Is there Progress?

Sometimes people ask if there really is such a thing as progress and sometimes they deny that there has been progress. These people are usually left leaning egalitarians who are inclined to believe that progress is just a part of capitalist ideology. That is, that it is a false belief which has the purpose of keeping us all consumerist, debt-bound wage slaves.

It is true that the belief in the superiority of the latest is a part of popular culture. TV shows like Goodnight Sweetheart and Life on Mars have, as their central trope, the superiority of the current culture over the crude stupidity of the 1940s and 1970s respectively. So, we can laugh at our parents and grandparents because it seems that, without making any effort ourselves, we are better than they were.

People innovate. It is one of the characteristics of our species. This is why archaeologists are able to date pottery by its style over periods of thousands of years. It is because people make fashions. Everyone wants the latest thing because it reflects who we are and where we belong and we don’t want the old way which has been left behind. This is change for the sake of change but there is also improvement. We are equipped with the means of passing the results of our experience from one generation to the next so that we can collectively learn from our collective experience.

But, innovation is not just improvement, it is also destruction. Older people may complain that things have become worse rather than better. The purpose of something they think is important has been forgotten. It solved a problem so now the problem itself has been forgotten and with it the need for the solution. It may be that the problem will recur, or it may not. Some societies value stability over innovation because, in some circumstances, the destructive power of innovation is not worth it and it is just a reflection of a power struggle between two factions, perhaps of young and old.

The question, which is the title of this posting, as it is usually asked conceals a more important one. It is one of values. If values change, how is it possible to judge if things have improved? If you believe that people should have equal power and equal wealth or if you believe in a code of conduct arising in a literal form from one of the great religions, you would probably say that there has been no progress. If, on the other hand, you believe that things like life expectancy, education and opportunity are important, you will probably say that there has been progress and it is a good thing.

People like to believe that there are absolute, timeless values, which just happen to be theirs, and that people elsewhere, geographically or historically, who have different values are misguided and wrong. But, there are no absolute values. The values of our group, our nation, our time in history are just ours. According to those values there can be progress. So the answer to our question is that there can be, but it depends how you look at it.

A Problem with the Economy

Imagine a small island with ten people living on it.

One of the island inhabitants, Bill, owns a mill. He invested $10k in it. Everyone works at the mill. The mill makes $11k profit (surplus value) every year out of which wages and dividends are paid. Everyone is paid $1k in wages, including Bill, but he gets an extra $1k in dividends because he invested his money in the mill instead of buying a second-hand Lamborghini, which is what he really wanted to do. Everyone is happy.

Then, the technology changes. Someone invents a better way of milling. So, Bill is in a dilemma. He owns a house worth $20k so he takes the plunge and borrows $20k from the bank secured on his home. He tears down the old mill and builds a new one. He takes the risk and, this time, it works for him.

But things have changed. This mill produces twice as much product with a lot less labour. So, now a senior technician is needed at $1.5k, a junior technician at $1k and 4 porters at $500. Meaning there are three people unemployed on the island and average wages have fallen.

For a time, this is good for Bill. His revenue from the mill is $22k. He pays $2k to the bank  in interest for the loan. He pays out $4.5k in wages. So, he is rich. He has $15.5k when he used to have $2k. Great! But, no one is happy and everyone hates Bill.

It gets worse.

Other people in other places buy the same technology and set up as competitors. The price of the goods falls by 50%. This is good for the islanders because their, reduced, incomes go further. However, the mill is now only making $11k gross profit. Out of this Bill pays, $2k to the bank for the loan, $1.5k to the senior technician (hard to find guys with these skills), $1k to the junior technician (also hard to find) and $500 to each of the unskilled porters, leaving Bill with $5.5k. Not as rich as he briefly was but richer than he used to be.

However, as more competitors crowd into the market place, some on islands with much lower wages, the price of the product continues to fall.

Bill works out that there are 3 unemployed people on the island and they all want work so it doesn’t matter if one of the porters quits as it would be easy to find a replacement. So, he reduces the porters’ wages to $400. Then to $300. Then to $200. It’s only a fifth of what they used to make but, hey, it’s better than it is for the 3 unemployed. Anyway, the prices of a lot of stuff has gone down, which helps a little.

