Deleuze and Guattari


John Phillips


April 10, 2006


Lecture Notes


Tree                                        Rhizome

Unity (Binary)                         Multiplicity

Tracing                                   Mapping

Subject                                    Assemblage

Strata                                      Lines of Flight



Tree of Porphyry









Assemblages of Desire and

Assemblages of Enunciation


Chain: Event, Sense, Common Notion, Assemblage


Body without Organs (BwO)




Kafka: A Minor Literature

Capitalism and Schizophrenia:

1. Anti-Oedipus;

2. A Thousand Plateaus

What is Philosophy





It is never the beginning or the end that are interesting; the beginning and the end are points.  What is interesting is the middle.  The English zero is always in the middle.  Bottlenecks are always in the middle.  Being in the middle of a line is the most uncomfortable position.  One begins again through the middle The French think in terms of trees too much: the tree of knowledge, points of arborescence, the alpha and omega, the roots and the pinnacle.  Trees are the opposite of grass.  Not only does grass grow in the middle of things but it grows itself through the middle.  This is the English or American problem.  Grass has its line of flight and does not take root.  We have grass in the head and not a tree: what thinking signifies is what the brain is, a “particular nervous system” of grass. (Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, 1987, Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlison and Barbara Habberjam, London: Continuum, 39).





Desire as Assemblage

There isn’t a desire for power; it is power itself that is desire.  Not a desire-lack, but desire as a plenitude, exercise, and functioning, even in the most subaltern of workers.  Being an assemblage [agencement], desire is precisely one with the gears and the components of the machine, one with the power of the machine.  And the desire that someone has for power is only his fascination with these gears, his desire to make certain of these gears go into operation, to be himself one of these gears—or, for want of anything better, to be the material treated by these gears, a material that is a gear in its own way. (Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, 1986, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 56).




On the translation of Agencement by Assemblage


One of the key problems of global knowledge concerns the circulation, adoption and adaptation of concepts in translation.  The English word assemblage is gaining currency in the humanities and social sciences as a concept of knowledge, but its uses remain disparate and sometimes imprecise.  Two factors contribute to the situation.  First, the concept is normally understood to be derived from the French word agencement, as used in the works of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (who, furthermore, do not use the French word assemblage in this way).  Tracing the concept in its philosophical sense back to their texts, one discovers that it cannot easily be understood except in connection with the development of a complex of such concepts.  Agencement implies specific connections with the other concepts.  It is, in fact, the arrangement of these connections that gives the concepts their sense.  For Deleuze and Guattari, a philosophical concept never operates in isolation but comes to its sense in connection with other senses in specific yet creative and often unpredictable ways.  This in connection with already provides something of the sense of agencement, if one accepts that a concept arises in philosophy as the connection between a state of affairs and the statements we can make about it.  Agencement designates the priority of neither the state of affairs nor the statement but of their connection, which implies the production of a sense that exceeds them and of which, transformed, they now form parts.

Secondly, the translation of agencement by assemblage can give rise to connotations based on analogical impressions, which liberate elements of a vocabulary from the arguments that once helped form it.  One of the earliest attempts to translate Deleuze and Guattari’s use of the term agencement appears in the first published translation, by Paul Foss and Paul Patton in 1981, of the article “Rhizome.”  The English term they use, assemblage, is retained in Brian Massumi’s later English version, when “Rhizome” appears as the Introduction to A Thousand Plateaus.  Since then many (though by no means all) translators and commentators have agreed, in a loose consensus, to keep to this early translation of agencement by assemblage, while acknowledging that the translation is not really a good approximation.  Agencement is a common French word with the senses of either “arrangement,” “fitting” or “fixing” and is used in French in as many contexts as those words are used in English: one would speak of the arrangement of parts of a body or machine; one might talk of fixing (fitting or affixing) two or more parts together; and one might use the term for both the act of fixing and the arrangement itself, as in the fixtures and fittings of a building or shop, or the parts of a machine. 

In contrast, the word assemblage in English means more or less the same as its actual French counterpart, assemblage, a word that Deleuze and Guattari use less often and certainly never in a philosophical sense.  It has a more restrictive range of uses in English.  The French will talk about an assemblage of different grape varieties or ingredients in a recipe and its senses cover blending, collating, gathering and joining.   Although it designates a collection of things in English too (as one of the noun forms of assemble), it is conventionally restricted to more technical terminology: as the collection of remains found on an archeological site (in a French pronunciation: a-s­ā-bläzh); and in art theory (in both French and English) it is a term associated with collage and other avant-garde or pop art styles, designating works assembled out of diverse objects (like Jean Arp’s Trousse d’un Da, an assemblage of driftwood nailed onto wood with some remains of old painting).

