Re: Genealogy

Reg Lilly asks:

My question is what is the nature of this continuity that you see? What
do you make of the obvious differences in his various vocabularies and
conceptual apparatuses? [end quotation]

Earlier in the same post, Reg comments:

Rather than an analytic of power I think one might well characterize the
'final Foucault' as a philosopher of care. Foucault's analysis of
parrhesia (1983) is, I think, irreducible to an analytics of power,
though without doubt power relations are nevertheless ubiquitous.

[end quotation from Reg Lilly]

Reg is asking what continuities I see between works like _Discipline and
Punish_ (1977) and _The Will to Knowledge_ (1978) on the one hand and
_Uses of Pleasure_ (1982, I think) and _Care of the Self_ (1984) on the

Foucault discusses the links between his earlier work on power and his
new concern with practices of the self in the Introduction to _Uses of
Pleasure_. Before we can characterize Foucault in the way Reg suggests,
charity requires that we look at what he actually said.

Alright: So what does F say in the Introduction to _The Uses of Pleasure_
(hereafter _UP_)?

Foucault's "Introduction" to _UP_ is substantial; it is divided into
three sections, each with its own title. The first part is called
"Modifications." With this heading, F explicitly signals his desire to
adjust the direction of the sexuality series relative to the first

But F is very far from abandoning or rejecting his earlier work. Nor does
he simply say "I am not abandoning the earlier stuff" and then proceed,
in fact, to abandon it (the way Jesus does in Matthew 5:17-48). Instead,
F presents a *unified* vision of his work. There is no question of simply
"going along" with whatever F "wanted." Just because F himself suggests
an interpretive angle concerning "Foucault," it doesn't mean we have to
agree with him, on the unexamined assumption that somehow he is his own
best interpreter. Foucault simply saying: "This is how I should be read
by anyone who wants to do it right" is not going to carry much persuasive
weight here. The question, then, is whether or not F's actual argument
about the unified nature of his efforts stands up to any of the usual
tests we apply to arguments and interpretations. I think it does.

What F claims on p. 5 of the English translation of _UP_ is that his
previous work had provided him with the necessary tools for the work he
was now about to undertake. Works like _The Order of Things_ (1966)
addressed the "games of truth," while _DP_ addressed the interaction of
truth with power relations. Now, however, F wants to talk about the game
of truth in relationship to the self, the forming of oneself as a
subject. How, F asks on p. 6, does man think his own nature when ill,
mad, working, and so on?

How then do we "think our own nature"? How do these earlier works that F
mentions fit into this "game of truth in relationship to the self"? [how
inculcation of norms is an example of how people come to think a certain
truth about themselves; example of classroom]

How are we to understand the phrase "game of truth"? How in particular
are we supposed to take the word "game"? If truth of some kind is
produced by a game, is it somehow less true? Games are things we play. We
play them to amuse ourselves. If we participate in a game of truth, are
we merely playing? Are we not being serious? Are we only doing it to
amuse ourselves? It doesn't seem, though, that F wants to use the word
"game" in this playful or dismissive way.

Games are not just activities for children. We all know how important it
is to play the game. (See Goffman, _The Presentation of Self in Everyday
Life_ for a classic sociological argument along these lines.) Knowing how
to play the game is very serious--without that you can't win or play a
role! If the game itself is serious, if the rules that make it up are
essential to playing it well, then the kind of truth that issues from the
game is by no means trivial. And we might think of the kind of truth
produced by a game in two senses: if there's a rule in major league
baseball that says you're not allowed to use metal bats, and if someone
tries to use a metal bat, then it is really true that that individual is
using an illegal bat. This truth can have serious consequences: namely,
the individual using the illegal bat is called out and/or ejected from
the game. But we can also think of a broader sense of truth than the
relationship between certain discrete actions and the barriers and
channels rules provide. The rules that exist are combined with the
actions of human agents. These agents apply, interpret, obey, stretch,
and bend these rules. In the process, the agents as a group produce a
second and deeper kind of truth; the kind of truth (in the case of
baseball) that comes from a sense of the self (conceived both
individually and collectively) that is produced by the mixture of rules,
agents, chance, etc. To put it bluntly and probably inaccurately,
participants in the game begin to think of themselves in the context of
the game; they see themselves through the constraints and possibilities
introduced by the game; through the prism of the game, they see a figure
and say to themselves: "That's who I am, that's what I am, there is my
essence, that is the *truth* about me." This self-identification is part
of the game of truth.

What's imprecise about the above, however, is that we often do not
consciously reflect on how our nature, how the truth about us has been
influenced by the rules of the particular game we're playing. We have a
hard time seeing the way in which specific rules and the goals of
particular games impact on the kind of "human nature" that is expressed.
Different games means different human natures that produce different
truths. These discrete truths are "fictional" but concrete; as real as
real can be.

In _DP_, the shaping, truth-creating (thus "productive) nature of power
is discussed. "Disciplines" are projects designed to produce hard workers
who don't think too much. In an army, you want people who will follow
orders and go over the top in the face of withering machine gun fire. How
to accomplish this? The answer: insert individuals into an environment
that contains very strong expectations that encourage and discourage
forms of behavior. But more important, in the context of this encouraging
and discouraging, work to promote a certain ethos similar to the kind
found on a baseball team: get individuals to think of themselves as part
of such-and-such a collectivity with this particular identity that sees
itself as capable of this (going over the top) but not that (turning the
guns around on their imperialist masters).

Clearly, then, Foucault is quite concerned in _DP_ with the production
and maintenance of individual and collective psychic states and how
"power" achieves its goals through such procedures. It seems to me that
_UP_ and _Care of the Self_ are concerned with the same historical and
philosophical theme, but that in these last two books the same thing is
done from the perspective of the individual, and the issue is raised as
to whether or not individuals can engage in this shaping, truth-producing
activity themselves.


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