Friday, August 18, 2017

Beyond Enslavement and Subjection: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari

Paper Presented at the above conference. 
Since publication plans have fallen through 
I am posting a draft of it here

One of the minor theoretical interventions of A Thousand Plateaus, minor because it seems to retrace and recapitulate arguments made by others, is the distinction between social subjection and machinic enslavement. As Deleuze and Guattari write,

There is enslavement when human beings themselves are constituent pieces of a machine that they compose among themselves and with other things (animal, tools), under the control and direction of a higher unity. But there is subjection when the higher unity constitutes the human being as a subject linked to a new exterior object, which can be an animal, a tool, or even a machine. [1]

This distinction is made in the plateau titled “Apparatus of Capture”, and it is subordinated to the larger focus of articulating the relation between the state and market. It makes up no more than two pages, and in many senses seems to borrow from its general theoretical milieu of the sixties and seventies. Machinic enslavement would seem to carry with it the entire history of alienation of dehumanization that makes the individual part of the machine. Social subjection bares traces of Althusser’s famous declaration that “ideology interpellates individuals as subjects,” or of the general “critique of the subject” developed through Althusser and Foucault. Its only innovation, the only point that goes beyond a general citation of concepts that are the general background of Deleuze and Guattari’s particular conceptual innovations, is in presenting these concepts less as theoretical alternatives, pitting humanism against post-humanism, than as different aspects of the same machine, the same apparatus of capture. That is perhaps not the only philosophical innovation and transformation, the distinction between enslavement and subjection carries with it a larger series of references, not just the immediate precursors of Althusser and Foucault but more distant antecedents of Marx and Gilbert Simondon, but its implications exceed the distinction between part and whole to encompass not only the already mentioned division between the state and market, but also the intersection between technology and politics. Far from being a simple terminological distinction the division between enslavement and subjection opens up a way to think the history of different formations of subjectivity, and the tensions internal to them in their historicity.

The Prehistory of Enslavement and Subjection: Simondon and Marx

The distinction between enslavement and subject is as much a distinction of technology as politics, mapped onto the distinction between tool and machine. As much as the explicit point of reference is Lewis Mumford’s designation of the ancient despotic megamachine, the intersection of technology and individuation encompasses a much larger field of problems, drawing together Gilbert Simondon and Karl Marx. Simondon’s earliest work, On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects examines the relationship between individuation and technology. Technology stands as both the culmination and the disintegration of the individual. The first is the schema of an individual operating on nature, reshaping nature with a tool. The tool is recognized as subordinate to the individual. The second is that of the machine, which is part of a technological system, a system that displaces the mastery of the individual, incorporating individuals and their tools as part of its general functioning.[2] Simondon goes so far as to argue that as long as technological development was primarily the development of new tools and new devices for the individual the idea of progress was unproblematic; it is only with the invention of the machine, as the perfection of the system displaces the individual’s mastery, that progress becomes a question.[3] The tool reaffirms the individual’s autonomy, the machine questions it, thus technology only becomes a question with the machine. 

In Capital Marx considers what he calls the labor process independently “of any specific social formation.”[4] Marx describes this process as a general schema in which the worker transforms nature, and him or herself, through the mediation of a tool or instrument. This tool or instrument is introduced first through a subordination to nature and its laws, utilizing chemical or physical processes, but through the cunning of reason it becomes a promethean instrument of transformation. It is in this context that Marx cites Hegel’s description of the cunning of reason at work in the labor process.[5] Labor is the subordination of human activity to natural laws in order to master them, the negation of the negation. As Marx writes, ‘Thus nature becomes one of the organs of his activity, which he annexes to his own bodily organs, adding stature to himself in spite of the Bible.’[6] Despite Marx’s claim that the basic schema of all production is made up of activity, object, and tool, the chapter on “Machinery and Large Scale Industry” which examines the automation system in the factory reduces the worker to a “conscious organ of the machine.” The tool is identified with a Promethean self-transformation, one that transforms humanity from god’s image to a maker of things and a remaker of her own self image, while the machine is identified with fragmentation and disruption of the unity of the body. This process of fragmentation culminates in Marx’s famous passages known as “The Fragment on Machines” in which the machine because the virtuouso, the skilled worker, and the worker has been reduced to nothing other than a watchmen over the labor process, a conscious organ that merely oversees the vast network of machines.[7]

