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The Question of Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I): Anti-Community

Goh, Irving.

symploke, Volume 14, Numbers 1-2, 2006, pp. 216-231 (Article)

Published by University of Nebraska Press

DOI: 10.1353/sym.2007.0022

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Introducing Anti-Community

What this paper seeks to do is to begin tracing the concept of

community in Deleuze and Guattari. The question of community is an
apparent gap in Deleuze and/or Deleuze-Guattari scholarship. Yet that
gap is not surprising, if not understandable, for the question of
community is after all barely inscribed as an emphatic foreground in
their works, individual and collective, unlike those of Nancy’s,
Agamben’s, Blanchot’s, Bataille’s, or Derrida’s.1 One could oppose this
and cite Deleuze and Guattari’s introduction to their What is Philosophy?,
in which community, alongside friendship, is claimed to be the as if
imperative thought of any philosophical inquiry. No doubt, the
question of community is clearly articulated in that introduction. (The
question of community, in fact, as this study will eventually elucidate, is
there in Deleuze and Guattari. It is without doubt always already there.)
But, in an exemplary unconceal-withdraw movement of the question of
community in Deleuze and Guattari, the question of community quickly
fades away like a forgettable shadow once Deleuze and Guattari
proceed with the discussion of philosophy’s artifactual task of concept-
construction as the main theme of What is Philosophy? The shadow of
1 In the case of Derrida, his critique of present practices and understanding of

communities, and his suggestion of community’s possible future trajectory of alterity,

may be elicited, for example, from his positing of a “city of refuge” (2001). But one
would nonetheless sense in Derrida a similar reticent distance/proximity with the
concept of community as in Deleuze and Guattari (which this paper will elucidate),
when Derrida (1997) asks himself towards the end of his Politics of Friendship: “I was
wondering why the word ‘community’ (avowable or unavowable, inoperative or
not)—why I have never been able to write it, on my own initiative and in my name,
as it were. Why? Whence my reticence?” (304-5).

© symplokē Vol. 14, Nos. 1-2 (2006) ISSN 1069-0697, 216-231.

s ym pl okē 217

community will only fleetingly reappear at the end of that text with the
announcement of a “shadow of a people to come.” Like the silence of a
shadow then, the question of community is a silent problematic in
Deleuze and Guattari, making it almost strange, if not estranging, to
think the possibility of a future thought of community, or the possibility
of a thought of the future of community, in relation to their philosophy.
That, however, does not mean that we should henceforth commit to
forgetfulness the concept of community in Deleuze and Guattari. What
this paper is committed to do therefore is to unfold that silent
problematic of community, singularly in Deleuze and Guattari, and also
to unfold what that silent problematic reserves for the (future) thought of
community. (Friendship, which undoubtedly supplements as another
problematic for the thinking of community in Deleuze and Guattari,
certainly calls for equal analysis. But I would like to reserve that task as
a second paper to this study of community in Deleuze and Guattari.)
Here, I would like to take up the question of community, or perhaps
the question of the apparent absence of community, in Deleuze and
Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, the second book that follows Anti-
O e d i p u s . In A Thousand Plateaus, as in Anti-Oedipus, there is a
movement of what I will call “anti-community.” The word
“community” is hardly articulated in both texts. And when Deleuze
and Guattari do so, it hinges on the negative, as something that is anti-
thought, something that thought should not regress to (hence my use of
the term “anti-community”). For example, in A Thousand Plateaus,
where what is argued for is unrestricted or non-striated movement,
“community” is the form in which there is the danger of “run[ning] the
risk of reproducing . . . the rigid” (228). Yet what remains as the critical
concept in and to A Thousand Plateaus—the concept of nomadology—is
undeniably already communitarian, for nomads, from which
nomadology takes its image, are irreducibly tribal or of the pack, and
hence already manifesting itself as of a certain communitarian force.
And Deleuze and Guattari’s apparent reservation to give nomadology’s
communitarian expression its full force can never erase that
communitarian trace. How then does one approach the thought of
community in Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy of nomadology? In
other words, how does one think the idea of community in Deleuze and
Guattari when there is an apparent absence if not resistance of it in their
But let me interrupt those questions and speak first of the phrase
“anti-community,” situating it in a more general context before
attaching it to the question of community in Deleuze and Guattari.
Why anti-community? Why a phrase that suggests a violence against
something or some term that has at least put into place in this world
some form of harmonious living between humans? Perhaps one could
begin with less radicality by saying anti-“community” first, and from
218 Irving Goh Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I)

