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Overcoming Nihilism - Kaustuv Roy

Overcoming Nihilism - Kaustuv Roy

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Published by Paul Sid Wren
Basing itself on the semiological pragmatics of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,
this paper explores the possibility of rethinking pedagogic communication along
lines that might help us to escape the grip of nihilism that has seized education today
with its overriding concern for instrumentality, effectiveness, skills, competencies,
standardization, and other means of levelling nuance and banishing irreconcilables
(Blake
et al.
, 2000).
Basing itself on the semiological pragmatics of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,
this paper explores the possibility of rethinking pedagogic communication along
lines that might help us to escape the grip of nihilism that has seized education today
with its overriding concern for instrumentality, effectiveness, skills, competencies,
standardization, and other means of levelling nuance and banishing irreconcilables
(Blake
et al.
, 2000).

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Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol. 36, No.

3, 2004

Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression
Kaustuv Educational EPAT 2004 0013-1857 O 3 36 Overcoming riginal Philosophy Article Roy Philosophy Nihilism: of Education From andcommunication Theory Society of Australasia to Deleuzian expression Blackwell Oxford, UK Publishing, Ltd.

K R
Louisiana State University

To reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. —Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (1987) Basing itself on the semiological pragmatics of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, this paper explores the possibility of rethinking pedagogic communication along lines that might help us to escape the grip of nihilism that has seized education today with its overriding concern for instrumentality, effectiveness, skills, competencies, standardization, and other means of leveling nuance and banishing irreconcilables (Blake et al., 2000). The assumption of the logics of mechanistic exactitude and transparency is codified in the very idea of communication that is central to education. My attempt will be to join efforts in finding an alternative terrain to the instrumental barrenness that results when ambiguity and irreconcilability are denied in the process of exchange: In The Birth of Tragedy, his first reevaluation of all values, Nietzsche draws a distinction between the Dionysian forces of ancient Greek tragedy and the Apollonian form and clarity of Socratic dialectic. The former is characterized by surging energy … the latter by the ordering of logical thought. With the advent of a certain ‘Socratism’ … the possibility of bearing witness in the manner of tragedy is seriously eroded, and the lives we live become thinner as a result. (Blake et al., 2000, p. 96, my italics) When the possibility of ‘bearing witness in the manner of tragedy’ is taken away from us, what is lost is the creative power that arises out of the clash of irreconcilable forces, in exchange for a shallow optimism that professes faith in progress through instrumentality alone, resulting in a general impoverishment of the senses. Blake et al. argue that ‘Just as the excessive influence of the Apollonian led to the degeneration of tragedy into what Nietzsche calls bourgeois theatre’, so has educational practice withered under a linear and simplistic gaze, becoming stage-managed and selfconscious, a product that may be disseminated as information effectively with a dose of ‘artificial respiration’ and a ‘thespian gravitas’ (pp. 96 –97). The analysis here shows that part of this shrinking of educational space can be ascribed to a key assumption underpinning the instrumentalist paradigm. This
© 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

such as. I argue that given their thoroughgoing critique. 1972. But before going into Foucault’s critique and Deleuzian expression. in describing the relation between what is taught and what is learnt. 1994) and Felix Guattari (1995). say. who. I draw upon three main sources—Foucault’s (1972) notion of discourse. the poststructural critique of the signifier (Foucault. of hegemonistic filigree spun throughout linguistic practices. and matter-thought conglomerates that can organically embrace the ‘messiness’ of knowledge and life in general and counter the threat of nihilism. But pedagogic exchange when treated in this manner results in regimentation. To do this. hesitate to engage the term.298 Kaustuv Roy assumption is the instrumentalist view that communication is unambiguous and unmediated. and hollows out the educational experience. and the social and semiological theories of Gilles Deleuze (1990a. For. Despite Habermas’ (1984) valiant rearguard attempt to repossess the term and work out its conditions of possibility. Wittgenstein (2001) and the language games. raising immediately the question: ‘What speaks?’ or ‘What is cauterized into silence?’ And yet. In other words. I argue that it is expression rather than communication that will allow us to challenge and rethink the assumed correspondences that have settled as tradition upon us locking us into nihilistic modes. The notion of the event is more flexible and generative as we shall see. 103). having been shown the webs. ranging from the gross to the superfine. the ‘com’ in communication is a source of embarrassment to many. let us look a little closely at some of the issues with regard to communication. Education and the Critique of Communication Ever since the structuralist critique of meaning. p. from communication to what can be called immanication—a ripple in an immanent field of percepts. 1990b. 1977). producing ‘weariness and boredom’ for the learner (Pinar 2002. concepts. pedagogic communication must move from a transcendent to an immanent mode: that is. Such beliefs tend to forge simplistic equations. and most notably. and results in unproblematic transference with full conservation of intent. communication seems to flow along established power grids or ‘State’ lines with the voltage a determination of unequal social relations. and with the help of such a reconceptualization we might resist the systematic hollowing out of the educational experience. the notion of communication has fallen on increasingly hard times. the manipulation of electronic models or digitalized maps might work for designing cyber-communicational networks where the desired outcomes can be known in advance. and when embraced significantly alters the pedagogic exchange since communication is now no longer the conservation of intent but a chromatic emergence and ethical experimentation. and between the making of policy on paper and its translation into educational practice. this paper offers an alternative to communication by constructing a Deleuzian expressional plane that presents a different image in thought—that of expression as an event. it is precisely the possibility of unproblematic © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . for example. In view of this problem. That is. it assumes unambiguous translation in the same way as. and in an effort to get away from the sender–receiver model of technocratic exchange.

