Rhizome is a concept first concieved by Gilles Deleuze, and articulated in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Jeff Vail has elaborated the concept as a mode of social organization wherein:


  1. Every node is connected to every other node, and
  2. There are no "critical" edges.


The lack of critical edges means that there is no relationship which could be cut off which would destroy one of the nodes, meaning that no one node is dependent on any other one node--i.e., there is no node with power over another. The connectivity of rhizome means that relationships between nodes are not mediated by any nodes in between, which can control the flow of information. In other words, the graph of a rhizome can never be isomorphic to a tree.


The theory of rhizome proposed by Deleuze and Guattari, and refined by Vail, presents a firm model for egalitarian society and anarchic organization and order, of the sort of ordung referred to in V for Vendetta:


Anarchy means 'without leaders'; not 'without order'. With anarchy comes an age of ordung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order. The age of ordung will begin when the mad and incoherent cycle of verwirrung has run its course. This is not anarchy, Eve. This is chaos.


The Hamlet Economy


In "Envisioning a Hamlet Economy: Topology of Sustainability and Fulfilled Ontogeny," Jeff Vail lays out a theoretical model of nesting rhizomes, from the individual rhizome node to the larger network. What Vail refers to as "hamlets" are clusters of an average of four family groups cooperating, a setup very closely related to the Appalachian Confederation's tribes.



The above illustration is the theoretically optimal topology for a single rhizome node, representative here of a familial cluster. Close and strong connections exist within the node, representing the connectivity inside the extended familial group. Outside links are variously looser and weaker connections, the closer connections with the local hamlet, and the distant connections creating inter-hamlet ties, and creating the “small-worlds” situation where weak and distant connections greatly enhance the overall efficiency of connectivity. The green region denotes the geographic space required by the node to achieve minimal food self-sufficiency.



The above illustration shows a hamlet (or tribe), or a cluster of familial nodes. The groupings in terms of 4:4:4 is not fixed, but merely a convenient way to convey a flexible structure. Close and strong connections exist within the hamlet, and variously looser and weaker connections reach outside, replicating in a fractal manner the same “small-worlds” theory as seen in individual nodes. The larger, lighter green region represents the geographic space required for “wildlife, hunting, and foraging,” or permaculture’s “Zone 5,” which is controlled “in trust” by the hamlet for their non-exclusive use, but available for their use as a reserve-bank should their horticultural scheme underperform.



The above illustration represents the broader landscape of a lattice-structure of clusters of rhizome nodes. It represents a theoretical distribution, and demonstrates that there are no “super-hamlets,” towns, or villages—the landscape is “flat” at the hamlet level, because any accretion to a higher order settlement would open the door to hierarchy. Instead, more complexly coordinated functions are facilitated by temporary groupings, as shown in the next illustration.



The above illustration denotes the ability of transient connection, fairs, festivals, etc. to affect longer-distance, weak connectivity that greatly enhances the overall efficiency of the lattice’s communication and information processing capability. Because more distant nodes are brought in contact with these occasional events (shown as dashed blue, red, or purple lines), the number of nodes that information or exchanges must transit to span large distances is greatly reduced (as illustrated by the black line transaction, where only two steps are necessary to bridge a distance that would otherwise require 8 steps in neighbor-to-neighbor transfer). These larger, weaker, and transient networks facilitate more complex activity and more specialized economic exchange without facilitating hierarchy. For example, even if only one node in 50 actually breeds goats or brews beer, all 50 nodes will have easy access to these products through seasonal fairs, transient markets, etc. In theory, there is no limit to the technological or industrial complexity that can be handled by such transient groupings of a still “flat” rhizome lattice. This format prevents more complex projects (defense, highly specialized goods like metal working or glass, social richness) from acting as a catalyst to the creation of hierarchy.



The orderly geometric lattice structure must, in reality, be draped over the natural geography, to include terrain, climate, resource distribution, etc.—as illustrated above with regards to a simple topographical map. While the theoretical and geometrically symmetrical lattice illustrated in Figure 6 provides easier initial conceptualization, the lattice illustrated in this figure is more realistic. In reality, several different “conceptual terrains” will each simultaneously impact the actual geospatial structure of the lattice. For example, physical terrain, difficulty of travel, resource concentrations, water availability, soil richness, etc. will all influence the layout.