Re: Materialism and Spirituality

I won't tackle the question about Foucault and spirituality, but
the one about Foucault and materialism -- in what sense is FOucault not
materialist? -- should be answerable. In The Archaeology of Knowledge,
Foucault says that he is not examining experiences, realities, or events
which are extra or non-discursive. This restriction of his work to the
discursive is troubling to a materialist, who wants to claim that
realities independent of the mind are what really matter and that those
who consider experience or realities dependent on the mind are idealists.
On this traditional view, Foucault is condemned as an idealist, as are
many other postmodern thinkers. Since idealist and spiritualist are not
the same, I would not want to pursue the spiritualist angle, but the
materialist or non-materialist perspective clearly hinges on the issue of
extra or non-discursive realities. Traditional Marxists who think of the
base as influencing the superstructure despite the superstructure's
illusions will not appreciate Foucault's rejecting the non-discursive.
Non-traditional, poststructuralist, or postmodern Marxists, or just
postmarxists, accept this restriction. They don't accept the
science/ideology division, and they consider materialism the
investigation of the institutional grounds of discourse. From this
perspective, Foucault is a materialist.

Philip Goldstein

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