Deleuze and Guattari: the State is a “Terror without Precedent”


Biblical Seamonster

Exciting moment in Anti-Oedipus (Part 3, Chapter 5) when Deleuze and Guattari first introduce their analysis of the birth of the modern state (and their scathing critique of it). They draw heavily on Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality, especially his discussion of debt in Essay II. Deleuze and Guattari write (p. 192):

It is here that Nietzsche speaks of a break, a rupture, a leap. Who are these beings, they who come like fate?. . . .They are the founders of the State. Nietzsche will come to establish the existence of other breaks: those of the Greek city-state, Christianity, democratic and bourgeois humanism, industrial society, capitalism, and socialism. But it could be that all of these–in various ways–presuppose this first great hiatus, although they claim to repel and fill it. It could be that, spiritual or temporal, tyrannical or democratic, capitalist or socialist, there has never been but a single State, the State-as-dog that “speaks with flaming roars” (OGM, II, 16). And Nietzsche suggests how this new socius proceeds: a terror without precedent, in comparison with which the ancient system of cruelty [that Neitzsche has been discussing], the forms of primitive regimentation and punishment, are nothing. A concerted destruction of all the primitive codings, or worse yet, their derisory preservation, their reduction to the condition of secondary parts in the new machine, and the new apparatus of repression. All that constituted the essential element of the primitive inscription machine–the blocks of mobile, open, finite debts, “the parcels of destiny”–finds itself taken into an immense machinery that renders the debt infinite and no longer forms anything but one and the same crushing fate: “the aim now is to preclude pessimistically, once and for all, the prospect of a final discharge; the aim now is to make the glance recoil disconsolately from an iron impossibility”(OGM, II, 21). The earth becomes a madhouse.


5 thoughts on “Deleuze and Guattari: the State is a “Terror without Precedent”

  1. those “blond beasts,” quite a sticky point of contention. while Foucault strongly rejects this in the famous governmentality lecture now republished in Security, Territory, Population, I think it’s important to side w/ D&G on this one.

    • Yes, the blond beasts as Callicles’ lion (strong nobles who act boldly into the world) are not even something I am convinced Nietzsche is defending. I read him rather as wanting to do the genealogy of good and evil, and when he looks into it, he finds another way of valuing the world (good noble-lion/bad weak-lamb) that is not our own good and evil. But of course Nietzsche wants to go beyond our good and evil, not back to a Greek-Noble one, so I am not sure he wants to defend the blond beast. Callicles surely does, though…

  2. Pingback: Plateaus, Networks, and the Mad Hatter Twins Take the Grand Stage | Dawn of the Cyborg

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