Simondon’s general history of technology is similar to Marx’s understanding of the development of technology; it begins with the figure of the tool as instrument wielded by an individual and ends with machines, which reduce man and ‘his tools’ to a part of the machine, a conscious organ of a greater machinery. Despite this proximity of his understanding of technology to Marx, Simondon argues that alienation needs to be expanded beyond a purely economic meaning.[8] For Simondon alienation is not limited to the question of ownership of the means of production, but includes the entire psychological and social relationship with activity.[9] This psychological and social alienation stems from a division that is at the heart of technology, a division between the part, the immediate task, and the ensemble, the totality. The alienation thus follows a division between mental and manual labor, between those who grasp the specific elements of the process, and those who grasp the overall ensemble of technology. It is an alienation of both capitalist, or manager, as personification of the process, and of the worker, as personification of the part, the specific use of this or that part of process.[10] For Simondon alienation follows the basic trajectory of western society according to which a basic unity of form and matter, sense and utility, a unity which can be found in the primitive relation with magic, is increasingly differentiated into different spheres, such as technology and religion, following a logic of specialization. The machine, with its division between conception and execution, is situated at the end point of this process. As the machine separates part from whole, form from matter, and conception from execution, it leaves both sides of the relation partial and incomplete.[11] This fundamental alienation is the alienation of grasping only one part of this intersection, seeing the part without grasping the whole, or understanding the totality without grasping the parts. The worker and the technician are both alienated from the totality of the labor process.[12] As Simondon writes, ‘The figure of the unhappy inventor came about at the same time as that of the dehumanized worker; it is its counter-type and it arises from the same cause.’[13]

Simondon’s understanding of the alienation of the worker in contemporary production is extended and developed by Bernard Stiegler. Or, more to the point, Stiegler frames the intersection of Marx and Simondon through the concept of “proletarianization.” As with Simondon, proletarianization must be understood broadly, or at least beyond a simply economic sense: it is not the loss of the means of production that defineds proletarianization, but the loss of the knowledge and skill of worker. For Stiegler the proletarianization of the worker, the transformation of the worker into labor power, a quantifiable force, is the precursor of the proletarianization of the consumer, the loss of the knowledge to live (savoir vivre) that transforms the individual into buying power.[14] In each case the recording and automation of knowledge and gestures leads to a loss of individuation. There is no real difference between a mechanized drill press, a microwavable meal, and an app that uses global position systems: Or, if there is any difference it can only be understood as increasing loss of individuation through an expansion of proletarianization, as the corporeal and affective aspects of individuation are increasingly mechanized.[15] Skills, knowledge, and eventually even taste become part of the machine. Just as Simondon extended alienation from the ownership and control of the labor process to its conception and execution, encompassing more of subjectivity, Stiegler extends proletarianization to cover the general loss of knowledge and skill in an automated consumer society. 

If Simondon gives us the general figure of enslavement, of the individual reduced to part of a machine, it is not to naturalize the other extreme, the worker as craftsman. The skilled worker is not the generic and natural norm from which the machine stands as deviation. It also must be grasped as a particular mode of individuation, a particular way of incorporating skills, habits, and knowledge from its general milieu to wield a tool. To put it in terms that become much more important in Simondon’s latter work, and also function as a point of intersection between Simondon and Marx, the worker, even one with the most rudimentary skills must be understood as transindividual, as the intersection of collective skills and knowledge and their specific instantiation. [16] While Simondon provides the conditions to theorize the generation of the individual, the way in which the individual/tool relation must be understood as a particular assemblage, a particular relation of subjectivity and technology, it is Marx who makes the connection of individuation and subjection. For Marx, the “free worker,” the individual who sells his or her labor power must be historicized, framed in contrast to labor relations that proceed it. Most importantly, selling of labor power must be contrasted with slavery, with the extraction of labor power by compulsion. The slave is driven by fear, by the threat of punishment, while the worker is driven by the fear of being replaced. As Marx writes, 

