THE DELUGE: GILLES DELEUZE. CAPITALISM AND SCHIZOPHRENIA
Capitalism, flows, the decoding of flows, capitalism and schizophrenia, psychoanalysis, Spinoza.
“What is it that moves over the body of a society? It is always flows, and a person is always a cutting off [coupure] of a flow. A person is always a point of departure for the production of a flow, a point of destination for the reception of a flow, a flow of any kind; or, better yet, an interception of many flows.
If a person has hair, this hair can move through many stages: the hairstyle of a young girl is not the same as that of a married woman, it is not the same as that of a widow: there is a whole hairstyle code. A person, insofar as she styles her hair, typically presents herself as an interceptor in relation to flows of hair that exceed her and exceed her case and these flows of hair are themselves coded according to very different codes: widow code, young girl code, married woman code, etc. This is ultimately the essential problem of coding and of the territorialization which is always coding flows with it, as a fundamental means of operation: marking persons (because persons are situated at the interception and at the cutting off [coupure] of flows, they exist at the points where flows are cut off [coupure]).
But, now, more than marking persons–marking persons is the apparent means of operation–coding has a deeper function, that is to say, a society is only afraid of one thing: the deluge; it is not afraid of the void, it is not afraid of dearth or scarcity. Over a society, over its social body, something flows [coule] and we do not know what it is, something flows that is not coded, and something which, in relation to this society, even appears as the uncodable. Something which would flow and which would carry away this society to a kind of deterritorialization which would make the earth upon which it has set itself up dissolve: this, then, is the crisis. We encounter something that crumbles and we do not know what it is, it responds to no code, it flees underneath the codes; and this is even true, in this respect, for capitalism, which for a long time believed it could always secure simili-codes; this, then, is what we call the well-known power [puissance] of recuperation within capitalism–when we say recuperate we mean: each time something seems to escape capitalism, seems to pass beneath its simili-codes; it reabsorbs all this, it adds one more axiom and the machine starts up again; think of capitalism in the 19th century: it sees the flowing of a pole of flow that is, literally, a flow, the flow of workers, a proletariat flow: well, what is this which flows, which flows wickedly and which carries away our earth, where are we headed? The thinkers of the 19th century have a very strange response, notably the French historical school: it was the first in the 19th century to have thought in terms of classes, they are the ones who invent the theoretical notion of classes and invent it precisely as an essential fragment of the capitalist code, namely: the legitimacy of capitalism comes from this: the victory of the bourgeoisie as a class opposed to the aristocracy.
The system that appears in the works of Saint Simon, A. Thierry, E. Quinet is the radical seizure of consciousness by the bourgeoisie as a class and they interpret all of history as a class struggle. It is not Marx who invents the understanding of history as a class struggle, it is the bourgeois historical school of the 19th century: 1789, yes, it is a class struggle, they are struck blind when they see flowing, on the actual surface of the social body, this weird flow that they do not recognize: the proletariat flow. The idea that this is a class is not possible, it is not one at this moment: the day when capitalism can no longer deny that the proletariat is a class, this coincides with the moment when, in its head, it found the moment to recode all this. That which we call the power [puissance] of recuperation of capitalism, what is it?
[It consists] in having at its disposal a kind of axiomatic, and when it sets upon [dispose de] some new thing which it does not recognize, as with every axiomatic, it is an axiomatic with a limit that cannot be saturated: it is always ready to add one more axiom to restore its functioning. When capitalism can no longer deny that the proletariat is a class, when it comes to recognize a type of class bipolarity, under the influence of workers’ struggles in the 19th century, and under the influence of the revolution, this moment is extraordinarily ambiguous, for it is an important moment in the revolutionary struggle, but it is also an essential moment in capitalist recuperation: I make you one more axiom, I make you axioms for the working class and for the union power [puissance] that represents them, and the capitalist machine grinds its gears and starts up again, it has sealed the breach. In other words, all the bodies of a society are essential: to prevent the flowing over society, over its back, over its body, of flows that it cannot code and to which it cannot assign a territoriality.
