- ---- by Jonathan RoffeIn the period before his death, Deleuze announced in an interview that he would like to compose a work, which would be called The Grandeur of Marx. This fact clearly indicates Deleuze's positive attitude towards the philosophy of Karl Marx, which he never abandoned despite altering many of its fundamental elements. Certainly the most important of these elements is capitalism. The Marxism of Deleuze comes from his insistence that all political thought must take its bearings from the capitalist context we live in. While mentioning capitalism in passing in a number of places, it is the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, which contain the most sustained and radical treatment of this theme.Deleuze and Guattari insist any given social formation restricts or structures movements or ﬂows. They claim that these ﬂows are not just the ﬂows of money and commodities familiar to economists, but can be seen at a variety of levels: the movement of people and traffic in a city, the ﬂows of words that are bound up in a language, the ﬂows of genetic code between generations of plants, and even the ﬂow of matter itself (the movement of the ocean, electrons moving in metals, and so forth). Thus, Deleuze and Guattari's political thought begins with the premise that nature itself, the Whole of existence, is at once a matter of ﬂows, and that any society must structure these ﬂows in order to subsist. All State and pre-State societies - all those which according to Marx are pre-capitalist - on Deleuze and Guattari's account, have such a restriction of ﬂows as their basic principle.Deleuze and Guattari call this process of restriction, or structuring, 'coding'. They conceive coding as at once restrictive and necessary. Societies, as regimes of coding, aim to bring about certain fixed ways of existing (living, talking, working, relating) while denying other more malleable ways. However, without some structure - our own coherent individuality and agency for example, which Deleuze and Guattari consider specific to each social formation and always oppressive - there would be no basis upon which to challenge and attempt to alter the given coding regime. Both Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus include lengthy analyses of different kinds of societies and the ways in which they code ﬂows.Capitalism is the radical exception to this basic central understanding of the nature of society. There are four features to this exceptional status of capitalism for Deleuze and Guattari. First, instead of working by coding ﬂows, capitalism is a regime of decoding. Second, and in tandem with this, the recoding that would take place in non-capitalist societies to recapture decoded ﬂows is replaced by the process of axiomatisation. For example, the coding of sexual relations through marriage, the church, morals and popular culture - which in different societies locate the practice of sex in certain contexts, whether that is marriage, prostitution or youth culture - has been decoded in capitalist societies. This is first of all, for Deleuze and Guattari, a good thing, making possible new kinds of relations that were excluded by the coding regimes in question. In capitalism, however, a correlative axiomatisation has taken place making possible the sale of sex as a product (what Karl Marx called a 'commodity'). Axioms operate, in short, by emptying ﬂows of their specific meaning in their coded context (sex as the act of marriage, the meal as the centre of family life, and so on) and imposing a law of general equivalence in the form of monetary value. These ﬂows remain decoded in so far as they are ﬂuid parts of the economy. They cannot, as commodities, be bound to a certain state of affairs to have value - for food to be a product it must be possible to eat it in a context other than the family home, or tribe.The third important aspect of capitalism for Deleuze and Guattari drawing on Marx - is that this process of decoding/axiomatisation has no real limit. Given that all such limits would be codes, this movement effectively and voraciously erodes all such limits. This accounts for the sense in capitalist societies of perpetual novelty and innovation, since coded ﬂows are continually being turned into commodities through this process, further extending the realm of monetary equivalence.However, such a process could never be total. Thus, fourthly, the fact that capitalist society proceeds in this way does not mean for Deleuze and Guattari that coded elements of social formation are entirely absent. Rather, certain fragments of State society (in particular) are put to work in the service of capitalism. Obviously, structures like the government and the family still exist in capitalism. As they note, there could be no total decoded society - an oxymoronic phrase. Governments and monarchies remain, while having their real juridical power substantially reduced, as regulative mechanisms stabilising the growth of decoding/axiomatisation. The nuclear family in particular, the kind of coded entity that one might imagine would be dissolved by the decoding/axiomatising movement of capitalism, is for Deleuze and Guattari the site of a surprising miniaturisation of State society, where the father takes the position (structurally speaking) of the despotic and all-seeing ruler.None of these points, however, makes for a celebration of the liberatory effects of capitalism. Deleuze and Guattari remain Marxists in so far as they consider real freedom to be unavailable in the world of monetary equivalence enacted by capitalism. While imitating the decoding that makes possible the freeing up of ﬂows and new ways of existing, capitalist society only produces a different, more insidious, kind of unfreedom.Connectives§ freedom
The Deleuze Dictionary. Revised Edition. Edited by Adrian Parr . 2015.