In contrast to the slave, this labor becomes more productive because more intensive, since the slave works only under the spur of external fear but not for his existence which is guaranteed even if it does not belong to him. The free worker, however, is impelled by his wants. The consciousness (or better: the idea) of free self-determination, of liberty, makes a much better worker of one than of the other, as does the related feeling (sense) of responsibility; since he, like any seller of wares, is responsible for the goods he delivers and for the quality which he must provide, he must strive to ensure that he is not driven from the field by other sellers of same time as himself.[17]

Marx’s comments, part of the posthumously published, sixth chapter of Capital, “Results of the Immediate Process of Production” have a prophetic dimension, seeming to prefigure later discussions of subjectivity and subjection. One could read any entire history of writings on the subject and subjection, from Althusser’s essay on ideology through Foucault’s theorization of the subject up to Frédéric Lordon’s concept of the production of the self motivation of the worker. All these texts and theories echo the theme found here in Marx, internal compulsion is more effective than external force. Subjection is the internalization of the very forces of compulsion, the point where the division between constraint and freedom breaks down. 

Whereas Simondon expands alienation to become not just the alienation of labor, of the worker, from the process of production to alienation of all in the face of technology, Marx offers a contradiction between the technological and ideological trajectory of labor under capital. The technological process is one that moves from the worker as tool user, as master of nature, to the conscious organ of the machine. It is one of machinic enslavement. In contrast to this the social or legal transformation that initiates capitalism is one in which the worker ceases to be a part of the production process, part of the means of production, as in slavery, and becomes the productive subject, the driving force. Ideologically the direction of history is social subjection. The legal autonomy and isolation that Marx placed at the center of the labor process have only been extended and deepened by the contemporary forces of individualization. One is responsible for not only the entirety of the labor process, but for one’s own history in it. The modern resume presents a worker whose entire history, including getting downsized, as a series of choices and decisions.[18] One could hope for a contradiction here, a variant of what Marx called “the moving contradiction,” not the contradiction between labor as determinant of value (and participation in wages) and its role as productive force, but a contradiction on the side of subjectivity, the subjective component of labor is reduced to a minimum, a conscious organ, while the subjective dimension of responsibility is increased. Marx, however, gives hints to suggest that this is not a contradiction at all, at least one with any explosive force. 

As the worker becomes less and less the central and organizing figure of the production process, becoming a conscious organ to a process that encompasses science, technology, and general social knowledge, he or she is less able to see her contribution to production. It appears that it is capital itself that is productive. As Marx writes, 

This entire development of the productive forces of socialized labor (in contrast to the more or less isolated labor of individuals), and together with it the uses of science (the general product of social development), in the immediate process of production, takes the form [stellt sich dar] of the productive power of capital. It does not appear as the productive power of labor, or even of that part of it that is identical with capital. And least of all does it appear as the productive power either of the individual workers or of the workers joined together in the process of production.[19]

The dots are not entirely connected here, and one could argue that much of the recent writing on subjection has been an attempt to connect them in myriad ways, but Marx would seem to suggest that machinic enslavement, the reduction of the worker to a part in a machine, increases subjection. It does so in at least two ways, first, it disconnects production from the worker’s capacity and powers, making it appear as a miraculous attribute of capital itself. To connect the dots further, could be said to increase the worker’s subjection before capital itself: the worker appears to be dependent upon capital for a job, for a livelihood, rather than capital being dependent on the worker for its production. The dots, once connected, draw a picture of a worker who increasingly sees him or herself as dependent upon capital, and responsible for his or her fate, and of a capitalist that is not identified as not only the creator of wealth but also of jobs, or, in the parlance of our times, a “job creator.” 

