From: "Joe Cronin" <croninj@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 96 11:28:28 EST
There is a lot of disagreement as to how Marx should/is to
be read. The early/late distinction, the idea of Marx's
"epistemic break" with the humanism which is part and parcel
of the Hegelian dialectic, and the notion that Marx
transformed the dialectic into a non-essentialist,
"scientific" praxis, is Althusser's (and Etienne Balibar's)
notion, found in "Readign Capital" especially. There are
several "continuous readings of Marx, some of which are
essentialist, such as Scott Meikle's reading, and some of
which are closer to a Peter Winchian social sicen model
based on the notion of the "doctrine of internal relations"
- of which hte best example I can find is Bertell Ollmann's
"Alienation." In many ways on noncommittal on this point,
because each view has serious shortcomings; Foucault, I
think, was largely influenced by the Althusserian model,
although elements of soomehting like Ollmann's cocneption of
"internal relations" (which can easily lead into a
metaphysical conception) is there in Foucault's work. The
Althusserian model suggests that the base-sup[erstructure
model is not what Marx centered his scientific theory,
historical materialism, around. It views the "scoail whole"
as a "Complex totality" (borrowing from Gramsci) whcih is
"decentred" - each element of scosiety holds a "relative
autonomy" (hence the predication on "local analyses") which
is causally efficacious (meaning "conjunctions" of
superstructural elements, scuh as edcuation and the church)
can also have a causla impact on the social whole.
Althusser has a vague cocneption of "overdetermination" in
which the specific, autonomous social practices, and
specific conjunctures of such, can have a causal impact, and
radically change the social whole when linked to the economy
"in hte last instance."
Foucault does not necessarily go in for the principle of
overdfetermination, though traces of the concept of there,
btu he does look at scoaiety as a complex whole in which
sector has a relative autonomy, and I would argue, causla
As far as the periodisation of FOucalt' work, especially
taht given by Dreyfus and Rabinow, I think there are soem
serious questions to ask, especially ones related to the
sepcific projects Foucault set out for himself in each
specific instance, and also in regard to the "totalizing"
conception of his own authorship he gives in "Teh Subject
and Power" and in a number of later interviews.