Lazzarato, Signs and Machines Outline, Intro-Chp 2

money is just paperHere is an outline of Maurizio Lazzarato’s Signs and Machines that includes his Intro, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2. It is here that he develops his essential distinction between signifying/asignifying linguistics and their subsequent subjectivites of social subjection/machinic enslavement. A better formatted version is available in the downloads section of this blog. Enjoy!




23 – 1. Social subjection and machinic enslavement

29 – 2. Human/machine vs humans/machinies

32 – 3. Egyptian megamachine

34 – 4. The functions of subjection

39 – Capital as a semiotic operator

43 – 1. The concept of “production”

49 – 2. Desire and production

52 – 3. The failure of “human capital”


57 – 1. The remains of structuralism: language without structure

66 – 2. Signifying semiologies

68 – i. The Political Function of Semiologies of Signification

72 – ii. Reference, Signification, Representation

80 – 3. Asignifying semiotics Continue reading “Lazzarato, Signs and Machines Outline, Intro-Chp 2”


“Money is Just Paper but it Affects People Like Poetry”: Capitalism and Public Address

leatherfaceThis is the abstract for the paper I’m giving on Monday. If you find yourself in Spokane, let me know.

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). Continue reading ““Money is Just Paper but it Affects People Like Poetry”: Capitalism and Public Address”

Maurizio Lazzarato, Signs and Machines, “Introduction”


To say that desire is part of the infrastructure comes down to saying that subjectivity produces reality. Subjectivity is not an ideological superstructure.

At the time of Leninism, the government had to be overturned – the trade unions were economists, traitors – power had to go to the Soviets: in short, there was an idea, there was something. But here, really, there is no idea. There’s nothing at all. There’s the idea of macroeconomics, of a certain number of factors: unemployment, the market, money, all abstractions that have nothing at all to do with social reality.

-Félix Guattari, “Crise de production de subjectivité,”

Seminar of April 3, 1984

In a seminar in 1984, Félix Guattari argued that the crisis affecting the West since the early 1970s as, more than an economic or political crisis, a crisis of subjectivity. How are we to understand Guattari’s claim?

Germany and Japan came out of the Second World War completely destroyed, under long-term occupation, both socially and (8) psychologically decimated, with “no material assets-no raw materials, no reserve capital.” What explains the economic miracle? “They rebuilt a prodigious ‘capital of subjectivity’ (capital in the form of knowledge, collective intelligence, the will to survive, etc.). Indeed,they invented a new type of subjectivity out of the devastation itself. The Japanese, in particular, recovered aspects of their archaic subjectivity, converting them into the most ‘advanced’ forms of social and material production. [. . .] The latter represents a kind of industrial complex for the production of subjectivity, one enabling a multiplicity of creative processes to emerge, certain of which are, however, highly alienating.”2

Capitalism “launches (subjective) models the way the automobile industry launches a new line of cars.”3 Indeed, the central project of capitalist politics consists in the articulation of economic, technological, and social flows with the production of subjectivity in such a way that political economy is identical with “subjective economy.” Guattari’s working hypothesis must be revived and applied to current circumstances; and we must start by acknowledging that neoliberalism has failed to articulate the relation between these two economies.

Guattari further observes capitalism’s capacity to foresee and resolve systemic crises through apparatuses and safeguards that it came to master following the Great Depression. Today, the weakness of capitalism lies in the production of subjectivity. As a consequence, systemic crisis and the crisis in the production of subjectivity are strictly interlinked. It is impossible to separate economic, political, and social processes from the processes of subjectivation occurring within them. Continue reading “Maurizio Lazzarato, Signs and Machines, “Introduction””

Empire & The Grid

Yesterday, Matt asked a wonderful question about my theory of subjection in Empire and its relevance to Massumi’s use of “the grid” in the introduction to Parables For the Virtual.

Let me first preface this by saying that I believe Empire has already overcome the problem of the grid. It’s now just a problem for cultural studies and other disciplines that linger on old models of social analysis. In contrast to Empire, subjection in The Social State is absolutely indicative of a grid-type model of power, as are parts of the Modern State. ***Therefore: struggles against hierarchy and binary exclusion may benefit Empire rather than confront it.***

At the beginning Parables, Massumi claims that most cultural studies uses a social model premised on structural positions (“feminine,” “black,” etc). This is an application of an argument he inherits from Anti-Oedipus, where Deleuze and Guattari develop an elaborate critique of certain Fruedo-Lacanian psychoanalytic models that use a grid. They spare Lacan himself (Guattari was once the heir-apparent to Lacan’s ecole freudienne and remained under analysis even after the publication of AO), but are not so kind to his more dogmatic followers, such as Serge Leclaire.

Continue reading “Empire & The Grid”

Lazzarato’s Virtual Communism

Lazzarato is able to distinguish his approach from traditional historical materialism with a few key reversals. The first is an elaboration on an argument he shares with Read: production is ‘greater’ than reproduction, which is just a translation of D&G’s claim that the virtual is richer than the actual. But rather than remaining within the capitalist mode of production, which treats it as a de facto totality, Lazzarato uses Tarde to make a move that detaches his analysis from capitalist production almost completely:

invention, as the creation of the possible and its process of actualisation in the souls (of consumers as well as workers), is the real production, whilst what Marx and the economists call production is, in reality, a reproduction (or a manufacture of a product or a management of a service even if in this case the things are a bit more complicated). (CLCL: 192)

In place of the totality of the mode of production, Lazzarato posit an original dynamic multiplicity. It is from that multiplicity that everything is constructed. Lazzarato then fully integrates a Foucaultian analysis within this metaphysics of the multiple.

Continue reading “Lazzarato’s Virtual Communism”