Galloway om Postskriptum om kontrollsamhällena

Från Krigsmaskinen
Hoppa till: navigering, sök

Från Alexander Galloways Laruelle: Against the digital, sidorna 98-109.

Deleuze was always good at drawing lines in the sand. One of the things that makes Deleuze such a pleasure to read is his clear construal of the theater of enemies. They are excellent enemies. Not just information technologies and the life sciences, but Plato, Hegel, and Descartes—elite enemies, all of whom have committed the most egregious error. Here is one point where Laruelle and Deleuze agree, for each of these philosophical enemies has assented to the classical condition of philosophy. Each admits to an up/down distinction between idea and matter, between essence and instance, between Being and beings.

The “Postscript” does not draw the line so much in terms of metaphysics. There the complaint is articulated in terms of control, communication, and the “harshest confinement” wrought by “the new monster” of information society (178).6 Deleuze credits the term to William Burroughs, but the true source for “control” is no mystery.7 Follow a thread from nineteenth-century thermodynamics and fluid dynamics through statistical mathematics, weather prediction, and nonlinear systems to terminate in 1948 with Norbert Wiener and his book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Then, stemming from Wiener and his brethren in the military-industrial research parks, follow the thread that leads through the rest of the twentieth century by way of systems theory, cellular automata, and chaos theory.8

So why not call Deleuze’s adversary by its true name? Like Laruelle, the real enemy is cybernetics in particular and digitality in general. The Deleuze of 1972 was influenced by cybernetics and all manner of ecological and topological thinking. By 1990 much had changed.


But the crux of the “Postscript” is something else entirely. The crux of this short text has to do with technology. Here is one of those rare moments in which Deleuze comments on actually existing contemporary technology, specifically computers. Control societies, he writes, “function with a third generation of machines, with information technology and computers” (180). Admittedly Deleuze does not delve too deeply into the specificities of computing. But he does say a few brief words about the pairing that most interests us here, the analog and the digital.

Not as broadly integrated into Deleuze’s overall project as, say, the concept of the virtual, the analog and the digital still figure importantly in the essay. Consider first the relevant sentences, which Deleuze uses to launch section 2 of the essay under the heading “Logic” (Logique, a cognate with the French word for software, logiciel):10

The various placements or sites of confinement through which individuals pass are independent variables: we’re supposed to start over each time at zero, and although all these sites have a common language, it’s analogical. The different forms of control, on the other hand, are inseparable variations, forming a system of varying geometry whose language is digital (though not necessarily binary). (178, translation modified)

Only a passing reference, it is true, but still an important return to two terms that had appeared in Deleuze’s philosophy for several years already.

By way of background, consider a text from his aesthetic period, the slim and elegant Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, which first appeared in 1981.11 The book on Francis Bacon is of course not about the digital, nor is it about control society per se. Nevertheless Deleuze finds time in the monograph to pause for a moment and offer a few remarks on the digital and the analog.12

Deleuze’s first instinct is to connect the digital to the universe of computation and code. “Digital synthesizers,” he writes—qualifying them as audio synthesizers, but his observations may be extrapolated to include video synthesizers as well—“. . . are ‘integral’: their operation passes through a codification, through a homogenization and binarization of the data.”13 The “integral,” integration, these are important concepts in Deleuze’s work. Drawing on the use of the term in both mathematics and Freudian psychoanalysis, Deleuze uses integration to mean the actualization of the virtual.

“Four terms are synonymous,” he wrote a decade earlier in Difference and Repetition, “actualise, differenciate, integrate and solve.”14 To integrate a mathematical function means to find the “area under the curve.” For example one might integrate from a to b on the function f(x), meaning that, given the curve plotted of the function f(x), one sums the area under the curve bounded by x = a to x = b. At the same time, the appeal for Deleuze is, I suspect, not so much the mathematical sources of the term integration but the curvilinear sources, shall we say the baroque sources. Curves are complex. Given the complexity of a curve, to “solve” a curve mathematically is something of a miracle. In fact such a feat eluded the ancients; it took the baroque mathematicians G. W. Leibniz and Isaac Newton to do it.

