City/State

— Deleuze, Gilles; and Felix Guattari City-State [from Plateau 13 of Mille plateaux]”, trans­lated by Brian Massumi Zone 1-2 (1985): 194-217.

Keywords: City, Society and Control

Uruk, אֶרֶךְ, Ὀρχόη Orchoē, Ὠρύγεια - Sumer/Babylonia
Uruk, אֶרֶךְ, Ὀρχόη Orchoē, Ὠρύγεια - Sumer/Babylonia

In so-called prim­i­tive so­ci­eties there ex­ist col­lec­tive mech­a­nisms which si­mul­ta­ne­ously ward off and an­tic­i­pate the for­ma­tion of a cen­tral power. The ap­pear­ance of a cen­tral power is thus a func­tion of a thresh­old or de­gree be­yond which what is con­jured away ceases to be so and ar­rives. This thresh­old of con­sis­tency or of con­straint is not evo­lu­tion­ary, but co­ex­ists with what has not crossed it. What is more, a dis­tinc­tion must be made be­tween dif­fer­ent thresh­olds of con­sis­tency: the town and the State, how­ever com­ple­men­tary, are not the same thing. The urban rev­o­lu­tion’ and the state rev­o­lu­tion’ may co­in­cide, but are not one. In both cases there is a cen­tral power, but it does not as­sume the same fig­ure. Certain au­thors have made a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the pala­tial or im­pe­r­ial sys­tem (palace tem­ple) and the ur­ban town sys­tem. In both cases there is a town, but in one case the town is an out­growth of the palace or tem­ple and in the other the palace or the tem­ple is a con­cre­tion of the town. In one case the town par ex­cel­lence is the cap­i­tal, and in the other the me­trop­o­lis. Sumer al­ready at­tests to a town-so­lu­tion, as op­posed to the im­pe­r­ial so­lu­tion of Egypt. But to an even greater ex­tent, it was the Mediterranean world, with the Pelasgians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, that cre­ated an ur­ban tis­sue dis­tinct from the im­pe­r­ial or­gan­isms of the Orient. Once again, the ques­tion is not one of evo­lu­tion, but of two thresh­olds of con­sis­tency that are them­selves co­ex­is­tent. They dif­fer in sev­eral re­spects.

The town is the cor­re­late of the road. The town ex­ists only as a func­tion of cir­cu­la­tion and of cir­cuits; it is a sin­gu­lar point on the cir­cuits which cre­ate it and which it cre­ates. It is de­fined by en­tries and ex­its: some­thing must en­ter it and exit from it. It im­poses a fre­quency. It ef­fects a po­lar­iza­tion of mat­ter, in­ert, liv­ing or hu­man; it causes the phy­lum, the flow, to pass through spe­cific places, along hor­i­zon­tal lines. It is a phe­nom­e­non of transcon­sis­tency, a net­work, be­cause it is fun­da­men­tally in con­tact with other towns. It rep­re­sents a thresh­old of de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion be­cause what­ever the ma­te­r­ial in­volved, it must be de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­ized enough to en­ter the net­work, to sub­mit to the po­lar­iza­tion, to fol­low the cir­cuit of ur­ban and road re­cod­ing. The max­i­mum de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion ap­pears in the ten­dency of mar­itime and com­mer­cial towns to sep­a­rate from the back­coun­try, from the coun­try­side (Athens, Carthage, Venice). The com­mer­cial char­ac­ter of the town has of­ten been em­pha­sized, but the com­merce in ques­tion is also spir­i­tual, as in a net­work of monas­ter­ies or tem­ple-cities. Towns are points-cir­cuits of every kind, which en­ter into coun­ter­point along hor­i­zon­tal lines; they op­er­ate a com­plete but lo­cal town-by-town in­te­gra­tion. Each one con­sti­tutes a cen­tral power, but is a power of po­lar­iza­tion or of the mid­dle (milieu), of forced co-or­di­na­tion. That is why this kind of power has egal­i­tar­ian pre­ten­sions, re­gard­less of the form it takes: tyran­ni­cal, de­mo­c­ra­tic, oli­garchic, aris­to­cratic.&hel­lip;Town power in­vents the idea of the mag­i­s­tra­ture, which is very dif­fer­ent from the State civil-ser­vice sec­tor (fonctionnariat). Who can say where the great­est civil vi­o­lence re­sides?

