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date: 09 December 2018

Gilles Deleuze and Communication Studies

Summary and Keywords

Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995) was one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. His key writings include Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense as well as a number of commentaries on a range of philosophers and volumes on film, literature, and painting. His is well known for his collaborations with radical psychoanalyst Félix Guattari, including Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze’s work focused on matters of immanence, becoming, and multiplicity. In Difference and Repetition he challenged the image of thought as representation and argued instead for the idea of thought as an encounter and event. In The Logic of Sense he explored the relation of language and event, developing his concept of sense. In his collaborations with Guattari they promoted the idea of thought as a rhizome and developed the concept of assemblage as a process of articulating and arranging bodies, discourses, affects, and other elements. Deleuze’s work therefore challenges common models and understandings of communication. In his later work he elaborated on the idea that communication was a means of control. Deleuze’s work has entered the field of communication scholarship through the influence of both Australian and North American Cultural Studies and through the uptake of his work on cinema and concepts of rhizome, assemblage, and control in media studies research.

Keywords: communication and critical studies, philosophy, difference, language, event, rhizome, assemblage, control

Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995) was one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. He taught at the University of Paris, Vincennes-St. Denis virtually his entire academic career (from 1969 to 1987). Deleuze produced a wide range of work, from commentaries on philosophers (Hume [Deleuze, 1953/19911], Nietzsche [Deleuze, 1962/1983], Kant [Deleuze, 1963/1984], Bergson [Deleuze, 1966/1988], Spinoza [Deleuze, 1968a/1994, 1970/1988], Foucault [Deleuze, 1986/1988], and Leibniz [Deleuze, 1988/1993]) to analyses of film [Deleuze, 1983/1986, 1985/1989], literature [Deleuze, 1964/2000, 1967/1989, 1993/1997], and painting [Deleuze, 1981/2003]. Among his key contributions to philosophy are Difference and Repetition (1968a/1994) and The Logic of Sense (1969/1990). With his collaborator, the radical psychoanalyst Félix Guattari, he wrote four influential books including the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972/1983) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980/1987; see also 1975/1986 and 1991/1994). Deleuze’s approach to philosophy focused on matters of immanence, becoming, and multiplicity. Deleuze’s work practiced an affirmation of life and creativity, a vitalism. “Everything I’ve written is vitalistic, at least I hope it is, and amounts to a theory of signs and events” (1990/1995, p. 143).

Deleuze’s early works consisted of detailed, rigorous, and creative readings of a series of philosophers. His goal was not exegesis or explication, but rather readings that “made novel and startling sense of the texts” (Wark, 2001, p. 117). These early readings of Hume, Nietzsche, Kant, and Bergson set the groundwork for his original philosophical texts, Difference and Repetition (1968a/1994) (which was his Ph.D. thesis; a detailed reading of Spinoza [Deleuze, 1968b/1990] was his secondary thesis) and The Logic of Sense (1969/1990). Deleuze met Guattari in 1968 and they began collaborating on a work inspired by the events of May 1968, the controversial and influential Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972/1983). They followed that book with a reading of Kafka (1975/1986) which set some of the groundwork for their best known work, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1980/1987). Their final collaboration was the book What Is Philosophy? (1991/1994). Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s Deleuze continued his own writings, producing two books on Cinema (1983/1986, 1985/1989), one on the paintings of Francis Bacon (Deleuze, 1981/2003), readings of Foucault (Deleuze, 1986/1988) and Leibniz (Deleuze, 1988/1993), and collections of interviews (1990/1995) and essays on literature (1993/1997).

It would be difficult to summarize his body of work as a whole, especially given constraints of space (for overviews and general introductions, see Bogue, 1989; Buchanan, 2000; Colebrook, 2001, 2003, 2006; Due, 2007; Goodchild, 1997; Hardt, 1993; Marks, 1998; Massumi, 1992; May, 2005; Rajchman, 2000; Stivale, 1998; and Zourabichvili, 2012). This article foregrounds those aspects of Deleuze’s work that have the greatest implication for communication or have proven specifically influential in the field. We begin with the critique of representation in Difference and Repetition and the relation of events to language in The Logic of Sense. These books conceptually set the underpinning for his later writings, especially his collaborations with Guattari. We turn then to discuss two of the key concepts from that collaboration that have proved influential: rhizome and assemblage. Finally, the article will offer an overview of Deleuze’s later work on cinema and societies of control.

Communication is problematic for Deleuze (and Deleuze and Guattari) in many ways, from the idea that communication is about representation, to notions that communication is about building consensus (responding to Habermas), or the implicit notion that communication is about intersubjectivity, that is, that the goal of communication should somehow be to relay the same mental contents from person to person (see Deleuze & Guattari, 1991/1994, esp. pp. 6–7 and 28–29). Communication even becomes a rival of philosophy to the extent that communication (especially in forms of marketing and advertising) claims to be about ideas and concepts. “The simulacrum, the simulation of a packet of noodles, has become the true concept; and the one who packages the product, commodity, or work of art has become the philosopher, conceptual persona, or artist” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1991/1994, p. 10). In a late interview Deleuze states, “[m]aybe speech and communication have been corrupted. They’re thoroughly permeated by money—and not by accident but by their very nature. We’ve got to hijack speech. Creating has always been something different from communicating” (1995, p. 175). What is this creativity that is different from communication?

For Deleuze, “Philosophy is always a matter of inventing concepts. . . . it is by nature creative or even revolutionary, because it’s always creating new concepts” (1990/1995, p. 136; see also Deleuze & Guattari, 1991/1994). Concepts have singular moments of emergence and trajectories. They address specific historical circumstances and respond to real problems.

A philosophy’s power is measured by the concepts it creates, or whose meaning it alters, concepts that impose a new set of divisions on things and actions. It sometimes happens that those concepts are called forth at a certain time, charged with a collective meaning corresponding to the requirements of a given period, and discovered, created or recreated by several authors at once. (1968b/1990, p. 321)

Deleuze later stated in an interview that “[p]hilosophers introduce new concepts, they explain them, but they don’t tell us, not completely anyway, the problems to which those concepts are a response” (Deleuze, 1990/1995, p. 136). He likens books of philosophy to “a very particular species of detective novel, in part a kind of science fiction . . . concepts, with their zones of presence, should intervene to resolve local situations. They themselves change along with the problems” (Deleuze, 1968a/1994, p. xx). His books, especially those with Guattari, seem to generate a new collection of concepts to grapple with the problem at hand. Even when a concept reappears in another work it is often inflected differently. There are concepts that appear in a number of places that take on different valences and functions depending on the context. As Lawrence Grossberg has described it,

Deleuze and Guattari view concepts—including their own—as solutions to problems of thinking and living. Their thinking, then, is to be treated as a toolbox, a collection, or perhaps an assemblage, of various tools that may be, under specific conditions, more or less useful in solving problems we face as we continue to make our lives as part of the larger contexts of reality making itself.

