Re: Fromm and Foucault

Ronald Tuch writes:

>These comparisons seem all very interesting but would also seem somehow
>to reduce Foucault's ideas to a simplistic rebellion against authority,
>to the need for individualism, and the abnegation of the evils of power.

When asked in On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progess
about his late interest in "ethics," Focualut responds:

"Yes, I'm writing a genealogy of ethics. The genealogy of the subject as a
subject of ethical actions, or the genealogy of desire as an ethical
problem. So, if we take ethics in classical Greek philosophy or medicine,
what is the ethical substance? It is the "aphrodisia, which are at the same
time acts, desire, and pleasure. What is the mode d' assujettissement? It
is that we have to build our existence as a beautiful existence; it is an
aesthetic mode. You see, what I tried to show is that nobody is obliged in
classical ethics to behave in such a way as to be truthful to their wives,
to not touch boys, and so on. But, if you want to have a beautiful
existence, if they want to have a good reputation, if they want to be able
to tule others, they have to do that. So, they accept thos obligations in a
conscious way for the beauty or glory of existence. The choice, the
aesthetic choice or the political choice, for which they decide to accept
this kind of existence--that's the mode d'assujettissement. It's a choice,
it's a personal choice."

"What strikes me is that in our society, art has become something which is
related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is
something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists.
But couldn't everyone's life become a work of art? Why should the house be
an art object, but not our life."

When Foucault is talking about "choice" or an "aesthetics of existence" in
his late work he seems to imply that there is both a subject that can
differentiate itself from the circulation of power, or at least harness
power to the point of choice. He also seems to idealize certain aesthetic
forms of choice or self-mastery as being more important than other choices.

Now, you are correct to point out that he does not rely on some unconscious
force to ground this differntiation between kinds of freedom. However, he
does seem to share Fromm's notion of two different kinds of freedom. Fromm
saw participation in consumerism and certain liberal institutions as a false

I ask you, is choice in the late-Foucault a matter of purchasing a new VCR,
television, computer, and the like. Is choice compulsive shopping at
strip-malls and television watching? Is this an aesthetics of existence?
And if it's not, what can be cited in foucault's corpus to separate the
different kinds of freedom which seem implicit? Nietzsche had the
will-to-power, Heidegger had being, what does Foucault have to justify the
aesthetic choice?

Am I reducing Foucault or did Foucault reduce himself?


Partial thread listing: