- ---- by Claire ColebrookThe concepts of 'nomad', 'nomadology' and 'nomadicism' are spelled out most explicitly in A Thousand Plateaus, but the concept does have a significant philosophical heritage. In 1781, in the preface to the Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant lamented that whereas dogmatists had maintained a certain despotism of reason - giving reason fixed but unjustifiable rules - a certain barbarism had allowed for 'a kind of nomads who abhor all permanent cultivation of the soil' (K 1998: 99). Deleuze is anything but a Kantian philosopher, for Kant's aim of limiting the principles of reason to a legitimate and harmonious use is countered by Deleuze's nomadic aim of allowing principles to be pushed to their maximum power (D 1984).Kant's dismissal of the nomadicism that would be precipitated by a loss of dogmatic law - a law that is fixed and determines space in advance - is warded off in the Critique of Pure Reason by an appeal to the proper domain of any principle; while reason, for example, has a tendency to think beyond its own domain (trying to know the unknowable) it ought to be contained within its principle - it should only act according to what it can do in terms of good and common sense. Reason has a proper domain, just as the power to feel has a proper domain (art) which should not be carried over into morality. Deleuze, by contrast, rejects the idea that a principle, or a power or tendency to think, should be limited by some notion of common sense and sound distribution. Nomadicism allows the maximum extension of principles and powers; if something can be thought, then no law outside thinking, no containment of thought within the mind of man should limit thinking's power (D 1994: 37).In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze begins a definition of nomadic distribution from the opposition between nomos and logos. If, as Deleuze insists, we cannot have a hierarchy of beings - such as the dominance of mind over matter, or actuality over potentiality, or the present over the future this is because being is univocal, which does not mean that it is always the same, but that each of its differences has as much being as any other. You do not have some ideal 'whiteness' or essence, which is primary, and then varying derivative degrees of white; for degrees, differences and intensities are all real, are all differences of one being. Nevertheless, there are still individuations and hierarchies, but these can be regarded in two ways.The first, the point of view of logos, works by analogy: some beings are truly real (the actual, what is present, what remains the same), while others are only real in relation, or by analogy. And this subordination of some differences to others is, even in this early work of Deleuze's, related to territories and the agrarian question; a space is divided, distributed and hierarchised by some law, logic or voice (logos) that is outside or above what is distributed.The second point of view of nomos or nomadic law has its principle of distribution within itself. That is, there are still hierarchies but these are not determined by a separate principle; rather by the power of the principle itself. This is extremely important for Deleuze's philosophy. Deleuze wants to get rid of transcendent and external criteria - say, judging philosophy according to whether it will help us to acquire transferable life skills, or judging art according to whether it will make us more moral - but he does not want to get rid of distribution and hierarchy altogether.Nomadic distribution judges immanently (D 1994: 37). A philosophy would be a great philosophy, not if it could be placed within a specific and delimited territory of reason (such as a correct and consistent logic) but if it maximised what philosophy could do, and created a territory: creating concepts and styles of thought that opened new differences and paths for thinking. An artwork would be great not if it fulfilled already existing criteria for what counts as beautiful, but if it took the power for creating beauty - the power to prompt us to bathe in the sensible - and produced new and different ways of confronting sensibility.Even as early as Difference and Repetition Deleuze's reference to the 'agrarian question' marks a politics of nomadicism: the difference between immanent and transcendent criteria. If we subject difference to a logical distribution then we have a principle that determines life in advance, just as land would be distributed according to some external law (say, its most efficient economic use, or its history of ownership according to a general law of property). This is sedentary space; the space remains what it is and is then divided and distributed. Nomadic space, however, is produced through its distribution.So we can consider nomadic space, not as a space with intrinsic properties that then determine relations (in the way chess pieces determine how movements might be enacted), but as a space with extrinsic properties; the space is produced from the movements that then give that space its peculiar quality (just as in the game of Go the pieces are not coded as kings or queens but enter into relations that produce a field of hierarchies). Nomadic space is, in this sense, smooth - not because it is undifferentiated, but because its differences are not those of a chessboard (cut up in advance, with prescribed moves); the differences create positions and lines through movement. A tribe dreams about, crosses and dances upon a space and in so doing fills the space from within; the actual space - the material extension owned by this tribe that might then be measured and quantified by a State structure - would be different from (and dependent upon) virtual, nomadic space, for if the tribe moved on, danced and dreamed elsewhere, then the original space would already have been transformed, given a different depth and extension, now part of a whole new series of desires, movements and relations. And if other tribes crossed that first space, the space would be traversed by different maps. On nomadic distribution there is not one law that stands outside and determines space; law is produced in the traversal of space.With Guattari, in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze writes a manifesto for 'nomadology', which is here tied far more explicitly to the 'war machine'. The idea of the war machine does have a clear relation to Deleuze's earlier rejection of logos. It is not that there are proper beings, each with their identity, that must then be distributed according to their essence and definition, and that then enter into relation. It is not, for example, that there are masters who then dominate and govern the slaves or slavish; rather, one becomes a master through an exercise of force and in so doing the master-slave relation is effected, a certain distribution occurs in and through the act. Everything begins with forces or the war machine; States do not have an existence or power outside their warring power. The distribution of land or territory - its use, seizure, occupation and measurement - produces distinct hierarchies and identities. In this sense, the war machine is not something exercised by the State, for the State's sovereignty and law, or the power to distribute space, has to be carved out from a radical exteriority of war, of forces and dominations which the State may or may not harness as its own.Connectives§ desire§ nomos§ space
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.