Returns of Enslavement 

In contrast to Simondon’s history of increased alienation; Stiegler’s proletarizanization, in which the skilled worker with the tool is replaced by the machine; or even Marx’s contradictory history of enslavement and subjection, as mechanical fragmentation is coupled with economic isolation; Deleuze and Guattari offer a history that is rectilinear, moving forward only to return to a slightly altered beginning. Machinic subjection is both the beginning and endpoint, but it is not the same machinic subjection. As Deleuze and Guattari write, “It could be said that a small amount of subjectivation took us away from machinic enslavement, but a large amount brings us back to it.”[20] Deleuze and Guattari’s claim has to situated against both their understanding of history and temporality in capital, and the general intertwining of the technological and political dimensions of subjection. The question of the passage from enslavement to subjection and back is both a question of the overall historical trajectory of capital and of the point where technology intersects with politics. 

The question of temporality and history, like many questions and concepts, shifts somewhat without completely changing from the first to second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Despite the paradoxical seemingly claim that there can only be a universal history of contingency, of encounters and transformations, Deleuze and Guattari present an underlying historical trajectory that passes from a kind of enslavement, to subjection, and back again. Enslavement begins with the ancient despot, and the ancient state, which is a kind of megamachine. Bodies are reduced to parts of machines by being coded, subject to connections and control. As Deleuze and Guattari write, 

The social machine is literally a machine, irrespective of any metaphor, inasmuch as it exhibits an immobile motor and undertakes a variety of interventions: flows are set apart, elements are detached from a chain, and portions of the tasks to be performed are distributed. Coding the flows implies all of these operations.[21]

Coding, as Deleuze and Guattari present, bares on the constituent parts of subjectivity, their preindividual dimensions, a code restricts not the actions of an individual qua individual, but dictates the different parts of bodies, flows and desire, that can and cannot be conjoined. It is machinic avant la lettre in that it subordinates these parts and their flows back to the social machine. The machine, the code and overcode, defines primitive machines and despotism, but is transformed by capitalism. What defines capital for Deleuze and Guattari is not the “free worker,” liberated from slavery, serfdom, and dependence free to sell his or her labor, but “decoding,” a divestment in the parts of bodies and their places in the social machine—the privatization of desire. This decoding follows a kind of proletarianization, in Stiegler’s sense, as the memory and knowledge that is put to work is that of machines, not bodies. 

Capitalism’s originality resides rather in the fact that the social machine has for its parts technical machines as constant capital attached to the full body of the socius, and no longer men, the latter having become adjacent to the technical machines—whence the fact that inscription no longer bears directly, or at least in theory has no need of bearing directly, on men. [22]

What Deleuze and Guattari refer to as decoding, has as its necessary condition and consequence, the shift of codes from bodies to machines. This does not mean that the individual, subjectivity, is left entirely out of the equation, free from any social constraint. Capital functions with axioms not codes; these axioms are abstract and quantitative rather than concrete and qualitative. Axioms establish a relation between a flow of labor, of abstract labor, and a flow of money. Capital reproduces itself not at the level of code, but the axiom, bodies and with it the entire system of desire is privatized. Capital is indifferent to the intimate details of desire “…Your capital or your labor capacity, the rest is not important.”[23]

It is in this privatization of desire that we can see something akin to social subjection. The private space, the family, is not entirely excluded from social reproduction, but functions paradoxically through its decoding, its disengagement from production. Individuals exist socially, exist in the sphere of production only as abstract quantities, as labor power, buying power, etc., the axioms of the economy, this liberates a private, a space of consumption, a consumption of social existence. “Private persons are therefore images of the second order, images of images—that is, simulacra that are thus endowed with an aptitude for representing the first-order images of social persons.”[24] Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of familialism is not just a critique of the explanatory power of the Oedipus and the family within psychoanalysis, but of the general tendency to make the family the matrix of subjectivity. Social subjection is a split in the subject, a division between one’s social function, as impersonal as that may be, and the personal, private manner it is experienced. Or as Deleuze and Guattari write, using Lacan’s terminology, “The subject of the statement is the social person, and the subject of the enunciation, the private person.”[25]One speaks of the social person, of world leaders, bosses, and revolutionaries, but one does so insofar as they have been reduced to neuroses and family dramas. What is occluded here is the social dimension, sociality only appears in the functional abstractions of the economy. 

Capital must be understood not simply as the process by which “all is holy is profaned, and all that is solid melts in to air,” as a general form of decoding, of abstraction. As much as the destruction of old traditions, especially those having to do with labor and consumption, is integral to the functioning of capital, it is no less important that it revives and sustains old traditions and authorities, traditions and authorities now rendered private and personal. It has to be understood as a dual process. As Deleuze and Guattari write: 

Civilized modern societies are defined by processes of decoding and deterritorialization. But what they deterritorialize with one hand, they reterritorialize with the other. These neoterritorialities are often artificial, residual, archaic; but they are archaisms having a perfectly current function, our modern way of ‘imbricating,’ of sectioning off, of reintroducing code fragments, resuscitating old codes inventing pseudo codes or jargons…These modern archaisms are extremely complex and varied. Some are mainly folkloric, but they nonetheless represent social and potentially political forces…. Others are enclaves whose archaism is just as capable of nourishing a modern fascism as of freeing a revolutionary charge…Some of these archaisms take form as if spontaneously in the current of the movement of deterritorialization…Others are organized and promoted by the state, even though the might turn against the state and cause it serious problems (regionalism, nationalism).[26]

What Anti-Oedipus presents is less a progression from enslavement to subjection, subjection to enslavement, or, as is the case with Marx, a kind of dialectical intertwining of the two. Instead, it is necessary to think subjection, the constitution of a private space for desire, a private meaning outside of codes, as itself a kind of enslavement, or a privatization of enslavement. The supposed liberty of the private desire, of decoding, that allows one to consume the entire world from the privacy of their home, is itself a kind of subjection. 

This division, rather than progression of two different formations of subjectivity is not without its precursors in Marx. In one the most rhetorically dense passages in Capital Marx distinguishes between the hidden abode of production, the site of the exploitation of labor, and what he referred to as sphere of circulation, the market or the space of exchange. In the former one is enslaved, or at least that is what Marx will come to argue in Capital, made part of the productive force of capital, but in the latter one is subjected, is seen and sees oneself as a free subject. As Marx writes,

The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, equality, and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, let us say of labour power, are determined by their own free will. They contract as free persons, who are equal before the law…The only force bringing them together, and putting them into relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interest of each.[27]

Marizzio Lazzarato offers a theoretical expansion of this polemic by drawing together Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of major and minor with that of enslavement and subjection. For Deleuze and Guattari the major and minority distinction is less a matter of a simple quantitative valuation, of more or less, but of standard and deviant. The majority is that which is counted as the norm. The wage, the salary, is as much a semiotic, a technique of representation, as it is a renumeration of labor. It counts labor, positing as social necessary and productive. To have a wage is to have one’s work recognized as productive, as social, as something that can be contested and changed, to be unwaged is to work invisibly. Unstated, but nonetheless important in Lazzarato’s focus on the wage and representation, is the work of Marxist feminists such as Silvia Federici, Mariorosa Dalla Costa, and Selma James, who argue that as much as the wage is at the base of capitalist exploitation, concealing it in the image of full compensation for work performed, it also conceals the unwaged reproductive work of childcare, cleaning, and countless other domestic tasks that have been naturalized as ‘women’s work.’[28] Subjection is a kind of exclusion, a recognition of labor, and participation, but it always has as its basis the productive power of enslavement that exceeds it. As Lazzarato writes, 