(Grossberg, 2003, p. 2)2

Understanding conceptual dynamism is an important part of understanding Deleuze. What is important to a Deleuzian is not the exegesis, application, or extension of a philosophical framework or vocabulary, but entering into a way of thinking. Grossberg summarizes that way of thinking like this:

Deleuze and Guattari’s practice is opposed to all structures, hierarchies, totalities, and unities; it refuses any reduction, accepting instead the variety of events that comprise reality. It has only one rule: subtract the “one” that seems to predetermine where the lines or connections are or must be, so that you can then draw lines, all lines (experiment). In other words, construct multiplicities, be imaginative in forging connections, and don’t let anything stop you. (p. 2)

This is the challenge of essays such as this one, which seek to summarize or codify Deleuze’s, and Deleuze and Guattari’s, thought. Any attempt to reduce this thought to a formal system is, in the end, non-Deleuzian. Deleuze’s thought is about the pursuit of creativity, life, and multiplicity, and resists closure, structure, and the reduction to essences (to the One). The world is continually in process. This relates to his insistence on “tracing out a field of immanence.”

Abstractions explain nothing, they themselves have to be explained: there are no such things as universals, there’s nothing transcendent, no Unity, subject (or object), Reason; there are only processes, sometimes unifying, subjectifying, rationalizing, but just processes all the same. . . . [T]he plane of immanence has to be constructed, immanence is constructivism. . . . All processes take place on the plane of immanence, and within a given multiplicity: unifications, subjectifications, rationalizations, centralizations have no special status; they often amount to an impasse or closing off that prevents the multiplicity’s growth, the extension and unfolding of its lines, the production of something new. When you invoke something transcendent you arrest movement.

(Deleuze, 1990/1995, pp. 145–146).

Deleuze’s writings are often considered difficult and complex. At times this is because he is deeply immersed in the work of another (and one needs to know his source material as well); at other times this is the result of the sheer diversity of sources and fields he references; and at others he wants to provoke thought in the reader through his style (see, for example, James Williams’ discussion of reading The Logic of Sense [2008]). As Deleuze wrote, of Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense in particular, “I know well enough that they’re still full of academic elements, they’re heavy going, but they’re an attempt to jolt, set in motion, something inside me, to treat writing as a flow, and not a code” (1990/1995, p. 7). Key for Deleuze is not what something means or represents, but what it does. His approach is ethological rather than representational. Deleuze sought to share such affective resonances with his readers as well. He wrote that there are two ways of reading a book: looking for what it signifies or asking “Does it work, and how does it work?” (1990/1995, p. 8). In the end, our project should be, as McKenzie Wark put it, “not a question of translating or applying Deleuze, but of thinking differently in his wake” (2001, p. 119).

Against Representation

Deleuze writes that “It’s the image of thought that guides the creation of concepts” (1990/1995, p. 148) and the image of thought varies by time and circumstance. To understand Deleuze’s approach to thought we need to begin with his groundbreaking work in Difference and Repetition because it challenges notions of both thought and identity. The idea that thought concerns representation or recognition is the problem for Deleuze. That is, he critiques the idea that thought is simply repeating something in reality. As Melissa McMahon has put it, “The ‘regime of representation’ is the system whereby the concept of identity—whether general or individual—forms the meeting point between a nature of things and a nature of thought” (2011, pp. 46–47). For Deleuze this mode of recognition posits that “An object is recognized, however, when one faculty locates it as identical to that of another, or rather when all the faculties together relate their given and relate themselves to a form of identity in the object” (1968a/1994, p. 133). This “unity of all the faculties in the subject” is a form of common sense, a “harmony of all the faculties” that one sees in Descartes’ cogito: “I think” as a unity of self. This model of thought as recognition has grounded much of Western philosophy. The problem for Deleuze is that this reduces philosophy to simply recognizing (and “discovering”) what is already there—repeating the same. This is a model of thought that is fundamentally conservative in nature. “The form of recognition has never sanctioned anything but the recognizable and the recognized; form will never inspire anything but conformities” (p. 134). What about the new, the creative? Perhaps you experience something that you can’t recognize or represent? If philosophy is just a recognition of common sense, what’s the point? “Common sense shows every day—unfortunately—that it is capable of producing philosophy in its own way” (p. 135). The “acts of recognition” of daily life are problematic because, first, they draw from common everyday facts (“everyday banality in person,” p. 135), and, second, because “what is recognized is not only an object but also the values attached to an object” (p. 135), making the whole process a repetition and reinforcement of “established values” (such as the State and the Church, as in Kant) (p. 136).

When common sense and the system of representation posit an underlying order of things and a natural direction of thought whose work is simply to make this implicit arrangement explicit, it simply presupposes itself, in another form, as its own condition of possibility, and gives no account of its actual process.

(McMahon, 2011, p. 47)

What, then, is the alternative to this model of thought? What is the creativity that Deleuze insists is the heart of philosophy, the creativity that is different from mere communication? In the model of thought we have been discussing, the regime of representation, the idea of difference becomes subsumed under the idea of identity; it becomes merely a means of comparison—for example, comparing how well the concept resembles the object. “[D]ifference becomes an object of representation always in relation to a conceived identity, a judged analogy, an imagined opposition or a perceived similitude” (1968a/1994, p. 138, italics removed). This model “is characterized by its inability to conceive of difference in itself” (p. 138). How can we think of difference in itself and not a form of the Same? Deleuze suggests, following Nietzsche, that we start not with common sense (“what everybody knows”) but with a refusal of what everybody knows. What if we start not with something that is readily recognizable, that can be represented in existing words or symbols, but precisely something that cannot quite be rendered representationally? What if we begin with feelings of force or intensity, with those things “which force us to think” (p. 138)? “Something in the world forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of fundamental encounter” (p. 139). This encounter is a bit of a shock, “trespass and violence,” and thought is “involuntary” but necessary. “Do not count upon thought to ensure the relative necessity of what it thinks. Rather, count upon the contingency of the encounter with that which forces thought to raise up and educate the absolute necessity of an act of thought or a passion to think” (p. 139). That which is encountered is not recognized, “it can only be sensed,” but sensed in a way that is perplexing, that results in a discord among the faculties rather than identity. It is imperceptible “precisely from the point of view of recognition” (p. 140). This encounter “forces [the soul] to pose a problem: as though the object of the encounter, the sign, were the bearer of the problem—as though it were a problem” (p. 140). This encounter is an event and event implies both contingency and intensity. Intensity is “pure difference in itself” (p. 144). “Between the intensive and thought, it is always by means of an intensity that thought comes to us” (p. 144).

