One of the strangest books is this work by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and philosopher/psychotherapist/activist Félix Guattari, both of which belong to the 'postmodern' or 'poststructuralist' direction in philosophy. I did not read it in French, but in a Dutch translation published by the libertarian publisher 'Spreeuw'. This is not surprising, as it is a subversive work that attempts to completely dismantle 'normal', conditioned, linear and hierarchical thinking. Hence, it is by no means easy to follow what is explained in this booklet precisely because we have been so conditioned.
I read it at the end of my studies and also at the end of my engagement with an anarcho-activist group in my hometown. Tired of both, in search of new paths and challenges, this booklet came to push the boundaries and provide an escape from the platitudes of the traditional thought patterns in which I felt trapped. My fellow activists didn't understand much and I couldn't blame them ...
I also see similarities with a figure like Hakim Bey that also presents subversive alternatives, but does not go nearly as far as Deleuze and Guattari do, because they not only propose other forms of activism, but in the first place presuppose a revolution in the spirit.
Rather than hierarchical tree structures in which the world and organizations are usually ordered, Deleuze and Guattari propose to think, act and organize in the manner of rhizomes. Rhizomes make connections, both between parts of themselves and between parts of different entities. An example of the first is the rhizome of, for example, the root system of a grass species. An example of a heterogeneous rhizome is the compound that arises from a particular wasp and a type of orchid. The wasp and the orchid make a connection without anyone ordering it! An organically grown unit that arises by itself forms a much more stable structure (or anti-structure) than the artificial formation of organizations imposed from above. For example, something like this can also be formed as a result of a certain idea or ideology, which must represent the central node, around which and from which recruitment takes place. Over time, the structure disintegrates, because in fact there are no 'real' connections between the members of the organization themselves and with other organizations. There is competition, jealousy, manipulation and oppression.
Been there, done that ...
Deleuze and Guattari conclude their story with the following words:
"Don't evoke a General in yourself! Make cards, not pictures or drawings! Be the pink Panther and love each other like the wasp and the orchid, like the cat and the baboon."
© 2020 Ton Haarmans | Video: Midday Autumn Cloudlapse. By Sam Blight