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Deleuze Studies in Education

Summary and Keywords

Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995) was a French philosopher, who wrote about literature, art, cinema, other philosophers, capitalism, and schizophrenia. His wide-ranging oeuvre has begun to be considered seriously in education, because his ideas act as springboards for further elaboration and application in connected areas such as research, learning theory, early childhood education, curriculum and policy studies, and teacher education. Whilst it is impossible to track exactly how, when, and indeed if “Deleuze Studies in Education” will mature and progress to occupy a mainstream position in education, it is worth considering the influence of the French thinker as a mode of renewal and new thought. The questions that concern “Deleuze Studies in Education” therefore shift from positing thought from “the known” to “what can be done.”

Deleuze’s solo work acts a basis for new thinking in the philosophy of education. His series of philosophical studies track and develop a new philosophy, that redraws Western concepts of the subject, knowledge, learning, and thought. The intent of this new philosophy is to open up fixed Western ideas to their international and historical counterparts and to produce a way of thinking that occupies a middle ground, disconnected from the dominant, intellectual empire building that has predominantly hailed from the West.

Deleuze’s writing with the French intellectual activist, Félix Guattari (1930–1992), takes on a distinct shift and urgency away from the rewriting of the Western philosophical tradition until their last joint work called: “What is Philosophy?” and which presents a new philosophy that is sketched out in the second half of this book, and which deploys affect, percepts, concepts, and forms and functions, to move away from the ultimate horror of the present situation as they saw it: “commercial professional training.” “Deleuze Studies in Education” is deepened and reinvented through their dual work and is transformed into a mode of critical capitalist and environmental studies, which adds historical/subjective valence to how one understands current shifts in educational practice.

Lastly, the specific oeuvre of Félix Guattari, which is often less investigated and focused upon in education than Deleuze, serves as a pressing and ethical engagement with theory that can be readily applied to issues such as environmental concerns, inequality, power, and activism. Guattari’s ideas are present as a lasting aspect of “Deleuze Studies in Education” because they demonstrate many of the links to practice that Deleuze theorized throughout his philosophy.

Keywords: Deleuze, Guattari, philosophy of education, capitalism, schizophrenia, activism

Deleuze Studies

The reason that there is a field of research called “Deleuze Studies” is because of the 1972 breakthrough text, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, which Deleuze wrote with the radical theorist and antipsychiatrist, Félix Guattari. This book made both authors famous, if not (in)famous, and has led to the progressive investigation of the rest of their work in order to explain just what made this complex, philosophical, and political work so successful. Certainly, the publication of Anti-Oedipus capitalized upon and was part of the post-May ’68 movement in France that resulted in the setup of the University of Vincennes, which latterly moved to Saint-Denis, and where Deleuze worked as a Professor of Philosophy with Michel Foucault, Hélène Cixous, Alain Badiou, François Chatelet, and others. One cannot underestimate how important and influential this scholarly, experimental, and politically intense period of French intellectual life was on Deleuze and Guattari. However, the reason that “Deleuze Studies” continues to grow, and that the influence of many others who wrote at the same time progressively diminishes, lies in the fundamentally open, connective, and emergent nature of the concepts that they invented. Deleuze and Guattari wrote against the popular fashions of the day, questioned concepts from both the right and the left of politics, and were at the vanguard of creative, critical, and integrated thought.

Deleuze’s and Guattari’s writing was heavily criticized during their lifetimes, and their work has continued to garner severe criticism, as well as positive approbation and appropriation. “Deleuze Studies” hence signifies first reading and understanding their oeuvres, navigating through the minefield of interpretations and commentaries on their ideas, and lastly applying their concepts in a manner befitting to their philosophical intent and extensive knowledge field. Deleuze’s “conceptual toolbox” is easily misunderstood, and readily misapplied. Even though Deleuze offered this phrase as an explanation about what they are trying to achieve, i.e., literally a box of useful conceptual tools, their work is deliberately coded, so that superficial, politically self-interested, or exploitative uses of the ideas are hard to extract. Extreme care has therefore to be taken before the skill of Deleuzian application can be successfully and subtly achieved, which obviates the potential for heavy-handedness and domination of theory over empirical practice, or vice versa, which could quash either as inferior and less effective, or as being less likely to yield enhanced results. As Elizabeth A. St. Pierre (2016) has stated: “In the name of practice, in the leap to application, I think we pay short shrift to the theoretical and conceptual systems in which various empiricisms are thinkable” (p. 111). It is important to note that even though Deleuze was a French philosopher, who wrote in the French (rationalist) tradition, he performed a study of Hume’s empiricism, called his own philosophy “transcendental empiricism” (Deleuze, 1994), and referred positively to pragmatic philosophers such as Charles Peirce and William James (Bowden, Bignall, & Patton, 2015).

