Notes On A Micropolitics of Singularization

Meeting at the premises of the Grupo de Acao Lesbico-Feminista, Sao Paulo, September 2, 1982: 

 Felix Guattari:  [F]irst of all I would like to say that it is always necessary to mistrust our categories.  This opposition between molar and molecular may be a trap.  Gilles Deleuze and I always try to cross this opposition with another, the opposition between micro and macro.  The two are different.  The molecular, as process, can originate in the macro.  The molar can be instituted in the micro.  The problem that you’re raising can’t be reduced to just two levels, molecular and molar (the level of the politics of the constitution of major identities).  This reduction doesn’t enable us to understand problems such as individuality, identity, and singularity.  For example, the fact that a woman has to behave in a certain way, model herself from childhood in her way of assuming standards of femininity, just as they’re programmed in the social field as a whole, by what I call the “general function of collective facilities.”  And when I speak of collective facilities I’m not referring only to things like clinics or health centers, but also to magazines, and radio and TV programs aimed at women.  It’s this function of collective facilities that codifies conduct, behavior, attitudes, and value systems practically by remote control.  But it can’t be said that we are dealing with a process of individuation at this level.  As an illustration, let’s take the image of automobile salesmen. 

They have a range of models available for different budgets, which correspond to different social categories.  This range of models intersects with the fact that you can personalize or “customize,” as they say: you can choose seat coverings in leather, suede, or cloth, and you can also choose your favorite color.  At this level, therefore, we could think more about the process of personalization.

The example of the car is important because that’s what distinguishes the mode of consumption in industrial capitalist societies from the incredible mass production of consumer goods that exist in the countries of Eastern Europe.  There are the same pants, the same cigarettes, the same stereos — in short, the same things with the same materials: except that in the capitalist world we personalize ourselves.  In any case, these two types of society exude the same kind of tedium, the same kind of impossibility of escaping from this pseudo-personological siege.  And in this case I think we can certainly speak of modelization, of a totally alienated production of subjectivity.

 It’s not my place to come here and give a course on the life of women who are completely confined to their domestic space with all its preestablished circuits — the corner supermarket, the soap opera at such and such a time, a weekend spent somewhere or other.  Nor am I the appropriate person to talk about how this confinement frequently causes there to be a great superiority of men over women at work because, however oppressive the field of work may be, there is always a certain degree of freedom there, however tiny.  That’s why, when the weekend comes, or a holiday or a vacation, people who work very often feel a kind of subjective boredom and unconsciously begin to hope that the break will soon be over, so that they can go back to their situation of insertion in work.  This leads to an extraordinary paradox: the fact that sometimes it’s in labor relations where there is the greatest degree of exploitation and submission that these frequently insignificant microdimensions with their coefficient of liberty and desire are preserved.

 I know Japan a little, and this kind of thing is very sensitive in a society such as the Japanese one.  There’s a development of a whole kind of group Eros running alongside the large production organizations.  At work itself or after work, the employees, especially the men meet up with other colleagues — including the boss – to drink sake and talk, creating a kind of sociodramatic situation.  This kind of model shows us how the molar production of subjectivity is necessarily accompanied by some negotiation of molecular processes.

 That’s why it’s necessary to mistrust this kind of molar/molecular categorization, which separates the fields too much.  Capitalistic production machines function poorly, or even not at all, if this capturing of miniprocesses of desire, or freedom of singularization, or whatever you like to call it, doesn’t take place.  If there’s one set of production with which totalitarian systems – of the Soviet kind and others — have very great difficulty in dealing, this is it.  One the other hand, knowing how to deal with these problems is one of the great superiorities of the production of subjectivity in capitalist countries: being able to use the media and a series of very complex systems to carry out this kind of ongoing cooptation of the microvectors of singular subjectivation.

 If we go back to the example that you propose — a militant homosexual group — we see that this case, too, can’t be mechanically classified into these two categories (molar and molecular).  There will always necessarily be a certain functionality that is molar — for example, the fact that at some time or other one m ay fall into the trap of some kind of representativity, or the fact that feminist militants let themselves be carried away by the star system.

 Basically the processes of singularization cannot be specifically assigned to a macrosocial level or a microsocial level, or even to an individual level.  that’s why I prefer to speak of a “process of singularization” rather than singularity — and, once again, without presenting an apologia for the processes of singularization, because the can enter any kind of modality of system of cooperation, systems of modelization.  _Any micropolitical approach consists precise in at the attempt to assemblage the processes of singularization on the very level from which they emerge._ This is in order to avoid their cooptation by the production of capitalistic subjectivity — either by the great network of collective facilities, or by structures of the kind that you indicated, of reappropriation through militant action.  Militant action is also exposed to risks of modelization: the “alternative,” for example, may be an equally oppressive modelization, but in another form.  Consequently, an analytic micropolitics of singularities would have to traverse these different stratifications, these different levels.

Let’s take the example of feminism.  At a molar level, it can constitute an organization with a transitory program to protect itself against segregation, to demand rights, and so on.  but at the same time, at a molecular level, the function fo autonomy in feminism does not concern only those women who consider themselves feminist, but all women, and also the way in which the organization addresses women who are not members.  And equally, of course, it concerns all men, if consider that men are also, I repeat, immersed in a becoming-feminine.  however, if the feminism in question becomes reduced to molar references — of capitalistic binary oppositions of the sexes, and not just that but also things like the vote, political proposals, tendencies — it loses it processual character (its function of singularization).  Unfortunately, this has happened in Europe with many feminist movements that only conduct politics as a group and on a large scale.  This often led them to function like completely classical sectarian groups, and in some cases even led to the adoption of a psychoanalytic posture within the group, which was catastrophic.

 That is why I believe that there is a level in autonomous groups (the molar level) where they are enveloped by circumscriptions, and enter into power relations, which give them a figure of identity.  But the only way of guaranteeing that they will not transform their processes of singularization into a banner (which would go against the very reality of the processes) is to attempt to preserve the function of autonomy.  That is precisely where all the work can be done: at the points of coexistence of these _n_ levels, the relations of which do not obey a binary logic of false/true and that kind of stuff.

Molecular Revolution in Brazil p 180-4

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