Re: A KickOff...

NB: in response to John Ransom and the We-representation
problem. Not much on HS, vol 1.

At 07:10 PM 2/5/98 -0500, you wrote:

>Could we also say that there is a link between Foucault's argument about
>whether or not sex is repressed and Marcuse's admittedly more jargony talk
>about "repressive desublimation" in _One-Dimensional Man_?

Hello John,

This is intersting, have you any leads on the F-M connection? I'd always
taken it for granted that Marcuse would be an implicit antagonist for F.,
that is, a repressive-hypothesis thinker. Aren't M, and esp. Reich, *the*
radical thinkers of repression? I take Foucault's object of criticism to
be, simply and vaguely, the entire philisophical-juridico tradition which
sees power as essentialy epressive, negative and something to be avoided.
Here, I can think only of anarchism as an example, excluding someone like
Murray Bookchin.

And, John, I might ask you if you take Marx and/or marxism as subscribing
to the repressive hypothesis (in re power in general)? Not that I'm
looking for an argument here, but I think this assumption would be bogus,
making Marx and many others into romantic anti-capitalists. Similarily
with Freud: even in the ego-id stuff, repression is much more than some
top-down model.

>Who's we? Remember F's comments about creations of "we's" in
the>"Polemics" interview at the back of _Foucault Reader_, p. 385.
>(Summarizing briefly, F's point is that the task of critical thought is
>not to stand on the side of some transcendental agent like the working
>class, not to endorse and help clarify the nature of an already-existing
>"we," but rather to create conditions for the production of new "we's,"
>new communitiees of perspective and action, knowledge and power.)

I'm with you here, until the last clause, where F is seen as somehow
creating new conditions of possibility for not just new knowledge, but for
new communities of resistance, etc. In short, I have no idea how F could
be doing, or did this. (I don't mean in terms of his bio/real self) To
claim that his work did, or could do so, seems grandiose to me. And
precisely because of this moral handwringing over the "fundamental
indignity of speaking for others." By which I mean: a critique of the "We"
and of presuming to speak for the other, does not absolve one of the
responsibilities attendant upon the fact that what one says and does, still
affects others.

And attending to this means again raising a "we," i.e., it again raises
question of the micro in relation to the macro, again raises questions of a
collective or global nature, and again requires some form of synecdochical
thinking. And, for the life of me, I don't think one get there from here
(from the thought of Foucault in itself). Which is not to say Foucault's
work doesn't allow us to see the microphysics of power, "beneath" some
repressive apparatus.

I'm reminded, yet again, of Spivak's critique of F and deleuze in her
"Subaltern" essay (in the Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture
collection), and in reference to D & F's conversation about prisons and
such. If I remember correctly, one of her points is that their particular
critique of the transcendental standpoint end up smuggling one back in,
namely, their own. this is so for a variety of reasons, and Spivak points
to their silences about the international division of labor -- and, no, a
proper recognition of an essentialist notion of class does not allow one to
simply wash one's hands of the 'blood and dirt' of capital -- about gender,
and about colonialism.

But perhaps Spivak's fundamental move is against their notions of
representation -- that a critique of representation-as-language does not
get them off the hook of thinking representation-as-political positioning
(Darstellung vs. Vertretung in Marx's German). (Hence the parochialism of

In other words, because Foucault will not admit a theory of ideology, or
because his thematics of desire and of heterogeniety ignores Vertretung, he
can say something ridiculous like, "the masses know pefectly well, clearly
.... they know far better than [the intellectual] and they certainly say it
very well" (Prison Talk, cited in Spivak, p.274). My point is that F.,
wily nily, still speaks for these "Others" (the "we"'s, not the "We") and
moreover by representing them (Darstellung) as transparent -- which he does
by never naming, or fully historicizing them -- he represents himself as
transparent and transcendent. Call it a dialectical ruse of history....


Daniel Vukovich
English; Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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