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Media Rant About Foucault

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Just to clear things up: Foucault did not like Marx or Marxists, postmodernism is not Marxism, Marxism is usually not "Communism", and reading and believing in the work of Marx and his interpreters doesn't make you a "Marxist" or a "Communist."

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from what i understand, foucault did have some marxist ties early in his career, but eventually disavowed any and all ties to organized political/social groups.

 

i WISH my english syllabus was focused on critical literacy... although my english teacher is an incredibly well-informed 24 year old who took two years of lit crit from jacques derrida himself. i once recieved an A+ from him on my essay regarding the intersection of juridical and disciplinary power in The Scarlet Letter. it makes class a little more fun when you can sort of sit there and watch your teacher struggling not to break out into a foucauldean rant about the fact that our school has, say, security cameras which, according to the admin, may or may not be being watched at any time.

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Just to clear things up: Foucault did not like Marx or Marxists, postmodernism is not Marxism, Marxism is usually not "Communism", and reading and believing in the work of Marx and his interpreters doesn't make you a "Marxist" or a "Communist."

 

Foucault's relationship to marx/marxism is complex, but mostly he is against it. I would agree with that. But of course, Foucault also was against being called a postmodernist, so there really isn't that much to get from Foucault's opposition to marxism (and even though he is against marxism, Foucault certainly liked to go on and on about Marx. Remember Discipline and Punish?).

 

the rest of what you said, probably true. Except the marxist and communist thing, not sure how you can be a marxist and not a communist. But in the end, all these terms are mostly empty, which is not to say they are not useful, but they have no positive content.

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Foucault was a sadist, not a masochist. Maybe the author was thinking of Nietzsche? Miller's bio of Foucault is mostly trash, and often false. The Lives of Michel Foucault is a much better biography.

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Foucault was a sadist, not a masochist. Maybe the author was thinking of Nietzsche? Miller's bio of Foucault is mostly trash, and often false. The Lives of Michel Foucault is a much better biography.

hi "sadie"

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when i read the article yesterday, i was caught in amusement at its almost arbitrary concatenation of varied theories and complex theoretical orientations. then it occurred to me, isn't the radical answer to this conservative disavowal to, in fact, take it at its word; to say, yes, critical theory's siege on academia IS a marxist infiltration for the 21st century and WILL lead to subversion by the marxist political project (or at least a project similar in scope and intensity), and this is precisely WHY we should support it?

 

while i'm aware of the incommensurability of marx's normative assumptions about history and structural power and foucault's scathing critique(s) of them, it's worth emphasizing that a great deal of the ideas foucault worked on to develop his concepts of power/knowledge and tools for geneaology were already salient in marxism a century beforehand: what is the distinction between formal and actual freedom but the insight that power determines the very coordinates and possibilities of the sites of its resistance? what is the exegesis of discontinuities amongst societies of precapitalist social formations in a history of "accidentals" but the seed of geneaology's endeavor to locate points of historical discontinuity in modes of power (for marx: production) and how they alter the "superstructure" of the landscape of knowledges(s) of a society?

 

consider marx's ahistoricism in criticizing the naivete of historians that take every historical epoch at its word, in the ideological narratives that construct a continuity which masks the material conditions of relations of power that interact dialectically within that society.

 

take engels' insight in Anti-Duhring that power informs knowledge when he says, "The growing realization that existing social relations are irrational and unjust, that reason has become nonsense and good deeds a scourge is only a sign that changes have taken place quietly in the methods of production and forms of exchange with which the social order (as the collection of "self-evident" laws of nature) is no longer in accord."

 

what is "dialectical materialism" but the seed of the discursive resolution to the problem of structural determinism and agency?

 

consider that "crime" for marx was a construction and function of historically contingent prohibitions.

 

consider that marx predicted panopticism as the inevitable technology of efficiency in the centralization of means of production and Capital's claim on labour-power (the units of an individual's very existence).

