Re: foucault-digest V1 #37

I would like to add a point concerning the genealogy/deconstruction
discussion, which I have found to be particularly illuminating.

One of the interesting things about a significant range of secondary
works on Foucault or drawing inspiration from him is the extent to which
they rely on a much more "deconstructionist" reading of genealogy for
their reading of him.

There are two ways to read the critical or just plain "useful" effects of
a "genealogy." The first is the *disclosure of the presence of power*
with its coercive, non-discursive implications. The critical force of
such an approach relies, however, upon a key assumption: namely, that the
exercise of power is itself objectionable.

What would make the exercise of power *itself* objectionable? The
suppression of difference, the creation and marginalization of the Other.

Notice that if this move is successfully made a rhetorically useful claim
results: If genealogy/deconstruction is effective as a critical device
because it reveals the (unsuspected?) presence of power, the implicit
*normative* claim must be that the suppression of difference is bad!

The result is what William Connolly in _The Augustinian Imperative_ calls
a "critical pluralism" (Sage books, 1992 or '93, p. 151). What we need to
do, according to Connolly, is begin to *affirm* "those indispensable
rivalries between alternative moral/ethical perspectives." This can be
done by "emphasizing the contestable character of each perspective."

If what's wrong with the way things are is that they have been afflicted
by exercises or power and the resulting hierarchies, then the way things
should be is clear: No perspective gets to push anyone else around
anymore; that will be our ethic, our norm, that will be the "ideal" (144).

Connolly's books have been immensely helpful for understanding the
dilemma of modernity and the postmodern interrogation of it, but I think
he takes Foucault in directions the latter would not want to go. The
difficulty with taking the "suppression of difference" as a normative
stance from a Foudaultian perspective is that such an approach falls back
into the very error Foucault himself warned against in the first volume
of the sexuality series, _The Will to Knowledge_ (1976). One of the key
analytical claims of that book--that power is *productive*--was
introduced in the context of a direct criticism of the "repressive

I think a second and more productive way to think about genealogy is the
tactical advantage it provides. The value of understanding that the world
of cultural artifacts we inhabit is constructed out of a confluence of
chance and will to power is not that we are able to survey a history of
illegitimate and irrational acts. Instead, we find out that "these things
have been made, and they can be unmade" (_Politics, Philosophy, Culture_,
ed. Kritzman, p. 37).


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