Re: Freedom and Choice in Power Relations

Reply to Windsor email from 8-31-1995.
First of all, let me state, that as any other "founder of discourse" since=
Hegel, Foucault has erased and negated most of the influences that made him=
up. In part, this keeps the show going on, e.g. in these email debates on=20
Foucault and Phenomenology or Sartre, respectively.
On the other side, I think you have drawn some basic phrases that may indeed=
have Foucault come closer to Satre than he would have liked. Although=20
Foucauldian discourse analysis itself stands for reading beyond context,=20
author=B4s meaning etc., I would argue that these phrases miss both the=
of departure and the goals of F. as well as of Sartre.
I am not a friend of this long email papers, thus I shall try to keep myself=
short with the following items. (Obviously, I failed, though much of the=20
email are quotes by Windsor.)

Windsor wrote:
1) >In my lectures I found myself interpreting=20
>Foucault's power relations in Sartrean terms. I found myself arguing=20
>that within the social field of power relations we are "condemned to=20
>be free", we are free subjects who participate in multiple subject-
>positions. I had surprised myself because I had never thought that=20
>Sartre and Foucault were compatible.

In my view, they are not at all in this. Sartre stated that role playing in=
social communication masks the true identity. Foucault on the side is well=
aware and clearly states that there is not such a thing at all. Thus we are=
"condemned" -- other than (taking the position of, as we should add) being=
free we could not take a subject-position at all. (Think of his praise of=20
Los Angeles queer clubs, where, according to him, you can participate in=20
multiple subject-positions because (1) the idea of a straightforward=20
identity was completely dismissed (a "choice of freedom" reaction, and not a=
reaction affirmative to the repression hypothesis, to the fact, that the=20
homosexuals are denied an unquestionable identity), and (2) this has freed=
the ground to use any identity you want.)
Sartre clearly contrasts the idea of an ethic that is established on=20
following the command of oneself. He would have based any ethics on a=20
general rule, on humanism, on human progress, or, to quote Windsor=B4s=
the "centrality of responsibility among human beings"--yes that=B4s Sartre.=
Foucault hinted, as Lacan has hinted on another level, and as Zizek puts it=
plain mixing their fields, that any person who takes responsibibity for=20
other human beings and make out of this his/her identity, is first of all=20
serving his perverse desires. Because Foucault thinks in terms of society,=
he said: Yes, do it, if you want to, but do not tell, that there is any=20
ethic beyond yourself or the discourse you=B4re stuck in that would=
what you do. And that was always Sartre=B4s point. That=B4s why, in my view,=
Foucault once said that Sartre has paralyzed the discussions of a whole=20

Windsor wrote:
2)>This is made worse by what=20
>Foucault says: "there cannot be relations of power unless the subjects=20
>are free" (The Final Foucault, p. 12). He repeates this in Subject=20
>and Power, the Critical Inquiry version, p. 790: "When one defines the=20
>exercise of power as a mode of action upon the actions of others ...=20
>one includes an important element: freedom. Power (relations) are=20
>exercised only over (through/with) free subjects, and only insofar as=20
>they are free. By (freedom) we mean individuals (subjects in subject-
>positions) ... who are faced with a field of possibilities in which =20
>several ways of behaving, several reactions and diverse comportments,=20
>may be realized". But freedom implies choice (power relations do not=20
>happen to us, are not a form of imposition, a set of external forces=20
>that impinge themselves upon us), thus we choose to enter into power=20
>relations with others, and over a variety of interests and=20
>activities. We are free in asfar as we have choices, the "field of=20
>possibilities". And in participating in power relations I therefore=20
>assume responsibility for myself, for my body, which is the surface,=20
>the site of inscription by power relations, a "volume in perpetual=20
>disintegration". Now here is Sartre: "what happens to me happens=20
>through me, and I can neither affect myself with it nor revolt=20
>against it nor resign myself to it. ... everything which happens to=20
>me is mine" (p.554). Sartre goes on to argue for the centrality of=20
>responsibility among human beings.

I think that Foucaults statement is basically an argument against the=20
"repression hypothesis" that was discussed by list members a lot in the last=
weeks: as you also state Foucaults term freedom is not at all emphatically=
used, but simply connotes "choice" and a "field of possibilities", thus=20
repression is nothing that just happens, but also a process that people on=
both sides identify with, accept, or oppose against, a matter of discourse=
and a term of making up the real. But whereas for Foucault the body=B4s=
is endangered by the power relations (and is a work in progress), Sartre=B4s=
body is a responible one. In past, present, and future, Sartre=B4s self has=
take over (and, that see
ms to me the crucial point, is seen as being able to take over) the same=20
share of responsibility. Two completely different subject theories are at=20
work here.=20



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