This processual problem or event “exceeds our representative capacities” and “provokes the exercise of all our powers, creating a relay between sense, memory, imagination, and thought” (McMahon, 2011, p. 49).

What we encounter are the demons, the sign-bearers: powers of the leap, the interval, the intensive and the instant; powers which only cover difference with more difference. What is most important, however, is that—between sensibility and imagination, between imagination and memory, between memory and thought—when each disjointed faculty communicates to another the violence which carries it to its own limit, every time it is a free form of difference which awakens the faculty, and awakens it as the different within that difference.

(Deleuze, 1968a/1994, p. 145)

The singularity of thought, the contingency and event of the encounter, is—no matter how subtle—something new. “[T]hought is both a response to the absolutely new and itself creates something new. It is this difference made by thought as a response to—repetition of—a unique or singular event that is at the core of Deleuze’s understanding of these notions” (McMahon, 2011, pp. 49–50).

Communication, as Deleuze uses it in the long passage above, is more about an intensity that forces this relay between faculties, a resonance or even a violence between a series of events (cf. Deleuze, 1969/1990, esp. pp. 169–176). “There is, therefore, something which is communicated from one faculty to another, but it is metamorphosed and does not form common sense” (Deleuze, 1968a/1994, p. 146). In this case communication is closer to transmission or contagion (cf. McMahon, 2011, p. 52).

Thought is therefore disruptive, creative, new. “To think is to create—there is no other creation—but to create is first of all to engender ‘thinking’ in thought” (Deleuze, 1968a/1994, p. 147). We need to understand thought as contingent, intensive, singular, and creative. Communication occurs, but in a different manner than is usually referred to in communication studies. An encounter engenders thinking (and what is encountered and what is thought are not the same—there is no resemblance or identity). That thought, in turn, may pose an encounter for another person. Thus communication of thought is more a series of events, each encounter sparking relays among the faculties in ways that are singular and intensive. Each repetition is absolutely different. It is the empirical specificity of concepts, of thought, which is important. Philosophy is concerned with the creation of concepts, “to create concepts that are always new” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1991/1994, p. 5). Concepts are not universals but always specific (“concepts are and remained signed: Aristotle’s substance, Descartes’ cogito . . .,” p. 7). “In so far as each act of thought is a new beginning, emerging from the set of contingencies that make up our problem, we think with the thinkers of the past (not ‘after’ or ‘like’), as our contemporaries and companions, and look ahead as they did” (McMahon, 2011, p. 52).

This radical image of the event of thought-as-event set out in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze points out, serves as the groundwork for his writings to come, especially his books with Guattari, “where we invoked a vegetal model of thought: the rhizome in opposition to the tree, a rhizome-thought instead of an arborescent thought” (Deleuze, 1968a/1994, p. xvii). Before we address this later work, let’s consider briefly Deleuze’s discussion of language and events.

“Events make language possible,” writes Deleuze (1969/1990, p. 181) in The Logic of Sense, an understudied book that Jean-Jacques Lecercle has called “notoriously difficult” (2008, p. vii; see also Lecercle’s own reading of Deleuze on language, 2002). Deleuze does not mean that events cause language. “What renders language possible is that which separates sounds from bodies and organizes them into propositions, freeing them for the expressive function” (1969/1990, p. 181). There are bodies, “with their actions and passions,” and the commotion they make. Events are not independent of bodies, nor do they come from elsewhere, but events, instead, emerge from the relations of bodies. “The event results from bodies, their mixtures, their actions, and their passions” (p. 182; see also Poxon & Stivale, 2005). Events put the sounds or affective sonorities of bodies in new relations to bodies (p. 182). Rather than just emerging indistinctly from bodies, a resonance or intensity may denote the body, or manifest something about the body, or signify (denotation, manifestation, and signification are three relations of propositions). Therefore, Deleuze writes, “[d]enotation and manifestation do not found language, they are only made possible with it” (p. 182).

So on the one hand, the event results from bodies but “differs in nature” from bodies. Events are “pure surface effect” (which Deleuze will later refer to as virtual); they are “attributed to bodies, to states of affairs, but not at all as a physical quality,” but as an incorporeal attribute (p. 182). But, on the other hand, we should not confuse the event with language itself—it is not the expression but what is expressed. Deleuze says, although it is oversimplifying, that events are verbs while bodies are nouns (Poxon & Stivale, 2005, p. 67). The event articulates bodies (of which it is an incorporeal attribute) and propositions (of which it is what is expressed). “It organizes these terms as two series which it separates, since it is by and in this separation that it distinguishes itself from the bodies from which it ensues and from the propositions it renders possible” (p. 182). The event is a “paradoxical element” around which these divergent series (bodies, propositions) converge (p. 183).

James Williams writes that The Logic of Sense “is about the relations of events to series” (2008, p. 1). Series are not deep structures or linear sequences. “[A]n event runs through series in structures, transforming them and altering relations of sense along the series. According to this view an event, such as the beginning of a book, is never an absolutely new start, it is rather a change in waves resonating through series” (p. 1). The event is nonlinear and processually recursive, therefore emerging from bodies and transforming the series of bodies and states of affairs as well as the series of propositions.

A key term for Deleuze in understanding language and the event is the concept of sense. He writes, “It is the characteristic of events to be expressed or expressible, uttered or utterable, in propositions which are at least possible. There are many relations inside a proposition. Which is best suited to surface effects or events?” (1969/1990, p. 12). He discusses the three relations mentioned above: denotation (“the relation of the proposition to an external state of affairs” [p. 12]), manifestation (“the relation of the proposition to the person who speaks and expresses himself [sic]” [p. 13]), and signification (“the relation of the word to universal or general concepts” [p. 14, emphasis in original]). Deleuze goes on to show that all three are interdependent (they presuppose one another) in what he calls “the circle of the proposition” (p. 17). To these three he wishes to add a fourth in order to unravel any too-easy tracing of the circle. This fourth is sense. “Sense is both the expressible or the expressed of the proposition, and the attribute of the state of affairs” (p. 22, emphasis removed). Sense is an event. We can most clearly distinguish sense from the propositions when we consider nonsense. Poxon and Stivale write:

Nonsense words, exemplified in the work of Lewis Carroll, have no existence apart from language; they do not denote real objects, manifest the beliefs and desires of real persons, or signify meaningful concepts. Nevertheless, they still convey sense, and in so doing affirm the immanence of sense to language itself. So if denotation, manifestation and signification can account for the possibility that language expresses something about the world only by relating language to something external to it, Deleuze’s concept of sense needs no external referent to stand as the condition of possibility of expression. (p. 68)

Events not only articulate series of bodies and propositions, they introduce change to both. Arrangements of bodies (and we need to think of bodies broadly, not just human bodies) and states of affairs change with an event (such as a storm, an accident, or the utterance of an unfortunate statement) as do propositions, what can be said or expressed. Events come with changes in sense as well. Williams is careful to clarify that sense is not “a form of linguistic meaning. It is closer to significance rather than meaning, that is to the way in which meaning matters or makes things matter” (2008, p. 3).

