Re: Foucault and 'the starving millions'

Since it appears the lengthy response to Malgosia's latest which I
thought I'd saved somehow disappeared into the void created when our
system crashed today, here is an abbreviated version. It seems
no matter what precautions I take I am unable to avoid rather too
frequently seeing several screens of text vanish into nothingness,
unseen by any reader other than myself. Foucault spoke of writing
to have no face; I sometimes seem to write to have no writing.

Malgosia Askanas writes:
>No, I won't give you either of these answers. My doubts about
>the notion of "support" are actually not limited to intellectuals.
>Let's see if I can articulate what it is that bothers me.
>It seems to me that when a person -- any person --
>"supports" something that does not directly touch his life,
>he always does so from the position of some kind
>of totalizing framework -- or what I would call a "legitimizing

Here I have questions about how one distinguishes those events which
"directly touch [one's] life" and those which do not. And I'm
curious as to why it seems so apparent that it is the latter which
call forth "totalizing frameworks" while the former apparently
invoke very different cognitive machinery.

>the feeling of beeing called upon to take a stance vis a vis
>a distant cause already seems to involve a complicity with the
>machine that insinuates the cause into one's consciousness as
>something that demands a stance-taking.

But I tried to present an interpretation in my last post which finds
a "complicity" in imagining one can *avoid* stance-taking. One is
always already implicated, per this view. So the move to "resist"
the "machine" by opting out can be seen as de facto support for the
status quo, the forces of reaction, insert your favorite bogeyman
here. How would your conception handle this?

>Headlines announcing various distant causes are ubiquitous in our
>lives. They are presented in a way which creates the illusion that we must
>urgently concern ourselves with these things. But our "knowledge"
>of the details of these causes is manufactured and illusory, which
>is why I think that any "decisions" we can make about them can be made
>only from some grossly totalizing perspective.

Malgosia, you sound almost like Chomsky here--I'd not thought you spoke
this language of 'media distortion vs. purity of *direct* experience'.
Or am I misinterpreting? In any event, I'm confused by the move
you seem to have made re: the justification for refusing "support"
to "distant" events. Initially, you seemed to be focussing on
moral notions of life and death and responsibility, wherein what
was at issue (in my interpretation anyway) in deciding to "support"
"distant" causes had to do with whether one was willing to die (and
death here was seemingly being posed in humanist terms, as the great
negative Other to life, the ultimate stake and the ultimate measure
of one's political practice) and the assumption of a
certain responsibility, the obligation to be willing to trade one's
life for the "distant" cause in which others lose their lives. This
seemed to me to touch on precisely the issues in Foucault which
motivated me to post the initial reference to his involvement in the
Iranian revolution--that is, it seemed to be arriving at a basis for
evaluating the conduct of political practice which was quite at odds
with Foucault's professed scepticism on such ethical and moral
issues. From there, though, you now seem to be saying that
"support" for "distant" causes is problematic (only?) because of
distorted information about them propagated by the media. These are
very different emphases, no? And surely you don't think that our
understanding of events which "directly impact [our] lives" is untroubled
by media, do you?

>>And Foucault himself had remarked
>>on at least one occasion that he studied mechanisms of power "so
>>that those who are inserted in certain relations of power might
>>escape them through their actions of resistance and rebellion, might
>>transform them in order not to be subjugated any longer"--if that's
>>not "support" in your view, perhaps it is a problem of *definition*
>>between us!
>It _is_ support, in my view as well; in this case not of a distant
>cause and therefore not subject to the doubts I have described above.
>Resistance, rebellion and subjugation are part of everyone's life.
>But it is precisely because of this position on Foucault's part that
>your statement about his support of a seemingly distant cause awakened
>my curiosity -- if I've explained myself with any clarity at all you
>by now understand the nature of my interest.

But I read F.'s statement here as quite general and indeed silent on
the issue of "distan[ce]"--can one not take from this eg., the idea
that "support" for the Iranian revolution is part of a "resistance"
to "relations of power" not only if one is an Iranian militant, but
also if one is eg., a Western academic/activist seeking to "rebel"
against the direct impact 'at home' of policies involving imperialism and
state support of dictatorial regimes and media distortion of
political events at home and abroad? And if this is so, doesn't
this murk up your "distant"/"direct impact" dichotomy almost
beyond repair?

I am yet sceptical that either of the two emphases you've expressed
(the life/death issue and the 'manufactured media knowledge' point)
are salient factors in evaluating Foucault on political practice.
He is in my view more dangerous (more Nietzschean) than that.

Without music life would be a mistake.

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