II. Nomadism, the War Machine, and the State

“One never escapes the economy of war
—Jacques Derrida

[7] As a non-disciplinary force, the nomadic war machine names an anarchic presence on the far horizon of the State’s field of order: nomadic warriors and herders who ground their being in an itinerant territoriality. Deleuze and Guattari immediately find value in the warrior because of the warrior’s alterity to the disciplined subject: “It is true that war kills, and hideously mutilates. But it is especially true after the State has appropriated the war machine. Above all, the State apparatus makes the mutilation, and even death, come first. It needs [its subjects] preaccomplished, for people to be born that way, crippled and zombie-like. The myth of the zombie, of the living dead, is a work myth and not a war myth....The State apparatus needs, at its summit as at its base, predisabled people, preexisting amputees, the still-born, the congenitally infirm” (ATP 425-26). Still, in addition to the traditional forms of hostility, the war machine can appear also in a variety of forms: “an ‘ideological,’ scientific, or artistic movement can be a potential war machine” (ATP 422). To provide an example of a “war machine” lying outside the State, Deleuze and Guattari draw from the historical instance of the journeyman’s associations and their relationships to the building of Gothic cathedrals in the twelfth century.

[8] Itinerant laborers—masons, carpenters, smiths—traveled extensively in this era: “scattering construction sites across the land” (ATP 368). At these scattered sites, so skilled are the stone carvers in stone cutting, that they need make no reference to an architect’s blueprint, to a theoretical eidos, in order to solve the problem of distributing weight when constructing high, vaulted arches: “[T]he static relation, form-matter, tends to fade into the background in favor of a dynamic relation, material-forces. It is the cutting of the stone that turns it into material capable of holding and coordinating forces of thrust, and of constructing even higher and longer vaults. The vault is no longer a form but the line of a continuous variation of the stones” (ATP 364). The carving of the stone—a skill that a worker develops without recourse to the mathematical imperatives of a royal blueprint—is a dynamic, a rhythm of construction defined immediately by the imperatives of its own movement. The production-cutting of stone here is different from the panoptic model, which imposes the law of a normalized form on the matter of a worker’s body. The skills of the carvers do not first make recourse to outside principles of scientific management, but engage “material-forces,” curved vaults that are “placings-in-variation.” These itinerant skills of vagabond workers Deleuze and Guattari place under the heading of “nomad science,” a form of production in excess of the disciplinarity of State “royal science.” The establishment of royal science in cathedral construction marks the imposition of an outside, centralizing measure: “The State’s response was to take over management of the construction site, merging all the divisions of labor in the supreme distinction between the intellectual and the manual, the theoretical and the practical, modeled upon the difference between ‘governors’ and ‘governed’” (ATP 368). Royal science levies a different register of control, a mediating “plane of organization” upon the immediate plane of variable material-forces: “In the nomad sciences, as in the royal sciences, we find the existence of a ‘plane,’ but not at all in the same way. The ground-level plane of the Gothic journeyman is opposed to the metric plane of the architect, which is on paper and off site. The plane of consistency or composition [the dynamic rhythms of material-forces] is opposed to another plane, that of organization or formation [the rules of matter-form]” (ATP 368).

[9] It is important to recognize the exorbitant precision being solicited here with terms like “material-forces” and “placings-in-variation,” terms that we might habitually tend to regard as vague or obscure. For it is in fact the State that imposes obscurity when it reformulates the manifold and multiple movements of the skilled workers—deterritorializes them—according to the demands of an official blueprint. It is the State that decodes immediate, singular skills in order to reterritorialize them according to the optimum of a uniform movement: maximize output with the minimum possible amount of movement; increase a worker’s aptitude while increasing at the same time his/her domination. The State, no longer seeing “a need for skilled or qualified labor,” looks instead for an “unskilled or unqualified labor” (ATP 368). If it is to impose and keep in place a measure of control that stems from a distant polis, the State must colonize all the complexity of singular, territorial movements (singular in the sense of not being the double or representation of a plan laid out in advance) by deterritorializing them. Because the skills of the worker are skills defined only in enactment—a variable activity not inhibited by an obligatory set of rules and regulations—the state can only see this nomadic enactment as vague and imperfect: “if the State always finds it necessary to repress the nomad and minor sciences, if it opposes vague essences...it does so not because the content of these sciences is inexact or imperfect...but because they imply a division of labor opposed to the norms of the State” (ATP 368).

