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January 2022

Smoothing machines and the constitution of society

Journal/Book: Cult Stud. 2000; 14: 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4Ee, England. Routledge. 269-294.

Abstract: I ask the reader to imagine society as a production of 'smoothing machines' Smoothing machines mark the surfaces of bodies, and in the social sense, they are markings of the body that indicate status, generally in terms of purity or perfection. The socius, Deleuze and Guattari write, is a coding machine, and codes smooth social relations of power. Elias Canetti, in his work on crowds, discovers an internal connection between smoothness, social power, and the body - for him the first aspect of power is the smoothness of the teeth, and he traces modern forms of social control and violence to eating and incorporation. In his darkest vision, 'everything is going smoothly' comes to mean that everything is in our power, and power is equated with paranoia and the naked will to survive. Many contemporary disciplinary technologies take the form of smoothing the body, understood as 'fitting' the body to a model of subjectivity and a functional regime. Not all smoothing machines facilitate social control, however. As Deleuze and Guattari suggest, many also generate lines of flight or escape. For every smoothing machine that forms a Subject and submits it to power, there are others that set it free.

Note: Article Bogard W, Whitman Coll, Walla Walla,WA 99362 USA

Keyword(s): smoothing; machinism; social control; the body; subjectification; power

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