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The European Legacy

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Foucault, deleuze, and the ontology of networks

Kai Eriksson a a Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland

To cite this Article Eriksson, Kai'Foucault, deleuze, and the ontology of networks', The European Legacy, 10: 6, 595 — 610 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/10848770500254118 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10848770500254118

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The European Legacy, Vol. 10, No. 6, pp. 595–610, 2005

Foucault, Deleuze, and the Ontology of Networks
Kai Eriksson

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Abstract The concept of the network has become embedded in social thought and imagery, articulating what at root is inarticulable. The network metaphor occupies an ontological space, but this space, insofar as it is posed as a philosophical question, seems to assume a network-like shape itself. It may be particularly rewarding to read the constellations studied by Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze from this point of view, in light of the analysis of the preconditions of networks. This paper examines how the question of the ontology of networks is addressed by these thinkers, especially with regard to the historicity of ontology.

Wolfgang Schivelbusch refers in his excellent history of railway journeys to a piece of writing by Francoise Choay on Georges Haussman’s rearrangement of Paris’s road ¸ network.1 According to Choay, the connecting lines of this network were like arteries, and the whole system was compared by Hausmann to that of blood circulation. It was divided into subsystems each of which had a center of its own. This center was not a particular place but rather a node of traffic or, as Hausmann described it, a point of reference. Schivelbusch traces the similarity between the objectives of city traffic and those of the railway system, showing how it became possible to think of a boulevard as dividing the city like a railway divided the countryside. What is crucial here is the way in which different systems, institutions, and metaphors constitute a conceptual model in and through which an emerging order is given shape. Railways influenced the way traffic arrangements were seen, but railways themselves were connected to the metaphor of the network. By the second half of the nineteenth century, networks thus constituted a generic model for considering societal phenomena. This was largely due to the diffusion of railways and the spread of telecommunication systems. However, in the nineteenth century, societal phenomena were conceived in biological terms, which explains why the idea of the network was also understood mainly through biological analogies. It was crystallized in models like the nervous system or blood circulation system, thus preventing any direct comparison to the currently prevailing topological metaphor of the network. There are nevertheless some similarities between these two network conceptions. It is interesting to see that Hausmann perceived the space organized by the new traffic lanes as cutting through Paris in a way reminiscent of the current discourse on networks.

Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, PO Box 10 (Snellmaninkatu 12), FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland. Email: kai.eriksson@helsinki.fi
ISSN 1084–8770 print/ISSN 1470–1316 online/05/060595–16 ß 2005 International Society for the Study of European Ideas DOI: 10.1080/10848770500254118

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The definition of a network by Manuel Castells, perhaps one of the best known network theoreticians, was formulated in The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, as ‘‘a set of interconnected nodes. A node is the point at which a curve intersects itself.’’2 A network is thus manifest as a space constituted in and through the interconnections of points, nodes, and curves, which would no doubt have sounded familiar to Hausmann. This is because both Haussman and Castells share a similar conception of the space that a network designates. What is important is that the identity of places and areas is formed through their position and function as parts of the whole, constituted either by the network of boulevards or the global financial system, rather than their intrinsic significance as such. The intersections of a network, therefore, do not have a special meaning-content as distinct places and localities but only as nodes and reference points that have a certain function in the topology of the network. Thus, separate spaces, events, and meanings lose their independence and become intelligible and influential only as parts of a larger field that gives them shape. This modern experience of networks has been conceptualized in a more detailed way in modern philosophy. Yet it is also true that this experience constituted, when viewed the other way around, a large part of the undercurrent within which modern philosophy formulated its problems and undertook its conceptualizations. This is why the concept of the network and modern philosophy, especially in recent French thought, are, to a large extent, interlinked. In fact, the transformation of institutions, practices and images from a ‘‘hierarchy’’ to a ‘‘network’’ during the latter part of the twentieth century, on the one hand, and the articulation of French thought, as largely a radical rethinking of the relation between identity and difference, on the other, could be seen as parts of the same historical process. In French thought, it is especially the genealogy of Michel Foucault and the nomadism of Gilles Deleuze that seem to provide a way for thinking about ontology either of ‘‘power’’ or of ‘‘event’’ that is not based on a hierarchy or a closed totality. The more this ontology is determined in terms of a network, as seems to be the case today, the better the viewpoint developed by Foucault and Deleuze can be seen exactly as a way of approaching and formulating the ontology of networks. These are not, however, completely independent phenomena, for the thinkers mentioned have, by developing a kind of network-based perspective, created prerequisites for research practices in which the object of analysis appears as a system of continuously reorganizing relationships. This is significant, because the model of the network has the same objective; namely, to enable us to think about complex technological, theoretical, economic and political processes in a coherent way that nevertheless cannot be reduced to a system. It is clear that Foucault and Deleuze are not alone in developing this viewpoint, nor can their thought be reduced to the reasons behind the normalization of the metaphor of the network. In any case, it seems to me that it is illuminating to read them precisely from this point of view, that is, from the point of view of the ontology of networks. Although it is clear that the concept of the network has a number of irreducible origins, these thinkers have provided a seminal philosophical formulation of the ontological space that has subsequently been understood in terms of the network metaphor. It thus appears that Foucault and Deleuze can help us to perceive the relation between ontology and the network metaphor, that is, to conceive ‘‘networking’’ and its preconditions as a philosophical question. What is interesting, insofar as the ontology of