[10] The difference between the skilled itinerant worker and the dequalified State laborer is the difference between following a nomadic flow and reproducing an already determined norm. This is not to say that the nomad worker does not also engage in acts of deterritorialization, for the worker is not tied to the territory of a single stone, a rule of how to carve, or even a single construction site. Nor is it to say that the State only colonizes in and through deterritorialization: “with the legal [State] model, one is constantly reterritorializing around a point of view, on a domain, according to a set of constant relations; but with the ambulant model, the process of deterritorialization constitutes and extends the territory itself” (ATP 372). The problem that now faces us is deterritorialization itself, which is our principal question concerning the specific nature of what its movement offers. Now that we can see the State enacting deterritorialization in order to impose constant relations, a new question becomes available to us: if the State’s object is to deterritorialize in order to conserve, what is the object of the nomadic war machine when it deterritorializes? It also should be apparent by now that the State deterritorializes in order to gather skills formerly ungatherable. For the accommodation of the stone cutters to a blueprint off site—their “dequalification”—does not indicate the erasure of their ability to carve. The skilled workers are not physically replaced by laborers unschooled in the process of stone cutting. Deterritorialization directed by the State names a certain dequalification of skills.

[11] In opposition, war appears as the “surest mechanism directed against the formation of the State” (ATP 357). Moreover, war is a machine of production directed against the production of governed, docile bodies and regulated, stable flows of power: “war maintains the dispersal and segmentarity of groups, and the warrior himself is caught in a process of accumulating exploits leading him to solitude and a prestigious but powerless death” (ATP 357). State structures work through filiation: an arboreal system that deterritorializes differential skills in order to juridically root/legitimize these manners of becoming and forces of production to the magician-king. The war machine deterritorializes so that it may fracture these sanctioned flows of power. But, when the State deterritorializes in order to heighten a particular flow, to make it unlimited, it negates the local skills of the workers. The war machine, on the other hand, deterritorializes in order to ward off the decoding and grafting of a local skill onto a filial order; it deterritorializes for reasons of limiting production: “war is what limits exchanges, maintains them in the framework of ‘alliances’” (ATP 357-58). The war machine, then, keeps exchanges and flows of production in what might be called an “itinerant” status; for Deleuze and Guattari never argue that the war machine is nihilistic, or that it produces only chaos. We might push this notion of itinerancy further, questioning whether the war machine actually has, as one of its functions, the conservation of territories—not rigid territories controlled and made immobile by a polis elsewhere, but itinerant territories grounded in irreducible singularities. For “maintaining exchanges in a framework of alliance” would seem to require a movement infinitely more complex than the movement of a deterritorialization that ends in the transfer of resources to a central bureaucracy. This type of bureaucratic structure of deterritorialization is essential to the State if it wishes to accumulate and stockpile its resources: “It is the State...that makes possible the undertaking of large-scale projects, the constitution of surpluses” (ATP 359). The war machine thus averts the possibility of constituting a surplus through a certain conservation of territoriality.

[12] This peculiar conservative nature of the war machine gives us the first indication that its nomadic movement is more than an agentless form of postmodern fragmentation. Nomadic movement, as opposed to any kind of movement, somehow carries with it the power to conserve, the ability to enable an itinerant territoriality. The itinerant territoriality of the nomadic war machine appears to offer an extra-ideological potential different from that of the rhizome, which functions chiefly as a machine designed to engender flows in any direction. The movement privileged by the State is a mode of deterritorialization founded upon the constitution of a surplus through the postmodern logic of desire (desire understood in the sense of the constantly expanding, neo-colonial acquisition of territories) and fragmentation (the dequalification, or carving up of the heterogeneity of singular skills). The movement of the nomadic war machine, on the other hand, does not erase the heterogeneity of territories, but conserves it.

[13] Both the nomadic war machine and the State maintain a relationship to heterogeneity and exteriority. But the State must maintain an outside, an exteriority, for different reasons—so that it has something to internalize, to appropriate. The State does not function by spreading a homeostatic structure (along the lines of the pleasure principle), but unfolds upon the alterity of diverse territories in a movement more like that of desire. It appears to have the ability to destroy to some extent its “central root,” thereby deterritorializing itself in order to reterritorialize upon a different geo-political landscape. In this, the State still expresses the enclosing law of sovereignty (the tight bonds of the magician-king and the jurist-priest), but has a tendency to postpone its own limit by destroying the central root that would foreclose peripheral development. Both capital and the State must value and maintain on some level those which stand as their others. The disparaging implication here is that capitalism not only finds value in its most radically other—the war machine—but that it must actually enable something like the war machine to continue to go about its business if capital is to have anything left to incorporate: “war machines of metamorphosis” appear now as not standing totally outside the jurisdiction of the State, but seem moreover, to be enabling the “State [and capital] apparatus of identity.”6 This ability of the State to incorporate that which struggles against its sovereignty makes it all the more important to discover if the war machine does in fact conserve an itinerant territoriality that cannot be incorporated, and exactly how that might be so.

