Re: Foucault and 'the starving millions'

Robert S. Leventhal writes:
>To whom it may concern:
>In my view, Megill has misconstrued both Derrida and Foucault, but, more to
>the point, he trivializes them by bunching them together with Nietzsche, and
>reducing the considerable differences -- differences of politics, of ethics,
>and of social theory -- that define their respective projects.

I know nothing of Megill's book, nor does it sound like a particularly
interesting one if the quotation posted here is at all indicative of
what sort of take on Foucault is contained therein. But why this
urgency to 'rescue' F. from Nietzsche? If indeed this Megill believes
"bunching [F.] together with Nietzsche" is somehow a one step means
to "trivializ[ing]" him, then I would submit that this is perhaps
about Megill's simple reading of Nietzsche (and his faith that
his readers will be just as convinced that one cannot be too
attached to Nietzsche as political/social theorist without getting
infected by the poison of N.'s 'latent Nazism'). This is meant as no
accusation, Robert, (I don't know you well enough for that yet (:)
but it seems to me a more and more frequent phenomenon, especially among
some US academic 'Foucauldians' and 'cultural studies' folks, to take
one's Foucault wholly from selected fragments of History of Sexuality,
Vol. 1 (i.e., those in which, to simplify ridiculously, F. discusses power
as distributed throughout a web and resistance as ubiquitous) which are
interpreted as uncomplicated paeans to 'liberatory practices' of whatever
stripe (but nearly always involving no risky incursions upon the sanctity
of humanism and its ethical and moral precepts--and generally perfectly
compatible with a liberal progressivism which F. spent more than a few
pages scathingly critiquing). Nietzsche and the undeniably dangerous
elements of a politics of the will are accordingly carefully removed,
as a tumor of some malign sort, and F. is thus made ready for
a very peculiar sort of political 'radicalism' which is perhaps
indigenous and specific to the US--in which one can count as irrefutable
signs of one's militancy membership in various congressional lobbying
groups and the possession of a black leather motorcycle jacket
(which perhaps one wears to the meetings of said lobbying groups).
For my own odd reasons, I am always curious of the motivations behind
efforts to chop the most dangerous elements from a thinker who had so
much to say and write about danger and violence.

>a political activist all of his life. He never ceased
>struggling for prison reform, gay, lesbian and minority rights, the rights of
>the mentally ill, and the victims of totalitarian regimes.

I would suggest here that the idea that F. "struggled" for "rights"
as such, presented *without* the complication of his Nietzscheanism, is
perhaps as misleading as the reading of Megill you are here deploring.

> I remember at the Foucault conference
>at USC in 1981, somebody asked Foucault what he should do in response to the
>increasing institutionalization of thought, and Foucault said that as a
>philosopher, he could only describe and analyze these regimes and the forms
>of power they engender historically, structurally, in terms of the production
>of certain types of subjects, sciences, procedures, arguments, and
>institutionalized disciplines.

I'm rather surprised he answered such a question at all. Did the
questioner perhaps believe that there can be thought *outside* institutions
and that therefore there could be a greater or lesser amount of
"institutionalized thought"? F. himself certainly seemed quite less than
convinced of such a proposition.

One cannot construct the universe without the possibility of its
being destroyed
Maurice Blanchot

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