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networks is given a conceptual form, is that the metaphor of the network seems to organize it as well. That is to say, the conditions for thinking of networks appear, as it were, to be network-like themselves. In what follows, I will delineate in greater detail Foucault’s and Deleuze’s thought in light of the analysis of the ontology of networks. I am not, however, going to investigate the idea of the network as such, but rather I will consider the space in which the idea is placed as a philosophical question for these thinkers. The broader concern of the paper at hand is how the idea of a network, while organizing our thinking about society, is based on the historicity unfolding in and through societal processes and, at the same time, maintains a certain ahistoricity in itself as a model. In other words, I hope that the analysis I am undertaking can outline the relationship between ‘‘network’’ and ‘‘historicity’’ in ontological terms. I shall delineate the forms assumed by the network concept first in Foucault and then in Deleuze. Then, on the backdrop of what has been said, I will offer my critical comments on the ontology of networks.

Preconditions of Power
The history of modern communication—and thus of community, the idea of which is based on that of communication—has for the most part been a history of centralization, differentiation and control, although there have always been movements in the opposite direction as well. The institutionalized forms of interiority and the practices of exclusion brought out by the history of modernity always presuppose an area of freedom that is the condition of institutionalization but does not become institutionalized itself. This has been brought out repeatedly, particularly in continental thought. Hierarchies and enclosures require something that is not hierarchical or closed in itself, and this constitutes their ontological foundation. It seems, however, that the ‘‘totality’’ of communication should have been given exactly this sort of consistent form. Whereas it was the ‘‘nervous system’’ that constituted the conceptual context for this totality until the first half of the twentieth century, and that of the ‘‘machine’’ for the most part of the century, the conditions of communication have recently been conceived more and more in terms of the metaphor of the network.3 This metaphor points in two directions at the same time: it has clearly become an ‘‘image’’ of the societal dynamics of our time, yet it bears witness to the fact that the experience of the ‘‘totality’’ of this dynamics can no longer have a consistent collective form. Thus, although the notion of the network does designate a whole, it does not presuppose any coherence—on the contrary, it denies it and attempts to escape from it. To the extent that thought is concerned with the communicative conditions of a community, it has to include in its circles the empirical that continuously undermines, replaces, and transcends the ‘‘images’’ of communication and community in and through its own unfolding. Foucault—following Friedrich Nietzsche—is the thinker who has perhaps most consistently attempted to conceive the ontology of power and communication as a question that has to be considered historically. Although Jean-Luc Nancy, among others, has claimed that Foucault tends to see politics as a pure mechanics of forces, as a ‘‘political technology’’ and not as an ‘‘opening of space,’’4 that is, as the formation of a new horizon of conception and action, one can be confident in saying that for Foucault, politics is

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exactly this: the emerging and dissolving of conceptions of truth in the horizon of incessantly changing constellations of power and knowledge: it is a history of truth.5 Unlike Nancy, Foucault always studies this movement as the movement of historical networks of knowledge and power and assumes that the history of truth cannot be disentangled from the history of power. In fact, Foucault considers the point of reference for the genealogical analysis of power to be that of war or battle rather than that of language: battle is not based on the logic of meaning but on that of events.6 These events can be realized as historical events only, and a meaningful interpretation of them can be given, if at all, only after their occurrence. In any case, for Foucault the ontology of power can be approached only through a whole historical network, which implies various forms of knowledge, institutional practices, juridical and economic systems, and cultural ´ relationships. These constitute what Foucault calls ‘‘the network of power’’ (le reseau de pouvoir).7 According to Foucault, the thematic of power was traditionally formulated either in juridical terms or in terms of the state apparatus. Yet he thinks that the questions relating to psychiatric internment, mental normalization, and the development of penal institutions—while appearing to have minimal importance from the economic point of view—are essential to the general functioning of power.8 Foucault has, without doubt, reoriented theoretical research by bringing into account—in addition to the key political decision-makers and the top-level perspective of action—the fine structuration of power around and through scientific knowledge and institutional practices. What is at issue more generally is the rejection of self-evident paradigmatic concepts; what is investigated instead is their conditions of becoming established. Despite this significant achievement it seems that the Foucauldian turn remained half-finished. Notwithstanding the scope of his work of redefinition, Foucault focuses—eventually—only on the conditions of essential social institutions (penal, medical, psychiatric, sexual etc.) and has left out those that lie beyond the boundaries of his studies—against his evident purpose and the line of his thought—those institutions, conceptions, and practices that do not have any obvious (conceptual, social) relationship with the same conditions. As he notes, ‘‘ultimately I had done nothing but attempt to trace the way in which certain institutions, in the name of ‘reason’ or ‘normality,’ had ended up exercising their power on groups of individuals, in relation to established ways of behavior, of being, of acting or speaking, by labeling them as anomalies, madness, etc.’’ (emphasis added).9 Thus, although ontological questions are thought of in their historical relationships, do not all relationships have an ontological dimension? Secondly, the notion of the preconditions of freedom as a unified field or system, the historical expression of which can be identified with certain institutions (such as the penal), with certain figures (such as the panopticon), or with certain ideas (such as the disciplinary society), is no doubt misleading. It is this very inclination to place the ontology of power within a unitary perspective that appears also to explain why Foucault had difficulties in seeing distinct relationships, irreducible to established ontological ‘‘structures,’’ in their own ontology. The ontology of power is not institutionalized in any single form and cannot be completely thought of in terms of any particular whole. On the other hand, it is clear that one cannot read Foucault’s genealogy of power in a simple way. It is possible to argue that, firstly, he did not complete the research program he initiated by cutting off the head of all power institutions, not only of the sovereign,

