Here are my reading notes on some of Guattari’s ideas about cities.
Foucault Live, “Equipments of Power” (1973)
Establishing “Logical Categories” (130 in Dits et écrits)
Guattari: Equipments have to be installed to order fluxes…these are not at all general instruments, but are instead related axioms…: “Therefore, far from understanding the nature of an equipment according to the spatialized form it takes, it is necessary to first understand what kind of axiomatic is implied. In this way, we are going to see correlative modifications of the conception of an office, a thoroughfare, rooms facing a director’s office, the conception of an entrance way, a courtyard.” Although he is talking about material environments only here, this speaks to what I am tracking in terms of coordination across various social fields (quality of life, economy, land use planning, governance).
City as BwO and collective equips as axioms of capital. There is not such thing as just one equipment or city; there are constellations of both.
Is the City a Productive or Anti-productive force? (129 in Dits et écrits)
Guattari: If city is a point in time w/ density of equipments, it is BwO of the equipments (in the AO sense of BwO as claiming productivity…a recording surface, representation). The BwO is a “pseudo-totalization” of desire/dream city (an image: the sustainable city, the world city, the coordinated city, the city of the future) on which these equipments hang. With city as BwO, “[a]ll reterritorializations of political power are made on the city””
My question: how are these desires assembled/expressed at particular points in time?
The city is the totalizing structure of equipments, themselves machines of the socius. The city is the threshold of density for machines of the socius.” He doesn’t say it explicitly here, but the only way I can understand this is to think of cities as little intensities on the socius (capital). Each one has its own density of machines, of particular reterritorializations.
But the city has its own threshold, the Urstaat/writing machine, which is “totalization of collective equipments”…(otherwise the city would be everywhere). Below it one finds political structures, village territorialities, “but not collective equipments.” I don’t understand this yet.
[But what are collective equipments? see below]
The city is where primitive communities are deterritorialized (openings for new conjunctions). “The city and the BwO of capitalism are increasing identified with one another.” This seems like an important statement because I don’t think G would ever let the two collapse into one, but at the same time this tendency is also compatible with Brenner’s work on Planetary Urbanization. Think of the city as a moment of reterr on capital socius; the more financialized and speculative urbanization becomes, the more tightly bound they are…but as G notes, “legislation in Venice during the Middle Ages prevented the birth of capital” (the state preventing conjunctions) – this is a reterritorialization, as are all other instances of deterritorialized flows being pinned down to a particular place (fixed capital, jobs, commitment to a place, etc).
“Collective equipments, as such, are the social unconscious. There is no other kind. They work on structures of representation. The collective equipment is only apprehended in the universe of representation. The concept of collective equipment refers precisely to representation because it is totalizing. But the first collective equipment is language which allows for the encoding of disjointed elements. A city without writing, does that exist? The flux of writing allows a surface of inscription to be deployed, a BwO, a detached object of a flux which is more deterritorialized than the others, which is able to connect to them all, these fluxes of rocks, duties, etc., a re-distributor which will only function like a landowner’s independent machine by ensuring the encoding of deterritorialized fluxes. The city is the BwO of the writing machine.”
It seems, then, that these equipments are not material at all, but are the immaterial side of the deterritorialized bodies of the city: “deterritorialized fluxes constitute the city, material fluxes support the deterritorialized flows, and the city reterritorializes the most deterritorialized fluxes of any given period.” It seems crucial here to think in terms of Spinozist parallelism.
So returning to G’s quote above about the Urstaat/writing machine being the limit of the city…below this limit, there are political power structures and territorialities, but they are beholden to writing, to the despotic signifier, which is the realm where collective equipments work.
What are some other collective equipments? Fourquet asserts that the city stocks and organizes fluxes (material, informational):
“This is the function of collective equipments: to record, fix, stock the fluxes. There is no other social machine. This differs from the current use of the term “collective equipments” which in the language of planners is opposed to “activities” (factories, offices, businesses, etc.) which are nevertheless the prime examples of actual collective equipments!”
G: equipment and activity only opposed in a framework that encompasses both (the opposition is artificial). Take equips of prod and anti-prod: in capitalism it is almost impossible to tell them apart, while in Eastern despotism, all equipments are anti-prod: production is in the countryside and city regulates productive fluxes. Here the city houses no production, but only political specification; the production is outside and is only collective equipment in that they function for the despot.
“The BwO is made to flatten, grasp, retain: but it’s impossible – everything leaks out from all sides.” The scribe that starts “to play with signs and write poems” instead of counting (vs. Bartleby, that ridiculous scribe that opts out to the point of his own death? This productive, transformative scribe is much more compelling!). The Bwo of capitalism is running behind the actual capitalist machine; the capitalists themselves are there to capture capital, to keep it from spreading (in this way they function like the Urstatt, to claim all the flows).
The city is a form of reterritorialization, blockage, a spatial projection of these dynamics [to the chagrin of geographers, I’m sure]. Despotic city was first a military camp, with a border to hold in soldiers, but something always escapes…collective equipments try to hold things in place, things that by their nature can’t be held. Returning G’s previous comment, it is hard to distinguish between equipments of production and anti-prod under capitalism: this seems like a perfect way to think about contemporary urbanization, with money fixing itself in place for whatever reason…
Fourquet: the city is a productive force, not just a sum of collective elements…it is a means of production, a use value for production.
G: collective equipments function to produce the socius, the city: material logic, internal ordering…medieval city had multiple driving forces: religious, royal, noble, military, commercial. They were originally surplus values of code before they were surplus values of flux…Today they “are no longer only accumulated capital.” This is powerful for me too because it makes room for multiple driving forces for investment.