As an imaginative resource for framing objects and operations of the social sciences, assemblage remains suggestive.  Its use as a translation of agencement, though not entirely without justification, is nonetheless in danger of missing what is really forceful with regard to knowledge in Deleuze and Guattari’s usage.  The most direct connection that agencement has for Deleuze would be to his work from the late 1960s on the philosophy of Spinoza and the Common Notion.  It also has a very precise correspondence to the notions of event, becoming and sense, which Deleuze discusses at length in other works of the same period.  A common notion represents the situation when two or more bodies have something in common.  All bodies have in common the states of extension, motion and rest; but when two or more bodies come into contact or otherwise enter into a relationship they form a composition.  A common notion is the representation of this composition as an independent unity.  The unity, for instance, of a poison and the body poisoned can be regarded as a state of becoming and an event which is reducible to neither the body nor the poison.  The body and the poison, rather, participate in the event (which is what they have in common).  Deleuze brings together readings of several sources, including Lewis Carroll’s Alice, the philosophy of the Stoics and the writings of surrealist Joë Bousquet, to explore the character of unities like this in terms of their eventness, their sense (sens in the senses of both direction and meaning) and their becoming.  While Alice is growing larger she is in a state of becoming both larger than she was and yet not as large as she will be.  The state of becoming regarded as a compositional unity thus affixes the two senses of being-larger-than and being-smaller-than.  This being between, and the paradoxical senses it produces, can be brought into contact with the Stoics who regarded, for instance, the state produced when a knife cuts through flesh as a separate, abstract state, which Deleuze develops in terms of the event.  The wound as an event which brings the knife and the flesh together can be reduced to neither knife nor flesh.  A third sense is produced that corresponds precisely to Spinoza’s common notion, and which gives rise to the second order conceptual level of “adequate ideas.”  Knowledge of the world would thus be formed of second order ideas: concepts that are adequate—a good fit—to the unities composed by bodies in connection. 

The implications for knowledge (although these states have powerful implications for ontological questions too) are profound.  The traditional arrangement implies a subject of knowledge separated out from his objects, which he transforms by making them his project.  But this is a kind of agencement too—an event, a becoming, a compositional unity—with sense and a common notion, to which adequate ideas might be affixed.  The sense of such a knowing cannot any longer be attributed to the knower, who participates in a further stage of becoming not reducible to his knowledge.  Deleuze and Guattari, first in their 1975 book on Franz Kafka, and then in A Thousand Plateaus, mobilize this sense of agencement and the term itself begins to shift, to break up and to participate in further connections.  The “collective agencement of enunciation,” designates the language system to which all speakers of a language belong; the “social agencement of desire” designates the individual’s relation to his objects; and the “machinic agencement” exceeds both the planes of enunciation and desire, recombining them in further enunciative events. 

The translation of agencement by assemblage might have been justified as a further event of agencement (assemblage) were it not for the tendency of discourses of knowledge to operate as statements about states of affairs.  The statement, as Deleuze and Guattari tirelessly insist, tends to undo assemblages, to take things apart, to divide things from each other, to divide, fundamentally, the subject of the statement (the sense and reference of a statement) from its enunciation (the conditions on which one can make a statement at all).  If the sense of the term assemblage gathers to itself the unity and homogeneity of a theoretical concept at the level of the statement (which is what agencement allows) then it is also possible to problematize the term, to hook it back up with the fittings, fixtures, and diverse arrangements that help constitute it and help to keep it current.   



The Darkling Thrush


Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Dec. 31, 1900







Contents Under Pressure - A Hypertext in Progress by Christian Hubert


John Searle on Noam Chomsky:

The information contained in this derivation can be represented graphically in a tree diagram of the following form:

This “phrase marker” is Chomsky’s representation of the syntax of the sentence “The boy will read the book.” It provides a description of the syntactical structure of the sentence. Phrase structure rules of the sort I have used to construct the derivation were implicit in at least some of the structuralist grammars; but Chomsky was the first to render them explicit and to show their role in the derivations of sentences. He is not, of course, claiming that a speaker actually goes consciously or unconsciously through any such process of applying rules of the form “rewrite X as Y” to construct sentences. To construe the grammarian’s description this way would be to confuse an account of competence with a theory of performance.


Chomsky’s Revolution in Linguistics


But also see my own: Linguistic Competence (the full version, only for you!)