Re: [ox-en] the Deleuzian engineer
- From: John Bywater <john.bywater appropriatesoftwarefoundation.org>
- Date: 27 Jan 2004 18:52:51 +0000
I havent gone through the multitude of emails I have but this just arrived. I
have been thinking about Deleuze, pragmatics and the way of working in floss.
Excellent. Will you go to the conference in Austria this year?
John, I would like to talk to you more about it. It seems to me that Deleuzes
idea of thought, Negri's continual reproposing of the problem (well that is
Deleuze as well) and scratching an itch all seem to ahve a similar sort of
thread and maybe an way to think about floss production, what is produced,
how and why ...
any ideas on this
So, a few more comments from me...
As you mention him, I like the way Negri talks of 'being' as time, and
of time as eternity, with an edge, that bubbles into the void beyond,
where the bubbles are our 'common names', made through our labour, or
observed in meditation, and which as time procedes augment eternity, and
therefore our being, with the lastest 'becoming'.
I particularly like Deleuze's standpoint of 'anti-Hegelianism'. He
stands next to Marx in his opposition to Hegel, but not behind him as a
refinement, as a Marxist. Famously, when Marx saw this queue forming at
his back he remarked that he certainly wasn't a Marxist. The Society Of
The Spectacle points out Hegel's Absolute Spirit lending form to every
contemporary oppresion. Negating that negativity (that ideology of
separation) in material form (rather than merely negating the idea)
still remains undone.
The character of the nomdic war machine appears amongst the body of free
An understanding of the character of rhizomes usefully displaces the
overdetermining domination of the 'tree' metaphor. (But note carefully
they repeat the One and the Many are not in opposition: trees within
rhizomes, rather than rhizomes instead of trees.)
Negri's ideas of the 'common name', and of ideas like 'kairos', and the
non-transendental constitutive view of power, are all entirely relevant
for the improvement of productivity within the free software body, for
an increase in our class mobility, for the discovery of commonality with
groups which appear to distinct, for an increase in the power and
consciousness that the free software body can generate for itself, and
without becoming totalitarian, or suicidal, or otherwise inhumane.
Further, that such consideration will produce the means by which free
software body can avoid knowing itself as the Great Exception, and its
practitioners and advocates can avoid the mistake made by the Young
Hegelians of positioning themselves as a critical Christ figure, with
Mankind as the rabble.
The couple: "immaterial and affective labour" repeated throughout (the
book) Empire points the way here. Commonalities between the hospital
nurse, the health food shop cooperator, and the free software developer
are there 'for the naming'. (For one, we all work around broken systems,
increasingly depend on our knowledge and our working practices, and
worry about oppresive structures that are more capable of breaking our
'chain of desire' in an attempt to augment the machine with a mechanical
man than rejuvenating of capacity to realise further development.)
Particularly here from Negri: the metaphyscial humanist triads of
being-knowing-doing can be mapped to the axes of
systems-patterns-developing, such that we can understand in common a
process of total rejuventation: we use our current systems of being and
patterns of knowing within our practices of developing to remake our
systems of being, our patterns of knowing, and indeed our practices of
At this point, we seem only able to justify our 'means' with our
'beginings', rather than our 'means' with our 'ends'. And we see that
after the application of our means, we merely have new beginnings. (So
we work best in an micro-iterative manner. Hence the multiple advent of
The augmentation of being-knowing with the constitutive 'doing', along
with the useful inversion of the means-ends nonsense, is a sufficient
distance from the paralysis of Aristotle.
A second triad of will-love-desire reinforces the first one: desire
provokes the intention, will powers the realisation, and love is the
life of ethical consideration developed into an absolute - corresponding
with the slogan: Do The Right Thing (TM).
(One of my favourite-quotes-of-all-time from the web was from a comment
about SourceForge a couple of years ago: "SourceForge is the place where
so many geeks did the Right Thing (TM) it because wrong again." Probably
a surprising result for the followers of Kant.)
In terms of their constitution, we can identify the 'atoms' of each of
our systems of being, patterns of knowing, and practices of developing
by appealing to semiotics, or by considering each 'common name' as it is
produced (by 'kairos') to take its place within the 'semiosphere' (the
namespace of social signification). So as an objective whole, we are
considering the 'language object' (Saussure, onwards) that is developed
by a process of vascilating distinction, followed by a resolving
decision that provides the name, signifies the concern, and creates the
And here we may usefully heed Nietzsche's advice to be a gardener to our
own minds, rather than merely soil.
