Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Thousand Plateaus (Capitalism and Schizophrenia)

I'm still trying to digest the readings that we had from this book. As near as I can tell, the author's argument is a total rejection of the medieval concept of natural order, and encourages us to think of the whole world as a rhizome. He goes on at length about why rhizome-thought is good and 'binary logic' is bad. Multiplicity good, duality bad. Subject/object bad. In rejecting all dualities, he falls into duality, with his multiplicity on the one side, and singularity/duality on the other.

His point seems to be that 'the system' has multiple points of entry and exit. He would probably object to calling it 'the system,' saying that this demonstrates binary-logical thinking. He encourages us to consider all the possible factors involved. That the wasp and the orchid are not closed systems, but interrelated. He makes a few good points. The world is more complicated than 1 and 0, and things seem to exist in relationship with each other and not in isolation.

The problem with his model as I see it is that generalizations, singularities and dualities are absolutely necessary. If we are to take into account every possible factor every single time we talk about anything, exploring every inch of the rhizome-structure both above and beneath the ground at every point of access, we shall never say anything at all; we shall rather contemplate and admire the Rhizome. He encourages contemplation and admiration, but renders criticism all but impossible. Certainly it is helpful to get a larger picture of the processes and secret chambers hidden underground that connect things in unexpected ways, but at some point you have to stop contemplating and take action.

We need to organize our data. Doing so makes it intelligible. The ability to choose this and not that is freedom itself. If I am not free to choose this and not that, but must take all of it without discriminating between useful information and peripheral information, I am not sure that it is possible to do anything with that information. In that state, it is, not does.


Aric Clark said...

Eastern traditions like Buddhism and Daoism, and even many branches of spirituality within Christianity would say that "doing" is precisely the problem. Our goal should be just to "be". That by "being" we are "doing" the most important thing we can. That action is problematic in part because it entails the reductiveness you've described.

Paul Wise said...

That may be so, but I am not the sort of person who can 'be' very easily. I need to 'do.' I need to have a task to complete, a deed to do, a goal to reach for. I don't have to focus on it to the exclusion of all else (and can go a day or two without thinking about it), and it doesn't need to be the same thing every day, but it needs to be there - something I need to get done. If I don't have that, I get restless, bored, and frustrated.

I suppose this may be a flaw in my character. Either that or I'm just not very Buddhist or Daoist.