As readers of Deleuze will already know, his ontology is one that posits an infinite plane of heterogenous elements, and on this plane the heterogenous elements come to integrate themselves into more or less homogenous regularities of aggregation, comportment, and association (Figure 5). Hence integration is a synonym for coordination or organization in Deleuze. Integration is the miracle of givenness and the subsequent management of those given beings. Integration produces things like species, compositions, and societies. And, lest we forget, the countervailing force exists as well, homogenous regularities that “deterritorialize” into the virtual, thereby suspending their specificity in favor of adjacent “possibility spaces.”

In the previously cited quotation from Francis Bacon, Deleuze more or less equates five terms: digitization, integration, codification, homogenization, and binarization. Binarization, the grouping of things into twos, is the same as digitization, the separating or making distinct of atoms, is the same as integration, the solving of complex function curves, is the same as codification, the representation within a symbolic system, is the same as homogenization, the making uniform of dissimilar ingredients.

Needless to say the comparison of these five terms raises a number of questions, not all of which are resolvable here. What is important, for Deleuze and for us, is that the digital is a transformative process (which is to say “additive,” or in Kantian vocabulary “synthetic”) in which a universe grounded in the univocity of an identity of the same becomes a universe grounded in discrete distinctions between elements, elements that, although divided, are brought together and held in relation, suspended opposite each other like cliffs over the banks of a great river.

In the very same passage from Francis Bacon, Deleuze also says a few words, precious few, about the analogical. Not so much a question of code, the analogical is a question of diagram or motif. What this means is that the analogical operates in the realms of shape and relation, refrains and styles, not symbol or language in the classical sense. Or if a language, one lacking in the typical elements of alphabet, letter, and word: “Analogical language would be a language of relations, which consists of expressive movements, paralinguistic signs, breaths and screams. . . .”15 The analogical is a “language,” then, but a language of breaths and screams, a non-language of phatic commands that enacts expression by virtue of the frisson struck between gestures of different types.

“Analogical synthesizers are ‘modular,’” Deleuze continued, contrasting them with digital synthesizers. “They establish an immediate connection between heterogenous elements.”16 So although digital synthesizers are integral, slicing up the world into masses of homogenous code atoms, analogical synthesizers work through modularity. What this means is that different elements, remaining relatively whole and heterogenous to one another, are nevertheless able to interoperate immediately. They can touch each other directly, despite their differences. (One can begin to see why the fields of post-structuralism, deconstruction, hermeneutics, and semiotics are so inherently digital; as a rule they prohibit immediacy.)

Whereas the digital requires and enlists an underlying homogeneity, the analogical requires an underlying heterogeneity. In the analog paradigm, the stuff of the world remains unaligned, idiosyncratic, singular. These modules are not modules in the sense of standardized, recombinable parts, like modular housing that relies on prefabricated, repeatable materials. Rather, as modules they remain messy globs of dissimilar things. They only happen to interoperate because they have managed, by virtue of what Deleuze would call “mutual deterritorialization,” to grow the necessary sockets that fit into each other.

Let us return briefly to the mathematical theme. Although Deleuze does not say it explicitly, neither in the “Postscript” nor in the book on Francis Bacon and painting, it is possible to infer that the digital means integration and the analogical means differentiation. Thus, while integration means area under a curve, differentiation or “taking the derivative” means instantaneous slope of the tangent line. Instead of summing the area under the curve defined by f(x), one extrapolates a secondary function derived from the first function, a secondary function consisting of a straight line tangential to any position x = a on the curve. The logic is slightly counterintuitive; do not be fooled by the curves of integration, for it is still a question of solving via a multiplicity of regular slices, and hence it is digital. Likewise, do not be fooled by the semantic similarity between the words differentiation and difference. Differentiation is an analogical event because it brings together the immediacy of two modular and heterogenous spaces: (1) the space of the function curve and (2) the adjacent virtual space of all the tangent lines that can be derived from the curve.

