Foucault and Revolution

Antoine Goulem writes in part:

The staging of trials is the result of material
conditions, which include symbolic interaction. Foucault was not
challenging the claim thatthe owners of the factories were oppressing the
workers in ways which required a response; nor was he, it seems to me,
pointing out the problem with their desire to hold the trial as an
existential version of the turn the other cheek view of political
action. What I think does follow from Foucault's views is that the
appropriate form of response to oppression emerges out of the specific
condiitons of oppression. It may be that I'm making him out to be Rosa
[end selection from Goulem]

I would like to contribute a thought on the point raised by Goulem. He notes
that Foucault was critical of the Maoist desires to hold "popular tribunals"
for capitalists. What is it that Foucault is objecting to here?

After all, one of the oppositional tactics Foucault discusses approvingly
elsewhere is the "reversal of discourse" move. He says in _History of
Sexuality,_ Vol. 1 that "discourses are tactical elements or blocks operating
in the field of force relations; there can exist different and even
contradictory discourses within the same strategy; they can, on the contrary,
circulate without changing their form from one strategy to another, opposing
strategy" (_HS_, Vol. 1, pp. 100-101). Well, why not use the "discourse" of
legal proceedings to torment and help to destroy your enemies?

You can! Like Nietzsche, Foucault is sometimes in the descriptive mode--"this
is how power works; look at this trick over here, see how effective it is or
weak it is"--and at other times in the evaluative mode.

He's also a bit of a contextualist and so he's going to think that sometimes
reversal is just great and at other times he's going to be worried. He says
in another place that at one point homosexuals took over the descriptions and
terms directed at them by the institutional sexologists and appropriated
them. "Yeah, that's right, just like you guys say! That's exactly what we're
like. Now get lost!" As he puts it, also in _History_ Vol. 1:

"There is no question that the appearance in nineteenth-century psychiatry,
jurisprudence, and literature of a whole series of discourses on the species
and subspecies of homosexuality, inversion, pederasty, and "psychic
hermaphrodism" made possible a strong advance of social controls into this
area of "perversity"; but it also made possible the formation of a "reverse"
discourse: homosexuality began to speak in its own behalf, to demand that its
legitimacy or "naturality" be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary,
using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified" (_HS_ Vol.
1, p. 101).

At other times, reversal has consequences that can reasonably be argued are
undesirable. Then the question would be, what kinds of consequences would
result from a reversal of the bourgeois trial procedure, and why might
Foucault be wary of the results?

== John ==



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