Hence, “Deleuze Studies” importantly lies in between constructing theory and understanding empirical practice. On one side of “Deleuze Studies” is the rationalist, continental tradition in philosophy, which could be aligned with the development of robust theory in education. On the other side of the equation of “Deleuze Studies” in education is the empirical element in any investigation, which could be resolved as practice. One way to understand “Deleuze Studies” in education is as a “zigzagging” (Semetsky, 2004) between theory and practice, and as a continual questioning of the assumptions, introjections, and conflations in both spheres that could lead to narrow, repetitive, or clichéd thought. Whilst “Deleuze Studies” lies in this significant “in-between” space, it is not an infinite regression into ever-decreasing circles of relativity, confusion, or vagueness. Rather, “Deleuze Studies” presents a crossroads, it provides encounters between subject-specific matters and enhances interdisciplinary work that is clear, focused, and fully integrative. Deleuze himself provides a guide as to how to do this, as he includes numerous references in his work to literature, science, history, geography, art, cinema, linguistics, psychoanalysis, and economics, as well as his core concern of philosophy. One of the keys to understanding how “Deleuze Studies” works in education is progressing through and practicing the skill of using multiple knowledge fields in order to produce genuinely original, critical, and creative thought.

Deleuze and the Philosophy of Education

Whilst references to the pragmatic and empiricist traditions exist in Deleuze’s oeuvre, it cannot be said they are the overriding or definitional aspects of his philosophy. Attempts to make a definite link between Deleuze and John Dewey have been made (Semetsky, 2003), that claim as evidence his references to philosophy as constructivism (Semetsky, 2003), and their shared interests in becoming, knowledge construction, subjectivity, and learning. However, Deleuze’s philosophy does not lend itself to a straightforward theory of child development, or simply to child-centered education, due to the simultaneous decentering of the adult and child subjects in his work, and the elements of naturalism that he applies. Further, the resultant politics of democratic neoliberalism of Dewey does not appear so neatly or compellingly in Deleuze. In order to (re)construct Deleuze’s philosophy of education, it is cogent to follow the most dominant influences that have guided his philosophical direction and to apply them to/in education.


Deleuze (1992, 2001) wrote two books about Benedict de Spinoza, and in many ways, “Deleuze Studies in Education” is fundamentally orientated through the themes of these books, i.e., “expressionism” and “the practical.” Expressionism is important to Deleuze’s philosophy of education in that it is about working with and extending affect as a robust means to enhance expression. This aspect of Deleuze’s philosophy of education has been discussed under the rubric of “affective literacy” (Cole, 2008), which points to literacy development along the lines of working with and through affect in the educative and worldly context. Parallel to the concern for expressionism in education, the practical aspect of Spinoza’s philosophy is similarly of prime importance, as has been mentioned above in terms of education, as a “practice and hence learning theory.” Spinoza’s philosophy alludes to bodily affect and to the reciprocating and colliding processes of “affecting and being affected.” In Spinoza’s terms, these affects are aspects of the modulation of substance that is derived from a monist view of the world that enhances and is connected to immanence (Wilson, 2007).

Deleuze is not a straightforward Spinozist. Whilst writing about and analyzing the philosophical system of Spinoza in depth, he did not accept the way in which Spinozian substance is tied to God. Rather, one could argue à la Rosi Braidotti (2013) that the substance monism that we may derive from the philosophy of Deleuze is a positive ethical task to perform in the world; it requires that we work with and to enhance affect, not as an invisible, eternal power, but as something very real and alive in learning and as a foundational aspect of pedagogy as the establishment and maintenance of relations. In Deleuzian terms, pedagogy is about developing what he called in conjunction with Guattari the “plane of immanence” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988), which is a “relational placeholder” and “synthesizer” for the concepts, ideas, and knowledge that the educator is working with in the moment. The construction of the plane of immanence is an ethical task in education, and, in contrast to constructivism, does not produce a theory of the subject, but rather can be understood as working with flows of energy, power, relations, and thought in a temporal dimension. Deleuze’s Spinozism lends itself to the two most important aspects of/in learning through the plane of immanence as he saw them: (1) As a concern in and of the unconscious. In education, this means having an intimate awareness of and concern with what has gone before and imagined in terms of learning, and this is a means of questioning the prepersonal affects that may be flowing through any context. (2) As an engagement with nature. In Deleuzian terms, this is more than a perspectival scientific or objective naturalism, but extends to understanding, viewing, and expressing nature as an integral part of any analysis or affect. Nature lends itself to ethics in these terms, or to the development of the consciousness of ecologies that includes human proliferation, not as an unquestionable or self-serving expression of human control and power, but as a part of the very fabric of thought. For Deleuze, the incorporation of Spinozian ethics into his philosophy, includes an important engagement with and thinking through of the power of nature as “pantheism,” which can lead to the development of “univocity” in expression (Kerslake, 2009) or in educational terms, as a far-reaching and affirmative command of teaching and learning matters.