Heterogeneity has long been an attractive theoretical category, for Deleuze but also for twentieth-century continental philosophy and Anglo American cultural theory in general. And as we have just seen, the analog brings together heterogenous elements into identity (an identity that, again, has nothing to do with homogeneity). There is a strong case to be made that Deleuze was and remained a philosopher of the analog paradigm alone, and that the paradigm of the digital was only vaguely sketched out by him during his lifetime, except in its most visible form, metaphysics. The reasons for this are complex, because they concern the history of philosophy and Deleuze’s antagonistic relationship toward it, but as a kind of shorthand we might posit the following: those who work in the tradition of metaphysics will tend to offer a digital philosophy; those who work in the tradition of immanence, as Deleuze did, will tend to offer an analog philosophy. Indeed in many ways Deleuze is the analogical philosopher par excellence. Just as he described painting, “the analogical art par excellence.”17

The aim of this brief excursion into Deleuze’s theory of digitality is to show that the late Deleuze contains an original set of arguments about society and politics at the turn of the new millennium. Deleuze understood the world in 1968—the anabasis of desire, affective revolution, new schizophrenic subjects, molecular organization, dispersive and rhizomatic structures, spatiality and topology instead of history, Leibniz instead of Hegel, Riemann instead of Einstein—but the question remains whether he understood the world at the dawn of the new millennium. (This question has not been adequately explored thus far, although the work of someone like Bernard Stiegler is a notable exception.)


Such an exemplar needs to be reconstructed from fragments. Four texts form the backbone of his analysis: the two pieces from 1990 bundled in Negotiations, “Postscript on Control Societies” and the interview with Negri titled “Control and Becoming”; paragraphs from an odd little piece called “Having an Idea in Cinema”; and three or four pages from Deleuze’s 1986 book Foucault.18

Some of the relevant sections from the “Postscript” have already been outlined, so consider now the ending of the Negri interview, in which Deleuze’s phrasing overlaps greatly with the text of the “Postscript.” The penultimate question and answer are the most relevant:

[Foucault] was actually one of the first to say that we’re moving away from disciplinary societies, we’ve already left them behind. We’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication. . . . Compared with the approaching forms of ceaseless control in open sites, we may come to see the harshest confinement as part of a wonderful happy past. The quest for “universals of communication” ought to make us shudder. . . . Computer piracy and viruses, for example, will replace strikes and what the nineteenth century called “sabotage” (“clogging” the machinery). . . . The key thing may be to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control.19

Add now the passages from “Having an Idea in Cinema,” a text that derives from a lecture titled “Qu’est-ce que l’acte de creation?” given by Deleuze at La Femis (Fondation europeenne des metiers de l’image et du son) on May 17, 1987, but published in 1990 the same year of the “Postscript.” Some of the relevant passages simply duplicate the same phrasing and language about Foucault that made it into the “Postscript,” so they need not be repeated here. But “Having an Idea in Cinema” also includes an important, offhand remark that adds another dimension to Deleuze’s views on control society: “A control is not a discipline. In making freeways, for example, you don’t enclose people but instead multiply the means of control. I am not saying that this is the freeway’s exclusive purpose, but that people can drive infinitely and ‘freely’ without being at all confined yet while still being perfectly controlled. This is our future.”20

In an alternate transcription of the same lecture Deleuze included a few extemporaneous lines, and even mentions Minitel, the French teletext network that predates the Web. “This can be done completely differently too,” he said about the regrouping of people around arrangements of ubiquitous control. “It can be done through Minitel after all. Everything that you want—what’s astounding would be the forms of control.”21

Recall that the French contrôle carries stresses in meaning that are slightly different from the English control. Contrôle means control as in the power to influence people and things, but it also refers to the actual administration of control via particular monitoring apparatuses such as train turnstiles, border crossings, and checkpoints. The notion, in English, of having to pass through “passport control” gets at the deeper meaning of the word. So when Deleuze talks about les societes de contrôle he means those kinds of societies, or alternately those localized places within the social totality, where mobility is fostered inside certain strictures of motion, where openings appear rather than disappear, where subjects (or for that matter objects) are liberated as long as they adhere to a variety of prescribed comportments.