[14] We thus begin to see that an essential paradox is fundamental to the structure of the State, and by extension, to the movement of the war machine as well. Initially, the war machine is distinguished as existing within a “pure form” of exteriority: “It is not enough to affirm that the war machine is external to the [State] apparatus. It is necessary to reach the point of conceiving the war machine as itself a pure form of exteriority, whereas the State apparatus constitutes the form of interiority we habitually take as a model, or according to which we are in the habit of thinking” (ATP 354). We are told repeatedly in the opening pages of the nomadology treatise that the war machine is of “another species,” “another nature,” “another justice,” “another origin” (ATP 352, 353, 354). However, by the time we reach the tenth proposition about the State and the war machine in the “Apparatus of Capture” chapter, we see that this exteriority strangely never appears, or never comes to phenomenal perception in a pure form: “in every case, the war machine seems to intervene ‘between’ the two poles of the State apparatus, assuring and necessitating the passage from one to the other” (ATP 426, emphasis added). They say as much of the nomad early on in Anti-Oepidus: “a pure nomad does not exist; there is always and already an encampment where it is a matter of stocking—however little—and where it is a matter of inscribing and allocating, of marrying, and of feeding oneself” (AO 148). I emphasize the specific phrasing in the former passage to show the implications being proposed here. It is not only that the war machine “intervenes,” as if it rose up to muddle the flows of power established between the State’s center and its periphery, its kingly ground and the jurists disciplining its citizens to the divine law of this ground. Far from being an immaculate force of resistance, the war machine has begun to exhibit signs that it is as necessary as any other component to the poles of State sovereignty: “assuring and necessitating the passage from one to the other.”

[15] How can we acknowledge this contradiction that the war machine exists both outside the state as “another justice,” and within it, moving between the poles of sovereignty in order to assure that sovereignty? The point is not that this contradiction signifies an error, for both statements (the war machine as “exterior” and “in-between”) are true. The State is able to appropriate or “capture” that which exists outside its formation, that which operates according to “another justice”: the “primitive” social system that “has yet” to reach a certain stage of economic development; acts of nomadic labor that do not as of yet, but have the ability to, create a stock for the entrepreneur; a stone-cutting skill waiting to be transcribed “on paper” in a mass-produced text book that distributes the skill universally so that it might, in its deterritorialized form, apply to any worksite. We now come upon the discomforting certainty that the State feeds on the alterity of the war machine, needing war, in fact, for its very existence.

[16] This begs the question of what Deleuze and Guattari have been attempting to uncover by their foray into the nature of war and the war machine, and likewise, the movement of nomadism in general. This contradiction, of the State appropriating and feeding upon that which struggles against it, leads us back to our initial questions concerning the efficacy of the rhizome. For the State, like the postmodern subject, does not exist in a void, completely cut off from the social contingencies that feed it. The State is also rhizomatic—a machinic assemblage of “partial” objects and flows that determine its disposition. But as we have seen, the point of this disposition is to centralize all flows between the poles of sovereignty, ultimately centralizing these flows around a positive presence. The State, then, appears to be both rhizomatic and arboreal, channeling heterogeneous “lines of flight” into a central root, deterritorializing rhizomatic flows so that they may take on universal properties. The cultivation of universal properties gives uncommon movements a common measure, and a unity to the entire horizon of desiring-machines. It seems necessary to say the entire horizon here, for to posit a movement that is equally entirely outside the State is to fall into the trap of thinking one can find a space fully outside of ideology.

[17] In order to account for the paradox that the war machine is both exterior to the State and in between the two poles of State sovereignty, and that it can come to serve the State, Deleuze and Guattari close their nomadology treatise with a decisive, tactical reversal. They come to the conclusion that the war machine does not, in fact, have war as its object:

To the extent that war...aims for the annihilation or capitulation of enemy forces, the war machine does not necessarily have war as its object....But more generally, we have seen that the war machine was the invention of the nomad, because it is in its essence the constitutive element of smooth space: this is its sole and veritable positive object....If war necessarily results, it is because the war machine collides with States and cities, as forces (of striation) opposing its positive object: from then on, the war machine has as its enemy the State, the city, the state and urban phenomenon, and adopts its objective their annihilation....speaking like Derrida, we would say that war is the ‘supplement’ of the war machine....It is precisely after the war machine has been appropriated by the State in this way that it tends to take war for its direct and primary object....In short, it is at one and the same time that the State apparatus appropriates a war machine, that the war machine takes war as its object, and that war becomes subordinated to the aims of the State. (ATP 417-418)

