The machinic register of the semiotic production of Capital operates on the basis of a-signifying semiotics that tune in directly to the body (to its affects, its desires, its emotions and perceptions) by means of signs. Instead of producing signification, these signs trigger an action, a reaction, a behaviour, an attitude, a posture. These semiotics have no meaning, but set things in motion, activate them. Money, television, science, music, etc. can function as sign production machines, which have a direct, unmediated impact on the real and on the body without being routed through a signification or a representation.
The cycle of fear, anxiety or panic penetrating the atmosphere and tonality in which our “surveillance societies” are steeped are triggered by sign machines; these machines appeal not to the consciousness, but to the nervous system, the affects, the emotions. The symbolic semiotics of the body, instead of being centred on language, are as such activity routed through the industrial, machinic, non-human production of images, sounds, words, intensities, movements, rhythms, etc.
One needs to remember that for Deleuze and Guattari these a-signifying systems of signs were very much material notions of productivity, not to be confused with the abstract representationalism of the signifying semiotics. His main point is that the Left for the most part since the 60’s has missed the boat and dealt with the representationalism dynamics of capital rather than its base materialist a-signifying semiotics:
The importance of a-signifying semiotics (money, machinic devices for the production of images, sounds, words, signs, equations, scientific formulae, music, etc.) and the role they play needs to be emphasized. They are ignored by most linguistic and political theories even though they constitute the pivotal point of new forms of capitalist government.
In fact Guattari has no qualms in saying that most Leftist thought in the “contemporary political and linguistic theories that refer either directly or indirectly to the polis and/or to the theatre, place us in a pre-capitalist situation”. In other words most Leftist thought is retrograde rather than innovative, it situates us in a dead world of representationalist mirrors that have nothing to say to the ongoing dilemmas of financial capitalism.
As Guattari suggests the technologies that we use and encompass every waking and sleeping moment of our lives are reformatting our subjectivations continuously, controlling and dominating our affective and representational systems: what many term the InfoSphere of Capital as an alien entity that surrounds us on all sides as a ubiquitous and invisible network of relations that have captured our physical, emotional, and mental existence. He asks: “how do we escape these relationships of domination and how do we develop practices of freedom and processes of individual and collective subjectivation using these same technologies?”
Translated by Mary O’Neill
first published here: