Balance Sheet for Desiring Machines

Deleuze and Guattari, “Balance Sheet for Desiring Machines”, pp.90-115, in:

Guattari, F., Lotringer, S., 2009. Chaosophy: texts and interviews 1972-1977. Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, CA.


The object is no longer to compare humans and the machine in order to evaluate the correspondences, the extensions, the possible or impossible substitutions of the ones for the other, but bring them into communication in order to show how humans are a component part of the machine, or combined with something else to constitute a machine.  The other thing can be a tool, or even an animal, or other humans. We are not using a metaphor, however, when we speak of machines: humans constitute a machine as soon as this nature is communicated by recurrence to the ensemble of which they form a part under specific conditions.


What defines desiring-machines is precisely their capacity for an unlimited number of connections, in every sense and in all directions. It is for this very reason that they are machines, crossing through and commanding several structures at the same time. For the machine possesses two characteristics or powers: the power of the continuum, the machinic phylum in which a given component connects with another, the cylinder and the piston in the steam engine, or even, tracing a more distant lineage, the pulley wheel in the locomotive; but also the rupture in direction, the mutation such that each machine is an absolute break in relation to the one that it replaces, as, for example, the internal combustion engine in relation to the steam engine.


Desiring-machines are not in our heads, in our imagination, they are inside the social and technical machines themselves. Our relationship with machines is not a relationship of invention or of imitation; we are not the cerebral fathers nor the disciplined sons of the machine.  It is a relationship of peopling: we populate the social technical machines with desiring machines and we have no alternative. We are obliged to say at the same time: social technical machines are only conglomerates of desiring-machines under molar conditions that are historically determined; desiring machines are social and technical machines restored to their determinant molecular conditions.


It seems to us on the contrary [in contrast to Marx]  that the machine has to be directly conceived and relation to a social body, and not in relation to human biological organism. If such as the case, one cannot regard the machine as a new segment that’s exceeds that of the two, along a line that would have its starting point in abstract man. For man and the tool are already components of a machine constituted by a full body acting as an engineering agency,  and by men and tools that are engineered (machinés)  insofar as they are distributed on this body.


The question we asked to ask it’s not how the technical machine follows after simple tools, but how the social machine, and which social machine, instead of being content to engineer men and machines, makes the emergence of technical machines both possible and necessary. (There were many technical machines before the advent of capitalism, but the machinic phylum did not pass through them, precisely because it was content to engineer men and tools. In the same way, there are tools and every social formation which are not engineered, because the phylum does not pass through them while the same tools are engineered another social formations, hoplite weapons, for example).

The machine understood in this manner is defined as a desiring machine: the ensemble composed of a full body that engineers, and men and tools engineered on it. Several consequences follow from this view of the machine, but we can only plot them here in a programmatic way.

Firstly, desiring machines are indeed the same as technical and social machines, but they are their unconscious, as it were: they manifest and mobilise the investments of desire that “correspond” to the conscious or preconscious investments of interest, the politics, and the technology of a specific social field.

To correspond does not at all mean to resemble; what is at stake is another distribution, another “map,” That no longer concerned see interests established in a society, nor the apportionment of the possible and the impossible, of freedoms and constraints, all that constitutes that society’s reasons.


And the desiring-machine is nothing other than a multiplicity of distinct elements or simple // forms that are bound together on the full body of a society, precisely to the extent that they are “on”  this body, or to the extent that they are really distinct. The desiring-machine as a movement to the limit: the inference of the full body, the eliciting of simple forms, the assigning of absences of ties.


The method employed in Marx’s Capital take this direction, but its dialectical presuppositions prevented from reaching desire as a part of the infrastructure.

Thirdly, the relations of production remain outside the technical machine are, on the contrary, internal to the desiring-machine.