On the notion of micropolitics


In “Micropolitics and Segmentarity” Chapter of A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari carefully expose the intrinsic danger of molecular flights or escapes into indiscernibility in the face of molar segmentations of power. The chapter is a provocation to engage molar determinations, but also a warning. Part of the reason for the collapse of the social order is the potential of molecular subjectivities to embrace rigid and linear terms of individual and collective determinations.

The fact is there are only subjectivities inasmuch as there are only intensions (forces of multiplicity or singularities; in Spinoza, what amount to passions) that form extensive organization of subjects that people institutions over time. But this is not to say that subjectivities are historically formless. Their pre-individuating tendencies (before their potentials are segmented into social roles, for instance) constitute potentials for compositional determinations. But the plane on which these compositions take effect already partake of a history, that is to say, it is already organized according to points of determinations, signifying regimes, in relation to perceptions, which demarcate boundaries for self-effectuation of becomings. Lines of flights draw from these pre-individuating tendencies (in the Bergsonian sense), but will always be met by conditions of compositionality already pre-arranged by molar organizations and centralization mechanisms. These conditions are differently segmented in the sense that lines of flights are also not immune to self-destructive tendencies as segmentary lines and lines of flight also overlap.

In relation to contemporary postmodern political challenges, for instance, the danger of microfascisms, as Deleuze and Guattari describe of rhizomatic and molecular assemblages, ‘trapped in a thousand little monomanias, self-evident truths, and clarities that gush from every black hole’ (ATP, 228), is that they render politics devoid of signification. The end of the Cold War, for instance, generated conditions when certainties were no longer subject to conflicting hegemonies that once wielded ideological truths. In a sense, politics became devoid of its old meanings. Certainties were deterritorialized into micro-assemblages at the expense of molar truths. Even so, despite their long history of segmenting rhizomatic subjectivities into molar forms of determinations (political, moral, economic, etc.), molar formations are still shadowed by unspent molecular potentials, notwithstanding the fact that they have also been reterritorialized into rigid segmentary positions over time. Every molar aggregate is supported by molecular elements, ‘microinvestments’ that, as Deleuze and Guattari describe in Anti-Oedipus, statistically constitute ‘macroscopic social formations’ (ibid.).

Deleuze and Guattari also argue that the bigger a molar an entity is, the more it is capable of deterritorialization; the more molecular entities sustain it.  But also the more deterritorialized entities are, the more prone they are to excessive singularization especially when larger organizing centers that used to lend them official expressions collapse (for instance, when people begin to reject a dominant organizing principle through revolutions or civil unrest), or undergo new forms of territorialization. Take the case of fascism. Fascism is not a unilateral molar intervention, but always already preceded by microfascisms that were already ‘sinking in voids’, which in the end become reterritorialized into lines of destruction. As Deleuze and Guattari observe, ‘it was this reversion of the line of flight into a line of destruction that … animated the molecular focuses of fascism, and made them interact in a war machine instead of resonating in State apparatus’ (ibid., 231).

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