Deleuze asks: What are the relations between events? The relation between events is not causality but expression.

[W]hat brings an event to repeat another in spite of all its difference, what makes it possible that a life is composed of one and the same Event, despite the variety of what might happen, that it be traversed by a single and same fissure, that it play one and the same air over all possible tunes and all possible worlds—all these are not due to relations between cause and effect; it is rather an aggregate of noncausal correspondences which form a system of echoes, or resumptions and resonances, a system of signs. (1969/1990, p. 170)

Could events be contradictory or incompatible? Deleuze turns to Leibniz’s concepts of compossible and incompossible to answer this question. “Compossibility must be defined in an original manner, at a preindividual level, by the convergence of series which singularities of events form as they stretch themselves out over lines of ordinary points. Incompossibility must be defined by the divergence of such series” (p. 171; Deleuze will later return to these terms in The Fold, 1988/1993). Relations of convergence and divergence of series “form an essential component of the theory of sense” (p. 172). However, Leibniz saw divergence as a form of exclusion (based on a judgment of God). Deleuze wishes to see “divergence and disjunction the objects of affirmation” (p. 172). Difference is a positive distance. This “permits the measuring of contraries through their finite difference instead of equating difference with a measureless contrariety, and contrariety with an identity which is itself infinite” (p. 173). Divergent series resonate over their positive distance. “Incompossibility is now a means of communication. . . . [Each event] communicates with the other through the positive characters of its distance and by the affirmative character of the disjunction” (pp. 174, 175). Think of incompossibility-as-communication as what happens, for example, when two people (or a crowd of people) at a concert move together (or collide) to a rhythm that shapes and is shaped by more-than-the-music-around-and-between-them but also the capacities of bodies, the qualities of the listening space, the expectations of the genre and the social situation, the hour of the day, and so on (cf. Deleuze, 1988/1993, pp. 80–81).3

Deleuze and Guattari: Rhizome and Assemblage

For Deleuze and Guattari in their collaborative work a guiding image of thought was that of the rhizome (Deleuze, 1990/1995, p. 149). The idea of the rhizome is contrasted with that of the tree or the root. In the latter, there is the singular origin, the center. A network of roots still has a common origin point where they all connect. A rhizome is a structure without a center; it grows by sending off shoots. Deleuze and Guattari give examples of potatoes and crabgrass as types of rhizomes, but also such things as the burrows of animals or rats when they are in a pack (1980/1987, p. 6). You are always in the middle with a rhizome, never at the start or end. In the model of the tree, the point is to find the origin, the cause. In the model of the rhizome, the point is to connect. “The tree imposes the verb ‘to be,’ but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, ‘and . . . and . . . and . . .” (p. 25). A rhizome is not just the extension of itself, but connections with the outside. “The wisdom of plants: even when they have roots, there is always an outside where they form a rhizome with something else—with the wind, an animal, human beings” (p. 11). They use the example of a wasp and an orchid in a relationship of aparallel evolution: The wasp is becoming orchid (it is effectively part of the orchid’s reproductive system) and the orchid is becoming wasp (its form comports with that of the wasp’s). Humans form rhizomes with viruses and other creatures. “A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (p. 7).

One of the principles of the rhizome, Deleuze and Guattari point out, is that of connection, as we saw above. “Any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be” (p. 7). These are not connections of identity, recognition, representation, or resemblance. Rather these are relations of symbiosis, alliance, and, most of all, becoming. “A becoming is not a correspondence between relations. But neither is it a resemblance, an imitation, or, at the limit, an identification” (p. 237). Rhizomes consist of lines, drawing lines. Deleuze and Guattari set out three types of line (cf. Deleuze & Parnet, 1977/1987). The first type are lines of segmentarity, also called molar lines. These are lines that structure, divide, close off, territorialize, and organize (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 9). A second type of line “is a more fluid line, molecular line, which forms connections and relations beyond the rigidity of the molar line. It is composed of fluid lines, which map processes of becoming, change, movement, and reorganization” (Grosz, 1994, p. 204). And the third type of line are lines of flight, lines of deterritorialization (“nomadic lines,” Grosz calls them), “down which it [the line itself] constantly flees” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 9). But Deleuze and Guattari are at pains to point out that we can never make absolute distinctions between these lines, as if some are always good and others are always bad. While the most rigid structure will always have lines of flight that undo it, the most free-form rhizome might encounter rigid lines that tie it back, restructure, or reterritorialize it. “Groups and individuals contain microfascisms just waiting to crystalize” (pp. 9–10).

A second principle of the rhizome is that of multiplicity. They use the term multiplicity as more of a quality than a quantity. It is not the multiple (rather than the One). Rather it is the possibility of many becomings, many paths, many connections. Multiplicities are becomings that are always changing as connections are made and unmade. They do not return to a singular origin. The image Deleuze and Guattari use is that of a marionette being pulled by multiple strings. But there is no singular puppeteer behind them (and singular mind pulling the strings) but “a multiplicity of nerve fibers” (p. 8). Like rhizomes, multiplicities must be made and they are made by subtracting the unique (p. 6); they are “defined by the outside: by the abstract line, the line of flight or deterritorialization according to which they change in nature and connect with other multiplicities” (p. 9). Deleuze and Guattari write of packs (of wolves and rats) that work through alliances and contagion (not filiation and descent). “[W]hat interests us are modes of expansion, propagation, occupation, contagion, peopling. I am legion” (p. 239). There are many multiplicities, some of which include greater structure, hierarchy, and territory (such as crowds or masses, which can be led), and others which are more dispersed and unfixed (such as packs, which may have a leader, on a line of flight, but one that improvises moment by moment) (p. 33). Multiplicities are becomings, and becomings, as processes, are crucial for Deleuze and Guattari’s project: to break with the structure of the segment and the molar, becoming-other (becoming-animal, becoming-child, becoming-imperceptible, 1980/1987). Such becomings can be appropriated (by the State, for example, or by the Oedipal family, cf. 1972/1983) and there are no political guarantees. They describe their method as follows: “Schizoanalysis, or pragmatics, has no other meaning: Make a rhizome. But you don’t know what you can make a rhizome with, you don’t know which subterranean stem is effectively going to make a rhizome, or enter a becoming, people your desert. So experiment” (p. 251). The goal of the series of becomings, “the immanent end of becoming” (p. 279), is becoming-imperceptible. Recall from Difference and Repetition that becoming-imperceptible was from the point of view of the regime of representation; it is the new that cannot be recognized, only sensed. To become-imperceptible is to find one’s proximities and zones of indiscernibility. . . . One is then like grass: one has made the world, everybody/everything, into a becoming, because one has made a necessarily communicating world, because one has suppressed in oneself everything that prevents us from slipping between things and growing in the midst of things. (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 280)