10) We must note the Platonic assumption of an ‘ideal realm of forms’ that through a certain imagined correspondence will turn the policy plan into reality. it at the same time forms. and which can ‘act’ upon knowledge of what constitutes their own and the world’s best practice. cited in Blake et al. the ‘noise’ that techno-rationality seeks to brush aside. information is not the mere innocent and passive appraisal of variables that instrumentalists would have us believe. Yet while the ‘information informs. ‘and it may partially explain what seems to be a fetishism with data: data assume ‘an importance that displaces any deeper sense of what the given might mean. In other words. that is apprises. The ‘plan is circulated (for others to implement).. (2000) quote a senior educational administrator cited in The Times Literary Supplement: The Highly Reliable School aims.Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression 299 communication that is assumed in the prevailing instrumentalist and techno-rational approach to education. His job is done. (p. Blake et al. The critique of communication and representation has also problematized some other implicit assumptions of communicational models such as the notion language as information: [The] representation of human language as an instrument of information ‘increasingly gains the upper hand. simply. 12) In other words. Here the use of language can be likened to the discourse of artificial intelligence wherein performance is seen as value neutral. and sets straight. (Heidegger. The vital assumption is that the data will capture and transmit a view of things ‘in their totality’ and thereby give us unhindered access to a world of ‘best practice’. the surrogate of the formal system entices us away from the ‘stubborn messiness of everyday life. that means ‘arranges. the translation requires the assumption of perfect communication. but one that can be willed into existence only by denying the ‘stubborn messiness of everyday life’. communication appears much more problematic than previously imagined. but actively participates in © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . (2000) go on to comment: The educational manager sits in his office and devises his streamlined plan. p. Blake et al. It is when we take this messiness of lived life seriously. 2000. to transform education by generating schools which can ‘think’ based on high quality performance data. The ‘surrogate ‘reality’ hints at an ideal realm of forms of which the institution is but a shadow. (p. ‘Unlike the amplified perception of an aspect of the real offered by a conventional ‘instrument. 8) Note the emphasis on the transmission of ‘performance data’ and the corresponding instrumentalist belief that it will lead automatically to the creation of a desirable educational space. For the determination of language as ‘information first of all creates sufficient grounds for the construction of thinking ‘machines and for the building of frameworks for large calculations.

under all circumstances. (ibid.300 Kaustuv Roy generating the formations within which thought is possible. The Discourse of Foucault In many ways. and who frames its rules? It is of the nature of discourse that it may not be causally attributed to particular bodies or to points of origin. whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers. ‘We know perfectly well’. organized and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures. To put it differently. Discourse controls this possibility: [In] every society the production of discourse is at once controlled. that we cannot simply speak of anything …’ (p. instead. Otherwise speech would be too ‘perilous’. It is not difficult to see how this seriously undermines the instrumentalist notion of communication. Foucault observes. the possibility of its faithful re-presentation. and a third is education. and it will be helpful before getting into Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the event to review Foucault’s notion of discourse. the twin coordinates within which discourse unfolds. which reveal its links with power and desire. where strict codes control what can be said and by whom. suggestive of uncontrolled vocalizations that might border on anarchy or even ‘madness’. to cope with chance events. 216). it is the movement of ‘discourse’ which shapes us and limits the possibilities of what it is possible to think. Derrida’s (1982) work which introduced the famous concept of différance. It is. And finally. and Deleuze’s (1994) critique of representation have cast serious doubts on each of the above suppositions. awesome materiality. the actualization of diffused sets of tendencies distributed over the © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . The assumption of the conservation of intent on which communication depends is shattered because intent now is seen to be mediated by discursive formations. the poststructuralist thinkers reveal the fundamental ambiguities in the communicational model by showing the difficulty of assuming the objective existence of content prior to the form of expression. It acts as a source of hegemony blocking out of sight other possibilities and other ways of being even as it ‘innocently’ informs. The problem of confusing the two—language and information—then is that it blunts the critical enterprise by having us believe that information is neutral and carries no specific agenda. But. Foucault (1972) showed that we do not speak or communicate transparently as the instrumentalist vision holds. but instead. In fact. Foucault’s projects powerfully resonate with Deleuze’s work. There are always in operation. ‘that we are not free to say just anything. rules of exclusion and prohibition that regulate what can be said. Further. we can only say what we can say within the discourses that are prevalent at a certain historical moment. Foucault (1972) said in his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France. speech may not appear to be of much consequence until we examine the prohibitions that surround it. what is discourse. selected. and the exhaustion of the signified in the signifier. to evade its ponderous.) Two areas where this web of exclusion and prohibition operates most powerfully are politics and sexuality.

