Re: Freud & Foucault (was: post-isms)

On Jul 14, 5:56pm, R Shapiro wrote:
> Subject: Freud & Foucault >
> >From my readings of Freud, and also of Laplanche, my sense is that Freud
> continued to believe in the classical unified subjectivity that some people
> have been calling a hallmark of modernism, while at the same time his own
> theories were relentlessly breaking this subjectivity apart. Some of the
> contradictions of Freudian meta-psychology (id/ego/super-ego, ucs/pcs/cs,
> the hydraulic model of drives) come from this more fundamental "disavowal"
> on Freud's part. He knew, or suspected, what the implications were, but
> just the same...His continued belief in the objectivity of science, and
> that psychoanalysis was a branch of science, were similar: his own theory
> helped to undermine the knowledge claims of the kind of science he
> nonetheless always wanted psychoanalysis to be. So in some slightly hidden
> ways he was a pioneering post-<something>ist.
> Now Foucault never talks about Freud this way, at least not that I recall.
> But I haven't ever read Foucault specifically from that perspective. Has
> anyone looked more closely at this relationship? I would be very interested
> to read what other people think of this.
>-- End of excerpt from R Shapiro

Madness and Civilization, p276-278

Please bear with me and the long quote from Foucault that follows, but I
sense that it may be relevant to the discussion that you are trying to

"If we wanted to analyze the profound structures of objectivity in the
knowleddge and practice of nineteenth-century psychiatry from Pinel to Freud,
we should have to show in fact that such objectivity was from the start a
reification of a magical nature, which could only be accomplished with the
complicity of the patient himself, and beginning from a transparent and clear
moral practice, gradually forgotten as positivism imposed its myths of
scientiific objectivity; a practice forgotten in its origins and its meaning,
but always used and always present. What we call psychiatric practice is a
certain moral tactic contemporary with the eighteenth century, preserved in
the rites of asylum life, and overlaid by myths of positivism.....

"Thus while the victim of mental illness is entirely alienated in the real
person of his doctor, the doctor dissipates the reality of mental illness in
the critical concept of madness. So that there remains, beyond the empty
forms of postivist thought, only a single concrete reality: the
doctor-patient couple in which all alienations are summarized, linked, and
loosened. And it is to this degree that all nineteenth-century psychiatry
really converges on Freud, the first man to accept in all its seriousness the
reality of the physician-patient couple, the first to consent not to look
away nor to investigate elsewhere, the first not to attempt to hide it in a
psychiatric theory that more or less harmonized with the rest of medical
knowlledge; the first to follow its consequences with absolute rigor. Freud
demystified all the other asylum structures: he abolished silence and
observattion, he eliminated madness's recognition of itself in the mirror of
its own spectacle, he silenced the instances of condemnation. But on the
theother hand he exploited the structure that enveloped the medical
personage; he amplified its thaumaturgical virtues, preparing for its
omnipoteence a quasi-divine status. He focussed upon this single
presence--conncealed behind the patient and above him, in an absence tat is
also a total presence--all the powers that had been distributed in the
collecttive existence of the asylum; he transformed this into an absolute
Observation, a pure and circumspect Silence, a Judge who punishes and rewards
in a judgement that does not even condescend to language; he made it the
Mirror in which madness, in an almost motionless movement, clings to and
casts off itself.
To the doctor, Freud transferred all the structures Pinel and Tuke
had set up within confinement. He did deliver the patient from the existence
of the asylum within which his 'liberators' had alienated him; but he did not
deliver him from what was essential in this existence; he regrouped its
powers, extended them to the maximum by uniting them in the doctor's hands;
he created the psychoanalytic situation where, by an inspired short-circuit,
alienation becomes disalienating because, in the doctor, it becomes a

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only time that F. takes on Freud
directly, but this is not to say that this is it in terms of the
psychoanalystt's influence. But I don't like to think in terms of influnces,
as I am a renagade comparatist that prefers to think of these things a being
much more complex, especially when in comes to Freud. In the long quote
above, Foucault does point to Freud as initiating an epistemic shift in the
means and ends of psychiatry through the introduction of the psychoanalytic
situation. But this nod, as it were, in Freud's direction is immediately met
with a faily stern criticism.

Is it fair to say that this is the manner in which Freud's work is addressed
by Foucault, despite his infrequent mention of him? I think it is fair to say
that Freud is handled by Foucault with a grain of salt, that he is troubled
by the domain d'objet that psychoanalysis forges and/or maps out for itself.
Then we might ask the question: What does Foucault take from psychoanalysis?
(We could ask similar questions of Nietzsche, Marx, Durkheim and Mauss,
Hegel, Sade, Blanchot, Bataille, Klossowski, and Peirce.) What status does
Foucault give, or not, to the unconscious? What about desire? The drives?

Mapping out direct relationships, I think, would be next to impossible given
the veritable melange that Foucault presents to us and had at his disposal.
But I would be interested to see what can be made of, particularly, the last
three questions.

Penelope Ironstone-Catterall
York University
School of Social & Political Thought


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