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Architectural Deleuzism: Neoliberal space, control and the ‘univer‐city’

For many thinkers of the spatiality of contemporary capitalism, the production of all social space tends now to converge upon a single organizational paradigm designed to generate and service mobility, connectivity and flexibility. Networked, landscaped, borderless and reprogrammable, this is a space that functions, within the built environments of business, shopping, education or the ‘creative industries’, to mobilize the subject as a communicative and enterprising social actant. Integrating once discrete programmes within its continuous terrain, and promoting communication as a mechanism of valorization, control and feedback, this spatial model trains the subject for a life of opportunistic networking. Life, in this environment, is lived as a precarious and ongoing exercise in the acquisition of contacts, the exchange of information and the pursuit of projects. As a form of space, this is consistent with what Foucault described as the mode of neoliberal governmentality, operating through environmental controls and modulations, rather than the disciplinary maintenance of normative individual behaviour. It also, as many have noted, resembles the ‘control society’ forecast some time ago by Gilles Deleuze, in his ‘Postscript on Societies of Control’, in which the movement of ‘dividuals’ is tracked and monitored across the transversal ‘smooth space’ of a post-disciplinary society. Developed, in part at least, in response to the growth of post-Fordist knowledge economies, so-called immaterial labour, and the prevalence of networked communications media, this spatial paradigm has been theorized through models of complexity, self-organization and emergence. It has also been serviced, as I want to show in what follows, by a self-styled avant-garde in contemporary architecture claiming and legitimizing the emergence of this mode of spatiality as essentially progressive through its particular reading of the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari.

This essay first appeared in Radical Philosophy, July/August 2008. Read the rest of it here:rp168_article1_spencer_architecturaldeleuzism

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