From: "Joe Cronin" <croninj@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 10 Apr 96 10:44:04 EST
I'm sorry, I wrote yesterday's entry in a terrible hurry.
The reference for "I'm an empiricist..." is an interview F.
had with Pierre Boncenne entitled "On Power," (1978) in the
anthology POLITICS, PHILOSOPHY, CULTURE (p.106).
As for your claim about the inescapability of any
metaphysics, i'm not sure how to respond; for Nietzsche,
language itself contains "a whole metaphysics;" Wittgenstein
makes similar claims at times, and of course Derrida tries
to spell out a metaphysics of the sign, and so on.
But, what the empiricist/materialist tradition has brought
us is a way of NOT rely8ing on metaphysical entities,
"occult" qualities, dispositions, faculties, etc. as sort of
Deus ex machina which come out of the blue to get us past
soem philosophical problems. In Berkeley's case, for
example, we cannot establish the identity of an object, even
despite very similar associations we moght make between
sense impresssion, without bringing God into the picture.
Hume, of course, disabuses us of these kinds of explanations
- by spelling out the ground rules fro a more descriptive
If Foucault can be said to give any kind of "scientific"
explanations - and I agree he does not always indicate that
he's interested in doing so, but on the other hand he
clearly is not loosely or randomly throwingaround
observations and researches either; well, than his
"science," which in some ways is a science of power
relations, is a descriptive/materialist one (remember
Wittgenstein: "stop explaining and start describing"). What
do you describe? The effects of power relations on bodies.
How do yiou describe these effects? By looking at a host of
things: the concrete practices in which power/knowledge is
instantiated; teh "logic" of the practioners of various
"disciplines," as well as the "logic" or even the
statements, of discursive subjects; the technologies which
facilitate &Make possible the administration of the
discplines; and finally, the systems of disperdion,
tranformation etc. through which the logic, techniques, and
"signs" are disseminated. This last piec is the piece he
borrows from a Marxian sociology. One can describe
'general' phenomena (and a trivial example would be the use
of money), without reverted to a metaphysics of power, only
by describing both the 'economy', and the 'economic
rationality' (as found in practices) through which certain
signs, techniques etc. are transformed into general
Foucault is not solely interewsted in describing "local"
events. Marx himsel, by the way, uses the term "local" to
describe concrete struggles - which, by the way, he saw as
necessary in establishing a generalized conception of power
relations. Why is this so? Capitalism is an
ever-generalizing system; it continuallly seeks growth,
colonizes etc. in newer (always concrete) forms. In
describing a certain event, one must look at teh specificity
of these forms - but that alone is not a sufficient
explanation of the event. One must also refer to the
"rationality of the marketplace," to the systematic manner
in which classes are increasingly assembled along two poles
as capital develops, etc. in adequately describing the
specific event. To get at the general phen, one begins with
specific/local phen. Isn't this what Focuault's
"ascending analysis" discussed in several of the essays in
the Power/KNowledge anthology, is all about?