Every word is a death sentence; or so argue Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus. While previous work in public address has drawn on their work to remark on how communication constitutes a people or a territory (Roberts 2008; Brighenti 2010), I consider a darker Deleuze: his theory of how rhetoric inaudibly cuts, maims, and kills.
In the paper, I analyze financial reports, labor statistics, and corporate press conferences as a form of public address. I find that capital is itself a rhetorical agent that produces discursive events, but it communicates in a silent language. Theoretically, I use the concepts of ‘sign-operators’ and ‘incorporeal transformation’ from Deleuze (Deleuze 1990; Deleuze and Guattari 1984). The first extends recent work on how capitalist signs intervene directly in material flows (Lazzarato 2014). The second builds from other rhetorical work on ‘incorporeal transformation,’ especially as it describes the ability of the State to enact violence (Cooper 1988; Buchanan 2007).
Andrea Mubi Brighenti (2010) “At the Wall: Graffiti Writers, Urban Territoriality, and the Public Domain,” Space and Culture, 13: 315-332.
Ian Buchanan (2007) “Deleuze and the Internet,” Australian Humanities Review, 43.
Martha Cooper (1988) “Rhetorical Criticism and Foucault’s Philosophy of Discursive Events,” Central States Speech Journal, 39(1): 1-17.
Gilles Deleuze (1990/1969) The Logic of Sense, trans CV Boundas.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1984/1980) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans B Massumi.
Maurizio Lazzarato (2014/2010) Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity, trans JD Jordan.
John Michael Roberts (2008) “Expressive Free Speech, the State and the Public Sphere: A Bakhtinian–Deleuzian Analysis of ‘Public Address’ at Hyde Park,” Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest, 7(2): 101-119.