In their introduction to A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari examines the use of trees and roots as metaphors for the structure of existence. While focusing primarily on texts and writing for their analysis, their argument is that the rhizome is a better metaphor for networks. Because of its ability to assume “diverse forms” (p. 7), the rhizome better describes the relationships between nodes than does the tree–which forces a structure that contains both a beginning and an end. Additionally, Deleuze and Guattari offer characteristics of rhizomes to support their argument:
- Connection and heterogeneity: “any point of the rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be” (p. 7). The unending connections between “semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relevant to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” allow for better representation of the limitless connections from which objects emerge.
- Mulitplicity: “it is only when the multiple is treated as substantive . . . that it ceases to have any relation to the One as subject or object, natural or spiritual reality, image and world” (p. 8). Unlike the tree metaphor, which relies on one structure that is reproduced, the rhizome has no unity that can be divided. There are no points or positions–only lines.
- Asignifying rupture: “A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines” (p. 9). Stratifications, lines of flight, and regenerations form a horizontal, non-linear structure of organization.
- Cartography and decalcomania: “a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model”–“a map and not a tracing” (p. 12). Unlike a tree, which is a structure by which we try to mold the tracing of other structures, a rhizome’s structure provides a map of connections. “The map is open and connectable to
These characteristics, they argue, represent the book. A book is not an image but an overlapping of ideas and contributions from other people, ideas, books, and values.