Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. "Rhizome," in A Thousand Plateaus.
annotation by Dan Clinton (Theories of Media, Winter 2003)

Positioned as the introduction to the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Rhizome principally constructs a model (a new map) for apprehending the constitution and reception of a book. As Deleuze writes, “the book is not an image of the world. It forms a rhizome with the world, there is an aparallel evolution of the book and the world” (11). This model, framed metaphorically around rhizomorphism, also extends itself within the text to the study of linguistics and politics.

But what is a rhizome, anyway? In the words of the text: “A rhizome as subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radicles. Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes” (7). As is the potato, or any structure in which each point is necessarily connected to each other point, in which no location may become a beginning or an end, yet the whole is heterogeneous. Deleuze labels the rhizome as a “multiplicity,” rather than a “multiple,” wresting it from any relation to “the One” (8). The rhizome likewise resists structures of domination, such as the notion of “the mother tongue” in linguistics, though it does admit to ongoing cycles of what Deleuze refers to as “deterritorializing” and “reterritorializing” moments.

Where the potato is the hero of this story, the tree becomes the villain. “Arborescent” is a dirty word. “We’re tired of trees,” writes Deleuze, “We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicles. They’ve made us suffer too much” (15). Trees are genealogical, where by contrast “the rhizome is an antigenealogy” (21). The tree comes to symbolize the distinction between subject and object, between signifier and signified, encompassing the whole of dualistic logic through its branching patterns, through its definitions of set pathways between root and branch.

As such, “Rhizome” rapidly seeks to extinguish every last trace of Hegelianism, particularly from the object of the book: “There is no longer a tripartite division between a field of reality (the world) and a field of representation (the book) and a field of subjectivity (the author). Rather, an assemblage establishes connections between certain multiplicities drawn from each of these orders, so that a book has no sequel nor the world as its object nor one or several authors as its subject.” Likewise, this essay refuses ontological thought, accepting the state of intermediacy, the logic of the conjunction, which perhaps explains the tendency in the prose toward polysyndeton.

That the text is titled Rhizome does not amount to a statement of topic (for the essay refuses objects and signifieds) but rather a statement of identity.

The prose is dense and schizophrenic. The essay consists not in an argument, but in the ecstatic elaboration of a metaphor, a web of interconnected concepts, the development of a new vocabulary without a pause for explanation or so much as a simple definition. Deleuze’s metaphor applies even to the very text in which it comes into being. The text bypasses the static act of description: an enactment is at hand. Or, by the essay’s own distinction, Rhizome is a mapping rather than a tracing. Deleuze writes, “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” (12).