In addition to this text and the two in Negotiations, a fourth text expands Deleuze’s discussions of computer-based control, exploding them into an enigmatic tapestry of prognostications. I refer to those notorious pages 92–93 and 131–32 of Deleuze’s late book on Foucault, in which he meditates on something called “life resistance” and a new mysterious construct called the “superfold,” an alluring designation to which he unfortunately never returns.22

Consider the sections in which Deleuze proposes, but does not fully develop, a vision of life as living resistance:

When power . . . takes life as its aim or object, then resistance to power already puts itself on the side of life, and turns life against power. . . . Life becomes resistance to power when power takes life as its object. . . . When power becomes bio-power resistance becomes the power of life, a vital-power that cannot be confined within species, environment or the paths of a particular diagram. . . . Is not life this capacity to resist force?23

Then later, in the final paragraphs of the book’s appendix, Deleuze broaches the question of genetics and the so called third-generation machines (that is, computers and bioinformatics) that would figure prominently in the “Postscript” four years later. He wonders aloud about the “death of man,” as it was described in Foucault and Nietzsche: “The question that continually returns is therefore the following: if the forces within man compose a form only by entering into a relation with forms from the outside, with what new forms do they now risk entering into a relation, and what new form will emerge that is neither God nor Man? This is the correct place for the problem which Nietzsche called ‘the superman.’”24 In other words, what is the new configuration of man after the death of man (or, if you like, the subject after the death of the subject), and what had to happen in order to create such a new condition of life? Deleuze’s answer:

Biology had to take a leap into molecular biology, or dispersed life regroup in the genetic code. Dispersed work had to regroup in third-generation machines, cybernetics and information technology. What would be the forces in play, with which the forces within man would then enter into a relation? It would no longer involve raising to infinity or finitude but an unlimited finity, thereby evoking every situation of force in which a finite number of components yields a practically unlimited diversity of combinations. It would be neither the fold or the unfold that would constitute the active mechanism, but something like the Superfold, as borne out by the foldings proper to the chains of the genetic code, and the potential of silicon in third-generation machines. . . . The forces within man enter into a relation with forces from the outside, those of silicon which supersedes carbon, or genetic components which supersede the organism. . . . In each case we must study the operations of the superfold, of which the “double helix” is the best-known example.25

Scattered across the “Postscript” and these other citations is a new image of society and the self that can not simply be reduced to Deleuze’s previous tropes like the body without organs, the rhizome, or even the virtual. Such a new image involves, nay requires, the recognition of the computer as its central mitigating factor. Just as the fold was Deleuze’s diagram for the modern subject of the baroque period, the superfold is the new “active mechanism” for life within computerized control society. The dividual and the superfold, in other words, have a special relationship with each other.

“A fold is always folded within a fold, like a cavern in a cavern,” wrote Deleuze of the ontology depicted in Leibniz, in an effort to demonstrate how Leibniz’s was not an atomism. “The unit of matter, the smallest element of the labyrinth, is the fold, not the point which is never a part, but a simple extremity of the line.”26 Although Deleuze does not specify things further, one can extrapolate that the superfold, being “proper to the chains of the genetic code” and the progeny of an “unlimited diversity of combinations,” would follow a diagrammatic logic of dispersive and distributive relations within networks, of iterative regress via computational recursion.

Instead of the human coming into a relationship with itself, as Deleuze characterized the baroque, the human comes into a relation with “forces from the outside” such as the silicon of the computer chip or exogenous factors from genetic engineering. The dividual therefore does not so much carry pleats in its soul, as Deleuze said of the baroque subject, but a tessellated, recombinant soul—if soul is still the proper word—forming and reforming across the metastable skein of the bioinformatic ecosystem.

