Monday, February 21, 2011

Machines Driving Other Machines

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari describe desire not as part of ideology, nor as a passive part of the unconscious. Instead, for D&G desire is productive. The desire-machine “is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. […] Everywhere it is machines—real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections” (1). Desire, therefore, is a process or act of production. For D&G, the point is that desire is a producing-machine, specifically a producing-machine which is always plugged into or driving other machines. Each machine produces another machine. This means that every machine must be coupled, or connected to other machines. But what are these machines? Are they simply abstract processes with no “real” dimension? Or, are they objects, in the sense that my computer and the tree outside my window are objects?

To begin with, D&G make it clear (as we saw above) that these machines are “real ones—not figurative ones” (1). In other words, these machines are not to be thought of as simply figures of speech or products of our linguistic systems. No, instead, as they explain a little later, in every machine, “[s]omething is produced: the effects of a machine, not mere metaphors” (2). Desiring-machines, make up our world. Every object, no matter the scale, is a producing-machine. This means that we can discuss table-machines, coffee mug-machines, lamp-machines, and cellular-machines along with body-machines, organ-machines, subject-machines and capital-machines.

There is not distinction between man-made and natural machines for D&G. For, “man and nature are not like two opposite terms confronting each other—not even in the sense of bipolar opposites within a relationship of causation, ideation, or expression (cause and effect, subject and object, etc.); rather they are one and the same essential reality, the producer-product” (4-5). What this means is that a chair is just as much of a producing-machine as a subject is. In fact, as D&G argue, “Everything is a machine. Celestial machines, the stars or rainbows in the sky, alpine machines […]. The continual whirr of machines” (emphasis added 2). But if everything is a machine, and all machines produce other machines, does this mean that everything is also a product?

In short, yes; but, this does not mean that all machines can be reduced to their relations with other machines. For, on the one hand, every object registers other objects, so that “everything is production, since the recording processes are immediately consumed, immediately consummated, and these consumptions directly reproduced” (4). In this way, every machine is a record of other machines, re-producing these machines in its archive. To be a machine is to be a sample of other machines, to have broken, crossed, or perturbed the producing-flow of other machines.

On the other hand, because there is no distinction drawn between man and nature, human and nonhuman, subject and object, “production as process overtakes all idealistic categories and constitutes a cycle whose relationship to desire is that of an immanent principle” (5). Every machine, then, is both a producer and a product, and because of this binary nature of the machine, “one machine is always coupled with another machine” (5). Desiring-machines, then, are both multiplicities and independent wholes, both machines that produce, but also machines that have been produced.

Each machine is a production of all sorts of flows from other machines, but itself produces its own flow according to its own rules. As D&G point out, “each organ-machine interprets the entire world from the perspective of its own flux, from the point of view of the energy that flows from it: the eye interprets everything—speaking, understanding, shitting, fucking—in terms of seeing” (6). Therefore, every object, as machine, interprets the world according to their own terms: a human anthropomorphizes things, a pencil pencil-morphizes things, while a cable cable-morphizes things. But in this interpretation (this interruption of other objects’ desiring or producing-flow), these machines produce other machines: the pencil-machine produces the paper-machine and the hand-machine, while the paper-machine produces the text-machine, and so on. In each instance, a producing/product identity is created. To be an object then, for Deleuze and Guattari is to be a producing-production, “the production of production,” or, as Levi Bryant has put it, a difference that makes a difference (7).