Re: Foucault is not a Marxist

No, Foucault is not a Marxist, though he went through a brief
period where he was a member of hte PCF. But his arguments
are MARXIAN in hte genealogical writings. This is not a
hairsplitting or nit-picking concept, it's prerequisite for
understanding the specific arguments he advances - and he
does advanace arguments.
Which of Hayden White's articles are you referring to,
anyway? What does that pretentious beast have to say about
Foucault's later works? In that silly article of his on
"Decoding Foucualt" he is claiming htat F takes an ironical
stance in the archeologies. That is a pathetic article and
not worht discussing further. But your claim that MArx was
a Romantic is sadly mistaken; what do you think his
criticisms of the Holy Family, his criticisms of Hegel, and
Feuerbach are, if not an outright refutation of Romanticism?
If you agree htat Foucault wanted to distance himself from
Romanticism, then why draw a linbe between Foucautl and
Nietzsche? Aside from his mysoginist and elitist strains
which run throughout his work, Nietzsche is the classic
portrait of a disgruntled Romantic. His "critique" (by the
way, read BLondel) of Western culture is absed on a
Romanticized portrait of Greek culture; and, as is typical
for all Romantics from Caligula onward, the world just
wasn't good enough for him.
Now, this point may bother some of you, but despite what
Foucault has to say about Marx in particular (I'm refering
to KARL MARX, not Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Lukacs, Kautsky,
Althusser - any of them!) in some obscure interview is not
of central importance. The question is, what kind of
arguments does he advance in the genealogies? Answer -
Marxian ones. The problem, of course, is htat Marx is not
read anymore - much less understood. It was Marx who
claimed globalizing cocneptions of history were misleading
and Romanticized; it was MARX who insisted on treated
political issues "locally" - and studying historical
problems "locally"; but he was bright enough to recognize
that in hte "modern" age some phenomena are genreal in
nature. An economy, by its very nature, is general - it
operates generally. In hte modern age, an "economistic
rationality" (Foucault's phrase) permeates social relations.
Look at hte manner in which Focuautl discusses the
nineteenth century problem of vagabondage - an issue he
spends a great deal of tiem discussing in Madness & CIv and
returns to in D&P; this is a socail problem that resultinf
from teh freeing of peasants in Europe, a problem Marx
located. Look at Foucault's claim that changes in punitive
tactics from hte classical period to the modern period
resulted from "technical mutations" (in Marx's language,
Forces of production). How do we characterize these modern
techniques of disciplining, punishing, and observing? As
economistic. That means, for example, that certain rights,
for example, are appropriated by a particular class of
people, and "distributed' across a society. I t means that
the power to punish is appropriated by a particular class of
people, and e effects of punishment (signs) are distributed
across society. It also means that signs "produced" in one
locality can achieve a general distribution across a market
place of signifiers. It means that "semio-techniques" can
also be appropriated and distributed, etc. All these socail
relations have an 'economy' in this broader sense ( the
sense in whihc Marx often spoke of it).
what is Foucault interested in? Not "truth", but perhaps
disourses of truth (and notice, a "discourse", by its very
nature is general; statements too are produced appropriated,
and distributed through an 'economy'. Not "power", but
perhaps techniques used to exercise power. And not
"subjects" except perhaps to look at where truth and power
realtions are centered.
He is interewted in a decriptive sociology. wihtout contant
refernce to an economy of socail relations, one cannot speak
of ehm generally; if one does not speak generally of genrela
phenomena, then one ceases to be descriptive (unless one
could somehow convince oneself that everything was local and
fleeting - which besides being absurd, would hardly be
convincing today).

-Joe Cronin
Thomas More College


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