The Call of the Outside

Distribution: The Outside, Not Nomos

Cows offer the clearest picture of crowned anarchy, also called “nomadic distribution” (DR, 41; TP, 158). When set out to pasture, they practice auto-nomy by following a self-regulated nomos, the customary distribution in open space (“in general an unlimited space; it can be a forest, meadows beside rivers, a mountain slope,” says philologist Emmanuel Laroche on page 116 of his etymological study) that “crowns” whatever is unique to each landscape, as in livestock feeding on a particular patch of grass and leaving excrement to fertilize the soil anew. Nomos is part of a larger constellation of nem- words examined by Laroche, including nomads and distribution (nomos), customary law (nomos), melody (nomos), pasture or sphere of command (nomos), roaming (nomas, the basis for nomad), pasture (nemo), inhabitant (naetees), territory (nemeesis), governor (nomarchees), and law (nomoi). Most controversial about Laroche’s argument is his claim that Greek is the only of the Indo-European languages to be pastoral, which casts the Solonic sense of nomos as statist distribution as a betrayal of its nomadic roots. Over the generations, nomos loses its nomadic heritage to become the administrative appropriation, distribution, and use of land (22–29, 115–24, 178–205). During this time, nomos is combined with the household (oikos) to name economics; first mentioned by Phocylides in a poem where he compares women to animals: to dogs, bees, free-range pigs, and long-maned horses (Edmonds, Elegy and Iambus, 173–74). (Phocylides suggests that his friend marry the bee because she is a good housekeeper—oikonomos agathe; 174.) But Marx shows in chapter 7 of Capital that he knows that “what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.” Certainly there is a residual speciesism in Marx’s remark, as animals’ experience of the world (Umwelt) is sophisticated enough to produce many things (“art does not wait for human beings to begin”) (TP, 320). Yet there is a considerable difference in how humans and cows crown the space that they occupy. As such, we should be concerned more by how each constructs the world than by the excrement with which they consecrate it.

Marx’s son-in-law Paul Lafargue demonstrates in his Social and Philosophical Studies how nomos was turned against the barbarians. Land first “distributed by lot, with the aid of pebbles,” is set under the watch of Nemesis, the goddess of just distribution (125; Laroche, Histoire, 89–106). Nomos continues to affirm its groundlessness when it is played like a game of chance at the table of the gods, with the dice affirming aleatory points that fracture the sky and fall back to a broken earth (DR, 284). Lafargue posits that the great betrayal appears when justice, born out of equality, sanctions the inequalities of land distributed by right and not luck (Social and Philosophical Studies, 133–34, 129–30). No longer the protector of nomads, Nemesis inflicts the death penalty “against those who menace property” for the purpose of “teaching the barbarians to trample under foot their noble sentiments of equality and brotherhood” (130–31). Lafargue thus demands a communist revolution that suppresses private property to banish “the most frightful nightmare which ever tortured sad civilized humanity,” the idea of nomic justice (134).

There are two outsides to the state: one a worldwide union, the other a fragmented resistance (TP, 381). To Deleuze and Guattari, this exteriority demonstrates the irreducibility of the nomos to the law. If there is anything to this notion, it is not found in a form of exteriority but in the fact of the outside—that there will always be nondenumerable groups (469–73), that there are flows that even the best axiomatic can never master (468–69), and that power now produces more than it can repress (F, 28–29). This is the true meaning of “deterritorialization” and “the infinite speed of thought”—each concept confirms the extraordinary powers of the outside (AO, 105; WP, 21, 35–38, 42). The difficulty is that “one cannot write sufficiently in the name of an outside” because it “has no image, no signification, no subjectivity” (TP, 23). How then to link with the outside? The simplest way is to fashion a war machine as a relation to the outside (TP, 376–77). Another path to “a new relation to the outside” may be found in a fissured planet that spews fires that consume the world (DI, 156, 158–59). Such deterritorializations unleash movements that “cease to be terrestrial” when “the religious Nome blooms and dissolves” and “the singing of the birds is replaced by combinations of water, wind, clouds, and fog” (TP, 327).

