Mille Plateaux: 14, 15
Immanence, une vie It seems to me that the question of immanence runs throughout the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia and that one might even pose the first mandate of the project to discover the plane of immanence. One could begin by understanding this problematic as an affirmation of the immanent over the transcendent, a reversal of Platonism, a Spinozian pantheism insisting on the immanence of being, a belief in this world (as Deleuze says in the second cinema book). Or in social and political terms this maps easily to an affirmation of the immanence of desire over the transcendence of the Subject and the Ego, and perhaps most clearly the immanence of social assemblages over the transcendence of the State. That is indeed a good beginning, but the question quickly becomes much more complex. The concept of immanence is not so simple and neither can our evaluation of it, our affirmation of it remain unqualified -- a philosophical complication and then a political qualification. In the last article published during his life, a very brief and dense piece, Deleuze returned again to the problematic of immanence ("Immanence: une vie," Philosophie, no. 47, 1995). Let me summarize the argument for you. The article begins not directly with immanence but by asking the question, What is a transcendental field? And right away he has to distinguish the transcendental from the transcendent. (This is an argument from AO that you probably remember.) What is transcendent in experience are subjects and objects. A transcendental field is distinguished from experience or from empirical representation in that it does not refer to any object nor pertain to any subject. It is rather a pure asubjective flow. (I think Guattari would add at this point that the transcendental field is therefore machinic. That is precisely what from the beginning I've understood machinic to mean -- neither refering to any object nor pertaining to any subject. Thus "the transcendental field would be defined as a pure plane of immanence, because it flees from every transcendence of the subject and the object." The transcendental is defined in terms of immanence because both are posed against the transcendent, specifically against the transcendence of Subject and Object. This is the point at which Deleuze can question immanence itself. Immanence does not refer to being immanent in something or being immanent to something; it does not depend on an object or pertain to a subject. Deleuze is not talking about what is immanent to the world or what is immanent to language or even what is immanent to life. "Immanence is absolute in itself." How can be understand this pure immanence that is absolute in itself? Deleuze explains it as a life. "It will be said of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else. It is not immanence to life, but immanence that is not in anything; it is already a life in itself. A life is the immanence of immanence, absolute immanence: it is power and beatitude, complete." But what is a life (the indefinite article being important here) that is this pure immanence? Should we associate this with the generic life we saw in the beginning of AO, or even with a notion of la vie quelconque? Deleuze gives an example of a life from Dickens's novel, Our Common Friend, in which a scoundrel, reviled by everyone is on the point of death. At that moment those caring for him find a sympathy for him and do everything they can to save him, but when he recovers they recognize again why they despised him. At that moment of death, Deleuze claims, the character was revealed as only a life. "The life of the individual ceded its place to an impersonal, and yet singular, life, that releases a pure event liberated from the accidents of interior and exterior life, in other words, from the subjectivity and objectivity of what happens. "Homo tantum," sympathized with by everyone, to the point of reaching a kind of beatitude. It is an hecceity, that is no longer of individuation but of singularization: life of pure immanence, neutral, beyond good and evil because only the subject that incarnated it among things made it good or bad. The life of this individuality disappears and yields to the singular immanent life of a man that no longer has a name, because he cannot be confused with any other. Singular essence, a life ...." Now, the example of Dickens's dying scoundrel may not be a good one here because this singular immanence, a life, is not at all limited to the moment of confronting death. A life is everywhere, in all the moments experienced by this or that living subject and this or that lived object. Here is where it is perhaps understandable that Deleuze would begin this meditation on the plane of immanence with a description of the transcendental field. The plane of immanence is not simply the sum of the actually existing things and subjects. On the contrary, pure immanence in itself, a life, is completely virtual: "it is made of virtualities, events, singularities." Here we can recognize the conceptual unity between the plane of immanence and the transcendental field, in that both are distinct from the experience of subjects and objects; a life, a pure virtuality is distinct from the lives in which it is actualized. A life in its virtuality is what subtends and thus runs throughout actual lives. Finally, Deleuze comes to the original point contrasting the plane of immanence and the transcendental field from the transcendent subjects and objects, but now that contrast is defined in terms of priority, productivity. "One can always invoke a transcendent that falls outside the plane of immanence, or rather that it attributed to it, but every transcendence continues nonetheless to be constituted only in the flux of immanent consciousness proper to this plane. Transcendence is always a product of immanence." The plane of immanence not only subtends but it is prior to, that is productive of any transcendence, specifically here any Subject or Object. I thus see the elaboration of the concept of immanence in three stages. First, immanence is a this-worldliness opposed to the transcendence of either the Platonic forms or the conventional Judeo- Christian God. In a second moment, though, we have to distinguish the actualities of this world (the individual subjects and objects that inhabit it, themselves transcendent instances) from its virtualities. Pure immanence is precisely the virtuality of this world, this world as singularity, as event. Finally, and this is the third moment of the elaboration, this pure immanence is posed as the creative core, the productive motor of all that exists. Why should we value immanence over transcendence? Because immanence is the source of all creativity; it is prior in terms of productivity.