Need, scarcity, famine, a society can code these, what it cannot code, is when this thing appears, when it says to itself: what is up with these guys? So, in a first phase, the repressive apparatus puts itself into motion, if we can’t code it, we will try to annihilate it. In a second phase, we try to find new axioms which allow it to be recoded for better or worse.
A social body is well defined as follows: there is perpetual trickery, flows flow over from one pole to another, and they are perpetually coded, and there are flows that escape from the codes and then there is the social effort to recuperate all that, to axiomatize all this, to manipulate the code a little, so as to make room for flows that are also dangerous: all of a sudden, there are young people who do not respond to the code: they insist on having a flow of hair which was not expected, what shall we do now? We try to recode it, we will add an axiom, we will try to recuperate [it] but then [if] there is something within it that continues not to let itself be coded, what then?
In other words, this is the fundamental action of a society: to code the flows and to treat as an enemy anyone who presents himself, in relation to society, as an uncodable flow, because, once again, it challenges [met en question] the entire earth, the whole body of this society. I will say this of every society, except perhaps of our own–that is, capitalism, even though just now I spoke of capitalism as if it coded all the flows in the same way as all other societies and did not have any other problems, but perhaps I was going too fast.
There is a fundamental paradox in capitalism as a social formation: if it is true that the terror of all the other social formations was decoded flows, capitalism, for its part, historically constituted itself on an unbelievable thing: namely, that which was the terror of other societies: the existence and the reality of decoded flows and these capitalism made its proper concern. If this were true, it would explain that capitalism is, in a very precise sense, the universal form of all societies: in a negative sense, capitalism would be that which all societies dreaded above all, and we cannot help but have the impression that, historically speaking, capitalism…in a certain sense, is what every social formation constantly tried to exorcise, what it constantly tried to avoid, why? Because it was the ruin of every other social formation. And the paradox of capitalism is that a social formation constituted itself on the basis of that which was the negative of all the others. This means that capitalism was not able to constitute itself except through a conjunction, an encounter between decoded flows of all kinds. The thing which was dreaded most of all by every social formation was the basis for a social formation that had to engulf all the others: that what was the negative of all formations has become the very positivity of ours, this makes one shudder. And in what sense was capitalism constituted on the conjunction of decoded flows: it required extraordinary encounters at the end of a process [processus] of decodings of every kind, which were formed with the decline of feudalism. These decodings of all kinds consisted in the decoding of land flows, under the form of the constitution of large private properties, the decoding of monetary flows, under the form of the development of merchant fortunes, the decoding of a flow of workers under the form of expropriation, of the deterritorialization of serfs and peasant landholders. And this is not enough, for if we take the example of Rome, the decoding in decadent Rome, all this clearly happened: the decoding of flows of property under the form of large private properties , the decoding of monetary flows under the forms of large private fortunes, the decoding of labourers with the formation of an urban sub-proletariat: everything is found here, almost everything. The elements of capitalism are found here all together, only there is no encounter. What was necessary for the encounter to be made between the decoded flows of capital or of money and the decoded flows of labourers, for the encounter to be made between the flow of emergent capital and the flow of deterritorialized manpower, literally, the flow of decoded money and the flow of deterritorialized labourers. Indeed, the manner in which money is decoded so as to become money capital and the manner in which the labourer is ripped from the earth in order to become the owner of his/her labour power [force de travail] alone: these are two processes totally independent from each other, there must be an encounter between the two.
Indeed, for the process of the decoding of money to form capital that is made all across the embryonic forms of commercial capital and banking capital, the flow of labour, the free possessor of his/her labour power alone, is made across a whole other line that is the deterritorialization of the labourer at the end of feudalism, and this could very well not have been encountered. A conjunction of decoded and deterritorialized flows, this is at the basis of capitalism. Capitalism is constituted on the failure of all the pre-existent codes and social territorialities.
