From: "Thomas G. Schumacher" <Schumacher.2@xxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 14:23:09 -0400
At 12:04 PM 9/16/98 -0400, you wrote:
>>in AO, is how can / why do, flows allow themselves to be coded? Their
>>answer is because the displaced representative acts as a lure, a trap
>>and I just dont think that that is an answer at all.
>>Its fine to say that "desire is trapped", that "desire is lured" just as
>>its fine to say that "a stone falls" but you cant offer "a trapper", "a
>>lurer", "a puller" as an explanation. Why should the displaced
>>representative *work*? I dont think that there is a satisfactory
>>account of the mechanism(s) involved in AO.
Perhaps a more satisfactory explanation of the mechanism can be gleaned
from the Apparatus of Capture plateau in ATP. It seems that the argument
in AO is that desire is prior to interest, by which they mean that it is
not necessarily in desire's interest to invest one thing over another, but
that social production always shapes the ways in which desire invests (the
despot, commodity production, the family, etc.). It is not in the
"interest" of the proletariat to invest in working, but desire itself is
not proletarian. That level of interest is "after" the unconscious.
Social production shapes desire in despotic societies through the mechanism
of over-coding. As others have remarked on the list, it's not that desire
is "fooled" (this is perhaps a conscious version); it's more that desire is
"engineered" (disciplined in Foucault) in particular directions. Desire is
invested in a particular way over others. Invested in the king/pope/ruler
because the coding mechanism directs it in that way. The origis of
capitalism seem to be in the deterritorialization of feudalism, and this
happens largely through decoding because feudalism is held together by a
system of beliefs. Land is no longer tied to the king through belief;
rather it's an abstraction that can be traded according to an equivalent
(money). Ditto for labor (abstract labor). There's no longer a code that
says you have to work for the king five out of seven days because the king
has lost his power. Why believe in the king? Why invest your desire in
the legitimacy of the monarchy? Everyone "knows" now that it's capital
that rules. And how do D&G say that capital does this? Not primarily
through coding -- everything is "freed up" from the older coding systems
and desire is much freer to invest the whole of the social field. Instead,
capital tacks on an axiomatic, makes things exchangeable, and extracts a
surplus from all the little desiring productions. Now the trap is not
semiotic, its economic.
But how does this get at the "mechanism" of trapping desire? It would seem
that since the semiotic trap is much less an option now (we're all cynics),
we have the commodity system. Desire is not "fooled", it is engineered.
Certain avenues are opened up, others closed down. Now that this type of
activity can realize a surplus in the market, it's advertised, encouraged,
suggested. There are still activities which do not generate any surplus
for capital, but they are few and far between (everything is reduced to its
market price). We no longer have to follow the orders of the king/pope.
We can buy pornography or cigarettes or Holy Bibles with our wages. It's
all the same for the market. So now desire invests all sorts of things.
The worry of capital is that collective desire will stop investing in the
products of the market and will start to invest in something else,
something new, something that doesn't have a price (yet). The mechanism of
trapping desire is a mechanism to get the flows plugged into the social
Like many theorists of structuralism and post-structuralism, language is
theorized by Deleuze and Guattari to be a way in which the intensity of
desire is cancelled out, limited. (Cf. the discussion of how
representation is a cancellation of difference in DR.) So in AO,
representation is a channel for the organization of desire on the BwO of
feudal societies. Why does it work? Because that's what representation
does: it reduces difference (desiring production) to identity (social
order). Of course they could be wrong.