GAME 340, Week 2

A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 351-374


“AXIOM I. The war machine is exterior to the State apparatus.

PROPOSITION I. This exteriority is first attested to in mythology, epic, drama, and games” (351)

Four attestations of the exteriority of war:

  • Mythology
  • Epic
  • Drama
  • Games

The last of these is the focus of our class.

The philologist Georges Dumézil showed “that political sovereignty, or domination, has two heads: the magician-king and the jurist-priest” (351)

There are several variations of this binary (351):

  • “Rex and flamen”
  • “raj and Brahman”
  • “Romulus and Numa”
  • “Varuna and Mitra”
  • “the despot and the legislator”
  • “the binder and the organizer”

Commentator’s Note: Two of Dumézil’s books are Flamen-Brahman (1935) and Mitra-Varuna (1948).

“these two poles stand in opposition term by term … But their opposition is only relative; they function as a pair, in alternation, as though they expressed a division of the One or constituted in themselves a sovereign unity” (351)

These poles “are the principal elements of a State apparatus that proceeds by a One-Two, distributes binary distinctions, and forms a milieu of interiority” (352)

Importantly, these poles both form an interiority, as opposed to the exteriority of war.

This formation is “a double articulation that makes the State apparatus into a stratum” (352)

From a later plateau: strata are “phenomena of thickening” of what Deleuze and Guattari term the body of the earth, the “planomenon” (502). Strata are “accumulations, coagulations, sedimentations, foldings” of this body (502). Each stratum is an articulation of the body of the earth, “consist[ing] of coded milieus and formed substances” (502). Strata are “the abstract components of every articulation” (502).

“war is not contained within this apparatus” (352)

“the war machine in itself … seems to be irreducible to the State apparatus, to be outside its sovereignty and prior to its law: it comes from elsewhere. Indra, the warrior god, is in opposition to Varuna no less than to Mitra” (352)

Indra “is like a pure and immeasurable multiplicity, the pack, an irruption of the ephemeral and the power of metamorphosis” (352)

First mention of wolves this chapter: see earlier plateau, “1914: One or Several Wolves?” (26-38)

Indra “sees all things in relations of becoming, rather than implementing binary distributions” (352)


First example: “the theory of games” (352)

“Chess is a game of State, or of the court: the emperor of China played it. Chess pieces are coded; they have an internal nature and intrinsic properties from which their movements, situations, and confrontations derive” (352)

“Go pieces, in contrast, are pellets, disks, simple arithmetic units, and have only an anonymous, collective, or third-person function: ‘It’ makes a move. ‘It’ could be a man, a woman, a louse, an elephant. Go pieces are elements of a nonsubjectified machine assemblage with no intrinsic properties, only situational ones” (353)

Key differentiation: intrinsic vs. situational properties.

“chess pieces entertain biunivocal relations with one another, and with the adversary’s pieces: their functioning is structural” (353)

“a Go piece has only a milieu of exteriority, or extrinsic relations with nebulas or constellations, according to which it fulfills functions of insertion or situation, such as bordering, encircling, shattering” (353)

“Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war, with a front, a rear, battles” (353)

“what is proper to Go is war without battle lines, with neither confrontation nor retreat, without battles even: pure strategy, whereas chess is a semiology” (353)

Pure strategy is opposed to a semiology, because semiology is concerned with the contents of signs, with meanings.

“in chess, it is a question of arranging a closed space for oneself, thus of going from one point to another, of occupying the maximum number of squares with the minimum number of pieces” (353)

“In Go, it is a question of arraying oneself in an open space, of holding space, of maintaining the possibility of springing up at any point: the movement is not from one point to another, but becomes perpetual, without aim or destination, without departure or arrival” (353)

“The ‘smooth’ space of Go, as against the ‘striated’ space of chess” (353)

The Warrior

“The warrior is in the position of betraying everything, including the function of the military, or of understanding nothing” (354)

“the war machine as itself a pure form of exteriority” (354)

“the State apparatus constitutes the form of interiority we habitually take as a model, or according to which we are in the habit of thinking” (354)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Levinas on interiority, the home carved from the element. Another challenge from Deleuze and Guattari.