Everyone now hates Bill even more. He feels under big pressure because of increasing competition, falling prices and the risk of defaulting on the bank loan. Some of the islanders are unemployed and some are on lower wages. All of the islanders are miserable because of the social problems that have been caused by the new economic circumstances. Bill is looking forward to a time when the mill can be fully automated and he won’t have to pay anyone. In the meantime, he is thinking of relocating, with his mill, to a lower wage island.

Questions:

1. Whose fault is all of this? Are you a conspiracy theorist – must there always be someone to blame?

2. What is to prevent the price of the product falling so far that no one can make any profit from any of these mills?

3. What happens when there are less than, say, 10% of the workforce in employment? If hardly anyone works, how can anyone buy anything?

4. Suggest possible solutions to the problem. Use your imagination. Give:

(i) a hierarchical solution involving regulation, rules and prohibitions

(ii) an individualist solution in which everyone takes responsibility for themselves

(iii) an egalitarian solution in which everyone shares everything

(iv) a fatalistic solution where, maybe everyone becomes a criminal, I don’t know, I can’t be bothered.

(v) or better still, some kind of mixture of all, or some, of these

 

Unease with Neoliberalism

I often come across academic publications that contain the word “neoliberal”. It makes me uneasy because I have some problems with the way that this term is generally used.

There was a trend in the 1980s among conservatives to move away from centralised control (which had been favoured during WW2) and the term neoliberalism was coined to describe this trend. For example, a book by Graham and Clarke (1986) titled The New Enlightenment: the rebirth of liberalism which celebrates the “death of socialism” and Austrian economics particularly Hayek, is typical of that way of thinking at that time.

However, the term is used nowadays much more broadly than it was in its original, historically specific, circumstances. For example, if you were to describe a particular policy now as ‘neoliberal’, it would not, to my mind, have any meaning. My concern is that it is not possible to say when something (anything) is neoliberal and when it is not and, therefore, neoliberalism presents itself as a precise technical term when it really isn’t one.

It seems to me that it has become a term of abuse used, in Grid-Group terms (Thompson 2008), in egalitarian thinking to describe individualist thinking. This means that it has become a term that is used, usually unconsciously, as a means of censure or coercion. That is, if a policy, idea or activity is labelled neoliberal then anyone who has anything to say in its favour must be a selfish capitalist with dubious morals. This kind of Trojan horse value, which is based on an unexamined assumption, is not good for academic enquiry or debate.

Barnett (2005) has identified the problem and commented on how lack of questioning of the assumptions behind the usual use of the term is obstructing potentially fruitful enquiry:

Theories of neoliberalism provide a consoling image of how the world works, and in their simplistic reiteration of the idea that liberalism privileges the market and individual self-interest, they provide little assistance in thinking about how best to balance equally compelling imperatives to respect pluralistic difference and enable effective collective action.

It seems to me that the root of the problem of the current theorisation of neoliberalism is that most scholars in the field are working with a critical realist paradigm which assumes that there are individuals who precede the institutions of which they are members. In this way some individuals become victims of “the system” while others manoeuvre themselves into positions of power and force everyone else to dance to their tune. As Barnett points out, this is rather a crude model when it comes to explaining present day social relationships and Foucault’s model of generative power seems to have more to offer.

I agree with Latour (2005) that much academic enquiry is hampered by what he calls ‘the sociological fallacy’; that is, the habit that sociologists have of sticking labels on things and then proceeding in their enquiries as though the label has explained something, when in fact it is nothing more than an empty term. In these cases it would have been more fruitful to dig deeper under the label to find out what is really happening. The terms class, culture, society, capitalism and neoliberalism are all good examples of this phenomenon. By employing Foucault’s model of power for deeper analysis more progress might be made.

References

Barnett, C. (2005). The Consolations of Neoliberalism, Geoforum, 36(1), pp.7-12.
Graham, D. and Clarke, P. (1986). The New Enlightenment: the rebirth of liberalism, London: Macmillan.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: an introduction to actor-network theory, Oxford: OUP.
Thompson, M. (2008). Organising and Disorganising, Axminster: Triarchy Press.

Foucault and Power

Foucault’s theory of power is radically different to previous theories. Instead of seeing power as working through a collection of rules and prohibitions, Foucault sees it as generative, that is, as a shaping force that structures society. Foucault’s theory is postmodernist, in that it assumes a fundamental role for discourse, and it is decentred, in that it assumes that power is not an instrument under anyone’s control but is impersonally distributed throughout society.