which one is able to subsequently discern why there should be a call for
the obviation of community today. In anti-“community,” the quotation
marks around the word community would signal linguistic markers,
indexing community as a mark of verbal speech. To be more precise,
they would mark community as an excess of speech, fallen from any act
of thought, rendering community and/or “community” as a
meretricious speech act. This is not simply a pessimism on paper. It is
very much a contemporaneous actuality. As Zygmunt Bauman has
observed, the word “community” as how we have been treating it has
been “so loud and vociferous” (11). We, Bauman continues, have
invoked “community” only to uncritically sing its praises, “telling the
others to admire them or shut up,” so much so that “community is no
more (or not yet, as the case may be)” (12). To every existing
community, there is to be no disagreement to the practices, codes, and
norms that are already in place. Communities and their practices
would be impervious to critique and to any suggestion of future
betterment via altogether different strategies. One may witness such a
philosophical let-down of thinking about community by turning to
contemporary affairs of the world. There can be no doubt that there is
so much talk about community today, particularly about an
“international community,” in global political discourse. But one is
often left thinking what or where such a community is, if not its
veracity. The term “international community” after all has been
invoked most oftentimes only as an alibi for the justification of the
violent decimation of a state-entity by another of global politico-
economic-military leverage when the former insists on a path contrary
to the political and economic interests of the latter. Otherwise, when the
“international community” has been called for so that the cosmopolitan
collectivity of sovereign states may be an effective force to end
humanitarian violence, poverty, tyranny, etc., in some place of the
world (one remembers, of late, the names Darfur and Sudan), the
response unfortunately has been less than desirable, which henceforth
seriously weakens the idea of the existence of any such “international
community.” And in almost the same vein as Bauman, Nancy in The
Inoperative Community has also suggested that community is like the
word “love,” which we say too much without finally saying it, without
touching the heart of the matter. Should we then not reserve a breath
for community and not articulate it for a moment, but take that moment
to think what remains for us to think about community today?
But anti-“community” will not be about rejecting communities
absolutely. It will not be about dismantling or destroying absolutely the
idea or notion we call “community,” though it will indeed put forth a
certain necessary violence against that codified convention the world
presently calls “community.” To think a future (of) community, a
verbal anti-“community” is not enough. It will also be necessary to
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undo if not strike out at the myths and false idealisms of community.
That is the necessary violence of anti-community—this time without
quotation marks around the word “community.” But it is a violence
that will only ultimately return “community” to an active process of
thought. This paper (despite its title) is therefore not anti-community
per se, in the sense that it is looking towards an absolutely nihilistic
horizon for community. And neither is Deleuze and Guattari’s
philosophy of nomadology. The “anti” of negation in anti-community
that this discussion is engaged with operates not so much on community
as idea or thought as on the linguistic articulation of that idea. To say it
again, it is really the verbal reiteration of “community”—articulated
endlessly without submitting it to critical thought, enunciated as if it
could ever if not already adequately give us that thing called
“community”—that has so far contaminated any future possibility of
thinking about community. We will have to begin to refrain from
uttering “community.” We will be anti-community just so to create a
clearing for a free space of thought for another thinking of community.
We will have to be anti-community not so that we will stop thinking
about community but to return community to a proper thinking, a
thinking that is always open to its futures, a thinking without horizon.
That is my hypothesis for a future thought for community, for a future
of community, or for a future community. That is also my hypothesis
with regard to the question of (the absence of) community in Deleuze
and Guattari. Anti-community for a future (of) community is what I
believe the apparent absence of community in Deleuze and Guattari
helps us to do. What I am arguing therefore is that there is a force of
anti-community at work in Deleuze and Guattari, which only returns
community to a whole new movement of thought, even though this
movement is undeniably one that will be of a “chaoid” (to use their
term from What is Philosophy?) trajectory. This is the reading that I will
give to Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, with particular focus
on that “plateau”—the “nomadology” plateau—in A Thousand Plateaus
that speaks precisely of a certain sense of community, which at the same
time is veiled by an ironic reservation of what we call “community.”

