Clastres: Really Quite Thrilling

Pierre Clastres (Society Against the State, p. 198) summing up the lessons learned from his study of native peoples in South America:

The political relation of power [pouvoir] precedes and founds the economic relation of exploitation. Alienation is political before it is economic; power precedes labor; the economic derives from the political; the emergence of the State determines the advent of classes.

Shades of Plato’s Cave…

…or a carbon copy?

The Shamans of the Chaco are not merely doctors, but also soothsayers capable of seeing into the future. Sometimes, when they do not feel certain of their knowledge, they go consult the Sun, who is an omniscient being. But the Sun, preferring not to be bothered, has placed a series of very difficult obstacles along the route leading to his abode. That is why only the best shamans, the most cunning and courageous, manage to stand the tests; then the Sun agrees to extinguish its rays and inform those who come before him. Expeditions of this kind, precisely because of their difficulty, are always collective and are always enacted under the direction of the most experienced sorcerers.

–Pierre Clastres, Society Without the State, p. 147.


An Echo from the Forest: Clastres and Deleuze and Guattari

In 1972, in Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari make no mention, as far as I can recall, of smooth and striated space, or even of the nomad. (If there is it is hardly front and center).

Then, in 1974, Pierre Clastres publishes Society Against the State, wherein:

The space of nomad hunters [the Guayaki (or Ache) people of Paraguay that Clastres was studying] cannot have the same dividing lines as that of sedentary agriculturalists. The latter is structured into concentric circles, with a division between a cultural space comprised of the village and gardens, and a natural space occupied by the surrounding forest. In contrast, the Guayaki space is continually homogeneous, reduced to a pure extension in which the difference between nature and culture is seemingly done away with….

Then in 1980 in A Thousand Plateaus, we get the whole discussion of the nomad, smooth space, and striated space. I am only halfway through Clastres, but so far it seems pretty clear that he made a very big impression on D&G.