The Nomadology of Anti-States

by Dnyl

"Indra, the warrior god, is in opposition to Varuna no less than to Mitra"1

In their "Treatise on Nomadology" 2, Deleuze and Guattari present two axioms regarding what they name the War Machine. Firstly, that "the war machine is exterior to the State apparatus"; and secondly, that "the war machine is the invention of the nomads (insofar as it is exterior to the State apparatus and distinct from the military institution)".3

The first axiom is exemplified by the role of the nomadic warrior in mythology, and also by the various kinds of 'occupation' of space in war games such as Go and chess. In the former case, drawing from the work of George Dumezil on Indo-European mythology, war is positioned outside the binary poles of violence that are accessible to the State. Either the state channels war through its police and jailers, whose operations are 'magical capture' and seizure, which prevent combat, or else it acquires an army upon which it imposes 'juridicial and institutional rules' 4. Thus the war machine is never reducible to the State apparatus, but the State constantly appropriates the war machine to serve its mechanics of violence and control. In short, the State divests the war machine of its power of metamorphosis- its nomadicism. It is worth noting also that the war machine does not have war as its object, but "necessarily adopts it as its object when it allows itself to be appropriated by the State apparatus" 5

In the case of games, the comparison between chess and Go allows a metaphor for comparing the features of 'State space' and the 'nomadic space' of the war machine, respectively. In the former case, space is striated into lines of tension and the closing-off of regions by pieces endowed with intrinsic powers and qualities. Chess is a game of interiority. On the other hand, Go pieces are empowered not by intrinsic rules but by situational properties. There are no front lines or battles in Go, which operates within a 'smooth' space.

As to the second axiom, D & G refer to the work of Pierre Clastres, who proposed that so-called 'primitive societies' are not only societies 'without a State' 6 , but have (usually complex) mechanisms for warding off the formation of a State. Further, that war in primitive societies is the surest mechanism in preventing the formation of the State. In the words of D & G, "war maintains the dispersal and segmentarity of groups, and the warrior himself is caught in a process of accumulating exploits leading him to solitude and a prestigious but powerless death". This organisational form is closer to that of bands and packs than to the organs of power in any State apparatus. Leadership is a volatile relation between pack members, and does not necessarily promote the strongest but instead inhibits the installation of stable powers. Thus, instead of an institution of power structures which pre-exist their occupation, power is a fabric of immanent relations, constantly undergoing metamorphosis and threatening the dispersion of the pack. This cannot be seen simply as a mere "unevolved" system, but is instead a complex assemblage of multiple micro-mechanisms that prevent the formation of power institutions proper to the State.

Thus, by breaking with the evolutionist's position of "from bands to kingdoms", a certain self-sufficiency of the bands is assumed and the emergence of the State is transferred to entirely different mechanisms 7.

At this point it is necessary to clarify that the war machine does not have war as its object, but rather as its means of averting the formation of 'organs of power'. While the nomads can be accredited with the invention of the war machine, they cannot be accredited with its secrets, as any "ideological, scientific or artistic movement can be a potential war machine, to the precise extent to which it draws, in relation to a phylum 8 , a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight, a smooth space of displacement. It is not the nomad who defines this constellation of characteristics; it is this constellation that defines the nomad, and at the same time the essence of the war machine" 9.

So one does not create a war machine, one creates in such a way as to operate as a war machine. And war only becomes its object when it is directed against the State apparatuses that appropriate it and make war its object. The war machine is inherently volatile and the power relations within it are necessarily fragmented or distributed- it is this tendency to rupture that prevents the formation of power-hierarchies and the State apparatus. The ruptures and schisms that guarantee the metamorphosis of the war machine are essential to maintaining the exteriority of the war machine to the State. And it is the operation of the State to reterritorialise and appropriate the war machines that deterritorialise or escape from it in its attempt to disempower them. Thus, without the internal ruptures of the war machine that ensure its nomadic movements, it would inevitably be conquested by the State apparatus, either by capture (a police raid) or domination (military destruction or incorporation).

Schisms break up the war machine, being an integral part of it, and thus they ensure the war machine's continuation.



(1) Dumezial, ''The Destiny of the Warrior'', University of Chicago Press, 1970.
(2) Deleuze & Guattari, ''A Thousand Plateaus'', Minnesota Press, 1987. p351
(3) ibid., p351, 380.
(4) Dumezial, in Mitra-Varuna, thus concludes that Mars-Tiwaz is not a warrior god, but a jurist of war.
(5) D & G, ibid, p513
(6) Orthodox ethnology posits primitive societies as simplistic societies that, historically, 'evolve' from nomadic to agricultural societies and, eventually, form complex power relations which form a State apparatus.
(7) So, if the formation of the State is not the product of war, then it must contain internal mechanisms that make people voluntarily seek out or accept subordination to the State apparatus.
(9) D & G, ibid, p422-423

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