Re: fish out of water

On Tue, 14 Nov 1995, Theodora Lightfoot wrote:

> A couple of weeks ago (or more?) one of
> the subscribers to the network wanted a source for the following quote from
> Foucault (or something very like it."Marxism exists in 19th century thought the
> same way a fish exists in water; that is it stops breathing anywhere else." I
> found this quote in quite an odd source: Didier Eribon's biography of Foucault
> ((Michel Foucault, Didier Eribon, translated by Betsy Wing, 1991, Harvard
> Univeristy Press, page 162). say the source is odd because Eribon quoted
> Foucault but did not reference it or attribute it to any written source,
> although in the sentence follwing the quote he mentions Jacques Milhau in
> Cahiers du Communisme (Feb. 1968) reacting to the quote. COuld this statement
> have been cited in this latter source? Was it something Eribon made up because
> it sounded so good? In any case, I think the Eribon book is where the quote came
> from.

I think we determined that the quote comes from Order of Things (p. 262 of
the English). What we didn't determine was why Foucault would have said
such a pointless thing, unless he was under the misconception that Marx
aimed to overthrough bourgeois epistemology instead of bourgeois
relations of production, or unless he thought that bourgeois epistemology
was peculiarly 19th century, and so was irrelevant to us now (in which
case it isn't clear why 12 pages earlier, at the start of Chapter 8,
he's calling precisely the episteme in which Marx swims "a certain
*modern* manner of knowing empiricities...the thought that is
contemporaneous with us, and with which, willy-nilly, we think...")
What Foucault shows (convincingly, of course), is that Marx isn't
Foucault, that he is not interested in *why* people talk the way they do as
much as *how* one class exploits another class, and what we can do
practically to keep them from continuing in this way. In fact, Marx's
German Ideology has some very funny passages about philosophical
revolutions that tear down in histrionic gestures entire metaphysical
epochs, all the while leaving the police pretty much where they were.

This is not, I think, Foucault's last word on the subject of Marxism,
but it is without question one of his stupidest.

Jim McFarland


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