theme

Assemblage

An assemblage, the perfect object for the novel, has two sides: it is a collective assemblage of enunciation; it is a machinic assemblage of desire. Not only is Kafka the first to dismantle these two sides, but the combination that he makes of them is a sort of signature that all readers will necessarily recognize. Take, for example, the first chapter of Amerika, published separately as “The Stoker.” The chapter considers the boiler room as a machine: K constantly declares his intention to be an engineer or at least a mechanic. But if the boiler room isn’t described in itself (and, anyway, the boat is in port), that is because a machine is never simply technical. Quite the contrary, it is technical only as a social machine, taking men and women into its gears, or, rather, having men and women as part of its gears along with things, structures, metals, materials. Even more, Kafka doesn’t think only about the conditions of alienated, mechanized labor—he knows all about that in great, intimate detail—but his genius is that he considers men and women to be part of the machine not only in their work but even more so in their adjacent activities, in their leisure, in their loves, in their protestations, in their indignations, and so on. The mechanic is a part of the machine, not only as a mechanic but also when he ceases to be one. The stoker is part of the “room of machines,” even, and especially, when he pursues Una who has come from the kitchen. The machine is not social unless it breaks into all its connective elements, which in turn become machines. The machine of justice is a machine metaphorically: this machine fixes the initial sense of things, not only with its rooms, its offices, its books, its symbols, its topography, but also with its personnel (judges, lawyers, bailiffs), its women who are adjacent to the porno books of the law, its accused figures who make up an interdeterminate material. A writing machine exists only in an office. The office exists only with its secretaries, its section heads, and its bosses; its social, political, and administrative distribution; and also its erotic distribution without which there would never have been any “technics.” This is so because the machine is desire—but not because desire is desire of the machine but because desire never stops making a machine in the machine and creates a new gear alongside the preceding gear, indefinitely, even if the gears seem to be in opposition or seem to be functioning in a discordant fashion. That which makes a machine, to be precise, are connections, all the connections that operate the disassembly.

That the technical machine is only a piece in a social assemblage that it presupposes and that alone deserves to be called machinic introduces another point: the machinic assemblage of desire is also the collective assemblage of enunciation.
—Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, 81–2

Desire

For me, desire includes no lack; it is also not a natural given. Desire is wholly a part of a functioning heterogeneous assemblage. It a process, as opposed to a structure or a genesis. It is an affect, as opposed to a feeling. It is a haecceity—the individual singularity of a day, a season, a life. As opposed to a subjectivity, it is an event, not a thing or a person. Above all, it implies constitution of a field of immanence or a body-without-organs, which is only defined by zones of intensity, thresholds, degrees and fluxes. This body is as biological as it is collective and political. It is on this body that assemblages are made and come apart, and this body-without-organs is what bears the offshoots of deterritorialisation of assemblages or flight lines. It varies (the body-without-organs of feudalism is not the same as that of capitalism). If I call it a body-without-organs, it is because it opposes all strata of organisation, the organism’s organisation as well as power organisations. It is precisely the whole group of body organizations that will smash the plane or the field of immanence, and will impose upon desire another type of plane, each time stratifying the body-without-organs.
Gilles Deleuze, “Desire and Pleasure”, Two Regimes of Madness, 130