chapter  5
21 Pages


The history and politics of deterritorialisation

Deleuze and Guattari propose an outline of ‘universal history’ which in some respects resembles Marx’s materialist theory of history. For Marx, it is the mode of production of essential goods and services which explains the nature of society in each epoch. For Deleuze and Guattari, it is the abstract machines of desire and power which define the nature of a given society: ‘We define social formations by machinic processes and not by modes of production (these on the contrary depend on the processes)’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987:435). While they distinguish three major kinds of social machine-territorial, despotic and capitalist-unlike Marx, they do not consider these to be successive stages in a single process of evolution. Rather, they are understood as virtual machines which may be operative in a given social field. Concrete social formations are then specified by the extent to which the different abstract social machines are actualised within them in varying combinations. In this respect, Deleuze and Guattari propose a form of philosophical knowledge of history which remains indebted to the structuralist Marxism of Althusser. Their aim is not primarily to describe particular societies but to present concepts, along with historical examples and illustrations, which may in turn be applied to the analysis of concrete social formations.