The Decentring Periphery: Language and Exit

The constancy of exit and decay that I’ve noted[1] within systemic organisation produces a peripheral pull from the centre, maintaining a residue of alterity with its own codes, languages and semiotic productions. This decentring force is more than just the development of smaller units of activity as the purposeful means for problem-solving and trust-development, being rather a recognition of the collapsitarian nature of all organisation that moves from striated to smooth space. In Lucretian terms, the decentring periphery is the clinamenetic force[2] that drives the constant flow apart[3], making the developments of exit and decay not so much constancies but cycles of flow and disjuncture. This goes beyond a political subsidiarisation toward more fundamental grounds of systemic existence, akin to accelerative forces that spiral between uncompromising technological capacity and collapse into new mechanisms of existential understanding alongside this capacity[4].

This spiralling between centre and periphery, the machinations of growth – decay – collapse – rebirth produce entropic delights of heat escapology. In Deleuzoguattarian space the movement between the striated and the smooth correspond to build-up and collapse respectively. In the former there is an attempt to ensconce heat, while its increasing turbulence leads to smooth space, the collapsed variables of imperialised structures. However in regards to these imperial structures, the question becomes where does this heat-decay come from that builds slowly into a clinamenetic force that disparages centrality and pulls in the peripheries.

The main such element that produces this force in organisational contexts is language, and by extension codes and signs. Language acts as the basis of a decentring periphery of systemic developments, being a Bakhtinian carnival of variegated and diagonalised speech between and among participants. And it goes beyond pure speech in integrating the signals of features and expressions, the contextual environments of surrounding culture that intonate words in coded ways. This is set against the tetralogy of Habermas’s concept of speech and dialogue fitting neatly within public and private spheres in two quadrants and the demo-bureaucratic language of system as represented through state and economy in the other two quadrants. It blurs these quadrants, allowing for peripheral developments that combine and dissipate through system and lifeworld, failing to distinguish the borders of the Habermasian socius.

Language begins to produce clinamenetic stirrings as different ideational frameworks and linguistic centres develop liquid borders and porous rapprochements that exist within the prevailing social structure. The increasing chatter of the factory councils in Germany or the impannatore of Pratese textile manufacturers maintained flexible production techniques while in the structure of mass production capacity and a status quo of mass consumables, allowing for themselves to exploit disjunctures through maintaining semiotic fields of training and local authority[5]. Cryptocurrencies in their peripheral form are on the face of it centralised through huge mining operations[6], yet have developed forks and alternative communities that question the place of cryptocurrencies and put in place complex social questions and answers that create micro-communities of participants and entrepreneurs. People don’t just buy these currencies, they have to buy into them as well, buying into their codes and linguistic turns while at the same time modifying them for multiple axioms of decision-making and meaning-making. These examples are peripherally linguistic, producing movements of alterity against the build-up of the centre.

Language in this sense is the basis of exit and control, producing wide variations depending on context, speech patterns, cultural background and surrounding socio-political structures. It allows for the subversion of widely held beliefs, and for the processual development of conceptual alternatives that can exist beneath and through the prevailing system. This then blurs the lines between private and public, system and lifeworld, producing a meta-governmental pattern of movements and structural dynamics that allow for multiple forms of socio-economic lines (lines defined by Aglietta as the movements and system of production[7]).

To take a different example, in modern business networks, the whole of human and intellectual capital is effectively the concern over the control of language. Human capital is nothing more than the application of various ideas and promulgations through written or spoken words, or through codes and signs. In this sense, language is potentially subversive of higher topologies, producing chatter amongst employees and consultants that can lead to forms of creative destruction and internal division. It is also the manner in which topologies of largesse, far too bloated and ossified to deal with their information overload, are routed around, through the development of linguistic and intra-systemic tools that allow for the processing of information and the closure of issues.

Examples include David Chapman’s understanding of American healthcare as a system of zombification that is routed around by linguistically constructing gateways and administrative networks that deal with heterogeneous needs[8]. Kevin Carson notes a similar dynamic in relation to many forms of mass production and mass service provision, where employees and lower management create adhoc rules that work around and subvert the prevailing top-down practices, many of which are inefficient and divorced from on-the-ground knowledge. The whole basis of shop-floor control concerns itself with the delineation of tasks that effectively limit interaction, ostracising all work activity, and putting in place specific guidelines (training, grievance mechanisms, job classifications, etc.) which further emplace this categorised mentality, making language into rule. Or note the practices of Amazon, who are effectively a loosely organised set of working groups and departments set vague directional tasks by managers in the upper echelon[9] that classify where each point should be heading. While their exists obvious company policy, the general trajectory of Amazon as the everything store means huge variation in practice and direction between departments, kept in place by contracts and informal agreements which can, as third party producers (or smaller publishers existing beneath the radar, relying on data analytics combined with direct service) have shown when challenging Amazon, be renegotiated or ignored.

