that all acts of production necessarily come at the cost of being organized in a particular fashion: “Desiring-machines make us an organism; but at the very heart of this production, within the very production of this production, the body suffers from being organized in this way, from not having some other sort of organization, or no organization at all” (AO, 8). Within the structure of production we find an unavoidable suffering, a suffering ontologically essential to its movement. It seems prudent not to annex this suffering solely to the site of the State apparatus simply because the constraints on State disciplined bodies make themselves more apparent. Even nomadism itself must involve at its very foundations the suffering of becoming-organized—the struggle to deterritorialize, to consistently and attentively ward off the possibility that a deterritorialized flow may at any time gain supremacy over flows to come and become a “mode.” But the ground of production cannot be attributed to some metaphysical concept standing hierarchically superior to its movement, nor can it be uncovered simply by drawing up a list of traits for these movements as if they could stand as facts. The body, or more specifically anything being produced, craves to escape from the very process of production-organization. This dynamic—of the flow of production and the inevitable consequence of reduction in the very act of production—points to an essential violence at work along the entire continuum of machinic processes.

[22] This line of argument is not governed by any form of ideology in the traditional sense of the word (as conceiving of socio-political factors that totally constitute reality). It involves grappling with one of the most significant questions that haunt Deleuze and Guattari throughout their work: “Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” It would seem that the answer to this question lies at the heart of production. The salvation of becoming, or flowing into a new form or line of organization that imposes new contingent directives, brings about one’s servitude to that form: the demand for salvation is at one and the same time a demand for servitude. But, at one and the same time, no movement is purely tied to a single line of organization. What unfolds in Deleuze and Guattari’s foundational critique of the very nature of production itself is the non-positive ground that makes all production possible, be it nomadic or capitalist. This ground they name the “Body without Organs” (“BwO”) (ATP 150).

[23] The “Body without Organs” and “desiring-production” (AO 139) lie at the foundation of movement, of materiality-in-motion. We must remember that Deleuze and Guattari think desire from the production of substantives—real affects. They are thus opposed to the Lacanian notion of lack. This is an subtle but important difference. Lacan’s non-traditional development of the notion of lack in relation to desire equally entails a thinking of production outside the logic of essentialism and positivism. “Desire” stands in direct opposition to “pleasure.” Pleasure is based on a law of homeostasis, of attaining satisfaction through the acquisition of some object that fulfills some subjective need. Desire, on the other hand, is insatiable, and thus ex-centric of any predetermined subjective or homeostatic perimeter.7 For Lacan, the “object” of desire, the force that pulls the subject beyond the parameters of its self-identification, is lack. To be somewhat anachronistic, Lacan’s subject is a “nomadic” subject, whose ex-centric movement of desire that makes of the subject a nomad is founded upon this essential lack. The movement of Deleuze and Guattari’s desire-production—of the machinic processes of construction—corresponds almost point for point with Lacan’s and Levinas’ characterization of desire—except for the following distinction.

[24] Deleuze and Guattari find much of value in Lacan, especially the Lacanian Real, but discard notions of lack and of an essential nothingness: “The body without organs is not the proof of an original nothingness” (AO, 8). Their dismissal of any notion of lack is crucial, and stems from their critique of capital, which they see as being able to expand its limits through the triggering of lack. State capital, as well as the nomadic war machine, involves the force of desire, but State capital puts desire to work differently from nomadic movements. Deleuze and Guattari situate their disavow of lack in the opening chapter of Anti-Oedipus:

We know very well where lack—and its subjective correlative—come from. Lack (manque) is created, planned, and organized in and through social production. It is counterproduced as a result of the pressure of antiproduction; the latter falls back on (se rabat sur) the forces of production and appropriates them. It is never primary; production is never organized on the basis of a pre-existing need or lack. It is lack that infiltrates itself, creates empty spaces of vacuoles, and propagates itself in accordance with the organization of an already existing organization of production. The deliberate creation of lack as a function of market economy is the art of a dominant class. This involves deliberately organizing wants and needs (manque) amid an abundance of production; making all of desire teeter and fall victim to the great fear of not having one’s needs satisfied; and making the object dependent upon a real production that is supposedly exterior to desire (the demands of rationality), while at the same time the production of desire is categorized as fantasy and nothing but fantasy. (AO, 28)

In this rich passage, we begin to uncover the logic that lies at the essence of the movement of capital. Capital founds itself upon a lack created as a result of the “pressures of antiproduction.” The pressures of antiproduction name the antagonism of “suffering from being organized”—the desire not to be produced. This desire—the desire to undermine the forces of production—names a repression hidden deep within the State apparatus and its expanding realm of capital. As an interiorizing apparatus, these pressures of antiproduction are what the apparatus cannot incorporate. What capital incorporates, what it needs, is lack, the creation of “empty spaces” for it to fill. In this sense, the movement of capital is based upon the postponing of its limit by creating a lack still needing to be filled. Its totality is surrounded by this lack.

