RE: Connolly and Foucault


I'll say this again: you are confusing a political sensibility
with a theory of power. The fact that Connolly speaks of a
suppression of difference does not mean he has reduced power to
that. I find it interesting that in your response you answered
none of my questions concerning what you mean by a repressive
theory of power. I listed a few possibilities, and said Connolly
didn't fit into any of them. Do you think he does fit into one of
them? Or do you have another possible conception of the
'repressive theory of power', other than those I put forward? Are
you going to say that the idea that differences are repressed to
consolidate identity means that power is simply or only repression?

Further, what about the points that Connolly does not treat power
as eliminable from society? Or does that have nothing to do with
whether one is employing a repressive theory of power? And what
about the long quote I provided at the end, where Connolly does
elaborate an ontology of power? How does this fit with the
repressive theory (assuming that we have an idea of what we mean by
a repressive theory)?

To talk about suppression or domination does not mean you have
necessarily equated power with domination. You say that the talk
of the suppression of difference indicates that some sort of power
is used to suppress. Of course. But Foucault himself has always
said that power is multiple. He has never said that repression,
violation, etc., does not occur in any sense. And as I tried to
point out in my initial post, Foucault's treatment of power as
productive does not prevent him from talking about unequal
relationships of power which can be seen as a form of 'domination'
of one group by another. And it's absolutely ludicrous to suggest
that he does. One of his principle points in that regard was that
power is still not simply top-down, because power and resistance
engender one another (it thereby makes no sense to talk about power
_simply_ dominating, as though it were dominating a pliable clay
that offered no resistance at all). Foucault himself, in the
HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, after elaborating the idea of power as both
productive and differential, then goes on to talk quite a bit about
unequal relationships of power. And he also, in both the HISTORY
OF SEXUALITY and DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH, speaks about how modern
society secures normalized identities by the construction of sexual
and criminal others that it seeks to discipline. Have I simply
read Foucault wrong here? And when he speaks of the ethics of care
of the self, does he not say that care of the self is necessary in
order to care for others (sort of shorthand, I would think, for
becoming more generous to difference)? Or have I (and Connolly)
simply misread Foucault there too.

Again, to say the point simply: talking about how differences are
suppressed doesn't mean you are invoking a repressive theory of
power. And mentioning what might crudely be called a 'bad use of
power' is not the same as saying 'power is bad'. If we are going
to continue this discussion, I really would like to know what you
think Connolly's theory of power is, without relying on a very
reductive logic that says: "well, since he mentions how identity
secures itself by repressing difference, he must have a repressive
theory of power." Perhaps, for example, you could reconcile the
ontology of power presented in the first chapter of the AUGUSTINIAN
IMPERATIVE with your claim that Connolly has a repressive theory of
power. Or even the 'OntAlogical Problematic' outlined in the
Foucault chapter we've been talking about.

Moving from the theory of power, let's look at the politics. Maybe
I wrongly accused you of holding a reading of postmodernism as some
sort of celebration of difference without limits. In any event,
Connolly and Butler have never said that democracy can simply
tolerate or encourage all differences and that there can be a state
without exclusions (they also, by the way, both explicitly
repudiate the term 'postmodernism' because it is so often
associated with such an ideal). If you are suggesting that they
believe in a celebration of difference without limits, you simply
have them wrong. That is yet another reason why strife is

Now you are certainly right that Foucault rejects any sort of naive
celebration of difference. But do you think Connolly simply has
him wrong when referring to, say, the "insurrection of subjugated
knowledge"? Basically, what I'm asking here is if you think that
Foucault has nothing to do with the idea of opening up space for
difference to be.

In any event, I fail to see Connolly as having any problem with
pro-lifers, because his ethics has not committed him either to a
simple exclusion of any difference, nor any simple encouragement or
celebration of difference. Obviously, there is only the tiniest
gap between 'celebrating difference' and 'cultivating generosity',
but there is an enormous gap between 'cultivating generosity' and
'categorically refusing to suppress difference' or 'celebrating
difference as though there can never and must never be any
exclusion or as though power and inequality is ultimately

Finally, you claim that Connolly (and Butler) collapse genealogy
into deconstruction. Well, we'd need to spell out what the two
are. I have the feeling you seem to think that deconstruction says
that power is 'bad' while genealogy does not. But let's look at
some of Connolly's quotes.

"If one considers genealogy to be, in the broadest sense, any
investigation of established truths that loosens the sense of
necessity, lawfulness, unity or intrinsic purposes attached to
them..." (p. 138).

"What is cultivated [by both genealogy and some teleological
theories]? Not a Law or a categorical imperative, but
possibilities of being imperfectly installed in established
institutional practices" (p. 141)

These don't seem to be totally different from your own brief
definition of genealogy from your first post: "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'."




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