Intellectuals and Power

In the conversation between Foucault and Deleuze which appears in
"Language, Counter-Memory, Practice", Deleuze talks about Foucault's
prison-related work as an example of "a new relationship between theory
and practice":

"[...] your work began in the theoretical analysis of the context
of confinement, specifically with respect to the psychiatric asylum within
a capitalist society in the ninenteenth century. Then you became aware
of the necessity for confined individuals to speak for themselves, to create
a relay (it's possible, on the contrary, that your function was already that
of a relay in relation to them); and this group is found in prisons -- these
individuals are imprisoned. It was on this basis that you organized the
information group for prisons (G.I.P), the object being to create conditions
that permit the prisoners themselves to speak. It would be absolutely false
to say, as the Maoist implied, that in moving to this practice you were
applying your theories. This was not an application; nor was it a project
for initiating reforms or an inquiry in the traditional sense. The emphasis
was altogether different: a system of relays within a larger sphere, within
a multiplicity of parts that are both theoretical and practical. A theorizing
intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative

A bit later, Foucault says:

"In the most recent upheaval, the intellectual discovered that the masses
no longer need him to gain knowledge: they _know_ perfectly well, without
illusion; they know far better than he and they are certainly capable of
expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks,
prohibits, and invalidates this discourse and this knowledge, a power
not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one that
profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire societal network. Intellectuals
are themselves agents of this system of power -- the idea of their
responsibility for "consciousness" and discourse forms part of the system.
The intellectual's role is no longer to place himself 'somewhat ahead and
to the side' in order to express the stifled truth of the collectivity;
rather, it is to struggle against the forms of power that transform him
into its object and instrument in the sphere of 'knowledge', 'truth',
'consciousness' and 'discourse'."

and still a bit later, Deleuze says:

"[...] the notion of reform is stupid and hypocritical. Either
reforms are designed by people who claim to be representative, who make
a profession of speaking for others, and they lead to a division of power,
to a distribution of this new power which is consequently increased by
a double repression; or they arise from the complaints and demands
of those concerned. This latter instance is no longer a reform but
a revolutionary action that questions (expressing the full force of its
partiality) the totality of power and the hierarchy that maintains it."

I want to raise two questions about this conversation. First, it strikes
me that the middle quote is, I believe, the only place that explicitly
mentions the role of the intellectual. But much of the conversation is
devoted to the role of _theory_. Is there an implication that the
formulation of theory, however one sees its role, is the province of
intellectuals? Or is the implication that the new role of theory -- not
as something that totalizes, but as something that is a local, regional
form of practice -- means that intellectuals do not have any special
role in the formulation of theory?

Secondly, why is Foucault's activity towards creating the conditions
that permit the prisoners to speak -- why is it declared to not be
an instance of initiating a reform? And, in creating these conditions,
is he not lending his voice -- the voice of a man not in prison, with
the authority of an agent of the system of power -- to the cause of
the prisoners? I.e., is he not speaking for others -- even though the
final intended outcome is that they will be able to speak for themselves?



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