_Remarks On Marx_

As I said in an earlier post, _Remarks On Marx_ (ROM) is a text produced
from interviews Foucault had with Duccio Trombadori. The topics of these
interviews span Foucault's perception of his position in philosophy, his
intellectual fermentation, reflections on historical events that occurred
around him, as well as his critical views on philosophers and
philosophies such as Marx, Marxism, Nietzsche, etc. The interviews took
place in 1978, the period between _Discipline and Punish_ and _The
History Of Sexuality, vol. I_.

We begin at the start of ROM with a confession by Foucault. This
confession is developed around what Foucault saw as the purpose of his
writings and critical investigations - to constantly and continuously
change oneself, transform oneself through the creative energies of
producing the text.


"Duccio Trombadori (DT): I think one could explain the interest which
has been concentrated on the results of your thought, especially in
recent times, in this way: there are few people, notwithstanding the
different ideological "languages" or points of view, who would not be
willing to recognize the progressive and disconcerting dissociation
between "words" and "things" in the contemporary world. This also
justifies the meaning of our discussion: an attempt to understand better
the leaps you've made in the course of your investigations and research,
the changes of field in your analysis, and the acquisition of new
theoretical understandings. From your studies of "originary
(_originaire_) experience" in _The History Of Madness_ to the theses more
recently presented in _The History Of Sexuality_, it seems that you
proceed by leaps, by shifting the levels of investigation." If I wanted
to characterize your thought in order to reveal its essential and
continuous character, I could begin by asking: in the light of your most
recent reserach on "power" and the "will to knowledge," what do you think
you have surpassed in your earlier work?

Michel Foucault (MF): Many things have certainly been surpassed. I'm
perfectly aware of having continuously made shifts both in the things
that have interested me and in what I have already thought. In addition,
the books I write constitute an experience for me that I'd like to be as
rich as possible. An experience is something you come out of changed.
If I had to write a book to communicate what I have already thought, I'd
never have the courage to begin it. I write precisely because I don't
know yet what to think about a subject that attracts my interest. In so
doing, the book transforms me, changes what I think. As a consequence,
each new work profoundly changes the terms of thinking which I had
reached with the previous work.

In this sense I consider myself more an experimenter than a theorist; I
don't develop deductive systems to apply uniformly in different fields of
research. When I write, I do it above all to change myself and not to
think the same thing as before.

DT: The idea of a work as "experience" should in any case suggest a
methodological point of reference. Or, if nothing else, it should permit
the possibility of extracting the directions taken in a method, within
the relationship between the means employed and the results obtained in
the investigation.

MF: I never know at the beginning of a project what I'll think at its
conclusion. Thus it is difficult to indicate clearly what the method is
which I employ. Each of my books is a way of dismantling an object, and
of constructing a method of analysis toward that end. Once a work is
finished, I can of course, more or less through hindsight, deduce a
methodology from the completed experience. And thus I happen to write
alternatively what I'd call books of exploration and books of method.
Books of exploration: _The History Of Madness_, _The Birth Of The
Clinic_, etc. Books of method: _The Order Of Things_, _The Archeology of
Knowledge_. And now, after having finished _Discipline And Punish_ and
while waiting to finish _The History Of Sexuality_, I am setting down
certain thoughts in articles, interviews, etc.

There's no fixed, definite rule, but a series of precise considerations
of completed works which can help me define other possible objects of
investigation. If you want an image, think of a network of scaffolding
that functions as a point of relay between a projbect being concluded and
a new one.

Thus I don't construct a general method of definitive value for myself or
for others. What I write does not prescribe anything, neither to myself
nor to others. At most, its character is instrumental and visionary or


Foucault's pattern of thought, a pattern that some have identified as
method, which occurs throughout his _oeuvre_ undoubtedly corresponds to
the explanation Foucault gives. Part of the entertainment of reading
Foucault is the fact that you never really know what to expect from him
in a given work. One need only compare any of Foucault's works to each
other in order to demonstrate this fact. Whether we choose _The Order Of
Things_, _Discipline And Punish_, etc. each text is a break from another,
a new investigation with new objects of study. We therefore touch on the
problematic of Foucault as author; a problematic that appears to be best
expressed not as method, but as a phenomenon that is a concern for
particular themes and objects of investigation.


"DT: What you're saying confirms the eccentricity of your position; and in a
certain sense it explains the difficulties encountered by critics,
commentators, and interpreters in the attempt to locate or to attribute
to you a precise place within contemporary philosophical thought.

MF: But I don't consider myself a philosopher. What I do is neither a
way of doing philosophy nor a way of suggesting to others not to do it.
As far as I'm concerned, the most important authors who have - I won't
say formed me - but who have enabled me to move away from my original
university education, are: Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Maurice
Blanchot, Pierre Klossowski. All of them people who were not
"philosophers" in the strict, institutional sense ofthe term. What most
struck and fascinated me about them is the fact that they didn't have the
problem of constructing systems, but of having direct, personal
experiences. At the university, however, I had been instructed to
attempt to understand those great philosophical monuments, which when I
was a student were called Hegelianism, phenomenology....

DT: You speak of phenomenology: but all phenomenological thought is
centered on the problem of experience, in which these thinkers place
their trust in order to delineate the theoretical horizon of their
philosophy. In what sense, then, do you distinguish yourself from the

MF: The phenomenologist's experience is basically a way of organizing
the conscious perception (_regard reflexif_) of any aspect of daily,
lived experience in its transitory form, in order to grasp its meaning.
Nietzsche, Bataille, and Blanchot, on the contrary, try through
experience to reach that point of life which lies as close as possible to
the impossibility of living, which lies at the limit or extreme. They
attempt to gather the maximum amount of intensity and impossibility at
the same time. The work of the phenomenologist, however, essentially
consists of unfolding the entire field of possibilities connected to
daily experience.

Moreover, phenomenology tries to grasp the significance of daily
experience in order to reaffirm the fundamental chracter of the subject,
of the self, of its transcendental functions. On the contrary,
expeirence according to Nietzsche, Blanchot, and Bataille has rather the
task of "tearing" the subject from itself in such a way that it is no
longer the subject as such, or that it is completely "other" than itself
so that it may arrive at its annihilation, its dissociation.

It is this de-subjectifying undertaking, the idea of a "limit-experience"
that tears the subject from itself, which is the fundamental lesson that
I've learned from these authors. And no matter how boring and erudite my
resulting books have been, this lesson has always allowed me to conceive
them as direct experiences to "tear" me from myself, to prevent me from
always being the same."


But it seems that "sameness" is what fuels the paradoxical character that
is Foucault. Here the "sameness" of self-transformation, of subject
wrenting, of analyzing the ruptures that exist between "words" and
"things" in the field of discourse, of pioneering new ways to both
constitute and analyze objects of knowledge all can lead one to
attributing to Foucault a system of thought. Foucault is no
systems-thinker like Kant or Hegel. But there is something about
Foucault, something about the ethos he generates in his work, that causes
a great uneasiness; an uneasiness that is rooted in a disruption of our
interpretive categories, categories we hold close and dear - a break in
an otherwise secure conscience.


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