The War Machine vs. The State Apparatus | An analysis of Urban Growth and Practices

ARCH 599 | Prof. Neil Leach | University of Southern California

It seems that all cities go through similar transformations through time.  Ruled once by the need to survive, they soon evolve into places of order.  Of course it would be unfair to suggest that before order was only chaos. If we trace a series of urban typologies we may find chaos and the willingness for adaptation is in fact an integral part of urbanism. Looking at the history of Urbanism we can see that the transformations of the city move from medieval patterns to Baroque and Neo-Classical style under the rule of the State. Rather than oscillating back and forth from the rise and fall of both the State and the War in a linear fashion, this essay is an attempt to analyze both the State and the War separately in order to understand the trends of both.


Deleuze describes the State Apparatus and the War Machine in terms of Game Theory, allowing one to understand the basic ideologies of both themes.  He claims the basics of Chess and Go are inherently related to the operations of the State Apparatus and the War Machine. Chess is a game of State; each piece has different goals and abilities, and they cannot adapt or change at anytime.  The pieces have an “internal nature and their movements and situations arrive intrinsically”. Deleuze considers Chess a regulated war, with front and rear battlefronts.  Go, on the other hand, is considered a game of war, with few rules and unlimited out comes.  The pieces of Go only have a third party function, for instance “it makes a move”, “it” being anyone or anything. They have “no intrinsic properties, only situational ones” and a single piece and conquer the entire field.[1] The space of both games is very different.  Chess arranges itself in closed space moving from one point to the other. Go arranges itself in open space, holding the space and having no specific point of departure or arrival.  According to Deleuze Chess codes and decodes space, while Go territorializes and de-territorializes space.[2] We can also analyze the State Apparatus and the War Machine by the way they occupy and move through space.  The State Apparatus exists within Striated Space “space that is counted in order to be occupied.”[3] Rigid, and ordered the State has specific moves, always with a linear tendency.   The War Machine moves through Smooth Space, “space that is occupied without being controlled.”[4] This space is open and the War Machine moves through non-linearly, and with evolving strategy the direction constantly changes.


The War Machine operates as a collective.  It has multiple systems, relationships and connections. It can take on a new form at anytime, and continually changes going through countless phases of metamorphism.  It is an adaptive creature that arrives when the State does not exist. The War Machine operates exteriorly; inherently unpredictable its only reason for emerging is to conquer over all things State. The War Machine is unstoppable because it is nomadic, and therefore has no history or specific geography.[5] The relationship between the State Apparatus and the War Machine is extremely complex. When analyzing the morphology of the War Machine we see that a possible outcome is to become a State Apparatus. The War Machine acts as a pack, and its goal is to fend off appropriations of the State. The State is a product of economic development. According to the theory of the War Machine adaptation, the State is the final part of emergence for the War Machine.


If the War Machine operates exteriorly, then the State operates interiorly, only able to control things it can appropriate locally in a linear fashion. The State has control over its kingdom, they obey; “ always obey, the more you obey, the more you will be master, for you will only be obeying pure reason, in other words, yourself…” [6]


The start of geometrical order happened as early as 600 BCE in Greece.[7] In the 6th century Miletus, an ancient Greek city, displayed a formal rectangle with shops on three sides.[8] Greek colonies within Italy in the 6th century had checkerboard plan;[9] it is not surprising to imagine the relationship between an ordered plan and the establishment of an ordered State. Even with the influence of Greek regularity and order, Europe would continue an organic and primitive growth until the 15th century.[10] One such possible influence of city planning was the Black Death, taking place in the 14th century; it interrupted Europe’s Classical revival.[11] Eventually the slow growth and increased commerce produced and middle class,[12] and mutated the irregular and unordered cities. By the 15th century the trend had shifted toward Baroque style planning.  Fear of the spread of disease, the Baroque city was about providing order and heath to the masses.  It also instilled an organization and rule that the previous medieval counterparts did not display.  As Mumford puts it “from medieval universality to baroque uniformity: from medieval localism to baroque centralism.”[13] Such trends carried over into the industrial era of the 19th century.  Like the plague of the 14th century the State recognized the connection of the crowded medieval city, disease and industrialization; this combination created unlivable conditions for city residents. Changes were made to cities that allowed for separation and opening of living spaces. Aristocrats prevailing in Europe, London and the modern cities of America saw the best way of life was through an ordered connection to nature through privileges such as the Public Park and garden space.[14] Eventually the advancements in the industrial era, of the 19th century, adapted and formed into internationalism of the 20th century. The product of this transformation was the International Style of the Modernists.