Yet Deleuze’s argument is not an exotic one. In France, figures like Andre Leroi-Gourhan and Bertrand Gille had already demonstrated how human beings coevolve with their exogenous technologies and techniques. And in North America figures like Lewis Mumford and Marshall McLuhan had made similar claims. (Indeed the final paragraph of Deleuze’s Foucault reads very much like Donna Haraway’s now famous “Cyborg Manifesto,” which while predating the book by one year was likely unknown to Deleuze at the time.) Instead what might be exotic about Deleuze’s argument, or at least what makes it novel, is his mobilization of the concept in terms of a diagram. He describes it as a “super” fold, a double helix, a fractal topography, not simply a folded one.27

But the ultimate lesson to be learned from the “Postscript” is not so much a lesson about the subject or society. The ultimate lesson is one about periodization. For what Deleuze wishes to do in the essay, following Lyotard, Foucault, and all the rest, is to assert the historical break. He wants to show how everything has changed, indeed that the world of 1990 has changed so dramatically from the 1972 world as to be practically indistinguishable. “The key thing,” he says, “is that we’re at the beginning of something new” (182).

It is not particularly important whether one agrees or disagrees with the Deleuzian-Foucauldian tripartite periodization from sovereign society through disciplinary society and then to control society. The periodization itself is the important thing. And how deliciously ironic that in recent years periodization seems to be appearing with increased frequency, an increased periodicity of periodization. Indeed all this talk of the superfold is, by that very same measure, a kind of superperiodization without end. Each new fold is a new historical break. First the fold, then the double fold, the triple, on up to the multiplicative folds of the superfold.

Thus the task of historical thinking itself is implicated in Deleuze’s “Postscript” and as such has metastasized and reduplicated into a super state of recursive channels. The ultimate significance of control society is not so much the continuous encroachment of the border checkpoint or the passport control, not so much data mining or facial recognition algorithms, but that it has eviscerated history, not by banning dissent but by accelerating the opportunities and channels for critical thought to infinity and therefore making it impossible to think historically in the first place. Thus the central challenge within control society will be not simply to resist the various new nefarious control apparatuses, but to rescue history from its own consummation.

6. Parenthetical citations refer to Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Control Societies,” in Negotiations, 1972–1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995). Those seeking the French should consult Gilles Deleuze, Pourparlers, 1972–1990 (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1990). Note that the original French essay first appeared a couple months prior in L’Autre Journal (May 1990) and bore a slightly shorter title, “Les sociétés de contrôle.” The essay was thus never intended as a “postscript” to anything in particular, and only gained the appellation as a result of being bundled at the tail end of Pourparlers.

7. Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault participated in the famous “Schizo Culture” conference held at Columbia University in 1975. Burroughs gave a talk at the conference titled “The Impasses of Control.”

8. Laruelle heaps scorn on this kind of techno-science, or what he terms “world-research,” an umbrella for all manner of think tanks, skunk works, innovation labs, R&D departments, research parks, government labs, nonprofit policy institutes, and university science initiatives. “Regarding the population of researchers, World-Research is a way of controlling them as ‘subjects’ adjunct to research initiatives and subjected to a specifically liberal and capitalist dominion over science” (Laruelle, Introduction aux sciences génériques, 31).

10. In Anti-Badiou: Sur l’introduction du maoïsme dans la philosophie and other recent work, Laruelle has turned to quantum mechanics, particularly the principles of superposition and non-commutativity. English translator Robin Mackay has rendered Laruelle’s quantiel as “quantware,” mimicking the relationship between logiciel and software. See François Laruelle, Anti-Badiou: On the Introduction of Maoism into Philosophy, trans. Robin Mackay (London: Continuum, 2012).

11. Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation (Paris: Éditions de la Différence, 1981). The French edition was expanded and reissued in 1984, then reprinted in Alain Badiou and Barbara Cassin’s book series at Éditions du Seuil in 2002. The original French edition is in two volumes: volume 1 contains Deleuze’s text, while volume 2 contains several reproductions from Bacon’s paintings. The current French edition consolidates the volumes and contains only seven color plates. The English edition, which unfortunately features no imagery at all, was published in 2004 as Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel Smith (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004).