The State of Community / Bunkers / Violence

Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of nomadology, or to be more

comprehensive, their concept of the nomadological war machine, reads
irresistibly as very much individual or singular rather than
communitarian. After all, according to Deleuze and Guattari
themselves, it “attests to an absolute solitude” (1987, 377). The
nomadological war machine seeks to hold space—only to increase the
220 Irving Goh Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I)

desert of that space and not to saturate it with accretions of properties or

possessions—but it has no similar insistence on holding on to its
nomadic tribe, its community. Within the nomadic tribe, the sense of
the singular nomadic war machine betraying its community, by
disavowing it or by deviating from it, is always already imminent.2
But that betrayal function of the nomadological war machine goes into
operation only when it sees its tribe enclosing itself and all else that it
receives into and as a structural totality. “We betray the fixed powers
which try to hold us back, the established powers of the earth” (Deleuze
and Parnet 1987, 40). In the face of a striating structuration,
nomadology projects its combative force as a war machine in its fullest
intensity so as to dismantle or undo such an arrangement, not excluding
close-knit social arrangements such as communities. That is the task if
not the raison d’être of the nomadological war machine, which gives it a
sense of an anti-community force, beside its “social clandestinity,”
beside its rather glaring anti-social “anti-dialogue” and “non-
communicating force,” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 405, 378, 380) contra
But to be more precise, or to give Deleuze and Guattari a more
proper reading, the word “community” is hardly articulated as the
primary target of nomadology. Instead, it is the State that the
nomadological war machine inclines towards with an angle of attack.
And the nomadological war machine conducts war with the State only
because the State has delimited ways of movement and thought that the
nomadological war machine has taken to be (its) freedom. The State
imposes a homogeneity of thought. It discourages, represses, and
sometimes suppresses deviations. The State captures thought as its
rationalizing interiority, and through which “thought is [thereby]
capable of inventing the fiction of a State that is universal by right, of
elevating the State to the level of de jure universality” (1987, 375). It
appropriates thought so that it can lay claim to be a force of an
enlightened institution, an institution that none can disagree with. And
to maintain that, along with its will to establish spatial integrity,
sovereignty, or security, the State also limits the freedom of movement
of people within its territory. This can be seen perhaps quite clearly in

2 “We certainly would not say that discipline is what defines a war machine:

discipline is the characteristic required of armies after the State has appropriated
them. The war machine answers to other rules. We are not saying that they are
better, of course, only that they animate a fundamental indiscipline of the warrior, a
questioning of hierarchy, perpetual blackmail by abandonment or betrayal, and a very
volatile sense of honor, all of which, once again, impedes the formation of the State”
(Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 358; my italics). Deleuze will return to this question of
the betrayal in Dialogues (1987). Deleuze, on speaking of nomads “who have neither
past nor future” will also reaffirm that in the trajectory of nomadic movement, “there
is always betrayal in a line of flight” (38, 40). This betrayal is “not trickery like that of
an orderly man ordering his future, but betrayal like that of a simple man who no
longer has any past or future” (40).
s ym pl okē 221

State globalization, where the transnational or trans-border movement of

information, capital, and goods are almost without restriction, but the
similar free movement of people in and out of national or economic
communities is still delimited by citizenship criteria. In all, the State is
the capture of space, movement, thought, and people into a striated
space. And that is why nomadology projects its force of a war machine
primarily against it.
Now, if communities become swept up by the projection and
projectile of the nomadic war machine, it is because they have become
State-like in their outlook. Communities have become overcodified by
their linguistic idioms, customs, economic practices, political
inclinations, etc. Membership into the community is predicated only by
the knowledge, acceptance, observance, adherence, and communication
of these codes. Community has taken on a politics and an economy,
and it has come to signify a circuitous flow. Everything has to circle
back onto itself. Everything is rooted onto a closed arborescent
structure. And everything has to be organized. Every face of every
body within the community becomes reduced to a signifying
articulation of the community, becomes subjected to a totalizing
representation only of the community. In other words, the face becomes
an over-conscious investment of community. According to Deleuze and
Guattari, the body in such an economy of community becomes reduced
to a mere denigrating faciality. And faciality is that process in which
the face is reduced to be a site of signs pointing towards what it invests
in or what invests in it, and whereby the body as the cartography of
signs of singularity is no longer regarded at. And with this process of
faciality, the operation of numbering begins. Everything counts in this
space. Not just bodies count because of the number that their faces will
add to the progressive façade of the community, but even ethics begins
to be quantitatively measured. I cite the example Bauman uses in
elucidating some of the myths of community. Within communities that
are mythologized by us, we take it as natural or given that once we
have helped someone in the community, “our right, purely and
simply, is to expect that the help we need will be forthcoming” (2).
Even the friend will be counted. It will be a matter of m y friend,
someone I can count (on) to add quantitative measure to the community.
It will not be that estranging friend, the friend that is the other, the
friend that brings to the structure of community a difference or even
rivalry, so that community is never a rigid or closed structure.3 At this
point, we are reminded by Deleuze and Guattari that “the number has
always served to gain mastery over matter, to control its variations and

