Re: Foucault and Agency

On Thu, 2 Nov 1995, Peter Campbell wrote:

> ". . .the will to knowledge has not come to a halt in the face of a taboo
> that must be lifted, but has persisted in constituting - despite many
> mistakes, of course - a science of sexuality." (The History of Sexuality,
> Vol. 1, pp.12-13)
> Who acts in Foucault's world?

Probably everybody though reacts might be a better word for most people or
maybe for all people most of the time.

> He is mute on this key point. When he speaks of the will to knowledge,
> whose will is he talking about? Society's? History's? Humanity's?
> He frequently speaks of power as if it were capable of action. "These
> polymorphous conducts were actually extracted from people's bodies and from
> their pleasures; or rather, they were solidified in them; they were drawn
> out, revealed, isolated, intensified, incorporated, by multifarious power
> devices." (Vol.1, pp 48-49) How are "multifarious power devices" capable of
> doing this? How is it possible that "power devices" can draw out, reveal,
> isolate, intensify, and incorporate? How can the will to knowledge DO this?

Don't you suppose the "multifarious power devices" are essentially
collective societal forces? The devices that created taboos are pretty
much the same devices in different guises that now transgress them. It
would be nice if he gave examples of these devices. How about
advertising? How could that be other than a "power device"? Or laws
against various conducts, or, for that matter, disobeying the laws against
various conducts.

> It seems to me that agency has almost everything to do with desire, and
> that desire is the principle driving force behind the will to knowledge.
> The real question is, Is this a universal phenomenon? Does Lacan figure as
> a backdrop in his thinking here? Is desire something which characterizes
> "the psychic subject"? If so, is this view of power/knowledge ahistorical?
> Or does history form around the will to knowledge as an expression of the
> psychic subject's desire to know, that what "it" knows changes, but that
> what it produces as knowledge is in response to an ontological, even
> primary state, the desire to know?
> Can we begin to formulate such an ontology of desire?

It would certainly seem that action is linked to desire. We desire; we
act; we desire again. Whether we are desiring knowlege or a hamburger,
this is pretty much the routine. My Zenist friends say this is what
brings the world into being. I don't know about that, but if you can
eliminate or even lessen desire, especially for what you can't have, that
seems like another facet of power. This, of course, isn't what Foucault
would suggest.

Could you give an example of an "ontology of desire"? What one might
look like?



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