12. Published in the same year as Deleuze’s Francis Bacon, Laruelle’s Le principe de minorité also has something to say about digitality. Laruelle mentions three different kinds of multiplicities, (1) “discrete or arithmetic” multiplicities, (2) continuous multiplicities, which he associates with Difference, and (3) what he calls “dispersive multiplicities,” which he also labels “Unary Multiplicities or Minorities,” claiming that they are “the absolute concept or the essence of multiplicities” (p. 6). The first two are clearly code words for digital and analog: the realm of discrete arithmetic is the realm of the digital, while the realm of the continuous is the realm of the analog. What is so provocative, then, is the third term—that there should be a third term. The provocation will eventually lead Laruelle away from digitality, precisely because it will lead him away from philosophy.

13. Deleuze, Francis Bacon, 95.

14. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 211.

15. Deleuze, Francis Bacon, 93.

16. Ibid., 95.

17. Ibid.

18. A few other relevant references exist such as Deleuze and Guattari’s mention of “three ages” in their introduction to What Is Philosophy?: “The three ages of the concept are the encyclopedia, pedagogy, and commercial professional training” (12). See also Félix Guattari, “Modèle de contrainte ou modélisation créative,” Terminal 53 (April–May 1991): 43.

19. Deleuze, Negotiations, 174, 175.

20. Gilles Deleuze, “Having an Idea in Cinema,” in Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy and Culture, ed. Eleanor Kaufman and Kevin Jon Heller (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 18, translation modified. This text also appears in a different form under the title “What Is the Creative Act?” in Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995, trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina (New York: Semiotext(e), 2006), 312–24.

21. Gilles Deleuze “Qu’est-ce que l’acte de création?” The reference to Minitel does not appear in the version of the essay collected in Gilles Deleuze, Deux régimes de fous: Textes et entretiens 1975–1995 (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 2003), and hence neither in the English translation contained in Two Regimes of Madness.

22. As Frédéric Astier notes in his doctoral thesis, Deleuze mentioned the superfold in his seminars on Foucault held on March 18 and 25, 1986. See Frédéric Astier, “La philosophie orale de Gilles Deleuze et son rôle dans l’élaboration de son oeuvre écrite” (PhD thesis, Université Paris 8, Vincennes-Saint-Denis, France, December 3, 2007), 290–91. I thank Adeline Gasnier for bringing this to my attention. Toward the ending of the March 25 session Deleuze reiterates some of the ideas that would reappear in book form, specifying that the superfold is the fold sur le dehors (over the outside; a fold that incorporates the outside), an allusion to Foucault’s concept of the “thought of the outside.” See Gilles Deleuze, Cours du 25 mars 1986. Sur Foucault. Le pouvoir: année universitaire 1985–1986. 9., track 4; 41 min., 13 sec.; audio recording; from Bibliothèque nationale de France, Deleuze’s March 18, 1986, seminar is even more explicit: the historical shift from God to man to superman corresponds directly to the processes of unfolding (God), folding (man), and superfolding (superman). See Gilles Deleuze, Cours du 18 mars 1986. Sur Foucault. Le pouvoir: année universitaire 1985–1986. 8., track 1; 11 min., 15 sec.; audio recording; from Bibliothèque nationale de France,

23. Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Seán Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 92, 93.

24. Ibid., 130.

25. Ibid., 131–32. Just as Nietzsche’s Übermensch is rendered alternately in English as “overman” or “superman,” one might translate Deleuze’s surpli as “overfold” as well as “superfold.”

26. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 6.

27. Laruelle has integrated fractals and what he calls “generalized fractality” into his work to great effect. See in particular his Théorie des identités: Fractalité généralisée et philosophie artificielle (Paris: PUF, 1992), and The Concept of Non-photography.