The Rhizome

Deleuze and Guattari write a confusing, contradictory, and humorous work on books and literature. Beginning by likening books to pieces of machinery they quickly dive into a crescendo of thought by saying,

The world has become chaos, but the book remains the image of the world: radicle-chaosmos rather than root-cosmos. A strange mystification: a book all the more total for being fragmented. At any rate, what a vapid idea, the book as the image of the world. (Deleuze p 380).

Soon after this shock and awe of contradictions they give further insight into the makeup of books when they begin to discuss the strange parallels between Chomsky’s grammar and social power,

Our criticism of these linguistic models is not that they are too abstract but, on the contrary, that they are not abstract enough, that they do not reach the abstract machine that connects a language to the semantic and pragmatic contents of statements, to collective assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micro politics of the social field (Deleuze p 381).

It is a strange paradox to define books as the image of the world, while the world is chaos. How does something have form when it is the image of something that has no form? How does one object hold together in its representation of something that has fallen apart? How doe these contradictions somehow form an image in the mind’s eye saying “I can embrace this conflict”?

I believe it is found in their description of the structure and rule of grammar, that it does not approach the abstract machine, that we find an answer, in yes, another paradox. Grammar is required for the communication of ideas in books. Yet, the grammar constructs the image of chaos which the book represents. While it does not approach the abstract machine, it builds the abstract machine.

In building with the analogy of literature to rhizomes and plant life, I see it as the necessity of destruction to facilitate life. Were it not for the formation of suns and their ultimate deaths, there would be no formation of planets and the raw building blocks of life would not exist. Were it not for the constant weeding out and destruction of the sick and weak, and the built in desire to adapt and overcome, a species would not survive. Even in the day-to-day of our mundane existences, death is a necessity in that it drives us to live.

Then in the same way, a book is able to symbolize the chaos of the world. Not in totality, but in a piece. In turn, grammar, while very structural and organized, builds the symbol of the world of destruction.

But in the end, according to Baudrillard, the image ultimately bears no resemblance to reality whatsoever (Baudrillard p 368). Perhaps there was never anything there in the start.

Works Cited
Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. Print.
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