Immanence and Rhizome

“Capitalism defines a field of immanence and never ceases to fully occupy this field” (Anti-Oedipus 250).

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I thought that the view of the plane of immanence as a rhizomatic network of interconnection, rather than a literally flat plane was my original take on D&G’s concept, but in fact, it had been built in by them all along. First, let’s take a look at some of the principles of the rhizome, as outlined in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus:

1. connection (any point can be connected to any other point);

2. heterogeneity: “A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (8), thereby bringing together elements from a variety of fields.

3. multiplicity: “A multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number without the multiplicity changing in nature…” (8).

There are three more principles (rupture, cartography, and decalcomania), but they are would just complicate things here.

Although it is probably a natural conclusion that comes out of the close reading of both volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, D&G never clearly establish the connection between immanence and rhizome. A Thousand Plateaus presents several discussions of immanence, either connected with the plane of immanence of capitalism, or with the immanence of absolute deterritorialization. Or, if we take the plane of immanence to be synonymous with the plane of consistency, we have this allusion to the rhizome: “We must try to conceive of this world in which a single fixed plane–which we shall call a plane of absolute immobility or absolute movement–is traversed by nonformal elements of relative speed that enter this or that individuated assemblage depending on their degrees of speed and slowness. A plane of consistency peopled by anonymous matter, by infinite bits of impalpable matter entering into varying connections” (255). We have, therefore “elements” flowing across a plane that connect with each other in different ways or are harnessed into individuating assemblages. The elements themselves are impossible to categorize, identify, or taxonomize on their own, but they become structured when caught in assemblages. Sounds a lot like it could go either way: either axiomatized in the relative deterritorialization that the plane of immanence of capitalism constructs, or they could flow freely across a body without organs, and enter processes of becoming that can no longer be quantified or appropriated by molar aggregates. Moreover, the first possibility does not definitively preclude the latter. In other words, processes of becoming can ensue even out of the axiomatic of capital. There are two questions that emerge here: 1. How would that process happen in practice?, and 2. Is the reverse also true, i.e., can the process of becoming or the free flow across the bwo be re-axiomatized and thus re-appropriated by capital?

To get back to the connection between immanence and rhizome, Deleuze almost comes out and expresses it in an interview in Negotiations, called ”On Philosophy” (135-55). He points to the connection by describing immanence with the help of the principles of the rhizome:

“That’s what it’s like on the plane of immanence: multiplicities fill it, singularities connect with one another, processes or becomings unfold, intensities rise and fall” (146-47).

Similarly, in typical manner, Deleuze opens up the concept to endless additions, explanations, therefore basically to any applicability, all of which he subsumes under the necessity for “constructivism”: “If new concepts have to be brought in all the time, it’s just because the plane of immanence has to be constructed area by area, constructed locally, going from one point to the next” (147). Doesn’t the latter point directly to the rhizome?

More on this point: “And the plane of immanence has to be constructed, immanence is constructivism, any given multiplicity is like one area of the plane. All processes take place on the plane of immanence, and within a given multiplicity: unifications, subjectifications, rationalizations, centralizations have no special status; they often amount to an impasse or closing off that prevents the multiplicity’s growth, the extension and unfolding of its lines, the production of something new” (146).

The end of this quote pointing to the product of a process is somewhat surprising, given that D&G stress that it’s not the outcome of a process that counts, but the process itself, especially when it refers to becoming: “Becoming produces nothing other than itself. … What is real is the becoming itself, the block of becoming, not the supposedly fixed terms through which that which becomes passes… This is the point to clarify: that a becoming lacks a subject distinct from itself” (1000 Plateaus 238). This statement is just an example of how D&G jolt us out of our positivist and teleological thinking that processes have to end in a product that can be taxonomized, structured, and organized. But no, they argue: instead, it’s all about the process, an endless shifting, changing, i.e., becoming, which elides the subject, the individual in favour of the event and the haecceity, the being-in-the-moment.

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