Inscribing the social
Félix Guattari's political ontology of signs
Keywords:Guattari, signs, semiotics, expression, Hjelmslev
This essay introduces Félix Guattari’s semiotics, paying particular attention to the role of “inscription,” which he will associate with distribution of and upon the social body. In laying out schematics of exchange and debt in the form of ritual markings and later, of writing, the “signification” of inscription is thus always implicated in projects of social organisation and control of disparate substances of expression. Against, however, these signifying semiotics, Guattari will posit symbolic semiotics, such as he locates in the worlds of “primitive” ritual, mime and gesture, and a-signifying semiotics, which are deployed as chains of information by computers. These semiotics, Guattari argues, remain resolutely dependent on their particular substances of expression, engendering individual and untranslatable worlds which might elude “capture” by dominant forms of social semiotics or inscription. This essay introduces these semiotic categories, arguing that this politics of signs constitutes a strikingly original and often overlooked philosophical intervention.
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