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and secondly that he did not cease to conceive and discuss power in terms of the images and metaphors related to these institutions. Nevertheless, Foucault provides a rich and profound analysis of the ontology of power, which easily disproves all narrow interpretations, and in the process of doing so he reformulated the task of philosophy. Two central themes must be brought out at this point. Firstly, according to Foucault power and its ontology should not be thought of in terms of any traditional conceptual whole—such as the King or the State—because power relations transcend endlessly the area that these concepts are capable of thematizing.10 Thus Foucault disconnects himself from the line of thought in which rationalization becomes an iron cage (Max Weber) or metaphysics achieves its completion in the planetary domination of technology (Martin Heidegger). No single theme or image—not even that of a disciplinary society or governmentality—can capture all the dimensions of historical movement and the movement of history. There are various forms of rationalization and technology but none of them can monopolize the whole field of power relations—as if it was one field, which it is not. Secondly, concepts such as the sovereign or the state or the institutions that they refer to already presuppose the fine, existing network of power relations. Thus, for instance, the state presupposes a whole series of diverse power relations that in numerous ways intertwine with existing practices to produce knowledge, technology, and politics.11 In this way Foucault connects himself to a philosophical tradition the main preoccupation of which is the always-incommunicable preconditions of freedom and communication. This second point is one on which we should dwell a little longer. Foucault’s program can, I think, be understood—up to a point—as a rearticulation and further elaboration of Heidegger’s ‘‘thinking of Being’’ in a situation in which the idea of a dominating technology and central power has crumbled away.12 Foucault has emphasized the fact that, after Heidegger’s later work, the ontological question can be articulated only as historical and in the context of omnipresent microrelationships of power and knowledge. It cannot be posed any longer in terms of a major confrontation between privileged institutions or principles, but rather has to be seen as an endless struggle and transformation within ‘‘the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization.’’13 In this sense, Foucault opens up the way to the ontology of power, which is why power/knowledge relationships can be regarded as pointing to the ineffable field of the preconditions of all social and conceptual structures. These relationships imply this transcendental field insofar as it is understood as a historical category. Thus Foucault can be viewed, with certain qualifications, as having rethought Heidegger’s question of Being (Seinsfrage), the line of his rethinking having gone through Nietzsche and having been posed precisely in the realm of the social. Thus it seems that the ceaselessly reorganizing field of the relationships of power/ knowledge names for Foucault exactly what we have been calling the inexpressible: in other words, it is a metaphysical name for the inexpressible.14 The omnipresent network of the relationships of power/knowledge constitutes the precondition of any meaningful expression (of both concepts and practices), which does not itself come into the sphere of expression. Following Nietzsche, Foucault’s notion of the inexpressible is, however, understood as becoming thinkable always within the political. That is, although the inexpressible cannot be articulated in itself, it has always to be presupposed in social discourse and is therefore necessarily conceived as some kind of a whole. Heidegger’s way

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of questioning is ultimately read here through Nietzsche’s firm sensitivity to historical change. Foucault accepted and further elaborated the way in which Nietzsche moved philosophical analysis from the object proper, be it a value or a conception, to the conditions and circumstances where the object is seen as true and meaningful. This change indicated that the object of interpretation cannot be understood without taking into account the interaction of forces that have produced it as an outcome. Foucault was animated by the Nietzschean view of the world as a battleground between relentless forces, as a continuously reassembled field, which pulls itself together into a certain grouping only to be dissolved and stretched again into a new order of forces. This field of forces constitutes the precondition of truth: without the constant opposition of forces, the truth could not come into view. It opens up the possibility for the truth, but this possibility is not a permanent state or principle, rather it is defined always as a historical conflict or displacement. Thus Foucault’s genealogy grounds the ontology of power on the incessantly reorganizing microrelations, which at the same time, in the course of their own differentiation, define what this ontology is about.

Foucault and DISPOSITIF
By means of what he termed a ‘‘dispositif,’’ Foucault could articulate the direction of action of a power that is no longer seen as based on a sovereign: power does not manifest itself as an institution but rather as continuously functioning nets of relationships that form into chains with each other: ‘‘Power is employed and exercised through a net-like organization,’’ Foucault claims.15 Dispositif named this network of power. The concept enabled thinking about the linkages and fields of interaction of questions relating to the conditions of power and knowledge and of the particular systems and new practices developed, the administrative and scientific interests concerning those systems, the cultural sentiment and the discourses connected to the communicative relationships and structures, and finally the conception of truth that these yielded. Foucault defined dispositif as follows:
What I’m trying to pick out with this term is, firstly, a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions—in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Secondly, what I am trying to identify in this apparatus is precisely the nature of the connection that can exist between these heterogeneous elements. Thirdly, I understand by the term ‘‘apparatus’’ [dispositif] a sort of—shall we say—formation which has as its major function at a given historical moment that of responding to an urgent need.16

