What concerns me about Foucault's epistemology is the way it can be
misappropriated for causes which I believe he would deplore, much as I
continue to see Nietzsche misunderstood, or used in the battle trenches of
WWI along with the Gospel of Saint John, something which Nietzsche,
anti-nationalist that he was, as well as anti-anti-Semitic as he became,
would have deplored his misappropriation by Hitler for gassing Jews in
Why is Foucault so in danger of misunderstanding? There are a multiplicity
of reasons, and I shall begin to explore *some* of them here.
1) His over-reliance on Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx shows through.
In fact, at times of those "big three", I find myself going BACK to
Nietzsche for a clearer picture of the dilemmas we face. Nietzsche, for
example, knew full well the dangers of "overly Dionysian" behavior. Does
Foucault? In this book, he does, sarcastically pointing at figures like
people like Freud (page 129), and warns that mere "liberation" is not the
solution either, as seen in the last paragraph/sentence on page 159:
"The irony of this deployment is in having us believe that our
'liberation' is in the balance.'"
Good point. But is this something new? If I go back to Nietzsche's _The Gay
Science_ on the Four Errors, in Book Three, 115, I see that
"If we removed the effects of these four errors, we should also
remove humanity, humaneness, and 'human dignity.'"
And I, for one, do not want that.
This is what Gregory Bateson calls a "double-bind."
And yet I *want* to make progress.
I do NOT believe Camille Paglia when she said, in response to the "Ellen"
coming-out show (as reported in Time Magazine, at least), that
homosexuality is not, and never has been, "normal", and those that espouse
it will have to suffer the consequences. (Paraphrase only, Camille.) And
although Paglia has turned into a good Roman-style entertainer, recently
giving good laughs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with a remark such
as, "Men are by nature NOT monogomous... and it can be good for the
species..." The generalization is ill-conceived, and does not allow for
"others" as Foucault does.
2) I suggest that while being overly reliant on what have been
perceived as The Big Three for decades now, Foucault neglects other great
thinkers, particularly Emerson, JS Mill, and William James, *at their
best*, who are under-valued, and can counter-balance Marx, Nietzsche, and
Freud. I would also mention Simone de Beauvoir, the people that founded the
ACLU, people *still* at the ACLU who fight fight for many things in the
USA, including this Sodomy decision which was defeated by the Supreme Court
on the grounds of privacy intrusion, as well as prisoners' rights. Does the
ACLU need Foucault to realize the injustice done to people? Or could
Foucault, whose reliance on words like "mechanisms" and "apparatuses",
actually feed in to forces of cruelty and oppression, which Mill's far more
clearly stated "On Liberty" and "The Subjection of Women" still stand as
documents to protect individuals AGAINST? Mary Wollstonecraft, *for her
time*, was no slouch, either.
Mill, for one, was both courageous enough to look forward to a time when he
and his wife would live under "socialism" while also realizing the inherent
dangers of that term. And what Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have inherited
from some admittedly bitter days under Thatcher and Reagan is largely why
Blair stands on, perhaps, the strongest economy of Europe today, and Pax
Americana has more free trade routes OPEN, and has Clinton demanding an
American $$$ pump into the IMF so that this Southeast Asian bloodbath does
not wring people's necks, unnecessarily cruelly, just as his bail-out of
Mexico was helpful. Clinton realizes, for a multiplicity of reasons, that
it is in the self-interest of the US to have a STRONG Mexico, for example.
His use of apparatuses such as the IMF, just as Wilson wanted out of the
Treaty of Versailles in WWI, is more noble than, say, the myopically
get-back strategy of Clemenceau or the "let's protect and maybe even EXPAND
the Empire" view of Britain at that conference. I think a young man named
Ho Chi Minh took a cue from Wilson, by the way, when he asked for the END
of empire. Or maybe Minh didn't need Wilson any more than many need
I repeat, as I paraphrase someone in the Houses of Parliament during
William Blake's time:
The price of an ever-expanding tent
of liberty and tolerance is being forever vigilant.