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One finds oneself on a detour, one is forced onto a detour, one discovers one is on a detour, one makes detours. There is nothing direct about politics, but there are fantasies of heroic causality--of the great actor in history doing the world-shaking thing, or saying the great, transformative phrase that forces the scales from duped eyes,the great keyword that could become a byword that animates political action.

But seeing history as all detour, like seeing medication as all side effects, opens up a way to think about any given event as a scene of multiple causalities, and as potentiality itself, a generator of any number of potential détournements or turnings away from what’s presented as the given causality of the fact of what seems to have happened. The eye of the detour not only opens up the multiple historical causes to an event and the potential field of consequences that might be engendered from it: it gives us access to the inefficiency of the practices that lead to change.

The philosophy and practice of détournement turns detouring from a noun to a verb: a surrealist practice of forcing a detour from conventional habits of reproducing and symbolizing history, experience, and value.

Detourning forces the present into a shocked space of time.

But turning away can shift other valences, in the sense of detourning the other cheek, an act that detourns power's assurance about the relation of cause to effect. To force a detour can be to break a connection, a normative repetition; it can force consciousness of the aleatory pacing of the world and the word, regarless of the will. If the will wants acts, optimism wants detours, the distraction from teleology, the shifting of the pragmatic map. But not to get too dreamy here, the detournment meant to be a slap in the face of your will to repetition: your signs and institutions can always become not what you thought their potential outcomes might be. Criticism and activism detourn what's imaginable now.


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