The dispositif gathers local and historical relationships under a given network, but it is not the ‘‘totality’’ of these relationships, let alone that of all social relationships. It exists only in relation to the object of analysis. This thematical core defines an area of experience that manifests itself in and through the mutually constitutive interrelationships among theoretical discourses, social power relationships, and self-relationships of the self, as well as in the whole range of different practices, institutions, and systems involved. Dispositif is to be understood as a network of relationships that, in a given historical

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period, organizes the field of power and knowledge as both an object of speech and a field of experience. Thus, it does not only indicate the historical institutions involved but also opens an ontological dimension to be examined. Networks of power and knowledge enable one to analyze the institutions, practices, and discourses inherently related to the constitution of the social phenomena in question not, as has been usual in the academic division of labor, as independent and separate from each other, but, on the contrary, in terms of their historical interrelationships, as they shape each other and become, in the course of this process, redefined and reorganized. They do not belong to separate realms of institutional practice and scholarly discourse but presuppose each other in order to be conceivable. They belong to the same ontological level. They form a mutual ‘‘effective history’’ that dissolves only to regroup again, depending on the historical circumstances and thematic frameworks in question. In this way the network helps research practice to take into account that effects have an inherent, not an external relationship between each other, and that their separation is always an analytic operation, not a ‘‘natural’’ state of affairs. At the same time, it emphasizes that effects should not be seen as coherent components of an idealized, static scheme of relationships but instead as ingredients of an open formation, the inner power distribution of which changes logically when seen in retrospect, but is always unforeseeable at the time of the change. For this reason the network enables articulation of thematic relationships, not in terms of essences or structures, but rather in terms of flows, movements, alliances, and detachments. What is central about a network is that the specific relationships in and through which it is actualized do not constitute a ‘‘totality’’ independent of the analysis, on the one hand, or of the ingredients of these relationships, on the other. Although theoretical discourses and social practices have an inherent relationship with power, as both an object and a tool, it is only through a research program that this relationship is constituted as an object of thought: ‘‘Power in the substantive sense, ‘le’ pouvoir, doesn’t exist.’’17 Furthermore, a network of the conditions of power and knowledge is not a totality of all social relationships either. This is because, as mentioned above, a network always thematizes a certain constellation of power relationships centered around some specific phenomenon or experience from which it receives its meaningfulness.18 Therefore, the network is to be understood only in relation to an experience thought of in this way. This is also why the conditions of power networks are determined on the basis of different circumstances, the regional and temporal relationships operative within them, although they may have convergent or analogical characteristics and connections. But the network is not the totality of power relationships even if applied only to relationships and fields of relationships actualized in this way, because it is not independent of and does not precede these relationships: it is nothing other than the occurrence of these relationships. Although the areas of experience to be analyzed in genealogical research practice always take shape within some definable configuration of power relationships, which occur in both constant institutionalization and disintegration, talking about a general constellation with respect to these experiences is not nonsensical. It has a realness of its own as a unifying principle that gathers together diverse practices and institutions. Even so, a given network cannot present itself as a unified, harmonious, and supposedly already completed order, for these fragmentary and ever-changing chains of relationships and practices constitute precisely what it is. It is nothing other than the economy of the

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occurrence of the phenomenon under analysis and does not precede this occurrence in any way. Thus power is inherently divided into an irreducible plurality of heterogeneous events. Of course, power relationships are not independent of the networks of systems and conceptions to which they pertain and that they, as an experience, necessarily presuppose. History can be viewed as a diversification of different forms of power. As every form produces its own relationship to the limits of power, and as these relationships coexist, partly overlapping and always influencing each other, power is a phenomenon that can be understood only with reference to this fragmentary concatenation of events. This is to say that, although there is no network of power as such, as an isolated phenomenon, and even though it gets its sense and significance exclusively by way of a plurality of power relationships, even this experience of the multiplicity of power relations does not exist in itself ‘‘before’’ the networks and systems that produce it as an experience. On the contrary, power ‘‘is’’ the social relationships that determine this network; it is the realization, expression, and mark of these relationships. Yet, as has become clear by now, the constellations of power should not be taken as independent either, for they are determined, in turn, by the formation of power relations. Ultimately, the very movements and rhythms of power are what provide a voice for the integrative and productive tactics of networks of power. A power network, strictly speaking, is therefore not an area, principle, category, or a level of analysis. It is rather a texture of mutual relationships among institutions, practices, and sentiments, which are interwoven in a particular historical system and its discourses. For this reason this system is to be understood, like discourse in Foucault’s analysis, as a series of discontinuous segments, the tactical function of which is not coherent or stable: it is a point of intersection of social forces where it both unifies and disperses existing groupings, but is also produced itself by the interaction of these same forces. But above all, a network of power is the coming into view, the continuous unveiling of society itself. Power, in this conception, as in Foucault’s notion of sexuality, is neither a ‘‘primitive, natural, and living energy welling up from below,’’ nor a ‘‘higher order seeking to stand in its way.’’19 Not unlike Foucault’s notion of sexuality, power is not a pure positivity and not exclusively an effect of a law either. While power endlessly escapes the functionality imposed on it from outside, power networks constantly introduce meaning structures and circumstances through which it is experienced and perceived. Similarly, whereas power processes produce and institutionalize power as a system, the formation of this system and the practices it gives rise to constantly reorganize the contexts of power and knowledge. It is this mutual relationship that is posed as a problem by Foucault. Power takes place temporally and regionally in separate assemblages that—although overlapping and interrelated—are, however, distinguishable from each other. This is also why power is always discontinuous and heterogeneous, and can be separated from social relationships only analytically, for it ‘‘is’’ this sociality, its realization: it is the realization of the social. Yet in the hands of Foucault—as indicated—this realization, although analyzed brilliantly, tends to be discussed in terms of systems of thought and action, which arrange the question of ontology into a series of figures and institutions. Although the dispositif is nothing other than the ‘‘sum’’ of the relations involved, in practice Foucault approaches these relations through a particular body of ideas and practices within a rather consistent perspective. What remains to be seen is whether the apparent discrepancy between the rich potentialities inherent in his views on the ontology of power, which he defended

