- ---- by Tom ConleyThe adjective 'molar' belongs to a chemical idiolect that Deleuze uses to inform his work on aesthetics and politics. In a strict sense things molar relate to aggregates of matter and not to either their molecular or atomic properties, or their motion. In a geological sense, 'molar' is understood to be what pertains to mass, ground, continence or telluric substance. It also pertains to the general patterns of behaviour taken by an organ or an organism, and thus the term can describe a trait of personality or the character of the ego. Deleuze tends to jettison the psychological inﬂections in order to correlate molarity with his different ways of describing the world; this is especially the case in his treatment of 'wholes' (Tout and touts) that he describes as being composed of a compact and firm terrestrial oceanic mass. A molar form can either rise up and command a great deal of earthly space or be seen either aﬂoat or drifting in great bodies of water (a point developed in a very early piece of writing called 'Causes and Reasons of the Desert Island').Broadening the biological definitions to include philosophy, geology and aesthetics, Deleuze conceives landscapes as masses of greater or lesser molarity. He draws Lucretian and pre-Socratic philosophy through the human sciences and into an aesthetic domain such that he can detect difference, vibration, disaggregation, deterritorialisation and metamorphosis in terms of molecular activities taking place in and about molar masses. The term assists him in studying perception in its range from 'macro' or totalising process to 'micro' or keen detection of infinitesimal differences in the physical and biological world.In his work on cinema, the dyad of molar/molecular is used to discern effects of convection and atmosphere. When contrasting the four great schools of montage - American, French, German, Soviet - that grew in the first thirty years of cinema, he notes that the signature of poetic realism in directors ranging from René Clair to Jean Vigo and Jean Renoir is marked by emphasising the 'molar' (and not moral) aspect of the physical world: social contradiction is conveyed through imposing and massive monuments of Paris that humble the lost citizens in The Crazy Ray (1924); in Vigo's L'Atalante (1934) the cobblestone streets on the edges of the Seine make obdurate and unyielding stone the antithesis of ﬂuidity; the inert piles of old editions and lithographs cluttering the walls in the bookseller's apartment in Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932) attest to a molarity against and with which atmosphere - fog, drizzle, mist - defines a general mood or state of things in the time of the Great Depression.In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari apply the 'molar' and 'molecular' to political bodies. Molar entities belong to the State or the civic world. They are well defined, often massive, and are affiliated with a governing apparatus. Their molecular counterparts are micro-entities, politics that transpire in areas where they are rarely perceived: in the perception of affectivity, where beings share ineffable sensations; in the twists and turns of conversation having nothing to do with the state of the world at large; in the manner, too, that a pedestrian in a city park sees how the leaves of a linden tree might ﬂicker in the afternoon light. The shifting to and from molar and molecular forms can be associated not only with deterritorialisation but also the very substance and effect of events that begin and end with swarms and masses of micro-perceptions.Molecules often aggregate and swarm into active masses of molar aspect and vice versa. In The Fold Deleuze suggests that events, the very product of philosophy and determining features of perception, depend on the prehension of the textures of elements in terms of their wholes and the parts that swirl and toss within them or on their very surfaces. The process entails grasping a 'chaosmos' that becomes discernible through the categories of the molar and molecular. Deleuze is in turn enabled to study matter as a function of mass, hardness, and of 'coherence, cohesion' (D 1993a: 6). He projects the distinction onto the body in so far as it can be appreciated in its elasticity and ﬂuidity. Thus, with the 'molar' the philosopher correlates surfaces with structures, masses with territories, and vibrations or waves with landscapes.Connectives§ body§ deterritorialisation / reterritorialisation§ event
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.