If the ‘archive’ is the structure of what is sayable (discourse), then the ‘diagram’ is the structure of an environment.

Deleuze, Foucault, p31-2, 34:

Archaeology puts forward a distinction between two types of practical formations: the one ‘discursive’, involving statements, the other ‘non-discursive’, involving environment. For example, clinical medicine at the end of the eighteenth century is a discursive formation; but as such it relates to a mass and a population who depend on another kind of formation and so bring in non-discursive environments such as ‘institutions, political events, economic practices and processes’. Naturally, environments also produce statements, just as statements determine environments. but the fact remains that the two formations are heterogeneous, even though they may overlap: there is no correspondence or isomorphism, no direct causality or symbolization.n11 _The Archaeology of Knowledge_ therefore marked a turning point: it posited a firm distinction between the two forms but, as it proposed to define the form of statements, it contented itself with indicating the other forms in a negative way, as the ‘non-discurisve.’
_Discipline and Punish_ marks a new stage. Even a ‘thing’ like prison is seen as an environmental formation (the ‘prison’ environment) and a form of content (where the content is the prisoner). But this thing or form does not refer back to a ‘word’ designating it, or to a signifier for which it would be the signified. It refers to completely different words and concepts, such as delinquency or delinquent, which express a new way of articulating infractions, sentences and their subjects. Let us call this formation of statements a _form of expression._ The two forms may have emerged at the same time, in the eighteenth century, but they are still none the less heterogeneous.
Penal law undergoes a development that obliges it to speak of crime and punishment in terms of the defense of society (and no longer in terms of vengeance or the restoration of [pg32] sovereign power): signs addressed to the soul or mind which establish certain mental associations between the crime and the punishment (a code). But prison is a new way of acting on bodies, and evolves form something entirely different to penal law: ‘Prisons, that concentrated and austere figure of all disciplines, is not an endogenous element in the penal system as defined at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.’n12 Penal law concerns those aspects of criminal material that can be articulated: it is a system of language that classifies and translates offences and calculates sentences; a family of statements that is also a threshold. Prison, for its part, is concerned with whatever is visible: not only does it wish to display the crime and the criminal but in itself it constitutes a visibility. it is a system of light before being a figure of stone, and is defined by ‘Panopticism’: by a visual assemblages and a luminous environment (a central tower surrounded by cells) in which the warder can see all the detainees without the detainees being able to see either him or one another.n13
….[pg 34]So the the abstract formula of Panopticism is no longer ‘to see without being seen’ but _to impose a particular conduct on a particular human multiplicity._ We need only insist that the multiplicity is reduced and confined to a tight space and that the imposition of a form of conduct is done by distributing in space, laying out and serializing in time, composing in space-time, and so on.n17 The list is endless, but it is always concerned with unformed and unorganized matter and unformalized, unfinalized functions, the two variables being indissolubly linked.
What can we call such a new informal dimension? On one occasion Foucault gives it its most precise name: it is a ‘diagram’, that is to say a ‘functioning, abstracted from any obstacle […] or friction [and which] must be detached from any specific use’.n18 The _diagram_ is no longer an auditory or visual archive but a map, a cartography that is coextensive with the whole social field. It is an abstract machine. It is defined by its informal functions and matter and in terms of form makes no distinction between content and expression, a discursive formation and a non-dicursive formation. It is a machine that is almost blind and mute, even though it makes other see and speak.


7 thoughts on “diagram:environment::archive:discourse

  1. note note note note: archive is not meant by foucault as a compilation of statements. “the archive” is _the structure_ of the statements made — something he also calls something like ‘the historical a priori, which is not the a priori plus history’ — cf AOK.

    1. Or in rigidly philosophical terms (in this “Maurice Florence” foucault auto-biography):

      It is not a matter of defining the formal conditions of a relationship to the object; nor is it a matter of isolating the empirical conditions that may, at a given moment, have enabled the subject in general to become acquainted with an object already given in reality. The problem is to determine what the subject must be, to what condition he is subject, what status he must have, what position he must occupy in reality or in the imaginary, in order to become a legitimate subject of this or that type of knowledge [connaissance]. In short, it is a matter of determining its mode of “subjectivation”, for the latter is obviously not the same, according to whether the knowledge involved has the form of an exegesis of a sacred text, a natural history observation, or the analysis of a mental patient’s behavior. But it is also and at the same time a question of determining under what conditions something can become an object for a possible knowledge [connaissance], how it may have been problematized as an object to be known, to what selective procedure it may have been subjected, the part of it that is regarded as pertinent. So it is a matter of determining its mode of objectivation, which is not the same either, depending on the type of knowledge [savoir] that is involved.

  2. the title of this post seems wrong insofar as the dispositif “is defined by its informal functions and matter and in terms of form makes no distinction between content and expression, a discursive formation and a non-dicursive formation.” or at least that’s the definition i’ve been operating on

    1. Hey Kai,

      I think it’s important to distinguish between the Deleuzian and Foucauldian elements.

      dispositif (foucault) == assemblage (deleuze)

      diagram (foucault) == abstract machine (deleuze)

      So I believe the title-analogy is still correct:

      “diagram is to environment as archive is to discourse”


  3. i am pretty sure that ‘diagram’ is simply the english translation of ‘dispositif’ in Deleuze’s book on Foucault (which is elsewhere translated as apparatus. I agree that for Deleuze this is the same as the abstract machine, but I think diagram/dispositif are the same concept. You might want to also check out Deleuze’s piece “what is a dispositif?” if you haven’t yet.

    1. Dispositif is usually translated: assemblage, apparatus, device, deployment

      In French, diagram is simply diagramme.

      Consider the difference between Lacan/Guattari’s ‘diagrams’ and the assemblages of ‘things’ Deleuze lists when talking about Beckett (like Molloy’s rocks).

      Another way to consider it would be – abstract machines more-or-less inhabit the virtual (as do diagrams) while deployments are usually just actual (or a mixture of the two).

    2. followup b/c i’m about to write on this and wanted to adjudicate this scholarly disagreement first –>


      On verra également que pour Deleuze, la grande innovation théorique de Surveiller et punir de Foucault tient à l’introduction du concept de diagramme, qui définit le plan sur lequel s’articulent contenu et expression et constitue leur cause immanente. La distinction entre diagramme et agencement se voit dès lors redoublée par celle entre machine abstraite et machine concrète, la première étant définie par les vecteurs de mutation affectant la seconde.n6 –> n6: Cf. G. DELEUZE, Foucault, Paris, Minuit, 1986, p. 47: “Les machines concrètes, ce sont les agencements, les dispositifs biformes; la machine abstraite, c’est le diagramme informel.” (dorénavant noté F dans le corps du texte, suivi du numéro de la page).

      diagram = abstract
      assemblage/dispositif = concrete

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