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against all attempts of totalization, and his historical investigations proper, which posited the question of ontology through established totalities, is due to the traditionally difficult task of approaching ‘‘history’’ philosophically without using concepts that enclose the phenomena under investigation. In any case, by outlining—following Heidegger—the central parameters and directions for approaching ontology and by insistently carrying out this approach in view of empirical relationships, Foucault indicates the direction in which ontology could assume a network-like nature.

Philosophy of Assemblages
If Foucault, despite his evident attempts, remained—at the end of the day—ensnared by established structures, Gilles Deleuze broke away from the last bonds of these structures. The aim of research for Foucault was to take up a chosen alignment of interlinked entities, both discursive and nondiscursive, and to analyze the conditions through which a given power configuration is formed in terms of movements, struggles, alliances, and displacements. As noted, this type of approach traces and constructs the ‘‘effective history’’ of discursive and institutional practices, arrangements, and formations of controversies, their transformations and dissolutions in a certain historical setting. ´ Deleuze, however, working with Felix Guattari, regarded ‘‘becomings’’ as more important than history, and took up the task of mapping the philosophical conditions of the interplay of machines, assemblages, flows, and events that cannot be described in terms of power. According to him, we tend to think too much in terms of history, although multiplicities are made up of becomings without history.20 For Deleuze it was desire—an event at the microlevel—that conditioned power, not the other way around. Whereas Foucault positioned strategy in place of social dichotomies, Deleuze, in turn, replaced strategy by lines of flight and the movements of deterritorialization—in other words, uncontrollable events in the disintegration of an order. Both Foucault and Deleuze shared, however, a similar kind of perspective, inspired by the influence of Nietzsche, concerning the nature and aim of philosophical work. Central to that approach was the need to investigate the ontological conditions of the relationships of macrolevel structures and microlevel movements and flows, either in terms of history or of desire. This was accomplished mainly by using the notion of assemblage as an operational device, the aim of which, although being inevitably a construction like any interpretative tool, was ‘‘not a matter of bringing all sorts of things together under one concept but rather of relating each concept to variables that explain its mutations,’’ as Deleuze put it.21 Foucault called it ‘‘dispositif,’’ whereas Deleuze preferred the term ‘‘agencement.’’22 Through this concept, it became possible to transgress the rigid subject–object axis still dominant in theoretical discourse. Whereas for Foucault dispositif—as a name for the ‘‘networks of power’’—provided a framework for genealogy, for Deleuze agencement formed a tool for what he called ‘‘transcendental empiricism.’’ As with Foucault, it constituted a mixture of bodies, institutions and discourses in which all the components were on the same ontological level: ‘‘An assemblage of enunciation,’’ ` ˆ stated Deleuze, ‘‘does not speak ‘of ’ things; it speaks on the same level as [a meme les choses] states of things and states of content.’’23 ‘‘We set ourselves the task,’’ notes Deleuze, ‘‘of analyzing mixed forms, arrangements—. We set out to follow and disentangle lines