“the war machine invents speed and secrecy” (354)

“the war machine is seen to be of another species, of another nature, of another origin” (354)

The war machine “is located between the two heads of the State, between the two articulations … it is necessary in order to pass from one to the other” (355)

“But ‘between’ the two, in that instant, even ephemeral, if only a flash, it proclaims its own irreducibility” (355)

The State has no war machine of its own; it can only appropriate one in the form of a military institution, one that will continually cause it problems” (355)

Clausewitz sees States as “appropriat[ing]” the “flow of absolute war,” each being “more or less good ‘conductors’ of that flow” (355)

“The descendants of Hercules, Achilles, then Ajax, have enough strength left to proclaim their independence from Agamemnon, a man of the old State. But they are powerless when it comes to Ulysses, a man of the nascent modern State” (355)

However: “Descendants of the Scythians, the Amazons spring forth like lightning, ‘between’ the two States, the Greek and the Trojan. They sweep away everything in their path” (355)

The “collective law” of the Amazons is “the law of the pack” (355)

Wolves, again.

Deleuze and Guattari oppose Heinrich von Kleist’s tale of Achilles and the Amazon Penthesilea to the “State thinkers” Goethe and Hegel, “old men next to Kleist” (356)

The “elements” of Kleist’s work are “secrecy, speed, and affect” (356)

“in Kleist the secret is no longer a content held within a form of interiority”—i.e., the secret is not a meaning to be discovered, un-covered, by a semiology (356)

The secret “becomes a form, identified with the form of exteriority that is always external to itself” (356)

“feelings become uprooted from the interiority of a ‘subject,’ to be projected violently outward into a milieu of pure exteriority that lends them an incredible velocity, a catapulting force” (356)

“Affects transpierce the body like arrows, they are weapons of war” (356)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Lawrence on the ‘ideal guns’ of Melville.

“dreams … are externalized, by a system of relays and plug-ins, extrinsic linkages belonging to the war machine. Broken rings” (356)

Kleist gives “time a new rhythm: an endless succession of catatonic episodes or fainting spells, and flashes or rushes” (356)

And, and, and… This is the logic of addition and combination.

Kleist is like the “Go player,” or “the Japanese fighter [i.e., practitioner of Iaido], interminably still, who then makes a move too quick to see” (356)

When the war machine is at last conquered by the State, it “scatters into thinking, loving, dying, or creating machines that have at their disposal vital or revolutionary powers capable of challenging the conquering State” (356)

The State

“PROBLEM I. Is there a way of warding off the formation of a State apparatus (or its equivalents in a group)?

PROPOSITION II. The exteriority of the war machine is also attested to by ethnology (a tribute to the memory of Pierre Clastres)” (356-57)

The State “is defined by the perpetuation or conservation of organs of power. The concern of the State is to conserve” (357)

“war maintains the dispersal and segmentarity of groups, and the warrior himself is caught in a process of accumulating exploits leading him to solitude and a prestigious but powerless death” (357)

“war … is the mode of a social state that wards off and prevents the State” (357)

The state of war is maintained through “collective mechanisms of inhibition,” which “cannot be understood without renouncing the evolutionist vision that sees bands or packs as a rudimentary, less organized, social form” (358)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Graeber and Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything (2021).

In the pack, “leadership is a complex mechanism that does not act to promote the strongest but rather inhibits the installation of stable powers, in favor of a fabric of immanent relations” (358)

“Packs, bands, are groups of the rhizome type, as opposed to the arborescent type that centers around organs of power” (358)

“the State is explained neither by a development of productive forces nor by a differentiation of political forces. It is the State, on the contrary, that makes possible the undertaking of large-scale projects, the constitution of surpluses, and the organization of the corresponding public functions” (359)

The argument here is that the State precedes the activities traditionally presumed to make it possible.

“We are compelled to say that there has always been a State, quite perfect, quite complete. The more discoveries archaeologists make, the more empires they uncover” (360)

“the State itself has always been in a relation with an outside and is inconceivable independent of that relationship” (360)

“The law of the State is not the law of All or Nothing … but that or interior and exterior” (360)

“The State is sovereignty. But sovereignty only reigns over what it is capable of internalizing, of appropriating locally” (360)

“Not only is there no universal State, but the outside of States cannot be reduced to ‘foreign policy,’ that is, to a set of relations among States” (360)

“The outside appears simultaneously in two directions” (360):

  1. “huge worldwide machines branched out over the entire ecumenon at a given moment,” like “multinational[s]” and “industrial complexes” and “religious formations” (360)

  2. “local mechanisms of bands, margins, minorities, which continue to affirm the rights of segmentary societies in opposition to the organs of State power” (360)

Definitional Note: the “ecumenon” is the “single abstract machine that is enveloped by the stratum” and constitutes the “unity of composition” of that stratum (50). So if we recall above, the planomenon, the body of the earth, is formed into strata through codings or articulations; or conceived inversely, strata are the abstract elements of those codings/articulations. The ecumenon, then, is the machine productive and constitutive of this articulatory operation. What is being described here, then, are “worldwide machines” and “local mechanisms” forming the outside of the State stratum, a stratum formed by the “double articulation” of binding and organization. These two operations are the joint operations of the machine that is the ecumenon of the state, and war exists as exterior to them.

