The Reality of T.A.Z.s and Rhizomes
Hakim Bey’s theory of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (T.A.Z.) and Deleuze & Guattari’s rumination on the concept of the Rhizome are nearly impossible to understand without tangible examples of the theories applying to actual situations. In the case of the T.A.Z. there are many notable examples throughout history, but perhaps the most (in)famous of these are the pirate utopias of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The basic ingredients of a T.A.Z. according to Bey are that they are not permanent, and essentially operate entirely “off the grid,” furthermore there is no defined hierarchy or social structure within a T.A.Z., which is why pirate enclaves fit this into this theory perfectly: they sporadically rose and fell in and out of existence, and operated with complete self-sufficiency and independence. As Bey mentions in T.A.Z., it is impossible for the government to have any actual control, nor can they have complete surveillance; because of this these autonomous communities can exist without ever having seemed to exist. Like individual points within a peninsula on a Mandelbrot Set, they are virtually invisible to anyone outside of the enclave.
Another aspect of the T.A.Z. that Bey discusses is that while they are temporary they never die, they just move to another time or place. Likewise, though individual pirate enclaves were temporary, they never ceased to exist: the T.A.Z. simply takes another form. In some fashion, the pirate enclaves continue to exist today on the net in the form of piracy communities that exist by either hiding deep within the intricacy of the internet or by simply becoming too powerful to be taken down… and once one dies there are more quickly rising to replace it.
Deleuze & Guattari’s Rhizome is similarly best explained through “real-life” examples rather than abstract philosophical nonsense. The Paris Commune, while in itself was pretty much a T.A.Z., is rhizomic in the way its...