The document will open with the statement that, “Escape is the oldest story of freedom. It is also the simplest.” But, rather than immediately explaining the statement, it will pair freedom with revolution. The general argument is that escape as a political concept is inextricably tied to the two general ideas of freedom and revolution. What follows is a conception of escape that does not ‘get away from it all,’ but dynamically constitutes a ‘tactical distance’ for the radical transformation of society.
Before continuing, let me expand the frame. The concept of escape is a distillation of the politics of nomadism theorized in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. In this book, Deleuze and Guattari propose the state as a form of capture by which matter, most notably human bodies, is controlled. While a lot has been written about nomadism, much less has been written about the rapport between the ‘apparatus of capture’ and lines of flight.
A significant shift is made from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus; away from an expanded Freudo-Marxism, to a full-fledged non-linear historical materialism. The first signs appear in the short second plateau “One or Many Wolves,” which serves as a quick homage to psychoanalysis. Next, Marx fades into the background to serve more as a historian or materialist than a political economist. The move away from Marxism is culminated in the apparatus of capture plateau, where Deleuze and Guattari severely qualify the foundational Marxist concept ‘mode of production’ (429). They argue against the traditional Marxist account, which follows an evolutionist paradigm whereby the State is a developmental result of a revolutionary ‘evolution’ in production (agricultural revolution, tool use, etc.). Instead, Deleuze and Guattari invert the claim, arguing that production is not the primary category, politics is: it is the State that makes production a ‘mode’, not a mode of production that produces the State.
Deleuze and Guattari subsequently introduce a revolutionary political account of societies in order to depart from an evolutionary Marxist account. For them, a society should be characterized by its management of lines of escape instead of its mode of production. By highlighting escape as the primary means by which societies change, Deleuze and Guattari characterize a society primarily through its susceptibility and means by which it transforms. This argument does not presume that the concept of escape stays essentially the same across space and time, but rather, that vectors of escape constitute best image of the field of potential in any given society.