Tag Archives: Foucault

Comrade Foucault?

Insurrectionary Foucault – Andrew Culp

This is a convincing, well sourced analysis.  An overall pleasure to read, notwithstanding a demonstrably confused sub-commentariat.  For me it hardly seemed that Foucault was being specific in terms of the ‘what is to be done,’ let alone specifics as supporting references to the follow-on question of ‘how is it to be done;’ irrespective of suggestions that something indeed should be done which was inherent in his work, statements and acts.  An apparent theoretical confusion between Claire Fontaine’s logical response to the questions of ‘how’ and ‘what’ with ‘presently we don’t know how or what,’ and the IC who held forth in TCI on the power of communes superimposed as a autonomous network over the existing landscape; metropolis and barnyard alike presumably; may have found a bridge in Giorgio Agamben’s essay “Metropolis,” where he stated:

“I think that a confrontation with metropolitan dispositifs will only be possible when we penetrate the processes of subjectivation that the metropolis entails in a more articulated way, deeper. Because I think that the outcome of conflicts depends on this: on the power to act and intervene on processes of subjectivation, in order to reach that stage that I would call a point of ungovernability. The ungovernable where power can shipwreck in its figure of government, the ungovernable that I think is always the beginning and the line of flight of all politics.”

The superimposition of un-governability; de-subjectivizing from programmed violence which only manages to produce governability; a relentless and resonating drain of biopower from mechanisms and nodes.  The spread of re-appropriated ‘human strike’ forms of communism bereft of management centers.  Information highways and highway robbery.  An end to state violence – here the daily propaganda that convinces citizens to perform violence on one another.  New purposes found in a general resonance where the questions of ‘what’ and ‘how’ are left open ended – a precise Foucauldian maxim by way of omission concerning example or subject – where more and more blooms awaken in typical confused fashion, but where it seems pointless to complain too much about it anymore.

Polemics, Politics and Problematizations

Polemics, Politics and Problematizations

This interview took place in order for Foucault to answer questions  frequently asked by American audiences.    It was conducted by Paul Rabinow in  May 1984, just before Foucault’s death.    Translation by Lydia Davis, volume 1 “Ethics” of “Essential  Works of Foucault”,  The New Press 1997.

Paul Rabinow: Why is it that you don’t engage in polemics ?

Michel Foucault: I like discussions, and when I am asked questions, I try to answer them. It’s true that I don’t like to get involved in polemics.  If I open a book and see that the author is accusing an adversary of “infantile leftism” I shut it again right away.  That’s not my way of doing things; I don’t belong to the world of people who do things that way. I insist on this difference as something essential: a whole  morality is at stake, the one that concerns the search for truth and the relation  to the other.

In the serious play of questions and answers, in the work of   reciprocal elucidation, the rights of each person are in some sense immanent  in the discussion. They depend only on the dialogue situation. The person asking the questions is merely exercising the right that has been given him: to remain unconvinced, to perceive a contradiction, to require more information, to emphasize different postulates, to point out faulty reasoning, and so on. As for the person answering the questions, he too exercises a right that does not go beyond the discussion itself; by the logic of his own discourse, he is tied to what he has said earlier, and by the acceptance of dialogue he is tied to the questioning of other.  Questions and answers depend on a game—a game that is at once pleasant and difficult—in which each of the two partners takes pains to use only the rights given him by the other and by the accepted form of dialogue.

The polemicist, on the other hand, proceeds encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question.  On principle,   he possesses rights authorizing him to wage war and making that struggle a just undertaking; the person he confronts is not a partner in search for the truth but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is armful, and whose very existence constitutes a threat.  For him, then the game consists not of recognizing this person as a subject having the right to speak but of abolishing him as interlocutor, from any possible dialogue; and his final objective will be not to come as close as possible to a difficult truth but to bring about the triumph of the just cause he has been manifestly upholding from the beginning.  The polemicist relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied.

Perhaps, someday, a long history will have to be written of polemics, polemics as a parasitic figure on discussion and an obstacle to the search for the truth.