If we consider the Modernists collective goal to equalize society and overcome the Bourgeoisie class, we may then understand that they in fact were acting as a War Machine. The outcome, however, is ordered and homogenous, making it difficult to place Modernism within one of these categories. Perhaps it was at one time both, merging from the War Machine into an unforgiving State. The reaction to the universal emptiness of the Modernist Urban planning of Le Corbusier and his contempories was the birth of nostalgia. Nostalgia, the word that makes every true Modernist cringe, emerged in the late 70’s becoming the popular topic of the 80’s for architects and urbanists.


In 1979 book Urban Space;[15] Rob Krier illustrates traditional urban constructs of the Western world. Here he begins to lay the foundations of a traditional understanding of urbanism expanding on the theories of Post-Modernists such as Robert Venturi.[16] Later these theories and practices would emerge into New Urbanism. Krier discusses the physicality and form of traditional urbanism, which become practices such as form-based code. David Shelborne writes in the essay The Civic Order, “individual rights when termed  ‘civic rights’ are shared in a phantom of social order by all individuals”. Conceivably by ‘social order’, he means ‘social reform’, something we see come out of the Baroque planning phase of the 15th and 16th century.[17] Citizens have the right to a public realm, something that, according to New Urbanism, was lost during the harsh apocalyptic Modernist era.  Nevertheless, one should be skeptical of the city that is made up of perfectly proportioned blocks, scattered with boulevards and parks as the ideal place to live.  Although New Urbanists claim their method is not prescriptive, their Western idea of a block and Main Street, reminiscent of ‘Small Town New England’, may not succeed in every situation.


The same criticism can be made for Schumacher’s description of Parametric Urbanism as the “new universal style”.  Coming out of digital animation techniques of the 90’s Parametrisim offers a ‘new style’ to Urbanism.[18] Although the programs are advanced, Shumacher and leading Parametric offices such as Zaha Hadid’s, are using this technology in a conservational way. The city pattern of Parametric Urbanism is parallel to the Transect adopted by New Urbanism.[19] They both display the same pattern: a grid, tall dense center, and a gradient building sizes and densities radiating out from the center. Although we see that some cities have this characteristic, we cannot assume that if implemented at once would actually make a successful place.  The growth of the city has many factors, and although the term Parametric means “several parameters” its process is still prescriptive and based on a Classical understanding of urbanism.


Medieval urbanism is slow and organic growth, bounded by topography and lack of commerce.[20] According to Lewis Mumford, the medieval era was a time of “constant and violent change.”[21] How did the medieval town adapt to population growth if there was seemingly no order?  The pattern of medieval growth was very different than that of the structural pattern of State urbanism to follow. “The urban pattern conformed to the economic one.”[22] Medieval cities operated with internal control,[23] this self control allowed people to move up and evolve within classes, which in then turn allowed for the production of State. Deleuze discusses the State Apparatus and the War Machine as having two distinct sciences, Imperial and Nomadic, respectively. Nomadic science is reactionary, and has a tactical approach that continuously “is ‘barred’, inhibited or banned by the demands and conditions of State science.” Deleuze observes that “the State science continually imposes its form of sovereign on the inventions of the nomad science… retains of nomad science only what it can appropriate; it turns the rest into a set of strictly limited formulas without any real scientific status.”[24] The War Machine is nomadic and follows Gothic science.  The Gothic deals with quantitative changes and is dynamic and material. “As if Gothic conquered a smooth space”[25] it follows the flows of nature.  Gothic science is about process, learning from failures and is constantly changing.  The State science has classical properties; this Imperial science manipulates historic form.  It does not follow structural properties like the Gothic, it instead reinterprets historical structures disregarding the performance of the form, often producing a façade that often covers Gothic forms of structure. There are several urban strategies that could be considered under Deleuze’s definition of Nomadic Science.


