Nomad Culture


Gilles Deleuze:

Faced with the decoding of our societies, the leaking away of our codes, Nietzsche is the one who does not endeavor to recode. He says: things still haven’t gone far enough, you are just children yet (“the equalizing of European man is today the great irreversible process: it should be accelerated even more”). In his writing as well as his thinking, Nietzsche pursues an attempt at decoding: not in the sens of a relative decoding which would consist in deciphering antiquated, current, or future codes, but in the sense of an absolute decoding – the introduction of something that isn’t decodable, the jamming of all codes. It isn’t easy to jam the totality of codes, be it at the level of the simplest writing and language.1


…if Nietzsche does not belong to philosophy, it is perhaps because he is the first to conceive of another type of discourse as counter-philosophy. That is to say a discourse that is fundamentally nomad… we know only too well that in our own regimes, nomads are unhappy; we are driven to stabilize them and they find living difficult. Nietzsche lived like one of those nomads reduced to a shadow of themselves, going from boarding house to boarding house. However, the nomad is not necessarily someone who moves: there are stationary voyages: voyages in intensity, and even historically nomads are not those who move as migrants would, they are in fact those who do not move, and who begin to nomadize in order to stay in the same place while escaping codes. We clearly know that the revolutionary problem today is that of finding a unity of localized struggle without falling back into the despotic and bureaucratic organization of the Party or the State: a tumblr_mm9lrrh5cO1qzhy8eo1_500war machine which would not reconstitute a State, a nomadic unity in relation with the outside which would not reinstate the internal despotic unity. There is perhaps the greatest depth of Nietzsche, the measure of his rupture with philosophy, as it appears as an aphorism: to have made thought a war machine, a nomadic power. And even if the voyage is immobile, even if it is undertaken without moving, imperceptibly, unexpectedly, subterraneanly, we must ask who are our nomads today, who are truly our Nietzscheans?2

Andrew Pickering:

[Gregory] Bateson understood madness along much of the same lines as the other cyberneticians, though he focused on communication patterns as the site of the ‘double bind’ rather than on brain mechanisms, but he stepped out the orbit of Walter and Ashby’s models in postulating a further level of adaptability in the human brain… Bateson redescribed psychosis as an ‘inner voyage’ comparable to an initiation ceremony, in which some ‘endogenous dynamics’ might sometimes serve to undo double binds and tumblr_lu3zc2Bj971qb0ie9o1_500lead to inner enlightenment… The person who took this reasoning to the limit and symmetrized it even further was the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing. During the 1960s he arrived at the conclusion that in modernity we are all mad, in the sense of being cut off from our own inner lives, and therefore the sane can learn from the mad, understood as explorers of inner space. “We need a place where people… can find their way further into inner space and time and back again. Laing and his Philadelphia Association put this idea into practice at Kingsely Hall in London between 1965 and 1970…3


Taken to the limit, the cybernetic ontology of unknowability and adaption hung together at Kingsley Hall with a radical transformation of social relations and institutional forms. And the socially disruptive force of cybernetics as nomad science is thematized here by the fact that Kingsley Hall grew out of David Cooper’s earlier Villa 21 project, which had aimed to implement symmetric relations between doctors and patients within an established medical hospital. This institutional frictions between Villa 21 and the rest of the hospital fed directly into the decision of the Philadelphia Foundation to operate entirely outside the established mental health system of England. We can thus see that cybernetics was a different kind of science from the royal sciences of discipline and governance and that, as elaborated by Bateson and Laing, it invited a different kind of social organization – a self-governing and adaptive institutional form quite different from the state form of hierarchical command and control.4

1Gilles Deleuze “Nomad Thought” Nietzsche’s Return Semiotext(e), Vol. 3 No. 1, 1977, pg. 15

2Ibid, pgs. 20-21

3Andrew Pickering “Cybernetics as Nomad Science” Deleuzian Intersections: Science, Technology, and Anthropology Bergbahn Books, 2010, pgs. 158-159

4Ibid, pg. 159

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5 Responses to Nomad Culture

  1. dmfant says:

    “cybernetic ontology of unknowability and adaption”, indeed John Caputo gestured towards a “hermeneutics of not-knowing” after-Foucault which I connect to Rabinow’s Anthro of the Contemporary:

    • edmundberger says:

      Have you read Pickering’s “The Cybernetic Brain”? A discourse through the book engages in what he calls the ‘ontology of unknowability’ (as mentioned above), which he offers up as the greatest benefit of cybernetics, along with the rather Deleuzeguattarian processes of becoming. Pickering makes somewhat of a misstep, however, with his identification of first-order cybernetics with nomad sciences and second order with command and control – it seems to me that this should reversed (Brian Holmes also touched on this in response to one of my older threads – At the same time, of course, both could easily be a black hole or a line of flight.

      • dmfant says:

        some time ago now, I identify more with the tinkering spirit of the cybernetics folks than with their theorizing and so read that book as a kind of case-study for the earlier Mangle book of Pickerings. Do you know the work of Ingold?

      • dmfant says:

        I like much of the gist of BHolme’s work but again in my own investigations of interactions/events don’t find the kind of systematicity/master-coding/engineering that would make the use of cybernetics more than a metaphorical prototype/intution-pump for matters that include more organic elements/actors of the kinds that we generally associate with the social and or political.

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