A Thousand Plateaus  

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"Flying anuses, speeding vaginas, there is no castration" --A Thousand Plateaus (1980) by Deleuze & Guattari, p. 32

"We're tired of trees. We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicles. They've made us suffer too much. All of arborescent culture is founded on them, from biology to linguistics." --A Thousand Plateaus (1980) by Deleuze & Guattari, p. 15

"'To succeed in getting drunk, but on pure water' (Henry Miller). To succeed in getting high, but by abstention, "to take and abstain, especially abstain," I am a drinker of water (Michaux). To reach the point where "to get high or not to get high" is no longer the question, but rather whether drugs have sufficiently changed the general conditions of space and time perception so that nonusers can succeed in passing through the holes in the world and following the lines of flight at the very place where means other than drugs become necessary. Drugs do not guarantee immanence; rather, the immanence of drugs allows one to forgo them." --A Thousand Plateaus (1980) by Deleuze & Guattari, p. 286

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A Thousand Plateaus (Mille Plateaux, 1980) is a book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It forms the second part of their Capitalism and Schizophrenia duo (the first part being Anti-Œdipus). This book is written as a series of "plateaus", a concept derived from Gregory Bateson, each identified by a particular date and title. Each refers to a peculiar age or date in which the state described in each plateau had a central role in the world.

The book reflects Deleuze and Guattari's rejection of hierarchical (arborescent) organization in favor of less structured, "rhizomatic" growth. The nomadic war machine is opposed to the state apparatus. In the last plateau the noosphere is invoked.



Like the first volume, Anti-Oedipus (1972), A Thousand Plateaus, as the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, is politically and terminologically provocative, but focuses more so on systematic, environmental and spatial philosophy. A "plateau", borrowed from ideas in Gregory Bateson's research on Balinese culture, is "a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities". Deleuze and Guattari discuss concepts such as the rhizome, performativity in language, smooth and striated space, the state as State-space representation|systematic variables and as the capitalist and centralized apparatus, face and faciality, the body without organs, minority languages and literature, binary branching structures in language, deterritorialization and reterritorialization, arborescence, pragmatics, lines of flight, assemblages, events of becoming, strata, stratification and destratification, the war machine, the signified, signifier and sign, abstract machines, and coding/recoding.

The book is written in a non-linear, allusive fashion. The reader is explicitly warned not to set down roots and read A Thousand Plateaus in order, but to choose a new "plateau" or page and begin again "from ground zero" at each plateau, as long as they read the introduction first and the conclusion last.

Discussed figures and subjects

In plateaux (chapters) of the book, they discuss psychoanalysts (Freud, Jung, Lacan—who trained Guattari, and Melanie Klein), composers (Chopin, Debussy, Mozart, Pierre Boulez, and Olivier Messiaen), artists (Klee, Kandinsky, and Pollock), philosophers (Husserl, Foucault, Bergson, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Gilbert Simondon), historians (Ibn Khaldun, Georges Dumézil, and Fernand Braudel), and linguists (Chomsky, Labov, Benveniste, Guillaume, Austin, Hjelmslev, and Voloshinov).

The book starts with an introduction titled "Rhizome" that explains rhizomatic philosophy (addressing not just the book itself but all books as rhizomes), and ends with a conclusion, "Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines", that makes the abstract/concrete binary clear. In between are thirteen chapters or plateaux, each dated non-linearly, sometimes precisely ("November 20, 1923: Postulates of Linguistics), sometimes less so ("10,000 BC: The Geology of Morals"). In the sixth chapter, "Year Zero: Faciality" (visagéité), the notion of face is discussed as an "overcoding" of body, but also as being in dialectical tension with landscape (paysagéité).

In the same mode as Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari evaluate and criticize psychoanalysis: in the first plateau, they discuss the work of Sigmund Freud, especially referring to the case histories of the Wolf Man and Little Hans.

Owing to their mode of literary theory, A Thousand Plateaus also frequently discusses literature. In "1874: Three Novellas", they discuss Henry James' In the Cage (1898) and "The Story of the Abyss and the Spyglass" by Pierrette Fleutiaux, but they also evoke F. Scott Fitzgerald's essay The Crack-Up (1945) (which Deleuze previously discussed in The Logic of Sense), because as a famous novelist, his depression and frustration in the essay is dramatized. The works of Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Henry Miller, D. H. Lawrence, Carlos Castaneda, H. P. Lovecraft, Herman Melville and Chrétien de Troyes are also discussed.