 

what foucault offers are post-structural ways to think of power beyond economic systems of production and the retort to marx that there is no "guiding hand" of dialectical progress, that, ultimately, there are only the representations that marx insists we have to abstract and analyze. consequently, we have more sites of political resistance but a subjectivity far more constrained than that of marx's revolutionary subject (though arguably not in the sense of hardt and negri's multitude).

 

in short, marx was ahead of his time. many of us are still catching up; many of us are "rediscovering" his insights in more convoluted theoretical forms (zizek is an amusing application of marx more authentic to hegel). know your roots.

 

the worst shit from this article is the paternalistic idea that parents and educators obviously shouldn't expose impressionable students to foucault

 

what's most ironic is that marx would AGREE with the author; he thoroughly opposed the politicization of education and thought "government has no more business in school than the church."

 

Foucault also was against being called a postmodernist

 

i agree that we should stop calling foucault a "postmodernist," but isn't it telling how thoroughly modernity has pervaded its double of "post-modernity", so that the distinction is arbitrary?

 

Foucault was a sadist, not a masochist.

 

the relationship between sadism and masochism is ambivalent, as they rely on reflexive configurations of power. and, unfortunately, i never saw foucault in the bedroom.

 

not sure how you can be a marxist and not a communist.

 

marx was a communist; the rest are Communists.

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the relationship between sadism and masochism is ambivalent, as they rely on reflexive configurations of power. and, unfortunately, i never saw foucault in the bedroom.

 

This is just bullshit, right?

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This is just bullshit, right?

 

you know, lacan makes me think more reflexively of de sade, such that i see a becoming-masochist in him; but i'm sure i'll think differently after Coldness and Cruelty, so excuse me.

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you know, lacan makes me think more reflexively of de sade, such that i see a becoming-masochist in him; but i'm sure i'll think differently after Coldness and Cruelty, so excuse me.

 

Actually, i dislike coldness and cruelity in general. I don't know why Deleuze believes switches cannot exist, but, yeah. lacan gets bdsm even less.

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to describe foucault as an anti-capitalist, especially early in his career, would be accurate. unfortunately, for many, 'marxist ideology' amounts to the same label. we could go through the number of significant differences in some depth : foucault's rejection of the base/superstructure model of history (such that crusades against childhood masturbation are explained solely by the industrial need for productive workers) as well as his uncompromisingly harsh criticisms of totalizing alternatives (like the dictatorship of the proleteriat) which often end up fulfilling the same societal functions under different banners (e.g. copying the plans for the red army from the previous czsarist army in the early u.s.s.r.). foucault is accused of putting on airs of 'superior vision', yet he continually lambasted the concept of universal intellectuals. what's truly nasty is blaming foucault for his contraction of the a.i.d.s. virus, which the above author does not even have the balls to mention (instead choosing the vaguer, 's.t.d.').

 

"Was this paragon truly the possessor of an exceptional, visionary and supremely balanced mind whose theories of life and society should be accepted by the rest of us - including parents of hundreds of thousands of children now attending Australian schools - without question?"

 

of course not. ask questions. that's integral to the discussion of any public thinker and activist. foucault didn't wish for others to mindlessly repeat his views - he encouraged criticism at every turn. he merely tried to shed some new light on very specific problems that societies like ours have consistently run up against, such as madness, criminality, and sexuality. he came up with some interesting theories and methods, if you give them half a chance. he'd never hold himself up as a 'paragon' but a specific intellectual who does his best to speak the rude truth with courage and rigor.

 

foucault really gets it from both sides: either he's too much of a supporter of the enlightenment or he rejects all rational thought; either he's too bourgeois or the enemy of all things bourgeois. in the end, he's a guy with some ideas. deal with those and refrain from throwing out the baby with the biography.

 

parents of skool-children would do well to consider the harms of disciplinary power. as for 'the supremely balanced mind' bit, one of foucault's chief lines of inquiry relates to how the notion of well-adjusted, well-rounded individuals limits our capacity for liberty and creativity. let them who are without imbalance cast the first stone ... giles auty need not step forward.

 

 

kevin.sanchez@gmail.com

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