We Can’t Turn Back

“We will always find ourselves reterritorialized again.” The question is, the only question is, the type of assemblage that will be giving form to our content. Will it be one created to enhance reactionary forces and the negation of all but the most orthodox and obedient possibilities? Or will it be one that breaks loose all that kept us docile for so long? Will it reaffirm what the State gave us as palliative? Or will it redirect the roads, canals, and bridges that the State used to infect us with its sovereignty?

Melville wanted to break through, he really did. He understood how subjectivity is the expression of a content formed by subjectification: that the things we feel, think, and act are always already preconditioned by some form of sociality. If that form is a capitalist State, well then, the body becomes a tool of the State. If instead it is a radical nomadic terror cell, well, you get the picture.

And so we love Melville for getting that far. His problem, though, was in being unwilling to go further. “Push against the wall and break through,” he said, “that is enough!” Lovely, but not enough.

DH Lawrence spoke about Melville’s breaking through. “Melville,” he said, “knows how to break through, to cross the horizon. But having done so, he fears nothing more than the possibility of a return to savagery (such a thing was still believable then), and thus always maintained nostalgia for the home country. All that he ran away from, then, he carried along on his back, becoming-jackass for sovereignty and a comfortable bed; carrying them as far away as a man could flee. Melville was, at the core,” he concluded, “a mystic and an idealist. And he stuck to his ideal guns. I abandon mine. I say, let the old guns rot. Get new ones, and shoot straight.”

Reterritorialized from A Thousand Plateaus, 188-189

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