Is asymmetrical resistance or revolution possible against a figure of dominance who has adopted the logic of asymmetry? This appears as the fundamental question of resistance in neoliberalism. Deleuze’s “Postscript: On the Societies of Control” expresses the adoption of asymmetry within corporate and neoliberal governance (Deleuze 1992). By asymmetry, I am referring to the logic of asymmetrical resistance: the resistance of the weak against the strong within relations of power. Under neoliberalism these tactics of resistance are appropriated by the powerful. This is most clearly seen in military options: the adoption of asymmetrical, guerilla warfare by military powers. This is seen everywhere in the production of a rhizomatic capitalism: capitalism’s adoption of the strategies used against it in the asymmetrical struggle between capital and those it dominates (De Boever 2021). Everywhere the tactics used to resist Empire have been adopted by Empire. One might surmise that this produces a sort of impasse in the question: can the rhizome be effective against the rhizome? Can rhizomatic resistance be effective against neoliberalism when neoliberalism is rhizomatic? I want to suggest that this is the wrong question insofar as the question of resistance retains a soteriological narrative of transcendence. What I aim to pose is a consideration of in(ter)vention—a portmanteau of invention and intervention—that is heretical to the positions of soteriological transcendence: in(ter)vention as heresy to salvation (Smith and Vangeest 2021). To ground in(ter)vention in heresy is an explicit rejection of salvation. Salvation has never saved us; the messiah will never arrive. Rejecting salvation is to recognize that every program is insufficient. The ‘program’ reintegrates the logic of salvation, the logic of transcendence. To program is to transcend, to program is to dominate. This doesn’t mean that a program can’t be useful. Programs—both in the tendencies towards symmetry and asymmetry— are immensely useful. They provide something to grab onto amidst the chaos; a safety net. But they do not supply salvation.
To pose asymmetry as a program—the asymmetry of Empire described by figures like ‘Bifo’ Berardi and Mark Fisher is, after all, a program—recentres asymmetry as a project of salvation. Even if this program is minimal, as in the case of asymmetrical resistance to Empire, it can adopt what Daniel Colucciello Barber has articulated as an ‘overarching chiastic structure’ of positionality (Barber 2015). This is a claim based in the work of François Laruelle: That the position attempting to overcome the world’s transcendence adopts a logic of transcendence. As such, asymmetry, as programmatic resistance, operates within a transcendent schema. A program that aims to overcome the world’s transcendence re-centres the transcendent operation with the aim of progress or salvation. The revolutionary will either die or live long enough to become the Master (Laruelle 1977; Vangeest 2020).
What Barber articulates in his consideration of positionality is that every position, every program, re-centres transcendence. Following Laruelle and Deleuze, Barber recognizes immanence as refusing transcendence. Immanence is not external; it is not a salvation that comes from outside. The plane of immanence is immanent to the world; it does not transcend the world. Yet, to articulate this immanence as distinct from transcendence is to recognize in this immanence something that does not serve or fall under the schemata of the world. This can be formulated through Barber’s consideration of immanence as the ‘no’ towards position or program: immanence does not “replace the transcendent something with an immanent something” (Barber 2015, 45). Immanence is not a position but the ‘no’ articulated against position; a no articulated against organization. It is an antagonism to the world that is immanent to the world. For Barber, this suggests a certain negativity of immanence—a saying ‘no’ to positionality. Yet, when immanence is articulated outside of positionality, the distinction between negativity and positivity is lost. Immanence is indeterminate: pure immanence—a plane of indeterminacy in the play of positivity and negativity—might be called the ‘non’ or, following Deleuze, ‘?Being’ wherein ?Being is the problematic ungrounding of the world. This is the ‘no’ which rejects the world at each stage of organization (Deleuze 1994, 63-68).
It is this immanent ‘non’ which I pose as the starting point of in(ter)vention. As such, in(ter)vention is not a soteriological push towards salvation. It is not a position of external resistance that overcomes the world by way of the logic of the world. Immanence does not posit, it is not productive. Immanence says no to the transcendent schemas. It is heretical to the logic of the world. In(ter)vention starts from this no of immanence. Its power is unilateral. The world has no power over immanence; the world only operates by programs and positions. The world cannot dominate that which is without position. As such, immanence acts upon the world—saying ‘no’ to the world—but without a reciprocal action of the world upon immanence.