The world-wide and the local “are equally present in all social fields, in all periods,” and sometimes “they partially merge” (360)

For instance, “a commercial organization is also a band of pillage, or piracy, for part of its course and in many of its activities; or it is in bands that a religious formation begins to operate” (360)

“bands, no less than worldwide organizations, imply a form irreducible to the State” (360)

“this form of exteriority necessarily presents itself as a diffuse and polymorphous war machine. It is a nomos very different from the ‘law’” (360)

“The State-form, as a form of interiority, has a tendency to reproduce itself, remaining identical to itself across its variations and easily recognizable within the limits of its poles, always seeking public recognition” (360)

“the war machine’s form of exteriority is such that it exists only in its own metamorphoses” (360)

State and war, interior and exterior, exist not “in terms not of independence, but of coexistence and competition in a perpetual field of interaction” (360)

“The same field circumscribes its interiority in States, but describes its exteriority in what escapes States or stands against States” (361)

Minor Science

“PROPOSITION III. The exteriority of the war machine is also attested to by epistemology, which intimates the existence and perpetuation of a ‘nomad’ or ‘minor science’” (361)

Minor science is not “royal” or “legal” science (361)

Citing Michel Serres, The Birth of Physics, minor science can be seen in the “eccentric science” of Democritus, Leucippus, and Archimedes (361)

Minor, eccentric science, is characterized by:

  1. “a hydraulic model … ancient atomism is inseparable from flows, and flux is reality itself, or consistency” (361)

  2. “becoming and heterogeneity,” a model Plato erased “in the name of royal science” (361)

  3. Not “parallels, in a lamellar or laminar flow,” but “spirals and vortices on an inclined plane”—from “turba to turbo” (361)

  4. “problematic, rather than theorematic” (362)

Minor science works in “smooth (vectorial, projective, or topological) space” rather than the “striated (metric) space” of royal science (361-62)

Minor science works according to problematics, “affections”—“sections, ablations, adjunctions, projections” (362)

The “problem is affective and is inseparable from the metamorphoses, generations, and creations within science itself” (362)

“Despite what Gabriel Marcel might say, the problem is not an ‘obstacle’; it is the surpassing of the obstacle, a pro-jection, in other words, a war machine” (362)

“All of this movement is what royal science is striving to limit when it reduces as much as possible the range of the ‘problem-element’ and subordinates it to the ‘theorem-element’” (362)

“the problemata are the war machine itself and are inseparable from inclined plans, passages to the limit, vortices, and projections” (362)

Commentator’s Note: Compare ‘hard choices’ as problemata, i.e., the hard choice of Billy Budd.

Minor, eccentric, “nomad science” is “continually ‘barred,’ inhibited, or banned by the demands and conditions of State science. Archimedes, vanquished by the Roman State, becomes a symbol” (362)

Vauban is like a repeat of Archimedes, and suffers and analogous defeat” (363)

“It is true of descriptive and projective geometry … It is also true of differential calculus … Finally, it is true of the hydraulic model” (363)

“the State needs to subordinate hydraulic forces to conduits, pipes, embankments, which prevent turbulence, which constrain movement to go from one point to another, and space itself to be striated and measured, which makes the fluid depend on the solid, and flows proceed by parallel, laminar layers” (363)

“The hydraulic model of nomad science and the war machine, on the other hand, consists in being distributed by turbulence across a smooth space, in producing a movement that holds space and simultaneously affects all of its points, instead of being held by space in a local movement from one specified point to another” (363)

Figures of nomad science (363):

  • Democritus
  • Menaechmus
  • Archimedes
  • Vauban
  • Desargues
  • Bernoulli
  • Monge
  • Carnot
  • Poncelet
  • Perronet

“As Virilio shows, it is at sea that the problem of the fleet in being is posed … the task of occupying an open space with a vortical movement that can rise up at any point” (363)

“rhythm is never the same as measure [i.e., metre, metric]” (363)

“the forms made of atoms are primarily large, nonmetric aggregates, smooth spaces such as the air, the sea, or even the earth (magnae res [great things])” (364)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Timothy Morton, Hyberobjects (2013).


From sociologist and urbanist Anne Querrien, a different kind of geometry.