Capital, therefore, does not simply extort an extension of labor time (the difference between paid human time and human time spent at the workplace), it initiates a process that exploits the difference between subjection and enslavement. For if subjective subjection—the social alienation inherent to a particular job or any social function (worker, unemployed, teacher, etc.)—is always assignable and measurable (the wage appropriate to one’s position, the salary appropriate to a social function), the part of machinic enslavement constituting actual production is never assignable nor quantifiable as such.[29]

The wage addresses or interpellates an individual worker, offering an imaginary representation of their social contribution, production, as Marx argued, exploits transindividual productive capacities. Social subjection and machinic enslavement become not two different epochs, or even two different mode of subjection, but two different individuations acting on the same subjects, or processes of subjection, in different ways. The one affects subjectivity and identity insofar as it is signified, represented, and conceptualized, the other at the level of gestures, affects, and actions.[30] “Machinic enslavemen…refers to non-representational, operational, diagrammatic techniques that function by exploiting partial, modular, and subindividual subjectivities.”[31]Lazzarato is not explicitly concerned with house work, or the unwaged work of the home, but all work that exceeds its capture and representation in a wage, which is to say all work since work in general is irreducibly collective and social. Workers are subjectified as individual wage earners, even part of the company, but enslaved as collective bodies and transformations. 

Technologies of Subjection/Enslavement

The changing political valences of subjection and enslavement is only one part of the picture. Social subjection and machinic enslavement are also tied to the history of technology from the tool to the machine. Anti-Oedipus offers its own kind of precursor of the argument that “a large amount of subjectification brings us back to [enslavement]” tying it explicitly to technology. This point is underscored by the literal machine, or device, the television. Deleuze and Guattari make only a few references to television in their writings, and do not have anything like an explicit theory of it as a medium or technology. However, its few appearances in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus draw together subjection and technology in a provocative way constituting a kind of theory by example. Television appears in Anti-Oedipus as a device for the privatization of the world. “[T]hese images do not initiate a making public of the private so much as a privatization of the public: the whole world unfolds right at home, without one’s having to leave the TV screen. Television appears again in A Thousand Plateaus as the example of subjection leading to enslavement. 

For example, one is subjected to TV insofar as one uses and consumes it, in the very particular situation of subject of the statement that more or less mistakes itself for a subject of the enunciation (“you, dear television viewers, who make T.V. what it is…”); the technical machine is the medium between two subjects. But one is enslaved by TV as a human machine insofar as the television viewers are not longer consumers or users, nor even subjects who supposedly “make” it, but intrinsic component pieces, “input” and “output,” feedback or recurrences that are no longer connected to the machine in such a way as to produce it or use it.[32]

Much of the initial definition of Oedipal, privatized, subjectivity is repeated here. There is the split between the subject of the enunciation and the statement, only now it is related to a constitutive misrecognition, one thinks one enunciates, plays a role in the constitution of television but one is spoken without ever speaking. This does not mean that one is entirely passive, beneath the “subjection” the constant appeals and addresses to the subjects of TV land, there is the collection of information. The subjection of the audience masks and makes possible the enslavement of the market. 

Deleuze and Guattari’s example is drawn from television, which addresses, or interpellates, individuals as subjects because it has reduced them to input and outputs. The television example is both odd and oddly prescient. One can find the same process at work in Amazon and other online sites, the more one is reduced to an algorithm based on one’s shopping and browsing history the more the recommendations are tailored to one’s particular taste and proclivities. Social subjection increases with machinic enslavement, the more one is reduced to a data point the more the entire interface appears tailored to one’s personal desires and proclivities. As Deleuze argued in his strangely prophetic text on control societies, such technologies move beyond enslavement and subjection. As much as enslavement reduced individuals to conscious organs of machines it still put to work the entire body, the entire individual, even if that individual just became the eye of conveyer belt or supermarket scanner. Machinic enslavement now takes only one aspect of the individual, one’s shopping experiences, debt, or knowledge, combining that with the knowledge or debt of others that are not physically present or known to each other. This is coupled with technologies of subjection that personalize and modulate their appearance for each viewer or subscriber. No one sees the same google results, facebook page, or internet. It is only in contemporary technology, in the age of social media, that the picture Deleuze and Guattari draw from television has come true, of individuals reduced to data, to input and outputs, at the level of enslavement at the same moment they are subjected and addressed as individuals. 