with the knowledge and the powers it carries with it … What is an educational system. That is to say. the first task entails understanding our phobias concerning disorder and the obsessive desire for certainty that results in what Bateson (1979) called ‘over-simplification’. It is an artifact of what Foucault called the ‘will to truth’ or the ‘will to knowledge’ which ‘imposed upon the knowing subject—in some ways taking precedence over all experience— a certain position. to abolish the sovereignty of the signifier’ (p. its effects’ we can attempt to reverse the impact of excessive rarefaction and exclusion. In educational terms. The profound fear of the ‘mass of spoken things. It is a rare event. disordered even and perilous in it’ is controlled by means of the invisible strands of discourse (p.Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression 301 social field that intersect to create a set of possibilities for certain statements to emerge. In other words. 227) Education as a set of discursive practices then is a process of rarefaction. a certain function’ (p. but by the dynamics of the processes of normalization. the will to knowledge forces a schema on the reality of experience and mediates our perceptions. The way to this is marked by the following tasks: ‘to question our will to truth. said Foucault. But. These tasks are key to a praxis that changes the very character of what it means to communicate. for example. From the liberal perspective of equality of opportunity. If anyone on the verge of © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . it is often made to appear as though anyone can gain access to any kind of discourse through education. which may be thought of as a particular mode of the ‘social appropriation of discourse’. Every educational system is a political means of maintaining or of modifying the appropriation of discourse. The next question we must ask then is. if not the constitution of a (diffuse) doctrinal group? (p. Also. the nature of discourse is such that it masks the power and desire that fuel it. a certain viewpoint. 218). of everything that could possibly be violent. creating thereby reality itself and the systems of truth that give it the necessary foundation. And it is through the analysis of ‘its conditions. it channels experience along controlled routes proscribing that which spills outside its boundaries. not by conscious design. who has access to discourse or who may appropriate it and by what means? One obvious instrument of access is education. and that if one is really to learn something from the great it is precisely the beginning one must attend to. discontinuous. for student voices to be heard and their opinions to be taken into consideration in framing educational policy or school practices. querulous. its activity. if not a ritualisation of the word. 229). [We] well know that in its distribution. Groups of these utterances form unities of discourse. after all. it follows the well-trodden battle-lines of social conflict. Blake et al. one that governs very closely what can be said through a system of rituals and the naming of those who might be heard. (2000) refer to Kierkegaard’s sardonic comment: ever since the Creation it has been accepted practice for the outcome to come last. to restore to discourse its character as an event. if not a qualification of some fixing of roles for speakers. 229). in what it permits and what it prevents.

the collectivity of the symptoms itself became the disease. which would appear. and that frees us to experiment and devise new values in relating to the world and to ourselves. In examining the genealogy of specific knowledges we first become aware of and then overcome the grip of the signifier. for that would turn everything into a mushy sameness. Even though the result may gladden the whole world. and Semiology Deleuze and Guattari are implacable foes of dominant significations that must © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . that cannot help the hero. The formation of the clinical method was bound up with the emergence of the doctor’s gaze into the field of signs and symptoms. 12) Our will to truth. he would never begin. 91) At a certain historical point. (p. the abolishing of the sovereignty of the signifier. instead. to see it as an event or phenomenon. and. And as for the third task. for that is impossible. Communication is then no longer a matter of dominant significations but is the result of incessant experimentation and value creation. What is necessary is to challenge the masquerading of discourse as truth. This attempt to see communication as an event will be further explored in the next part of the paper where we discuss Deleuze. For. (p. reified. As for the second task. a momentary intercrossing of forces. an event is a fleeting thing. This resulted in a cutting off from the layers of that which was invisible to that particular gaze. without concealment or residue. In other words. establishing the domination of the signifier. and discourse as event loses its ahistorical pretensions. discourse is a restrictive and rarefying paradigm of knowledge guided along by rules of inclusion and exclusion. It is not that discourse must be avoided. in its most pristine reality. Foucault (1994) writes. and that the essence of the signified—the heart of the disease—would be entirely exhausted in the intelligible syntax of the signifier. let us proceed by seeing how such sovereignty is established. To revert it to the status of an event and no more than an event is to dereify it by showing the processes and conditions of its arising. The recognition of its constituent rights involved … the postulate that henceforth the signifier (sign and symptom) would be entirely transparent for the signified. Into this crack in the façade of the instrumental view we will next insert the experimental philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari to give us a glimpse of a different terrain. which can be thought of in this instance as a will to certain outcomes sets communication along preset railway tracks as pointed out by Wittgenstein. nor is it the case that we must deregulate or remove the exclusionary rules of discourse. In The Birth of the Clinic. Deleuze.302 Kaustuv Roy action should judge himself according to the outcome. it appears as truth itself. preventing alternative ways of relating to the world that are openended and experimental. it determines what can be thought or uttered. Guattari.

