governmentality and critique - more details

Since some people asked my to spell out in more detail my work on
Foucault, I will try to do some kind of summary that concentrats
mainly on the questions Joe Cronin was raising: truth, power,
1. power
I think that there was a major changement in Fs work on power (I mainly deal
with the works from 1970 onwards) in his conception of the power in
DP and his later works. In the early 70s you see that he is trying to
put his war- conception of power in the place of the law-conception
(or what he calls the juridical conception). He wants to replace the
old conception (that only centers on repression and ideology) with
one that also analyses the positive effects of power. He does very
well in showing the positive effects, but the problem is that he only
reverses the old conception and remains in way stuck to the juridical
conception which is the target of his critique. There are at least
two major shortcomings:
a).first he treats himself the state only as an
institution or legal structure (a very juridical conception of the
state indeed, for which he was rightly criticised by Poulantzas) and
does not take in account compromises might not only be the result of
some war or battle victory.
b). the second problem is the way he treats subjectivity in DP for
example. The subject seems to be only the object of power-knowledge.
Here again, I think, he only reverses the old conception of an
autonomous subjectivity by showing that it is in fact a heteronomous
subject, produced in a disciplinary technology. As a result he get
problems by explaining on a theoretical level how resistence is
possible in history.
These problems are in my view the result of the preoccupation with
the battle model of power and the concentration on discipline as the
predominant power technology.

Well I think F. got aware of these problems and changed his
conception in the second half of the 70s. He sees that he remains
stuck in the repression model which he denounces (HS 1 is still
partly in this logic which it vigourously denounces). My
interpretation is that he introduces the notion of government to
correct these two shortcomings. From the lecture of 78 on F.
conceives power no longer in terms of war, battle etc. but in
government. He concentrates on the ways people are governed. This is
no longer discipline, but another technology of power which brings
together the two main problems: the governement of the state and the
governement of subjects. (I don't go into detail here and I come to
the next point).

2. Subjectivity
In what I would call something like the old conception of power
subjectivity remains negative: the subject is constituted by power.
Things get more complicated with the problematic of government: F.
raises the question how the way in which subjects constitute
themselves is linked with power techniques. The notion of government
as (self-)conduct serves to link the two dimensions. To me the HS 2
and HS 3 are very close to what Weber did in the Protestant ethic and
what he terms "conduct of life". The question for Weber was: how is a
certain religion or ethos linked to a social and economic practise
without only being the "mentality" or "representation" of economic
or political relations. In this perspective subjectivity gets a
highly "politizised" dimension. To put it in a more concrete
question: what is the relationsship between certain values, our
ethics, our selfconduct and a neo-liberal practise? Here are
potentials for power as well as for resistence. I think F. was on
this track in his last lectures and works (for example: this is what
a was after in his articles on the Iranian Revoultion: a new
subjectivity that fights against an almighty statepower) (I leave it
with this...).

3. Truth
Well here again F. changed significantly in my mind. In the "old"
days you easily find a perspectivist or historicist point of view on
truth and history. Truth is a means in a fight etc. I think later F.
saw that this kind of historical or epistemological relativism was
only the other side of the universalism he fights against. In the
1979 lecture he tells us that he does "exactly the opposite" of an
historicist approach. He finds a way "through" this "alternative"
relativism-universalism / either- or. This method is what he terms
"historical nominalism": there is no object madness for example, but
there are certain social practices that make appear something like
"madness". This means madness like sexuality etc. is not something
universal but this does not mean it is an illusion: it is real
because it was made real. There is therapeutic success, there is a
science like pychiatry etc.: so there is truth. F. sees that it is
impossible to reject the truth claims, to go outside the immanence of
a historical field that constitutes our experiences. So the only way
out is to play the game of truth and change it, but you can only
change it by playing it...
F. has to claim historical truth for his books otherwise they won't
have the effects he wants them to have, if we think his account on
the prisons is just a good fiction we won't change the truths these
prisons rely on. I don't know if I made this clear: the first condition to
get out this will of truth is to recognize its existence, to question
the choices, to make itself the object of a historical inquiry etc. I
think F. was thinking this circularity and -although many think him
to be incoherent - he was doing it quite consequently....

I wonder what you think about my interpretation


I put it rather short...).


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