If we can roughly map subjection unto the individual and enslavement on the mass, the collective, we have to confront the fact that contemporary power functions without these terms. A Deleuze writes, “Individuals become dividuals and masses become samples, data, markets, or “banks.”[33] Understanding what Deleuze means by this, and what is at stake in it, is perhaps best approached by the second term. How do masses, data, and markets displace “masses”? It is not by size or scale, since any of these, markets or masses, could be large or small, but the fact that data, markets, and banks never recognize themselves as such. They are never capable of saying “we,” to borrow Stiegler’s terminology. Markets, data, samples function below the level of transindividuation, they are constitutive of neither individual nor collective identity. Machinic enslavement is always situated at the outside of collective identity. As much as it is collective, necessarily involving multiple bodies inserted into multiple technical apparatuses, this collectivity is not explicitly recognized as such as bodies and minds are put to work along with bodies and minds that are not seen or recognized. The entire concept of the working class, of the proletariat, is an attempt to make this collectivity explicit, a “for itself” in Hegelian terminology. However, the contemporary technological and economic reorganization of production makes this impossible. The workers of a factory can say we, but those that are held together by the more tenuous networks of a “sharing platform” are less capable of sensing and articulating such a connection. This same basic transformation, from unity to dispersion and from representation to function, also affects the other term, the dividual. If the bank or market operates at a level too broad and dispersed to constitute a mass, the dividual operates at a level too minute, too dispersed to constitute an individual. Even consumption or the market of exchange, formerly the sphere of freedom, equality, and Bentham, deals less with individuals, subjects of the market, than drives, desires, sensibilities, and moods. Contrary to what is claimed consumer society is less an individualistic society than a society of drives, affects, and moods, of the control of the preindividual aspects of society. [34] The line between subjection and enslavement no longer passes between individual and society, but between the preindividual and the transindividual, between that which is constitutive of individuality and that which is constitutive of collectivity.[35]


Unraveling and then tying together the technological, economic, and political valences of enslavement and subjection might seem antithetical to Deleuze and Guattari’s entire philosophy. After all, as Deleuze and Guattari repeatedly argue, the social machine is not a metaphor, the entire language of machines, apparatuses, and assemblages is posited to situate together the technological, the economic, and political dimensions. However, following Sibertin-Blanc’s Marxist and Althusserian reading of Deleuze and Guattari, it might be productive to see the overdetermination of enslavement and subjection, as simultaneously technological, economic, and political.[36] Doing so highlights the point of their convergence. One can see the way in which the intersection of social subjection and enslavement characterizes contemporary capitalism, the intersection of social media, financial speculation, and political fragmentation and individuation. However, one can also see the way in which the different aspects of subjection and enslavement diverge from each other as well. The various forms of machinic enslavement that reduce individuals to drives, clicks, and attention risk producing subjects that do not recognize themselves in the narratives of subjection. Recognizing the overdetermined nature of machinic enslavement and social subjection means viewing them without teleology or direction. Neither a teleology that goes from subjection to enslavement, as individual tool users are incorporated into machines, as Simondon argued; nor is there a telos from enslavement to subjection, as bodies incorporated into production are increasingly interpellated as autonomous individuals, to take Marx’s argument. Nor is it a matter, as Deleuze and Guattari argued, of a paradoxical trajectory in which subjection is both the movement away from, and ultimately towards, enslavement, or of a technological enslavement that completely undermines any subjection, as Lazzarato and Stiegler argued. Rather subjection and enslavement intersect at the level of politics, economic, and technology, as individuals become part of machines, of different technologies, and are subjected to different ideologies. 

