Anonymous said: Hi, I didn't understand that Foucault quote. What exactly is he saying?
Hi, the “vulgar” reading of Foucault goes something like this: discourse produces reality, therefore it’s all relevant and we’re totally fucked. The quote, and if you read Foucault’s work carefully, suggests a much more nuanced view of “discursive causality”: discourse as the practices and conditions that make life intelligible constitutes and codifies life, it embeds it within a certain grid of intelligibility and “normativity,” and therefore is material generative. However, discourse itself is not life, and the relationship between power and knowledge is mutually constitutive: it’s not a one way road in other words. Discourse might be the medium through which we view the world, and as such deeply shapes our understanding of it, but life itself is the necessary counterforce to power (because, if you remember, Foucault thinks of power not as a static thing one can possess but as relations of forces)—its the recalcitrant force that both provides the conditions for power/discourse to generate a world and subjects within a certain rationality and that which necessarily resists and exceeds it. So the quote is saying okay, if discourse shapes how we think of the world, we have “killed god” as an underlying cause/Truth/”thing in itself”, but that doesn’t mean that we can 1) discursively replace god with whatever we wish or 2) that life is not a far greater, far more germinal force that exceeds any attempts at our understanding it. That’s how I read it anyway.
12:58 pm • 11 December 2012 • 13 notes
“Nor do I mean that it is not legitimate, if one wishes, to hate the state. But what I think we should not do is imagine we are describing a real, actual process concerning ourselves when we denounce the growth of state control, or the state becoming fascist, or the establishment of a state violence, and so on. All those who share in the great state phobia should know that they are following the direction of the wind and that in fact, for years and years, an effective reduction of the state has been on the way, a reduction of both the growth of state control and of a ‘statifying’ and ‘statified’ (étatisante et étatisée) govern mentality…I am saying that we should not delude ourselves by attributing to the state itself a process of becoming fascist which is actually exogenous and due much more to the state’s reduction and dislocation. I also mean that we should not delude ourselves about the nature of the historical process which currently renders the state both so intolerable and so problematic.”
Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics
All’s quiet on the libertarian front. Guess they actually started reading Foucault.
5:08 pm • 17 July 2012 • 106 notes
“In other words, the force of materiality is nothing other than the constitutive exposure of (the subject of) power to the other. For if the freedom of the rational subject comes in or as its response to the other, then decision is prompted by and also comes from the other. It is therefore in the original instance passive and unconscious, not active and conscious, unlike the sovereign decision of exception (Schmitt) and the deliberation of public reason (Habermas). The force in question is not a counterpower that can be deployed against a given state of power. It is not the dispersal of power into a mobile field of relations between micropowers (Foucault). It is instead the constitutive exposure of power as such, which has been conventionally thought in terms of the circular economy of appropriation or the return-to-self of self-mastery, to what makes it vulnerable and defenseless. As the undoing of the power of the subject, the force of materiality cannot lead to a political program. Indeed, it is what resists and confounds any teleology such as that of Marxism and even any purposive or end-oriented action that is based on rational calculations or the projection of an ideal end. But as that which opens power up unconditionally to the other, this force also has a messianic dimension. It aporetically implies an absolute or incalculable hospitality to the other that demands a response in which we calculate with given conditions in order to act in a responsible manner.”
Pheng Cheah, Non-Dialectical Materialism
Wherein Pheng shows why Derrida owns Habermas, Butler, and even Foucault.
2:34 pm • 22 May 2012 • 13 notes
“Power is not the property of the dominant class but the strategy of that class in action…It is as if a complicity about the State were finally broken. Foucault is not content to say that we must rethink certain notions; he does not even say it; he just does it, and in this way proposes new co-ordinates for praxis…the theoretical privilege given to the State as an apparatus of power to a certain extent leads to the practice of a leading and centralizing party which eventually wins State power; but on the other hand it is this very organizational conception of the party that is justified by this theory of power. The stakes [of Foucault’s work] lie in a different theory, a different praxis of struggle, a different set of strategies.”
— Gilles Deleuze, Foucault
2:57 pm • 12 April 2012 • 36 notes
“Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power. Should it be said that one is always inside power, there is no escaping it, there is no absolute outside where it is concerned, because one is subject to the law in any case?…This would be to misunderstand the strictly relational character of power relationships. Their existence depends on a multiplicity of points of resistance: these play the role of adversary, target, support, or handle in power relations. These points of resistance are present everywhere in the power network. Hence there is no single locus of great Refusal, no soul of revolt, source of all rebellions, or pure law of the revolutionary. Instead there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case…But this does not mean that they are only a reaction or a rebound, forming with respect to the basic domination an underside that is in the end always passive, doomed to perpetual defeat. Resistances do not derive from a few heterogeneous principles; but neither are they a lure or a promise that is of necessity betrayed. They are the odd term in relations of power; they are inscribed in power as an irreducible opposite.”