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rather than work back to points: a cartography, involving microanalysis.’’24 Thus, instead of confronting a technological or conceptual totality, we see a heterogeneous constellation of linkages and alliances between a number of distinct formations.25 The concepts used by Foucault and Deleuze are not, however, identical in their meaning, as Deleuze considered the dispositifs of power to be a component of agencements. Deleuze stated, in fact, that the thesis of the dispositifs of power seemed to move in two directions, although they both presuppose each other. He hinted that in the direction they took in Foucault’s program, ‘‘they referred to a diagram, a kind of abstract machine immanent to the entire social field,’’ whereas in his own work they ‘‘consisted of a diffuse and heterogeneous multiplicity, ‘micro-dispositifs.’ ’’26 Deleuze’s conception of philosophy is characterized by an aspiration to think through flows, movements, alliances, and disentanglements rather than essences, structures, or institutions: for him it is desire and lines of flight that set the conditions of power, communication, and history. Now, what is the figure through which Deleuze conceived the ontology of networks? Although he thematized it again and again through new concepts and viewpoints throughout his work, the concept of ‘‘rhizome’’ is without doubt one of the most central ones, being coined in a work written with Guattari in 1976 in which it was opposed to tree-structure.27 The introduction of the notion of the rhizome must be seen as integral to the authors’ philosophical conception that what is important in philosophy is ‘‘the logic of multiplicities’’ and that all processes which inevitably take place within a given field of multiplicity, must be regarded as becomings, being thus impossible to be determined in terms of some final result.28 Yet these kinds of criteria are typical of treelike structures, that is, of hierarchical systems. These kinds of structures define the position of any single node and its relation to any other node in a given system, so as to make up a hierarchy in which the order of nodes has been predefined. Instead, each particular point in a rhizome can be connected to any other point. It constitutes a whole that constantly reorganizes itself according to creeping runners, yielding a multiplicity that does not allow a unity. In this respect they are analogous to Foucault’s relations of micropower, since neither of them can be articulated in terms of a state or sovereign. Deleuze thought about ontology also, and above all, through the theme of the virtual, which stretches the field of ontology to a kind of network of relations. In order to think Being as one, the theme of the virtual requires as its counterpart the idea of actuality. Thus Being lends itself to be thought always from two viewpoints at the same time: on the one hand, from the ‘‘virtual’’ whole, which is the absolute precondition of the actual; on the other hand, from the multiplicity that this whole actualizes in itself. This is analogous to the relationship between substance and attributes in Spinoza, in which substance exists only through its attributes, but, on the other hand, the attributes do not constitute any whole: they cannot be independent of the ‘‘preceding’’ substance, but at the same time this substance is nothing but the realization—or, according to Deleuze, the actualization—of the attributes. This line of thought is not unlike Foucault’s conception of the dispositif either—in fact, they seem both to emerge from a similar philosophical territory. Thus Deleuze conceives ontology always from two different directions, which gather together a kind of ‘‘network of virtualities.’’29 Ontology becomes articulated in terms of the multiplicity of actualizations, on the one hand, and of the ‘‘whole’’ of the virtual, on the other. Although each actualization has its own virtuality, one has to be

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able to think of the ‘‘whole’’ of these virtualities, as the later Heidegger attempted systematically to do. It is essential to notice that the mutual relationship that constitutes what ontology is opens up precisely in light of the metaphor of the network. This is because the virtual is not a homogeneous unity but rather actualizes differences and is only in and through these differences. Incessantly expanding and differentiating virtualities communicate with each other, take their shape and determine their boundaries always in relation to other virtualities, through which they alone differentiate themselves. Virtualities differ in terms of which of them are directly connected to most others and which of them are directly connected only to a few.30 From this ensues a metaphor of depth that Deleuze exploits himself: the actualities’ own virtualities form a sort of small circuit, he claims, whereas the formations of expanding virtualities create deep loops that communicate with each other.31 Deleuze utilized the concept of depth already in ´ ´ ´ Difference et repetition, although in somewhat different terms.32 It is important to keep in mind that they are not independent areas or parts but are above all related to the same phenomenon, in that they bear witness to one and the same thing, which, however, presupposes both of them. Yet the differentiating movement of the same seems to bring about different depths and distances that—if conceived as a whole—together yield a vision of a network. Given this background, Deleuze differs from Foucault especially in relation to the question of the historical. Whereas Deleuze severed himself from thinking philosophy in terms of institutional wholes once and for all, he did not, however, conceive of philosophy definitively from the perspective of the analysis of historical relations like Foucault did. Although he releases philosophy from the confines of power institutions, he nevertheless pursues his own philosophical work through the differentiation and creation of concepts (and philosophical figures), which he considers to be the essential task of philosophy. Deleuze has a simple reason for this: according to him, the virtual is at heart ahistorical. He makes a distinction between ‘‘becoming’’ and ‘‘history,’’ and connects philosophy to the realm of the former.33 What is interesting in an event, such as a revolution, for instance, is not its existence within a specific social field but rather its ability to produce a ‘‘concept’’ that can be extracted from the historical state of affairs.34 ‘‘What History grasps of the event,’’ says Deleuze, ‘‘is its effectuation in states of affairs or in lived experience, but the event in its becoming, in its specific consistency, in its self-positing as concept, escapes History.’’35 Deleuze regarded his philosophy as a transcendental empiricism, it is true, striving toward utmost concreteness, yet he considered the arrangements he studied to ‘‘enter into history only indirectly.’’36 The network of relations (agencement), consisting in folds, identities and boundaries, within various dimensions of depth, that communicate constantly with each other without being inflexible, remains in the final analysis external to the historical, despite its own simultaneous opening of different directions. By claiming that history provides merely the condition that ‘‘makes possible the experimentation of something that escapes history,’’37 Deleuze refuses a historical determination of philosophy, as Keith Pearson has noted.38 Also Nancy, when defending the ‘‘materiality’’ of ontology, as mentioned above, refrains explicitly from affirming its ‘‘historicality.’’39 Philosophy, also according to Giorgio Agamben, as distinct from linguistics, is concerned only with the pure existence of language, independent of its real (historical) properties, although the analysis can be accomplished only through a particular (historical)

