“Indirect discourse,” “the order-word” (mot d’ordre): these concepts come courtesy of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. It’s not surprising that I started reading the crazy lady’s outbursts through them. For the last month, I’ve been intensively reading ATP in an attempt to get a better grasp of the duo’s ontology, their account of things as they are. So it’s inevitable that as that account sinks in I start to see things through it more and more. Signifiance, subjectification, movements of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, assemblages and abstract machines… they’re everywhere I tells ya!
A work like this, one that took two philosophers at the height of their powers over a decade to write, can only be read one way: diligently over and over again, with a great deal of humility and patience. I’ve been reading it on and off for a decade or more, and feel that only now are the pieces truly coming together. In a tumult of integrations, I might add.
Some things the pair have exclaimed about their book include: It’s not traditional! The sections aren’t chapters but “plateaus”! These plateaus can be read in any order! Don’t look for an argument that is laid out in stages from beginning to end! Don’t try to interpret it, use it to experiment with! We didn’t write it to contain the world, we wrote it to make connections with the world!
These sayings were undoubtedly made in seriousness, but not in all seriousness. They are a bit misleading in fact. While I agree that they meant the reader to use the book as a tool in her experiment with living, and therefore that they wrote the book to make connections with the outside world, it still projects a complex “image” of the world, an account of being that needs to be understood. And understanding in some way involves interpretation: the reading of one part through another in order to grasp how the parts fit together into a more comprehensive whole. So a book is ethical in the Spinozist sense: it literally empowers or disempowers the reader, increases or decreases her capacity to engage her life in affirmative directions. But this empowerment must come from the reader’s sustained engagement with the tedious action of slowly fitting together all the little pieces. A dilettante who flips sporadically through the pages every once in a blue moon would be dead wrong in thinking his manner of reading would please the writers. He would gain far less in reading than one who would keep returning day after week after month after year.
So it’s true that the book doesn’t have a conventional structure: it doesn’t lay out an argument from beginning to end in a series of chapters. However, there is an argument! And wherever you turn in ATP, you’re in the middle of it. Every sentence presupposes every other. That’s why the minimum number of readings is two. Otherwise there’s no reason to bother. Deleuze’s solitary work involved a reconstruction and championing of Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence. And the basic moral of this idea is that if you’re going to do anything, you’re going to have to do it more than once. That should be the ethical test for any action you plan to undertake. Einmal ist keinmal. But I’ve digressed…