Re[4]: ethics and poststructuralism

To Antoine and Diane,

The larger connection between Marx and Focuault, I suppose,
goes through Althusser and structural Marxism. Althusser
claims that any reading of Marx which holds that Marx has
merely inverted the terms of the hegelian dialectic is a
bourgeois reading; Marx transforms the hegelian dialectic in
his 'scientific' work, in such a way that the social
structure is not seen as an isomorphic reflection of an
underlying base (whether that would be material or
'spiritual'), but as a complex, decentred whole. A lot of
this is jargon, but the point is fairly profound. The
social structure itself consists in a set of material
relaionships, with each element having its own "relative
autonomy." However, these autonomous elements unite around
economic relations "in the last instance." The basic point
is that in Marx's later "scientific" writings, in which he
analyzed capital from the critical persepctive of the
universal class, the proletariat, he looked at all social
relationships as complex ones. He "abstracts" terms such as
labor and value from hteir complex setting to understand
their logic. But Althusser makes it fairly apparent that
Marx was neither an essentialist, nor a humanist, nor a
Foucault's foundational (yes, I said it) concept in hte
genelogies is the truth/power relation. This is not a
Nietzschean concept, so far as Focuault is cocnerned, but a
Marxian one - and therefore a critical one (Zarathustra has
no critical universal persepctive; the "masses" as Foucualt
sometimes refers to the working class do). The truth/power
relation in the classical age was representational. The
body of the king lied under all power relations. Thue
reform era, however, is characterized by an "economistic
rationality." In modern bourgeois society, the truth/power
relation is carried out in aneconomy of power relations, in
which the objective qualities of subjects, gaines through
"semio-techniques," form the currency of htis economy.

This may sound a bit sketchy, but the basic point is htat
Foucault's genelogies do operate off an axis - a Marxian
one. Marx also analyzed the complex nature of social
relations in capitalist societies by examining the economic
relations htat characterize all apsects od the social
structure. That does not mean that Marx was an "economic
determinist" in the sense in which Engles interpreted him.
Instead, he analyzed the economy of socail relations.
There's a major difference: in Marx's case, rights, laws,
morality, etc. are produced, appropriated, and distributed
just as money is. There's no essential gap between economy
and hte superstructure.
I shall end with a quote from DP:
But the body is also directly involved in a political
field;power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they
invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry
out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. this
political investment of the body is bound up, in accordance
with complex reciprocal relations, with its economic use;
it is largely as a force of production that hte body is
invested with relations of power and domination; but, on the
other hand, its constitution as labour power is possible
only if it is caught up in a system of subjection (in which
need is also a political instrumnet meticulously prepared,
calculated and used).


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