Destituere in Latin means: to place standing separate, raise up in isolation; to abandon; put aside, let drop, knock down; to let down, deceive. Whereas constituent logic crashes against the power apparatus it means to take control of, a destituent potential is concerned instead with escaping from it, with removing any hold on it which the apparatus might have, as it increases its hold on the world in the separate space that it forms. Its characteristic gesture is exiting, just as the typical constituent gesture is taking by storm. In terms of a destituent logic, the struggle against state and capital is valuable first of all for the exit from capitalist normality that is experienced therein, for the desertion from the shitty relations with oneself, others, and the world under capitalism.
Thus, where the “constituents” place themselves in a dialectical relation of struggle with the ruling authority in order to take possession of it, destituent logic obeys the vital need to disengage from it. It doesn’t abandon the struggle; it fastens on to the struggles positivity. It doesn’t adjust itself to the movements of the adversary but to what is required for the increase of its own potential.
So it has little use for criticizing: “The choice is either to get out without delay, without wasting one’s time criticizing, simply because one is placed elsewhere than in the region of the adversary, or else one criticizes, one keeps one foot in it, and has the other one outside. We need to leap outside and dance above it,” as Jean-Francois Lyotard explained, by way of recognizing the gesture of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. And Deleuze made this remark: “Roughly speaking, one recognizes a Marxist by their saying that a society contradicts itself, is defined by its contradictions, especially its class contradictions. We say rather is that in a society everything is escaping, that a society is defined by its lines of escape […] Escape, but while escaping look for a weapon.” It’s not a question of fighting for communism. What matters is the communism that is lived in the fight itself.
The true richness of an action lies within itself. This doesn’t mean that for us there’s no question of the observable effectiveness of an action. It means that the impact potential of an action doesn’t reside in its effects, but in what is immediately expressed in it. What is constructed on the basis of effort always ends up collapsing from exhaustion. Typically, the operation that the cortege de tete causes the processional setup of union demonstrations to undergo is an operation of destitution. With the vital joy it expressed, the rightness of its gesture, its determination, with its affirmative as well as offensive character, the cortege de tete drew in all that was still lively in the militant ranks and it destituted demonstrations as an institution. Not with a critique of the rest of the march but something other than a symbolic use of capturing the street. Withdrawing from the institutions is anything but leaving a void, it’s suppressing them in a positive way.
To destitute is not primarily to attack the institution, but to attack the need we have of it. It’s not to criticize it—the first critics of the state are the civil servants themselves; as to the militant, the more they criticize power the more they desire it and the more they refuse to acknowledge their desire—but to take to heart what the institution is meant to do, from outside it. To destitute the university is to establish, at a distance, the places of research, of education and thought, that are more vibrant and more demanding than it is—which would not be hard—and to greet the arrival of the last vigorous minds who are tired of frequenting the academic zombies, and only then to administer its death blow.
To destitute the judicial system is to learn to settle our disputes ourselves, applying some method to this, paralyzing its faculty of judgment and driving its henchmen from our lives. To destitute medicine is to know what is good for us and what makes us sick, to rescue from the institution the passionate knowledges that survive there out of view, and never again to find oneself alone at the hospital, with one’s body handed over to the artistic sovereignty of a disdainful surgeon. To destitute the government is to make ourselves ungovernable. Who said anything about winning? Overcoming is everything…
… So the revolutionary gesture no longer consists in a simple violent appropriation of this world; it divides into two. On the one hand, there are worlds to be made, forms of life made to grow apart from what reigns, including by salvaging what can be salvaged from the present state of things, and on the other, there is the imperative to attack, to simply destroy the world of capital.