38). Freud makes the important discovery about the unconscious but subsequently attempts to link everything to the Oedipal apparatus or to the signifier— the mommy–daddy thing—and everything thereafter proceeds from this signification. 1987. Deleuze and Guattari (1983) write: Jung remarked that in the process of transference the psychoanalyst frequently appeared in the guise of a devil. It is also not difficult to see how such structures—Deleuze and Guattari call them Oedipal in general—dominate institutional thinking. so it’s your father …’. 46) Here they point out Jung’s objection to Freud’s obsession with reducing the incredibly complex libidinal economy to the One. that is. It is not difficult to see how dangerously silencing it becomes to judge diverse mental productions according to a fixed signifying regime or schema of representation. in their work together. or a sorcerer. p. To give an example. and ‘when they do speak. We can now see that this is only possible by subordinating difference to a pseudo unity. © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . a cowboy. or between the two. to playing only at being daddyand-mommy. a little car. you say? How interesting. pretend[s] they haven’t said a thing’ (Deleuze & Guattari. (p. where the author conjures up a vision of smart manipulation of ‘performance data’ as a transparent means of achieving universal goals. a cop or a robber. He also plays at being a magician. robbing the educational experience thereby of real value that comes out of ‘bearing witness’ to a clash of forces that is the basis of all knowledge production. At this point it will be useful to consider a brief description of Deleuze’s conception of language systems in general and see how they differ from other generally encountered linguistic and semiotic approaches. How’s that? Goats. a fixed template or inscription. to a restricted code of Oedipus. which was about signification. The result is a narcissism that shepherds diverse experience toward the reflection of a unity that can then be easily placed within a pre-existing hierarchized system of values. The same remark holds true of children’s games. a systematic method of suppressing difference and divergent expression: ‘The Wolf-Man keeps howling: Six wolves! Seven wolves! Freud says.Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression 303 underwrite communication. A child never confines himself to playing house. a god. a train. this will inform our attempt to reconceptualize communication in education. This goes along with the unproblematic conception of creating ‘highly reliable schools’ that we saw earlier. nor is the train station necessarily mommy. The signifier thus deprives the patient of all basis for enunciation. The train is not necessarily daddy. Take away the goats and all you have left is a wolf. Discussing the initial point of disagreement between Freud and Jung. The signifier thus becomes despotic. as Deleuze would often say. and that eventually resulted in a complete parting of the ways. Deleuze and Guattari relentlessly examine the primary Freudian premise of the unconscious as a theater of Oedipal signification and repression. and the roles he assumed in the patient’s eyes went far beyond any sort of parental images. including and especially the field of education where communication is exercised within fixed systems of reward and punishment or success and failure.

is not a literal conveyance of meaning but operates in a field of implicit presuppositions from which the semantic content cannot be separated: It then becomes clear that the statement is individuated. but the relation of every word or every statement to implicit presuppositions. The order-word is thus a variable that makes the word into © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . but is simply a transmission of. as each statement performs an act or an act is performed in the statement. or. is neither informational nor communicational. according to Deleuze and Guattari. in other words. It might be of interest to note that ‘order-word’ is a translation of mot d’ordre which in standard French means slogan: ‘Every particular slogan must be deduced from the totality of the specific features of a definite political situation’ (V. (Deleuze & Guattari. 79) Borrowing the notion of the speech act from J. We might recall Foucault. Guattari and Deleuze modify it for their own purpose.’ the nondiscursive network of forces within which particular speaking bodies are positioned and which ordains what those bodies say–do. accomplished in the statement. a leaping from order-word to order-word. in the imperative). Language. the result is not simple penitence but the production of the convict with its own intricate social structure. Language. In other words. 1987. Similarly when the judge pronounces ‘Guilty’. that is. 83). only to the extent that an impersonal collective assemblage requires it and determines it to be so. not a particular category of explicit statements (for example. implicit presuppositions. or speech acts current in a given language at a given moment. The only possible definition of language is the set of all order-words. (p. p. to speech acts that are. I. the actionation of an implicit structure of presuppositions within which meaning must be constructed makes its appearance immediately. punctuated by action. who once said. but this goes further in the direction of the nondiscursive or into action. p. 80) This ‘collective assemblage’ is the indirect discourse of implicit presuppositions that propel us into certain thought-speech-action postures. p. L. cited in Deleuze & Guattari. and can only be. and enunciation subjectified.304 Kaustuv Roy Communication and the Order-word Consider the situation in which the boss starts a meeting by saying ‘It is my humble request …’.’ Every statement displays this link. as well as minutely activated structures of thought-action. It must be read to mean ‘or else …’. Lenin. 30) And this impulsion of the body in a speech-driven act is accomplished by what Deleuze and Guattari (1987) call the order-word: We call order-words. we do not speak but are spoken. we know immediately who the ‘humbler’ is and who the ‘humblee’. 1987. but every act that is linked statements by a ‘social obligation. 1992. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words. the real function of language is ‘impulsion’ and what becomes of a meaning encounter is attributable to its unique and contingent ‘context. Order-words do not concern commands only. they say. (Massumi.

