Images of Thought Without Image

The Kantian and Bergsonian concepts we have been tracking in relation to Deleuze’s Image of Thought make their expected returns in Foucault and in the chapter on the rhizome. Especially important are the various incarnations of the interstice, whose guises involve the outside and forgetting. Despite Foucault’s reputation as one of Deleuze’s most accessible books, I found it at times very abstract, and so I would like to take this space to map out its concepts to get a sense of their lines and points of assembly, to better to account for the relation between these two exciting but rather abstruse texts.

Deleuze emphasizes Foucault’s cartographic presentation of power, in which he maps its forces into “spacio-temporal multiplicities” he calls diagrams (Foucault, 42 in the Minuit edition). Power is constituted by relations between forces and, like in his earlier description of problems and their solutions in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze insists that the powers to affect and to be affected are simultaneously originary and derivative. In contrast to Idealist or, say, Marxist theories, which would credit a transcendental Idea or economic base as the ultimate cause for every effect, power is instead a reciprocal function of its relations, an “abstract machine” which acts as a “non-unifying immanent cause, coextensive with the entire social field…it is the cause of concrete social arrangements which carries out their relations; and these relations of forces happen ‘not above’ but in the very tissue of the arrangements they produce.” (F, 44)

The diagram in a way marks the frontiers of thought: knowledge is circumscribed within. “There is no model of truth which does not refer to a type of power, no knowledge or even science which does not express or imply an act of power being exercised” (F, 46). However, such a closing off in turn refers to an outside. Deleuze cites Blanchot on Foucault: “The closing refers to the outside, and that which is closed is the outside” (F, 50). Blanchot’s thought leads the way to Deleuze’s preferred interpretation of Foucault. His reading of Madness and Civilization emphasizes the circular relationship of l’enfermement with banishment to the outside: “The demand to shut up the outside, that is, to constitute it as an interiority of anticipation or exception, is the exigency that leads society—or momentary reason—to make madness exist, that is, to make it possible” (Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation, 196). This vicious circle provides, as it were, the possibility of meeting the outside. “…we have to ask ourselves if it is true that literature and art might be able to entertain these limit-experiences and thus, beyond culture, pave the way for a relation with what culture rejects: a speech of borders, the outside of writing” (ibid.). These “limit-experiences” are the crises which force a society to change its diagrams, its relations of forces. Deleuze insists that “it is from the “struggles” of each epoch, the style of struggles, that one can understand the succession of diagrams, or their re-linkage above their discontinuities” (F, 51).

There is an imperative, then, to face these discontinuities without subsuming them into ever-reacting diagrams. The culmination of Deleuze’s chapter “Strategies or the Non-Stratified” is the concern for how thought can resist power by its relation to the outside, that is, by a fracturing or discontinuity that cannot add up or be incorporated into a unifying whole.

“This is Foucault’s second point of contact with Blanchot: thinking belongs to the outside insofar as the latter, an “abstract storm”, is swallowed up by the interstice between seeing and thinking. The appeal to the outside is a constant theme in Foucault and signifies that thinking is not the innate exercise of a faculty but must become thought. Thinking does not depend on a beautiful interiority that reunites the visible and enunciable, but is made under the intrusion of an outside which hollows out the interval, and forces or dismembers the interior” (F, 93).

Blanchot’s writings on Foucault are especially interesting as a link between Deleuze’s monograph and his and Guattari’s earlier chapter on the rhizome. Blanchot locates thought’s relation to the outside in the act of forgetting:

“When we perceive that we speak because we are able to forget, we perceive that this ability-to-forget does not belong solely to the realm of possibility. On the one hand, forgetting is a capacity: we are able to forget and, thanks to this, able to live, to act, to work, and to remember—to be present: we are thus able to speak usefully. On the other hand, forgetting gets away. It escapes. This does not simply mean that through forgetting a possibility is taken from us and a certain impotency revealed, but rather that the possibility that is forgetting is a slipping outside of possibility.” (Blanchot, IC, 195)

By slipping outside of possibility, I take him to mean outside the possibilities circumscribed by the relations of forces that make up the diagram. Forgetting introduces to thought an interstice, a relation to the outside. It introduces an aleatory non-relation between contiguous images; it is “a spacing which means that each image is plucked from the void and falls back into it,” as Deleuze puts it in Cinema 2. The outside of thought is thus approached by these irrational cuts: “…when there are only milieux and in-betweens, when words and things are opened up by the milieu without ever coinciding, it is in order to liberate the forces that come from the outside, and which only exist in a state of agitation, of mixing and restructuring, of mutation. In truth, a throw of the dice, because to think is to cast the dice.” (F, 93)

All of these images of a thought without image are condensed into Deleuze and Guattari’s essay on the rhizome. They echo Blanchot in a passage distinguishing short-term from long-term memory. “Short-term memory is in no way subject to a law of contiguity or immediacy to its object; it can act at a distance, come or return a long time after, but always under conditions of discontinuity, rupture, and multiplicity” (A Thousand Plateaus, 16). Short-term memory is thus the embrace of forgetting; it “includes forgetting as a process; it merges not with the instant but instead with the nervous, temporal, and collective rhizome” (ibid.). They are careful not to confuse this concept with the metaphysical principle of the fractured I: “the difference between two kinds of memory is not that of two temporal modes of apprehending the same things; they do not grasp the same thing, memory, idea.” It is instead a category of practice, under which falls the creative endeavors of art and philosophy. “The splendor of the short-term Idea: one writes using short-term memory, and thus short-term ideas, even if one reads or rereads using long-term memory of long-term concepts” (ibid.).

The chapter on the rhizome feels like the conclusion toward which Deleuze’s other texts reach, regardless of whether this is forward or backwards in time. The concept is itself an assemblage of the various lines that run through his work: it is an image of a thought without image. They propose a book of plateaus, a book only of middles without beginnings or ends, in other words, frontiers. A book that is thus without an interior, that is permeated by the outside. “We will never ask what a book means, as signified or signifier; we will not look for anything to understand in it. We will ask what it functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities, in which other multiplicities its own are inserted and metamorphosed, and with what bodies without organs it makes its own converge. A book exists only through the outside and on the outside” (TP, 4).  The imperative I spoke of earlier was implicit in Foucault; it comes to the surface with the rhizome. “In short, we think that one cannot write sufficiently in the name of an outside,” D&G conclude. “The outside has no image, no signification, no subjectivity. The book as assemblage with the outside, against the book as image of the world. A rhizomebook, not a dichotomous, pivotal, or fascicular book” (TP, 23). To open the rhizomebook, the book as assemblage with the outside, is to peer into the interstice. It is the non-representation of the non-representable.