Assemblage is a concept that Deleuze and Guattari first introduced in their book Anti-Oedipus (1972/1983), later developed in their second book, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature (1975/1986), and then used extensively in A Thousand Plateaus (1980/1987). In French, their term is agencement, which has a more dynamic sense than “assemblage,” being closer to “an assembling.” An assemblage “establishes connections between certain multiplicities” (1980/1987, p. 23) and “stake[s] out a territory” (p. 503). An assemblage is always territorializing (bringing together various elements in a particular arrangement) and deterritorializing (opening up onto other territories, de-organizing). But in addition to this dimension of an assemblage, which we’ve seen previously in rhizomes, it is also the stratification of systems of language and systems of technology in a relation of expression and content (a relation they borrow from the semiotics of Louis Hjelmslev). The former they call collective assemblages of enunciation and the latter machinic assemblages (of bodies, “actions and passions” [p. 504]). Recall the relation of series of propositions and series of bodies in The Logic of Sense. The former, collective assemblages of enunciation, work through “incorporeal transformations” (pronouncing a person as “guilty” or as “champion” transforms them) and the latter through material “modifications in the external world” (p. 60). To understand the collective assemblage of enunciation it is important to recall that language, for Deleuze (and Guattari), is not about conveying information or meaning (or representing or signifying), but rather “the transmission of the word as order-word” (p. 77). By order-word they refer to a performative model of language, a pragmatics of language: “to order, question, promise, or affirm is not to inform someone about a command, doubt, engagement, or assertion but to effectuate these specific, immanent, and necessarily implicit acts” (p. 77). Not only this, they emphasize “the necessarily social character of enunciation” (pp. 79–80). That is, language is about individual statements only to the extent that they imply “collective assemblages” (p. 80). Collective assemblages of enunciation make possible individual enunciation; they are the conditions of possibility of language. Deleuze and Guattari summarize:

The language-function thus defined is neither informational nor communicational; it has to do neither with signifying information nor with intersubjective communication. And it is useless to abstract a significance outside information, or a subjectivity outside communication. For the subjectification proceedings and movement of significance relate to regimes of signs, or collective assemblages. The language-function is the transmission of order-words, and order-words relate to assemblages, just as assemblages relate to the incorporeal transformations constituting the variables of the function. Linguistics is nothing without a pragmatics (semiotic or political) to define the effectuation of the condition of possibility of language and the usage of linguistic elements. (p. 85)

The collective assemblage of enunciation is not like a deep structure or abstract system of language, but the condition of possibility.

[T]here is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized languages. There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a homogeneous linguistic community. . . . There is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language within a political multiplicity. (p. 7)

An assemblage is always articulating arrangements of bodies, discourses, affects, and other elements. Crucially, assemblages are always in process and are not stable structures; they are becomings. Deleuze and Guattari give the example of the feudal assemblage. On the one hand there would be “the interminglings of bodies defining feudalism: the body of the earth and the social body; the body of the overlord, vassal, and serf; the body of the knight and the horse and their new relation to the stirrup; the weapons and tools assuring a symbiosis of bodies.” On the other hand there would be “statements, expressions, the juridical regime of heraldry, all of the incorporeal transformations, in particular, oaths and their variables (the oath of obedience, but also the oath of love, etc.).” But then one would also have to consider the various territorializations of feudalism as well as the deterritorializations that cross those and “that carries away both the knight and his mount, statements and acts” (p. 89).

Though the concept of assemblage has been particularly effective in theorizing the heterogeneity of objects of study (that they consist of both material and immaterial aspects, though we should note that such a split is never absolute or final; the split is a distribution on a single plane of immanence), Ian Buchanan notes that it is important to emphasize that “the assemblage is purposeful, it is not simply a happenstance collocation of people, materials and actions, but the deliberate realization of a distinctive plan (abstract machine)” (Buchanan, 2015, p. 385). What this means is that assemblages are not neutral but there are inequalities in distribution of which one could take advantage (though that “one,” and the “purpose” in the quote above, do not necessarily refer to individuals or even humans). Assemblages stratify particular codings of language and organizations of bodies which further certain forms of agency and power. “This is how the assemblage works,” writes Buchanan, “It always benefits someone or something outside the assemblage itself” (p. 385).

The abstract machine, mentioned above as working in and through an assemblage, is immanent to the assemblage. Deleuze and Guattari’s work is not about forces manipulating from outside or above (transcendence), but forces always immanent to the situation at hand. Properly, however, immanence is never immanent to something: if it was, it would not be pure immanence. The assemblage, the abstract machine are in immanence (cf. Deleuze, 2001, p. 26; Deleuze & Guattari, 1991/1994, p. 47). Abstract machines are functions, diagrams, but they don’t represent the real, they produce it. As an example they point to Michel Foucault’s analysis of discipline and the panopticon (1977a). The diagram of discipline doesn’t pre-exist the prison (or the school or the workhouse or the hospital) but is immanent to these and produces them: “a single abstract machine for the prison and the school and the barracks and the hospital and the factory” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 67).

Cinema and Control

Deleuze’s “third period”—after his monographs and his work with Guattari—could be said to be about painting (1981/2003) and cinema (1983/1986, 1985/1989) (“images, on the face of it,” 1990/1995, p. 137). For D. N. Rodowick, the books are a creative reconfiguration of much of Deleuze’s earlier work: “How does a sustained meditation on film and film theory illuminate the relation between image and thought?” (1997, p. 5). But what Deleuze is interested in are not just images, and not meanings of images, but percepts and affects (on percepts, affect, and relation to concepts, see Deleuze & Guattari, 1991/1994). “Percepts aren’t perceptions, they’re packets of sensations and relations that live on independently of whoever experiences them. Affects aren’t feelings, they’re becomings that spill over beyond whoever lives through them (thereby becoming someone else)” (1990/1995, p. 137).