The State pro­ceeds oth­er­wise: it is a phe­nom­e­non of in­tra­con­sis­tency. It makes points res­onate to­gether, points that are not nec­es­sar­ily al­ready town—poles, but even di­verse points of or­der—ge­o­graphic, eth­nic, lin­guis­tic, moral, eco­nomic, tech­no­log­i­cal par­tic­u­lar­i­ties. The State makes the town res­onate with the coun­try­side. It op­er­ates by strat­i­fi­ca­tion: in other words, it forms a ver­ti­cal, hi­er­ar­chies ag­gre­gate that spans the hor­i­zon­tal lines in a di­men­sion of depth. In re­tain­ing given el­e­ments, it nec­es­sar­ily cuts off their re­la­tions with other el­e­ments, which be­come ex­te­rior; it in­hibits, slows down or con­trols those re­la­tions. If the State has a cir­cuit of its own, it is an in­ter­nal cir­cuit de­pen­dent pri­mar­ily upon res­o­nance; it is a zone of re­cur­rence that iso­lates it­self from the re­main­der of the net­work, even if in or­der to do so it must ex­ert even stricter con­trols over its re­la­tions with that re­main­der. The ques­tion is not to find out whether what is re­tained is nat­ural or ar­ti­fi­cial (borders) be­cause in any event there is de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion. But in this case de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion is a re­sult of the ter­ri­tory it­self be­ing taken as an ob­ject, as a ma­te­r­ial to strat­ify, to make res­onate. Thus the cen­tral power of the State is hi­er­ar­chi­cal and con­sti­tutes a civil-ser­vice sec­tor; the cen­tre is not in the mid­dle (au mi­lieu) but on top be­cause the only way it can re­com­bine what it iso­lates is through sub­or­di­na­tion. Of course, there is a mul­ti­plic­ity of States no less than of towns, but it is not the same type of mul­ti­plic­ity: there are as many States as there are ver­ti­cal cross-sec­tions in di­men­sion of depth, each sep­a­rated off from the oth­ers, whereas the town is in­sep­a­ra­ble from the hor­i­zon­tal net­work of towns. Each State is a global (not lo­cal) in­te­gra­tion, a re­dun­dancy of res­o­nance (not of fre­quency), an op­er­a­tion of the strat­i­fi­ca­tion of the ter­ri­tory (not of the po­lar­iza­tion of the mi­lieu).

It is pos­si­ble to re­con­struct how prim­i­tive so­ci­eties warded off both thresh­olds, while at the same time an­tic­i­pat­ing them. Levi-Strauss has shown that the same vil­lages are sus­cep­ti­ble to two pre­sen­ta­tions, one sem­i­nary and egal­i­tar­ian, the other en­com­pass­ing and hi­er­ar­chies. These are like two po­ten­tials, one an­tic­i­pat­ing a cen­tral point com­mon to two hor­i­zon­tal seg­ments, the other an­tic­i­pat­ing a cen­tral point ex­ter­nal to a straight line. Primitive so­ci­eties do not lack for­ma­tions of power; they even have many of them. But what pre­vents the po­ten­tial cen­tral points from crys­tal­liz­ing, from tak­ing on con­sis­tency, are pre­cisely those mech­a­nisms that keep the for­ma­tions of power both from res­onat­ing to­gether in a higher point and from be­com­ing po­lar­ized at a com­mon point: the cir­cles are not con­cen­tric, and the two seg­ments have need of a third seg­ment through which to com­mu­ni­cate. This is the sense in which prim­i­tive so­ci­eties have not crossed ei­ther the town-thresh­old or the State-threshold.

If we now turn our at­ten­tion to the two thresh­olds of con­sis­tency, it is clear that they im­ply a de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion in re­la­tion to the prim­i­tive ter­ri­to­r­ial code. It is fu­tile to ask which came first, the city or the State, the ur­ban or state rev­o­lu­tion, be­cause the two are in rec­i­p­ro­cal pre­sup­po­si­tion. Both the melodic line of the towns and the har­monic cross-sec­tions of the States are nec­es­sary to ef­fect the stri­a­tion of space. The only ques­tion that arises is the pos­si­bil­ity that there may be an in­verse re­la­tion at the heart of this rec­i­proc­ity. For al­though the ar­chaic im­pe­r­ial State nec­es­sar­ily in­cluded towns of con­sid­er­able size, they re­mained all the more strictly sub­or­di­nated to the State the more it ex­tended its mo­nop­oly over for­eign trade. On the other hand, the town tended to break free when the State’s over­com­ing it­self pro­voked de­coded flows. A de­cod­ing was cou­pled with the de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion and am­pli­fied it: the nec­es­sary re­cod­ing was then achieved through a cer­tain au­ton­omy of the towns or else di­rectly through cor­po­ra­tive and com­mer­cial towns freed from the State-form. Thus towns arose that no longer had a con­nec­tion to their own land be­cause they as­sured the trade be­tween em­pires or, bet­ter, be­cause they them­selves con­sti­tuted a free com­mer­cial net­work with other towns. There is there­fore an ad­ven­ture proper to towns in the zones where the most in­tense de­cod­ing oc­curs: for ex­am­ple, the an­cient Aegean world or the Western world: of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Could it not be said that cap­i­tal­ism is the fruit of the towns and arises when an ur­ban re­cod­ing tends to re­place State over­com­ing? This, how­ever, was not the case. The towns did not cre­ate cap­i­tal­ism. The bank­ing and com­mer­cial towns, be­ing un­pro­duc­tive and in­dif­fer­ent to the back­coun­try, did not per­form a re­cod­ing with­out also in­hibit­ing I the gen­eral con­junc­tion of de­coded flows. If it is true that they an­tic­i­pated cap­i­tal­ism, they in turn did not an­tic­i­pate it with­out also ward­ing it off. They do not cross this new thresh­old. Thus it is nec­es­sary to ex­pand the hy­poth­e­sis of mech­a­nisms both an­tic­i­pa­tory and in­hibit­ing: these mech­a­nisms are at play not only in prim­i­tive so­ci­eties, but also in the con­flict of towns against’ the State and against’ cap­i­tal­ism. Finally, it was through the State-form and not the town-form that cap­i­tal­ism tri­umphed: this oc­curred when the Western States be­came mod­els of re­al­iza­tion for an ax­iomatic of de­coded flows, and in that way re­sub­ju­gated the towns. As Braudel says, there were always two run­ners, the state and the town’—two forms and two speeds of de­ter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion—and the state usu­ally won&hel­lip;every­where in Europe, it dis­ci­plined the towns with in­stinc­tive re­lent­less­ness, whether or not it used vi­o­lence&hel­lip;the states caught up with the for­ward gal­lop of the towns. But the re­la­tion is a rec­i­p­ro­cal one: if it is the mod­ern State that gives cap­i­tal­ism its mod­els of re­al­iza­tion, what is thus re­al­ized is an in­de­pen­dent, world­wide ax­iomatic that is like a sin­gle City, mega­lopo­lis or megamachine’ of which the States are parts or neigh­bour­hoods.

