Deleuze and Guattari and The Dark Knight Rises

I read Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s summary (“No, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Isn’t a Right-Wing Opus”) of a longer piece in The New York Times by Ross Douthat, discussing the politics of The Dark Knight Rises, and it contained the following quote:

All of which is to say that Nolan isn’t trying to push a crude, Ayn Rand-esque parable about heroic Gotham capitalists threatened by resentful, parasitic looters. His model, as the movie’s literary references make clear, is “A Tale of Two Cities” rather than “Atlas Shrugged,” which means that he’s trying to simultaneously acknowledge the injustices of the existing regime while suggesting that both the revolutionary and anarchic alternatives would be much, much worse. Across the entire trilogy, what separates Bruce Wayne from his mentors in the League of Shadows isn’t a belief in Gotham’s goodness; it’s a belief that a compromised order can still be worth defending, and that darker things than corruption and inequality will follow from putting that order to the torch.

Douthat then goes on to mention different flavours of conservatism, suggesting that what is on display in this film is a “quiet Toryism” (I am being somewhat snotty; Douthat takes this idea from an excellent piece in the Slate by Forrest Wickman, “The Dickensian Aspects of The Dark Knight Rises“).

This idea of a compromised regime which is nevertheless worth defending is going to be a hard sell for most right-on, left-thinking people. There are names, nasty names for people who hold such ideas. We used one of them already (that c-word), but there are others. Neo-liberal, reactionary, cog (that’s a ‘g’, missus). I have been called all of these, recently, and it’s hard to argue with those who like calling people names. So instead, I wanted to share a quote from Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus which makes the same point, in the very specific and very precise language of that wonderful work:

You don’t reach the BwO [Body without Organs], and its plane of consistency, by wildly destratifying … If you free it with too violent an action, if you blow apart the strata without taking precautions, then instead of drawing the plane, you will be killed, plunged into a black hole, or even dragged towards catastrophe. Staying stratified – organized, signified, subjected – is not the worst that can happen; the worst that can happen is if you throw the strata into demented or suicidal collapse, which brings them back down on us heavier than ever. This is how it should be done; lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.

This experimentation with opportunities, the lodgement on various strata, the production of flow conjunctions… this all sounds like the overall strategy used in the last third of this movie, a mesh-work of tactics made to cohere into a strategy by the goal of destroying Bane which unites all of the goodies. A flow of different intensities which eddy temporarily into dynamic flows of resistance. So perhaps it’s not just reactionary nonsense after all.

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Five types of change in philosophy

In any discussion of emergence, it is often difficult to separate this concept from its semantic cousins who all live in the same philosophical neighbourhood. Sure, they’re related, but they don’t really talk much. There’ll be a polite nod, and maybe a few minutes of chit-chat about how Uncle Dynamis is these days, but they don’t have a huge amount to say to each other beyond that. Conversation will slow, headphones will pop in, and each will return to their own little world.

Change is central to philosophy either for reasons of counting it as the defining principle (as Heraclitus does), or for reasons of escaping it and its counter-intuitive implications (Parmenides, Plato, Hegel, whoever else). Continue reading

Visual representation of philosophical thought

The best known recent (!) critique of the metaphors we use in our thought is probably Rorty‘s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, after which we are rightly wary of the implications of our various figures of speech. This has been a big part of what Ricoeur calls the hermeneutics of suspicion, all the the various structuralists and post-structuralists and the we-haven’t-even-heard-of-structuralism-so-don’t-you-dare-lump-us-in-with-those-guys-ists. We know that style in philosophy is never neutral, that what we say is influenced by how we say it. There was a hope that some other metaphors might set the tone for a departure from old ways of saying and thus give us new ways of thinking.

Continue reading