Translation of F. Laruelle’s Introduction to “Textual Machines”

The following is a translation of F. Laruelle’s Introduction to Machines textuelles (Pais: Seuil, 1976), pp. 9-19, by Taylor Adkins, 9/1/13.

Introduction to Textual Machines: Deconstruction and Libido of Writing

            The text, well, it doesn’t send word [s’envoie pas dire], but one can always say [dire] something about it.

Thus I am attempting to simultaneously guide an analysis of deconstruction’s techniques and a displacement of their problematics onto neighboring positions, about which I’m hoping that their neighborhood, in order to have some relation to topology, is neither good nor bad.

Which positions? Those which are implicated, not manifestly but latently, in “Nietzsche-thought”, or in the esoteric problematics of the Eternal return and the Will to power, which I shall call generalized repetition and intensive libido respectively. At the risk of seeming to elicit deconstruction’s virulence and facing the perils of an ideological regression, I am attempting to relate deconstruction to a principle of functionality a) that transforms it into a libidinal process of textual production; b) that pretends[1] to reprise, even activate, effects-of-deconstruction on its behalf.

And, in order to render some of the stakes irreversible, I am saying quite up-front that this libidinal functionality of deconstruction must be both transcendental and machinic. Is this an association against nature, a logo-centric regression in the guise of resorting to the libido, an action which all too soon becomes tiresome? When the cruel tact with which Derrida detects and denounces the transcendental with such certainty is acknowledged, won’t a somewhat provocative contrary sense be seen in this project, along with (why not) a bad service rendered to an endeavor whose vigilance has no equal, except the good will with which it gathers allies?

Suppose that the pairing of the Eternal return and Will to power forms a theoretical and practical (desiring) dispositif of sovereignty or indifférance to signs, then nothing prohibits effectuating this double and unique thought, latent in whichever textual chain or series of experience: this dispositif must be able to function in deconstruction and contribute new effects to it, since it must be able to function, bringing subversion to deconstruction internally and externally, in the chain of the transcendental. For it’s on this very point that my problem bears: how does one draw new effects from the transcendental without thereby being ein transzendentaler Philosoph[2]…?

Suppose that the transcendental function that I’m advancing accounts for deconstruction’s logocentric forms, that with this term I’m not at all meaning the operation of a constituting subject, but repetition insofar as it depends on productive-produced différance, then nothing prohibits resorting to them under these new conditions of functionality and nothing prohibits defining their general textuality strictly as a specific generality of the textual unconscious, which no longer has anything in common (if not this name…but is that so decisive?) with a logocentric generality of self-presence.

Suppose that “machinic”, against the almost ubiquitous and growing ideology of machines, misunderstood as technical machines, designates a functionality of drives and the unconscious that can be formulated in the following way: the effect of a drive is distinguished from this drive that doesn’t distinguish from it—then this rigorous definition, for a “Nietzschean” ear, should suffice to absolve me of having reprised it vis-à-vis deconstruction, simulacra, re-marking, etc. And who, besides an inveterate metaphysician or a backsliding structuralist, doesn’t begin with acknowledging that there aren’t any desiring machines or non-technical machines (here the machinic re-marks and displaces the technical) that aren’t transcendental? That the least logocentric functionality of the machinic and the transcendental (or of productive différance, which doesn’t fall under the conditions of representation—if not in order to re-split it) is the same? It’s true that concerning the point of the simple reading, let’s say of Anti-Oedipus, optimism is still premature: it suffices to sublate the fright that sometimes accompanies the provocative term “transcendental” in order to designate the specific type of immanence of desiring production…as well as what belongs to the same system, to the same effect of misrecognition: the twin fright that gathers the famous “machines” on its other side…As always, this would be a technical misrecognition of the machinic that results in this double fear. Here the Marxist assurance would be glorious, and it remains so. As for the analysts? A manner of playing dead, no doubt, but which no longer stems from an animal ruse but from a ruse of desire.

