In this chapter I have described some of the politics of decision making, and in particular of High Political decision making. In doing so I have set ‘‘politics’’ with a small p against ‘‘Politics’’ with a capital P. I have argued that big important decision making may be understood 160 Decisions as a somewhat overlapping set of strategically and asymmetrically
ordered performances that enacts a distribution about what is to be acted as political and what is not. It thus legislates most of what (after Michel Foucault) we think of as the textures or the microphysics of the political out ofPolitics. And it also effaces the fact that it is doing so, thereby rendering other possible versions of politics, other kinds of relations, fantastic, unpolitical, irrelevant, unimportant, or incoherent and hence, unperformable; they are not in the right place at the right time because they do not perform themselves within the great cockpits of debate and contest, those special places of disagreement made within organizations of all kinds, including Politics.
Can we escape the asymmetries performed by the bias to the center? Let’s admit that this is difficult, for these are real effects, these asymmetries. They are real effects that perform themselves in many places and in many different and interfering modalities. They do so in words, but also in concrete, steel, titanium, in the actions of policemen and students of economics, sociology, politics, and technoscience. They do so in a range of different genres. So they are real enough, and they cannot be wished away. They have, instead, to be performed away. So I repeat the question. Can we escape the asymmetries of the distributions performed by the bias to the center? Might we perform them away? For if we were to do so, we would discover other political worlds to be thought and made, thought and lived.
I believe that the answer is yes, but with difficulty. In the places where noncoherence butts up against coherence, in those places where it can be turned against coherence, slowly the tools are being made, the tools that begin to erode the clean and simple asymmetries of the distribution to the center and detect and decode the erasures that generate centering. These tools will restore difference, multiplicity, and—most important and most difficult—the oscillations of fractionality. We can tell stories of precursors, in which case I would choose to tell the story of Michel Foucault who discovered or created the contemporary episteme. But we can also tell stories that are closer to home, for in technoscience studies we too are making forms of distribution that begin to escape the methods of centering, alternative ways of knowing that are also alternative forms of politics. And these politics or orderings come, as one might expect, in the form of narratives that only partly overlap, as distributions that (per)form only partial connections.
These forms of politics, these forms of ordering? They acknowledge rather than repress the noncoherence of multiplicity and difference — as in the work of Annemarie Mol. They perform monstrous and partially connected beings into new kinds of realities—as in the cyborgs and coyotes of Donna Haraway, the fractional and holographic persons of Marilyn Strathern, or the quasi-objects, neither human nor nonhuman, of Bruno Latour. They play in the places between fantasy and reality by translating the epistemic imaginaries of the Australian aborigines—as in the work Helen Verran. They exist in decentered indigenous knowledge traditions—as explored by David Turnbull. They oscillate through ambivalences and cohesions in the health initiatives explored by Vicky Singleton, Anni Dugdale, and Ingunn Moser. Or they dance with great effort—as in the body ontologies decried by Charis Cussins.25
So there are spaces, diverse places for performing distributed and interconnected relations. Relations that do not collude with the centers made by or for decision making in or outside High Politics. Alternative politics that put aside the tired questions of epistemology and begin to imagine worlds where knowing and being recognize the complexities of the ways in which they overlap and interfere, celebrate their performativity, and take responsibility for the fact that they are also ontological.
You set about opposing the rhizome to trees. And trees are not a metaphor at all, but an image of thought, a functioning, a whole apparatus that is planted in thought in order to make it go in a straight line and produce the famous correct ideas. There are all sorts of characteristics in the tree: there is a point of origin, seed, or centre; it is a binary machine or principle of dichotomy, with its perpetually divided and reproducing branchings, its points of arbo – rescence; it is an axis of rotation which organizes things in a circle, and the circles round the centre; it is a structure, a system of points and positions which fix all of the possible [sic] within a grid, a hierarchical system or transmission of orders with a central instance and recapitulative memory; it has a future and a past, roots and a peak, a whole history, an evolution, a development; it can be cut up by cuts which are said to be significant in so far as they follow its arborescences, its branchings, its concentricities, its moments of development. Now, there is no doubt that trees are planted in our heads: the tree of life, the tree of knowledge, etc. The whole world demands roots. Poweris always arborescent. — Claire Parnetin Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues
The narratives and enactments of decision making perform, and at the same time presuppose, conditions of possibility. They distinguish between—and demand the distinction between—reality and fantasy. They efface what, after Foucault, we have come to think of as the “microphysics” of power, while simultaneously presupposing its operation. They enact and presuppose that there are special and privileged Political places. They distribute between what is henceforth to be imagined as important and what is relegated to the supporting role of mere detail. And they presuppose—and indeed require—the singularity of decision making while effacing what they equally require for singularity, namely its simultaneous multiplicity.
Behind this, then, there are two related suggestions. The first is a version of the argument I have made throughout and concerns the coherence of the oscillation between singularity and multiplicity and
the interferences that it entails. This, then, is the trick of modern/ postmodern alternation and slippage. But the second has to do with what one might think of as the “collusive” character of the interferences between multiplicities: how they efface the ontological work that they perform, and how they conceal the way in which they reenact the conditions of singular possibility. “Collusion” is a strong word, and I need to be clear that I am not accusing those who tell stories of bad faith. Instead I am interested in the ways narrative framings enact and reenact themselves—and this is the issue that I attend to, in particular, in this chapter. I argue that (apparently) singular narratives collude to produce a (seemingly) singular world with certain attributes such as chronology and scale, a world populated by (ostensibly) singular sets of objects, and that these conditions of possibility are made rather than given in the order of things. As a part of this argument, I explore the performative character of both academic and nonacademic storytelling more systematically and use the distinction between arborescences (which are grand narratives), and rhizomes (which look more like a tissue of little narratives). First, then, a grand narrative.1