From: Matthew King <making@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 02:27:00 -0500 (EST)
On Sun, 15 Nov 1998, Daniel F. Vukovich wrote:
> That the families and friends of former victims of Pinochet's rule want the
> man arrested and brought to trial, even if this means using international
> law and foreign courts, is good enough warrant for me to fully support
> their efforts and desires.
It's their celebrations--and the bloodlust they seem to betray--that
> That this justice or "retribution" would
> largely be symbolic (beyond locating the remains of some of these political
> victims), that an international system is involved
As far as that goes, the argument that a Pinochet trial might make other
tyrants think twice (though perhaps only about venturing abroad) seems to
have picked up its first signs of vindication--it is reported that Laurent
Kabila, prior to a trip to Europe last week, was moved to first seek
assurances that he would not be arrested.
> That such a trial might also help
> bring to light how Pinochet came to power -- which is to say with the help
> of the U.S. government and the CIA -- would itself be a lovely event.
I dunno. Everybody knows (or everybody who cares to know knows) that
Noriega was propped up by the CIA; everybody knows that some of the
weapons used by Iraq during the Gulf War were supplied by the nations
whose armies they were used against ... doesn't seem to change much.
I would think, anyway, that unless the U.S. explicitly supported
Pinochet's crimes, the American links would not come up in any trial
(though of course they might in associated media coverage. Not to
mention in listserv discussion.;) In fact, as I think others have pointed
out, putting Pinochet on trial could serve to let others off the hook--and
not only as far as Chile is concerned--by demonizing Pinochet. The
celebrations over Pinochet's arrest seem to support that.
> "When the proletariat takes power, it may be quite possible that the
> proletariat will exert towards the classes over which it has just
> triumphed, a violent, dictatorial and even bloody power. I can't see what
> objection one could make to this."
> Obviously the Pinochet-scenario is rather different from this (and F goes
> on to note the possible scenario of the proletariat coming to exercise
> tryany over itself, which of course would be "objectionable").
I don't think that the one exercise of bloody power is all that easily
separable from the other. History seems to show that once the taste for
blood is acquired, it can't be extinguished. (In a couple of later
interviews (Remarks on Marx being one of them), Foucault even points out
that it is a short step from intellectual bloodlust--the polemic
attitude--to physical bloodletting, if the appropriate conditions present
themselves.) Which is why the anti-Pinochet celebrations bother me--I
find their vindictiveness threatening. People who cheer at executions
scare me. It is sometimes necessary and sometimes justified to visit
misfortune upon others--but I wish that would always be undertaken with
regret, no matter how justified. The world would be a much nicer place to
Well, pretty bourgeois--and not very Nietzschean--of me, isn't it?
> But this
> quote suggests that Foucault was no Nietzchean- or anarcho- Purist (oddly,
> he sounds like a card-carrying Bolshevik).
Between 1968 and 1972, he very often does. James Miller reports that
Foucault "half-seriously" declared himself a Trotskyist in the late '60s.
I'm not sure if the passage you quote is from that period--and it could be
that he meant that one could make no objection *in principle* to the
bloody power exercised by a proletarian dictatorship, in which case it
becomes a more familiarly Foucauldian statement.
> First off, while it is clear that F's historical studies are richly and
> uniquely detailed, it is also easy to overestimate how much archival and
> other historical dirty work he did do. This isn't a general criticism,
> just a warning against romanticizing him and this dimension of his work.
OK. But the fact remains that if anyone wanted to provide any kind of
analysis--let alone a "Foucauldian" one--of the Chilean situation that
would be any more penetrating than those provided by the TV talking heads,
and that would avoid participating in whatever quasi-ideological
distortions there are in the conventional media's representations of the
situation, they would need to spend several days (at least!) doing
> >A Foucauldian understanding of political reality is not that difficult to
> >come by, and does not require many words to express. A Foucauldian
> >*analysis* of a particular political reality is a different thing.
> Never mind for now how precarious is the distinction b/w judgment (which is
> what I think you mean by "understanding" here?) and "analysis".
By "understanding" I'm referring to something like the gestalt of the
situation provided by Foucauldian lenses. Which points toward a kind of
pet peeve of mine--the perpetual anxiety about "applying" philosophy
(which takes as its motto that thesis on Feuerbach of Marx's). If
philosophy really is the attempt to "think differently", then philosophy
is always already "applied". (Following from that, Foucault's and
Deleuze's notion of theory-as-toolkit doesn't sit all that well with me--I
prefer the image of the lens to that of the screwdriver ... although, of
course, a lens is also a kind of tool.)
> problem with dealing with the present is that one doesn't have the option
> of doing years and years of archival work, so one may then bravely and
> authoritatively venture forth and actually take a position on something.
> With this Pinochet-event, we are talking about the world and history
> in-process, and there isnt an archive for it (at least not one like their
> is for, say, C.18 France). If we are talking about understanding and
> writing the political history of Chile in the 70s or 80s, then indeed much
> homework would need to be done. If, however, we are talking about taking a
> position on the possible arrest of Pinochet (and one doesnt need to do much
> research to place him on the political and ethical spectrums) then,
> fortunately, things are easier for us.
Well, yes, and that's why I wanted to differentiate between analysis and
something more immediate--whether understanding or judgement.
---Matthew A. King---Department of Philosophy---York University, Toronto---
"It's no use trying to be *clever*--we are all clever here;
just try to be *kind*--a little kind."
--------------------------(F.J. Foakes Jackson)----------------------------