“One does not represent, one engenders and traverses” (364)

“equations … are ‘generated’ as ‘forces of thrust’ (poussées) by the material, in a qualitative calculus of the optimum” (364-65)

Desargues wrote little; he nevertheless exerted a great influence through his actions and left outlines, rough drafts, and projects, all centered on problem-events” (365)

From Wikipedia: Desargues “is considered one of the founders of projective geometry”; “compared to elementary Euclidean geometry, projective geometry has a different setting, projective space, and a selective set of basic geometric concepts”; “the concept of a projective space originated from the visual effect of perspective, where parallel lines seem to meet at infinity.”

“Royal science only tolerates and appropriates perspective if it is static, subjected to a central black hole divesting it of its heuristic and ambulatory capacities” (365)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1974); Haraway, “Situated Knowledges” (1988); and Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld (1990), all on this move, the “god trick.” The black hole is the hole of the subject/subjectivation.

Ultimately royal science carries out a “prohibition of this operative or minor geometry” (365)

The Collective Body

“What is a collective body?” (366)

States have a “special relation to families, because they link the family model to the State model at both ends and regard themselves as ‘great families’” (366)

But the family “does not fit into this schema” perfectly (366)

The family is a band, a pack.

Compare Deleuze, Empiricism and Subjectivity (1953): “What we find in nature, without exception, are families; the state of nature is always already more than a simple state of nature. The family, independently of all legislation, is explained by the sexual instinct and by sympathy—sympathy between parents, and sympathy of parents for their offspring” (39). Sympathy, and the whole empirical foundation of that book, is a matter of affect. Everything arises from nomad feeling, or perhaps in spite of nomad feeling.

Collective bodies have an “aptitude—even caricatural or seriously deformed—to constitute themselves as a war machine, following other models, another dynamism, a nomadic ambition, over against the State” (366)

e.g. “the lobby, a group with fluid contours, whose position is very ambiguous in relation to the State it wishes to ‘influence’ and the war machine it wishes to promote, to whatever ends” (366)

“In the war machine, the family is a band vector instead of a fundamental cell; a genealogy is transferred from one family to another according to the aptitude of a given family at a given time to realize the maximum of ‘agnatic [paternal] solidarity’” (366)

“it is not the public eminence of a family that determines its place in a State organism but the reverse; it is the secret power (puissance), or strength of solidarity, and the corresponding genealogical mobility that determine it eminence in a war body” (366)

The family’s power “is related to the potential (puissance) of a vortical body in a nomad space” (366)

“There are always period when the State as organism has problems with its own collective bodies, when these bodies, claiming certain privileges, are forced in spite of themselves to open onto something that exceeds them, a short revolutionary instant, an experimental surge” (367)

“each time it occurs, it is necessary to analyze tendencies and poles, the nature of the movements” (367)


“Husserl speaks of a protogeometry that addresses vague, in other words, vagabond or nomadic, morphological essences” (367)

Morphological essences are neither “sensible things” nor “ideal, royal, or imperial essences” (367)

For example, “roundness is a vague and fluent essence, distinct both from the circle and things that are round (a vase, a wheel, the sun)” (367)

“The State is perpetually producing and reproducing ideal circles, but a war machine is necessary to make something round” (367)

“Gothic architecture” is a nomad science—consider “how extensively the journeyman traveled, building cathedrals near and far, scattering construction sites across the land, drawing on an active and passive power (mobility and the strike) that was far from convenient for the State” (368)

“The ground-level plane of the Gothic journeyman is opposed to the metric plane of the architect, which is on paper and off site. The plan consistency or composition is opposed to another plane, that of organization or formation” (368)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Farrell, “The Strategy of Composition” (2023).

“Royal science is inseparable from a ‘hylomorphic’ model implying both a form that organizes matter and matter prepared for the form; it has often been shown that this schema derives less from technology or life than from a society divided into governors and governed, and later, intellectuals and manual laborers” (369)

But in nomad science, “matter … is never prepared and therefore homogenized matter, but is essentially laden with singularities (which constitute a form of content) … neither is expression formal; it is inseparable from pertinent traits (which constitute a matter of expression)” (369)

Traits feature throughout Deleuze’s Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981), especially in chapter 12, “The Diagram” (note that diagram is frequently a synonym for “abstract machine”): “For these marks, these traits, are irrational, involuntary, accidental, free, random. They are nonrepresentative, nonillustrative, nonnarrative. They are no longer either significant or signifiers: they are asignifying traits. They are traits of sensation, but of confused sensations (the confused sensations, as Cezanne said, that we bring with us at birth). And above all, they are manual traits” (100).*

So, we are pointed back to the earlier work upon Hjelmslev, “10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals” (39-74), and throughout. “Hjelmslev was able to weave a net out of the notions of matter, content and expression, form and substance. These were the strata, said Hjelmslev. Now this net had the advantage of breaking with the form-content duality, since there was a form of content no less than a form of expression” (43).

