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A Thousand Plateaus

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (French: Mille plateaux) is a 1980 philosophy book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the French psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. The authors draw upon and discuss the work of a number of authors, including Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Wilhelm Reich. A Thousand Plateaus is written in a non-linear fashion, and the reader is invited to move among plateaux in any order. It is the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and the successor to Anti-Oedipus (1972). Before the full English translation by social theorist Brian Massumi appeared in 1987, the twelfth "plateau" was published separately as Nomadology: The War Machine (New York: Semiotext(e), 1986). Though influential, and considered a major statement of post-structuralism and postmodernism, the book has been criticized on many grounds.

A Thousand Plateaus
A Thousand Plateaus (French edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorsGilles Deleuze
Félix Guattari
Original titleMille plateaux
TranslatorBrian Massumi
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages645 (French edition)
610 (English translation)
Preceded byAnti-Oedipus



Deleuze and Guattari discuss concepts such as the Body without Organs, deterritorialization/reterritorialization, assemblages, strata, smooth and striated space, and a range of subjects including semiotics and linguistics. They evaluate and criticize the work of Sigmund Freud, referring to the case histories of Little Hans and the Wolf Man. Deleuze and Guattari consider Carl Jung "profounder than Freud". They also assess the work of Wilhelm Reich, discussing Reich's ideas about "character armor" in his work Character Analysis (1933). Deleuze and Guattari also evaluate works of literature by a variety of authors, including Henry James' In the Cage (1898), F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up (1945) and H. P. Lovecraft's "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" (1934), which they call one of his masterpieces. They also refer to Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Children of Dune (1976).[1]


A Thousand Plateaus is considered a major statement of post-structuralism and postmodernism.[2] The philosopher Jean-François Lyotard commented, however, that he had "read in a French weekly that some are displeased with Mille Plateaux... because they expect, especially when reading a work of philosophy, to be gratified with a little sense."[3] Mark Poster writes that the work "contains promising elaborations of a postmodern theory of the social and political."[4] Writing in the foreword to his translation, Massumi comments that the work "is less a critique than a positive exercise in the affirmative 'nomad' thought called for in Anti-Oedipus." Massumi contrasts "nomad thought" with the "state philosophy... that has characterized Western metaphysics since Plato".[5]

Deleuze critic Eugene Holland suggests that the work complicates the slogans and oppositions developed in its predecessor. Where Anti-Oedipus created binaries such as molar/molecular, paranoid/schizophrenic, and deterritorialization/reterritorialization, A Thousand Plateaus shows how such distinctions are operations on the surface of a deeper field with more complicated and multidimensional dynamics. In doing so, it also moves away from human history towards topics such as biology and geology.[6] Massumi writes that A Thousand Plateaus differs drastically in tone, content, and composition from Anti-Oedipus. In his view, the "schizophrenia" the authors embrace is not a "pathological condition", but a "positive process" that involves "inventive connection".[7] Bill Readings appropriates the term "singularity" from A Thousand Plateaus, "to indicate that there is no longer a subject-position available to function as the site of the conscious synthesis of sense-impressions."[8] The sociologist Nikolas Rose writes that Deleuze and Guattari articulate "the most radical alternative to the conventional image of subjectivity as coherent, enduring, and individualized".[9]

The physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont argue in Fashionable Nonsense (1997) that A Thousand Plateaus contains many passages in which Deleuze and Guattari use pseudo-scientific language.[10] Author Janet Murray links the work to the aesthetic of hypertext.[11] Author Espen Aarseth equates Deleuze and Guattari's idea of the rhizome with semiotician Umberto Eco's idea of the net.[12] A Thousand Plateaus was an influence on the political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's book Empire (2000).[13] The sociologist John Urry sees Deleuze and Guattari's metaphor of the nomad as having "infected contemporary social thought."[14] The philosopher Manuel DeLanda, in A New Philosophy of Society (2006), adopts Deleuze's theory of assemblages, taken from A Thousand Plateaus.[15] Christopher Miller and Timothy Laurie criticize Deleuze and Guattari's use of meretricious anthropological sources to buttress claims about nomadism.[16] Laurie also describes Deleuze and Guattari's commentary on "becoming-animal" as "leading", insofar as it "naturalizes what is an otherwise spurious distinction between that which attracts narcissistic Oedipal investments and that which does not".[17]