The Situationists International had a morphological understanding of the city.  Starting their theories as early as the 50s, they reached their peak in the late 60s and 70s. They believed that although the physical space did not change, your experiences did. They sprung from Modernism, as a reaction to the repetitive social housing projects, and other banalities of the Modernist Architect. [26] Termed ‘phycocartography’, their main exploration was through a form of meandering through the city in order to discover the possible affects the city had on its inhabitants.[27] With the Situationists, we start to see an understanding of the city that goes beyond formal planning.  It embraces the formalness of cities such as Paris, but notes that even on the strictest Baroque grid you discover chaos. Simultaneously, we see a Nomadic understanding of cities coming from the work and theories of Fumihiko Maki. His work explored adaptive forms that evolve over time. [28] Although not conceived as emergent, his theories were based on tactical urbanism and situations, all of which would adapt to form an urban environment


Another reaction to the Modern practices, which insisted on a separation of program, came from Jane Jacobs. In her treasured book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she discuses the importance of heterogeneity in cities. She claims the States order of the homogenous city is actually chaotic and disorderly, she argues that homogeneity has no direction and people simply lose themselves in sameness.[29] If we follow this logic we find that heterogeneity is a natural and preferred human response.  Since her book several Urbanists have found inspiration through her. One such influential person is Rem Koolhaas. He follows her theories, explaining and expanding on the need for chaos in program.  Also following in Jacobs shadow are the Everyday Urbanists who give importance to tactical environments.  Similar to the Situationists, they “embrace the urban social experience of the sidewalk.”[30]


Engineers, or Material Scientists, such as Frei Otto and Cecil Bauman focus on material behavior. They experiment with materials in order to discover their inherent structural properties; this is a Gothic practice.[31] How can we take the materialist theory and transfer it to an urban scale? Manuel Delanda, a follower of Materialists such as Otto, believes that “matter and energy are morphologically charged.”[32] He takes the Materialists understanding of tendencies and applies them to the process of genetic algorithm.  Genetic algorithm is a process in which a genetic code generates a form. [33] Often the code takes the form of an agent.  An agent is given tendencies that are programmed like a gene.  This agent then reacts to other agents in space.  With the right algorithm the agents can create, and predict possible outcomes for urban environments, this is known as Emergent Urbanism.


Emergent Urbanism offers an agent based understanding in which one can program situations and behaviors. Deleuze says the War Machine as something that comes up from a single stroke, an “on the spot emergence”, his concept of Numbering Numbers, relates to agent based design. The Numbering Number always has several bases at the same time and is constantly mutating, and therefore is multifunctional. Like Agents, a Numbering Number has several operation, with this comes variety and organization with in the operations.[34] In Lewis Mumford’s seminal book The City in History first published in 1952, he discusses the theories behind the first urban transformation and the emergent evolution of the city.[35] The war machine is emergent; “they come like fate, without reason, consideration or pretext…” [36] It has spirit and drive that is unlike anything the State can conjure up.  It organizing its self for optimal results, it moves simultaneously and covers space universally.  This implies that the most variety is possible through the Nomad existence. Something that emerges is unpredictable, and comes out of evolutionary choice and adaptation. Urbanism should not be understood as a macro scale of deign, but rather several micro and concentrated movements that collectively make a city.  One such micro understanding is found through the study of Biomimetics.  If we understand the tendencies of natural occurrences we can program them, allowing emergent urban systems to evolve. Such complex natural systems exist in swarming intelligence of birds, path finding of slime mold, and the many systems that exist in termite colonies and their habitats.[37] Since the city is our natural habitat possibilities exist in understand our own emergent tendencies. Mimicking tendencies of other creatures and adapting them to our own urban environment or as far as algorithmic programming has gone.  Though programming human tendencies would be more appropriate when dealing with human habitats, it seems quite impossible. In fact we are extremely complex creatures, and without a full understanding of our choices we cannot create a successful program, and since the human brain is the most uncharted place in the universe, programming ourselves might not be possible for centuries.