  • Singularities: form of content
  • Traits: matter of expression

“the most general characteristic of nomad art, in which a dynamic connection between support and ornament replaces the matter-form dialectic” (369)

In “nomad science” the “division of labor fully exists, but it does not employ the form-matter duality … it follows the connections between singularities of matter and traits of expression, and lodges on the level of these connections” (369)

Importantly, following is a manual task.

Two models of science (369):

  • Compars: “the legal or legalist model employed by royal science. The search for laws consists in extracting constants”
  • Dispars: “as an element of nomad science the relevant distinction is material-forces rather than matter-form … placing the variables themselves in a state of continuous variation”

In nomad science, if “there are still equations, they are adequations, inequations, differential equations irreducible to the algebraic form and inseparable from a sensible intuition of variation. They seize or determine singularities in the matter, instead of constituting a general form. They effect individuations through events or haecceities, not through the ‘object’ as a compound of matter and form; vague essences are nothing other than haecceities” 9369

Haecceity means thisness (Wikipedia).


“Homogeneous space is in no way a smooth space; on the contrary, it is the form of striated space. The space of pillars. It is striated by the fall of bodies, the verticals of gravity, the distribution of matter into parallel layers, the lamellar and laminar movement of flows” (370)

“it seems that the force of gravity lies at the basis of a laminar, striated, homogeneous, and centered space; it forms the foundation for those multiplicities termed metric, or arborescent, whose dimensions are independent of the situation and are expressed with the aid of units and points” (370)

Gravity “is the form of interiority of all science” (370)

Commentator’s Note: Consider Radahn’s gravity, chaining Ranni’s line of flight to the stars.

“Smooth space is a field without conduits or channels. A field, a heterogeneous smooth space, is wedded to a very particular type of multiplicity: nonmetric, acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities that occupy space without ‘counting’ it and can ‘be explored only by legwork’” (371)

Commentator’s Note: Compare again Certeau on the ‘tour’.

“Laminar movement that striates space, that goes from one point to another, is weighty; but rapidity, celerity, applies only to movement that deviates to the minimum extent and thereafter assumes a vortical motion, occupying a smooth space, actually drawing smooth space itself” (371)

The difference between “gravity-celerity, heavy-light, slow-rapid” is not quantitative but “qualitative” (371)

Two Sciences

Quoting Serres: “Physics is reducible to two sciences, a general theory of routes and paths, and a global theory of waves” (372)

Royal science “consists in ‘reproducing’” while nomad science consists in “‘following’” (372)

Royal science “involves reproduction, iteration and reiteration”; nomad science involves “itineration, is the sum of the itinerant, ambulant sciences” (372)

“following is something different from the ideal of reproduction” (372)

“Not better, just different” (372)

Commentator’s Note: It’s easy to fall into smooth=good, striated=bad, and make similar good v. bad alignments throughout A Thousand Plateaus, but Deleuze and Guattari will stop to make this point: not better, just different.

“One is obliged to follow when one is in search of the ‘singularities’ of a matter, or rather of a material, and not out to discover a form; when one escapes the force of gravity to enter a field of celerity; when one ceases to contemplate the course of a laminar flow in a determinate direction, to be carried away by a vortical flow; when one engages in a continuous variation of variables, instead of extracting constants from them” (372)

There are itinerant, ambulant sciences that consist in following a flow in a vectorial field across which singularities are scattered like so many ‘accidents’ (problems)” (372)

“ambulant procedures and processes are necessarily tied to a striated space—always formalized by royal science—which deprives them of their model, submits them to its own model, and allows them to exist only in the capacity of ‘technologies’ or ‘applied science’” (373)

“what is proper to royal science, to its theorematic or axiomatic power, is to isolate all operations from the conditions of intuition, making them true intrinsic concepts, or ‘categories’” (373)

“Certain of these requirements” of royal science “are translated in terms of ‘safety’: the two cathedrals at Orléans and Beauvais collapsed at the end of the twelfth century … the ambulant sciences quickly overstep the possibility of calculation: they inhabit that ‘more’ that exceeds the space of reproduction and soon run into problems that are insurmountable from that point of view; they eventually resolve those problems by means of a real-life operation” (374)

“the ambulant sciences confine themselves to inventing problems whose solution is tied to a whole set of collective, nonscientific activities” (374)

“like intuition and intelligence in Bergson, where intelligence has the scientific means to solve formally the problems posed by intuition, problems that intuition would be content to entrust to the qualitative activities of a humanity engaged in following matter” (374)

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