A Thousand Plateaus is considered a major statement of post-structuralism and postmodernism. Mark Poster writes that the work "contains promising elaborations of a postmodern theory of the social and political." Writing in the foreword to his translation, Massumi comments that the work "is less a critique than a positive exercise in the affirmative 'nomad' thought called for in Anti-Oedipus." Massumi contrasts "nomad thought" with the "state philosophy... that has characterized Western metaphysics since Plato".

Deleuze critic Eugene Holland suggests that the work complicates the slogans and oppositions developed in its predecessor. Whereas Anti-Oedipus created binaries such as molar/molecular, paranoid/schizophrenic, and deterritorialization/reterritorialization, A Thousand Plateaus shows how such distinctions are operations on the surface of a deeper field with more complicated and multidimensional dynamics. In so doing, the book is less engaged with history than with topics like biology and geology. Massumi writes that A Thousand Plateaus differs drastically in tone, content, and composition from Anti-Oedipus. In his view, the schizoanalysis the authors practice is not so much a study of their "pathological condition", but a "positive process" that involves "inventive connection".

Bill Readings appropriates the term "singularity" from A Thousand Plateaus, "to indicate that there is no longer a subject-position available to function as the site of the conscious synthesis of sense-impressions." The sociologist Nikolas Rose writes that Deleuze and Guattari articulate "the most radical alternative to the conventional image of subjectivity as coherent, enduring, and individualized".

In 1997, the physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont asserted that the book contains many passages in which Deleuze and Guattari use "pseudo-scientific language". Writing about this "science wars critique," Daniel Smith and John Protevi contend that "much of their chapter on Deleuze consists of exasperated exclamations of incomprehension." Similarly, in a 2015 interview, British philosopher Roger Scruton characterized A Thousand Plateaus as "[a] huge, totally unreadable tome by somebody who can’t write French." At the beginning of a short essay on postmodernism, Jean-François Lyotard lists examples of what he describes as a desire "to put an end to experimentation", including a displeased reaction to A Thousand Plateaus that he had read in a weekly literary magazine, which said that readers of philosophy "expect [...] to be "gratified with a little sense". Behind this "slackening" desire to constrain language use, Lyotard identifies a "desire for a return to terror."

Digital media theorist Janet Murray links the work to the aesthetic of hypertext.

Gaming and electronic literature expert Espen Aarseth draws parallels between Deleuze and Guattari's idea of the rhizome and semiotician Umberto Eco's idea of the net.

Christopher Miller criticizes Deleuze and Guattari's use of "second-hand" anthropological sources without providing the reader with contextualization of the colonialist "mission" that led to their writing. Timothy Laurie says that this claim is inaccurate, but that Deleuze & Guattari should extend that same "rigor" to uncovering the political and economic entanglements which contextualize academic philosophy.


A Thousand Plateaus was an influence on the political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's book Empire (2000).

The sociologist John Urry sees Deleuze and Guattari's metaphor of the nomad as having "infected contemporary social thought."

The philosopher Manuel DeLanda, in A New Philosophy of Society (2006), adopts Deleuze's theory of assemblages, taken from A Thousand Plateaus.

Table of Contents of the English edition

Translator's Foreword: Pleasures of Philosophy, Brian Massumi, ix

Notes on the Translation and Acknowledgments, xvi

Author's Note, xx

1. Introduction: Rhizome, 3

2. 1914: One or Several Wolves? 26

3. 10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals (Who Does the Earth Think It Is?) 39

4. November 20, 1923: Postulates of Linguistics, 75

5. 587 B.C.--A.D. 70: On Several Regimes of Signs, 111

6. November 28, 1947: How Do You Make Yourself a Body Without Organs? 149

7. Year Zero: Faciality, 167

8. 1874: Three Novellas, or "What Happened?" 192

With an illustration by Richard Felton Outcault, on the novellas "In the Cage" by Henry James, "The Crack-Up" by F. Scott Fitzgerald and "The Story of the Abyss and the Spyglass" by Pierrette Fleutiaux. Other stories mentioned are "Une ruse" by Maupassant and "The Crimson Curtain" by Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly.

9. 1933: Micropolitics and Segmentarity, 208

10. 1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible..., 232

11. 1837: Of the Refrain, 310

12. 1227: Treatise on Nomadology:--The War Machine, 351

13. 7000 B.C.: Apparatus of Capture, 424

14. 1440: The Smooth and the Striated, 474

15. Conclusion: Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines, 501

Notes, 517

Bibliography (compiled by Brian Massumi), 579

Index, 587

List of Illustrations, 611

See also

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