Immanence of Society In the history of European philosophy, the immanence/transcendence problematic pertains equally to the metaphysical (or theological) domain and to the political. And the three elements or stages of Deleuze's elaboration of the concept of immanence map precisely to the political domain. In modern philosophy, at least since Hobbes, the State has been understood in terms of its transcendence over the social plane -- and the structural homology between the transcendence of the State over the social plane and the transcendence of God over the plane of nature is certainly no accident. The transcendent sovereign occupies the same space as the transcendent God. It is quite commonplace to understand the State in terms of this spatial metaphor of superiority. Engels, for example, in one of the classic definitions, characterizes the State as "a power apparently standing above society" (The Origin of the Family, etc). Hobbes's Leviathan, Machiavelli's Prince, and even the modern capitalist State are all sovereign insofar as they are transcendent, that is, insofar as they stand above society. The first stage of a political elaboration of immanence, then, is an affirmation of society against the State, an affirmation of immanence over transcendence. There are still, however, within modern society itself elements of transcendence, or if you like elements of the State. The second moment of this elaboration is to distinguish within the this-worldliness of society between the immanent and the transcendent. This is where I see the political importance of the D&G discussion of the smooth and the striated. The striae are elements of transcendence that pertain to the social field itself, that structure the social field. The smooth plane of immanence is a pure asubjective flow; whereas the striae form canals that channel flows. The straie, which I would like to link to the various social institutions such as the prison, the school, the family, are the mechanisms of subjection and subjectification. Subjects exist within these striae and within the straie one cannot exist except as subject. Finally, and this is the third element of the elaboration, the plane of immanence, or here the smooth space is the locus of production and creativity. Just as in the metaphysical context Deleuze said all transcendence is a product of immanence, so too in this political contest D&G claim that smooth space is the productive motor that fuels all striated space. Once again the priority, precisely in terms of production, is on the side of immanence. Smooth space, free activity, and the various correlated elements are valued over transcendence and striation because, once again, they are the source of creativity, prior in terms of production. The State and the striae are merely products.
Axiomatics However complex the nuances of this elaboration of immanence, immanence's distinction from and priority over transcendence remains up to this point relatively straightforward and unproblematic -- precisely because immanence at each point can be evaluated as preferable to transcendence, prior in terms of creativity and production. Immanence at each moment is associated with creativity or productivity and freedom, whereas transcendence is merely a product that brings with it subordination and control. At this point we could easily correlate the evaluation of immanence over transcendence with Deleuze's analysis of active and reactive forces in Nietzsche as a criterion of evaluation. Immanence is always active, creative, productive; transcendence (the State, striae, Subject, Object) is always reactive, repressive, inert. So, as I said, defining immanence may be a complex affair, but evaluating it is at this point quite clear. In fact, I would be tempted to point to this as the operative criterion for all of D&G's politics: in every instance value immanence over transcendence (in line with the evaluation of active over reactive forces). In Capitalism and Schizophrenia, however, this clear evaluation is thrown into question by one primary stumbling block, capitalism -- and perhaps also fascism. (I want to leave fascism aside here. The question in any case is, Is fascism an immanent form of rule, and if so how is it distinct from democracy? If not, it is not really a stumbling block for this criterion of evaluation.) Capitalism is a stumbling block precisely because it operates on the plane of immanence, capital operates as Marx says through immanent laws, and as D&G say through a general deterritorialization and decoding of flows. And yet capitalism deploys the most severe forms of subordination and control. If such a machine of immanence is so oppressive how can we maintain our notion of immanence as the central political criterion? In order to understand this paradox of capitalism as a repressive machine that develops on the plane of immanence, or really that itself remains a plane of immanence, D&G pose the axiomatic as the core of capitalism; capitalism is a general axiomatic of decoded and deterritorialized flows. I understand axiomatic here from its mathematical definition as an open set of equations that pose fixed relationships among variables. (One axiom of capitalism, for example, is the tendential fall of the rate of profit.) The axiomatic is open in the sense that new axioms can continually be added. (So to counter the axiom of the tendential fall of the rate of profit, another axiom might be added to transfer certain sectors of the core economy, say heavy industry, to the periphery.) The openness and plural character of the axiomatic means that it can at times come up with multiple solutions to a problem or face and manage other problems that are insoluable. Neither of these situations are catastrophic for the axiomatic. It is accustomed to functioning through partial, tentative, and even overdetermined solutions to its equations. (This is perhaps the best way to understand what D&G mean when they say the capitalism functions by breaking down.) My main point, though, is about immanence. The axiomatic is immanent precisely in that it is not a series of fixed statement, but a set of equations of variables. The variables are the whichever elements, le quelconque. For example, the labor that is plugged into the equation of capitalist valorization Marx calls abstract labor but we might also call it whichever labor, travail quelconque. That is what really means by abstract here: whichever, labor, the labor of the tailor, the weaver, the carpenter, whichever. The variables are what make the axiomatic smooth and immanent. Really there are no Subjects or Objects in the axiomatic itself; there are rather variables for which Subjects and Objects can be substituted in each deployment of capitalism. The axiomatic variables are whichever subjectivities, whichever objectivities. In this way, the axiomatic remains a plane of immanence because it is separate from every transcendence of the subject and the object.
Capitalism against the State It seems to me that this notion of the capitalist axiomatic as a plane of immanence poses capitalism in conflict with the State and with all the correlated forces of striation. Now I think this is true but it does not mean that capitalism does not at times converge with State striation. I see emerging in D&G's analysis two phases of the relationship: a first in which capitalism uses the State-form and its striation and a second in which capitalism discovers a smooth form of rule beyond the State. (These phases are perhaps more my invention than theirs.) You can see the relationship of the first phase in D&G's description of Work as striation. "The physicosocial model of Work pertains to the State apparatus, it is one of its inventions, and for two reason. (...) Second, labor performs a generalized operation of striation of space-time, a subjection of free action, a nullification of smooth spaces, the origin and means of which is the essential enterprise of the State, namely, its conquest of the war machine" (490- 91). It's easy to recognize the regimentation of capitalist wage labor as a striation of space-time: space for example in the construction of the factory and the coding of its spaces (with the tasks along the assembly line for instance) and time in the divisions of the day into work and leisure and then the elaborate coding of the times of the work day. This phase is also characterized by the nation-State as the ruling structure for the operation of capitalism. (That should be explained but I'm moving fast now.) These striation, however, are not proper to capitalism, and striated capital is not the only form of capital. There is also smooth capital. Actually, I would like to pose these as phases of capitalism and we are moving today from the striated phase to the smooth. "The present-day accelerated forms of the circulation of capital are making the distinction between constant and variable capital, and even fixed and circulating capital, increasingly relative; the essential thing is instead the distinction between striated capital and smooth capital, and the way in which the former gives rise to the latter ..." (492). The former gives way to the latter, the striated gives way to the smooth, I would argue, precisely because capitalism is at heart an axiomatic, and hence a plane of immanence, a smooth space. The passage to the smooth phase of capital is actually capitalism's realization, the realization of its smooth essence. Now the form of rule of this realized smooth capital is not the State-form nor any kind of transcendence. Integrated world capitalism must correspond not to a State but to a global war machine. The global war machine rules over a smooth space with a peace more terrifying than any war -- and most important for my argument here it operates precisely through an axiomatic. D&G only give a hint of the axiomatic of the global war machine by telling us that it functions through the whichever enemy, l'ennemi quelconque. My point in this section is simply that this global war machine and not any State is the form of rule really adequate to capitalism precisely because like capitalism it operates on a plane of immanence through an axiomatic.
Now the question all this discussion of the axiomatics of both capitalism and the global war machine raises is, does the axiomatic's combination of immanence and repression really derail any utility of the category of immanence as central political criterion (as I was claimed it functions)? Or are the immanence they want to affirm and the immanence of these axiomatics distinct and distinguishable in some way? Is the axiomatic really a false kind of immanence, an immanence held back, diverted?