3 The friend as rival is derivative of Deleuze and Guattari’s take on friendship in

their introduction to What is Philosophy?, which I have referred to at the beginning of

this paper.
222 Irving Goh Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I)

movements, in other words, to submit them to the spatiotemporal

framework of the State” (1987, 389). One is approaching a s/State of
community when everything counts.
There are “never strangers,” to quote Bauman (2) again, in a
community, when everything is counted or numbered, or when every
body is subjected to a faciality. No doubt, in a close-knit community, it
is a nice sheltering architecture that community provides. But because
it is not open to any relation with an exteriority, not open to an
invitation to a friend who brings with it a question of rivalry to the
beliefs of the community, not open to any deviation in other words, the
architecture of community can become familiarly strange or estranging
too, becoming an estranged familiarity. Its architecture will be “like a
besieged fortress” as Bauman (15) would say. Or to follow Paul Virilio
and Deleuze and Guattari, it takes on a bunker architecture.
Community becomes bunker community. The deathly architecture of a
bunker is what one enters at the limit of anything that seeks its own
absoluteness, its totality, its enclosure that cuts itself off with the outside.
In other words, with a fortress or bunker architecture of community, the
thinking of community—the future thinking of community, the
thinking of another future of community—no longer has a (horizonless)
horizon. There is no longer a free space of thought, a space of freedom
of thought for community. Community as such, as State-like, as State-
community, or community-State (Bauman reminds us that a
homogeneous community may be a parallel construction of the State in
its project of nationalistic nation-building too; and Deleuze and Guattari
will also say that “the modern State defines itself in principle as ‘the
rational and reasonable organization of a community’” [1987, 375]), is
more anti-community than communitarian, more anti-community—in
the sense of the negation of a true thinking of community, than the
nomadological war machine.
It is this state of community, this State-community or community-
State, that has put into place a totalitarian micropolitics of itself, that the
nomadological war machine seeks to disarticulate. From within the
striated space of State-community, it seeks to reterritorialize a smooth
space, a space where tangential trajectories are possible, a space where
heterogeneous elements are free to come together by desire, and are
equally free to break away without causing any spatial anxiety. Again,
it is a comforting thought, no doubt, that being a member of a
community grants one almost automatic hospitality within the
community. But within hospitality, within a practical ethics of
hospitality, there should not only be reserved the right of the host to
reject hospitality, as Derrida (2000) has already observed, but there
should be cases where the receiver of hospitality reserves also the
freedom to refuse hospitality, the freedom to break away from the
enclosures of “hostpitality,” the freedom to deviate. And smooth space
s ym pl okē 223

“is precisely the space of the smallest deviation” because it “has no

homogeneity” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 371). It is precisely in this
sense, the creation of a heterogeneous space of deviation or smooth
space that does not view an absence of organization as a lack, by the
disarticulation or smashing of the structures of homogenization like the
codes of communities, that the nomadological war machine render itself

