[D-G] deleuze and benjamin on violence

nicholaskiersey at mac.com nicholaskiersey at mac.com
Tue Feb 28 12:03:00 PST 2006

No doubt there seem to be a wide range of works that could be  
usefully discussed here. Another idea I have been thinking about is  
Foucault's reversal of Clausewitz's maxim, which D&G also reverse, to  
suggest that politics is the continuation of war by other means.  
Foucault's genealogy of this is interesting, in particular his  
explanation of why Clausewitz would have ever felt it necessary to  
say otherwise (see Society Must Be Defended).

Yet the thing I feel compelled to linger on is the idea of a pure  
violence itself. In Benjamin's piece on violence, and various  
commentaries on it, it seems that the reader is supposed to  
understand Benjamin as arguing for a kind of transcendence of law -  
or, perhaps, the era of law. The problem with law, or the state for  
that matter, is that it absolutely requires the capture of violence  
in order to sustain itself. For Benjamin, could we therefore say that  
war is in a position of exteriority to the state? Agamben seems to be  
getting at. He is suggesting that Benjamin wants to have us think  
anew about violence and the possibility that it could once again be  
exterior to the state.

Inherent in all this then is the idea that the everyday familiar  
discourse of war and peace might be read quite differently. Indeed,  
it might be read as itself imperial. Does anybody mind if I use the  
term imperial here like this? What I mean is that it has an imperial  
function: As Deleuze and Guattari observe, the capacity to make war  
is not in and of itself an instrument of the State but, rather, a  
practice proper an autonomous social body which the State has to  
capture or co-opt and put to work in order to reproduce itself.

Crucially, however, the tendency of the State to capture/colonize the  
‘war machine’ is a sort of devil’s bargain. By its very nature, the  
capture is never fully achieved, the threat of revolution is never  
fully abolished - as Benjamin notes, the general strike is even legal  
in some instances! The State is thus forced into constantly having to  
fine-tune the way it works on its population - distracting in some  
instances, declaring the state of exception in others. This is where  
I think Rumagin's comments come in - which I liked - that the  
everyday scenes of the population are somehow implicated in all of this.

Gondo is on point, too. We need to talk about how states are working  
in combination here. I have found myself frustrated by the debate in  
international relations theory just now about the 'transatlantic  
crisis' presented by American 'unilateralism'. How safe are we  
reducing the question of imperialism today to a unilateral American  
project? So many seem to feel the need to do this. And I am  
sympathetic, to an extent: there are so many powerful empirical  
accounts of American duplicity. But none of them seem to speak to the  
issue at hand here. That is, the deadly contradiction in modern  

On Feb 28, 2006, at 13:16, Rumagin at aol.com wrote:

> I like where you go with this.
> In an aisde about Benjamin - he was a German Jew on the run from  
> the Nazis who, as i have been told committed suicide in 1940 on the  
> border of Spain/France - his intersections with Capitalism, the War  
> Machine, The State and suicide are infinitely prodcutive not least  
> because he presents the individuals persepctive/experience on the  
> implosion of life under the the combinations of varied projects as  
> knowledge not belief. As he would have been fond to point out and  
> as Arendt notes in the introduction to Illuminations, there is a  
> correlation between a thought, a street scene, a speculation on the  
> stock market, the War Machine's non minoritarian position with the  
> hidden line/connection/flow/plug/coupling (s) that holds them  
> together.
> Please continue with the war machine stuff - it seems very  
> pertinent. One question i am interested in is how Virilio's war  
> machine plays into this space you are exploring?
> In an email dated Tue, 28 2 2006 5:54:34 pm GMT, Gondo -Minnie  
> <gondominnie at yahoo.co.uk> writes:
>> Hi
>>   i am thinking also about the topic of war machine and this is  
>> what i think
>>  i think the war machine DG said can be in relation
>>  to the state. what i do not measure, is the way takes off this  
>> relation.
>>  in ATP there's two Machines of War position, see  of Apparatus of  
>> Capture Chapter
>>  Did Benjamin not write during the second world war, and was  
>> particulary concerned with Nazi
>>  I am somewhat shame ridden to say:
>>  In the way Nazis were an implosion of Capitalism, a capture by  
>> the Third Reich of segments and flows of the war machine of  
>> capitalism, yet turning it against itself. It did so in reason  
>> thereof Capitalism shared coexistence or combination with States  
>> like France, America, Russia (Britain etc)
>>  and wish i d Rather say:
>>  Deleuze say Nazi were suicidary. i took the States (cfr Mein  
>> Kamph in Propaganda)
>>  values, ressources, and vampirized it. Which triggered this is a  
>> 1929 crisis, external, to Germany.
>>  The question for Agamben, might be: what with the modern day War  
>> Machine in its non minoritarian position. The simple fact of its  
>> exteriority, implies States are combined, in the activity of the  
>> War Machine. The violence you speaketh therewhichcomes from the  
>> reterritorialisation on the ressources of States (I guess this can  
>> be energy, but can be values, in reason States incorporeates  
>> values and energies.) for the active of the War Machine.
>>  Please answer if I am correct.If this goes your way, and helps. I  
>> would like your opinion because my thought need be perfect. Gracias.
>>  Ciao
>>  G.
>> Nicholas Kiersey <nkiersey at vt.edu> wrote:
>>  Dear D&G folks:
>> Having read Deleuze and Guattari a bit on nomadism and the concept of
>> the war machine some time back, I am today reading Agamben on
>> Benjamin's notion of a 'pure violence' that undermines sovereignty by
>> virtue of the "simple fact of its exteriority".
>> Can someone tell me if they share my feeling that there is a
>> resonance between the war machine and benjamin's pure violence? Has
>> this been explored? Is there somewhere Agamben elaborates on this in
>> detail?
>> Perhaps someone more involved in these literatures might be able to
>> shed some light?
>> Thanks,
>> NiK
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