Deleuze refers to his cinema books as “a taxonomy, an attempt at the classification of images and signs” (1983/1986, p. xiv). Deleuze approaches cinema as philosophy; it is not an application of philosophical concepts to cinema, but the creation of concepts alongside cinema (as the translators, Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam put it, p. xiii). Drawing on the ideas of Bergson and Peirce, in the first cinema book he elaborates what he calls the movement-image, achieved through camera movement and montage, and its three variations: perception-image, affection-image, and action-image. “Cinema is not by its very nature narrative: it becomes narrative when it takes as its object the sensory-motor schema. That’s to say, someone on the screen perceives, feels, reacts” (Deleuze, 1990/1995, p. 123). Deleuze discerns a shift in cinema after World War II, and he writes that “people no longer really believed it was possible to react to situations. The postwar situation was beyond them” (p. 123). A new type of image achieved prominence, what he calls the time-image, “purely optical and aural situations, which give rise to completely novel ways of understanding and resisting” (p. 123). We see this in the rise of Italian Neorealism, the French New Wave, and the new American cinema.

Later, Deleuze contrasts cinema with television. Whereas cinema has an aesthetic function, television, which could have an aesthetic function, nonetheless “took on an essentially social function” (1990/1995, p. 71).

[T]elevision, despite significant efforts often made by great filmmakers, hasn’t sought its own specific identity in an aesthetic function but in a social function, a function of control and power, the dominance of the medium shot, which denies any exploration of perception, in the name of the professional eye. (p. 72)

He refers to this as “direct social engineering” (p. 74). Deleuze associates this form of television with the rise of a “new social power” after World War II, which, following Burroughs, he calls control. We see this sense of control in the uses of television for surveillance but also in its general way of operating: “television’s professional eye, the famous socially engineered eye through which the viewer is himself [sic] invited to look, produces an immediate and complacent perfection that is instantly controllable and controlled” (p. 74). Television, in this case, becomes exemplary of how Deleuze tends to treat communication more generally: as a form of control. “We don’t suffer these days from any lack of communication, but rather from all the forces making us say things when we’ve nothing much to say” (1990/1995, p. 137; see also p. 129). Specifically, this is communication in the era of control societies, and it is to this that he is referring when he writes the line (discussed earlier), “Maybe speech and communication have been corrupted. They’re thoroughly permeated by money—and not by accident but by their very nature” (p. 175).

Deleuze writes, “television is the form in which the new powers of ‘control’ become immediate and direct” (p. 75). Some of Deleuze’s final essays and interviews were spent explicating this new social power of control. Building off of Michel Foucault’s (1977a) influential ideas of the rise of disciplinary society in the 18th and 19th centuries, Deleuze maps the emergence of a new type of society, the society of control: “We’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication” (1990/1995, p. 174). Disciplinary society was based on institutions and spaces of confinement that produced subjectivity. But these institutions are breaking down so that they are no longer distinct but become continuous: school becomes continuing education, work happens not just in the office, medical treatment and surveillance occur outside the hospital, and the carceral eye extends well beyond the walls of the prison. Foucault had seen the beginnings of this process in what he had termed the swarming of disciplinary mechanisms (school begins to make inquiries about family life, and so on). With the breakdown of institutions, one could be at work, in the hospital, at school, and in jail all at the same time through devices of communication and control. In disciplinary society one is molded, but control is about continual modulation (p. 178). Control is marked by competition, marketing, debt, and a service economy rather than one of production. Individuals become dividuals (p. 180), consisting of data that circulates.


Critical commentary on the work of Gilles Deleuze, and on Deleuze and Guattari, and work inspired by both the approach to philosophy and the rich conceptual toolbox created in their work, crosses many disciplinary as well as geographic and linguistic boundaries. Most of Deleuze’s key works were not translated into English until the 1980s and 1990s, making English-language scholarship on this oeuvre a relatively recent endeavor that has been accelerating since Deleuze’s death in 1995. At this point, with the publication of two collections of shorter essays and letters, Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953–1974 (Deleuze, 2004), and Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995 (Deleuze, 2006), much of his work is now available in English (as well as other languages). Over the last decade multiple competing introductions to Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari have appeared, including various dictionaries, collections of key concepts, and reader’s guides to key texts (the latter primarily from Bloomsbury Academic and Edinburgh University Press) (see Further Reading). In addition, Edinburgh University Press has published a series of edited collections of essays, called Deleuze Connections, relating Deleuze to a variety of topics that indicate the breadth of Deleuze’s (and Deleuze and Guattari’s) influence: The Animal, The City, Design, Architecture, Education, Research Methodologies, Race, Law, Film, Sex, Ethics, The Body, Contemporary Art, The Postcolonial, New Technology, Performance, History, Queer Theory, Politics, and Philosophy. And Bloomsbury Academic has a series of books called Deleuze Encounters that address the influence of Deleuze on a number of fields and topics (Space, Feminist Theory, Media, Music, Philosophy, Theology, Political Theory, and Cinema). The field has also been served by a major journal, Deleuze and Guattari Studies, which sponsors annual international conferences. Apart from those mentioned above, key collections on Deleuze’s (and Deleuze and Guattari’s) thought include Alliez (1998), Ansell Pearson (1997), Boundas and Olkowski (1994), Genosko (2001), Hickey-Moody and Malins (2007), Kaufman and Heller (1998), Patton (1996), and Slack (2003).

Major critiques of Deleuze (and Deleuze and Guattari) have come from feminist scholars in the 1980s (see Grosz, 1994 for an overview and response), from Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont (1999) in their critique of postmodernism’s use of science, and from fellow philosophers Alain Badiou (1997/2000), Peter Hallward (2006), and Slavoj Žižek (2003). These latter critiques have been responded to by a number of Deleuzian scholars, notably Éric Alliez (2006), Gregg Lambert (2006), John Roffe (2012), and Daniel Smith (2012). See also commentaries by Buchanan (2008, esp. pp. 134–136), Holland (2013, esp. pp. 143–144), and Smith and Protevi (2018).