Following Barber, I have already suggested that immanence is not a something. Something is a position; the position which immanence negates. For Barber, immanence is a no-saying material that denies position (2015, 50). As such, it is possible to align the world with individual somethings and immanence with what Gilbert Simondon terms pre-individual singularities: the ‘non’ is pre-individual. Again, with the pre-individual immanence the indetermination of positivity and negativity emerges. The being of immanence is not negative, the habit of immanence is negative (Barber 2016). Immanence both says no to the world but, in the rupture, unilaterally produces the world. It is here that the consideration of the virtual emerges. There is a huge chunk of scholarship on Deleuze’s use of ‘virtual,’ but for the sake of brevity I’ll simply note that my own reading of virtuality is close to that of François Zourabichvili who states the virtual is ‘fundamentally temporal’ (Zourabichvili 2012, 216). Virtuality is temporally grounded potential. The immanent ‘no’ is the insistence of the pre-individual upon the individual, the virtual potential that negates the actual. It is for this reason that Deleuze will align the virtual ‘pure past’ with the anti-production of the body without organs (Deleuze 2000, 71). Here, immanence refuses position while simultaneously being that from which position emerges.
The word ‘virtual’ is equivocal. The immanent virtual is distinct from the world of virtual technologies. Virtual technologies are programmatic. It is possible to map the asymmetrical domination of these programs in terms of both physical and social infrastructure. Alexander Galloway has explored protocol measures that persist within distributed networks of web infrastructure: a set of rules that govern behavioral patterns (Galloway 2004, 7). Rather than a purely nebulous network, the web is simultaneously a rhizomatic distribution while being rigidly hierarchical. The distributed network is neither centralized nor decentralized but instead a rhizome that connects to nodes on the basis of rigid protocol measures (2004, 11-12). Even in the early, anarchic days of the web—before the intense rigidification by way of social media—the rhizomatic network of nodes relied on rigidly material networks of root servers (2004, 9-10). The web, as virtual, is an example of the asymmetrical domination that occurs within the societies of control: the adoption of asymmetry by industry. Interaction on the web follows the organizational logic of control: one is free, but free within the confines designated by the structure—a structure designed to sell you things. There is a persistent stream of scholarship examining the way that virtual technologies form a pattern of oppression: terms like enframing, alienation, and enclosure will undoubtedly be familiar. This oppression frames human relations with technologies and other humans. As such, we might be tempted to return to the initial question: Is asymmetrical resistance or revolution possible against a figure of dominance who has adopted the logic of asymmetry?
If, however, the aim is not merely to escape the contemporary conditions, but the conditions of the contemporary conditions, the soteriological narrative implicit in any program of salvation is insufficient. Thus, ‘asymmetrical resistance’ will re-centre transcendence if it adopts a programmatic or positional structure. Rather than a salvation narrative based in transcendence, immanence offers a tactics of survival. Deleuze and Guattari are quick to quote George Jackson (without proper citation) in the consideration of the line of flight (McDougall 2019). The quote is translated differently in the various texts used by Deleuze and Guattari, but Jackson’s original statement reads “I may run, but all the time that I am, I’ll be looking for a stick” (Jackson 1970, 328). Michelle Koerner (2011), in writing on Jackson, Deleuze and Guattari, aligns this position with black fugitivity as a line of flight. This is a commitment to consider black fugitivity as the “the ‘unthought’ of Western philosophy” (Koerner 2011, 178). This fugitivity is not of the world—it is not positional. Rather, as the unthought of the world, black fugitivity is an immanent ‘no’ of non-being (Barber 2016). The existence of the black fugitive says no to the world. Barber recognizes this antagonism as simultaneously escape and weaponization. These twin processes are notable for a consideration of in(ter)vention insofar as it brings together the act of inventing weapons with an intervention on the world. As Jackson escapes, he looks for a stick. Escape is simultaneously tied to a weapon. Given the lack of program, the search for a weapon is a search for what is available. This is where the immanent virtual takes part: the virtual is the set of potentials made available by the world. Weapons are distilled from the fabric of the world (consider the practice of metallurgy in A Thousand Plateaus). Weaponization is an act of in(ter)vention on the world. It is the recognition that, even when we affirm Audre Lorde in suggesting that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” one can still make use of the cracks in the house’s foundation (Lorde 1984). In(ter)vention is the weaponization of immanently virtual potentials to resist the logic of position or program. This virtual is not outside of the world, but not of the world either. The ‘no’ of non-being, as immanence, is enacted through the ‘no’ of these potentials. It doesn’t matter which program or position will be successful. Immanence offers not a positive project but a pure negativity from the perspective of the world. In this way, it is heretical. If the world adopts a logic of transcendence, the refusal of transcendence by immanence is heresy. In(ter)vention’s refusal of salvation is heretical.