— Foucault, History of Sexuality Pt I
8:46 pm • 19 March 2012 • 98 notes
“So I don’t think we can simply accept the traditional Marxist analysis, which assumes that, labor being man’s concrete essence, the capitalist system is what transforms that labor into profit, into hyper profit [sur-profit] or surplus value. The fact is, capitalism penetrates much more deeply into our existence…a set of techniques by which people’s bodies and their time would become labor power and labor time so as to be effectively used and thereby transformed into hyper profit. But in order for there to be hyper profit, there had to be an infra-power [sous-pouvoir]. A web of microscopic, capillary political power had to be established at the level of man’s very existence, attaching men to the production apparatus, while making them into agents of production, into workers. This binding of man to labor was synthetic, political; it was a linkage brought about by power…we cannot situate the human sciences at the level of an ideology that is purely and simply the reflection and expression, in human consciousness, of the relations of production…Power and knowledge are thus deeply rooted—they are not just superimposed on the relations of production but, rather, are very deeply rooted in what constitutes them.”
— Foucault, Truth and Juridical Forms.
6:35 pm • 12 March 2012 • 22 notes
Indeed—and Foucault had much stronger libertarian elements in his thought that, in fact explicitly so in some places regarding limited government and free markets and, of course, anti-statism. A Nietzschean philosophy professor discusses Foucault’s classical liberal elements here, also here is a typical take on Foucault’s libertarian elements from a prominent (lew rockwell) libertarian perspective, and here is a Critical Review article analyzing Foucault’s later-life ‘hyper-liberalism’ and ‘libertarian politics.’
Um, are you serious? Like, is this a joke? Have you ever read a word of Foucault? The basic Foucauldian idea of the subject is so fucking antithetical to anything even remotely related to libertarianism that I’m surprised you can stomach his thought. This is more specious than your Walt Whitman bullshit, and that was some specious bullshit. And yes, I’m eschewing civility because i don’t take seriously this kind of wankery from anyone. Read Foucault; you are wrong.
It’s been demonstrated to my (rather reasonable) satisfaction that (1) you refuse to discuss libertarianism without strawmanning the position (or else you are simply ignorant) and (2) have made some really shitty ‘arguments’ in the past about the superiority of your ‘readings.’ Given 1 and 2, I believe it’s enough to counter your assertions with more of the same. I have read Foucault a fair bit. What are you even disagreeing with in what link and on what basis? As with most tumblr anti-libertarians, you’d be hella more interesting if you actually engaged specific positions honestly and explicitly.
1. I didn’t make shitty arguments about my readings; I made readings that flew in the face of your shitty arguments. The fact that I can wipe the floor with your line of thought when I’m stinking drunk says something about the intellectual rigors of libertarianism.
2. Again you defer to others to argue for you about Foucault. That’s not an argument. If I wanted a bibliography, I”d ask. I want you to make the argument using Foucault. But I can point you to all of Deleuze’s writing on Foucault (the stuff in Negotiations, his book Foucault), Foucault’s relationship to Sartre vis-a-vis Mao, Foucault’s writing itself (and his thoughts about the constitution of the subject, as well as his express disavowal, along with Nietzsche, of the validity of “freedom”), Judith Butler’s readings of Foucault, Derrida’s reading of Foucault…I can play this game too. Now you read these things and come back to me with specific things you disagree with. Or do your own argumentative work, you anti-intellectual kumquat.
3. There are no libertarian positions that are honest, so I can’t engage them honestly.
Okay, two things that will summarily destroy dude’s laughable (literally, I can’t stop laughing) argument that Foucault was ohmygodican’tevenfinishthissentence …a libertarian thinker. These two points are not a matter of style of “reading.” They are well documented in Foucault’s own words in interviews and the like, as well as all of his contemporary’s responses (as Pritch pointed out) and later criticism. In fact, this is ELEMENTARY STUFF. THIS IS STUFF A FRESHMAN YEAR PROF TELLS HIS STUDENTS READING FOUCAULT FOR THE FIRST TIME:
1. As David mentioned, FOUCAULT’S CONCEPTION/CRITIQUE OF THE SUBJECT IS COMPLETELY INCOMPATIBLE WITH LIBERTARIANISM. Foucault’s philosophical project began with a critique of the subject’s central place in Western thought (he called it “narcisstic” and “transcendental”), instead, he argued that subjects are formed and produced within discursive regimes of power, duh. He was mostly concerned with putting into question the a priori consciousness of being, i.e., the Cartesian cogito/subject, that has dominated Western discourse by tracing the subject as produced/embedded within relations of power. He’s trying to rethink life outside the subject form. Agency, at least traditional conceptions of agency, are put into question here. To be fair, his critique of Marx is that even the capacity for labor is produced by technologies of power. That’s not to say he wasn’t a Marxist (HE WAS HELLO), but he was interested in expanding that project. Now, I read some of your “examples” or whatever and the first one relies entirely on Foucault’s conception of juro-disciplinary power (not his later and more nuanced conception of biopower), but even then, the author makes the claim that: “Foucault comes close to a rather anarchist position, in which all power should be resisted.” UM, NO. Resistance for Foucault was fundamentally not a question of a subject willing resistance to power. THAT IS SO SO WRONG BECAUSE ITS INCOMPATIBLE WITH HIS IDEA OF THE SUBJECT AS I STATED ABOVE. HERE LOOK AT THIS REALLY FAMOUS QUOTE BY FOUCAULT:
"The death of man is nothing to get particularly excited about. It’s one of the visible forms of a much more general decease, if you like. I don’t mean by it the death of god but the death of the subject, of the Subject in capital letters, of the subject as origin and foundation of Knowledge, of Liberty, of Language and History."
2. FOUCAULT’S CONCEPTION/CRITIQUE OF POWER IS COMPLETELY INCOMPATIBLE WITH LIBERTARIANISM. Okay this is related to everything I said above because POWER IS EVERYWHERE ALWAYS. It’s not a matter of “resistance” or “anarchism” then, because those things do not exclude the grasp of power. One of your other “examples” claims that Foucault was a “liberal” because he was concerned with the “self’s relation to self.” I mean, broadly speaking, yes Foucault was interested in the self’s relation to self. Unlike most misreadings of Foucault’s “totalizing” power-knowledge, there is a kind of “freedom” in Foucault. BUT ITS EXACTLY NOT A LIBERALIST CONCEPTION OF FREEDOM THAT RELIES ON THE TRANSCENDENTAL SUBJECT/AGENT THAT ONLY NEEDS TO OVERCOME/RESIST POWER. Here, have another quote in case you still don’t get it:
"In short, it is a matter of depriving the subject (or its substitute) of its role as originator, and of analyzing the subject as a variable and complex function of discourse."
If “freedom” can be said to exist in Foucault, it is tied to his conception of life as alterity and biopolitics as inseparable from the productive, “natural” dimension of human existence as the element in which power has to function. So famously, he said power becomes the “power to make live and let die,” but there is a limit here. There is something radically other about life that exceeds the grasp of power. This is because technologies of government/security control the milieu of a population but are unable to completely penetrate its biological processes. Therefore these technologies only function in a regulatory way. The political tendency towards systemization (e.g., “resistance”) is based on the presupposition of the impotence of power. The residual power of life is disclosed not as merely power over life but as power of life. There is an Inherent unpredictability here that serves as the limit that governmental power cannot overcome, but it is also, ironically, the source for power (basically the idea of exponential increase). Life remains resistant to biopolitical calculations then, but it is not because of a willing agent-subject. It is tied rather, to life as force of chance and to the capability for error. Foucault’s challenge to biopolitics was to conceived of a politics of disorganization that affirms life without finality, ends, or goals. Here’s where Deleuze’s conception of life as “ontology of force” becomes a helpful corollary. Anyway, you can see the radically different conception of life/the subject/politics here that only a very deliberate misreading could mistake for “liberalism” or “anarchy.”
Now, if you have read Foucault, as you claim (and just to be clear I’ve read D&P, the three parts of HoS, Birth of the Clinic, Fearless Speech, good chunks of Archaeology of Knowledge and The Order of Things, half of his College de France lectures, more essays than I can count, more interviews than I can count, and some of these more than once or twice), THERE IS SIMPLY NO WAY YOU COULD SERIOUSLY MAKE THIS CLAIM BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT THE TWO THINGS LISTED ABOVE ARE THE CENTRAL TENETS OF HIS WORK. Also, I didn’t even get into his thoughts on community, care, and alternative politics, which are all explicitly Marxist. Here, you can begin by reading this:
10:45 am • 9 March 2012 • 68 notes
“When power becomes bio-power, resistance becomes the power of life, a vital power that cannot be confined within species, environment or the paths of a particular diagram. Is not the force that comes from outside a certain idea of Life, a certain vitalism, in which Foucault’s thought culminates? Is not life this capacity to resist force? From The Birth of the Clinic on, Foucault admired Bichat for having invented a new vitalism by defining life as the set of those functions which resist death.”
Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, p. 77 (Continuum 2006 edition)
This is pretty much what I’m studying.
(Source: isperanza, via noapparatusexceptgutfear)
11:00 am • 5 September 2011 • 35 notes