or rather. in other words. is a fundamentally different sense of cause from that used in physical causation …’ (p. its immediacy. that order-words do not refer merely to the imperatives in any language. 133). To explain it mathematically. who observed that ‘the sense in which saying something produces effects on other persons. there can be no utterance without context or implicit presuppositions. ‘The expressed is not fundamentally a signified caught in the interplay of signifiers. 18). Therefore. 81) A declaration of general mobilization or a statement like ‘I am home’. whereas home itself.Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression 305 an enunciation. there is the presence of an order-word within each word which effectuates instantaneously. and an action is performed in that very flash of connection to context. and so the very notion of meaning is problematized with its obvious consequences for the conservation of intent (Deleuze & Guattari. (2) It makes it impossible to define semantics and syntactics ‘as independent of pragmatics’ since now we have performativity enfolded in it. and can only be infinitely hollow having no space–time for any substance to adhere to it. And then the next question we might ask is. but a force or ‘pulsion’. although they may be expressed through bodies. Let us emphasize. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) put forward the notion of incorporeal transformations: The incorporeal transformation is recognizable by its instantaneousness. or war and peace are states or ‘interminglings’ of bodies. This throws doubt on the assumed interiority of language implicit in communicational models. But the instantaneous is a limit. it implies that language has no inside. and language is no longer a carrier of information. or causes things. (p. It is a function involving a real transformation’ (Massumi. language is determined by the exteriority of a collective assemblage spread out through the socius which is © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . but are constitutive of every statement. 1992. For one thing. The reason being that each reporting statement has within it reported statements. This awareness of performatives within language has at least three consequences: (1) It makes it ‘impossible to conceive of language as a code. what is the nature of these acts that constitute the order-word? Following Austin’s (1962) work. 1987. obligation or presupposition. changes everything instantaneously. (3) The ‘meaning and syntax of language can no longer be defined independently of the speech acts they presuppose’. the illocutionary) designate this instantaneous relation between statements and the incorporeal transformations or noncorporeal attributes they express. 78). by the simultaneity of the statement expressing the transformation and the effect the transformation produces … The orderwords or assemblages of enunciation in a given society (in short. For. it is hollowed from within. It has also made it impossible to conceive of speech as the communication of information’ since information presupposes an objective. We have to watch this quality of instantaneousness carefully. A word is what a word does or prevents from doing. static content. for it has some rather dramatic implications. p. p. the instantaneous rate of change has no units associated with it. since a code is the condition of possibility for all explanation. In other words.

the incorporeal transformation ‘intervenes’ to alter the vectors in a field of relations. For example. For. That is to say the one does not have primacy over the other: Sometimes the semiotic components are more deterritorialized than the material components.306 Kaustuv Roy infolded. closes language in on itself. 87). Deleuze and Guattari posit language itself as an event and not merely a description of events. whether syntactical. The Two Transformations As we have just seen. (p. separate or combine them. overwhelms other bodies. not to represent them but to anticipate them or move them back. while itself a body. or knocked into a different orbit or trajectory. as Foucault puts it. the inside of language is its outside. or © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . As long as linguistics confines itself to constants. But before we can discuss the linguistic event. and while it is a material confrontation. morphological. but nevertheless. ‘deterritorializing’ may be approximately taken to mean fundamentally unsettling. while experimental evidence may force us to abandon older paradigms of explanation. (p. These assemblages themselves also continually undergo transformation. we must look into another aspect of what makes exchange at all possible or the conditions of possibility of correspondence. besides the familiar corporeal transformations or bodily modifications. we see that there is no hierarchy of levels between content and expression. the particles may have experimental effects that deterritorialize the semiotic system. (p. or phonological. incorporeal attributes are bodies too and apply only to bodies. we can say that the corporeal and the incorporeal. and sometimes the reverse. conversely. and vice versa’ (p. 86) In other words. it speaks on the same level as states of things themselves. there is ground for making a complex distinction: [The] expressions or expresseds are inserted into or intervene in contents. in order to prevent such closing off of language. In other words. But this is not to propose a strict duality between the two. its closure in the image of thought so to speak. there are also in the socius incorporeal or instantaneous transformations performed by the speech act. that is. Thus. it consigns circumstances to the exterior. An expressed or enunciation. a mathematical complex of signs may be more deterritorialized than a set of particles. slow them down or speed them up. An assemblage of enunciation does not speak of things. 87) Here. delimit them in a different way. in a ceaseless confrontation of forces. 82) Therefore. A new mathematical relationship may radically alter the relations between particles. and consequently. they ceaselessly pass into each other: ‘We constantly pass from order-words to the ‘silent order’ of things. The warp of the instantaneous transformations is always inserted into the woof of the continuous modifications. it ties the statement to a signifier and enunciation to a subject and accordingly botches the assemblage.

