Re: Power In Eduation & Foucault

On Fri, 19 Mar 1999, Ian Robert Douglas wrote:

> 5) Tell me where Foucault advocates "democratic rule" (an exact phrase
> match please). I don't think he shared, either, your sense of "political
> emancipation".

Well, in an interview with Raul Fornet-Betacourt, Helmust Becker and
Alfredo Gomez-Muller held early in 1984 and published in: "Foucualt Live
Collected Interviews 1961-1984 Semiotext(e), 1994 pp 432 - 449 he argued
that liberation (and here he gives the examples of the colonized
liberating themselves from the colonizers - in an earlier interview
recorded in the same collection he also insists that "the class stuggle
still exists") is a neccessary precondition for the practice of freedom
(care of the self).

He was clear that "I have always been somewhat suspicious of the notion of
liberation, because if it is not treated with precautions and within
certain limits, one runs the risk of falling back on the idea that there
exists a human nature... (which has been repressed and)... all that is
required is to break these repressive deadlocks and man will be
reconcilled with himself, rediscover his nature.....and re-establish a
full and positive nature with himself."

However he was just as clear that: "When an individual or social group
succeeds in blocking a field of power relations, immobilizing them and
preventing any reversibility of movement by economic, political or
military means, one is faced with what may be called a state of
domination. In such a state, it is certain that practices of freedom do
not exist or exist only unilaterally or are extremely constrained and
limited. Thus...liberation is sometimes the political or historical
condition for a practice of freedom."

So it seems fairly clear that Foucault, unlike some postmodernists, was
not abandoning liberation in favour of a Nietzschean aristoctratism which
is *solely* concerned with turning one self into a work of art. On the
contrary it seems that while Foucault chose to focus his work on the
practices of freedom (which made a lot of sense given the long history of
bias towards liberation) he was in support of both liberation *and*

Of course I much prefer this both-and approach to all the selfserving end
of history crap that lets the rich & powerful deny that the structures
which give them their privilege are political.

However while I am sure that economic systems which sentence millions to
malnutrition, 16 hour working days etc must be oppossed in the name of
freedom and liberation the irony is that, as anyone who knows about
struggle will agree, the worst of times often brings out the best in many
people. For example many people were, in some strange way, more alive,
more creative, more passionate, vital etc, etc during the struggle against
apartheid than they are now. Indeed many people, even ex-Robbin Islanders
are openly nostalgic for the struggle and find their new middle class
lifestyle deeply unsatisfing.

I am not suggesting the desparate, dangerous struggles or the conditions
which lead to them are "a good thing". But I am pointing out that at times
these struggles can, to paraphrase Foucault, go beyond their immediate
aims and destroy many of the interias and constraints of the present and
discover new openings, new weak points and new possibilities.

So while it is fairly obvious that liberation does not automatically lead
to freedom the evidence from many struggles and strugglers (eg Biko,
Douglass etc) does seem to lead to the more interesting conclusion that
freedom is not, as Foucault (and the marxist tradition assume) impossible
without liberation. Perhaps an attempt needs to be made to persue and
theorise both simultaneously.


And, by the way, John must specify that his short explaination of PoMo
applies largely to the West and not the rest of the world or to the
relationships between the countries and economies of the West and the

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