Here’s another principle that is strictly deduced from Nietzsche’s thought: the grandeur of a book is evaluated according to the stupidity [bêtise] that it elicits and makes speak. As long as one conflates the transcendental with the subjectivity and interiority that effectuate it in a restrained mode, or with the objectivity of the object, as long as one does not make the generality of writing function as transcendental or as immanence of différantial exteriorities (immanence liquidating all interiority), as machinic property of a principle of genesis or différantial constitution, as long as the will to power is not affirmed as being this principle that can transform general (transcendental) textuality into a genetic element of the effects of writing, then one will have no reason for not seeing in these researches an ideological endeavor and a regression in relation to deconstruction’s effective labor and to its advancement.

So that there won’t be any risk of confusion, I will thus distinguish: a) textual, which designates the text’s linguistic representation; b) textuale,[3] which designates the text’s a-signifying machines, or general textuality in its “transcendental” functionality; c) a-textual, which designates, perhaps against what deconstruction wants[4] or can do?, the active indifférance of (writing’s) generality to the text, even to writing; or the tendential movement of destruction of the text’s linguistic representation; or the process of detextualization, which is the other side of textual production when it’s related to intensive libido. It’s at this point that the text inscribed by Derrida and his transference onto these adjacent positions diverge.

For my problem, no doubt elaborated by deconstruction, albeit in its own way, is to make of deconstruction a problem or a question: who deconstructs? what about the desire of the deconstrutor himself? Who makes the process proceed in its double play: deconstruction of the logos, but also generativity of text effects? The question is not merely of desire deferred, of logocentric desire’s différance, about which the Derridean text tells us so much by its very practice. It’s also the question of textual generativity as active and affirmative production, the question of desire, since desire makes a text function through auto-deconstruction and, first off, through production: is this the practice, is this the outfitted labor of techniques taken from philosophy, to linguistics, to structuralism? or instead, does deconstruction’s patient labor suppose a wholly other “energy”, concerning which the question is not Derrida’s text directly, both when it’s thought and effectuated as textual practices and, nevertheless, in the theoretical theses that it advances here and there about power [puissance].[5] To plug textuality into desiring machines, textual production and reproduction into libidinal production and reproduction: what motivates this repetition is a machinic graft, and this graft is absolutely not arbitrary, since it’s machinic. Thus one attempts to substitute for the anthropological theme of practice the notion of a desiring functionality, specific to textuale machines: not deconstruction’s techniques, but a machinic process, not operators, but machines. To ward off in deconstruction what eventually subsists of finite practicity, representation and consciousness, of exoteric temporality and against any semblance: from textual practice to libido-of-writing. The first task is obviously to show that deconstruction’s syntax is that of general repetition and that, as a result, the problem of the power or desire of the subject of writing is not arbitrary.

A debate has opened. One will indeed want to challenge the overly hasty objection that it would then be a question of a regression in relation to deconstruction, a detour of metaphysics through the angle of energetics, of the ideology of desire, etc. For in all these researches I am expressly sustaining the contrary thesis, even though nothing is proved thereby concerning the truth of this thesis, and even though deconstruction’s arguments against this problematic are acknowledged. This thesis is that in deconstruction the means of having done with what representations can subsist in it, with what secretly linguistic and structuralist presupposed can subsist in it, particularly with the “presupposed” (moreover too easily invoked as a simplistic objection) that there would be nothing but text and that all referents would be ideologically reduced to textuality—is precisely to transform deconstruction into a machinic process, to relate it to libido specified as libido-of-writing. Furthermore, it will be revealed that it’s a question of having done with this objection against deconstruction rather than with deconstruction itself, which wouldn’t make any kind of sense.

