Taiwan Studies Programme

At the Critical Moment: The Rhizome and "Democracy to Come"

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Friday 23rd April 2021 (13:30-15:00)

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The University of Nottingham's Taiwan Studies Programme presents an online discussion, At the Critical Moment: The Rhizome and “Democracy to Come” by Dr Shih-wei Hsu, Assistant Professor in Organisational Behaviour, Nottingham University Business School China. 

Talk abstract 

There has been strong interest in the use of the metaphor of rhizomes as developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. The rhizome at its birth was an epistemological concept but, with the advancement of internet and social media, it has gradually gained an ontological sense. In the wake of social movements such as the Arab Spring and the Jasmine revolution, literature has shown that the rhizome has been concretized as an ontology with an emancipatory impulse.

At an organizational level, many contemporary social movement organizations act in line with a rhizomatic process – the leadership is shifting and rotating; their organizational structures are fluid, dynamic without clear boundaries. Although the rhizomatic practices have the power to remove centralized hierarchical social systems, ironically, in recent years we have also witnessed that the features of rhizome may selectively be employed and developed into a military tactic, to serve a totalitarian interest of control. For instance, the idea of rhizome manoeuvre has widely been adopted by terrorist organizations that seek to justify the act of violence, whilst rhizome manoeuvre has also been used by the US Army to destroy terrorist units.

In this talk, the speaker will talk about his ethnographical research in a social movement organization based in Taiwan. The speaker suggests that it is important to revisit the original concept of the rhizome because, in Deleuze and Guattari’s view, the rhizome must have tentative “boundaries”, which should firmly be grounded in the philosophical framework of "democracy to come", embedded in Bergson's “open society”. Democracy to come, to a certain degree, can offer tentative guiding principles for the rhizome to operate.

Speaker biography

Dr Shih-wei Hsu is currently Assistant Professor in Organisational Behaviour, Nottingham University Business School China. His research interests include critical leadership studies, poststructuralism and learning organisations.


Talk refelction By Minal Gadher, BA Economics and Politics, University of Nottingham

In his talk, Dr Shih-wei Hsu gave the audience a great description of the metaphor of the Rhizome as used by Delueze and Guattari. By breaking this down into the six principles of that Rhizomes follow, and eventually poses the question of whether or not these principles are sufficient. He discusses this in the context of the BCR. His use of this case study was impressive and allowed the audience to understand the theory properly. At the end of the session, audience members were given the chance to ask questions and even offer their own opinions on the discussion that Shih-wei opened up. Hearing each other's views on the topic made for an enticing debate to end the event.

Taiwan Studies Programme

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD