Re: Re[6]: ethics and poststructuralism

On Mon, 22 Jan 1996, Joe Cronin wrote:

> Greg,
> I agree with everything you say except that Foucault is
> interested in a 'micro-analysis'. Genealogy begins a the
> micro level, but Focuault's analysis is an "ascending one" -
> he is still interested in forms of power which achieve a
> general set od effects. Largely, I htink that marx himself
> is misread; he also claims that a study of power realtions
> must be local and specific - I am especially referring to
> Marx's materialsit method set out in The German Ideology,
> but present throughout his later writings. Marx is
> interested an emprical, materialist appproach to history -
> this does not preclude a "general" analysis. Marx is also
> critical of Hegel and others for thinking of history as a
> process independent of living human beings

I don't read Hegel as saying this at all. For both Marx and Hegel, there
is Reason in History. The difference is how this reason is manifested
and driven. Both see the discrete actions of individuals as an unaware
part, though crucial chapters in, a larger story which they (Hegel and
Marx) will eventually narrate--the way reason acts through unaware
individuals is called by Hegel "the cunning of reason."

One of the main differences with Foucault is that he saw none of this
cunning of reason: the discrete power struggles of individuals are not
part of a larger order; rather, they are renarrated retrospectively AS IF
they had an order or purpose to them. Foucault is concerned in his
genealogies to show how what is, is not necessary--that it is contingent
and thus open to change. A couple of passage will help establish this point:

"in what is given to us as universal, nescessary, obligatory, what place
is occupied by whatever is singular, contingent, and the product of
arbitrary constraints? The point, in brief, is to transform the critique
conducted in the form of necessary limitations into a practical critique
that takes the form of a possible transgression" ("What is Enlightenment
45). While the target, here, is Kant, like Kant, Marx believes in
necessity. Like Foucault, however, Marx has moved (and here we find
Foucault's "Marxism") toward the practical critique.

"However, if the genealogist refuses to extend his faith in metaphysics,
if he listens to history, he finds that there is 'something altogether
different' behind things: not a timeless and and essential secret, but
the secret that they have no essence or that their essence was fabricated
in piecemeal fashion from alien forms. Examining the history of reason,
he learns that it was born in an altogether 'reasonable' fashion--from
chance" (Nietzsche, Genealogy, History 78).

Genealogy "is to identify the accidents, the minute deviations--or
conversely, the complete reversals--the errors, the false appraisals, and
the faulty calculations that gave birth to those things that continue to
exist and have value for us; it is to discover tht the truth or being
does not lie at the root fo what we know and what we are, but the
exteriority of accidents" (ibid 81). Hegel, Marx, and Foucault all look
at the errors, false appraisals, and the faulty calculations of
history--quite empirically (this is not usually attributed to Hegel
because his reputation is formed in relative neglect of the actual text
of his Philosophy of History). Marx and Hegel, in short, think these
errors and miscalculations add up to a purposeful story of human
emancipation; Foucault does not.

- a "global"
> analysis, if you will, which lies at the heart of F's
> critique of the "repressive hypothesis." The Marxian ( as
> opposed to 'Marxist') point is that a general analysis is
> essential to understanding the specific effects and
> functions of power/knowledge in modern Euro culture. The
> better elements of F's genealogies follow from his Marxian
> science - why else would F go to great pains to establish
> himself as materialist, an empiricist, and a critical
> historian, if he had no 'scientific' basis for his research?
> If this basis is not Marxian, what is it?
> -- Joe Cronin, Thomas More College

Erik D. Lindberg
Dept. of English and Comparative Lit.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI 53211
email: edl@xxxxxxxxxxx


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