Footnotes

  1. On Chinese towns and their sub­or­di­na­tion to the im­pe­r­ial prin­ci­ple see Etienne Balazs, Chinese Civilisation and Bureaucracy, H.M. Wright (trans.), New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964, p. 410; The so­cial struc­tures in both India and China au­to­mat­i­cally re­jected the town and of­fered, as it were, re­frac­tory, sub­stan­dard ma­te­r­ial to it. It was be­cause so­ci­ety was well and truly frozen in a sort of ir­re­ducible sys­tem, a pre­vi­ous crys­tal­liza­tion.’
  2. From all of these stand­points, François Chatelet ques­tions the clas­si­cal no­tion of the city-state and doubts that the Athenian city can be equated with any va­ri­ety of State (‘La Greece cacique, la Raison, I’Etat’ in Alberto Asor Rosa et al., En marge, I’Occident et ses autres, Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1978. Islam was to con­front anal­o­gous prob­lems, as would Italy, Germany and Flanders be­gin­ning in the eleventh cen­tury: in these cases, po­lit­i­calf power does not im­ply the State-form. An ex­am­ple is the com­mu­nity of Hanseatic towns, which lacked func­tionar­ies, an army and even le­gal sta­tus. The town is al­ways in­side a net­work of towns, but the network of towns’ does not co­in­cide with the mosaic of States’: on all of these points, see the analy­ses of François Fourquet and Lion Murard, Genealogie des equip­ments col­lec­tifs, Paris 10/18, pp. 79-106.
  3. From all of these stand­points, François Chatelet ques­tions the clas­si­cal no­tion of the city-state and doubts that the Athenian city can be equated with any va­ri­ety of State (‘La Greece cacique, la Raison, I’Etat’ in Alberto Asor Rosa et al., En marge, I’Occident et ses autres, Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1978. Islam was to con­front anal­o­gous prob­lems, as would Italy, Germany and Flanders be­gin­ning in the eleventh cen­tury: in these cases, po­lit­i­calf power does not im­ply the State-form. An ex­am­ple is the com­mu­nity of Hanseatic towns, which lacked func­tionar­ies, an army and even le­gal sta­tus. The town is al­ways in­side a net­work of towns, but the network of towns’ does not co­in­cide with the mosaic of States’: on all of these points, see the analy­ses of François Fourquet and Lion Murard, Genealogie des equip­ments col­lec­tifs, Paris 10/18, pp. 79-106.
    Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schrept (trans.), New York: Basic Books, 1963, pp. 150-1.
  4. Louis Berthe analy­ses a spe­cific ex­am­ple of the need for a third vil­lage’ to pre­vent the di­rec­tional cir­cuit from clos­ing: Aines et cadets, 1’alliance et la hi­er­ar­chie chez les Baduj’, L’Homme, vol. 5, no. 3/4, July-December 1965, pp. 214-15.
  5. Femand Braudel, Capitalism and Material Life, New York: Harper & Row, 1973, pp. 398 405, 411; ital­ics added. (On town-State re­la­tions in the West, see pp. 396~106.) As Braudel notes, one of the rea­sons for the vic­tory of the States over the towns start­ing in the be­gin­ning of the fif­teenth cen­tury was that the State alone had the abil­ity fully to ap­pro­pri­ate the war ma­chine: by means of the ter­ri­to­r­ial re­cruit­ment of men, ma­te­r­ial in­vest­ment, the in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion of war (it was more in the arms fac­to­ries than in the pin fac­to­ries that mass pro­duc­tion and me­chan­i­cal di­vi­sion ap­peared). The com­mer­cial towns, on the other hand, re­quired wars of short du­ra­tion, re­sorted to mer­ce­nar­ies and were only able to en­cast the war ma­chine.