The outside appears like Frankenstein’s monster, with a crack of lightning late into the dreary night while the atomist’s rain patters away from the outside. Its darkness does not come from void worship or an existentialist reckoning with nothingness. Flashing brilliantly as a shock to thought, it appears as the “bearer of a problem” that paints the world black with dread (DR, 140). This movement grounds thought as “the relationship with the outside” (DI, 255). Exteriority here is not some transcendent light or yawning void. Rather, the outside opens out to a new milieu, like cracking the window in a house. The outside is seldom as pleasant as a breeze, however, as it invades in all its alien force. Thought here has a choice, to represent or intensify; the latter follows Paul Klee’s famous formula: “not to render the visible, but to render visible” (FB, 144). It amplifies the impinging power of the outside to cause a horrible discord that splits apart the harmonies of reason sung in the halls of state thought (DI, 259–60). Such philosophy does not sing, it screams in the analogical language of “expressive movements, paralinguistic signs, breaths” (FB, 93). The outside howls with an “open mouth as a shadowy abyss” (51).

Politics: Cataclysmic, Not Molecular

“The revolutionary was molecular, and so was the counter-revolution,” Tiqqun prophetically declares (Introduction to Civil War, 200). Yet the “molecular revolution” actually begins with Proust, who writes in Sodom and Gomorrah of three levels of sexuality: straights, gays, and queers. The first two types connect “molar” lines between fixed objects, each category simply being an inversion of the other (AO, 68–71). The third draws a “transversal” molecular line between the unspecified, partial, and flux of flows “unaware of persons, aggregates, and laws, and of images, structures, and symbols” (70–71, 311). For a long time, the love that dare not speak its name hid with other queer things made up of “very different mechanisms, thresholds, sites, and observers” (WP, 78). But counterculture exposed the secret, which is to say, disclosed a molecular line of previously clandestine passions while blossoming into the flower power of the Summer of Love publicly consecrated at Woodstock’s Three Days of Peace, Music, and Love. This new world bore what Paolo Virno calls in Grammar of the Multitude the liberatory “anti-socialist demands” of “radical criticism of labor,” “an accentuated taste for differences” and “the aptitude (at times violent, certainly) for defending oneself from the State, for dissolving the bondage to the State as such” (111). But the life of this molecular line was short. It was put back to work by disco, flexible production, and the Reagan revolution in an odd “communism of capital” (111).

The cataclysm is not an end but a new beginning, the cataclysm of a temporary hell, “itself the effect of an elementary injustice” that sweeps in and out, rather than being an abysmal lake of sulfur where souls burn forever (ECC, 46). It is the apocalypse before its decadent transformation into the system of Judgment (39). Only a revival of this cataclysmic event can end the apocalypse of an “already industrialized organization” that appeared “a Metropolis” by way of “the great military, police, and civil security of a new State” with a “programmed self-glorification” complemented by a “demented installation of an ultimate judiciary and moral power” (44, 46). We know from Nietzsche’s Gay Science that the impending cataclysm of “breakdown, destruction, ruin” may appear gloomy (279). And it will certainly cover the earth in a blackness darker than the world has ever seen (279). Yet we should greet it with cheer. For the cataclysm brings with it a new dawn worthy of our highest expectations. Though the daybreak may not be bright, we will have escaped the judgment of God, Man, and the World. “At long last our ships may venture out again, venture out to face any danger,” because “the sea, our sea, lie open again” . . . “perhaps there has never yet been such an ‘open sea’” (280).

Cinema: The Powers of the False, Not the Forces of Bodies

Bodies are a well-composed image of power. The body of God (the Sacrament of Jesus). The body of a saint (the pierced corpse of the martyr). The body of the sovereign (the King’s two bodies). The body of the tyrant (Big Brother’s face). The social body (the body politic). A body of evidence (the state’s case). The idea of society or the world functioning as an organism is well sedimented. In its stupidest form, it posits a resemblance between the human body and society. Just as various organisms interact to form an organism as a functional whole, it states, society is the cooperation of various social organs. The body provides an image for the much-talked-about “body without organs,” the great inspiration for Deleuze, who says that if we are to believe in the world, “give me a body then” (C2, 189).