N-1 Community

Now, I have said, and Deleuze and Guattari themselves have also
said, that the nomadic war machine reads more as a solitary force than a
communitarian one. But that is not to say that it is not open to a space
in which the space is constituted by a situation of more-than-itself.
Smooth space is after all a space of more-than-itself. Smooth spaces “are
not without people” (1987, 506). But these people, these other
experimental people, are those who have left behind the striated spaces
of State-communities. They do not bind or delimit themselves with a
defined territorial organization. “They have a local construction
excluding the prior determination of a base domain . . . . They have
extrinsic and situational properties, or relations irreducible to intrinsic
properties of a structure,” as Deleuze and Guattari write (209). These
people are multiplicities as Deleuze and Guattari also call them, and
they affirm and exercise the freedom to come together or break away.
Multiplicities enjoy “a certain leeway, between the two extreme poles of
fusion and scission” (209).
And there is always a relation between multiplicities and smooth
space. According to Deleuze and Guattari, “a heterogeneous smooth
space . . . is wedded to a very particular multiplicity: non-metric,
acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities which occupy space without
‘counting’ it and can ‘only be explored by legwork’” (371). The bodies
of multiplicity may be “non-metric,” but as multiplicity, there is
inevitably the notion of number, if not of the numerous, though there is
nothing numerically definitive about it. (Here, one may even say, in
the conventional understanding of what makes a community, that there
is already a sense of community with multiplicities, since community
always already involves some gathering of some numerous.) Except
the number here is no longer that which is of a quantitative measure:
“The number is no longer a means of counting or measuring, but of
moving” (387). It constitutes a geography, a mapping out of a
gathering, a gathering whose cartography is constantly changing as the
experiment goes along. This number, or this “numbering number” as
Deleuze and Guattari call it, does not function as an index of formal or
224 Irving Goh Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I)

structural growth, or of historical progress as in State-communities or

community-states. According to Deleuze and Guattari, “the numbering
number is no longer subordinated to metric determinations or
geometrical dimensions, but has only a dynamic relation with
geographical directions” (390). The number of multiplicity of smooth
space hence speaks of a mass that is always moving, always breaking
away, if not always disappearing, from striated social arrangements—
“masses are constantly flowing or leaking from classes” (213), and
neither countable strictly as a singular or combinative crowd. The
geographic “numbering number” is more a question of n-1 as Deleuze
and Guattari would have it, the fragmenting -1 projectile acting to resist
any form of quantitative and formal totality. It is like the
supernumerary in Rancière’s (2004) terms: that which is not only
uncounted (especially by State), but also more critically, that which
refuses to enter into an economy of the counted of homogenizing
structures such as communities. (We will also note that for Deleuze and
Guattari, the mass is not insistently or necessarily a numerous
assemblage. It may be a “‘mass’ individual” (215). Whatever this flow
of this mass, it is “neither attributable to individuals nor overcoded by
collective signifiers” (219). Individual or a multitude, the multiplicity of
smooth space is already, in a word, communitarian.)
In the smooth space cleared by the nomadological war machine, it is
not what counts that matters. Rather, matter—the matter of bodies, the
matter of thought—matters. In this smooth space, it is a question of the
freedom of trajectory of bodies and thoughts, a question of the variation
of the matter of bodies and thoughts, a question of “materiality instead
of imposing a form upon a matter” (408). It is a question of the
expressive materiality of whatever gathering or deviation that is taking
place, rather than imposing upon it the enclosing form called
“community.” In nomadology, “what one addresses is less a matter
submitted to laws than a materiality possessing a nomos. One addresses
less a form capable of imposing properties upon a matter than material
traits of expression” (408). And as such, any striating grasp of
community cannot contain the nomadological war machine. The latter
appears anti-community in this sense because while the former tries to
hold (on to) everything together compactly, the latter gives place to the
risk of accident of things breaking down, since “an entire energetic
materiality in movement” also “combine[s] with processes of
deformation” (408). That “deformation,” along with other
“discontinuities” (406) the nomadological war machine brings about, is
necessary to nomadology so as to prevent the smooth space of
multiplicity becoming like the circuitous flow of the striated community.
When numbers do not matter only because they are accumulative
supplements to previous quantified constructions, then there is also the
possibility of opening up to the outside. The “numbering number”
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makes it necessary also “to take into account arithmetic relations that are
external” (391). What the smooth space of the nomadological war
machine articulates is therefore difference or alterity, and exteriority. In
Deleuze and Guattari’s words, the nomadological war machine
“produces its effect of immensity by its fine articulation, in other words
by its distribution of heterogeneity in free space” (391). The rhythmics
of the nomadological war machine is therefore also, to wit, “not
harmonic” (390), contra the myth of harmonious relations within
conventional communities. With the nomadic war machine, there is
always the possibility or the freedom of a dissonant line irrupting the
stability of a melodious line of conventional communities, or else to
break away with its own other trajectory. Attaching itself to at times
threateningly and possibly fragmenting elements of heterogeneity or
alterity, the architecture of smooth space of multiplicity created by the
nomadic war machine is not a bunker architecture. Instead, it is more a
bridge architecture, an architecture of moving bridges, or “movable
bridges” in Deleuze and Guattari’s words in What is Philosophy? It is a
question of bridges that are always constructing towards a future
community. If there is any architecture of community that the
nomadological war machine projects, it will only be an undefined
architecture. It will not be a finished, enclosed architecture, but an
architecture-to-come, an architecture-in-progress, an architecture-on-the-
way. As Deleuze and Guattari themselves say, “It is not a question of
this or that place on earth . . . . It is a question of a model that is
perpetually in construction or collapsing, and of a process that is
perpetually prolonging itself, breaking off and starting up again” (20).
With the nomadological war machine, the architecture of community is
always a question of “relaying” these architectures-on-the-way: “only
relays, intermezzos, resurgences” (377).
It is with such an architecture that Deleuze and Guattari’s
nomadological war machine is always maintaining a thought of
community, maintaining the free space of thought of community,
maintaining the freedom of another thought of community, the thought
of another future community to come. At the end, it is more of
community rather than anti-community in the nihilistic sense. After all,
the nomadic war machine clears a smooth space only for a “movement
of people in that space” and in which “it is a very special kind of
distribution, one without division into shares, in a space without borders
or enclosure” (422, 380). In other words, it smashes present
communities from within only to seek another future communitarian
arrangement such that within that space, thought is free, that there is a
freedom of movement of coming and leaving, that there is no politics or
economics of counting, and the possibilities of and to the outside are
always open. After all too, the nomadological war machine conducts
war against striated spaces like the State and overcodified communities
226 Irving Goh Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I)