[25] A recent essay by Frederic Jameson can help to flesh out the possibilities opened by the Body without Organs, and the efficacy of its alternative to a postmodern notion of lack. Jameson’s article “Culture and Finance Capital,” examines Giovanni Arrighi’s recent work The Long Twentieth Century alongside Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of capital expansion. Arrighi explores the paradox of how—in our current late capitalist, or post-Fordist era—the market is able to make a profit without producing anything tangible. In the wake of massive downsizing, Regan-Kemp and Thatcher incentives to increase production through deregulation and privatization, the market no longer finds as much value in tangible sources of production stemming from factories, “skilled” laborers, and heavy industry in general. This, coupled with the habitual manner of identifying political freedom in the “new world order” with market freedom, has resulted in the highly abstract production mode of “finance capital”: the stock market arena of gaining profit from financial transactions themselves. Generally referred to as “speculation,” the production enacted on the abstract register of finance capital signals a shift away from investments in the concrete territories of geographically locatable industries of “cotton money, wheat money, textile money, railroad money, and the like.”8 In this way, capital, says Jameson, “becomes free floating” and “separated from the concrete context of its productive geography” (“CFC” 251). This is the same mode of deterritorialization we’ve seen before with the imposition of State or royal science, but in a more global, abstract form. Instead of the skills of stone cutters being dequalified, geographically specific factories and their workers are being deterritorialized and dequalified.

[26] Jameson situates this shift into an abstraction—governed by the absence of contextual ties to a “physical reality” (what Deleuze and Guattari would see as a shift from a “primitive” territorial assemblage to an “axiomatic”)—alongside the cultural shift from modernism to postmodernism: “just as in the cultural sphere, forms of abstraction that in the modern period seemed ugly, dissonant, scandalous, indecent, or repulsive have also entered the mainstream of cultural consumption (in the largest sense, from advertising to commodity styling, from visual decoration to artistic production) and no longer shock anyone” (“CFC” 256-57). As Deleuze and Guattari claim in Anti-Oedipus, capitalism works in part by dismantling the great social machines that come before it. Pre-capitalist social machines enforced heavy codes that gave them a distinct territoriality. Capitalism comes on the scene by deterritorializing these multiple territorial machines, “substituting for intrinsic codes an axiomatic of abstract quantities in the form of money” (AO 139). The deterritorializing, or territorialess axiomatic of finance capital turns out to be, for Jameson, another example of postmodernism’s tendency to disable subjects by wrenching them out of a concrete context and fragmenting their bodies upon the free-floating surface of commercialized “pastiche.”9 In this sense, both capitalism and postmodernism tend to be more general than local because they both deterritorialize local territories. They both tend to function as universals. According to Jameson, this means that we have lost the local contexts that once defined modernism: “the languages of postmodernity are universal, in the sense in which they are media languages. They are thus very different from the solitary obsessions and private thematic hobbies of the great moderns, which achieved their universalization, indeed their very socialization, only through a process of collective commentary and canonization” (“CFC” 257).

[27] There is much one can say about this statement, but I want to focus for the moment on how (and why) Jameson mentions as important, but moves quickly past, this erasure of a local territoriality. His focus in this essay is to urge theorists to take more account of the new abstract, axiomatic logic of capital brought to light by Deleuze and Guattari: “What is wanted is an account of abstraction in which the new deterritorialized postmodern contents are to any older modernist autonomization as global financial speculation is to an older kind of banking and credit” (“CFC” 260). The theorist’s role is to maintain an account of abstraction. Jameson concentrates on what happens to the lack that was opened in the modernist era: “it can be said that the scandal of the death of God and the end of religion and metaphysics placed the moderns in a situation of anxiety and crisis, which now seems to have been fully absorbed by a more fully humanized and socialized, “culturalized” society. Its voids have been saturated and neutralized, not by new values, but by the visual culture of consumerism as such” (“CFC” 257).

[28] I do not want to downplay in any way Jameson’s significant insight that postmodernism has come to commodify the lack that initially opened during the age of high modernism, a lack that once formerly contributed to postmodern’s own praxis of liberating constituents from the hegemony of essentialism. And it is for this very reason, as we have seen, that Deleuze and Guattari think in the place of lack the material surface of the Body without Organs as a foundational, but socio-symbolically empty, totality. Jameson’s insight, via Deleuze and Guattari, offers substantial possibilities for cultural and literary studies. Extending this awareness to an analysis of canonical logic itself would take us beyond the purview of this chapter, but we can being to glimpse at least one major implication here: that in the consumer culture of late capital, the disciplines no longer need to canonize in order to establish the dominance of a master narrative. Unlike modernism, which needed to work at turning a local creation into a canonical production by creating communities of like-minded peers, the consumer culture of postmodernism enables works to be produced immediately as universals. No longer marked by “skills in variation” and “itinerant territoriality,” works are deterritorialized the moment they enter the register of perceptible phenomena. In other words, it’s not so much the canon we should be destructuring at this moment (though this is not to lessen in any way its continuing hegemony in the forms of conservatives such as Allan Bloom, Dinesh D’Souza, and E.D. Hirsch, Jr.); it is, rather, the axiomatic of capital that has learned to feed upon and universalize a lack that formerly called into question the justifications for the very concept of universalization. In his concentration on the need to critique abstraction, what Jameson tacitly urges us to reconsider is how a capitalist axiomatic has covered over our ability to keep active an engagement with local interests and their “contingency” to a more “fundamental meaninglessness” (“CFC” 264). It is this locality, contingent upon a fundamental meaninglessness—what I have been calling “territorial itinerancy”—that I would want to focalize as the next step in an “account of abstraction,” a step that Jameson only gestures towards in his article.