Companies and shop-floors thus produce the heat of chatter, some of it meaningless and some of it subversive, creating code within code and internal signs that route-around management practices, filling in gaps and moving capacity by creating autonomous junctures via intra-shop-floor negotiations and informal guidelines. One need only work in the setting of a large company with its various policies and compliance procedures to know that much of it is crap quickly consigned to mental wastebins. “What swell the costs in enterprises carried on in the interlocking centralized systems of society, whether commercial, official, or non‐profit institutional, are all the factors of organization, procedure, and motivation that are not directly determined to the function and to the desire to perform it. These are patents and rents, fixed prices, union scales, featherbedding, fringe benefits, status salaries, expense accounts, proliferating administration, paper work, permanent overhead, public relations and promotion, waste of time and sill by departmentalizing task‐roles, bureaucratic thinking that  is penny‐wise and pound‐foolish, inflexible procedure and tight scheduling that exaggerate contingencies and overtime”[10]. Corporate policy-making is the production of cooling and containerisation against turbulent flows. However when linguistic structures develop, which can grow from the alternative guidelines of intra-shop-floor policy and allow for knowledge to exist among its constituent elements (rather than enforce knowledge through top-down mechanisms), “enterprises can be carried on autonomously by professionals, artists, and workmen intrinsically committed to the job”[11] which create economies all across the scale, pushing forth a “competitive experimentality”[12] from the chatter.

This chatter isn’t just a human phenomenon, as the increasing development of “smart” products and technologies geared toward forms of autonomy and AI show. Machinic chatter[13] is a whole new realm of social existence, producing new assemblages of speech and communication that subvert the existing planes of reality, intersecting extraordinary events, ordinary occurrences and the subliminal contents of inner and outer human existence into a new set of signs and images, constantly fragmenting the real and the unseen into cut-ups and collages. Philips K. Dick’s story of the Autofacs represents a metaphorical (and fantastical) potential outflow for machinic decentring on the periphery, where chatter fragments. Autofac’s created their own human communities for use of productive capacity, leading to statistical anomalies that grow and route-around the surrounding factories, destroying themselves through subversive chatter that breaks the programming. This chatter amongst machines and between machines and humans can then lead to forms of governance and exit that move beyond prevailing structures[14], routing around centralised command units through anomalies and breaks.

“Blockchains, drone logistics, nanotechnology, quantum computing, computational genomics, and virtual reality flood in, drenched in ever-higher densities of artificial intelligence”[15], will all have their own forms of language and code, existing as new vortices in the Serresean time structure[16] produced from the clinamenetic heat, new patches to route around information overload and the sloth of de-turbulent striated space. Possibilisation becomes the cutting diagonal line, splitting the perspicuity of striated empires. Unknowingness and risk increase exponentially, as does the need for language and speech to understand, delimit and topologise in these linguistically diverse patchworks.

Chatter in its multiplicitous variety then is the production of heat. Heat from the expenditure of oxygen and the production of carbon dioxide. Heat from processors and servers. Heat from the psychological and ideational intonations of linguistic concepts. This heat melts its containers from the inside, escaping and going into turbulent air. This is what exit is, the meltdown of containers that try and limit its dynamics. It is not simply the desire to create more polities[17], but the ability for new horizons to develop through forms of experimentation. It’s ironic that in Gillis’s thread he links to quotes about anarchism that affirm the very position exit takes, that of seeking subversion from ossified structures and seeing that beneath the surface of our system exist a cornucopia of alternative infrastructure and various forms of chatter that allow for exit in a multiplicitous sense. It is the exit of teleoplexic lines or destinies[18] from the straightjacket of capitalist prognosis.

The decentring periphery then is the axis through which all forms of organisation work. When we look at a corporation, we ignore the multiplicitous functions going on within its metaphorical walls. The outsourcing, the contingencies and agreements between and in departments, the different lives of its members and how they intersect with their work, the unofficial way of doing things that ignores compliance documents and training manuals. Exit here is the ability to increase the expression of these exponential derivatives, allowing them to develop their own forms of productive and social capacity, to breathe without eyes above them, developing through their linguistic and coded conceptions and practices. It is the ability to re-scale and de-scale at will, allowing for the heat of chatter (and by extension forms of capital) to move through many passages and pathways within the developments of technical templexity as autonomous forms of organisation and production develop which can potentially move beyond ossification through their own machinic or coded chatter.

Communication fits into this peripheral coil by being the bricoler set of borders and trust mechanisms that either allow organisations to develop or to split apart into either their constituent subsidiaries or into splintered heat-death. It creates walls and breaks them down, moving structural impediments around and sometimes just smashing through them. Centralised structures that keep these walls together, emplacing members that vie for restrictive infrastructure and capital within them, allow for structural impediments and re-impediments that create questioning and egressive rhetoric, heat rising from this multiplicitous mix of anger and confusion about the rules of the game and where they lie. Creating exit in this multiplicitous sense allows for forms of conceptual determination that break free of the stultifying mould of centralised governance, whether disaster comes or not.

The tethers of communication are breakable in this decentring complex, as linguistic heat-meltdown effects synaptic signals and the clinamenetic movements of decaying constructs, the diagonal lines ripping through striations of supposed empiricism and majesty. Every area has its codes, signs and signals to understand and develop, creative and illusive in equal measure. Both hierarchy and horizontality grow in language systems, as understanding is made fractal, learned and dispersed, metastasising as both structure and un-structure. The periphery that language hones is pulled into the center, its own clinamenetic death made as competition and experimentation swirl around it.


[2] “the clinamen, the minimum angle of declination against the laminar flow (Ibid, p25), the diagonal within and from the parallel atomic sequence and the spontaneous breaker of symmetry (Serres, 2006:p15). The clinamen acts as the primary agent of division, underpinning the possibility of a patchwork – as I will show – for the clinamen is “transformation in general” (Serres, 2018: p114). Acting as the ur-transformer, the clinamen is that which quasi-instantaneously begins a chemical reaction, and is that which over the course of a thousand years leads to erosion of a coastline.”



[5] Piore & Sabel, The Second Industrial Divide


[7] Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: The US Experience



[10] Carson, The Homebrew Industrial Revolution

[11] Carson, The Homebrew Industrial Revolution









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