Slow Read _Remarks On Marx_ cont.

_Remarks On Marx_, pgs. 37-42:

"Duccio Trombadori (DT): This "difficult relation with truth": is it a
constant that accompanies your research, and which may also be recognized
in the series of your works that followed _The History Of Madness_?

Michel Foucault (MF): The same thing could be said about _Discipline and
Punish_. The inquiry is limited to an investigation covering the period
up to about 1830. But even in this case readers, whether critics or not,
took it as a description of modern society. You won't find an analysis
of the present in the book, although it's true that for me it was a
matter of living out a certain experience related to contemporary life.

Here too the investigation makes use of "true" documents, but in such a
way as to furnish not just the evidence of truth but also an experience
that might permit an alteration, a transformation, of the relationship we
have with ourselves and our cultural universe: in a word, with our
knowledge (_savoir_).

Thus this game of truth and fiction - or if you prefer, of evidence and
fabrication - will permit us to see clearly what links us to our
modernity and at the same time will make it appear modified to us. This
experience that permits us to single out certain mechanisms (for example,
imprisonment, penalization, etc.) and at the same time to separate
ourselves from them by perceiving them in a totally different form, must
be one and the same experience.

This procedure is central to all my work. And what are its
consequences? First of all, that there does not exist a theoretical
background which is continuous and systematic. That implies, secondly,
that there is no book that I've written without there having been, at
least in part, a direct personal experience. I had a personal, complex,
direct relation with madness, psychiatric hospitals, and illness. And
even with death: when I was working on _The Birth Of The Clinic_, arguing
about the subject of death in medical knowledge, it took place at a time
when these things had a certain importance for me. Thirdly, starting
from experience, it is necessary to clear the way for transformation, a
metamorphosis which isn't simply individual but which has a character
accessible to others: that is, this experience must be linkable, to a
certain extent, to a collective practice and to a way of thinking. That
is how it happened, for example, for such movements as anti-psychiatry,
or the prisoners' movement in France.

DT: In indicating, or as you say, in clearing the way for a
transformation capable of being linked to a collective practice, I find
already the outline of a methodology or a particular type of "teaching."
Doesn't it seem so to you? And if so, doesn't that seem to contradict
another requirement that you've mentioned, of avoiding a discourse that

MF: I would reject this term "teaching"; such a term would reflect the
character of a work, of a systematic book that leads to a method that can
be generalized, a method full of positive directions, of a body of
"teachings" for the readers. In my case it's another matter entirely: my
books don't have this kind of value. They function as invitations, as
public gestures, for those who may want eventually to do the same thing,
or something like it, or, in any case, who intend to slip into this kind
of experience.

DT: But isn't it true that a "collective practice" must lead us back to
values, criteria, and behavior which transvalue individual experience?

MF: An experience is, of course, something one has alone; but it cannot
have its full impact unless the individual manages to escape from pure
subjectivity in such a way that others can - I won't say re-experience it
exactly - but at least cross paths with it or retrace it. Let's return
for a minute to the book on prisons. In a certain sense it is a
historical investigation. But its audience appreciated or detested it
not as a historiographical work. All its readers felt or had the
impression that was about them, the world today, or their relations with
"contemporaneity," in the forms by which the latter is accepted and
recognized by everyone.... We feel that something contemporary has been
brought up for discussion. And in effect I began writing this book only
after having participated for some years in work groups - groups involved
in reflections "upon" and struggle "against" penal institutions. It was
complex and difficult work, carried out with prisoners, their families,
prison guards, magistrates, etc.

When the book came out, various readers - particularly prison guards,
social workers, etc. - gave this singular judgment: "It is paralyzing.
There may be some correct observations, but in any case it certainly has
its limits, because it blocks us, it prevents us from continuing our
activities." My reply is that it is just that relation that proves the
success of the work, proves that it worked as I had wanted it to. That
is, it is read as an experience that changes us, that prevents us from
always being the same, or from having the same kind of relationship with
things and with others that we had before reading it. This demonstrates
to me that the book expresses an experience that extends beyond my own.
The book is merely inscribed in something that was already in progress;
we could say that the transformation of contemporary man is in relation
to his sense of self. On the other hand, the book also worked _for_ this
transformation; it has been, even if in a small way, an agent. That's
it. This, for me, is an "experience-book" as opposed to a "truth-book"
or a "demonstration-book.""


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