Archive for February, 2011

How does one engage an event?

The event has gone through torsions in this blog. But we shouldn’t confuse an event with a blog. What is happening as I write in Libya is an event that changes the contours of everything, but not for everyone in the same way, or for the same duration, or with the same speed. The event does not take the form of an equality of duration, but rather partakes of the excess of transvaluation.

Libya in flames, bombed out, but what of the becomings that have expressed something powerful but as yet unknown through this event (we hesitate to endorse Hardt and Negri’s hopes of the Arab revolts—see:; the comments are as interesting as the article. Hardt and Negri are assimilating the Arab protests to their own particular war machine, but something else is going on, beyond what they “hope” for). In thinking this through and in affirming our support of the revolts, we should remember not to confuse the two becomings that Deleuze differentiates, a revolutionary becoming and a radical deterritorialization, which can be suicidal (and often fascistic).

In thinking the politics of events as the massacres in Libya we want access to that which exceeds the actual event, the lives of the lives lost, through what processes were they brought to that moment? The machinic phylum, the body without organs, concrescence, ecologies of sensation allow us to pose the transvaluation in and mutation of a given event. In my work on Indian mobile networks and their ecology of sensation, what I have benefitted from thinking is the co-evolution of human capacities with technologies of perception. Part of what needs understanding concretely is the role the mobile has played in these uprisings, it would seem that facebook and the mobile have found a new form of political expression across the Arab world. But how long has this fire been burning, isn’t this, as James Baldwin said once, just the fire next time, isn’t the Arab uprising simply the heir of the last conflagration, the last murder, the last violation? Is the Arab uprising an example of what Hardt and Negri argue is a new form of horizontal organizing for social justice? This is a problem in Hardt and Negri’s analyses: theirs is a proleptic or anticipatory criticism where what emerges always already affirms the powers of the multitude, but they are dealing with people potentialized through both a noncognitive ingression of force and resonance of specifically habituated techno-perceptual assemblages, and a people whose aspirations are also replete with the forces of ressentiment and affirmation. And as always there is a desperate, violent, but most importantly active struggle over the interpretation of events: interpretation becomes directly ontological in such circumstances. So it should not surprise us when on the scale of human politics ressentiment becomes the reigning affective disposition of the new regime. But to make an affirmation of becoming is not to live in the hopes of Western criticism, seeking another aprioritized example (Derrida is very good when it comes to thinking the dialectic of the example—see the analysis of the Derrida-Lacan debate collected in the Purloined Poe) of a multitude, a movement, a becoming. To make an affirmation of becoming is to return thought each time to a political ontology of an infinity of attributes, infinitely variable, the process of concrescence going from potentiality to actual nexus, or assemblage. And it is absolutely not the case that such a political ontology is status quoist, compromised (what is not? But there are gradients…), and ineffectual in the “real” world. A political ontology worth its salt will attain the status of a diagram of becoming.

The fire next time could also be one of those highly improbable, but decisive events that has entered into popular discourse through Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan. But of course the highly improbable event has been foundational to poststructuralism, which has made many careers defining or engaging with events. Both Derrida and Deleuze had very different kinds of engagements with the revolutionary, critically intensive, symmetry breaking event of becoming. People confuse being a Deleuzian with thinking one is right about ontology or causality. There is nothing right about a diagram, it either works with complexity, compounding and correlating powers, or affects, or dies of its own decomposition.

Without making excuses for quick transitions, I think one way to contribute to a revolutionary becoming is by diagramming vectors of ingression. Ingression correlates directly with potentiality in A. N. Whitehead’s process philosophy, and it is worth quoting here at length (the virtual? I think a close study of the precise differences between Whitehead’s pure potentiality and Deleuze’s virtual is in order—see Tim Clark, A Whiteheadian Chaosmos: Process Philosophy from a Deleuzean Perspective, “(vi) That each entity in the universe of a given concrescence can, so far as its own nature is concerned, be implicated in that concrescence in one or other of many modes; but in fact it is implicated only in one mode: that the particular mode of implication is only rendered fully determinate by that concrescence, though it is conditioned by the correlate universe. This indetermination, rendered determinate in the real concrescence, is the meaning of ‘potentiality.’ It is a conditioned indetermination, and is therefore called a ‘real potentiality.’ (vii) That an eternal object can be described only in terms of its potentiality for ingression into the becoming of actual entities; and that its analysis only discloses other eternal objects. It is a pure potential. The term ‘ingression’ refers to the particular mode in which the potentiality of an eternal object is realized in a particular actual entity, contributing to the definiteness of that actual entity” (Process and Reality 23). One could quite easily loose it in what Whitehead later in the lectures calls the technical language of his project, but I think the sense of real potentiality as a certain movement is very much what Deleuze argues of Spinoza: real distinction is not numerical, but qualitative.