From: John Ransom <ransom@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 21:54:10 -0500 (EST)
On Wed, 2 Apr 1997, Jamie Walvisch wrote:
> I've just finished reading 'Nietzsche, Genealogy, History', and came across
> a curious sentence that I was hoping that perhaps someone could explicate.
> It's on p.89 of the Foucault Reader, and is related to the concept of
> chance. Having just quoted Nietzsche as saying that there is only 'the iron
> hand of necessity shaking the dice-box of chance,' Foucault goes on to say:
> 'Chance is not simply the drawing of lots, but raising the stakes in every
> attempt to master chance through the will to power, and giving rise to the
> risk of an even greater chance.'
> Now, I must admit that my knowledge of Nietzsche is a bit sketchy, and this
> may in fact be very simple - but would someone please explain to me what
> this theory of chance that Foucault is using is?
> Thanks in advance,
I think all Foucault is doing here is denying the usual claims about
history as the story of freedom's progress (or demise, for that matter).
Very close to your quotation -- a few sentences before it -- F says that
"The forces operating in history are not controlled by destiny or
regulative mechanisms, but respond to haphazard conflicts" (_LCMP_, 154).
But he does give this idea a Machiavellian twist in the sentence you
quote. (My version of "NGH" is in _language, counter-memory, practice_;
the sentence you quoted is on p. 155 of that version.)
First he says that "chance is not simply the drawing of lots." Aristotle
talks about extreme forms of democracy that fill offices by lot. This is
the most radical kind of democracy because absolutely no consideration is
given to the qualifications of the individual. Whoever is picked in the
draw wins. (See _Politics_ Bk. 4 1294b15-1294b39.)
If chance works purely by lottery, the individual is as passive as the
citizen waiting to find out if his name is picked. There's nothing to be
done. Foucault and Nietzsche want to keep the element of creativity and
initiative in the mix. Thus, just as Machiavelli calls upon his prince to
exercise "Virtu" in order to conqeur "Fortuna," so too F and N see us as
attempting to master chance, or at least intervene in it, by employing our
Will to Power.
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