Can this negative heresy be operationalized against the transcendental virtual of the world? There are two central issues that need to be considered. The first is that any attempt to operationalize immanence risks the re-centering of transcendence. There is always the risk that the operationalization of immanence adopts a programmatic logic with the aim towards salvation. This adoption might unground the contemporary conditions, but it fails to say no to the conditions which conditions those conditions, otherwise stated as the transcendent language of the world, which is the primary aim of in(ter)vention. On the other side there is a more terrifying danger: the loss of any control. The ‘no’ of immanence goes even further than a selective ‘no’ (Deleuze 1984; Adams and Virilio 2010). The end of the world is a terrifying prospect. For those with any claim to transcendence or sovereignty in the world, it will be easier to stay put (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 500). Without control it is always easier to adopt a program that provides control: it is always easier to remain in the strata of the world.
With these issues in mind, it is possible to proceed towards an in(ter)vention in the virtual, but only in a limited sense. This theorization can only be limited, for without limits it will become a program for overcoming, rather than a tactics of survival. The limits are limits of concreteness. Theoretical in(ter)vention can only be abstract. Against the virtual world, immanence operates as a (non-)position or a position without position, perhaps an articulation rather than a position. It says no to the virtual world. The act of in(ter)vention is the weaponization of the virtual potentials in the world that can be turned against the world. It throws dynamite in the cracked foundation of the world. In(ter)vention invents the weapons through these virtual potentials which allow it to intervene; but this in(ter)vention repeatedly refuses a positive position. The aim is only escape and weaponization: a tactics of survival rather than a program of salvation. We seek heretics, not messiahs.
Jacob Vangeest is a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. Jacob’s current research explores the nebulous constellation of posthumanism, cybernetics, and considerations of the ‘non’ within the lineage of theories and philosophies of becoming.
This essay was originally presented at the 2021 Northeast Modern Language Associations Conference.
Adams, J. and Paul Virilio. 2010. “The Speeds of Ambiguity: An Interview with Paul Virilio.” Boundary2 37 no. 1: 167-78. https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2009-040.
Barber, Daniel Colucciello. 2015. “Nonrelation and Metarelation.” In Serial Killing: A Philosophical Anthropology. Edina Connole and Gary J. Shipley (eds). New York: Schism Press. 39-52.
——. 2016. “The Creation of Non-Being.” Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, no. 29: 1-1. https://doi.org/10.20415/rhiz/029.e10
De Boever, Arne. 2021. “Finance and Friction.” Presented at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism: Speaker Series at The University of Western Ontario. February 21.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1983. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Janis Thomlinson (trans). New York: Columbia.
——. 1992. “Postscription on the Societies of Control.” October vol 59: 3-7. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0162-2870%28199224%2959%3C3%3APOTSOC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-T
——. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Paul Patton (trans). New York: Columbia.
——. 2000. Proust and Signs: The Complete Text. Richard Howard (trans). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Brian Massumi (trans). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Galloway, Alexander. 2004. Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Jackson, George. 1970. Soledad Brothers: The Prison Letters of George Jackson. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.
Koerner, Michelle. 2011. “Line of Escape: Gilles Deleuze Encounter with George Jackson.” Genre 44, no. 2: 157-80. https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1260183.
Laruelle, François. 1977. Nietzsche contre Heidegger: Thèses pour une politique nietzschéenne. Paris : Payot.
Lorde, Audre. 1984. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Ed. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press. 110-114.
McDougall, Taijia. 2019. “Left Out: notes on Absence, Nothingness and the Black Prisoner Theorist.” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 15, no 2. https://doi.org/10.33596/anth.391.
Smith, Jeremy R. and Jacob Vangeest. 2021. “Aleatory Gnosis: In(ter)vention and Quantagonism.” Philo-Fictions: La Revue des non-philosophies. No. 5: 102-120.
Vangeest, Jacob. 2020. “Nietzschean Problematics.” Masters Thesis. London, ON: University of Western Ontario. https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=9745&context=etd.
Zourabichvili, François. 2012. The Vocabulary of Gilles Deleuze in Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event Together with The Vocabulary of Deleuze. Kieran Aarons (trans). Gregg Lambert and Daniel W. Smith (eds). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press