Re: Il faut defendre Foucault


> Nathan
> Thanks for your response. It is all very sensible and very intelligible of
> course.
> But there are few points I would like to add.
> I think you are still not sufficiently differentiating between force and
> power in Foucault. Again much of his study is not regarding power per se,
> (he denies developing any theory of power) he is mainly interested in
> form of power which he term as bio/disciplinary power, power of
> subjectivisation etc.

Well, Foucault's own distinction is between power (which he says he actually
does not talk about very much) and power relations (which is perhaps what
you mean by force, since power relations are defined as a moving substrate
of force relations). Foucault also makes the distinction between micropower
relations and macropower relations, the former being constitutive, though
there are also rules of double conditioning and so forth. This was the
distinction I tried to capture with the example of the police officer
beating someone. To the degree that Foucault speaks of domination, I think
it is on the macropower level, and one of his points is that this always
refers back to microscopic conditions of emergence.

> In this context your following statement seems to me problematic
> domination does not operate at the level of constitution of identity
> --identity is constituted by strife-ridden power relations, domination
> occurs at the level of the interaction of already defined identities
> (although these
> definitions are always already unstable).
> Your statement is complex and I do not intend to take it lightly but for
> understanding sake let me consider few possible options. By saying that
> domination does not operate at the level of constitution of identity are
> you implying that at the level of the formation of identity asymmetric
> relations do not exist?

Of course asymmetric relations exist, but Foucault does not equate aymmetry
with domination, on the contrary he insists that they are not the same.
See, for example, the Care of the Self as a Practice of Freedom piece.
Micropower relations are always unequal, but also unstable, because they are
rife with discontinuities and strife. They are never unilaterally
asymmetrical (if that phrase makes sense).

Do not you think that Foucault differentiates
> between the ways of subjectivisation, which are libratory and the ways of
> subjectivisation, which are subjecting/subjugating?

Well, yes and no. There is no form of subjectivisation that is simply and
unambiguously liberating, nor one that is unambiguously subjectivating. The
modes by which identities are constituted (i.e., disciplinary modes of
power) are always ambiguous and ambivalent. Think, for example, about the
way terms like "gay" which are meant to be stigmatising, get appropriated by
the very people they are supposed to stigmatise (that is one of Foucault's
examples, by the way).

> In the context of your above comments what you think of the following
> comments in Discipline and punish?:
> . .[the modern soul] is produced permanently around, on, within the
> body by functioning of a power that is exercised on those punished- and,
> a more general way, on those one supervises, trains and corrects, over
> madmen, children at home and school, the colonized, over those who are
> at a machine and supervised for the rest of life. This is the historical
> reality of this soul . . . On this reality reference, various concepts
> been constructed and domains of analysis carved out: psyche, subjectivity,
> personality, consciousness, etc . . . The man described for us, whom we
> invited to free, is already in himself the effect of a subjection much
> profound than himself.

I don't think anything I have said is inconsistent with that statement. As
I say, power relations are unequal, but Foucault rejects any fixed hierarchy
between, in this case, prisoners and those that administer discipline to
them. Though Discipline and Punish has only a few examples which highlight
this point, the History of Sexuality has more. I.e., when Foucault speaks
about the practices of suveillance over sexuality, he makes the point that
because of the voyeurism and hide-and-seek games it creates, the result is
that the surveillance actually increases rather than decreases sexual
desire, and that it does so for both observer and observed. To take a
different example: the family and psychiatry are two institutions which
cooperate to monitor deviations from the sexual norm, but they also come
into conflict with one another when the issue of removing family members
from the home arises. To suggest that these institutions simply operate in
a one-way fashion on the self just doesn't make any sense.

> Of course Foucault has emphasized again and again that modern forms of
> discipline are conditioned upon the possibility of self discipline but
> does not mean that we deny that the self which is surrendering itself
> voluntary to certain procedures and ideals is not itself a product and
> effect of power regime.

Of course, but not because the power regime stands above the self and
applies power unilaterally.

> My point is that to suggest that for Foucault
> something like nationalism could be invented in the (hermetically sealed?)
> west and then forced unilaterally on the (hermetically sealed) rest of the
> world is a joke.
> I have intentionally kept aloof from this debate about the west and the
> because so much sensibilities are involved.

A wise choice on your part.

Having said that I will concur
> with the point you make above. But this does not prove for me that
> imperialism did not exist or that after the end of colonial period neo
> imperialism has ceased to exist (I am not implying that you are saying
> this).

Thank you, because I am not saying this, and I certainly would not say that
imperialism and neo-imperialism do not exist. But I do not see why the
existence of such phenomena would depend on whether power operated
unilaterally or not. On the contrary, I think the idea that power operates
unilaterally papers over many of the complexities that are involved in the
process. Imperialism, for example, didn't just destroy the colonialized
parts of the world, it also put an end to feudalism in Europe, the process
was hardly one-way.

France might have left Algeria in 1968 but it still activity thwart
> establishment of anti imperialist regime that. Many people would deny
> but I think that would be ultimately untenable, at least for us who see
> intervention on the daily basis. Let me finish this with a quote from
> Foucault which might shed some further light on issues being discussed
> I do not mean to say that liberation or such and such a form of liberation
> does not exist. When a colonial people tries to free itself of its
> colonizer, that is truly an act of liberation, in the strict sense of the
> word. But we also know that . . . this act of liberation is not sufficient
> to establish the practice of liberty that later on will be necessary for
> this people, this society and this individual to decide upon receivable
> acceptable forms of their existence or political society
> Negative liberty is not sufficient and positive practice of liberty on the
> perpetual basis is necessary because we live under the sway of an order
> which never ceases producing and reproducing its effect on, within and
> around us. Hence active resistance is necessary at each and every moment.
> That at least seems to me to be the crux of Foucault message.

I would agree with what you have quoted and said above. But the possibility
of resistence comes because constitutive power relations do not operate in a
one-way fashion.

> regards
> ali
Take care,


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Dr. Nathan Widder
Lecturer in Political Theory
University of Exeter
Department of Politics
Amory Building
Exeter EX4 4RJ
Tel: 01392 263 183
Fax: 01392 263 305

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