From: Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 10:05:56 -0500
Alex Patrick wrote:
>> I think that's perceptive--when I first got into Foucault, I began by
>> reading HS1 (not really knowing what was going on), then went back to
>> D&P--and one of the things that immediately struck me was how much D&P
>> seems to be flavoured by Marx, and how that flavour completely drops out
>> between the two books. But I've never seen anyone else comment on that
>> shift, so I kind of wondered if I imagined it.
>Wouldn't you say that HS1 nonetheless speaks to a certain discourse on
>class mediated by the discursive strategies of biopower?
Obviously, the control of reproduction--of laboring bodies, of the family
as the site of bio/social reproduction and sex/gender/sexuality discipline,
of social relations of production, etc.--is crucial for capital, and the
concept of biopower is useful for analyses of it. This is the area where
employing marxism, Foucauldian analysis, feminism, social history, and
critical theory on 'race' at the same time should produce useful knowledge.
Etymologically, the 'proletariat' stems from the term to refer to 'those
who produce only offsprings'--the propertyless class of of Ancient Rome. In
an economy dominated by agricultural production and organized by the
households as production units, where men, women, and children were all
expected to work, as in feudalism, children were economic assets. In fact,
the modern notion of childhood would be unknown, since there were no social
conditions to sentimentalize all children as innocent beings to be
protected from the world (of work and adults). In contrast, the emergence
of the bourgeoisie, with its ideology of character-building +
self-discipline, sexual and otherwise, suitable for those whose power
didn't (or shouldn't) depend upon hereditary privileges, made children
emerge as objects through whose bodies biopower was to work. ('Evolutionary
biology' and its emphasis on the idea that 'ontogeny recapitulates
phylogeny' also made the child a problematic figure, since along with women
and subordinated races, s/he 'by nature' fell short of the complete
civilization at the top of evolutionary hierarchy.) Foucault, I think,
claims that the bourgeoisie made themselves objects of sexual &
reproductive discipline first, leaving the working class initially outside
the workings of power/knowledge of sexuality.
However, early industrialization and its subsequent development +
transformation were destined to render the working class objects of
power/knowledge as well. The uprooting of peasants, their migration to
towns, and increasing urbanization made salient the question of how to
control the urban population and check their disorderly ways.
Industrialization brought women and children into factories, mines, etc.,
making their health and morals objects of social reforms.
In the late nineteenth century, marriage- and birth-rates were declining as
well, especially among the middle class but also among the working class,
causing anxieties about changes in womanhood, race reproduction, class
reproduction, and so on.
One may say that there were (and still are) contradictory material and
ideological tendencies, working at cross-purposes, to problematize the
'population.' One one hand, capitalism produces (through technological
development) and benefits from the relative surplus population (or the
reserve army of labor), which can be thrown into (or out of) work according
to the needs of production. (Gender and race in part get reproduced as
useful axes of domination, which helps to naturalize the unemployment of
certain segments of workers.) On the other hand, the Malthusian thought of
'overpopulation' is a constant specter in the bourgeois ideology, which
probably stems from the fear of the out-of-work masses who may entertain
the idea of social revolution; it helps to make the working class behavior
(how many children do they produce?)--as opposed to capitalism as a system
of exploitation--the main problem of hunger and misery. Add racial fear to
the above mix, it would have been amazing had the 'population' not become a
problem capable of organizing discourses and disciplinary apparati.