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Deleuze and Guattari

Page history last edited by Scott Cheesewright 14 years, 12 months ago


Since its going to be a snow day tomorrow, here's a preview of the excitement to come regarding Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.


                    The picture that accompanies the Introduction to the Rhizome in A Thousand Plateaus 


     Deleuze (1925 - 1995) and Guattari (1932 - 1990) wrote a two - volume work called Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti - Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980). Their masterpiece was the creation of the "rhizome," which was a revolutionary methodology for thinking. They posited that western thought was developed like trees -- upward, towards some end goal of truth and knowledge, with responses and criticisms as branches.  They labeled this the 'aborescent' scheme for conceiving knowledge.  Arborescent approaches seek essences, unity, and binaries; the rhizome, on the other hand seeks multiplicities, diversities, and states of becoming.  The rhizome, unlike the tree, expanded horizontally, and tried to offer a linkage system for different ideas. The rhizome had 6 main traits: 

[1] connection

[2] heterogeneity

[3] multiplicity

[4] a signifying rupture 

[5] cartography  

[6] tracing (decalcomania)


[1] Connection: This refers to the linking of different thoughts in the rhizome.  Ideas are connected at multiple points.  Any point of any one thought can be linked to any other point in a system of thought.  

[2] Heterogeneity: No link among different thoughts must be linked to parts of the same nature.    A piece of art could be linked to a particular social theory, which could then be linked to a political scandal.  The ideas can be linked to each other in any way, not requiring in homogeneity in their fundamental traits.

[3] Multiplicity: The rhizome is not reducible to one or to multiple. Instead, it is a system of lines.  There are not 'units' of the rhizome.  It can be conceived of as a linear system of dimensions, of 'directions in motion'.  

[4] A signifying rupture: Parts of rhizome can be ruptured, or broken.  This does have a normative meaning.  A broken element or connection in the rhizome does not mean that that element was 'bad' or should that a link between ideas should not have existed.  The rhizome continues to exist.  

[5] Cartography: A person enters into the rhizome from a distinct point.  It is not possible to re-enter from the same position many times, or for different people to approach the rhizome from the same position.  Cartography has an intuitive meaning, drawing the understanding the links and parts of the rhizome - creating a map of it.  This allows for a unique conception of the ideas being evaluated, linked, etc, and a formative process that contrasts to tracing. 

6] Tracing (decalcomania):  Tracing is like tracing a drawing, there is not creation involved.  Tracing the rhizome assumes it static and fails take account of the constantly changing nature of the structure.   Tracing transposes a pre-existing conception of the rhizome and of thought onto elements that do not fit into that framework.  Thus, tracing is opposed the project of conceiving of thought as a rhizomatic scheme. 

Implications of the Rhizome:


Makes us question Western Intellectual methodologies: Deleuze and Guttari argued that Western thought was like a tree -- it grew outward with the end goal of absolute truth, whereas the rhizome expands horizontally and is more inclusive of alternative intellectual methodologies 
Rejects teleological thought – horizontal, not vertical, growth
Linkage system – the rhizome is a fundamental rejection of hierarchy as everything is horizontal. 

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