We will refer to this as the plane of expression rather than communication. is marked by pragmatics. timbre … it is a question of highly complex and elaborate material making audible nonsonorous forces. The picture that begins to emerge can be usefully put in musical terms: When development subordinates form and spans the whole. and communication. or saying that expressions and statements intervene in the production of signs at the level of the bodies themselves. 96) The issue then is not so much a break in the possibilities of communication as the necessity of introducing a ‘ferment’ in communication that brings into play all manner of bodies that radically alter the conception of communication. variation begins to free itself and becomes identified with creation. even to behold in a certain way that presupposes prior expresseds is also to make a ‘cut’ on reality. intensities.Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression 307 content and expression. and incurs a transformation. information. as in Beethoven. let us return to the corporeal and incorporeal transformations that we saw earlier and that were akin to a distinction between content and expression without © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . To take the musical metaphor one step further. The plane of this alternative conception. reciprocally presuppose one another. mutual insertions. and a rejection of constants. and just as the nonsonorous becomes audible. [The] important thing is certainly not to establish a pseudobreak between the tonal system and atonal music … The essential thing is almost the opposite movement: the ferment in the tonal system itself (during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) that dissolved temperament and widened chromaticism while preserving a relative tonality … This ferment came to the forefront and made itself heard in its own right. and in the process the ferment draws new lines of possibilities. A Deleuzian Praxis First. and form is replaced by formation. (p. There is no incorporeal transformation without bodies. like chromatic music. as we have constructed it until now. exteriorities. 95) Chromatic language. The precipitates of this ferment is what I am going to call expression. But when chromaticism is unleashed … [it] affect[s] not only pitches but all sound components—durations. By proposing a theory of co-production. reciprocal presuppositions. From Form to Formation We have taken the first steps toward an alternative conception. (p. The couple matter-form is replaced by the coupling material-forces. places the variables of a language system in a state of continuous variation. the linguistic implication is that bodies are expressed. Each brings the other into existence. and so also the other way around. an intermingling of bodies. we have broken with the schema of representation. For.

1998. a subjectivation without a subject: Traditionally. For instance. Every determination is the crossing of a gap from the virtual to the actual. empty. Therefore. Although distinct. Content participates in subjectivity by giving consistency to the ontological quality of expression. one might say that a crisis or a great unsettling movement of intensity gives rise to a state of potential rather than a determinate state. the passage from the undetermined to determination does not take place over a spatiotemporal continuum. 1988. Further. this is where the question of Content will reside. passing into each other. prereflexive apprehension of the world. there is an intermediate state when content or expression cannot be determined—has the body changed. the subject was conceived as the ultimate essence of individuation. the pragmatic issue is finding ways of opening up to these asignifying signs and thus stretching expression in novel directions. to take another example. That is. its untimely here and now’ (Evans et al. the matter–thought combinations haven’t yet fallen either on the side of content or on the side of expression. and there exist in-between states-in-transition that are neither one nor the other. of expressivity—the unifier of states of consciousness … [S]ubjectivity involves taking the relation between subject and object by the middle and foregrounding the expressive instance. content and expression are constantly commingling. That is. but all at once. ‘To open thought to these movements is to go beyond representation: it is to introduce into thought its own transcendental instance. p. p. they are still in potentia. there are in-between ‘particles’ or even gaps that are neither incorporeal transformations nor corporeal modifications. or. for instance?—because of the extreme intensities involved. 85). 276). we have to understand that there is no one who stands behind expression. every movement is a sudden explosion of actualization that also implies a movement of individuation: ‘Suddenly things are not perceived or propositions not articulated in the same way’ (Deleuze. This is the first task. 44). This is also to elude capture for as long as possible and emphasize the asymptotic nature of all determinations. a nucleus of sensibility. which is not a movement in space or time but is itself a determination of space and time. Eventually these will be captured and pass into one or another. Such articulatory functions in an in-between state Deleuze and Guattari call ‘asignifying’ signs. In general. Second. as a pure. Deleuze and Guattari observe that ‘the articulation of expression is double and constitutes a relative content within expression … [and] there exist intermediate states between content and expression’ (p. For Guattari (1995). when a mathematical function suddenly posits a new particle.. the movement of expression is an agency without an agent. there is no subject to whom it appears or to whom ‘manifestation’ occurs. entering each other. with the jolt of a sign. Hereafter. when one receives news of death. (p. 22) In other words.308 Kaustuv Roy their usual connotation of substance and form but concerning the differences in the speed and nature of modification. there is a reversibility between content and expression where what Guattari calls the ‘existentialising function’ is located and that gives rise to the © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia .

