Penn State

David M. Macauley - associate professor of philosophy and environmental studies, Penn State Brandywine

Book Title: A Thousand Plateaus

Author: Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Book Description:

I debated for quite a while what book to select, having been torn over a number of works that have influenced my thinking: Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Camus' The Rebel, Rilke's Duino Elegies, Thoreau's Walden, The Tao Te Ching and Foucault's Discipline and Punish, among them.

In the end, I chose Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus because of the many interdisciplinary and original insights it has offered me and others working in philosophy, environmental thought, cultural studies and related areas.

This text—and more exactly, network—makes creative connections across numerous disciplines and fields (from poetry cosmology to physics and embryology) as it meditates on subjects linked to geology, the face, bird songs, evolution, chess, the micro-politics of power, schizophrenia, and much more.

It also generates concepts and ideas that might actually be put to use like well-formed bricks.

Of particular interest to me has been the notion of the rhizome, which Deleuze and Guattari develop in intriguing ways. In contrast to roots and trees, rhizomes are anti-genealogical, non-hierarchical, a-centered, non- signifying multiplicities that are made of “plateaus” which are connected to other multiplicities. They are maps, not tracings; associated flows rather than points or linear movements; becomings not imitations. Rhizomes are animated by desire not obedience or command (as in the "command trees" of information science). They are nomadic conjunctions (and + and + and) with no beginning or end. Like an underground bulb, they are a middle overflowing in all directions. But by (and through) extension rhizomes can become animals who move in packs or deterritorialized "colonies" (such as rats and ants), plants that spread wildly and freely (like weeds, potatoes, couchgrass and crabgrass), heterogeneous entities that deterritorialize and reterritorialize one another (such as the orchid and the wasp), and viruses (which link with other animals), music (which sends out lines of flight in all directions), and cities (e.g., Amsterdam, with its stem-canals).

All in all, I have found the book to be a novel and exciting contribution to philosophy, ecological thought, and psychoanalysis in particular.


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