The body is not really the enemy, the organism is. Some would have bodies appear through their opposites, locked in eternal combat—as the sinner and their Eternal Savior, the regicide and the King, the criminal and the Law (TP, 108). But as an organism, the body is put to use for extracting “useful labor,” either as a product of work (where organs are connected to the technical machines of the capitalism) or self-reproduction (where organs are connected to the social machines of the species) (AO, 54). The image of the body as an organism might appear as a step forward, as it invokes a form of ecological thinking of interconnected systems. But we are only interested in the body as a frustrating set of resistances, “obstinate and stubborn,” as it “forces us to think, and forces us to think what is concealed from thought, life” (C2, 189). This is why it is said that “we do not even know what a body can do.” But with the relative ease in which the body has been confused for an organism, perhaps it is time to abandon the image of the body completely. Stop thinking like lawyers, who try cases only after a body has been found. There is a simple reason: the point is not to construct a body without organs (organization, organism, . . .) but organs without a body. We only get outside the productivist logic of accumulation when “at last the disappearance of the visible body is achieved” (C2, 190).

Against the state’s body of evidence: “The ‘true world’ does not exist,” and even if it did, “it would be inaccessible, impossible to describe, and, if it could be described, would be useless, superfluous” (C2, 137). The conspiracy against this world begins with time, which “puts truth in crisis” (130). This is the fundamental problem of the “body of the law” described by Derrida whereby the law must continually rule against what it previously established as the truth (and thus its own authority) (“Force of Law”). It is these moments that reveal an in-effectivity of the truth—denouncing states, nations, or races as fictions does little to dislodge their power, however untrue the historical or scientific justifications for them might be (Seshadri, Desiring Whiteness). The state is nothing but these “not-necessarily true pasts,” the founding mythologies that fictionalize the origin of states and nations of people (C2, 131). This is the power generated only between the true and the false: what Deleuze calls “the real.” The importance of the real is central, as trying to use truth to dispute the false does not work: those who denounce the illegal violence used to found legal orders are quickly dismissed or jailed, and the many climate scientists who harangue the public about the truth of global warming fail to spur policy change.

Cinema “takes up the problem of truth and attempts to resolve it through purely cinematic means” (Lambert, Non-philosophy, 93). There are films that go beyond metaphor and analogy, operating instead through a realism of the false. This is not the epic cinema of Brecht or Lang, whose dissimulation and relativism ultimately return the morality of judgment through the viewer. It is a realism of what escapes the body, presenting something it cannot perceive on its own—not different worlds but realities that exist in the present (though not currently lived) that confirm reality by weakening it. Deleuze finds that the elusive truth of postwar cinema does not prevent the existence of a “truthful man” but the “forger” as the character of new cinema (C2, 132). The forger refuses the moral origins of truth and frustrates the return to judgment (C2, 138–39). The realism of the false shows us love through the eyes of a serial killer (Grandrieux’s Sombre), gives us the real thrill of self-destruction (Gavras’s Our Day Will Come), unleashes the cruelty of nature against the cool logic of liberal patriarchy (von Trier’s Anti-Christ), and solicits us in the horrifying conspiracies of a new flesh (Cronenberg’s Videodrome).

The Sensible: Indiscernibility, Not Experience

The senses think when the boundary between the imaginary and the real collapses. This is what happens whenever the suspension of disbelief continues outside the frame (C2, 169). But the suspension carries on only as long as it is not whittled down to a narrow proposition through “infinite specification” (DR, 306). It expands by establishing a “distinct yet indiscernible” proximity (TP, 279–80, 286). In this strange zone of indiscernibility, figuration recedes—it is right before our eyes, but we lose our ability to clarify the difference between a human body, a beast, and meat (FB, 22–27). There is no mystical outside, just the unrelenting intrusion of “the fact that we are not yet thinking” (C2, 167). This is because experience is itself not thought but merely the provocation to think—a reminder of the insufferable, the impossibility of continuing the same, and the necessity of change.

“Knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting,” says Foucault (“Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 88). Neither is sense. The best sense is a sensation, a provocation, that introduces insufficiency (L, 50–58). So instead of adequate conceptions, we spread insufficient sensations. This insufficiency does not carry the weight of inevitability. It may begin with a petulant indecisiveness, such as Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to,” but it must not end there. The greatest danger is that indecision consumes us and we become satisfied for one reason or another, withering like Bartleby in jail cells of our own making. Our communism demands that we actively conspire under the cover of the secret; for there is nothing more active than the Death of the World. Our hatred propels us. Just as “an adventure that erupts in sedentary groups” through “the call of the outside,” our sense that the world is intolerable is what compels us to build our own barbarian siege engines to attack the new Metropolis that stands in Judgment like a Heaven on Earth (DI, 259).

Dark Deleuze by Andrew Culp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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