There is not even a subject of enunciation’ (Deleuze & Guattari. 178). This is achieved by moving away from determinations of the center and remaining in a state of partial deterritorialization. 178–179). or matters of expression.Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression 309 subject in the process of undulations in the plane of discourse. it is aesthetic because it attempts to free expression to create new combinations. Once we give up that illusion. This is further clarified by Klossowski. pp. 1990a. Hence. we have to become foreigners in our own tongue. we can ‘extract the pure event which communicates with all the others and returns to itself through all the others’ (Deleuze. It is the awareness of this murmur that partly frees us from the notion of the conventional subject that is presumed in communicational models. 1990a. and consequently expression is not to be linked to specific bodies. Deleuze and Guattari further observe: The expressive is primary in relation to the possessive. When we place all linguistic and nonlinguistic elements in continuous variation. To free expression. who makes an observation on the vehement oscillations which upset the individual as long as he seeks his own center … for these oscillations correspond to an individuality other than that which he takes as his own from the point of view of the undiscoverable center. Thus. By means of counter-actualization. It is ethical because it deals with the pragmatics and micro-politics of the performatives of expresseds. we become immanent to the plane of expression. an identity is essentially fortuitous. 1987. into the currents and cross currents of this infinitely dispersed discourse. We are not the initiators but are ‘interpellated’. I call this the process of immanication. expressive qualities. as Haraway (1992) put it so aptly. 316) Thus. (cited in Deleuze. To free expression. minds. are necessarily appropriative … what is called art brut is merely this constitution. this freeing of matters of expression. or personae. But why is it so crucial to move away from the notion of a determinate being behind expression? All determination is a form of capture of the singularities or intensities of expression that are indefinite undulations or fractals. p. p. things that expression uses as channels for its own movement and becoming. a counter-actualization is necessary. there are only oscillations that are the expresseds. 45) that is wont to make us believe in a determinate agent behind expression. In short. But it is important to note that the ethics and the aesthetics go together. we introduce into language a creative stammering or stuttering: © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . (1987. Third. This is the second task. it is necessary to become aware of the frequency and oscillations of the plane of indirect discourse. or practice a generalized chromaticism by means of the above two exercises. 79). Here the term subject means not just the human subject but the movement of expression itself that creates various kinds of part-subjects. Becoming-expressive is the real task. it is simply abroad in the world in the form of indirect discourse. p. ‘There is no individual enunciation. we enter what Guattari (1995) has called an ‘ethico-aesthetic’ paradigm. once we give up what Nietzsche (1967) called the ‘seduction of language’ (p.

or things pick up speed by shedding and not by means of acquisition.310 Kaustuv Roy To be a foreigner. On the surface. is humor. (Deleuze & Guattari. therefore the form of an expression must be reentered into the processes of formation that revitalizes and reanimates it. multilingual. This can lead to the formation of atypical expressions which ‘constitutes a cutting edge of deterritorialization of language’ (p. pp. p. Justice. (Deleuze. freed of Platonic heights and populational depths. But we cannot rest here either. To be a bastard. or the example. Man?’ we will respond by designating a body. by indicating an object … Diogenes the Cynic answers Plato’s definition of man as a biped and featherless animal by bringing forth a plucked fowl. ‘What is marriage?’ we point to a signature in a register. we must be led back to the surface where there is no longer anything to denote or even to signify. We are exhorted to put expressions to new uses. Intensification happens. bending language to its limits. p. It allows us to climb to the surface and reclaim life. The Stoics wielded humor as a weapon against Platonism. 1990a. when we realize that things are neither this nor that. but in one and the same language. What then is the way out? By the same movement with which language falls from the heights and then plunges below. and which is the condition of possibility of form. 98) Becoming a foreigner in one’s own language is to go beyond the habitual ways of using language out of a sense of unquestioned familiarity. p. 98). humor is the art of surfaces that abolishes height and depth. (Deleuze. We pass into things © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . we find a flash of intensity. 1987. Determinations or expresseds nullify the potentialities of language. 1987. or say. 99). For. ‘I do. each time we are asked about essence or signification we respond by a de. we proceed by the multiplicity of examples rather than the unity of ideas. For. but in one’s own tongue. a half-breed. It is a becoming-intense of language. What can help us do this partly. This is the third task. 1990a. the designated. not only when speaking a language other than one’s own. 136) Pure sense is not opposed to nonsense. without even a dialect or patois. 134–135) That is. also brings language to a standstill. to replace signification by designation is also folly. but through a purification … That is when style becomes a language. but is an event. according to Deleuze. a pure continuum of values and intensities. an emission of singularities.monstration which replaces the Idea. If asked. Fourth. That is when language becomes intensive.’ We move from the ideational to the populational conception of things. to recall the incorporeal transformation. We discover the ‘cut’ or the void which is the present. Becoming a foreigner also means finding the inspiration to destroy signifieds: Every time we will be asked about signifieds such as ‘what is beauty. To be bilingual. there must take place the practice of what we might call a ‘creative subtraction’ (Deleuze & Guattari. an intensity. but where pure sense is produced.

