The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.
— Mark 1:15
The proposal for a radical environmentalist revolution against industrial society is indeed no longer a question of whether a revolutionary movement is necessary or possible. One might easily agree that such a movement is both necessary and possible. But within the framework of necessity, possibility, and impossibility, lay the question of effectiveness and strategy. In order to accomplish the tasks set before us, (even one as momentous as facilitating the permanent end of global civilization) the proper strategic outlook is required. Part of that strategic outlook is understanding how a revolutionary environmentalist movement might be recuperated by the technological society we are aiming to destroy.
It has been pointed out that “primitivism has dual appeal to radicals and elites. Even the technician class realizes that nature conservation — much more radical than practiced so far — is necessary”. “Radical environmentalism remains the strongest relevant basis of social power in the United States, and, in fact, for most of the industrial world” (Jacobi, “Like a Magnet to Metal Files“).
If true, what are the implications of this? What are the ramifications? How might such a revolutionary environmentalist movement be channeled into reformist outcomes, and how might it help perpetuate industrial society? Can we prevent such a recuperation? How can we actively defend against it?
Even as it rises from the ruins of the old repressive regimes, political emancipation is organizing a new domain of exploitation.
— Frère Dupont
The war machine is a philosophical concept, initially described by Deleuze, Guattari, Claire Parnet, and later on also Manuel DeLanda. Their use of the word machine refers to a machine in the abstract, which, not to state the obvious, has inputs, outputs, and operations, just like any other machine might. (In other words, the machine is capable of production.) For Deleuze and Guattari, in much of their writing, the “machine” refers to an assemblage, a productive worknet with nodes that consists of social relations, desires, and many other beings, concepts, and things. If one begins to consider war as a productive machine, one might then be able to analyze and describe its products.
The war machine has been described as having two main variants: the nomadic war machine and the State war machine. A product of war specific to the State war machine is the capture and control (or the total annihilation) of flows of all kinds: populations, commodities, capital, etc. Flow, or flows, is a Deleuzean postmodern concept and term referring to the movement of nodes between poles of a web. The State utilizes the war and the chaos it produces in order to appropriate, assimilate, and incorporate beings, concepts, and things in to the various apparatuses of Capital. This process, at least in part, is sometimes referred to in postmodern lingo as striation.
One of the main differences between the State war machine and the nomadic war machine is that the State actually desires war itself as its object, while for the nomadic war machine war is always a consequence, and often seen as undesirable, especially when undergone at a large enough scale (Deleuze and Guattari 2010, 93-102). By Civilization, the production of war and peace is predicated upon the threat of violence, and this machine of war and peace is itself enforced with violence. For the nomad on the other hand, war is merely a consequence of armed individuality (Flower Bomb 2017) — uncompromising individual resistance to what has been called “other-control” (Harrison 2017, XI). In indigenous and tribal cultures, this was simply thought of as the warrior tradition. It is against the interests of the nomadic war machine (and in the interests of the State) for centralized, conventional, direct, intense warfare to breakout. This is because this type of warfare has as an effect which leads to the homogeneity of culture and identity, which is also simultaneously one of the main aims of the State. This homogenization comes as a consequence of large-scale collaborative war against a common enemy of great magnitude (Marzec 2001, par. 19), such as Leviathan itself. Ferguson and Whitehead describe this process: encroachments of the State lead to the unification and militarization of indigenous and tribal people and the nomadic war machine. This often produces an armed force similar to that of the State. The nomadic war machine begins to adopt the arms, methods, and strategies of conventional warfare, instead of keeping with the completely different traditional modes of indigenous and tribal warfare (Ferguson and Whitehead 2001, 3).
Tribal warfare likely predates the State, Civilization, domestication, the use of fire, probably even language, and perhaps also the species of Homo sapiens itself. Pierre Clastres refers to primitive and tribal people as being “passionately devoted to war” (2010, 238-239). Ferguson and Whitehead are mystified by the cosmology of the warrior and the enemy: their “view of violence in the tribal zone is one predicated upon the notion[s] that humans always want peace over anything else” (Harrison 2017, 141). Harrison also provides us with a number of other interesting dualities beyond the one briefly referenced earlier in this text; other-control versus self-control. The two that immediately come to mind are the centrifugal-centripetal axis and the contra-historical society versus the State (2017, XI-XVI). Throughout the text, Harrison also describes machines of dependence. These ideas help us to further conceptualize the nomadic war machine, and to ever more clearly delineate it from the Leviathanic war machine. One of the main products of war is chaos, something extremely valuable to Capital and the State. When faced with overwhelming foundational rot, Capital and the State have demonstrated effectiveness and an ability to abandon and demolish main stems and central root systems, in order to freshly clone and transplant themselves, thereby escaping limitations (Marzec 2001, par. 13). “The State goes so far as to invite war—from nomads that have themselves taken on the attributes of sovereign individualism”. This is because it desires, and even requires, the exteriority and heterogeneity of nomadic territorialities and the nomadic war machine, in order to satisfy its need for progress and assimilation, a process described as “isomorphic incorporation” (Marzec 2001, par. 20). In a nutshell, this means that Capital always needs exotic, faraway lands filled with villainous barbaric bad guys to conquer, in order to always keep up the illusion of making progress. I consider this need to be analogous in many ways to the perpetual hunger of a vampire bat for fresh blood. It is also summed up somewhat nicely by the Orwellian slogan “War is Peace”. There is an extremely important point to be made here, before going any further.
Deleuze and Guattari never argue that the war machine is nihilistic, or that it produces only chaos…We might push this notion of itinerancy further, questioning whether the war machine actually has, as one of its functions, the conservation of territories…itinerant territories grounded in irreducible singularities…The war machine thus averts the possibility of constituting a surplus through a certain conservation of territoriality. This peculiar conservative nature of the war machine gives us the first indication that its nomadic movement is more than an agentless form of postmodern fragmentation. Nomadic movement, as opposed to any kind of movement, somehow carries with it the power to conserve, the ability to enable an itinerant territoriality. The itinerant territoriality of the nomadic war machine appears to offer an extra-ideological potential different from that of the [State war machine], which functions chiefly as a machine designed to engender flows in [the] direction [of the State]. The movement privileged by the State is a mode of deterritorialization founded upon the constitution of a surplus through the postmodern logic of desire (desire understood in the sense of the constantly expanding, neo-colonial acquisition of territories) and fragmentation [striation] (the dequalification, or carving up of the heterogeneity of singular skills). The movement of the nomadic war machine, on the other hand, does not erase the heterogeneity of territories, but conserves it…[T]he war machine does in fact conserve an itinerant territoriality that cannot be incorporated” (Marzec 2001, par. 11-13)
One short analogy that helps me digest all this information is that of the nomad and the hermit. In these two archetypes, there is perhaps an embodiment of the contrasting nature of the nomadic war machine and the State. The nomad is indeed constantly in motion. They are rhizomatically unbounded and traverse the terrain of smooth (open) spaces. They tend to be self-destructive and thrive on change. The nomadic warrior is antifragile, broad-thinking, creative, driven to explore, and open-minded. They are interdisciplinary, or even non-disciplinary, and favor design over doctrine. They are philosophical daoists. The hermit, however, is a creature of Confucian dogma. The hermit needs discipline and scheduling. They are narrow-minded, they categorize everything into boxes obsessively, take few risks, and explore little. The hermit is a domesticated robot; immobile, self-propagating, self-sufficient, and cannot improvise well or multi-task, nor can they adjust to change in an effective and timely manner.
So, why is this stuff so important? Why are nomadic war machines so ever-present and effective at opposing the State? Why do we need to create many of them? I hope you have been able to devise some of these important answers and further questions yourself, by this point in this text. But if you’d like my take on it, the nomadic war machine demonstrates something very real, tried, and tested. It’s not an ideal, per se, that should be striven for. It’s something that is happening and has always happened, and the State won’t do anything about it because it needs it to function. I see this as a security vulnerability, a software bug inherent in the network of the Leviathanic system. It describes the phenomenon of what now feels like perpetual warfare and conflict of varying intensity. It describes things like the Taliban and the United States Government working together mutually for peace after 18 years of war. What the nomadic war machine shows us is that we do have agency enough for taking up armed insurgency against the State. We just have to be nomadic about it.
- Jacobi, John. “Like Magnets to Metal Files.” (Wild Will Project, 2019).
- Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Nomadology: The War Machine. (Seattle, Washington:
Wormwood Distribution, 2010).
- Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet. Dialogues. (New York: The Athlone Press, 1987).
- Manuel DeLanda. War in the Age of Intelligent Machines. (New York, NY: Zone Books, 1991).
- Robert P. Marzec. “The War Machine and Capitalism.” Rhizomes, no. 3 (Fall 2001).
- Flower Bomb, Decomposing the Masses: Towards Armed Individuality. (Warzone Distro,
- Peter Harrison. The Freedom of Things. (Fair Lawn, NJ: TSI Press, 2017).
- R. Brian Ferguson and Niel L. Whitehead. War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and
Indigenous Warfare. (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2001).