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  • The War Machine, the Formula and the Hypothesis: Deleuze and Guattari as Readers of Clausewitz
  • Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc (bio)
    Translated by Daniel Richter

1. From the Instrumental Conception of War to the Hypothesis of the War Machine

We would like to attempt here the problematization that Deleuze and Guattari propose regarding the relationship between war and the State in light of the concept of the war machine formulated in 1980 in the twelfth chapter of A Thousand Plateaus: “1227: Treatise on Nomadology: The War Machine.” From a simply nominal point of view, this concept designates a relationship of exteriority in relation to the State organisation of a given society in social formations that can be quite diverse in structure and objective (band, secret society, religious brotherhood, professional association, commercial organisation, etc.) as in the components they arrange (technical, scientific, artistic, linguistic, ecological, economic, religious, etc.). A given group forms a war machine not when it takes war as its goal, but when it becomes heterogeneous to the state apparatuses, to their procedures of administration and of control over the social field, as well as to their particular modes of territorialization, in other words, to the reciprocal determination of the State’s power and of the specific spatiotemporal formations in which it actualises itself. It is through this bipolarity of the State apparatus and the power formations exterior to the State-form that, from 1973 onwards, Deleuze had introduced the expression war machine in order to put into words a “direct political problem”: the problem, for groups engaged in the revolutionary struggle, of a mode of composition which does not model itself upon the form of a party or of a State, which does not model itself on the organisation of “bourgeois apparatuses of State,” in short, which does not reproduce, within the militant groups, the type of power structure that they claim to wish to abolish.1

The interest of the twelfth “Plateau” resides in the fact that it passes through the watchword to the philosophical concept through a theoretical elaboration that intends to revitalize the Marxist understanding of State power and its repressive apparatuses. More precisely, it involves the production of a theory of war that does not presuppose a “localisation” of the repressive State power in institutional bodies such as the police or the army, but that is capable of taking into account the constitution of this power through the conflicting interactions between the State and the social forces that escape it or which tend to turn against it. The concept of the war machine is thus inscribed within the framework of a complex bipolar theoretical program. There is the program of a genealogy of war that is at the same time a genesis of military power within the repressive apparatuses of the State—and more precisely, since it is a matter of the State incorporating a power that one presupposes as heterogeneous or exterior to its apparatuses, a heterogenesis of the State power. But on the other hand, we find the program of an analysis of the dynamics of struggles that, under variable organisational forms and historical circumstances, reconstruct war machines turned against the State, against its apparatuses, and against its very form. It is suitable in this regard to emphasize that this concept is above all presented by Deleuze and Guattari as a hypothesis, a working hypothesis in view of a complex genealogical and analytic program.2

In order to clarify the conceptual implications of this hypothesis and program, we would like to examine the manner in which they relate to the writings of the great theoretician of war, Carl von Clausewitz. The textual location of this theoretical reference immediately suggests its importance: sketched in the first “Proposition” of the Treatise on Nomadology, it is picked up again and developed in the ninth and last “Proposition,” where it organises another approach to the body of problems implicated by the theory of the war machine in a systematic exposition which “recapitulates the hypothesis in its entirety.” Before examining these texts in themselves, we will note that this reference envelopes a paradox upon first reading, at least if one relies upon what appears to constitute the core of...

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