Re: Foucault and Power

I concur with the fatigue expressed about the standard arguments against
Foucault's conception of power (it's everywhere, hence nowhere, or that it
excludes any possibility of resistance). One of the more interesting
critiques (a very friendly one, of course) comes from Judith Butler's last
book, _Bodies that Matter_. After arguing that Foucault shows how power
acts to materialize bodies on a grid of intelligibility, she criticizes
Foucault for not taking into account what she refers to as a "radical zone
of unintelligibility." In her own words:

Insofar as Foucault traces the process of materialization as an investiture
of discourse and power, he focuses on that dimension of power that is
productive and formative. But we need to ask what constrains the domain of
what is materializable, and whether there are _modalites_ of
materialization -- as Aristotle suggests, and Althusser is quite to cite.
To what extent is materialization governed by principles of intelligibility
that requires and institute a domain of radical _unintellibibility_ that
resists materialization altogether or that remains radically
dematerialized? Does Foucault's effort to work the nations of discourse
and materiality though one another fail to account for not only what is
_excluded_ from the economies of discursive intelligibility that he
describes, but what _has to be excluded_ for those economies to function as
self-sustaining systems? (35)

Harrison Brace
Stanford, Department of Comparative Literature

Department of Comparative Literature
Encina Hall
Stanford, CA 94305-2031

Sanity is the lot of those who are most obtuse, for lucidity destroys one's
equilibrium: it is unhealthy to honestly endure the labors of the mind
which incessantly contradict what they have just established.

Georges Bataille



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