Earth-Refrain War Machines

Call for Papers

Whether we think of the RNF radio broadcast of Ravel’s Bolero on 3rd September 1939  to encourage the deployment of French troops the day France and England declared war on Germany (Criton, 1998), or whether we think, more recently, of the way in which a Stanley Kubrick was able to make cinematographically perceptible the perverse and military uses of musical figuration inherent to any politics, it is difficult today to affirm that music leads to “the softening of manners”, as Gustave Flaubert had remarked in his own time (Flaubert, 1913). Thus what politics is exempt from an appeal to leitmotifs or patterns, equally aural and visual, specific to each epoch and by which it manipulates them? One’s ability to analyse these relationships undoubtedly depends on one’s ability to resist being caught up in the game’s apparent simplicity. To do so, one must disregard the appearance of immediacy designed to interpellate and subjugate (through order-words) those to whom this appearance is targeted. But to analyse this, and in order to make it conceptually visible, one must keep one’s distance from the propensity of every politician to re-imagine the facts of a given epoch, by means of masked artifices that are both historical and geographic.  For the purposes of such an analysis , it may be useful to draw on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari who formed the concept of the refrain [Ritornello, Ritournelle] (Deleuze and Guattari, 1980, 1991. Guattari, 1979). When properly understood, this concept is irreducible to its reactionary and reterritorialising anti-democratic uses (Dantec, 2001; Rancière, 2005), inviting us to flee from received ideas about music, war and the earth, whether in terms of class (Lazzarato, 2014), of race (Bona, 2016) or of gender (Ronell, 2002).

For Deleuze and Guattari, any Western relation between a people and the earth always involves the warlike machinations of political refrains—of earth-refrain war machines (Deleuze and Guattari, 1980: 299-350). In this way, the various forms of effectuation of these machines can serve as guides to producing a new form of cartography. Such a cartography corresponds to the many historico-geographical attempts to territorialise the Earth in accordance with what Guattari calls incorporeal universes of reference. According to Deleuze and Guattari, such territorialisations of the Earth result in warlike capitalistic deviations and constitute the different “ages” of the Western world. Deleuze and Guattari identify these ages as follows:  the Classical and Catholic age (derived from the feudal system, the Catholic Peace of God refrains and their Codes), the Romantic age (in reaction to the bourgeois revolutions and the prospect of upholding a universal peace based on modern natural law), and the Modern age, seeking to escape the Fascist and Nazi deviations of the latter (the One-Crowd). The Modern age extends to contemporary mass-media and to what Naomi Klein identifies as the “shock doctrine” characteristic of today’s societies of control (Klein, 2007). Furthermore, the manner in which power today is organised leads to the forced deterritorialisation of peoples with non-Western incorporeal universes of reference.

This issue on Earth-Refrain War Machines seeks to analyse war machine refrains in their relations to the Earth.  This gives rise, among others, to the following concerns. Firstly, we’d like to return to Deleuze and Guattari’s characterisation of the different ages of the Earth and more specifically ask, in the hope of better understanding those ages and ours, if there is a refrain proper to modernity, and if so what it could be. Secondly, what should we think of the promises and dangers of the re-enactment of Romanticism? Are we not living at a time when Romantic refrains are being reinvested in the fight against the shock doctrine? Thirdly, acknowledging the recent rise of diverse reactionary and authoritarian powers, what have we to say about today’s capitalist and neo-fascist refrains? What’s new about them and therefore how should we distinguish them from their past actualisation? Lastly, but maybe most importantly, which clinical perspective are we left with? For instance, how can we move toward greater pluralism and what hope can we have for the intersectional potentialities of transversality?

To sum up:

1- To better understand shock societies, it is necessary to return to Deleuze andGuattari’s geo-politico-philosophical way of interrogating how the “established powers have occupied the earth” and how such powers have changed the way popular movements and organisations are built. One question remains to be asked: Can we be satisfied today with the idea of a Modern age of the Earth after Deleuze and Guattari, given that the term “Modern” was chosen “for lack of a better term” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1980: 346)? If the Modern age of the Earth is the one that “brings back modes” (349-350), as theorised by Gisele Brelet (1963), it may perhaps be better to understand it as “what we have never been” or “non-modernity” (Latour, 1991). But, if it is “neo-Baroque” (Deleuze, 1988), it could indeed be also a new dialectical Romanticism as the allegorical one brought to light by Walter Benjamin in his combat against entropic modernity (Benjamin, 1925)…