The War Machine ideologies have not fully formed outside of theory into Urban Planning.  Few small examples have been attempted, but the issue lies in the control of planning. It is the State that controls and regulates planning.  Since we no longer have the opportunity to roam free as nomads through the untouched landscape operating and adapting to place, we now need to learn how to adapt War Machine ideologies to State regulations. The War Machine’s constraints are apparent when the need for internal programming is presented; this includes amenities such as pluming, roads and other infrastructure.[38] Although it is a constraint, it is something that can be solved, possibly with the tool of algorithmic programming. The War Machine is about action and reaction, so ideally it should be the best form of Urbanism.  The key to a successful urban environment is adaptation. Whether it is formal or informal, rational or chaotic the city is always transforming.



[1] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1987. Print.  All previous quotes found on Page 353

[2] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Page 352-353

[3] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Page 353

[4] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Page 353

[5] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Treatise on Nomadology

[6] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Page 375

[7] Mumford, Lewis. The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects. NewYork: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961. Print. Page 192 discussing Cryne,  founded in 630-624 in Lydia had straight streets crossing at right angles

[8] Mumford, Lewis. Page 192

[9] Mumford, Lewis. Page 192

[10] Mumford, Lewis. Page 345, disusing that between the 15th and 18th century new complex cultural traits took place, radically altering the shape of the urban environment.

[11] Mumford, Lewis. Page 345

[12] Mumford, Lewis. Page 191

[13] Mumford, Lewis. Page 347

[14] Giedion, Sigfried. Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997. Print. Referencing the Chapter on 19th Century Planning

[15] Krier, Rob, and Colin Rowe. Urban Space. London: Academy Editions, 1991. Print.

[16] Venturi, Robert. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1977. Print

[17] Crowe, Norman, Richard Economakis, Michael Lykoudis, and Mark Gage. Building Cities: towards a Civil Society and Sustainable Environment. London: Artmedia, 1999. Print. Page 15

[18] Schumacher, Patrik. “Digital Cities.” Architectural Design 79.4 (2009): 14-23. Parametricism, A New Global Style for Architecture and Urban Design. Print.

[19] Bharne, Vinayak. “Architecture in The Urban Landscape.” ARCH 532 Class. University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Fall. 2009. Lecture.

[20] Mumford, Lewis. Page 191

[21] Mumford, Lewis. Page 312

[22] Mumford, Lewis. Page 314

[23] Mumford, Lewis. Page 316

[24] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Page 362

[25] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Treatise on Nomadology

[26] McDonough, Tom (EDT). The Situationists and the City. London: Verso, 2009. Print. Referencing the article Slum Construction, by Andre-Frank Concord, Page 42

[27] McDonough, Tom (EDT). Page 10

[28] Maki, Fumihiko. Investigations in Collective Form. St. Louis: School of Architecture, Washington University, 1964. Print.

[29] Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1998. Print. Page 223, Myths about Diversity.

[30] Chase, John, Margaret Crawford, and John Kaliski. Everyday Urbanism. New York:             Monacelli, 2008. Print. Page 92

[31] Leach, Neil. “Theory of Parametricism.” ARCH 599 Class. University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Fall 2010. Lecture.

[32] Delanda, Manuel. “”Deleuze and the Use of the Genetic Algorithm in Architecture”" Lecture. Art & Technology Lecture Series. Columbia University, New York. You Tube. Columbia, 28 Apr. 2009. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50-d_J0hKz0>.

[33] Leach, Neil.

[34] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari, Based ib Proposition VI, in the Treaties on Nomadology pages 387-394

[35] Mumford, Lewis. Page 29

[36] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari Page 353, Quoted from Luc de Heusch

[37] Leach, Neil.

[38] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Page 363