Re: fish out of water

According to James McFarland, Foucault wants to say that " Marxism
exists in nineteenth century thought like a fish in water: that is, it is
unable to breathe anywhere else." (OT 261-2). And this clearly rests on a
distinction between 19th and 20th century thought that is alien to the
entire rest of the Order of Things. I am aware that this is really an
attack on Althusser and his notion of Marxist science as an
"epistemological break" (For Marx p39), but even so, it is quite
disingenuous to avail oneself of a rhetoric of complicity in something
Marxism never claimed itself to be subverting."

Foucault and Althusser were closer than McFarland suggests.
Althusser helped Foucault get at position at the Ecole Normale
Superieure. Foucault visited Althusser in his last years, when he was a
ward of the state. In the Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault's positive
comments about Marxism in the introduction acknowledge Althusser's
influence. The epistemological break, cited by McFarland, describes a
rupture between science and humanism, and Foucault also describes such a
rupture in The Order of Things, when he shows that in the twentieth
century the specialized sciences break up the man-centered paradigm of
the nineteenth.

Clearly Althusser makes more of Marx's relationship to classical
economics than Foucault does, but it does not follow from that fact that
Althusser denies that Marx elaborates the views of Ricardo or other
classical economists. What Althusser says that Marx deconstructed
the views of the classical economists, shows that their blindness to
surplus value and its origins enabled them to make their original
discoveries -- see the introduction to Reading Capital. This
deconstruction by no means suggests that Marx or Marxism has transcended
nineteenth century economics or that Foucault is wrong to situate Marxism
in that context. The status of classical economics remains an issue
today. Many Marxists claim that one no longer needs to employ its
outdated terminology.

I could go on to argue that Althusser's notion of ideology and
Foucault's notion of discursive practices have important similarities,
but my wife wants to use the computer.

Philip Goldstein
Associate Professor of English and Philosophy
University of Delaware (Parallel)


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