Becoming-Wasp, Becoming-Orchid

Some of the most foundational thinkers in political philosophy, Rousseau, Hobbes, etc, start the discussion of the genesis of the collective social body with certain conceptions of human nature.  All who have taken introductory courses in philosophy or political theory learn of the headache that comes with arguing about human nature.  While human nature has been an interesting development in political philosophy, asking whether human nature is fundamentally good or evil is the wrong sort of question.  Appropriating Spinoza’s ethics, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt explain that one should not ask what human nature is, but what it can become.  What is it that drives humans together into association?  What does human nature become in capitalism?  What can it become?

What is the motor of human association?  Love.  Love is what drives humans together into collaboration and toward freedom and autonomy.  Maybe love sounds a little sentimental as philosophical foundation for politics, but love can be understood as a serious political reality.  Despite it’s best efforts, capitalism cannot account for all of the productive energies of the human individual or assemblage.  Human society has certain mechanisms that emerge separately from the capitalist mode of production.  Negri and Hardt call this the commons.  There are some things, while perhaps swayed by capitalism, are not explicitly governed by the logic of capitalism.  Capitalist production is certainly a dominating logic, but there are other types of production that are of note.  For capitalist production other types of production are necessary, the production of living arrangements, domestic work, friendships, religious communities, intellectual associations, etc.  Capitalist production is an apparatus that has captured these and other types of social production.  These types of social production are what Negri and Hardt call the commons.  Love is the driving force behind the commons and what pushes humanity to desire one another.  Love is desire as a positive force.

In Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus the discussion becomings is made through a biological narrative of the orchid and the wasp.  Evolutionary biology tells a narrative of the orchid imitating the wasp for the propagation of its species.  Deleuze and Guattari correct this narrative in saying that the orchid is becoming-wasp and the wasp is becoming-orchid.

“The orchid does not reproduce the tracing of the wasp; it forms a map with the wasp…What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real.  The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious.”(A Thousand Plateaus, 12)

What is essential here is that the encounter between the two entities creates a new reality, a new becoming.  What does it mean for the orchid to become-wasp and the wasp to become-orchid?  It means a mutual love for one another.  It is a rupture in business as usual.

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Here, one can see that love is a type of production.  In Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 he explains the alienation and production of the worker.  Capitalist production produces the worker.  “…[L]abour is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his essential being; that in his work, therefore he does not affirm himself but denies himself.” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 60)  Labor is external to the individual, through labor the individual produces and in this meeting of flows the individual becomes a worker.  Capitalist labor produces the worker, but love can produce a specific subjectivity as well.  Love produces what Negri and Hardt call the multiplicity, the subjectivity of the commons.  “Love is the power of the common in a double sense: both the power that the common exerts and the power to constitute the commons.  It is thus also the movement toward freedom in which the composition of singularities leads toward not unity or identity but the increasing autonomy of each participating equally in the web of communication and cooperation.  Love is the power of the poor to exit a life of misery and solitude, and engage the project to make the multitude.”(Commonwealth, 189)  Love is an erasure of our capitalist subjectivities as workers and it is in collaborative power that a rupture is created and there is an entrance into a new social body.

Asking whether human nature is fundamentally good or bad is the wrong question, rather the question should be what could humanity become?  Love is the motor of the social assemblage, but love does not go unchallenged.  Love can go wrong.  Love turned back upon itself is evil.  Evil is that which obstructs love.  Very concretely, evil is any barrier that one may see in daily life.  Property, boarders, governments, violence are all evil in that they obstruct the common and keep humanity apart.  Love is the only movement that can remove obstructions and evil.  Love defeating evil is indignation, it is a liberating joy and the creation of the commons.

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3 thoughts on “Becoming-Wasp, Becoming-Orchid

  1. I like what you are saying and agree with most of it, having written similar stuff. However, the fundamental corollary to this line of reasoning is questioning who molds human nature: should the human mold its own nature, should the human allow community to mold human nature, is the church to mold human nature? Or should we not prescribe some kind of telos, or end of such becoming? But then is this “chaos(mosis)” tenable?

    • Yeah, this is an important question. I didn’t get to the church in my post at all, but I do not advocate for the church molding human nature. I’m much more interested in transgressive becomings. Though this doesn’t mean that the church is unimportant. Maybe, the church or other religious communities can orient one toward new becomings, after all in Christianity we are born again. I think back to the introduction of A Thousand Plateaus and the description of the rhizome connected by a tap root to the arborescent entity.

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