We can even start to become playful with our time (as Guy Debord
desired), by considering 'unit testing' as a double semiotic system, or
a veritable 'mythology of reason' (from the First Program Of A System)
designed to 'give wings to our slow physics' of information. In a stroke
we invert the form of those oppresive mythologies (of 'democracy', of
'production', of 'nature', I'm following Bartes here) in material form
(which is why our brains hurt) and not just as 'thinghood' (from Marx,
on Hegel, 1844), displace the dogmatic of 'correctness' with the
pragmatic of real functioning (use value) [referred to yesterday], and
hence develop the rightful practice of constructing and adjusting our
own 'distortions' for the production of our own 'truths'. I've 
written incompletely about this particular idea at length on WardsWiki.
There's a diagram for people who like pictures...
Negri's talk of the production of subjective multiplicities animates the
consideration of the 'appropriate' that our embryonic Appropriate
Software Foundation (merely one 'tent' in that Deleuzian 'nomdic war
machine' that are the free software movements) priviledges over all
other considerations, and which we invoke with the category 'appropriate
I've started a diachronic/synchronic (or, causal/institutional)
exposition of 'appropriate software' as the means to articulate myself
more successfully - perhaps in opposition to this current piece, which
was intended to be no more than a careless list.
Then, there is the postmodernism of 'productive discourse', which seems
to bring to antagonistic climax the contradiction between cooperation
and control, in that one can't easily command for two others to have a
productive conversation. That control can only interrupt, or subtract
from, whatever conversation is desired by the two interlocuters. And it
can never know the conversation well. The problem for control is that it
needs at once to permit the conversation - because therin lies the
productivity - and to deny the conversation - because therein lies the
revolt. No wonder 'executive garnening leave' has been invented. I'm
sure you could quite paranoid.
If we require a first approximation to why managements dither so much
today, and individual managers seem so unsure of themseleves, this is
Another vital concern for our livelihoods is the economic. Here, we can
identify the free software licence as a social device that casts - or
asserts - the value of all so-licensed software as a public good, and
not a private good.
My cautious view is that all other characteristics of free software
derive from this analytic element.
(Niall would do well to depart here from his quite ahistorical
utopiansim, by not assuming everything is avaiable for change as if
changing the idea of something changed that something in fact,
identifying for himself an agency by which changes in the material world
can be realised and not just in his thinghood-world-model, and cease
from presenting us with lists of trivial thinghood-negations with their
implicit request that we make a total leap into his unknown world. In
other words that we leave our current selves behind and become entirely
something he says is apparently unexplainable, or in yet other words
that we die now and accend to Niall-heaven later. This is the absense of
self-preservation which utopianisms always conceal. Self-preservation is
an instinct which always makes utopia smell bad, and when we have no
illusions, drives us to work in common ways, and against broken and
One obvious aspect of the public-private opposition is its binary
opposition. Negating the public returns you to the private. Negating the
private returns you to the public. The public good is non-rivalrous in
its consumption, and has no exclusion mechanism (national defense,
sunshine, free software). The private good is rivalrous in its
consumption, and is constructed from the public by the application of an
exclusion mechanism (high-security appartment compounds, bottles of
mineral water, most end-user license agreements).
As a historical canon moving through land, women, machines, information
we can observe the walls of the enclosures, the institution of marriage
or its sign the chastity belt, the patent, and the proprietary IP
licence. That the GPL breaks from this history is of a certain
And, although I haven't dug that far here, the gold at the bottom of
this pit is that free software, with its famous spiral of positive
externality, would seem to allow us to make a Pereto improvement on the
efficiency obtainable by a market mechanism. It demonstrates that the
choice of the organisation of production is both an economic good
itself, and is not made within the market. This destroys the ideology of
economic man being invariantly coincident with human nature, and the
nature myth of the market. The Market appears to all for the first time
as anachronism, out of its time. Quite a move. All this is righfully
associated with RMS, and the GPL. (Open source merely presents the use
values of the public good which free software has established.)
To finish here [its gone dark while I've been typing!], I see the
consciousness and vitality supported by the non-market surpassing the
real stagnation of the market as a result of the non-marketeers'
foundational negation of the separations of the market: 'The social
relationship of "man to man" the basic negation of the negation, which
claims to be the absolute positive, positively based on itself.' [Marx,
Pair programming springs to mind.
Perhaps the strong current of thought on this list which considers the
'man-free software' relation to be rather new, and pregnant with an
alternative society, could make comparison firstly with modernism's
'man-machine' relation, and then with informationalism's 'man-man'.
Knowledge is produced. We, our brains and our bodies, are the means of
production. And it is only natural to reproduce ourselves for our own
sake, and to seek to secure the result of our application of ourselves,
and thereby secure our livelihood, and those objects on which it depends
(like the biosphere, for one).
In that we are burdened by an parasitic, insolent (overbearingly
contemptuous) strata who assume to approriate the results of our
efforts, the attainment of real livelihood security requires the
systematic separation of parasite from host.
As we learn more of how to rebuild our own lives, developing those
systems we need for the purposes we derive and validate, as
species-minded desirous techno-apes, my optimism for the future only
If you got this far, thanks for taking the time.
With warm wishes to all,