Deleuze’s Spinozism is strengthened and enhanced through his Bergsonism (Deleuze, 1991). However, Bergson’s philosophy is not identical to Spinoza’s, and through the Deleuzian intellectual synthesis, the combined effect of Spinoza and Bergson is to refocus key aspects of the resultant philosophy to open up different ways to look at both. For example, the emphasis on intuition from Bergson acts as a reorientation to counter the sad passions in Spinoza from the direct expression of the simple joy of nature to the integrated and sophisticated notion of the “élan vital” (Johnston, 2004). Bergson worked in the mode of an intensified philosophy of science, and his vitalism functions on the level of identifying and working with vital, life-affirming elements in time, which he called durée, and reconsidering memory, matter, free will, and evolution on these terms. While vitalism has largely been discredited and forgotten as a physical or biological theory of reality, as a Deleuzian supplement to the ethical affect theory that one might appropriate from Spinoza, Bergson’s vitalism has important consequences for the philosophy of education from Deleuze.

As a counter to the possible homogenizing, top-down learning effects of following a substance monism from Spinoza, Deleuze appropriates and works with a theory of multiplicities from Bergson. Multiplicities set up undulating forms of differentiation, differentiating difference in time as he expresses it (Deleuze, 1994), which means one is drawn ever further into the “singularities” of thoughts or into the “virtual realm,” again which Deleuze takes from Bergson (Deleuze, 1991). Therefore, there is the fundamental movement in Deleuzian thought from the Spinozian modulation of affect, which acts to connect and relate things together, often in terms of nature and power, to Bergsonian multiplicities, which sets objects into motion as (multiple) groups. In terms of the philosophy of education, the introduction of the theory of multiplicities could be seen to be an enhancement to interdisciplinary work, or as understanding how multiple knowledge fields can be integrated to solve problems, and to open up learning to/in the world. Further, the theory of multiplicities has been applied to the field of literacy study as Multiple Literacies Theory or MLT (Masny & Cole, 2009), which transforms the learning of literacy from a monolingual, regulated practice, dominated by one language such as English, error correction, and the avoidance of illiteracy, to the recognition that literacy development depends upon the often complicated and nonlinear sequestration of variously disparate and contradictory elements to make sense of the world. For example, young people are frequently subject to many languages, codes, and values, as well as to different modes of communication, through access to the World Wide Web and the media. Contemporary educational mores can be deeply buried beneath the panoply of resources and materials that global societies are exposed to, the application of the theory of multiplicities from Bergson acts to help with the critical and distinguishing work that has to be done, to make sense of the noisy and unrelenting avalanche of currently available information. Further, the use of the élan vital, intuition, and durée set up a thinking practice away from the mechanistic and machine consequences of working in an educational environment frequently dominated by the applications of computerized, digitally mediated thought. On the contrary, Bergsonian vitalism leads to a realm of educational thought preoccupied by profound silence, reflection, and the renewal of life and/in matter (Bergson, 1920).


The third indisputable and major influence on Deleuze’s philosophy, one that combines to produce a consequent philosophy of education with the influences of Spinoza and Bergson, comes from the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Deleuze’s (1983) early Nietzsche and Philosophy is often cited as being his intellectual starting point in turning away from Hegelian dialectics and the domination of nature by the negative. In contrast to Heidegger, who sought the lost being of the Greeks in “Dasein” (Heidegger, 1962) or as a special category of presence, Deleuze follows Nietzsche’s reflections on the weak, herdlike constitution of modern man, but to a different solution. Instead of founding a metaphysics on what we have lost since the Greeks, or in the establishment of man’s dominion over nature and himself through spirit as Aufhebung (Hegel, 1977) à la Hegel, Deleuze follows Nietzsche’s logic to a different place, and one that builds upon Nietzsche’s core concerns of “the will to power,” “the eternal return,” and “the übermensch,” to start his critical philosophy of/in difference. Deleuze, following Nietzsche, argues for a “new image of thought,” which is a serious, sustained, and possibly convoluted questioning process, that thoroughly uncovers the prejudices, normative values, conflations, and misunderstanding that may have been hidden in the ways in which thought has been communicated and transmitted in the past. This difficult and all-consuming job of the thinker, which includes a critique of representation (Deleuze, 1983), takes us to the heart of “Deleuze Studies in Education,” which is an enhanced and profound critical thinking project.

Nietzsche’s questioning of the history of Western thought and the consequences for modern man drove him to a state of heightened agitation (Nietzsche, 1968). Deleuze controlled this sensation through his multifarious thinking projects, and the ability to keep the Nietzschean insights focused through different applications, such as in his examinations of art, literature, and cinema (Deleuze, 2007). In terms of the philosophy of education that one derives from Deleuze, the Nietzschean concepts of “active” and “reactive” forces, is a neat introduction to understand the mode of education that is being adduced. In every educational context, there could said to be a diagram of forces (Cole, 2014b) that are working on the modes of learning, the content of learning, and the chosen pedagogy. These forces in any particular context may be cultural, governmental, societal, religious, global (i.e., due to globalization), and local. Reactive forces tend to set up narrow oscillations within the field of force, active forces work in the opposite manner, to extend and branch out, to make new connections, and to work outwards from the context and in time. Nietzsche was adamant that education was not a herd activity (Nietzsche, 1872), which is at odds with the contemporary democratic values of “education for all” and the “rights” discourses with respect to education. The possibility here is to achieve truly singular educative practices, with full autonomy being handed to teachers, schools, and communities, and one that challenges any sense of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education. A Deleuzian philosophy of education, which relies on insights from Spinoza, Bergson, and Nietzsche amongst others, sets up a restless and insistent call to educators and asks them to become metaphysicians of their own practice.

Deleuze and Guattari: Capitalism, Schizophrenia, and Education

Deleuze’s solo work acts as a powerful call to arms for the philosophy of education; its skillful application to educational theory and practice would enhance and deepen understanding in both fields. Further, his joint work with the French antipsychiatric activist Félix Guattari adds another level, focus, and mode of insistency to the ideas. Deleuze and Guattari wrote four books together, but for the purposes of this entry, it is worth concentrating on their two most prominent works, which investigated Capitalism and Schizophrenia.


Deleuze and Guattari’s first collaboration, born in the aftermath of the May ’68 student uprising in Paris, was an instant success and best seller. The idea of the book is to fuse Freud with Marx, yet to subject both to a severe synthetic rearrangement and to reinvent Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxian social theory through a new and mangled sieve. While AntiOedipus sits adroitly in terms of being part of 20th-century avant-garde critiques of capitalism and the bourgeois family, the power of the analysis, and the startling conclusions that AntiOedipus reaches, still resonate in today’s 21st-century world of the Anthropocene, enhanced globalization through digital functioning, and the “one-world” domination of capitalism and the (progressively online and individualized) media. The bare kernel of AntiOedipus is the insight that we are processed, controlled, categorized, and oppressed through desire (Deleuze & Guattari, 1984). In essence, what we want defines us, but these wants are flowing through us, and we become wrapped up in them as a result; we become “desiring-machines” that construct and are constructed by conflicting realities and illusions, that often serve unknown and unknowable purposes (on the local level), and that can make us vulnerable, herdlike, afraid, and conformed. Desire makes us easier to exploit and manipulate, yet the system that we find ourselves in augments desire as the very heart of its functioning (ibid.) according to AntiOedipus.

Deleuze (1994) had called his philosophy in Difference and Repetition, “transcendental empiricism,” in and through which he builds a metaphysics of difference. In AntiOedipus, their approach is called “transcendental materialism,” which holds onto the Kantian, transcendental aspect of the thesis, but attempts to produce a “critique of pure desire.” Desire is the operant modus of capitalism, and it cannot be suppressed or denied according to Deleuze and Guattari; rather, all that we can do is to accelerate the material flows, we can recognize the capital vectors, and we can act on them (for example, in terms of research). Deleuze and Guattari (1984) call this integrated task “schizoanalysis.” Schizoanalysis is a reversal of psychoanalysis, in that it is a material practice designed to encourage the following of the flows, interruptions, and breaks that can lead towards schizophrenia, and not to over analyze, repress, mollify, or try to control these ever-present and often overwhelming flows of desire. How exactly schizoanalysis works as a universal practice is unclear, because every subjective tendency towards schizophrenia has to be treated separately, and they can potentially branch off in innumerable directions. In terms of education, it is worth performing a brief schizoanalysis of teaching and learning, to understand where this movement in thought takes us.

If we take secondary teacher education in Australia as our example for schizoanalysis, one can immediately discern the various, intermingling schizoanalytical aspects of the current practice. Successive governments have sought to intervene with respect to teacher education, and have lauded and funded research into “teacher quality” discourses, “evidence-based practice,” national testing regimes, and they have imposed multiple “graduate attribute” matrices on the courses of teacher education faculties (Townsend & MacBeath, 2011). This increased and increasing external pressure on teacher education performance is contradicted by the increasing financial stress that preservice students experience as they enter the teacher education courses. Students have to go into debt to study in Australia, and even though this debt is relatively mild as compared to some developed countries (Capa, 2003), it still means that most students have to hold down jobs at the same time as studying to become teachers. This schizophrenic situation will affect different students differently, the point here is that the desire of the students is attacked, their very motivation to teach is put under pressure from the contradictory demands of financial capitalism. One could argue that the current situation “tests the mettle” of preservice students, yet given the relatively low pay of beginning teachers as an endpoint of the courses and the current scarcity of good teaching jobs, many decide that the stress of studying to become a teacher is just not worth it.

