Re: Power In Eduation & Foucault

1) your question didn't concern the "theoretical apparatus" for his
investigations, nor the "philosophical frame for his observations". Your
point was a crude one: Foucault is overblown when he suggests (and you
entirely miss the strategy and the irony of him saying it, assuming that I
one the other hand naively believe) that prisons bear an equivalence to
schools, to factories, to asylums, etc. We might note, by the way, that
Foucault never quite states this supposed equivalence as strongly as you
suggest. The line at the end the chapter on 'panopticism' is somewhat
ambiguous; 'ressemble' is the French, which does not mean homologous (the
word you used).
2) you may think its naive to say that 'Foucault did a lot of reading
and says what he saw' (which is itself a vulgarization of the spirit of
what I wrote), but that is of no consequence to me. You are free to read
this statement in any way you like; I was simply saying for me--more and
more--after reading him and using his work (not uncritically, but
practically) for many years, his thought has taken on a kind of urgency.
Certainly the situation to which his thinking relates (of which you say
nothing, by the way) has become more urgent; indeed has radicalized beyond
measure. I have to say that I have gotten to the point--which is not to
say that I won't listen to your concerns, or to say that you can't have
your critical dialogue--where I'm tired and astounded by the way in which
his thought (along with his friends--I think of Deleuze) has been made into
some kind of parlour game. To me its simply incredible, and the worst form
of disservice to Foucault himself. Sure, disagree. But make the
disagreement positive--the jumping off point of an alternative reading, a
new insight--instead of taking the easy route and criticising Foucault for
talking about prisons from the "ivy-halls" of the College, or saying simply
'in my opinion he goes too far'.
3) So you find blindness in Foucault? I prefer not to pick and choose.
I prefer to look for the powerful; to give Foucault my time and attention,
and to forgive him his passions, his occaisonal leaps. Because when he
does so--it seems to me--he does so with open eyes; he's looking for escape
routes. He's not judging or pronouncing. He's not ending the debate but
opening it (in our heads). He's not speaking truths, but suggesting
objections which become the grounding--in partnership, hand-in-hand, if you
like--in the search for a difficult truth. Does giving him some slack make
one naive; does it mean taking Foucault to be some kind of God, beyond
criticism? If that is your opinion (as it seems), it's you that's naive.
I haven't struggled with his thought for so many years, almost felt at
times his presence with me--his own finger pointing to the words as he
leans over me and I read--without, I admit, coming to love him, and his
thinking. Does this make me his slave, or does it mean that I attempted to
deeply understand the reasons for him saying certain things; that I took
his work as whole--tried to accept each part of it--in order to better
understand him, and his thought?
4) "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." A
difference which though significant on the surface is about, all the same,
the difference as represented in the distance between two angels dancing on
the head of a pin. Is it not obvious to you (I'm simply presuming you've
done your groundwork) that the emergence of the State
presupposes--includes--each of these forms in a single form? Isn't it one
of Foucault's insights to say that that the liberal state was in fact first
the police state, and that what becomes the police state is in fact a
vulgarization (in some senses an abberation) of the liberal state? You
speak of democracy as if it were a given. Let's quote Voltaire; "Are you
still ignorant of the first principles of the police?" Have you read
Justi, Sonnenfels, Seckendorf, Dithmar, Darjes, Zinke, Moser? Tell me what
you find there in terms both of public assistance and the spirit of
democracy. (Napoleon enters: "It is good policy to make a people believe
they are free. It is good government to make them as happy as they wish to
be." .... "The true policy of a government is to make use of aristocracy,
but inder the forms and the spirit of democracy." ... will you deny this
I submit to you that your "basic analytical distinctions" are
ahistorical, liberal and dangerous.
5) Tell me where Foucault advocates "democratic rule" (an exact phrase
match please). I don't think he shared, either, your sense of "political
6) Why do you respond to me only in part? Do you have a response to my
rejection of your criticism of Foucault's institutional positionality? Do
you have a response to the point I was making about the implicit prejudice
in your criticism against officials and guards, and people 'in power' (and
how such a reading is alien to Foucault's conceptualization of the

best wishes/sincerely,
Ian R. Douglas | Watson Institute for International Studies
Brown University, Box 1831, Providence, RI 02912 USA

tel: 401 863-2420 fax: 401 863-2192

"Answer me using simple words, not the
hollow ones." - Marcel Duchamps

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