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experience of language.40 Of course, the whole idea of the limits of language that characterizes Agamben’s work, among other thinkers, implicates a view of a particular form of language that is distinctive to us. Yet his meditation on the experience of language, in other words, the fact that there is language, is not directed so much by the idea of its limits—insofar as these limits are understood as historical limits—but rather by its possibility, by the unchanging preconditions of language, which Agamben has termed the factum loquendi. For this reason Agamben is inclined to think that language does not have a destiny. It is on this point that Deleuze (and Nancy) differs most from Foucault, who bases his work on relationships and processes that only come into view historically. For, according to Foucault, philosophy cannot be disentangled from these: on the contrary, they are inherently related. Although Deleuze always reflects on philosophy from two directions at once, this reflection seems, in the final instance, to take place in ahistorical terms. For Deleuze, actual spatio-temporal things are merely actualizations of variations that persist outside of historical time, and the changing relations between them.41 In contrast, Foucault thinks that the technology of Panopticon, for instance, was not merely the actualization of ahistorical variations, but rather that it created a whole new power network with its idea of control. In Foucault, the effort to think about this empirical dimension of ontology must be understood as an attempt to take historical change as a philosophical question, although the difference with regard to Deleuze is often hardly distinctive. In any case, the question that Foucault asked was ‘‘does not ontology and its interpretations—since they are intimately connected—inevitably change in the course of history? Does not history deprive us of our continuities by breaking the thread of transcendental teleologies?’’42 If Foucault’s problem was related to bringing out the ontological significance of singular and isolated power relations, Deleuze’s neglect of these is clearly connected to describing the ontology of transitory historical–political relationships. Deleuze seems to think that, if history is nothing but the capturing of the unsuppressed and principal process of life in transient and subordinate structures, these structures cannot appear as ontologically significant. What is always fundamental are the forces that result in the coming into existence of a given historical phenomenon in the first place, not this phenomenon itself. Yet, in this way, the ontology of ephemeral events that are meaningful for us becomes displaced. In this regard, Foucault appears as more sensitive to the fact that history is not only an effect but also a process that constantly generates its own conditions—a process, therefore, with a powerful ontological dimension. Yet, whereas Foucault was a thinker of cultural institutions, Deleuze was originally a philosopher of irreducible multiplicity, preoccupied more with the lines of flight than with areas of stability. If Foucault perhaps failed to consider, in the end, the network-like ‘‘nature’’ of ontology as systematically as Deleuze did, tracing the mechanisms of thought and practice in their historical configurations instead of perishable lines and rhizomes, he nevertheless thought this network from the outset as a net (dispositif) laid between ‘‘the historical’’ and ‘‘the philosophical.’’ To put it differently: if Deleuze always tightens his net between the virtual and its actualizations, Foucault lays it between history and philosophy. To my mind, it is this very field, problem, or idea of the network in connection to issues that are historically relevant for us that, as a central development, poses a challenge to thought today. For, if it is true that ontology is nothing external

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to life in itself, then the inexpressible realm of ontology has to be conceived of precisely as historical. Moreover, it seems that today this conception is used increasingly in terms of a network.

Conclusion
Insofar as the ontology of networks (and the networks of ontology) is not determined outside of the realization of and thinking about networks but rather in this very historical event in itself, then it can also be approached historically. But as we have seen, the metaphor of networks operates strongly within philosophy as well, as this ontology itself seems to have a network-like nature. This is because ontology is determined, on the one hand, through historically influential ways and structures of thinking and, on the other, through individual interpretations and theories that do not appear to share any obvious ground with the former; yet their ontological conditions remain readable. This ‘‘double exposure’’ of ontology is evident in both Foucault and Deleuze, as we have seen. Although it is clear that many interpretations and discursive traditions can be traced back to some common historical horizon or ground, this is not always possible: the ground or origin in general is always heterogeneous and must be perceived in this plurality. Thus the ontology of networks becomes manifest also as a network, the boundaries of which are realized in the mutual relationships between the above-mentioned conditions of influential discursive practices pervading many social institutions, on the one hand, and those remaining relatively isolated and unattached, on the other. It is in between these two directions of looking at ontology, namely, from the point of view of the (historical) ‘‘structure’’ of ontology, and from that of the fields of singularities (the ontological dimension of which can be brought out), that the boundaries of the network are articulated. To be more specific, they are articulated in and through the mutual relationships, incessantly being reorganized, between the conditions mentioned as they communicate with each other. Furthermore, insofar as the ontology of networks itself resembles a network (the metaphor of depth), it is network-like also in the sense that it does not constitute any particular system: although the ontology of networks appears as chains, connections, and series, which communicate with each other and which can be examined in the context of the metaphor of depth, the space it occupies is not consistent or uniform. Instead, it is heterogeneous and is constituted by the irreducible multiplicity of ontological chains and conditions.43 Yet the network designates something—a whole—that at any given time has boundaries, even though they do not have to be precisely determinable. It gathers the chains and series in the same picture, as it were. It should still be kept in mind, however, that a network does not draw its boundaries independently. As in the perspective of Foucault’s dispositif, a certain thematic or historical relationship, in other words, a certain community of fate, always puts up the network as a conceptual whole, and when this relationship changes the whole network changes accordingly. But if the conditions of communication and freedom are understood as indistinguishable from life and history, is there not a danger of being driven exactly into the kind of situation about which thinkers since Heidegger have been warning us? That is, does not the thought that attempts to see these conditions as inherently connected

