freedom


freedom
  ---- by Paul Patton
  'Freedom' is not a term that appears often in Deleuze's writings, yet there is a distinctive concept of freedom implicit throughout his ethico-political texts written with Guattari. These describe individual and collective subjects in terms of different kinds of assemblage, line or modes of occupying space. For example, they suggest that we are composed of three kinds of line: firstly, molar lines which correspond to the forms of rigid segmentation found in bureaucratic and hierarchical institutions; secondly, molecular lines which correspond to the fluid or overlapping forms of division characteristic of 'primitive' territoriality; and finally, lines of flight which are the paths along which things change or become transformed into something else. The primacy of lines of flight in this ontology systematically privileges processes of creative transformation and metamorphosis through which assemblages may be transformed. Freedom is manifest in the critical points at which some state or condition of things passes over into a different state or condition. In contrast to the traditional concepts of negative and positive freedom, freedom for Deleuze concerns those moments in a life after which one is no longer the same person as before. This is an impersonal and non-voluntaristic concept of freedom, which refers to the capacity for change or transformation within or between assemblages. In the texts written with Guattari, this concept of freedom appears only in the guise of other concepts such as 'line of flight', 'deterritorialisation' or 'smooth space'.
  In A Thousand Plateaus, the authors use F. Scott Fitzgerald's novella, The Crack-Up, to show how this kind of transformation in a person might be defined in terms of the different kinds of 'line' which characterise an individual life (D&G 1987: 198-200). Fitzgerald distinguishes three different kinds of transition from one state or stage in life to another: firstly, the large breaks such as those between youth and adulthood, between poverty and wealth, between illness and good health, between success or failure in a chosen profession; secondly, the almost imperceptible cracks or subtle shifts of feeling or attitude which involve molecular changes in the affective constitution of a person; and finally, the abrupt and irreversible transitions through which the individual becomes a different person and eventually, Fitzgerald writes, 'the new person finds new things to care about.' The subject of the novella undergoes a particularly severe breakdown involving loss of faith in his former values and the dissipation of all his convictions. He seeks to effect what he calls 'a clean break' with his past self (F 1956: 69-84). Such a break amounts to a redistribution of desire such that 'when something occurs, the Self that awaited it is already dead, or the one that would await it has not yet arrived' (D&G 1987: 198-9).
  This kind of sudden shift towards another quality of life or towards a life which is lived at another degree of intensity is one possible outcome of what Deleuze and Guattari call 'a line of flight', and it is on this kind of line that freedom is manifest. The type of freedom that is manifest in a break of this kind cannot be captured in liberal or humanist concepts of negative or positive freedom, since these define freedom in terms of a subject's capacity to act without hindrance in the pursuit of its ends or in terms of its capacity to satisfy its most significant desires. Fitzgerald's character no longer has the same interests nor the same desires and preferences. In the relevant sense of the term, he is no longer the same subject: his goals are not the same, nor are the values which would underpin his strong evaluations.
  Whereas the normative status of liberal freedom is unambiguously positive, 'freedom' in this Deleuzian sense is more ambivalent. Freedom in this sense is indifferent to the desires, preferences and goals of the subject in that it may threaten as much as advance any of these. It is not clear by what standards such freedom could be evaluated as good or bad. There is no telling in advance where such processes of mutation and change might lead. Similar comments may also be made about deterritorialisation, lines of flight or smooth space. In the absence of productive connections with other forces, lines of flight may turn destructive or simply lead to new forms of capture. In the conclusion of the discussion of smooth as opposed to striated space at the end of A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari reaffirm the normative ambiguity of freedom: 'smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory. But the struggle is changed or displaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries. Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us' (D&G 1987: 500). The presupposition here is that, prima facie, smooth space is the space of freedom. It is the space in which movements or processes of liberation are possible, even if these do not always succeed or even if they are condemned to the reappearance of new forms of capture.
  Connectives
   § deterritorialisation
   § molar
   § molecular
   § space

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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