Here we come to the root of the problem, the crucial moment when deterritorialization shifts from a nomadic movement defined by the measure of its own occasion (the establishment of a “smooth spaces” and “itinerant territorialities”), to a deterritorialization that has its movement founded upon a central mode of production. Once war breaks out it is “too late,” so to speak. The nomadic war machine has already been coopted, its “vague” (in the sense of “vagabond”) skills redirected toward a common enemy: the State. The war machine has unified its resources and become a mission machine, a machine rooted to centralized resistance. The war machine has become “a movement” in the sense of a vanguard. Before the State fully insists upon its presence and begins to colonize spaces marked equally or more by unenclosed areas of vagabond smoothness than the striations of a mode of production (the open fields, the Gothic stone cutters, the pre-assembly line methods of production), the war machine is content enough to follow the heterogeneous flows of its own itinerant measures. It does not as yet have a common enemy, by the very fact that having a common enemy demands that all the differences of a nomadic movement comport themselves to the imperatives of a particular identity, to a “sameness” that connects in war all the disparities of a “multicultural” community. When the war machine becomes a collaboration machine, it immediately falls into the trap of Enlightenment ideology, imposing a “common ground” upon all differences so that they may centripetally organize themselves toward a common goal.

[18] With the realization that the war machine does not have war as its object, we have stumbled upon a crucial definition of the State. The State is a form of interriorization, seeking always to appropriate. This logic of incorporation is its foundation, and names a structure more diffuse than that operating within the logic of inclusion—which functions by excluding everything that would call its center into question. Isomorphic incorporation, however, finds value in the most heterogeneous phenomena, even acts that are openly resistant. Is it not precisely because we are always already fighting the State that we cannot put an end to the its hegemony and isomorphy? Perhaps in this contradictory nature of resistance we can glimpse a possible cause for the inability of collective resistance to gain any ground in our time; for the essence of struggle has decidedly changed in America over the last thirty years since the Vietnam decade. From Deleuze and Guattari’s paradoxical discovery that the war machine does not have war as its object, we can draw out for ourselves an axiomatic that is foundational to the State: it is the State that has war as its object, and not the nomadic war machine. The State goes so far as to invite war—from nomads that have themselves taken on the attributes of sovereign individualism, differential coalitions that have become vanguards, lines of flight that have become “movements.” From the incorporatization of forms of struggle through time, resistance, in the modern age of States proper, has no doubt become pre-disposed to find war as its object. Resistance, by becoming available in this form, allows itself to be incorporated from the ground up by the State.

[19] If the war machine does not have war as its object, then what is its object? Deleuze and Guattari face this question at the end of the nomadology treatise. They come to the following, curious qualification: that there are two types of war, one “real,” and the other only the “pure Idea” of war: “the distinction between absolute war as Idea and real wars seems to us to be of great importance....The pure Idea is not that of the abstract elimination of the adversary but that of a war machine that does not have war as its object and that only entertains a potential or supplementary synthetic relation with war” (ATP 420). It is important to understand how Deleuze and Guattari are using the term “Idea” here. It does not refer to Plato’s eidos, but to a non-positive condition of existence of the war machine: “an Idea, something real and nonactual” (ATP 420). The war machine must have war as a potential precisely because it is of another logic than the State. In its potential state of “pure Idea,” war is the non-positive ground of the war machine and of nomadic movement, but it is also a positive (in the sense of “productive,” or “liberatory”) function in that it appears in the form of an antagonism directed against all forms of sovereignty. In fact, nomadic movement is based upon this fundamental antagonism, a constant antagonistic refusal to follow one flow of production, an aversion to the mandates of normalization and the production of peaceful subjects. This antagonism is war as pure Idea, a movement that induces multiplicities and mixtures of flows. Referring back to the activity necessary for making a rhizome, we could say conversely that “real war”—because that is what turns the war machine into a machine founded upon a collaborative movement—is that uniqueness (“We must collaborate around a common goal if they are to hear our demands.”) that must be subtracted from the war machine. Deleuze and Guattari write: “The first theoretical element of importance is the fact that the war machine has many varied meanings, and this is precisely because the war machine has an extremely variable relation to war itself. The war machine is not uniformly defined, and comprises something other than increasing quantities of force” (ATP 422). The definition of “real war” discloses itself as the very definition of capital: a battle that proceeds according to ever “increasing quantities of force.”

[20] But this differentiation between “Ideal war” and “real war” only forces us to face a whole new set of questions. If, when the State appropriates the war machine by imposing war as its object it also opens the way for the flow of capital, what specifically characterizes capital? And how does war as “pure Idea” avert the onset of a capitalist State apparatus, if that is in fact what it does? Deleuze and Guattari suggest that we are now seeing, in the current movement of capital, an appropriated and pre-accomplished global war machine—one that has war as its direct object, making it real and perceptible in order to increase incorporatization. How does the nomadic war machine, prior to having the objective of war forced upon it, delay the installation of State sovereignty and maintain the existence of itinerant, un-incorporable territories? What, in other words, marks the nomadic activity of preserving “a framework of alliance” in opposition to “filial relations”?