Re: Foucault and Revolution

On this topic, we should also read Foucault's essay, "Is it Useless to
Revolt?" (trans in _Philosophy & Social Criticism_, vol 8/1, 1981).

The essay's immediate aim is a rejoinder to those critics who chastised
Foucault for expressing enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution as it was
developing. But he uses this also to reflect on the situation of
revolutions in general. I think it is worth reading in light of the
common claim that F's view necessitates a pessimism about dominance and
oppression. This is an inadequate reading of his works. And "Is it
Useless to Revolt?" shows why.

The short answer to the title's question is "No."

A couple of passages then:

"There is no right to say: 'Revolt for me, there is a final
liberation coming for every man.' But I am not in agreement with someone
who would say: 'It is useless to revolt; it will always be the same
thing.' One does not make the law for the person who risks his life
before power. Is there or is there not a reason to revolt? Let's leave
that question open. There are revolts and that is a fact. It is through
revolt that subjectivity (not that of great men but that of whomever)
introduces itself into history and gives it a breath of life....

"If someone asked me how I conceive what I am doing, I would
respond with a contrast. The strategist is the man who says: 'What is
the matter? Such death, such a cry, such a revolt in the context of the
great necessity of the whole? Or, on the other hand, what difference
does such a general principle make for the particular situation in which
we find ourselves?' I am totally indifferent to whether the strategist
is a politician, an historian, a revoutionary, a partisan of the Shah or
of the Ayatullah. My ethic is the inverse of the one suggested by these
questions. It is 'anti-strategic': to be respectful when something
singular arises, to be intransigent when power offends against the
universal. A simple choice, but a difficult work. It is always
necessary to watch out for something, a little beneath history, that
breaks with it, that agitates it; it is necessary to look, a little
behind politics, for that which ought to limit it, unconditionally.
After all, it is my work. I am neither the first not the only one to be
doing it. But I have chosen to do it."

--E. Heroux


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