Cultural Studies

An important trajectory of Deleuze’s thought into the field of communication is through cultural studies (see Seigworth & Wise, 2000), but from at least two different sources (see Wiley and Wise, forthcoming). On the one hand, there is Australian cultural studies, which saw an intense circulation of ideas and intellectuals from Britain and Europe and back (or to North America) in the 1970s and 1980s. Rita Felski and Zoe Sofia write that “Such writers as Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, Irigaray, Foucault and Lyotard . . . were being read and discussed by sections of the Australian intelligentsia before becoming widely known in Britain and the US” (1996, p. 385). This was true of both the more traditional academic scene and the left political and intellectual culture that established independent journals and presses. Meaghan Morris, Stephen Muecke, and Paul Patton attended Deleuze’s lectures in Paris in the 1970s (Frow, 2005). Paul Foss and Meaghan Morris later translated pieces by Deleuze and Guattari for their volume, Language, Sexuality & Subversion (1978) for an independent press (Feral Publications). Ian Buchanan states that Australia is “probably the most Deleuzified of any country” given this early influence (2008, p. 134). A number of key Deleuze scholars come from or came through the Australian intellectual milieu, including Paul Patton, Ian Buchanan, Stephen Muecke, Andrew Murphie, and especially the feminist scholars Meaghan Morris, Rosi Braidotti, Elizabeth Grosz, Moira Gatens, Anna Hickey-Moody, Elspeth Probyn, and Claire Colebrook (See Lewis, 2004).

On the other hand, in the United States, Lawrence Grossberg began reading Anti-Oedipus with other scholars (Charles Stivale, Jennifer Slack, and Martin Allor) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in the late 1970s, and it influenced his work on popular culture and politics. Grossberg used Deleuze’s work to reconceptualize culture, especially the role of affect in formations of popular culture as well as the political project of cultural studies and its understanding of the formation of capitalism in terms of what Deleuze and Guattari state are “the generalized decoding of flows, the new massive deterritorialization” (quoted in 1992, p. 346). More recently Grossberg used Deleuze as part of a way of rethinking what he calls the “problem space of modernity,” and thus the conjuncture that cultural studies needs to address (2010a). He began corresponding with Meaghan Morris in the mid-1980s and invited her to be a visiting professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in the early 1990s, which influenced a number of cultural studies graduate students who attended her seminar (this author included). Brian Massumi has been another influential figure for a Deleuzian cultural studies in North America, being a translator of A Thousand Plateaus, author of the popular introductory guide to Deleuze and Guattari, A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and directly addressing the implications of a Deleuzian approach to cultural studies in his book Parables for the Virtual (2002). Massumi has also been influential in developing Deleuze’s concept of affect (as has Grossberg, each in different ways; see, e.g., Grossberg, 1992, 2010b; Massumi, 1996), which has been foundational to what has become known as the affect turn (see Gregg & Seigworth, 2010, for an important guide to this work and its key theorists including Australian scholars such as Melissa Gregg, Anna Gibbs, and Elspeth Probyn; see also the work of Erin Manning).

More generally, in Deleuze’s conceptualization, control is immanent to the structures of communication and the notion of control comports well with analyses of neoliberalism (see Hardt, 1998a, 1998b; Rose, 1999; and see Dean, 2003), which also draw extensively on Foucault’s work. More recently control has been taken up as one of the key theoretical frameworks for surveillance studies (after Orwell and Foucault); how surveillance becomes a means of control without the subject being aware of being controlled (see Elmer, 2003; Lyon, 2006). It also becomes a useful concept to theorize politics via the functioning of algorithms and what has been called algorithmic culture or Big Data. A challenge in this work is an effort to rethink ideas of privacy and subjectivity when, as Deleuze argued, control focuses on dividuals rather than individuals. See Jon Cheney-Lippold (2017) for one approach to this issue (see also Raunig, 2016, on the figure of the dividual). On reality TV and notions of control, see Jack Bratich’s essay “‘Nothing Is Left Alone for Too Long’” (2006). The control essays and Deleuze himself are also important for Hardt and Negri’s influential series of books, Empire (2001), Multitude (2005), Commonwealth (2009), Declaration (2012), and Assembly (2017), which seek to analyze and conceptualize the contemporary global political situation. Maurizio Lazzarato, in his yet-untranslated-into-English book, Les Révolutions du Capitalisme (2004), extended the discussion of the control society, incorporating the work of Gabriel Tarde, to encompass what he called noopolitics (see Lazzarato, 2006 for a translated chapter), which has influenced, for example, Robert Gehl’s Reverse Engineering Social Media (2014).

Media Studies

A number of aspects of media studies have taken up concepts from Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari. For a recent general approach that applies a Deleuzian conceptual toolbox to media more generally, see Taeul Harper and David Savat, Media After Deleuze (2016). And see also Marcia Landy’s entry on Gilles Deleuze in the Oxford Bibliography of Cinema and Media Studies (2016).

Within media studies, perhaps the most robust area is around cinema, where Deleuze’s cinema books have been widely read and studied. For introductions to Deleuze’s film theory, see Bogue (2003) and Rushton (2012). Edited collections such as Buchanan and MacCormack (2008), Martin-Jones and Brown (2012), and Rodowick (2010) give a sense of the field. Key figures and works include Gregory Flaxman (2000), Laura Marks (2000), David Martin-Jones (2006, 2011), Patricia Pisters (2003, 2012), D. N. Rodowick (1997), and Steven Shaviro (1993, 2010). Mark B. N. Hansen has a critical take on Deleuze’s approach in his New Philosophy for New Media (2004). But there are a number of other studies about Deleuze’s film theory in English and other languages (see De Gaetano, 1996; Hême de Lacotte, 2001; Kennedy, 2002; Marrati, 2012; Powell, 2005; and Zabunyan, 2007).

New media is another area where Deleuze has been influential, especially with the rise of the Internet where notions such as rhizome and control have especial purchase. These concepts are useful in thinking through the complexities of agency and the apparent freedom of new mobile communication and computing devices and networks. The edited collection by Mark Poster and David Savat (2009), Deleuze and New Technology, gives a sense of the breadth of how Deleuze has been taken up around these issues. Mark Poster’s earlier work on information and communication draws on Deleuze and Guattari (but less often than on other post-structuralist theorists such as Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard) (see, e.g., 1990); however, his later work engaged more directly in examining the notion of societies of control (2006). Pierre Lévy’s work on collective intelligence is influenced by Deleuze, especially his book Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age (1995, translated into English in 1998), which extended Deleuze’s concept of the virtual. Consider also the work of Italian Autonomist Marxist and media theorist Franco “Bifo” Bernardi, who wrote a biography of Guattari and draws extensively on Deleuze’s work in his writings (cf. Coté, 2011). J. Macgregor Wise’s Exploring Technology and Social Space (1997) uses Deleuze, and Deleuze and Guattari, to rethink how relations of technology and society were theorized, applying those ideas to an analysis of the Internet and discourses around cyberspace. This work was extended in collaboration with Jennifer Slack in their book Culture and Technology: A Primer (2005), which presented a cultural studies approach to questions of technology and culture drawing especially on the notion of assemblage as a way to move beyond the culture/technology binary.