instead. We have seen that operations in language cannot be separated from power relations. Conclusion We began by discussing the necessity of resisting the thinning out of educational spaces and countering the spreading sense of nihilism. The question that needed explication was: How are we to move away from the older conception of communication and attain or enter the plane of expression? The pragmatics of this took us into certain practices: (1) to travel beyond representation into a zone of asignifying signs. Therefore. It brings us into contact with the singularities or flashes of nonorganic life that escape capture. each of which appeared problematic when analyzed. in order to reinscribe the thick description of life into education. and signification (unified Idea). To pretend that we can clear out the messiness of life as Blake et al. and the teacher becomes a part of expression. Borrowing the notion from Deleuze. of being able to tolerate freedom. without demanding clarity. and by entering asignifying zones. I called such an alternative process expression.Overcoming Nihilism: From communication to Deleuzian expression 311 and things pass into each other through loss. What all this amounts to is a fervent invitation to see that there are no ready answers or values that we can seize upon and put to use in organizing learning. It is an ascetic practice. Curriculum is no longer teacher-centered or student-centered. (2000) put it. (3) to become a foreigner in our own language. for inscribed in language is power through the order-word. This is where communication as expression comes to our aid. The attempt is to produce creative ‘murmurs’ within language. an awareness of the movement of sense and nonsense as well as the paradoxicalities of language. it seemed appropriate and crucial that we find an alternative concept that was free of the difficulties presented by conventional notions of communication presupposed by technical rationality. This then is the final task of the pragmatics we have proposed here that helps us switch from the communicational to the expressional plane. manifestation (unified subject). Our best bet here is to learn to think from within confusion as Deborah Britzman (2002) has noted. as I have argued. By means of such disruption. One aspect of this nihilism was identified with instrumentalist communicational models with their tripartite structure of designation (unified object). an act necessary. (2) to counter-actualize the linguistic habit of adopting an apriori subject. What we have to do is to create new values in expression that are free from all final determination through the practice of counter-actualization. and (4) to practice creative subtraction. it is expression-centered. Loss is the loss of determination and therefore the gain of fluidity and momentum. plateaus of intensity that align in multiple ways constructing different worlds © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . Creative subtraction is the practice of not just winning freedom of expression but bearing it. and that subtracts in a creative manner in order to make openings for new becomings. Taken together. normal hierarchy is lost. these constitute an immanication which is not unhindered knowing but an expression that is both knowledge and ignorance at the same time. reinserted into the immanent plane just as the student. and order education along the lines of a power plant run by effective communication of ‘high quality’ performance data is naïve at best and deception at worst.

G. MA. (1977) Discipline and Punish (New York. (2002) The Death of Curriculum?.. M. (1962) How to Do Things with Words (Cambridge. McCarthy (Boston. Habermas. L. Deleuze. Columbia University Press). J. Routledge-Falmer). & Standish. Pantheon). F. Kaufmann & R. in: J. Foucault. trans. Smith. Hollingdale (New York. Deleuze. R. MA. G. P. A. University of Chicago Press). Anscombe (Malden. Beacon Press). B. Pinar. in: W. J. & Guattari. MA. (1994) The Birth of the Clinic: An archaeology of medical perception (New York. University of Minnesota Press). G. D. Pantheon). (1982) Margins of Philosophy (Chicago. T. D. L. E.. Derrida. Deleuze. (2001) Philosophical Investigations. G. Vintage). MIT Press). J. in: W. Guattari. (1992) When ManTM is on the Menu. G. Peter Lang). J. References Austin. Deleuze. Columbia University Press). University of Minnesota Press). Incorporations (New York. Blackwell). (1988) Foucault. (1990b) Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (New York. G. Deleuze and Guattari: New mappings in politics. Smeyers. (1995) Chaosmosis: An ethico-aesthetic paradigm (Bloomington. Gough (eds). Curriculum Visions (New York. (1992) A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari (Cambridge. P. Wittgenstein. & Guattari. culture (Minneapolis. trans. Heller (eds). Zone Books). in: E. © 2004 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . G. Gough (eds). Deleuze. (2002) Robert Musil and the Crisis of European Culture in America. (1998) Another Always Thinks in Me. M. (2000) Education in an Age of Nihilism (New York. (1967) On the Genealogy of Morals. Grossinger. (1980) Planet Medicine: From stone age shamanism to post-industrial healing (New York. Blake. Haraway. Doll & N. M. F. (1994) Difference and Repetition (New York. This movement on the expressional plane is the creation of new values and helps us avoid the corrosion of nihilism. F. R. F. Peter Lang). Curriculum Visions (New York. trans. (1990a) The Logic of Sense (New York. Doll and N. trans. (1983) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (Minneapolis. Massumi. J. Foucault. Vintage). M. W. Evans. Anchor Press). Qwinter (eds). Kaufman & K.312 Kaustuv Roy rather than approximating fixed meanings. Sean Hand (Minneapolis. Deleuze. University of Minnesota Press). (1972) The Archaeology of Knowledge (New York. (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (Minneapolis. philosophy. Indiana University Press). Crary and S. Harvard University Press). (1984) The Theory of Communicative Action. N. Zone Books). W. University of Minnesota Press). Foucault. Nietzsche. Britzman.

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