Foucault's Marxism (Re: Reason in history, etc.)

Erik Lindberg wrote:

> the notion of development or the explicit or implicit theory of
> change....[Foucault is] pretty far from both Hegel and Marx in terms
of the latter.

I don't think this is quite correct.

For Marx, the dynamics of historical "development" or "change" are to
be understood in terms of the "agonism" (as MF would say) or
"antagonism" (as KM would say) of the forces and relations of

Forces of production include two elements: "labour-power" and "means
of production." Foucault embraces this category, albeit not the
terminology. He speaks of "a power which stems from aptitudes
directly inherent in the body [read: labour-power -- S.D.] or relayed
through external instruments [read: mmeans of production -- S.D.]." This
"power" he thinks should be designated as "capacity" to avoid
confusion with "power relations" between agents. (The quotation is
from "The Subject and Power").

As for the "relations of production," these clearly ARE (a special
case of) relations of power in Foucault's sense. Take for example the
fact that working people, according to the Manifesto, are obliged to
sell their labour-power in order to survive. This is because, for
example, other economic agents and authorities like the police and the
courts etc. recognize the claim to ownership of the means and
therefore of the product of proeduction made by the employers but
would not recognize any claim workers might make to such ownership.
Cf. T. Wartenburg on social "alignments" for a fuller account of how
relations of production AS CONCEIVED BY MARXISM are relations of power.

Now, the question is: does Foucault regard the dynamics of historical
change in terms of an agonism between "capacities" (forces of
production) and "relations of power"?

I remind you that, for Marx, this agonism takes the form of a
"fettering' of the "free development" of such capacities, followed by
a "bursting asunder" of these fetters. That is to say, he sees it in
terms of a back-and-forth movement of "deterritorialization" and
"reterritorialization," in the vocabulary of Deleuze and Guattari.

Consider the following remark, from CAPITAL, vol. I:
"But if Modern Industry, by its very nature, therefore necessitates
variation of labour, fluency of function, universal mobility of the
labourer, on the other hand, in its capitalistic form, it reproduces
the old division of labour with its ossified particularisations."

Against the "ossified particularisations" (or what Foucault calls
"subjection" or "pinning people down to their identity") that are
reproduced by the old division of labour, Marx counterposes the idea
of a "communist" "association", one in which "the full and free
development of every individual forms the ruling principle" (CAP., v.
I), and in which "the free development of each is the condition for
the free development of all" (Manifesto).

I think that the agonism of forces and relations of production
described by Marx is exactly what Foucault has in mind when he speaks
of "the paradox of the relations of capacity and power" ("What is
Enlightenment?"). What else is discussing when he claims that "the
agonism between power relations and the intransitivity of freedom is a
permanent political task inherent in all social existence" ("The
Subject and Power")? "What is at stake, then," Foucault writes, "is
this: How can the growth of capabilities be disconnected from the
intensification of power relations?" ("What is Enlightenment?").

I think, in short, that when Foucault talks about struggles against
"subjection," struggles of "de-individualization," he has in mind
something VERY MUCH like what Marx has in mind when he talks about
struggles against the "fettering" of the "free development" of the
needs and abilities of "every individual" which (fettering) imposes
"ossified particularisations" on people. What is Foucault's call for
a "desexualization" of "bodies and pleasures" if not an echo of Marx's
call on workers to "abolish the proletariat," along with all
"ossified" classes, and to replace the division of labour with a
society in which one "fishes in the morning, practises critical
philosophy in the afternoon," etc., i.e., in which one develops
oneself freely in different directions?

I conclude with a quotation from Marx on the subject of communism,
which relates the latter to what Foucault was later to call "ethics":

"[T]he development of all human powers as such, not measured by any
_previously given_ yardstick...[is] an end-in-itself, through which he
does not reproduce himself in any specific character, but produces his
totality, and does not seek to remain something he has already become,
but is in the absolute movement of becoming." (Grundrisse).

Steve D'Arcy


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