This type of schizoanalytic analysis from AntiOedipus could be performed on any teaching and learning situation. The point of the analysis is to fully understand how subjectivity is being molded and transformed by the processes that are flowing through it. Deleuze and Guattari (1984) speak of the “body-without-organs” as an extreme result of the internal flows of schizophrenia, which can lock the body up in contradiction and can deny it the ability to function on the social level. AntiOedpius also introduces the concept of “territory” as part of its analysis, and this sets up the combined processes of deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Deterritorialization comes after a territory has been recognized for takeover and defines the way in which capitalism and reengineers territory as “property” and “code,” giving it an economic value and selling it on a market. More recently, deterritorialization has become synonymous with the processes of globalization, which works on many levels to extend and abstract the local into the global. Hence, premodern territories and their associated cultures, products, and relations are stripped of their specificity and made available to the global market. Reterritorialization happens afterwards, when the original ties to the land have been cut and the state or controlling power in the area can identify the land in some way that suits its purposes (as happened, for example, during the history of colonialization). Education plays an integral part in these territorial processes, as the psychic and affective parts of the takeover of local power bases, such as tribal and clan dominions, are as important as the actual takeover of territory. Even when governments take heed of their colonial past, and try to make amends by giving back territory to indigenous owners, the first peoples of the land are often left in a state of dispossession and vacuity (Prentice, 2015). This is because their original connection to the land has been cut through colonialization (which was an integral part of capitalism), and the capitalist state is still functioning in their territory, even if the state now apologizes for past wrongdoings. Deleuze and Guattari (1984) speak about the coding mechanisms that accompany the takeover of territory, and how everything in the realm of capitalism is coded and recoded to make capital flow. For example, as capitalist rearrangement, economic schemes may be promoted in the lands that are given back to indigenous owners, and, simultaneously, rural education is funded to encourage indigenous children to work in these schemes. In short, capitalism works on every level, from unconscious, affective desires to highly sophisticated, digitally augmented, global techno-architecture. The point of AntiOedipus is to try and understand this combined and imbricated system and to look for points of resistance to it.

A Thousand Plateaus

AntiOedipus was a shockingly brilliant analysis of how capitalism works, in their follow-up collaborative piece, Deleuze and Guattari (1988) did not hold back, but in many ways pushed the analysis further. A Thousand Plateaus is a series of interconnected essays that sketch out the nonlinear history of capitalism and schizophrenia in more depth than AntiOedipus. At the beginning of the plateaus, they introduce “the rhizome” as the organizing principle of the book, which acts throughout to complicate human–nonhuman and ecological relationships and which are set out through and by the analysis. The rhizome is literally “vegetal thought” and could be seen as the culmination of Deleuze’s search for a “new image of thought,” which he began in the 1960s with his philosophical studies and the invention of a metaphysics of difference. The transcendental aspect of the thesis in AntiOedipus has been eradicated in A Thousand Plateaus, and in the place of critique are plateaus, which are deliberately constructed “planes of immanence,” dated and placed in and as part of global intellectual history, and fully open to communicate with one another. While it is impossible to cover every aspect of the plateaus, it is worth mentioning several of the most salient features of the plateaus and how they have been taken up in and through education.

The rhizome from A Thousand Plateaus has been put to salient uses in education as a means to interrupt the human-only framing that has dominated educational thought in the past (Cole & Hager, 2010). In AntiOedipus, the natural world becomes mashed up as and in the overriding synthesis that has been initiated by capitalism and it processes. In A Thousand Plateaus a more serious ethnology is attempted, but not with the point of objectifying and distancing ourselves from animals (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988). Rather, the “umwelt” of animals is considered, as part of the semiotic fabric and ways in which real thought happens in the world. The ethnological and rhizomatic aspects of A Thousand Plateaus have been gaining traction recently in terms of posthumanism, the new materialisms, and the remnants of the cyborg discourses from the 1980s (Taylor & Hughes, 2016). While these interlocking aspects of analysis are fascinating in their own rights, the combined result in education is to question the human subject as the sovereign and exceptional recipient of learning, reason, and the “fruits of knowledge.” In effect, the rhizome and the fields of study and analysis that have been developing as a result help us to understand and explore ecological issues with humans and nonhumans as an integral part of what is happening, or through a “flat ontology” (Müller & Schurr, 2016). In education, every knowledge field and every learning activity may be thoroughly questioned from this perspective, which could lead to a new rhizomatic curriculum and mode of pedagogy, more sensitive to integral ecological concerns.

A Thousand Plateaus works not only from the perspective of integrating the nonhuman back into thought. The book is also full of ways to reinvigorating groups, movements, attitudes, and peoples that may have been sidelined or subjugated through the history of capitalism and in the development of schizophrenia. For example, the chapter dated 1227 and named, “Treatise on Nomadology: The War Machine,” looks to reassess and reinsert the nomadic into the ways in which one understands the development of Western civilization. The date 1227 is chosen as it was the date that Genghis Khan died, the founder of the Mongol Empire. The Mongols were the most formidable nomadic invaders from the East, who threatened the stability and existence of the European nations and were engaged in a successful mode of nomadic warfare that at its height (1279) constructed the largest continuous land empire in history. Deleuze and Guattari use the term nomadology to understand how these historical events have translated into powerful relationships, prejudices, imaginings, laws, and science. In education, the nomadology is played out through the ways in which curriculum, policy, learning, and pedagogy often set and enact a sedentary agenda; in educational research, nomadology opens up new modes of fluid analysis, beyond fixed and static categories and boundaries (Coleman & Ringrose, 2013). In short, nomadology divests a situational educational analysis of its power-related modes of entrapment and control, and encourages open-ended, immanent, rhizomatic thought processes, that work with, as Deleuze and Guattari express it, the “machinic phylum” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, pp. 351–423), which joins material processes through an artisanal approach to life.