Before Foucault, theories of power from Hobbes to Lukes focused on sovereign power (Clegg, 1989). Sovereign power is imposed on people from the outside and only exists as far as it is exercised. This conception of power is based on the ability of a king to impose his will on his subjects. As the system of monarchical rule declined in Europe and eventually evolved into liberal democratic government the conception of power did not fundamentally change.

Hobbes, writing in the seventeenth century at around the time of the English Civil War, suggested that the sovereign of a state holds legitimate power because of a contract between him and the citizens whereby he expresses their collective will (Clegg, 1989; Hobbes, 1968).

Lukes, writing in the late-twentieth century has an approach to power that can be applied in different contexts, not just to the nation state, and attempts to explain the subtler effects of power (Lukes 1974). His theory builds upon previous theories such as that of Dahl (1957) and Bachrach and Baratz (1962). According to Dahl’s theory, developed in the context of research into the distribution of power between elites in local politics in the USA, A has power over B if he can make B do things that A wishes him to do. There is an intentional cause and an observable effect (Clegg, 1989; Dahl, 1957, 1958). Bachrach and Baratz built upon Dahl’s theory but added another dimension. A is not only able to enforce the outcome of a decision but is also able to shape the agenda of any discussion when a decision is being made. A can do this by preventing discussion of topics that would be against his interests to be allowed to become topics of discussion (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962). Lukes extends Bachrach and Baratz’s theory by adding a third dimension (Lukes, 1974). In this third dimension of power not only is A able to impose his will directly on B and is able to shape the discussion so that the decision that results is favourable to his interests but he is also able to shape the desires and needs of B so that B will want to do what is in A’s interests. Although Lukes does not use the term “ideology” this third dimension of power is similar to the concept of ideology in the Marxist tradition.

In Marx ideology is an illusionary view of the world which acts in the interests of the ruling class to achieve the acquiescence of the working class. These phantom ideas form “politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc.” (Marx & Engels 1970 p.47) in such a way that they are “directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life” (ibid) so ideology makes it appear that the way power operates is the result of these conceptual systems whereas the opposite is true: “Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.” (ibid) By producing an appearance which is the reverse of the truth ideology conceals itself making it appear that the status quo is natural and the only way that things could be ordered. In the early and mid-twentieth century Marxists developed this conception of ideology, for example, Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, which is a combination of ideology and coercive state power leading to the consent of the oppressed to the will of the oppressor (Gramsci, 1971) and Althusser’s theory of the ideological state apparatuses, such as education or the church, and the repressive state apparatuses, such as the army or the police, through which the state maintains the capitalist order (Althusser, 2001). In the Marxist tradition, the legitimacy of a Marxist government arises from its basis in ideology free reality.

In Marxism ideology creates consciousness, albeit false consciousness and it therefore creates subjects. Despite this constructionist aspect of Marxism, it falls within the realist sub-paradigm of modernism. In the Marxist view of the world, ideology can be transcended by penetrating the mist of ideology to a neutral, bias-free standpoint, reality, by means of an objective, scientific analysis of social relations (Foucault 1980a p.110) and this is the way to emancipation and freedom.

A departure from this tradition may be discerned in the work of Volosinov who was writing in Soviet Russia in the 1920s (Volosinov, 1986). According to his view, ideology is located firmly within discourse, “Without signs there is no ideology” (ibid p.9). However, the reverse is also true because ideology is fully imbricated with discourse, “Wherever a sign is present, ideology is present too” (ibid p.10). It follows from this position that there is no ideology free and fully objective reality so even Soviet Marxist-Leninism is also an ideology (ibid p.10). This position is in contradiction to the orthodox Marxist credentials that Volosinov claims and puts his work within the postmodernist paradigm. He also claims that his view of discourse is not an idealist Kantian one but completely materialist since it is rooted in the material nature of the sign (ibid p.11) and Derrida makes the same point (Derrida, 1976).

Foucault was educated in the Marxist tradition and studied under Althusser for a time (Sheridan, 1980). However, he rejected the Marxist view of ideology and his published work falls within the postmodernist paradigm. Foucault comments that theories of power, which includes Marxist theories of ideology (Foucault 1980a p.118), so far have all been based, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, on the model of sovereign power and have not fundamentally changed since Hobbes (Foucault, 1980a). Foucault comments that, “What we need, however, is a political philosophy that isn’t erected around the problem of sovereignty, nor therefore around the problems of law and prohibition. We need to cut off the King’s head: in political theory that has still to be done” (ibid p.121).

In an interview in 1970 Foucault talks about the shift in his thinking between the publication of The Archaeology of Knowledge (Foucault 1972/1969) and Discipline and Punish (Foucault 1979/1975) Foucault. The Archaeology of Knowledge marks the end of Foucault’s archaeological period where his focus is discursive formations and their conditions of formation. On the other hand, Discipline and Punish marks the beginning of his genealogical period where his work takes on a different focus by directly examining the working of power. In this interview he looks back at his early work and comments, “… I ask myself what else it was that I was talking about, in Madness and Civilisation or The Birth of the Clinic, but power?” (Foucault 1980a p.115). Thus, he sees the change in his work not in terms of the repudiation of the earlier work, or it failure as some scholars have described it (Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1982), but as the identification of its true object of analysis. He says that it is a mistake to think that power is only concerned with repression; instead it works mainly as a productive force since it “traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse” (Foucault 1980a p.119). It is a force which is always at work everywhere.

In a lecture delivered in 1970, The Order of Discourse (Foucault 1981/1970), Foucault explains the direction that his research is taking. He locates his work in the postmodernist paradigm, as defined in this thesis, describing it main principles in terms of discourse. He says that attention must be paid to the specifics of discursive practice because there is no continuous underlying discourse that controls its specific manifestation. Instead discursive practice is fragmented with bodies of discursive practice that “cross each other, are sometimes juxtaposed with one another, but can just as well exclude or be unaware of each other” (p.67). We should not look into discourse to find its central hub, that would be to go beyond discourse, but instead we should look outwards from discourse to find its “external conditions of possibility” (p.67). This statement compliments and clarifies Derrida’s specification of the postmodernist paradigm in Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences (Derrida, 1978). By placing discourse at the centre of the paradigm which is a practice rather than a concept like god or man, postmodernism, as it were, turns itself inside out and makes the specific practices in which people take part its focus. Although Foucault rarely uses citation in his writing it is possible to discern the influence of Derrida in a passage in the lecture where he discusses these matters. He says that “the world is not the accomplice of our knowledge” but that discourse is “a violence which we do to things” in order to impose a regularity on the world.

This theoretical position leads to a clarification of the relationship between archaeology and genealogy which looks at specific practices to discover how power operates. In an interview (1991/1977) about his genealogical methodology in Discipline and Punish Foucault says that his method is to simultaneously look at what was done (specific penal practices) and what was said about it (theories and justifications) to discover how these practices came to be the accepted ones which seemed so natural that they no longer needed to be discussed (ibid p.75). He goes on to say that in this work he is not trying to formulate social theory but to discover how a discursive formation acquires a domain of objects in which it determines truth and falsehood (ibid p.79) and, therefore, distributes power. As Deleuze comments about Foucault’s thinking, power does not come from the state, as in Althusser for example, and is not a property of a person or institution but a strategy where the state itself is a product of interacting forces in a “microphysics of power” (Deleuze 2006 p.23). Foucault says that it is a mistake to think that power is only concerned with repression; instead it works mainly as a productive force since it “traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse” (Foucault 1980a p.119). It is a force which is always at work everywhere.

In his later work Foucault examines two overlapping types of power, disciplinary power, particularly in Discipline and Punish (Foucault 1979/1975), which works locally and biopower, particularly in The History of Sexuality Volume I (Foucault, 1980b), which works on whole populations. However, both of these are forms of generative power and are consistent with a model of power that is postmodernist and discursive.

References

Althusser, L. (2001). Lenin and Philosophy and other essays. New York, NY: Monthly Review.
Bachrach, P., & Baratz, M. S. (1962). Two Faces of Power. American Political Science Review, 56, 947–52.
Clegg, S. R. (1989). Frameworks of Power. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Dahl, R. A. (1957). The Concept of Power. Behavioural Science, 2, 201–5.
Dahl, R. A. (1958). A Critique of the Ruling Elite Model. The American Political Science Review, 52(2), 463–69.
Deleuze, G. (2006). Foucault. New York NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology. Baltimore, MA.: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Derrida, J. (1978). Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. In Writing and Difference (pp. 278–294). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Dreyfus, H. L., & Rabinow, P. (1982). Michael Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Brighton: The Harvester Press Ltd.
Foucault, M. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Tavistock Publications Ltd.
Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison. London: Penguin Books.
Foucault, M. (1980a). Power/Knowledge. Brighton, UK: The Harvester Press Ltd.
Foucault, M. (1980b). The History of Sexuality – Volume 1: An Introduction. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
Foucault, M. (1981). The Order of Discourse. In R. Young (Ed.), Untying the Text (pp. 48–78). Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart.
Hobbes, T. (1968). Leviathan. (C. B. MacPherson, Ed.). Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books.
Lukes, S. (1974). Power: A Radical View. London: Macmillan.
Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1970). The German Ideology. (C. J. Arthur, Ed.). New York: International Publishers.
Sheridan, A. (1980). Michel Foucault and the Will to Truth. London: Tavistock Publications Ltd.
Volosinov, V. N. (1986). Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

UK Politics Post Brexit

The politics of the UK, like the politics of everywhere else has fallen into a new pattern. We have political systems based on nineteenth century interest groups and class conflict. The world is different now. Instead we have a large middle class who typically are university educated, rational and democratic in outlook. They are open-minded, outward looking and have an international view.  These people exist in almost every country in the world and they have a good deal in common with each other. They think the same way, spend their money in the same way and have the same values. Then there is everyone else. These are the people who have not had the opportunities that their neighbours have had and they don’t recognise the world they live in. They feel that they have little control over their lives so they feel they have become victims. It is easy for them to look back to times they understood, or thought they did. These are the bulk of the Brexit voters, the Front National voters and the Trump voters (and the religious fundamentalists). It is the same everywhere.

The UK has a first past the post voting system making it inevitable that there are two main political parties. This system has worked well in the past and led to decisive government. But these two blocks are really uneasy, fragile coalitions. The Tories are split many ways but certainly into soft-right pro-Europe and pro-business, like Cameron, and an assortment of traditionalists with dark motives. Cameron called the Brexit referendum because he was afraid that the Tories would lose votes to the far-right UKIP. He didn’t expect to lose the vote and had no plans for what to do if he did – it isn’t even clear what “Brexit” actually means. So, he didn’t try too hard to influence the voters. Meanwhile the shabbily opportunistic Boris Johnson told a lot of lies in a flamboyant manner which gave the unsophisticated voters the confidence to register their unease about the contemporary world. Of course, it was also easy for them to blame the other – the foreigners – for things totally unconnected with them.

On the other hand, the people who should have been saving the situation offering hope and realistic alternatives were disintegrating into a farce. The Labour party under Tony Blair was a well-oiled machine full of talented people fighting for fairness and progress. After Blair left and his generation stepped aside there was a dearth of talent to replace them. The Labour party allowed itself to be taken over by a minority of far left ideologues who behave as though it is 1916 not 2016. The party has deteriorated into an unseemly internal war without any regard for the voters who they are supposed to represent. The people of good will in the Labour party seem to be unable to make any mark on the situation.

What is needed? A new centre party, maybe with a name something like called “Reason”. This party will have an ideology of polyrationality based on Douglas/Thompson Grid-Group Cultural Theory. This is the principle that there is no one ‘elegant’ solution to any problem but that all problems must be based on a negotiation between: hierarchical principles – the rule of law etc – egalitarian principles – needs of the community, equality and inclusiveness and individualism – the needs of individual talent, aspiration and competition. The current parties include only one or two of these but in reality they are mutually supporting principles so ignoring one or two of them sows the seeds of failure.

The Labour party needs to split with the old left going its own way. The other two thirds would form the basis of the new Reason party. Then there should also be people joining from the left of the Conservatives – the individualism principle in the mix. And, it should also include the old, rudderless Liberal Democratic party which presently is a centrist party but with no definite ideology and a very small following.

Three Quadrant Models of Organisational Culture

Just been looking at Whittington’s (“What is Strategy and does it Matter?”) four Generic Strategies and comparing them with Mary Douglas’s Grid-Group Cultural Theory (see Thompson’s “Organising and Disorganising”) and Cameron and Quinn’s Competing Values Framework (CVF) (“Diagnosing and Changing organisational Culture”).

It is interesting that all three approaches use a quadrant to describe what is, in effect in all three cases, institutional (or organisational) culture. However, there is nothing analogous to Grid-Group Cultural Theory’s (GGCT) Fatalism in the other two models. One way of looking at this comparison might be to say that GGCT is more psychological, that is better able to explain the thought style of an individual subject than the other two.

If we want to understand these models by comparing them, the best way is to focus on the axes rather than the quadrants. Thus:
– GGCT – individual/group – authority/community
– Generic Strategies – deliberate/emergent – profit-maximising/plural objectives
– CVF – internal focus/external focus – flexibility/stability

I think that it is useful to look at these models from a structuralist viewpoint since each one embodies a different pair of binaries. In fact, if we use the Levi-Strauss approach to cultural analysis, we might say that each one embodies a different set of myths about institutions.

But, let us be eclectic. There does seem to be some similarity between individual/group and profit-maximising/plural objectives and internal focus/external focus because they are all concerned with competitiveness versus co-operation, in some way. But the parallels seem a little forced. We could mix and match. For example, suppose you were to construct a grid with one axis individual/ group and the other flexibility/stability. But does this make a meaningful quadrant? Perhaps it might in the context of a specific organisation with a specific type of problem. But, why do some pairs of binaries seem to have more general explanatory power than others?

I suspect that the question, “What is different and what is similar in these three models?” might yield some interesting answers.

Consciousness and Desire in Deleuze and Bakhtin

I have been reading Deleuze’s and Guattari’s “A Thousand Plateaus” at the same time as reading Bakhtin. These thoughts crossed my mind.

Bakhtin talks about the dialogic self – that is, self as a dialogue between ‘I’ and ‘me’. That is, ‘I’ is the thing which experiences sensations some of which come from the world. It has no location in time or space it just exists – “continuous event of becoming”. ‘Me’ is how the self objectifies itself so that it can understand its situation in relationship with other entities – the ‘other’. Consciousness is this dialogue.

Deleuze talks about the “body without organs” (BwO) which sounds very like the ‘I’. However, in Deleuze the BwO is also the location of desire – as well as of sensation.

Seems to me that Bakhtin never explains desire – so what is desire?

The human as organism is a machine that maintains itself and reproduces itself. It doesn’t desire anything in the sense that we normally mean it. It just does what it does because that’s the way it is, like electrons repel each other and attract protons.

Example, It would be possible that a natural siphon could be created by chance – I am sure it happens. You would not say that it has a purpose or a desire to do something but you can see that it persists in getting a liquid from one place to another lower place over a higher dry place in between. I think that organisms are like this, including ourselves. Bakhtin says that humans are born twice, the first time as organisms and then again when they enter society by entering discourse. So, I think desire is something that we attribute after the fact, as it were, because of a way of looking at things which is produced in discourse.

But, what is this desire? I think that life is a phenomenon which is a dynamic property of certain substances. It is a property which causes a certain sort of organization of elements which maintain themselves and reproduce themselves. Desire comes about when the organism is conscious because at this point the self is created and the self is a technology to achieve the ends of maintenance and reproduction by manipulating the environment. (So, consciousness is a technology of the organism which enables a flexible response to the environment and consciousness experiences the dynamic properties of the organism as desire).

Deleuze talks about ‘folds’ whereby things are reproduced but with difference. These folds take place within strata , that is in the area where the organism responds to differences within itself and tries to match these differences with its environment. So, the organism has a tendency to reproduce and this becomes folded into sexual drive. It also has a tendency to co-operate with its fellows, to create organization among them so there is another fold and sexual drive becomes creativity, and it is folded yet again and it becomes aesthetics. Similarly, the drive for the organism to maintain itself becomes hunger. This hunger is folded again and it becomes a drive to form business organizations, like hunting parties, kingdoms, empires and multi-national corporations. This organization requires power to shape it and drive it so another fold becomes individual ambition, and so on. Of course, power is difference with suppression: this is allowed but that is not, this is inside but that is outside. So power is a fold in the principle of the cell wall which is the basis of the organism keeping the chaos outside the membrane from the order within. (Power derives from the functioning of the cell wall).

So far, so good, but I have some problems:

  • Deleuze talks about the BwO but what are the organs? Surely they are the digestive tract which must be fed and exhausted; and the genitals. Nothing more. If this is so, why is he being vague and implying that there is more to it?
  • Deleuze talks a lot about rock but rock is not an agent in discourse; it can only ever be an object. Humans have a dialogue with each other in that they create meaning together. You could stretch it to saying that humans can have a dialogue with other organisms because these organisms can react to what humans do. But, you cannot have dialogue with rock, can you? You see, I am worried that Deleuze has not properly grasped the discursive nature of all of this.