only “on the condition that [it] simultaneously create[s] something else,
if only new nonorganic social relations” (423). This other social relation,
this new communitarian assemblage, may be “nonorganic” perhaps
because it will be an inhuman community, inhuman because freed from
the anxieties of subjectivity, representational drive, and consciousness of
the metaphysical human Being—Being that thinks limitedly and
inclusively only in the image of itself, and Being that only looks
towards a One of totality of community or a community of a
quantitatively accumulative One. Once again, the nomadological war
machine reads fascinatingly as an “absolute solitude.” But Deleuze and
Guattari will also always reaffirm that “it is an extremely populous
solitude, like the desert itself, a solitude already interlaced with a
people to come, one that invokes and awaits that people, existing only
through it, though it is not yet here” (377). The nomadic war machine
is always already singularly plural, to use Nancy’s term. And it is
therefore always already a question of a community-to-come, a
community-to-come that renders any signifying articulation of it as
finally a “community” a belatedness, a community-to-come that renders
any representation of it as a cutting-off of itself from the flow or passage
of the community-to-come. It is “an ambulant people of relayers” that
the nomadological war machine awaits and clears a path for, “rather
than a model society” (377), rather than a model (of) community.
To recapitulate, the anti-community force of the nomadological war
machine projects both a “disarticulation” of “community” and a violent
combative projectile against it. The latter is a necessary combat,
necessary only because communities have become target communities
for the formation and maintenance of the State, or else its own striating
totalitarian micropolitics. But the nomadological war machine is anti-
community only because it maintains the future of community,
maintains the possibility of a future, radical, and other community to
come. It is never nihilistic with regard to community. Instead, what it
does, for community, is to allow the chance of the future event of a
community-to-come to take place. With Deleuze and Guattari then, and
at least in A Thousand Plateaus and particularly with the image of
nomadology of A Thousand Plateaus as I have tried to show, philosophy
is always a question of community. For Deleuze and Guattari, we are
always arriving at or moving towards a community with philosophy,
but a community that is as indefinite as its linguistic article not because
it is not able to decide itself (as community), and not because it is not
sure of itself, but because it is always open to something new, always
forms itself anew, which as such guarantees its future, and even
promises a radical future unrestricted to its present form. It is a
community that is decisively (an) undecidability, an indecision that is
properly in-decision, as Nancy would put it. It decides on its openness
s ym pl okē 227

to futures and not closures. It decides itself as always a work-in-

progress, a project without end.

Deterritorializing (from) the Real / Becoming-Animal

At this point, one may ask what is this communitarian nomadic war
machine in real terms, and where and how could one locate it in the real
world today, if not, for tomorrow? What and where can there be an
empirical trace of such a “mass” or “people” that is communitarian
precisely because of its anti-community force? One could be tempted to
think of the subterranean or rather hyperreal community of digital
hackers. This community after all has been described in no less
Deleuzian terms by McKenzie Wark in his A Hacker Manifesto as such:
“Whether we come to represent ourselves as researchers or authors,
artists or biologists, chemists or musicians, philosophers or
programmers, each of these subjectivities [of the hacker community] is
but a fragment of a class still becoming, bit by bit, aware of itself as
such” (002). It is a community of a “collective hack that realizes a class
interest based on an alignment of differences rather than a coercive
unity” (006), a community that is always reinventing technics that will
go round, if not smash from within, legal limits of the State that try to
restrain the sharing of digital information via peer-to-peer technology.
One could indeed pursue such a thread and give a nomadological
contour to such a community. But I would like to resist doing so. That
would, perhaps, be too easy. And that would also somewhat amount to
ignoring some of the dangers in (thinking of) locating the nomadic war
machine in the real. “We lack resistance to the present” (Deleuze and
Guattari 1994, 108).
To locate the nomadic war machine in the real is firstly to
presuppose that it already presently exists. And if it is already visible in
some way or other, it surely would already be subject to the State’s
monitoring of its deviation from a State-managed and State-controlled
community. The State would not allow any minimal deviation of its
people to extend beyond a certain duration. In no time, the policing
forces of striation would have swarmed in on this deviation. And in
any case, even before the declension of the striating forces falls on the
deviating elements, the latter collective would have lost its constitution
as a nomadological war machine, for to be perceptible as part of the
existing community implies that it is in some ways part of the existing
status quo of life. But the nomadological war machine is always that
which departs from the normalized conditions of living. It does not want
any part of it. It does not want to be part of it. And because it departs,
228 Irving Goh Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I)

it would belong not to the order of the perceptible but the order of the
disappeared or disappearing. And in that sense, there can be no way of
locating this nomadological war machine in the real such that one could
hypostasize it as a subject of analysis. There is no doubt that the
nomadic war machine is real and exists within the horizons of the real,
but it dislocates itself in the perceptible way of things. It has departed
only by its disappearance, its rendering itself in-visible. It occupies space
but only by making a desert of that space, a space of a desert so empty and
so minimal in contrast to the excess of the global metropolis that
surrounds contemporary communities, such that no one else sees it. It is
dis-location par excellence. And it is the nomadic war machine as dis-
location that renders it difficult to be located in the real.
Deleuze and Guattari themselves are also careful not to identify any
empirical social group, contemporaneous to the context of the writing of
A Thousand Plateaus, as possible communitarian nomadological war
machines. They understand the limits and dangers of the visible real.
And so in A Thousand Plateaus, they do not look to the present or rather
to what is present to seek out the potential nomadic war machine. The
only reserve that is left in A Thousand Plateaus for thinking the nomadic
war machine in the real is that problematic real of which they will call
becoming-animal. Becoming-animal, which is not the anthropomorphic
mimesis of animals, is about the adjacent space between the human and
the animal. It is a “phenomenon of bordering” (Deleuze and Guattari
1987, 345) between the human and the animal, in which a molecular
anti-anthropomorphism at the edges of the human departs and
communicates with the molecular particles of the animal that have
likewise left the frays of its form. This is the communitarian
“transversal communications between heterogeneous populations” of
becoming-animal by “unnatural participation” (345). On the
communitarian horizon of becoming-animal, Deleuze and Guattari will
also say, “A becoming-animal always involves a pack, a band, a
population, a peopling, in short, a multiplicity” (239). Like the “people
to come” that the nomadic war machine looks forward to, the pack, the
band, or the multiplicity involved with a becoming-animal is nothing
structured. There is no conscious investment to build up such a
community. Its future is not determined by any methodical calculation
or rationality. And like the unquantifiable n-1 future community of the
nomadic war machine, the elements within this multiplicity are
uncounted, uncountable. “A multiplicity is defined not by its elements,
nor by a center of unification or comprehension” (249).
And again like the nomadic war machine, the communitarian event
of becoming-animal proceeds with anti-community gestures. It begins
with what Deleuze and Guattari call the “anomic.” This “anomic” is an
“exceptional individual” (243), but it is not exceptional in the sense that
it is absolutely outside the law of the group or existing community.
s ym pl okē 229