The concepts of “assemblage” and the field of semiotics are also essential to understand how A Thousand Plateaus works and how the mode of “immanent materialism” that the book delivers has been taken up in education (Cole, 2014a). The assemblage is the ontological concept that Deleuze and Guattari (1988) deploy to arrest any slide into atomized or subjugated units. Rather, everything is already a complex arrangement of things (there is no essential unit), and the analysis is therefore given scope to explore these arrangements. Assemblage has had particular usage and prominence in educational research and analysis, as it seems to be able to capture the moving, variable, power-infused relationships that are developed in and through education. Assemblage is a translation from the French “agencement,” which has the connotation of an “arrangement” and does not give the English impression of a meeting. Research in the field of educational feminist poststructuralism has specifically shown how the “assemblage” can help to explain gendered and power-related matters, where groups are formed and realized according to sometimes momentary, mediated, often sexualized relations (Ringrose, 2011). Assemblages are born and die parallel but related to formal arrangements in education, where groups are streamed, ranked, and categorized according to ability, age, and in terms of the schools they attend, as an index of wealth. The application of assemblage in educational research helps uncover how new and variant groups emerge that are resistant to top-down categorization and crossover in terms of their characteristics. The formation of assemblages importantly relates to and is a part of the expressive repertoires and modes of enunciation of groups, which Deleuze and Guattari (1988, pp. 111–149) understand through their analysis of semiotics.

Every plateau constitutes a “regime of signs” or material plane of intensity, which has to be constructed, yet is at the same time irrevocably connected to the matter that determines it. Schools, universities, and all places of learning have their own regimes of signs that set up modes of subjectification and double articulations about what learning means and what it doesn’t mean. Deleuze and Guattari (1988) pay particular attention to what escapes direct representation in the regimes of signs, such as the “order-words,” “indirect discourse,” and incorporeal transformations, which sit in between direct expression and define the ways in which mutation, interrelation, and factors besides linguistic comprehension and semantics can determine particular meanings and modes of communication. In education, this emphasis from A Thousand Plateaus requires comprehension of body language, atmosphere, how becoming, politics, and collectivity plays out, and how institutionalization happens, often to produce a mode of “learnt helplessness,” requiring the necessity of ever more detail in the transmission of instruction and the evacuation of independent thought.

Guattari and Educational Change

Félix Guattari worked alongside and separately to Gilles Deleuze during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. While Deleuze was a professor of philosophy and remained quite stationary in Paris, Guattari was employed at La Borde psychiatric clinic outside of Paris and travelled extensively to countries such as Japan, Canada, and Brazil in support of radical groups and ideas that challenged mainstream capitalist hegemony. Guattari was an activist who wanted to see the practical results of theorizing and was particularly concerned with how Integrated World Capitalism (IWC) was becoming an unassailable force in world history and how the concomitant effects of conformism and environmental degradation in the biosphere were accelerating under the potentially one world of globalized capitalism. The notion of semiotics was transformed in Guattari’s work into “a-signifying semiotics,” which attended to nonmeanings, part signs, and the whole infrastructure of signals that sits beneath and under signs. Guattari’s reasons for focusing on “a-signifying semiotics” was that this is where capitalism is most effective in transmitting its messages, i.e., beneath rational and wholly formed signs, and alongside the ways in which subjectivity is conformed and processed through desire (Genosko, 2008).

Guattari believed that change for the better was possible. His solo ideas add a level of healing, creativity, and hope to the oeuvre of Deleuze, and to their joint productions. For example, his idea of “transversality” is steeped in the kinds of communication practices that one finds in, for example, dance, performance art, and music. In dance, for example, one can of course directly interpret the choreography and try to explain what it means through the gestures, rhythms, and nuances that the dance shows us. However, there is according to Guattari always the transversal level in the dance, which aligns more properly with the bodily affects of the dancers and sits comfortably as our preconscious reactions to the dance. The Japanese tradition of butoh is a particularly striking example of a dance that works with silence and the “in-between” of nuanced bodily movement, and therefore could be said to achieve the transversality that Guattari is striving for.

