Re: reason in history (Hegel, Marx, and Foucault)


I suppose I am responsible for this "challenge". Basically,
I think your comments about Hegel are correct, and i think
that there is a tendency among French poststructuralists,
especially thsoe raised on Kojev and Hyppolite, to leave a
special place open for Hegel; Hegel is the metaphysical
whipping boy they love to hate, if you will. My claim is
that in Foucault's work from the 70s (geneology) -
especially D&P, he confronts issues raised by the most
anti-Hegelian of Normaliens, his former teacher, Althusser,
who claims that there are two Marx's - the early
post-Hegelain Marx concerned with Alienation (other ohter
essentialist themes), and hte later 'scientific' Marx, who
broke completely with Hegel's dialectic, and became
concerned with 'scientific' history (historical
materialism), as opposed to metaphysical history.
An important text to consider on this note is The Holy
Family, where Marx criticizes the idealist conception of
Just as according to old teleologists plants exist to be
eaten by animals and animals by men, history exists in order
to serve as the act of consumption of theoretical eating -
proving. Man exists so that history may exist and history
exists so that the proof of truths may exist...
That is why history, like truth, becomes a person apart, a
metaphysical subject of which real human individuals are but
the bearers." (McLellan, Karl Marx: Selected writings,
Foucault's comments about the study of reason in history in
The Archeology of Knowledge (see intro.), and his comments
in The History of sexuality v.1 where he criticizes the
Repressive hYpothesis, follow this same line. History
itself is treated as a subject by idealist philosophers -
even so-called critical theorists such as Marcuse, who see
bourgeois society as a repressive parent.
Throughout the 70s at least, Foucault claims to be both an
empiricist and a materialist; this is teh mature Marxian
historical methodology. To return to the Communist
Manifesto, now.
First of all, you have to realize that that sepcific work
was tainted by Engels. secondly, it is a political
document, and had a specific revolutionary purpose. It
isn't the best sample of Marx's materialist method at work,
and of ourse Foucault was well aware of that (largely
through Althusser). At any rate, Marx's "predicitons" are
realyy political ehortations in that document. IF CERTAIN
ACTIONS ARE TAKEN, the state will wither away, etc. How is
this possible? First of all, Marx claims that "The bourgeois
has through its exploitation of the world-market given a
cosmopolitan character to prodcution and consumption in
every has agglomerated population, centralized
means of production, and concetrated property in a few
hands. The necessary consequence of htis was political
centralization."(McLellan, 225)
The point? Prodcution (of resources, population, etc.) is
centralized and genrealized throught the bourgois mode of
production. This brings into existence a new, centralized
class: "in proportion as the bourgois, ie capital, is
developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the
modern working class, developed - a class of labourers, who
live only so long as they find work, and who find work only
so long as their labour increases capital."(226)
As capital organizes labour, labour becomes organized;
"history" is not organized people, human beings are. IF
CERTAIN STEPS ARE TAKEN, this "class" that has been brought
can organize itself.
Now, I suppose the "challenge" is this: Aren't "vagabonds"
(the former serfs) being systematically rounded up in the
streets in D&P? Isn't the transformation from the old
regiem to the modern form of punishment really just a
centralization of eh population? Neither the "modern" mode
of punishment, nor those who are disciplined and punished,
could exist without hte other. The transforamtion from
torture ceremonies to penal reforms was not a humane
transformation, nor was it a more "progressive" form of
punishment, according to Focuault, it was a more economic
mode of punishment. The bourgois mode of prodcution is
accompanied by a bourgois mode of producing docile bodies.
I'm going to stop here - again, I'd be interested in your
comments, or anyone else's out there in CYBERIA.

Joe Cronin
Thomas More College
Crestview Hills, Ky


Partial thread listing: