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The primary purpose of this document is to construct a set of concepts that are useful

for thinking about things. In particular, in thinking about things in the context of post-
modern, antifoundational, anti-essentialist critique. In the first section, I will develop an
ontology and a set of concepts. In the second section, I will launch upon an example of
how these concepts can be used in practice.

I. Force/Power

1. Force and Power

a. Force. A force is a concept defined as “a set of actions”. Take, for example, a horse.
What is a horse? A horse is what it can do: to run, to bite, to shit, to neigh, to be
ridden, to pull a plow, to fall, to die, etc. This set of actions, this list of “affects” that
defines what a horse can do, taken as a whole is a horse. As such, as a “set of
actions,” a horse is a force.

b. Power. Imagine now a horse and a rider. Each is a set of affects -- a force. A horse
and a rider enter into a relation. This relation gives rise to our second concept:
“power”. Power is a relation between forces.

The relation between horse and rider is a power. An apparently simple scenario, but it
becomes more complex and interesting as we add more forces to the relation. The
horse has a saddle, a stirrup - themselves powers, sets of affects. The rider has boots
and is standing in the mud. There is a strong wind, and a scent of wolves in the air.
The rider is late. Each of these forces contribute to the encounter between horse and
rider -- that is, each of these forces compose the “local field of power”. Indeed, all
forces that relate to the relation compose the local field of power (let us not forget the
force of gravity and the affects of which it is capable).

So, our horse encounters a rider. How did this encounter happen? Was it chance that
the horse happened upon the rider? Was the rider ordered to go to the horse (i.e., did
another force -- a boss -- effect this encounter)? How will this encounter resolve? It will
be the consequence of all of the relations between relevant forces in combination with
chance. Perhaps the stirrup will break under the rider’s weight (gravity again) and the
rider will fall in the mud. Power determines force, or, rather, power, in combination with
chance, determines force. That is, the actual affects of the force -- what it actually can
do -- are the consequence of local and partial integrations of power in combination with
chance. To say it in another way, power (in combination with chance) determines
when, where, and how forces relate --- and what results from their relation.

c. Force/Power. Every force is composed of sub-forces in relation. That is, every force
is a power --- which is a relation between forces. What we have is an infinite regress:
power is a relation of relations determined by power; force is a relation determined by
relations by forces. Its all a matter of perspective: force/power. Force, taken from the
direction of relating, power taken from the direction of relation. Force/power is
ontological and exhaustive. There is nothing outside of force/power. It encompasses
words and things, ideas and objects. Ideas, emotions and sensations are composed of
certain sets of affects and enter into complex relationships determined by local fields of
power. The relations into which love or money can enter are certainly different than the
relations into which a horse can enter, but love and money are, just the same,
constructed imbued with certain affects and imbedded in certain local fields of power.
This point can not be overemphasized: gravity, heat, carbohydrates, algebra, the
Roman alphabet, neurotransmitters, apples, sunlight, time, MTV -- all of these are
forces and all relate according to the same rules in the space of force/power.

2. How forces relate

a. Genealogy. The relation between forces is determined by the local field of power, but
the field of power is composed by the integration of forces in relation. In any given field
of power, the affects of some forces can play a more significant role in shaping the
contours of that field of power -- and therefore in determining the relation between
forces. We can call this role the “potency” of the force: the degree to which its affects
determine the character of the local field of power. Note that as circumstances change,
the role a particular force plays in a field of power might vary radically, it is therefore
critical to recognize that potency inheres not in the force, but in the relation.

The composition of a force is its “genealogy”. A genealogy is the infinite regress of


force-power that composes the particular set of actions of which a thing is capable and
the power with which that force manifests itself in the local field of power.

For example, a particular chair is a force constructed by a woodworker from wood. Both
woodworker and wood are forces, composed of particular affects imbedded in a local
field of power and constructed by a myriad of forces in relation: the bio-socio-cultural
forces involved in the conception and physical development of the woodworker, the bio-
techno-economic forces involved in the growing, harvesting and delivering of the wood
to the woodworker’s shop, the socio-economic forces involved in the training of the
woodworker, the historical and cultural forces involved in the selection of this piece of
wood to make into this style of chair, etc. This litany of relations is the genealogy of a
force.

b. Alliance. In any given encounter, a force becomes more potent than another through
a complex interplay of strategy, tactics, diplomacy, alliance, treachery and luck. The
relation between forces is complicated. To understand this complication we must
recognize two important points.

First, power is in no way monolithic. To the contrary, it is an infinitesimally fissured


collective determined by the integrated affects of local forces brought together by
power-chance. As a consequence, force/power is a fractal collective -- every force has
a genealogy of infinite sub-forces determined in relation by infinite sub-powers
determined in turn by the integrated affects of forces brought together by power-chance.
As a consequence, power can change -- and it can change in unexpected ways.

