Re: Power In Eduation & Foucault


>The significance of the difference between authority and
>authoritarianism is that it is the conceptual core of the difference
between a
>liberal democracy and a fascist or Stalinist state. Authoritarianism is
>authority without democratic constraint or limit: while every modern state
>the potential to develop into an authoritarian state -- the expansion of
>incarceratory power to civil society -- not every modern state is an
>authoritarian state.

It's this potential that interests me, as there are so many problems in
trying to distinguish between authority and authoritarianism, as though it's
a binary. I don't think this is what you're doing, though I wonder if it is
what Walzer intends.

>As outrageous as the NYPD's practices are, the suggestion
>that there is a fundamental equivalence between its operation in a liberal
>democracy and the SS in Nazi Germany betrays a type of thinking that is
>to make the most basic analytical distinctions. Such distinctions may be
>irrelevant to someone comfortably living in the liberal democracy, but it
>hardly irrelevant to those under a fascist or Stalinist state, or to a
>political theory which takes democratic rule and political emancipation at

Foucault's 1975/76 lecture course 'Il faut defendre la societe' (Seuil,
1997), makes a number of comments along these lines.

Whilst it might be irrelevant to those in a liberal democracy to
distinguish, it is on the other hand rather cosy for them to think there is
some clear divide. This point of Foucault's strikes me as close to
Heidegger's distinction between the similar and the same. Schools are not
the same as prisons, but they resemble them, ie they are similar. The NYPD
is not the SS, but there are similarities. Rather than see a strict binary
divide I
think a continuum is more useful, as it allows us to realise that the crimes
of the Nazis, say, were the administrative, technological, and political
positions of the era taken to an extreme. At some point maybe a line was
crossed that makes them entirely 'other', and perhaps some are content to
think themselves well behind that line. I'm more concerned with the fact
that the mechanisms existing within other societies bear resemblance to
them, and to think accordingly.

You probably know about Heidegger's remark about agriculture and the gas
chambers, the atom bomb and famine. This is widely misunderstood - I think -
but the essence of it is the same point that Foucault is so often castigated

Best wishes


Stuart Elden
Department of Government
Brunel University, UK

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