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with life, with the history of life, risk ending up outside the sphere of philosophy, because it is precisely the ontological difference that founds philosophy? Famously, Heidegger considered philosophy to be based on the distinction between Being and beings. For him, this was a demarcation that had to be actively maintained, and the process of maintaining it was what philosophy was all about. After all, is it not the task of philosophy to keep this difference in force and defend it against efforts to liken Being with this or that form or way of life in which it finds its expression? However, thinking about language in its historical connection, neither presupposes capturing the pure existence of language into a grammar nor fixing freedom into a constitution. Similarly, the affirmation of social relations and institutions does not mean a loss or elimination of the ontological difference. One may mistakenly think that the ontological difference is lost, because the deep ontological dimension is brought, as it were, to the same horizon with the political, in other words, with the changeable confrontations and practices of life. Rather, the operation has the opposite effect: now we may notice that not only the central institutions, the work of great thinkers, or established academic or social conceptions can be interpreted from the ontological perspective but, in fact, ontology founds an area that transcends all theoretical, social, or cultural notions. This is why it does not eliminate the ontological difference but connects it to all that which has a manifestation. Ontology is thus brought closer to everyday life: it is no longer about revealing a deep, concealed sphere of the truth, but about affirming existence as it is. It seems that the more ontology assumes a network-like shape, the more it also becomes historically mediated by social and historical forces. This is so because a network articulates questions that have become relevant in our time, precisely for reasons that cannot be reduced to discursive dimensions only. Yet it is only between the very historical change, on the one hand, and the prevailing multiplicity of ‘‘events,’’ ‘‘concepts,’’ and ‘‘variations,’’ on the other, that the network can be woven. Simultaneously, though, this weaving itself is nothing other than the giving birth to new discourses and objects: to words and things in mutual determination.

Notes
1. Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Anselm Hollo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992). 2. Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, vol. 1 of The Rise of the Network Society (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996), 470. 3. Ibid. 4. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Experience of Freedom, trans. Bridget McDonald (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 78. 5. Michel Foucault, Foucault Live: Interviews, 1966–84, trans. John Johnston (New York: Semiotext(e), 1989), 139. 6. Michel Foucault, Power, ed. James Faubion, trans. Robert Hurley et al. (New York: The New Press, 2000), 116. ´ ´ 7. Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualite. 1: La volonte de savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 126, 127. 8. Foucault, Power, 117. 9. Michel Foucault, Remarks on Marx: Conversations with Duccio Trombadori, trans. R. James Goldstein and James Cascaito (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991), 145. 10. Foucault, Power, 123. 11. Ibid.

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12. The close relationship between Foucault and Heidegger has been suggested recently by Stuart Elden, Mapping the Present: Heidegger, Foucault and the Project of a Spatial History (London: Continuum, 2001); and by Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg, eds, Foucault and Heidegger: Critical Encounters (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003). 13. Michel Foucault, An Introduction, vol. 1 of The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1990), 92. 14. According to Deleuze, the dimension of power is for Foucault ‘‘invisible and unsayable.’’ See G. Deleuze, Michel Foucault: Philosopher, ed. and trans. Timothy Armstrong (New York: Routledge, 1992), 160. 15. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon et al. (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 98. 16. Ibid., 194–5. 17. Ibid., 198; see also Foucault, Foucault Live, 187. 18. Foucault, Power/Knowledge, 196. 19. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, 81. 20. Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (London: The Athlone Press, 1987), viii, 2. 21. Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, 1972–1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 31. 22. Brian Massumi has translated the terms, respectively, as ‘‘apparatus’’ and ‘‘assemblage’’ in ´ Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London: The Athlone Press, 1988), whereas Martin Joughin uses ‘‘arrangement’’ and ‘‘apparatus’’ in his translation of Negotiations. 23. Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Deleuze and Language (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 189. 24. Deleuze, Negotiations, 86. 25. ‘‘These apparatuses,’’ according to Deleuze, ‘‘are composed of the following elements: lines of visibility and enunciation, lines of force, lines of subjectification, lines of splitting, breakage, fracture, all of which criss-cross and mingle together, some lines reproducing or giving rise to others, by means of variations or even changes in the way they are grouped’’ (Deleuze, Michel Foucault, 162). 26. Gilles Deleuze, ‘‘Desire and Pleasure,’’ trans. Daniel Smith, in Foucault and His Interlocutors, ed. and intro. Arnold I. Davidson (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997), 184. 27. See ‘‘Introduction: Rhizome,’’ in Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus. 28. Deleuze, Negotiations, 146–7. 29. James Williams, Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: A Critical Introduction and Guide (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), 21. 30. Ibid., 8–9. 31. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 81. 32. Williams, Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, 229. 33. According to Deleuze, ‘‘[h]istory is the archive, the drawing of what we are and what we are ceasing to be, whilst the current is the sketch of what we are becoming.’’ ‘‘In each apparatus we have to untangle the lines of the recent past and those of the near future: —that which belongs to history and that which belongs to the process of becoming’’ (Deleuze, Michel Foucault, 164). 34. Keith Pearson, Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze (London: Routledge, 1991), 201–2. ´ 35. Eric Alliez, The Signature of the World: Or, What is Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy? trans. Eliot Albert and Alberto Toscano (New York and London: Continuum, 2004), 22. 36. Deleuze, Negotiations, 30. ´ 37. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What Is Philosophy? trans. Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson (London: Verso, 1994), 111. 38. Pearson, Germinal Life, 202. 39. Nancy, The Experience of Freedom, 102–5.

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40. Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 67–8. 41. Williams, Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, 149. 42. Deleuze, Michel Foucault, 165. ´ 43. Rodophe Gasche, The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), 175, 180.

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