Guattari’s ideas fit well with open, alternative, experimental approaches to education. Psychiatric practice at La Borde was orchestrated by the owner, Jean Oury, who was in turn highly influenced by the French founder of the “Modern School Movement,” Célestin Freinet (1994) amongst others. The educational practice of Freinet and the psychiatric practice at La Borde had in common the idea that change only happens when full institutional change is in operation. This plan for reform means thinking differently at every level, swapping institutional roles regularly, and in keeping group records of what happens due to the reform agenda and explaining why it happens. Guattari theorized the way in which one understands how to think differently as the practice of cartography, which is a mode of conceptual mapping, involving the four interrelated zones of the unconscious, as he describes them: (1) the existential zone, where one stands; (2) social experience, involving material and energetic flows; (3) ideas, which constitute the conscious universe; and (4) the machinic phylum, or the rhythmic insistency of the forces of life (Guattari, 2013). Guattari wanted to see cartography used to aid the treatment of schizophrenia, to enhance learning outside of capitalist control, as well as being a foundation for the achievement of enhanced environmental concerns, that he described as being sabotaged by the global control of subjectivity by the mass media (Guattari, 2000). He saw the social and communal links between us as being progressively broken and denigrated in the contemporary situation under capitalism, and this breakdown in relations with and in the socius is mirrored in our evacuation from relating to nature and in the fragmentation of our psyches. Guattari’s method is to attend to these breakages and to produce diagrams that show how they can be reconfigured.

Critical Analysis of “Deleuze Studies in Education”

“Deleuze Studies in Education” has been having an impact in areas such as qualitative educational research (Gale, 2010; MacLure, 2013), subject areas, for example, as the study and practice of the arts (Springgay, Irwin, Leggo, & Gouzouasis, 2008) and literacy studies (Masny & Cole, 2009), early childhood education (Olsson, 2009), and as a means to analyze areas that relate to curriculum studies, youth studies (Hickey-Moody, 2013), and organizational studies in education (Thompson & Cook, 2014). The combined oeuvre of the single-authored works of Gilles Deleuze, the dual-authored writing of Deleuze and Guattari, and the solo productions of Félix Guattari add up to a rich resource and thorough set of conceptual notions that add creativity and depth to our understandings in and of education. Ultimately, the application and use of “Deleuze Studies in Education” comes down to how and why one would want to apply their work. Deleuzian philosophy alone has a depth and rigor to it, Guattarian theory by itself is hopeful and optimistic, in an epoch dominated by global capitalist mores: however, it is in use of their combined works that perhaps the greatest possibilities and dangers lie for education.

The thesis of AntiOedipus crudely expressed is that if we accelerate the current forces of capitalism that are flowing through us and because of us enough, the utter madness and schizophrenic absurdities of the situation will be exposed, and the socius will begin to steer a new course, away from these very capitalist excesses. Whether or not we arrive at a new mode of communism or agrarian, community-based utopia is not clear, but utopic teleology is definitely part of the positive task of schizoanalysis in AntiOedipus (Deleuze & Guattari, 1984). In A Thousand Plateaus, the nonlinear history, fully entwined with and by the rhizome, does not point to the logical, accelerated disintegration of capitalist organization due to its schizophrenic underbelly. Rather, one can imagine abandoned human cities, overgrown with vegetation and overrun by animals, as pictured by recent Japanese manga cartoons, the result of some future manmade environmental disaster causing human extinction. The choice and critical conclusion for education is clear if somewhat unsavory, either accelerate the mechanisms of capitalism until they explode or wait until the extinction of the human race through nonlinear, increasingly global, and catastrophic events.

Further Reading

Cole, D. R. (2011). Educational lifeforms: Deleuzian teaching and learning practice. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.Find this resource:

    Dahlberg, G., & Moss, P. (2005). Ethics and politics in early childhood education. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

      Davies, B. (2014). Listening to children: Being and becoming. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

        Davies, B., & Gannon, S. (Eds.). (2009). Pedagogical encounters. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

          Masny, D. (Ed.). (2013). Cartographies of becoming in education: A Deleuze-Guattari perspective. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.Find this resource:

            Olsson, L. M. (2009). Movement and experimentation in young children’s learning: Deleuze and Guattari in early childhood. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

              Roy, K. (2003). Teachers in nomadic spaces: Deleuze and curriculum. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

                Semetsky, I., & Masny, D. (Eds.). (2013). Deleuze and education. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Find this resource:

                  Taguchi, H. L. (2009). Going beyond the theory/practice divide in early childhood education. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

                    Wallin, J. (2010). A Deleuzian approach to curriculum: Essays on a pedagogical life. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:


                      Bergson, H. (1920). Mind-energy (H. Wildon Carr, Trans.). London: Macmillan. Translation of L’energie spirituelle.Find this resource:

                        Braidotti, R. (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity.Find this resource:

                          Bowden, S., Bignall, S., & Patton, P. (Eds.). (2015). Deleuze and pragmatism. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

                            Capa (Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations Incorporated). (2003). The social and economic impact of student debt. Sydney, Australia. Online report available at this resource:

                              Cole, D. R. (2008). Explorations of affective literacy amongst middle school English teachers. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 16(3), 44–56.Find this resource:

                                Cole, D. R. (2014a). Capitalised education: An immanent materialist account of Kate Middleton. Winchester, U.K.: Zero Books.Find this resource:

                                  Cole, D. R. (2014b). Strange assemblage. PORTAL: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 11(2).Find this resource:

                                    Cole, D. R., & Hager, P. (2010). Learning-practice: The ghosts in the education machine. Education Inquiry, 1(1), 21–40.Find this resource:

                                      Coleman, R., & Ringrose, J. (Eds.). (2013). Deleuze and research methodologies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Find this resource:

                                        Deleuze, G. (1983). Nietzsche and philosophy (H. Tomlinson, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press.Find this resource:

                                          Deleuze, G. (1991). Bergsonism (H. Tomlinson & B. Habberjam, Trans.). New York: Zone Books.Find this resource:

                                            Deleuze, G. (1992). Expressionism in philosophy: Spinoza (M. Joughin, Trans.). New York: Zone Books.Find this resource:

                                              Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference & repetition (P. Patton, Trans.). London: Athlone Press.Find this resource:

                                                Deleuze, G. (2001). Spinoza: Practical philosophy (R. Hurley, Trans.). San Francisco: City Lights Publishers.Find this resource:

                                                  Deleuze, G. (2007). Two regimes of madness (A. Hodges & M. Taormina, Trans.). New York: Semiotext(e).Find this resource:

                                                    Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1984). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Steem, & H. R. Lane, Trans.). London: Athlone Press.Find this resource:

                                                      Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia II (B. Massumi, Trans.). London: Athlone Press.Find this resource:

                                                        Freinet, C. (1994). Oeuvres pédagogiques: Tomes I et II. Paris: Editions du Seuil.Find this resource:

                                                          Gale, K. (2010). An inquiry in to the ethical nature of a Deleuzian creative educational practice. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(5), 303–309.Find this resource:

                                                            Genosko, G. (2008). A-signifying semiotics. The Public Journal of Semiotics, II(1), 11–21.Find this resource:

                                                              Guattari, F. (2000). The three ecologies (I. Pindar & P. Sutton, Trans.). London: Athlone Press.Find this resource:

                                                                Guattari, F. (2013). Schizoanalytic cartographies (A. Goffey, Trans.). London: Bloomsbury.Find this resource:

                                                                  Hegel, G. W. F. (1977). Phenomenology of spirit (A. V. Miller, Trans.). Oxford: Clarendon.Find this resource:

                                                                    Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans.). London: S. C. M. Press.Find this resource:

                                                                      Hickey-Moody, A. (2013). Youth, arts and education: Resassembling subjectivity through affect. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

                                                                        Johnston, J. L. H. (2004). Angels of desire: Subtle subjects, aesthetics and ethics. Unpublished PhD diss., University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, Australia. Retrieved from this resource:

                                                                          Kerslake, C. (2009). Deleuze and the meaning of immanence. Paper delivered at After ’68, Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, The Netherlands.Find this resource:

                                                                            MacLure, M. (2013). Researching without representation? Language and materiality in post-qualitative methodology. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 658–667.Find this resource:

                                                                              Masny, D., & Cole, D. R. (Eds.). (2009). Multiple literacies theory: A Deleuzian perspective. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.Find this resource:

                                                                                Müller, M., & Schurr, C. (2016). Assemblage thinking and actor-network theory: Conjunctions, disjunctions, cross-fertilisations. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 41(3), 217–229.Find this resource:

                                                                                  Nietzsche, F. (1872). On the future of our educational institutions. Lecture series delivered at Basel University. Retrieved from this resource:

                                                                                    Nietzsche, F. (1968). The will to power (R. J. Hollingdale & W. Kaufmann, Trans.). New York: Random House.Find this resource:

                                                                                      Prentice, G. (2015). Mapping the moral terrain: Australian novels written during and following the Reconciliation period and their representation of race relations through the enactment of remorse, trauma and shame. Unpublished PhD diss., University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved from this resource:

                                                                                        Ringrose, J. (2011). Beyond discourse? Using Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis to explore affective assemblages, heterosexually striated space, and lines of flight online and at school. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(6), 598–618.Find this resource:

                                                                                          Semetsky, I. (2003). The problematics of human subjectivity: Gilles Deleuze and the Deweyan legacy. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 22(3), 211–225.Find this resource:

                                                                                            Semetsky, I. (2004). The role of intuition in thinking and learning: Deleuze and the pragmatic legacy. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(4), 433–454.Find this resource:

                                                                                              Springgay, S., Irwin, R. L., Leggo, C., & Gouzouasis, P. (Eds.). (2008). Being with a/r/tography. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.Find this resource:

                                                                                                St. Pierre, E. A. (2016). The empirical and the new empiricisms. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, 16(2), 111–124.Find this resource:

                                                                                                  Taylor, C. A., & Hughes, C. (Eds.), (2016). Posthuman research practices in education. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

                                                                                                    Thompson, G., & Cook, I. (2014). The eternal return of teaching in the time of the corporation. Deleuze Studies, 8(2), 280–298.Find this resource:

                                                                                                      Townsend, T., & MacBeath, J. (Eds.). (2011). International handbook of leadership for learning. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.Find this resource:

                                                                                                        Wilson, B. (2007). The metaphysics of connection: Discreteness, continuity, and in-discreteness. Unpublished PhD diss., University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia. Retrieved from this resource: