earth / land

earth / land
  ---- by John Protevi
  As part of what Deleuze and Guattari come to call a geophilosophy in What is Philosophy?, in A Thousand Plateaus 'earth' along with 'ground' (sol) and 'territory' (territoire) express manners of occupying terrestrial space by different social machines: the nomad war machine, the territorial tribe, the overcoding State. Earth can also mean the virtual realm or Body without Organs (BwO), while 'a new earth' (une nouvelle terre), called for at points in A Thousand Plateaus and made a focal point of What is Philosophy?, entails new human relationships to the creative potentials of material systems to form consistencies, war machines, or rhizomes from a variety of means.
  In A Thousand Plateaus, Brian Massumi uses two English words to translate the French terre, which can mean both 'earth' in the astronomical sense of our planet and 'land' in the geographical sense of a cultivated area. There is no consistency in Deleuze and Guattari's use of the majuscule in the French text; both Terre and terre are used in the sense of 'earth' and 'land'. The anglophone reader should keep in mind the close proximity of terre ('earth' and 'land') with territoire ('territory').
  First, 'earth' is equivalent to the BwO, otherwise understood by Deleuze and Guattari as the virtual plane of consistency upon which strata are imposed (D&G 1987: 40). Second, 'earth' is part of the earth-territory (terre-territoire) system of romanticism, the becoming-intensive of strata. Hence 'earth' is the gathering point, outside all territories, of all selfordering forces ('forces of the earth') for intensive territorial assemblages (the virtual seen from the point of view of territorialising machinic assemblages). Third, the 'new earth' (nouvelle terre) is the becoming-virtual of intensive material. Put differently, the 'new earth' is the correlate of absolute deterritorialisation (the leaving of all intensive territorial assemblages to attain the plane of consistency); it is the tapping of 'cosmic forces' (the virtual seen from the point of view of the abstract machines composing it, not the machinic assemblages that actualise a selection of singularities). Hence, it marks new potentials for creation (D&G 1987: 423; 509-10). In this sense, it is unfortunate that Brian Massumi translates une nouvelle terre as 'a new land' (D&G 1987: 509).
  Land (terre) is constituted by the overcoding of territories under the signifying regime and the State apparatus (D&G 1987: 440-1). Land refers exclusively to striated space, and is that terrain that can be owned, held as stock, distributed, rented, made to produce and taxed. Land can be gridded, distributed, classified and categorised without even being physically experienced, and a striking example of this is the township-andrange system of the US that imparted striated space to a vast part of the North American continent ahead of actual settler occupation. The system of stockpiling territories and overcoding them as land for the State does not stop at the farm or even the ranch, but extends to the forest lands (as 'national' forests) and to the unusable spaces that become national parks, biosphere reserves, and so forth. These spaces are held as refuges for State subjects who seek to escape from private property to find some sort of becoming-earth commons.
  In What is Philosophy?, 'a new earth' becomes the rallying cry in the 'geophilosophy' of Deleuze and Guattari, in which 'stratification' is the process whereby the implantation of codes and territories form dominating bodies. This is opposed to the construction of a 'new earth' that entails new human relationships to the creative potentials of material systems to form consistencies, war machines, or rhizomes from a variety of means. In the construction of the new earth, care must be taken not to confuse the structural difference of strata and consistency with an a priori moral categorisation, but rather always to retain the pragmatic and empirical nature of Deleuze and Guattari's work and perform the ethical evaluation of the life-affirming or life-denying character of assemblages.
  Strata, along with codes and territories, are always needed, if only in providing resting points for further experiments in forming war machines. Strata are in fact 'beneficial in many regards' (D&G 1987: 40), though we must be careful not to laud the stability of strata as instantiating the moral virtue of unchanging self-identity espoused by Platonism. The mere fact that an assemblage or body politic is flexible and resilient, however, does not guarantee its ethical choice-worthiness, for what Deleuze and Guattari call 'micro-fascism' is not rigid at all but rather a supple and free-floating body politic. Even if fascists are reterritorialised on the 'black hole' of their subjectivity: 'there is fascism when a war machine is installed in each hole, in every niche' (D&G 1987: 214) and not only those practices that 'intend' to produce a life-affirming assemblage will result in such.
   § black hole
   § deterritorialisation
   § Plato
   § space
   § virtual / virtuality

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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