Second, every force consist of particular affects that express a unique affinity for other
forces. This affinity is a consequence of the genealogy of the related forces and its
expression is determined within particular fields of power.

So, for example, imagine a piece of sodium in an airtight bottle. We know that among
the potential affects of sodium is a particular affective relation to water. Now, within the
bottle, that is, within this particular field of power, the sodium is capable of expressing
only a limited number of affects -- explosion is not among these. Within the local field of
power, the sodium cannot break the bottle.

However, a field of power can be changed. If water is introduced into the local field of
power, that is, if water is introduced into relation with the sodium (by chance, or by the
imposition of another force whose affects alter the local field of power -- the seal on the
bottle is broken), the current local set of relations will be displaced by an entirely new
set (and, accordingly, a new field of power). Within that set, the potency of sodium has
changed. It can (and likely will) explode -- it can now break the bottle.

We can say that with relation to the bottle, water functions as an “ally” of sodium. That
is, with relation to a particular field of power, the introduction of water enhances (or
activates) an affect of sodium. This alliance is a consequence of the affinity between
sodium and water constructed by their unique genealogies. Such an alliance could not,
for example, be formed between water and silicon.

Alliance is any relation between forces that enhances the potency of one or more of the
related forces in a given field of power. In the context of a field of battle, the stirrup is an
ally of the horse-rider assemblage. In the context of building a bridge, calculus is an ally
of the engineer. In a sense, alliance is a composition. Alliance is an encounter
between forces that results in the composition of a new force with a greater potency in a
particular field of power. It is important to note that there is nothing linear or simple
about alliance. Alliance does not simply make a force more potent. Alliance makes a
force more potent within a particular field of power. Water allies with sodium in the
context of the relationship to the bottle. The same relationship between water and
sodium results also in a complete decomposition of the sodium.

We can now see how complicated the relations between forces can be. Every
encounter is an encounter between encounters, ad infinitum. Every force is a dynamic,
multifarious unity held together by constructed affinities, but ready to decompose at the
introduction of a new force. Every power is a fractal collective of multifarious forces in
dynamic relation thrown together by law and chance.

c. Encounter. There is nothing obscure about this. It is simply another way of saying
that every encounter always takes place “in the middle of things”. Every given force has
the affects of which it is capable and it uses them in the context of the forces with which
it relates. The exact content of these affects is the consequence of the genealogy of the
force. The exact content of the context is the consequence of the infinitely complicated
combinations of chance and law that led each force to be where, when, how and what it
is: their particular genealogies. The specificity of the encounter itself is a genealogy of
genealogies --- in combination with chance.

So, take, for example, the encounter between Rome and Gaul. We can see how both
Gaul and Rome were forces. We can see how each had a certain genealogy of
monumental (fractal) complexity forged from both the inexorable coercion of particular
forces (e.g., geography, language, climate) and the inescapable dice-throw of chance
(the alliance of Hannibal with the Transalpine Gauls, the birth of Caesar). Thus, each
was a complicated assemblage of forces capable of certain affects and expressed them
according to particular fields of force (the various expressions -- or lack thereof -- of the
legion and the druid). The encounter between Rome and Gaul takes place in the
middle of things. Any given event, the movement of a caravan across the Alps, the
wedding of a Celt and a Roman, a raid on a coastal town, etc., was enveloped by these
forces -- by this field of power. Every given event was determined by the possibilities
manifested in the constructed field of power in combination with the omnipresent role of
chance.

The fractal collectivity of force/power makes encounters treacherous. In every ‘hand to


hand’ combat of forces, there is often no clear favorite (an elephant can defeat a
mouse, but a bacterium can defeat an elephant), there is no clear ‘victor’ (who won in
the Roman conquest of Greece?), everything is subject to chance (for want of a nail, the
war was lost) and everything is subject to change. Moreover, encounters are not simply
‘encounters.’ Every encounter is creative. That is, every encounter gives rise to a new
relation of forces, that is, to a new power. So, for example, we can see how the
encounter between Rome and Gaul resulted in the composition of a new body
possessed of new affects and constituting (in relation with other local forces) a new
power. (One might equally well examine the meaning encounter between Rome and
Christianity).

Many encounters do leave some or all of their component forces unaltered or in


possession of most or all of their prior affects. The hand encountering the pen
unleashes the affect “to write” but upon the decomposition of the hand-pen assemblage,
the pen is (or could be) restored to more or less the same condition (with the same
affects) it had before the assemblage. On the other hand, however, many encounters
are irrevocable, and more in keeping with one or more constituent force than others. An
encounter between digestive tract and food, for example, so decomposes the relations
of the latter to render it no longer a coherent force and (if the encounter is of a
“nutritious” character) does so to the enhancement of the relations of the former. An
encounter between the same digestive tract and poison will result in a rather different
distribution of forces.

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