I thought this would make for some interesting exercise, since everybody on
the list seems to be asleep.

In Steven Best and Douglas Kellner's rather pathetic response to Foucualt's
work in "Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations," they claim that
volumes II and III of The History of Sexuality must presuppose the existence
of some Enlightenment conception of an autonomous agent. This is probably
based in part on a fairly superficial read of Foucault's discussion of
ethics as the practice of freedom. Best and Kellner seem to think of
Foucault's understanding of the self as a unitary entity that, according to
Foucault's early work, is produced through subjectivation, and, according to
Foucault's latest work, can autonomously re-constitute itself.

However (and I'm lifting these equotations from Rabinow), in "The Ethic of
the Concern for the Self as a Practice of Freedom," Foucault tells us that
the subject

is not a substance. It is a form, and this form
is not primarily or always identical to itself
(Rabinow, Ethics Subjectivity and Truth, 290).

Furthermore, in "Technologies of the Self," Foucault says

'Self' is not a reflexive pronoun, and it has
two meanings. 'Auto' means 'the same,' but it
also conveys the notion of identity. The latter
meaning shifts the question from 'What is the
self?' to 'Departing from what ground shall I
find my identity'" (Rabinow, EST, 230)?

Let's shade in this picture anymore. Deleuze explains that

Following the Greek diagram, only free men can
dominate others . . . But how could they domi-
nate others if they could not dominate them-
selves? . . . That is what the Greeks did: they
folded force, even though it still remained
force. They made it relate back to itself. Far
from ignoring interiority, individuality or
subjectivity they invented the subject, but on-
ly as a derivative or the product of 'subjecti-
vation' (Foucault, 101).

So how exactly are we to clarify the relationship Foucault establishes in
order to respond to Best and Kellner? Is it that the relation of an "old
subjectivity," so to speak, to a "new subjectivity," so to speak, is
analogous to relationship of two consecutive epistemes in that the latter is
always entered into from the standpoint of the former? Or is it that Best
and Kellner are just taking 'subjectivation' seriously, and equating the
idea of a produced subject with the idea of a kind of robotic dupe that is
unable to even make choices for itself? On what grounds do we master our
desire and choose our stylized mode of existence? To what extent are those
grounds determined by one's current standpoint?

Nate Goralnik


"So long as logic is given absolute pre-eminence in
philosophy, and the logical mind placed first in the
hierarchy of human functions, reason seems inevitably
caught up in the fascination of static and self-
identical essence, and existence tends to become an
elusive and shadowy matter." William Barrett

Partial thread listing: