Untitled (or a refusal to participate in this title competition)

I most note, foremost, that Mike is entirely correct concerning the structure of this text.  I presume that the very organization of this text might present difficulties to those attempting to decipher each chapter as though a distinct entity, occurrence, or fragment.  In essence, the work, as a whole, refuses the Barthesian reading strategy.  One cannot, as one is often compelled, skip chapters and hope to decipher the complexities inherent to the text.  Though I also experienced some difficulties, I really enjoyed the brevity of each section, for I felt it enabled me, as reader, the opportunity to separate/isolate sections of difficulty, and to work on those sections until I was satisfied (or, at least partially satisfied).  In part, I thought this text was, much like A Thousand Plateaus, a work in progression.  Understanding the complexities of one seemingly miniscule though significant detail, enables one the opportunity to progress to the next stage of learning.  Though I am a fan of texts that allow the reader to “drift” or, perhaps “cruise,” following in line with Timothy “Speed” Levitch’s adaption of Barthes’ strategy, I felt as though Deleuze’s structure was more befitting to his particular subject.  This seems to be especially true considering Deleuze’s insistence on the importance of the infinitesimally small details contributing to the greater themes/ideas of his texts.

So, perhaps now would be the appropriate time to get down to the details (aka “the nitty gritty”).  Though I could position this text in relationship to Platonism or the Sophists, I chose, instead, to focus on the “Eighth Series of Structure,” in part because I believe the stoics and Hellenistic philosophy are of more emphasis in Deleuze’s text than Plato, Aristotle, or the Sophists, for that matter.  It is the Stoics that reverse Platonism, and bring about the radical inversion that Deleuze discusses in “Second Series of Paradoxes of Surface Effects.”  Thus, it seems that Deleuze is merely using Platonism as a point of initiating a turn; a departure or inversion that seems to have some economic, political, or social import (this, of course, being another important trope of Deleuze’s work).  And, it must be noted, this is the very reason that I turn to the eight series or section. 

Here, Deleuze discusses the existence of two “series.”  Befittingly, he refers to these two series as the signifying and the signified.  While the first series is characterized by excess, the signified-series is characterized by lack.  Though I had some difficulty deciphering this immediately, Deleuze’s example, located further down the page, provides some satisfaction:

The Universe signified long before we began to know what it was signifying…man, since his origin, has had at his disposal a completeness of signifier which he is obstructed from allocating to a signified, given as such without being any better known.  There is always an inadequacy between the two (48)

Deleuze follows this, by proclaiming that this might be referred to as Robinson’s paradox, and this makes a great deal of sense.  As I understand it, the signifying series is convoluted and congested; composed by all that existed before anybody interpreted the significations.  The island and all of its devastating natural complexity preexisted Crusoe, as the Universe preexisted man.  This is where Deleuze’s commentary becomes of particular interest.  Instead of interpreting, for this is most assuredly the wrong word to use, the foreigner to this complexity (Crusoe, or a person in any foreign/alienating space) attempts to import or impose upon that which is foreign the signified. 

Any society whatsoever has all of its rules at once—juridical, religious, political, economic; laws governing love and labor, kinship and marriage, servitude and freedom, life and death…This is why law weighs with all its might, even before its object is known, and without ever its object becoming exactly known (49)

It is the very condition of importing the society all at once, and imposing it upon the foreign terrain, that the place/space/etc can never be known for the very complexity of all of its signifiers; it is as though they are ignored.  This is the disequilibrium or perpetual displacement that Deleuze refers to in this section.  Interestingly, though, this disequilibrium, which seems the perpetuation of a certain ignorance or the unwillingness, perhaps impossibility, of interpreting the new as anything outside of the old, is what Deleuze insists makes revolutions possible (49).  This presents me with some difficulty.  How is it that Crusoe, in imposing “civilization” upon the landscape, represents the revolutionary?  Here, Deleuze refers to the gap which separates technical progress from social totality, but this is really quite complicated. 

Perhaps, it might be appropriate to consider an example before resuming this line of questioning:

When MTV filmed Jay Z’s fairly recent trip to Southern Africa, the layout of the documentary evidenced an insistent attempt to import the American way of life, and to superimpose it as though it would combat the country’s problems.  Here, as Deleuze suggests, American society and the infrastructure of glamour and wealth arises almost instantaneously.  This infrastructure of signification is imposed on the landscape.  Perhaps I am being a little hyperbolic, but it seemed as though the show to an extent suggests that a concert might rectify various problems.  Though I must applaud the documentary for emphasizing the importance of clean water and sanitation to Southern Africa, for this seems a worthy cause, the conclusion focuses on songs that emphasize certain features of the wealthy American hip hop lifestyle; flashy women hanging on flashy chains (excuse me for paraphrasing).  In ending the documentary with this footage, with this message, the program evidences the disparity that Deleuze references.   Though the signifying series exists, that of contemporary South Africa, the documentary serves to import and impose a lifestyle and society over that which already exists. 

How, then, might revolution exist within the gap?  If the disequilibrium, the difference between the signifying and signified series, the difference between South Africa and the glamorous lifestyle alluded to by Jay Z, encourages revolution, how does this take form?  Deleuze states that the two series, though seemingly disjunctive, actually communicate and coexist.  This coexistence encourages the development and distribution of singular points (51).  Sense, is thus, according to Deleuze, distributed in each series.  The singularity, for Deleuze, circulates between the two series, thus encouraging displacement in relationship to itself.  Thus, the empty space or displacement becomes an esoteric word.  But, this still leaves the question, which I am struggling with: How exactly does an esoteric word encourage revolution?  I feel as though if this can be deciphered, than the import of considering what stoicism encourages, might be identified, and, furthermore, utilized. 

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One Response to “Untitled (or a refusal to participate in this title competition)”

  1. Aren’t you adhering to a much too fixed structure of revolution to file this under “Deleuze”? Maybe Jay-Z’s glam is permanent, rhizomatic revolution permeating through the semiotics of blackness, previously relegated to the status of primitive tribal culture.

    Don’t microtase me, bro.

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