2- Understanding the shock doctrine requires new conceptual tools as part of our fight against our new states of stupidity (Stiegler, 2012). As Naomi Klein has stressed, these corporatist coups d’Etats underlie the destructive desublimation proper to the shock of the Anthropocene (Bonneuil and Fressoz, 2013). Yet, some of the tools for understanding the capitalist machine which one can derive from the notion of shock doctrine seem to clash with the work of Deleuze and Guattari.  This forces us to ask to what extent are Deleuze and Guattari guilty of a Romantic understanding of the machinic relations between the Earth, the people, and territory? For Naomi Klein, it is a question of defending the lifestyles of peoples sacrificed by the carbon market: in this way, becoming-revolutionary could be to support the roots and lands of “traditional livelihoods”, starting with those embedded in indigenous rights. For others, it is a question of whether it would be possible to make the risky wager of updating Romanticism as an attempt to find an Outside of capitalism or exterior spaces (Neyrat, 2014a). By discarding all Romantic clichés, this actualisation could allow one to suspend all realist and identitarian uses of the political imagination (Neyrat, 2014b; 2014c). Do we not live in an age when the alliance to defend the universal rights of Mother Earth requires a certain re-enactment of Romanticism by indigenous peoples (Xakriabá, 2016)? Today, it may even be that new uses of some ancient topos and refrains are signs that territories situated outside of capitalistic deterritorialisations still exist.

3- Yet, how can we critically understand that there are also capitalist and neo-fascist territorial refrains? And what are the fundamental logics and strategies underlying these refrains, knowing with Deleuze and Guattari that it would not be enough to say that the masses are ignorant dupes? With the rise of reactionary and authoritarian powers is it arguable that the apparent end of Neoliberalism, inaugurated by the 2008 financial crisis and politically activated in 2016 through democratic acts of financial protectionism, signals a generalised movement of reterritorialisation and recoding orchestrated by the State onto the Nation, ethnicity, race, class, sex, and gender? Furthermore, are shock societies, control societies (Deleuze, 1990),  and integration societies (Guattari, 1992) of Integrated World Capitalism (Guattari, 1989a), one and the same? Are the societies we live in those of a new totalitarianism relying on the anarcho-capitalist logic of minimising the State in a situation of War as Peace, the paradigmatic case being perhaps,  as much for Deleuze and Guattari as for Naomi Klein, Pinochet’s Chile? For instance, it is a fact that there is a link between the premises of LePenism and anarcho-capitalism (Rothbard, 1956); but what can be otherwise said of Deleuze’s critique of Poujadism (Deleuze, 1973), or about Guattari’s anticipation of the relation between the anti-ecologism of Trump and Le Pen (Guattari, 1989b)? And, if there is such a thing as this new totalitarianism, is it the same as a new fascism distinct from an old fascism (Deleuze, 1977)? Besides, how are we to understand today Guattari’s warning about decolonial but reactionary revolutions (Khomeini or the case of Lumumba for instance), whose impetus comes from transversal and fundamentalist movements (Guattari, 1986)? And in what way is algorithmic cyberspace a transversal amplifier for all reactionary movements?

4- Finally, in what sense is there a difference in nature between pathological capitalistic refrains and clinical defences or practical attempts to fabricate what Guattari called “collective existential territories” (Guattari, 1988)? How are these attempts trying to reorient territories so that they can become liveable places for deterritorialised peoples with non-Western incorporeal universes of reference: as pluriversal territories? What rights and territories are there for incorporeal universes that are for the West allegedly archaic and rendered stateless or landless? And what other latent potentials exist for politics and political thought in Deleuze and Guattari’s texts, other than  those hidden in the universes of reference of (pre-)Romanticism  (Alliez and Lazzarato, 2016)? Does Guattari not call for the need to pay close attention to the intersectional potentialities of transversality when questioning  the racist, gendered and environmental implications of class struggle, that is to say in a dissensual and heterogenetic way open to the nonsense that this struggle usually refuses to acknowledge (Guattari, 1964), and thus to a deepened social pluralism (Guattari, 1985)?


Potential topics:

  • Shock: Capitalocene; Desublimation; Entropy/Negentropy; Growth/Slump; Integration; Shock strategies; Stupidity.
  • Earth and the People: Archaism; Gaia; Collective Existential Territories; Classical, Romantic and (non)Modern ages.
  • Law: Common Law; Indigenous Rights; Jurisprudence; Law and Rights of Mother Earth; Transformations of Law [Les transformations du droit, Gabriel Tarde].
  • Machines: Aesthetic Machines; Refrains; Primitivism; Progress; Reaction; Social Machines; Technical Machines; War Machines.
  • (De)Territorialisation: (Anarcho)Capitalism; Consensus/Dissensus; (Neo)Fascism; Fundamentalism; Intersectionality; (Neo)Liberalism; Poujadism; (Counter)Revolution; Transversality; Totalitarianism.


Deadlines: Please submit your Abstract (1,500 characters) before May 30 2017 and Full text (20,000-50,000 characters, spaces included) are expected July 30 2017.

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