Re: Foucault and 'the starving millions'

Malgosia Askanas writes:
>Tristan wrote:
>> The Iran case is, I think, an important element in thinking F.'s
>> practical politics, an element which, as I've said before, more than
>> a few "radical democrats" and "progressives" who would otherwise love to
>> include F. on their intellectual/political resumes are wary of
>> engaging because they are profoundly troubled by this evidence that
>> he was, at least on one occasion, perfectly willing to carry
>> through on a thoroughly Nietzschean political ethic.
>This is perhaps a completely irrelevant tangent, but one that interests
>me. What does it mean to talk about "practical politics" and
>"carrying through an ethic" when the events in question are happening
>in a different and irremediably distant country? When one uses the
>concept "will of the people" with respect to events happening in one's
>own country, one tends to use it as a sort of abstract machine which
>is in an interesting and often quite sinister dialogue with other
>aspects of oneself. Would Foucault have actively supported the Iranian
>revolution had been an Iranian? If not -- or if there is no way to impart
>any meaning to that question -- what kind of a practical ethical act
>is it, this distant "support"?

Some of these are interesting questions. In this particular case,
F. was perhaps not so distant as one might immediately presume a
French professor of philosophy must have been from Iran--he was
sent to Tehran in 1978 by an Italian newspaper to 'report' on the
goings on and made at least one other trip to Iran later in that
year as things were getting even heavier. So it's not quite as
though he was someone utterly ensconced in an ivory tower making
pronouncements about a social movement he never even saw. A
"practical politics" in this case, in my view, had mostly to do with
F.'s ability as an internationally known scholar to write and speak
about the events in Iran in a way which complicated most popular
media (particularly in *this* country) representations of the revolt
as simply "fundamentalist", "reactionary", "fanatical",
"anti-American" (although it may well have been some of these in
addition to other things). It may be a particular form of "politics",
necessarily restricted to the peculiar species of beast known as
academics and writers (and I would guess most of us fall within this
species), but it doesn't seem too far fetched for me to talk about a
writer/intellectual/academic/whatever you prefer taking a public
stance(s) re: some event, however "distant", and/or writing about it in
such a way as to potentially create difficulties for simpler
versions of "what's happening in Iran" as a "practical politics".
I'm not sure what, if anything, you mean to suggest by putting the
word "support" in "" marks, so perhaps you might say more there?

Regarding 'how F. would have reacted had he been Iranian'--this
seems, as you indicate, a rather uninteresting question. What would
you imagine such an exercise in hypothetical swapping of national/
ethnic/religious identities might permit in the way of fruitful
inquiry here?

We no longer know how to squat. I believe that this is an absurdity
and an inferiority of our races, civilizations, societies.
Marcel Mauss

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