And which libido is concerned here, if not what Nietzsche has called “Will to power” and related to the syntax of general repetition or Eternal return…of the Other? The act by which it carries out whatever sort of process in the conditions of representation’s positive destruction is decisive but apparently not well known: this libido is never represented, at least in the conditions of its constituting, unconscious, productive functionality. Libido is production of différance and determines itself or produces itself différantially with the production of différance. This is why Will to power has nothing to do with an abstract and metaphysical energetics, like what’s said thoughtlessly here and there, even by Heidegger, in the ignorance of Nietzsche’s most elementary thoughts, which doesn’t mean his most manifest ones. It’s a plastic principle, at the same time more “universal” and more singular than the psychoanalytic representation of libido. It’s plastic to the point of being determined each time and to the point of being specified (of going to the limit of différance) in accordance with machines or with the process that it unfolds. Subject to a somewhat necessarily violent re-interpretation of deconstruction qua process of writing to be grafted onto desiring machines, what will be spoken of is an authentic (textuale rather than textual) libido-of-writing, to which we propose to “reduce” deconstruction’s techniques by also repressing their technical and practical aspect: this is precisely on behalf of an intensified version, a machinic and desiring version of the functionality of general textuality.

We don’t see any other way to specify deconstruction, to distinguish it (but radically) from signifying practices, from the linguistic, structuralist or “textual” representation of textuality whence it departs and which it erases [rature] but which, according to our feeling, it perhaps does not erase vigorously enough. If there is a suspicion in this text, it is therefore merely the other side and effect of an intensive and desiring affirmation of Derrida’s labor—a manner of violent recognition, and not at all an attempt to put this labor into an artificial conflict with thoughts stemming more directly from the Nietzschean break. The problem was instead that of consuming/consummating deconstruction or of bringing it to a point of power wherein it forms a process which nourishes itself by nourishing all texts, which destroys itself by deconstructing all texts.

Thus, in order to crudely advance the background-thought that guides these researches, I believe that the apparatus formed by the correlation of Eternal return and Will to power, of generalized repetition and intensive libido, is a little more powerful, in the deconstruction of the textual and in the production of the textuale, than deconstruction “itself” (if such a thing exists). And does general repetition have the same syntax as re-inscription? It would be necessary to show this from the outset. This wouldn’t involve any unavoidable condition, for generalized repetition is the only supple and plastic functionality, and this libido is the only energy sufficiently in metamorphosis to assemble [agencer][6] the unconscious différantial syntheses of any sign whatsoever, including those of the sign “text”: différance’s in-différance, the point where différance attains indifférance, is the very power of machinic libido, the manner in which it makes chance [hasard] necessary. This apparatus can function within the formats of textuality, and it’s in view of such a system that I’m selecting from existing deconstruction certain possibilities that suffice to be activated to make of the general text a circle of Eternal return of the Other. Is this an abusive generalization without any shreds of proof? It’s a generalization immanent to libidinal repetition or to libidinal production that is gounded a priori in its transcendental and différantial generality. It should be recalled that Fichte made of the “Wissenschafslehre[7] a supple instrument for thought’s most various tasks. This idea of a plastic philosophical instrument has its origin in Kant and Critique, obviously, but it doesn’t find its fulfilled form until Eternal return, the only process that is transformed along with its materials and which is consumed/consummated on the spot in order to go further: a machinic process, a power of metamorphosis that can be “specified” as textual, a process of production, reproduction and consumption of signs that has put structuralism and linguistics six thousand feet under and that immanently entails the criteria of the distinction between textual gadgets and textuale machines.

Along with the syntax of general repetition, libido qua power is the unavoidable element that gives its full extension to the notion of a process of production. Libido is therefore actively indifférant to the materials or to the series of experience in which this complex dispositif is effectuated: textual and designating machines, social and political machines, etc. But this indifférance of the libido (as the process’s motor) to what it makes function, this contingency of the series wherein it is effectuated does not at all imply that a material isn’t necessary for it, at least for us, who are held in the snares of representation. Libido is not just an abstract metaphysical principle surveying [survolant][8] experience, including textual assemblages, it’s not just determined each time by the text’s state of production and auto-deconstruction, but also textual forces, textuality’s agents of production are necessarily coded by laws objectified by various disciplines of linguistics: and it’s from these codings that deconstruction takes leave in order to undo them. What’s essential is to make libido, specified as writing, function in the conditions for it to pass through textuality’s agents of production, but also for it not to be reduced to these latter, because libido’s own syntax is that of an unconscious that outplays [déjoue][9] the signifier itself at the limit. At the epochèan[10] limit of deconstruction’s process—and such a limit implies for it, as we’ll see, its re-inscription and perhaps its transformation—what are announced and consumed are textuale machines as desiring, i.e. as purely intensive différantial “quantities”. It is probable that desiring or textuale machines are then nothing  but “contingent” or possible ways (and they are only such under these conditions) of effectuating intensities, since the problem remains that of knowing if an effectuation of intensities, their formulation on the basis of representation’s metalanguage, is still necessary at this limit or not, given that this metalanguage is deconstructed afterwards. Is deconstruction (tendentially) terminable, or indeed interminable?

Perhaps it must be admitted that the forces (or agents) of production are intrinsically and definitively signs, just as they’re social from the start, or anything else that one would like, since an unspecified effectuation is necessary, at least for us at the start. But we shall instead think that différantial (and thereby qualitative) “quantities”, far from being abstract, are already such determined, rigorously transcendental (rather than transcendent) effectuations: or immanent to the text, as well as in-différant to textual values. The différantial essance[11] of the sign or of the text is intensive différance: it’s not just a-signfying, but a-textual. When this essance affirms itself as such, it’s no longer necessary to still talk about the sign or the text, since the sign as such is nullified in its representative functions and becomes différance at the moment of highest affirmation. This nullification of the sign is not at all what representation at the limit requires of the direct intuition of the object. On the contrary, it’s the destruction of the element of representation or of logocentrism at the limit in the signifier and qua signifier, which is consumed definitively in and as libidinal différance. It obviously remains that, at the point of departure for the deconstructor, desiring production and re-production are also both designating and textual, since the whole problem is that of being set in the positive conditions of functionality that will guarantee a desiring epochè, not merely of the signifier and of logocentrism, but of textuality itself insofar as it, for the moment at least, is re-produced and conserved through its deconstruction. The destruction of the signs “text” or “sign”, that’s the highest task of deconstruction, which must will its decline, its consumption—as an apparatus that’s still repressive?—in libido, which it also strives to free nevertheless. The text’s active-affirmative essance is not itself textual. Our “thesis” posits the subordination of textual values to libidinal “values”.

We shall no longer make but allusions to this highest problem under the aegis of the unconditioned character (in-différant or not) of textuality’s process in relation to its logocentric materials. This is why it’s decisive for deconstruction’s destiny and future. For if the effectuation of intensities in signs or texts isn’t more privileged than their social, biological or aesthetic effectuation, if this effectuation is intensive différance, which is itself not specified or qualified based on beings [étants] and representation (a-textual functionality of the text toward which deconstruction would tend), then the objection of “textualism” will have been defeated, namely that deconstruction would proceed to a preliminary and abstract reduction of all referents to the text. For the ontico-ontological primacy of the text above every being, a primacy which relays the signifier’s own, one will have substituted a sovereignty of the process of textuality that would have prevented in the latter the technical domination over referents, and not merely the modern-all-too-modern ideology of linguistics as “guiding-science”. Such is the very “thesis” that guides these researches on deconstructive practice.

Our problem is therefore not reduced merely to knowing how the text of desire is deconstructed, for example the Freudian text and all the “energetic” and libidinal inscriptions to which Derrida more and more frequently proceeds, up to and including Glas. From the outset, it’s the problem of desire—primarily of the différantial quality of this desire—that produces the deconstructed-deconstructive text. It’s obvious that they both communicate with one another. But it doesn’t suffice to say that in every causal state deconstructive desire, deconstruction’s authentic disseminated subject, is a value and notably an intra-textual value alongside others. This problem is radicalized when deconstruction functions as a process in which the writing of libido and the libido of writing are rigorously the “same”—in approximation with a différance of intensity, which is precisely the libidinal subject of writing-as-deconstructed-deconstructive. It’s not certain that deconstruction functions as this process: the deconstructive subject is also the deconstructed subject there, but it’s not thought as libidinal, as both active and affirmative différance, and perhaps not as rigorous subject-effect? It takes time to perceive that, at the limit of its process, deconstruction functions as a writing-of-the-subject, in all the possible and audible senses that one desires, under the sole but strict condition that the subject be libidinal différance.

The problem of the eventual ideological regression of this interpretation, which thereby claims to be active and affirmative, will therefore be formulated in this way. I am re-introducing concepts like those of the transcendental analytic, power, body, machine. These are signs that I’m attempting to withdraw from their old context and to make function otherwise and for new effects toward a “reading” of Derrida in terms of intensity. But it cannot in turn become an intensive reading, a desiring re-production of deconstruction—and it’s on this condition that it’s not a regression—unless this very text forms for itself a rigorously unconditioned circle of Eternal return, indifférant in the last instance (at least in principle) to deconstruction, and therefore capable of operating deconstruction’s transcendental and différantial genesis. For a sign is not a fetish, it’s the cross-wiring [recoupement] of several series, it’s a phenomenon of resonance or cohabiting from which new series can always be selected. If there is an eventual regression in relation to deconstruction itself qua practice, then it isn’t situated in the recourse to signs like those of the transcendental, the machinic, power, process, but first in the basis of this recourse, or in the relation to these signs that supposes my own textual practice, the idea that signs can enter into distinct functionalities which only depend on the power or libido that assembles them. The problem is strictly that of knowing whether or not this functionality of the sign is the same as what’s left to be perceived in deconstruction. And if it’s not at all the same, is it at least a little more powerful? or less powerful because there’s less labor of the signifier? All that I can hope for my defense, i.e. to render my practice of the Derridean text adequate—in approximation with a différance—to the supposed machinic functionality of deconstruction itself, is that these researches are themselves intensive, which would be seen by whether they would have the most sense or effect and the least signification possible.

An “objective” analysis will not be found on one side, and an interpretation or theses on the other. Everything is directed simultaneously for the greatest difficulty of reading: the analysis of procedures and dispositifs, and the ongoing, militant problematizations of deconstruction. It will be difficult to separate what’s Derrida’s from what isn’t to the extent that such a distinction makes no sense except for the facilities of logocentric recapitulation. The more violent the repetition, the more difficult the recognition of debt.

It’s important to note that the interpretation is formulated in the first, third and fourth sections of this book, and particularly in the chapters entitled “Deconstruction’s transcendental genealogy” and “The textuale machine and the status of the death drive”. The second and fifth sections are closer to an “objective” and historical analysis of Derridean techniques, but they are not reduced to this: there is an inequality-of-repetition of deconstructive texts, and it depends on its character of active and intensive interpretation.

Is it a question of a Difference of systems…of Derrida and Deleuze?, since they should truly be called by their “proper” name? What difference can there be between two systems of différance and the most aggressive, most critical différance, between two systems that are more or less clearly undecidable on the basis of representation? In the same way, it’s neither a question of making the decision nor of proceeding to an election. They aren’t for sale…, furthermore, these are barely philosophers. I have merely tried to make the Delida/Derreuze series resonate,[12] repeating deconstruction in the signs of intensive production, re-inscribing the affirmation of Eternal return in textuality, making intensive différance and the textual simulacrum communicate in a reciprocal parody that sometimes displaces deconstruction and intensifies it to the limit of active and affirmative différance.