Deleuze has been very influential in key attempts to theorize the idea of network. See Alexander Galloway’s Protocol (2004) and his collaboration with Eugene Thacker, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (2007); Tiziana Terranova’s Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age (2004), with its influential application of ideas from Maurizio Lazzarato on immaterial labor to cyberspace; Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s work (especially 2008 and 2013); Adrian Mackenzie’s Wirelessness (2010); and the collaboration of Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska (2012). See also Anna Hickey-Moody and Denise Wood on Deleuze and the online platform, Second Life (2008).

Assemblage has also become an important conceptual tool for communication research, especially in media studies, as a way of complicating analyses of media systems by considering media as arrangements of heterogeneous objects and discourses. Many scholars approach the idea of assemblage from the perspective of Actor–Network Theory and the work of Bruno Latour (e.g., 2007), who presents a variation on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept, or through the perhaps overly schematic, yet influential, development of the concept by Manuel DeLanda (2006 and 2016) (for discussions of the limitations of both approaches, see Buchanan, 2015 and Wise, 2011). The concept of assemblage has been useful in theorizing various forms of media, especially mobile media (see recent work by Hess, 2015; Rizzo, 2015; Salovaara, 2015; Thorburn, 2014; and Wise, 2012 & 2015). Like control, assemblage has been a transformative concept in surveillance studies (Bogard, 2006; Haggerty & Ericson, 2000) as well as in cultural studies approaches to technology (Slack & Wise, 2015).

Assemblage has also been significant for emphasizing the materiality of media (though not to the exclusion of the incorporeal), which leads us to what has been called the New Materialism, in which Deleuze’s ideas have been foundational. On New Materialism, see Coole and Frost (2010) and also Jane Bennett (2010). On materialist approaches to communication, see the collection by Packer and Wiley, Communication Matters (2011). See also work on the non-human (Grusin, 2015; Roffe & Stark, 2015) and post-human (Braidotti, 2013). In terms of materialist communication studies, we can also see Deleuze’s influence on the area of media archaeology, where Deleuze is central to the works of Jussi Parikka (see Huhtamo & Parikka, 2011; Parikka, 2010, 2016). And more recently, Eric Jenkins and Peter Zhang (2016) have been working to introduce Deleuzian perspectives into the area of Media Ecology, drawing connections between Deleuze and McLuhan (see also Zhang, 2012; Zhang & McLuhan, 2016).

Other Areas

References have filtered into a number of other areas of communication scholarship as well, for example rhetoric. Rhetoric has picked up on Deleuze and Guattari through the influence of cultural studies, on the one hand, and engagement with post-structuralist theory more generally, on the other.4 See Thomas Nakayama and Robert Krizek’s (1995) argument for the importance of Deleuze and Guattari for critical rhetoric. In addition, several scholars have used Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the minor to theorize minor rhetorics, for example, Melissa Deem (2002) Scott Varda (2013), and Peter Zhang (2011). Other rhetorical scholars who have engaged with Deleuze and/or Deleuze and Guattari include Michelle Ballif, Matthew Bost, Casey Boyle, Ron Greene, Joshua Gunn, Matthew May, John Mucklebauer, Jenny Rice, Victor Vitanza, and Bradford Vivian.

And while the focus of this article is on the work of Gilles Deleuze, his collaborator Félix Guattari is gaining increasing attention because of his ideas of asignifying semiotics and an emphasis on machines and media (see Alliez & Goffey, 2011; Grossberg & Behrenshausen, 2016; Guattari, 1996; and especially the works of Gary Genosko for an exploration of what Guattari offers the study of communication).

Primary Sources

Most of Deleuze’s books and essays have been translated into English (and a number of other languages) and are readily available. See References.


I wish to thank Gregory Seigworth and Stephen Wiley for their comments on a draft of this essay.

Further Reading

Those approaching Deleuze’s work for the first time might benefit from starting with Gilles Deleuze: From A to Z, a film made in dialogue with his collaborator and former student Claire Parnet (see Deleuze & Parnet, 1977/1987) that was broadcast after Deleuze’s death (Deleuze, 2012). There are by now a large number of introductions to Deleuze’s thought to choose from: Ronald Bogue’s Deleuze and Guattari (1989); Ian Buchanan’s Deleuzism (2000); Claire Colebrook’s series of introductions, Gilles Deleuze (2001), Understanding Deleuze (2003), and Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed (2006); Reidar Due’s Deleuze (2007); Philip Goodchild’s Deleuze and Guattari: An Introduction to the Politics of Desire (1997); Michael Hardt’s Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy (1993); John Marks’s Gilles Deleuze: Vitalism and Multiplicity (1998); Brian Massumi’s A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1992); Todd May’s Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction (2005); John Rajchman’s The Deleuze Connections (2000); Charles Stivale’s The Two-Fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari (1998); and a recent translation of two works by Francois Zourabichvili, Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event and The Vocabulary of Deleuze (2012). In addition, Francois Dosse’s (2010) dual biography of Deleuze and Guattari would be useful to put their work and collaboration in context. There are a number of Key Concepts and Dictionaries of Deleuzian thought which are welcome companions when reading Deleuze’s work: Dumoncel (2009), Parr (2005), Shields and Vallee (2012), Stivale (2011), Young (2013), and Zourabichvili (2012).

The collection of interviews, Negotiations, 1972–1990 (Deleuze, 1995) is useful to read alongside key texts. In addition, a number of volume-specific reading guides and introductions are available from both Edinburgh University Press and Bloomsbury Academic (see, e.g., Buchanan, 2008; Butler, 2016; Holland, 2013; Hughes, 2009; Somers-Hall, 2013; Williams, 2003, 2008).

In terms of approaching his collaborative work with Guattari, the best approach to A Thousand Plateaus is simply to plunge in and see where the encounter takes you. They claim that “[e]ach plateau can be read starting anywhere and can be related to any other plateau” (1980/1987, p. 2) and that “[t]o a certain extent, these plateaus may be read independently of one another, except the conclusion, which should be read at the end” (p. xx). Indeed, Brian Massumi writes that Deleuze once recommended that one read Capitalism and Schizophrenia “as you would listen to a record,” skipping over tracks to the ones you like (1992, p. 7).


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Žižek, S. (2003). Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences. New York, NY: Routledge.Find this resource:

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(1.) For Deleuze’s texts, I will first list the date of the original French text, and then the date of the English translation to which I refer.

(2.) On the idea of theory as a toolbox, see Deleuze and Foucault’s dialogue, “Intellectuals and Power” (Foucault, 1977b).

(3.) My thanks to Gregory Seigworth for this example.

(4.) My gratitude to Ron Greene and Matthew Bost for our correspondence on the matter of rhetoric and Deleuze.