[1] Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, Translated by Brian Massumi, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 131. 

[2] Gilbert Simondon Du mode d’existence des objets techniques, (Paris: Aubier, 1958), 103. 

[3] Ibid, p. 116. 

[4] Karl Marx Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I, translated by Ben Fowkes, (New York: Penguin, 1977), 283 

[5] As Hegel writes, “Reason is as cunning as it is mighty. Its cunning generally consists in the mediating activity which, while it lets objects act upon one another according to their own nature, and wear each other out, executes only its purpose without itself mingling in the process.” G.W.F Hegel, The Encyclopedia Logic, translated by T.F. Geraets et al, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991), 284 . 

[6] Marx Capital p. 285 

[7] Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, translated by Martin Nicolaus. (New York: Penguin, 1973) . 

[8]As Muriel Combes argues, Simondon rejects Marx based on a purely ‘economistic’ interpretation of alienation, alienation as loss of property, something which does not fit with the original articulation of the concept in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Muriel Combes, Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual, Translated by Thomas LaMarre, (Cambridge: MIT, 2013) p. 74. 

[9] Simondon Du Mode, 118. 

[10] Ibid. 119. 

[11] Ibid. 250. 

[12] Pascal Chabot, The Philosophy of Simondon: Between Technology and Individuation, Translated by Graeme Kirkpatrick and Aliza Krefetz, (London: Bloomington, 2013), 39. 

[13] Gilbert Simondon, “Technical Mentality,” Translated by Arne de Boever, Parrhesia 7, 2009, 17-27, 21. 

[14] Bernard Stiegler, For a New Critique of Political Economy, Translated by Daniel 

Ross, (London: Polity, 2010) 35. 

[15] Bernard Stiegler, Automatic Society. Volume One: The Future of Work, Translated by Daniel Ross, (London: Polity 2017) 28. 

[16] As Etienne Balibar writes “We must give this thesis its maximum force to understand the conclusions that Marx wants to reach. Not only is labor socialized historically, so that it becomes transindividual. Essentially it always was, insofar as there is no labor without cooperation, even in its most primitive forms, and the isolation of the productive labourer in relation to nature was only ever an appearance.” Etienne Balibar, Equaliberty: Political Essays, Translated by James Ingram (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 85. 

[17] Marx Capital, 1031 

[18] This point is borne out by the sociological literature on the current labor situation. The key texts would be Richard Sennett’s The Corrosion of Character and Jennifer Silva’s Coming up Short

[19] Marx Capital, 1024. 

[20] Deleuze and Guattari Plateaus, 458. 

[21] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley et al, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1983) 141 

[22] Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus, 251 

[23] Ibid. 251. 

[24] Ibid. 264 

[25] Ibid. 265 

[26] Ibid. 258. 

[27] Marx Capital, 280. 

[28] Federici, Silvia, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, (Oakland: PM Press, 2012), 16. 

[29] Lazzarato 2014, 45. 

[30] Lazzarato 2014, 39. 

[31] Maurizio Lazzarato, Governing by Debt, Translated by Joshua David Jordan, (New York: Seimotexte, 2015), 184. 

[32] Deleuze and Guattari Plateaus p. 458. 

[33] Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Control Societies.” Translated by Martin Joughin, Negotiations: 1972-1990, (New York: Columbia, 1995), 180. 

[34] Bernard Stiegler, Acting Out, Translated by David Barison, Daniel Ross, and 

Patrick Crogan, (Stanford: Stanford University, 2009), 48. 

[35] Jason Read, The Politics of Transindividuality, (Chicago: Haymarket, 2016), 215. 

[36] Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, State and Politics: Deleuze and Guattari on Marx, Translated by Ames Hodges, (New York: Semiotexte, 2016), 122.

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