The philosopher Roger Scruton dismisses A Thousand Plateaus as "nonsense" and "unreadable".[18][19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Félix (1993). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 14, 26–38, 135–139, 149–166, 195, 198, 235–236, 240, 241, 259, 390, 534, 539, 559. ISBN 0-8166-1402-4.
  2. ^ See, for example, Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, Postmodern Theory (Guilford Press, 1991), which devotes a chapter to Deleuze and Guattari.
  3. ^ Lyotard, Jean-François (1993). The Postmodern Condition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. 71. ISBN 0-8166-1173-4.
  4. ^ Poster, Mark (1990). The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-0226675961.
  5. ^ Massumi, Brian; Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Félix (1993). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. xi. ISBN 0-8166-1402-4.
  6. ^ Eugene W. Holland, "Deterritorializing 'deterritorialization'—From the Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus", SubStance #66 (Vol. 3, No. 9), 1991, accessed via JStor.
  7. ^ Massumi, Brian (1993). A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. pp. 1–4. ISBN 0-262-63143-1.
  8. ^ Readings, Bill (1997). The University in Ruins. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0674929531.
  9. ^ Rose, Nikolas (1996). Inventing our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0521646079.
  10. ^ Sokal, Alan; Bricmont, Jean (1999). Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science. New York: Picador. p. 168. ISBN 0-312-20407-8.: "Should the reader entertain any further doubts about the ubiquity of pseudo-scientific language in Deleuze and Guattari's work, he or she is invited to consult, in addition to the references given in the footnotes, pages 20-24, 32, 36-42, 50, 117-133, 135-142, 151-162, 197, 202-207, and 214-217 of What Is Philosophy?, and pages 32-33, 142-143, 211-212, 251-252, 293-295, 361-365, 369-374, 389-390, 461, 469-473, and 482-490 of A Thousand Plateaus."
  11. ^ Murray, Janet (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck. New York: Free Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0684827230.
  12. ^ Aarseth, Espen (1997). Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0801855795.
  13. ^ Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio (2000). Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 424. ISBN 978-0674006713.
  14. ^ Urry, John (2000). Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty First Century. New York: Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0415190893.
  15. ^ DeLanda, Manuel (2006). A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 120. ISBN 978-0826491695.
  16. ^ Laurie, Timothy (2012), "Epistemology as Politics and the Double-Bind of Border Thinking: Lévi-Strauss, Deleuze and Guattari, Mignolo", Portal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 9 (2): 1–20
  17. ^ Laurie, Timothy (2015), "Becoming-Animal Is A Trap For Humans", Deleuze and the Non-Human eds. Hannah Stark and Jon Roffe.
  18. ^ Scruton, Roger (2015). Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. London: Bloomsbury. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-4081-8733-3.
  19. ^

External linksEdit

  • Preview of A Thousand Plateaus available on Google Books
  • April 10, 2006 article by John Philipps, with an explanation of the incomplete translation of "agencement" by "assemblage" ("One of the earliest attempts to translate Deleuze and Guattari’s use of the term agencement appears in the first published translation, by Paul Foss and Paul Patton in 1981, of the article “Rhizome.” The English term they use, assemblage, is retained in Brian Massumi’s later English version, when “Rhizome” appears as the Introduction to A Thousand Plateaus.")
  • Faciality: The concept of faciality discussed by Michael Hardt.
  • Story of the Abyss and the Spyglass: Deleuze and Guattari's study of the story discussed by Ronald Bogue in Deleuze on Literature (2013).
  • Nomadology discussed by Christopher L. Miller.
  • The Smooth and the Striated. The penultimate chapter of ATP discussed by Flora Lysen and Patricia Pisters.
  • "Drawings from A Thousand Plateaus" presents a paragraph by paragraph diagrammatic interpretation of the first two chapters of A Thousand Plateaus, by artist Marc Ngui.