1.332 The Line of Flight

Michael P. Ford
Feb 14 · 5 min read

“How is a person made?”¹⁶¹ Specifically, how is a person made as a function of “the biggest machine in the world,” the diachronic capitalist machine or what we have been calling the extended commercial enterprise?¹⁶² We take it for granted that such a machine is capable of making people rich or poor, happy or sad, well-adjusted or mad, powerful or mutilated; more importantly and urgently, it must be shown how the workings of its parts and gears actually make a people: “Our society produces schizos the same way it produces Prell shampoo or Ford cars, the only difference being that the schizos are not salable.”¹⁶³ Whole persons are closer to “schizos” than the “fictitious persons” made “with the aid of legal ingenuity [that] produced the commercial corporation with limited liability.” Yet, whole persons must be distinguished from both “human persons” and “corporate persons”: unlike the former, they are “exempt from physiological death” and, unlike the latter, they cannot “disappear by a voluntary dissolution or by bankruptcy.”¹⁶⁴ This is because such persons participate “in a virtuality that is already real without yet being actual (the diabolical powers of the future that for the moment are only brushing up against the door).”¹⁶⁵ In the twentieth-century, corporate persons “considerably modified the effective meaning of the characteristic liberal doctrine of contractual freedom”; but, to the extent that “economic organization” continues to constitute “the most massive problem of human relationships,” the introduction of whole persons into this arena promises or threatens to considerably modify the effective meaning of what it means to be human.¹⁶⁵ “This is no longer Birth of a Nation, but [the] constitution or reconstitution of a people.”¹⁶⁶

K is perhaps the latest in a long line of figures in “Anglo-American literature…who know how to leave, to scramble the codes, to cause flows to circulate, to traverse the desert of the body without organs.”¹⁶⁸ His greatness consists in his having discovered two ways out, two paths to leave or escape, like a front door and a secret back or trap door. K’s discovery is both the result and the definitive proof of “an essential apprenticeship or process of learning.” On the one hand, “an apprentice is someone who constitutes and occupies practical or speculative problems as such”; on the other, an apprentice “raises each faculty to the level of its transcendent exercise.”¹⁶⁹ K’s apprenticeship entails “an involuntary adventure” through commercial practice and attests to a “movement of learning which links a sensibility, a memory and then a thought,” with each of those faculties corresponding to and partially defining the Before, During and After of that adventure. “Learning is the appropriate name for the subjective acts carried out when one is confronted with the objecticity of a problem (Idea), whereas knowledge designates only the generality of concepts or the calm possession of a rule enabling solutions. A well known test in psychology involves a monkey who is supposed to find food in boxes of one particular color amidst others of various colors: there comes a paradoxical period during which the number of ‘errors’ diminishes even though the monkey does not yet possess the ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ of a solution in each case: propitious moment in which the philosopher-monkey opens up to truth, himself producing the true, but only to the extent that he begins to penetrate the colored thickness of a problem. We see here how the discontinuity among answers is engendered on the basis of the continuity of an ideal apprenticeship; how truth and falsity are distributed according to what one understands of a problem; and how the final truth, when it is obtained, emerges as though it were the limit of a problem completely determined and entirely understood, or the product of those genetic series which constitute the sense, or the outcome of a genesis which does not take place only in the head of a monkey. To learn is to enter into the universal of the relations which constitute the Idea, and into their corresponding singularities.”¹⁷⁰

K’s apprenticeship did not open him to just any Idea; when he learned or failed to learn the family business he began to penetrate the colored thickness of a “social problem” and to raise the “faculty of sociability” to its transcendent exercise.¹⁷¹ “Are there social Ideas, in a Marxist sense? In what Marx calls ‘abstract labor’, abstraction is made from the particular qualities of the products of labor and the qualities of the laborers, but not from the conditions of productivity, the labor-power and the means of labor in a society. The social Idea is the element of quantitability, qualitability and potentiality of societies. It expresses a system of multiple ideal connections, or differential relations between differential elements: these include relations of production and property relations which are established not between concrete individuals but between atomic bearers of labor-power or representatives of property. The economic instance is constituted by such a social multiplicity — in other words, by the varieties of these differential relations. Such a variety of relations, with its corresponding distinctive points, is then incarnated in the concrete differenciated labors which characterise a determinate society, in the real relations of that society (juridical, political, ideological) and in the actual terms of those relations (for example, capitalist-wage-laborer).”¹⁷²

1.30 The Line of Flight

Such a differential understanding of the problem means that “a social field is defined less by its conflicts and contradictions than by the lines of flight running through it.”¹⁷³ If capture appears in the field as an act of bending, folding, or triangulating that gives rise to, organizes and maintains the conflicts and contradictions of a fragmented situation (e.g., agents of capital versus the atomic-bearers of labor-power, corporate persons versus human persons, etc.), then we should expect learning conceived in terms of social practice (rather than something taking place only in the head of the apprentice-monkey) to be that more profound instance that is relatively difficult to discern because covered over or clothed but will appear when brought to light as an act of unfolding, straightening or rectification that concerns the situation or field as a whole. The learning curriculum immanent to the field of commercial practice is a During, a Memory, and a form of Content that both separates and bridges a Before and an After, a Sensibility and a Thought, and a State Apparatus and a War Machine conceived as competing forms of Expression, which is to say that it takes into account the way that “holey space…communicates with the smooth and the striated in different ways.”¹⁷⁴ Recognizing as much, it can be said without exaggeration that it is the matrix or womb for the coming community.

[161] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.256.

[162] Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1, p.176.

[163] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p.245.

[164] Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, p.62.

[165] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Kafka, p.48.

[166] Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, p.62.

[167] Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2, p.153.

[168] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, pp.131–133.

[169] Gilles Deleuze, Difference & Repetition, pp.165.

[170] Gilles Deleuze, Difference & Repetition, pp.165–166.

[171] Gilles Deleuze, Difference & Repetition, p.208.

[172] Gilles Deleuze, Difference & Repetition, p.186.

[173] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.90.

[174] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.500.


Using the representational strategy most congruent with its subject matter ― Plato’s “likely story” ― Salesmanism is the first of a two-volume publishing program that answers Albert Lautman’s call by attempting to “remake the Timaeus”.

Michael P. Ford

Written by

Public Servant, Independent Scholar & Social Entrepreneur


Using the representational strategy most congruent with its subject matter ― Plato’s “likely story” ― Salesmanism is the first of a two-volume publishing program that answers Albert Lautman’s call by attempting to “remake the Timaeus”.

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