Re: Il faut defendre Foucault


I hesitate to respond, given the insulting stupidity of your
generalisations about 'Arabs'. Is not the move from the specific
instance to the generalisation, and then from a generalisation to a '
what else do we expect?', indicative of precisely the matters at stake

In part then, these observations are more for the list generally

Larry has usefully pointed out two things - first that your argument
that because something 'originated' in the West, it is only ever
Western is a very peculiar and misleading suggestion; and second that
no one was suggesting Foucault _was_ a nationalist, but that - contrary
to your statement - he did think it a topic worthy of analysis.

As for the Mazower book supporting your contention, well, it's not
nearly as simple as that. I've read the Mazower book (in the Weidenfeld
& Nicolson edition), and it's a very readable guide to some of the key
issues surrounding the Balkans. As I stated in a previous post I am no
expert on this area, so I can't really pass real judgement on the
claims of the book, but I can express some skepticism about the claims
of the review.

Mazower suggests that linguistic or ethnic differences did not
necessarily have much value in the region until the 19th century. He
gives the example of a church sermon being in Greek or Bulgarian. The
priest and the congregation can't understand why a someone is
suggesting that it should be in their own language of Bulgarian - what
does it matter, they are all orthodox Christians? So here is a cleavage
based on religion - they are all Orthodox Christians, and not Muslims
or Turks.

(Nationality and consequent nationalism have, of course, not always
been based on language or ethnicity... religion and shared heritage,
values, etc. these have all played a part in the language of
nationalism too - look at the struggles within the previous empires of
the region)

Mazower traces how Romantic nationalism gained a foothold in the region
in the 19th century. Sure that was later than some parts of Western
Europe, but it was also contemporaneous with movements in Italy and
Germany for example. Nationalism didn't just happen in one place and
then get imported, it was an idea which (may or may not have its '
origin' in Western Europe and) took hold in different places and at
different times.

He then traces how the breakup of the old Empires in the East - Ottoman
and Austro-Hungarian - led to a number of successor states which, he
says 'appealed to the principle of nationality to claim their neighbour'
s lands... [but] all the new states had ethnic minorities whose
existence undermined their claims to rule in the name of the Nation' (
p102). On p103 he is very clear: 'the era of religion was over; that of
ideology lay ahead: nationalism spanned them both'.

He notes that the notion of the nation-state was not exclusive, and
that Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia showed other forms of statehood
still existed. But, he says, the ethnic kaleidoscope meant that the
principle of nationality was a receipe for violence. He discusses how
popular nationalism was often a response to problems within Communist
states, who avowed principles of federation and internationalism. He
talks about how Yugoslavia retained for the longest time the Habsburg
notion that there could be a separation between nations and
nationalities (i.e. though there might be national groups, they need
not be in their own 'nation'.)

Then, right in the final pages of the book, he suggests that some of
the Western opposition to involvement in the region since 1990 was
of their suggestion that the violence and ethnic struggle was age old.
Violence in the region, for these people, was not due to the problems
of the European logic of state-building, but the 'stuff of Balkan
history'. On the contrary, he suggests, the region compares very
favourably in terms of generalised peace and crime to other areas of
Europe and the world.

Then comes almost the concluding sentence: 'Just as the nation-building
process is more recent and compressed in the Balkans, so ethnic
nationalism remains stronger, and civic traditions more fragile than
elsewhere' (p. 134).

Even if, and of course it's debatable, we can trace the notion of
nationalism to the 'West' or 'Western Europe', it seems clear from
Mazower's analysis that nationalism very clearly _is_ a factor now in
the politics of the region. And that it has been for sometime, even if
the suggestions that certain ignorant Western Europeans make about the
ages old problem is ill-informed and dangerous.

I'm glad I've read this book. I was looking at David Campbell's
National Deconstruction this morning, and found that a very interesting
and useful analysis. Foucauldian in places, but also informed by
Derrida and Levinas.


As I stated in a previous mail, to suggest Foucault is a philosopher is
fine by me; to suggest he is _only_ a philosopher is nonsensical. Yes,
Foucault has philosophical concerns or 'problems', but he investigates
them in a way that draws upon a number of other 'disciplines'. In turn,
Foucault's work has been appropriated and misappropriated by a number
of disciplines. I know the Philosophe collection, it has some very
useful pieces. Equally there's one edited by Jan Goldstein about
Foucault and history, which has some very useful pieces... As for the
Nietzsche comment, I can think of any number of 'philosophy'
departments that would _not_ consider him as a philosopher for
precisely that reason. I don't agree with them, but does that prove
your point? Really, rather than try to say that Foucault can _only_ be
read as X, or _never_ said anything about Y, wouldn't it be better for
you to see his interests and work as a whole?

Two final points,

But that
> he wrote about the nationalism does not means that we
> should call "nazies" israel:))

I don't remember who, if anyone, said that. I wonder if you're
misrepresenting again. I do remember that someone suggested that maybe
a Foucauldian analysis of that situation would shed some light on the

If you can represent
> "Il faut defendre la societe" than please, do it!

Well, I have written a long piece about it - "The War of Races and the
Constitution of the State: Foucault's <<Il faut defendre la societe>>
and the Politics of Calculation". It will be in _boundary 2_ Vol 29,
Spring 2002.



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