Cover of the first edition
|Original title||Mille plateaux|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Pages||645 (French edition)|
610 (English translation)
A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (French: Mille plateaux) is a 1980 philosophy book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the French psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It is the second and final volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. While the first volume, Anti-Oedipus (1972), sought to "short-circuit" a developing "bureaucracy of analytic reason" in France (between Left political parties and psychoanalysis), the second was intended to be a "positive exercise" in nomadology.Brian Massumi's English translation was published in 1987, one year after the twelfth "plateau" was published separately as Nomadology: The War Machine (New York: Semiotext(e), 1986).
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Like the first volume, the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia was politically and terminologically provocative.Deleuze and Guattari discuss concepts such as the rhizome, performativity in language, smooth and striated space, the State apparatus, face and faciality, the Body without Organs, minority languages, binary branching structures in language, deterritorialization and reterritorialization, pragmatics, lines of flight, assemblages, becoming, strata, War Machines, signs, and coding.
The book starts with an introduction titled "Rhizome" and ends with a conclusion called "Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines". In between are thirteen chapters or plateaux, each dated, sometimes precisely ("November 20, 1923: Postulates of Linguistics), sometimes less so ("10,000 BC: The Geology of Morals"). In the sixth chapter, "Year Zero: Faciality" (visagéité), the notion of face is discussed as an "overcoding" of body,:170 but also as being in dialectical tension with landscape (paysagéité).:174
In the book, they discuss psychoanalysts (Freud, Jung, Lacan—who trained Guatarri,:x and Melanie Klein), composers (Chopin, Debussy, Mozart, Pierre Boulez, and Olivier Messiaen), artists (Klee, Kandinsky, and Pollock), philosophers (Husserl, Foucault, Bergson, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Gilbert Simondon), historians (Ibn Khaldun, Georges Dumézil, and Fernand Braudel), and linguists (Chomsky, Labov, Benveniste, Guillaume, Austin, Hjelmslev, and Voloshinov).
They also speak of writers in the book. In "1874: Three novellas", for example, they discuss tales, including Henry James' In the Cage (1898), F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up (1945) and "The Story of the Abyss and the Spyglass" by Pierrette Fleutiaux.:192-207Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust are frequent references. Goethe, Herman Melville and Shakespeare are also discussed.
The book is written in a non-linear, allusive fashion. The reader is explicitly warned not to set down roots and read A Thousand Plateaus in order, but to choose a new "plateau" or page and begin again "from ground zero" at each plateau.:25
A Thousand Plateaus is considered a major statement of post-structuralism and postmodernism.Mark Poster writes that the work "contains promising elaborations of a postmodern theory of the social and political." Writing in the foreword to his translation, Massumi comments that the work "is less a critique than a positive exercise in the affirmative 'nomad' thought called for in Anti-Oedipus." Massumi contrasts "nomad thought" with the "state philosophy... that has characterized Western metaphysics since Plato".
Deleuze critic Eugene Holland suggests that the work complicates the slogans and oppositions developed in its predecessor. Whereas Anti-Oedipus created binaries such as molar/molecular, paranoid/schizophrenic, and deterritorialization/reterritorialization, A Thousand Plateaus shows how such distinctions are operations on the surface of a deeper field with more complicated and multidimensional dynamics. In so doing, the book is less engaged with history than with topics like biology and geology. Massumi writes that A Thousand Plateaus differs drastically in tone, content, and composition from Anti-Oedipus. In his view, the schizoanalysis the authors practice is not so much a study of their "pathological condition", but a "positive process" that involves "inventive connection".
Bill Readings appropriates the term "singularity" from A Thousand Plateaus, "to indicate that there is no longer a subject-position available to function as the site of the conscious synthesis of sense-impressions." The sociologist Nikolas Rose writes that Deleuze and Guattari articulate "the most radical alternative to the conventional image of subjectivity as coherent, enduring, and individualized".
In 1997, the physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont argued that the book contains many passages in which Deleuze and Guattari use "pseudo-scientific language". Writing about this "science wars critique," Daniel Smith and John Protevi contend that "much of their chapter on Deleuze consists of exasperated exclamations of incomprehension." Similarly, in a 2015 interview, British philosopher Roger Scruton characterized A Thousand Plateaus as "[a] huge, totally unreadable tome by somebody who can't write French." At the beginning of a short essay on postmodernism, Jean-François Lyotard lists examples of what he describes as a desire "to put an end to experimentation", including a displeased reaction to A Thousand Plateaus that he had read in a weekly literary magazine, which said that readers of philosophy "expect [...] to be "gratified with a little sense". Behind this "slackening" desire to constrain language use, Lyotard identifies a "desire for a return to terror.":71-72, 82
Christopher Miller criticizes Deleuze and Guattari's use of "second-hand" anthropological sources without providing the reader with contextualization of the colonialist "mission" that led to their writing. Timothy Laurie says that this claim is inaccurate, but that Deleuze & Guattari should extend that same "rigor" to uncovering the political and economic entanglements which contextualize academic philosophy.:10
"Under the general demand for slackening and appeasement, we can hear the mutterings of the desire for a return of terror, for the realization of the fantasy to seize reality.
Deleuze and Guattari do recognise many of these concerns in their discussions of ethnologists.