The relations of these two thoughts are more complex than it seems, not due to their apparent divergence, which is primarily a différance of pathos, but instead due to their proximity, the basis of which can elucidate what distinguishes their usage of repetition and their desire. If I have introduced transformations into deconstruction, one will avoid seeing immediately in these transformations the falsifications or the errors of which a historian is capable, albeit such errors surely exist. It is instead a question of a selective and deregulating reading, of a repetition of functionalities and of a selection of deconstruction’s signs in view of extracting a few distinct effects from them, i.e. a system of libidinal production of the effect as such, under the auspices of the chance-text.

The repetition of the theoretical texts inscribed by Derrida is not, one could doubt this, their recapitulation, their organization into a rational system, into an order of reasons. It’s neither a book “on” Derrida nor a labor on his text destined to produce another side to it. Between the two series, the Derridean and Deleuzian, I have made available an apparatus, more or less capable both of receiving and re-distributing the effects of communication and of resonance between general repetition and general textuality. These are flows of microscopic events, graphic and phonic machines on the verge of effacement in an anonymous multiplicity from which my apparatuses are attempting to select several sequences, several effects that inevitably still overly determine this torrent of signs which traverse us and flow from nowhere but which form the authentic, multiple subject of the text’s productive and deconstructive desire.


[1] Could also mean “claim”, although here I have translated it more literally, in light of what L will mention of reciprocal parody. [TN]

[2] “A transcendental philosopher”. [TN]

[3] ‘Textual’ above in English refers to the French ‘textuel’, while ‘textuale’ above, a neologism, corresponds to L’s neologism ‘textual’…Here I have added an e, rather than substituting the a/e (like in différance), in order to render explicit in English this silent play on language (which is a Derridean move). Spelling it this way, too, has the added benefit of being identical to the feminine adjectival spelling in French (textuale). [TN]

[4] ‘Veut’, from the verb ‘vouloir’, can also mean ‘wills’, as in, will-to-power. ‘Can do’ translates ‘peut’, so there’s an untranslatable rhyme here. All of the question marks interspersed mid-sentence are those by Laruelle in the French. [TN]

[5] This word will be translated as ‘power’ consistently, in order to resonate with will-to-power. [TN]

[6] Following the translations of this term in Deleuze and Guattari. [TN]

[7] Science of Knowledge. [TN]

[8] Literally ‘flying over’, or ‘hovering over’, translated here as ‘surveying’ to accord with translations of D & G’s work (WIP?). Also cf. the work of Raymond Ruyer (Neo-finalisme). [TN]

[9] This word can mean to outmanoeuvre, baffle, thwart, foil, etc. I have chosen to translate it as ‘outplays’ here in order to resonate with Derrida’s concept of ‘play’ (jeu) and to capture the athletic or military sense (a la chess), such that the signifier itself is ‘flanked’ or overwhelmed. There are other resonances here perhaps, too (jouissance, Nietzsche’s lived affirmation qua eternal joy of becoming…). [TN]

[10] Rendering the French ‘épochale’ here as an adjectival form of (Husserlian) epochè, i.e. bracketing or reduction, etc. [TN]

[11] Another neologism, but this time the silent a/e switch perfectly mirrors the neologism for English. [TN]

[12] These “proper” names function as libidinal intensities or charges, they interpenetrate and encroach on one another, here disappropriating themselves by one another, hopefully to the detriment of the successive appropriations and hasty oppositions (cf. the deconstruction of “Derrida’s name” in Glas) against which the present text is inscribed, written. [It should be noted that this is Laruelle’s only footnote in the intro, TN]

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6 thoughts on “Translation of F. Laruelle’s Introduction to “Textual Machines”

  1. Pingback: Laruelle Bibliography (English & French) | Linguistic Capital

  2. Pingback: Non-Philosophy in Translation | Fractal Ontology

  3. Pingback: Object-Oriented Psychoanalysis and Derridean Deconstruction (#Derridagate) | Senselogi©

    • Thanks Eilif, I’m glad that you came to this intro. I was thinking of suggesting it to you since you liked the essay on active linguistics. More early Laruelle, something that’s not very available (yet).

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