Arborescence

This is the story that I haven’t told you. It is the story that I have avoided as I have taken empirical cuts through the project in earlier chapters. On the other hand, it is the kind of story that I might have told had I wanted to write a ‘‘plain history,’’ a social history, or a version of the social shaping of the TSR2 project. Though it catches something to call this story a grand narrative, this would no doubt be unfair, both to the story itself and to Jean-Frangois Lyotard (1984b).

So perhaps it would be better to find a way of pinning down some­thing about its specificity. To do that we might use the language of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari and call it an arborescence. In other words, it is a form of storytelling that is treelike in structure. ‘‘The first type of book,’’ they write, ‘‘is the root-book. The tree is already the image of the world, or the root the image of the world-tree. This is the classical book, as noble, signifying, and subjective organic in – teriority (the strata of the book). The book imitates the world, as art imitates nature’’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988, 5).

Deleuze and Guattari are playing on more registers than I want to handle here. But if the TSR2 story isn’t a book—it isn’t long enough for a start—then it is certainly arborescent. It is a root narrative that seeks to imitate the world. For as the story strings itself out across

the lines and pages, it builds ‘‘a whole apparatus that is planted in Arborescences 173

thought in order to make it go in a straight line’’ and ‘‘a hierarchical system or transmission of orders.’’ Things, events, and considerations are made to stand in relation to one another, asymmetrically, within a structure of branching points. Events govern other events. More dis­tant branches come together to form a story and make a conclusion in the shape of, that shapes, the aircraft. Organization, strategy, tech­nology, procurement, geopolitics, tactics, colonialism, bureaucratic politics—on this count there are at least eight major branches leading to ‘‘the decision’’ to build the TSR2 and then to build it in the particu­lar shape that it had.

So like the tree of Jesse, the tree is hierarchical: one set of things, events, factors, is related to another. Layer is laid upon layer. But there is something else. This technoscience arborescence also reflects and maps the passage of time: ‘‘it has a future, a past, roots and a peak, a whole history, an evolution, a development.” To say this is to note that it works by describing (some version of) cause and effect; that it tells what precedes what. True, there is also space. Simultaneity, different events, different branches or roots of the tree, the processes that make these up occur at the same time. The diachronic and the synchronic, they are both assumed in the story. So the arborescent narrative grows in, presupposes and creates, the kind of three – or four-dimensional Euclidean time/space container imagined in chapter 4. Like a bon­sai tree, it’s a smaller version, it tells a smaller version, of what there is already, out there. It grows continuities and coordinations in the form of roots, branches, and relations, but it also performs what these presuppose, the conditions of its possibility: on the one hand, thepas – sage of time, the greatest hierarchy, the greatest asymmetry of them all; and, on the other, the machinations that spread themselves across space.

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