If we admit this, what does this represent: the capitalist machine, it is literally demented. A social machine that functions on the basis of decoded, deterritorialized flows, once again, it is not that societies did not have any idea of this; they had the idea in the form of panic, they acted to prevent this–it was the overturning of all the social codes known up to that point–; so, a society that constitutes itself on the negative of all pre-existing societies, how can it function? A society for which it is proper to decode and deterritorialize all the flows: flow of production, flow of consumption, how can it function, under what form: perhaps capitalism has other processes than coding to make it work, perhaps it is completely different. What I have been seeking up until now was to reground, at a certain level, the problem of the relation CAPITALISM-SCHIZOPHRENIA–and the grounding of a relation is found in something common between capitalism and the schizo: what they have totally in common, and it is perhaps a community that is never realized, that does not assume a concrete figure, it is a community of a principle that remains abstract, namely, the one like the other does not cease to filter, to emit, to intercept, to concentrate decoded and deterritorialized flows.
This is their profound identity and it is not at the level of a way of life that capitalism renders us schizophrenic, it is at the level of the economic process: all this only works through a system of conjunction, say the word then, on condition of accepting that this word implies a veritable difference in nature from codes. It is capitalism that functions like an axiomatic, an axiomatic of decoded flows. All other social formations functioned on the basis of a coding and of a territorialization of flows and between a capitalist machine that makes an axiomatic of decoded flows such as they are or deterritorialized flows, such as they are, and other social formations, there is truly a difference in nature that makes capitalism the negative of other societies. Now, the schizo, in his own way, with his own tottering walk, he does the same thing. In a sense, he is more capitalist than the capitalist, more `prole’ than the `prole’: he decodes, he deterritorializes the flows and knots together a kind of identity in nature of capitalism and the schizo.
Schizophrenia is the negative of the capitalist formation. In a sense, schizophrenia goes further, capitalism functioned on a conjunction of decoded flows, on one condition, that is, at the same time that it perpetually decoded flows of money, flows of labour, etc., it incorporated them, it constructed a new type of machine, at the same time, not afterwards, that was not a coding machine, but an axiomatic machine.
It is in this way that it succeeds in making a coherent system, on condition that we say what profoundly distinguishes an axiomatic of decoded flows and a coding of flows. Whereas the schizo, he does more, he does not let himself be axiomatized either, he always goes further with the decoded flows, making do with no flows at all, rather than letting himself be coded, no earth at all, rather than letting himself be territorialized. What is their relation to each other? It is from this point that the problem arises. One must study more closely the relation capitalism / schizophrenia, giving the greatest importance to this: is it true and in what sense can we define capitalism as a machine that functions on the basis of decoded flows, on the basis of deterritorialized flows? In what sense is it the negative of all social formations and along the same lines, in what sense is schizophrenia the negative of capitalism, that it goes even further in decoding and in deterritorialization, and just where does it go, and where does that take it? Towards a new earth, towards no earth at all, towards the deluge?
If I try to link up with the problems of psychoanalysis, in what sense, in what manner–this is strictly a beginning–, I assume that there is something in common between capitalism, as a social structure, and schizophrenia as a process. Something in common that makes it so that the schizo is produced as the negative of capitalism (itself the negative of all the rest), and that this relation, we can now comprehend it by considering its terms: coding of flows, decoded and deterritorialized flows, axiomatic of decoded flows, etc.
It remains to be seen what in the psychoanalytic and psychiatric problem continues to preoccupy us. One must reread three texts of Marx: in book I: the production of surplus value, the chapter on the tendential fall in the last book, and finally, in the ?Grundrisse,? the chapter on automation”.
Copyright : Emilie e Julien Deleuze
Web source: “Les cours de Gilles Deleuze”,