Instead, it traverses the border between being with the law and being
outside the law. It is like a shadow at this border, and one can never be
sure if this shadow is going to incline towards the outside or back within
acceptable boundaries. And yet this is enough to render it a figure of
uncertainty or potential chaos in the eyes of power. It does not violate
the law but its being at the border just disturbs the stability or
equilibrium of the law (and is therefore something of an anti-community
potentiality). And it is through an intuitive affinity with this (anti-
community) “anomic” that a becoming-animal is put into effect. As
Deleuze and Guattari say, “you will . . . find an exceptional individual,
and it is with that individual that an alliance must be made in order to
become-animal” (243). It is with the “anomic” that an event of
becoming-animal “arrives and passes at the edge” (245) of the human.
And from then on, like the anti-community/communitarian nomadic
war machine, becoming-animal is a potential violence against any force
that structures for all within its grasp a rigidity of belonging, for
example, conventionally codified communities. Becoming-animal “is
accompanied, at its origin as in its undertaking, by a rupture with the
central institutions that have established themselves or seek to become
established” (247), and “we should not confuse these dark assemblages
. . . with organizations such as the institutions of the family and the
State apparatus” (242).
The affinity between becoming-animal and the nomadic war
machine is undeniable. Deleuze and Guattari will even say that there
are “becomings-animal in the war machine” (247). One then is not
surprised to find the echo of the betrayal function of the nomadic war
machine in becoming-animal too. The advance of a becoming-animal
will also see to the undoing of the alliance with the “anomic.” This is its
other anti-community gesture. Becoming-animal will betray the
“anomic”: “I have to strike him to get at the pack as a whole, to reach
the pack as a whole and pass beyond it” (245). In a becoming-animal,
one will strike at the “exceptional individual” who is not only critical for
the constituting of a friendship that will lead one to become-animal, but
who will also lead one to the pack, the band, a peopling, the
communitarian multiplicity. And one will certainly not rest with the
communitarian outcome (“to reach the pack”) of the betrayal. In fact,
one will trace a further anti-community trajectory and “pass beyond”
the pack, the band, the multiplicity, but surely for other “new
nonorganic social relations.”
Now, why becoming-animal is a problematic real, or why it is
difficult if not impossible to locate in the real, is because it is a “zone of
indiscernibility” (280). It proceeds by being “something more secret,
more subterranean” (237) than what the real would like to spectacularly
demonstrate to visibility. Becoming-animal puts forth “an objective
zone of indetermination or uncertainty” (237), and presents at best a
230 Irving Goh Community in Deleuze and Guattari (I)

haziness before all technics of rational perception. A line of

disappearance, and not visibility, is what a becoming-animal follows
after all: “A fiber stretches from a human to an animal, from a human
or an animal to molecules, from molecules to particles, and so on to the
imperceptible” (249). Becoming-animal is in-visible, dislocating the
perception of the real, disrupting the real. But its being in-visible does
not render it any less real than anything else that exists in the real. It
remains very real, only real without being definable or identifiable.
“There is a reality of becoming-animal, even though one does not in
reality become animal” (273). Its dislocation from or of the perception of
the real constitutes its existence as a problematic real. And this is why it
will always escape or resist any teleologic analytic striation, and
therefore also always remaining a desirable space of reserve for
(thinking) the anti-community/communitarian nomadic war machine
for Deleuze and Guattari.
Finally, to suggest that the nomadological war machine is already
existing in some nascent formation at present would also,
philosophically, reduce the concept to a delimited historical or temporal
condition. It would entail limiting its existence to only a certain time-
frame. But this takes away the avant-garde edge of the concept. The
concept of the nomadological war machine, derivative of all the minor
war-machines of history, remains a future-oriented project or projectile.
It serves to be the front-guard that smashes the conditions and
performatives that have constituted the thought of community, and
thereby clears a path for the future thought of a future community. As
Deleuze and Guattari write, it is always about casting a “shadow of a
people to come.” The nomadic war machine is always arriving, beyond
our present knowledge, and exceeding the conditions of thought that
has come before. It is only as such that it maintains the thought of itself
not only towards the future, opening itself up to all possibilities of
alterity to arrive to it, but also towards a future (of) community. The
present real only conditions the thought of the nomadological war
machine to think within the actualizable limits of the present. But the
concept of itself is always virtual, just as any philosophical concept
should be, according to the pedagogy of Deleuze and Guattari in What is
Philosophy? It is always -1 from the real, and only the disappearing line
of becoming-animal can always already be that n-1 real of the anti-
community/communitarian nomadic war machine.

s ym pl okē 231

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