Re: foucault and liberalism

dear Ari,

It is unclear to me what is unclear to you! I don't see what is so troubling
to you in my understanding of Foucault's 'analytic' of power. And, also, I
don't undestand in what way liberal (governement) is a dirty word: I just said
it was a concept that Foucault used to highlight certain relations of power, a
certain mode of governement, not that he thought that we we're all free and
living in free social formations or any other argument that could have been
uttered through any 'liberal philosophy' (which he was trying so hard to
demarcate himself from). Bluntly put and in other words, could you help me
render your opposition to my statement (if that is indeed an opposition) a
little more transparent?


Selon Ari <ari@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>:

> > His 'analytique' was one (it became
> >especially clear in his later writings) of liberal government, that is of a
> mode of governement that conceives of its 'subjects' as capable and
> legitimate
> to participate in it through their engagement in the governing of self
> and/or
> others.
> dear francois,
> it s unclear to me how you can seriously say this. I might have
> misinterpreted you, but we really need to think about this liberal question
> at some point. first of all why use such a dirty word carelessly when we've
> read its various geneaological trajectories. see for instance foucault's
> 1979 lectures on the critique of governmental reason, which link the
> 'later' to the 'earlier' reflections on the subject, truth and power rather
> nicely. if anything foucault was under no illusion as to the freedoms of
> 'liberal governmentality'. the entry of political economy in political
> discourse not only sanctioned the end of the debate on the 'natural right'
> to rule, but also introduced the idea of a truth about /science of
> governing. the question of truth and self-limitation of government is
> introduced by political economy and in Foucault's words, it supplants the
> theory of sovereignty with the art of governing, and opposes to the
> maximalist idea of la raison d'etat, the 'minimalist' idea of 'liberal
> government' which emerges parallel to the german studies on
> Polizeiwissenschaft. the idea is that liberal governmentality produces as
> well as organises freedoms, alongside security strategies, control and
> surveillance geared to prevent the dangers inherent to the production of
> freedom, together with the ideology of 'dangerous' living aimed to turn
> individuals into 'abnormals', 'monsters' ect . liberalism, the
> individuation of disciplines and the life management of biopower emerge all
> around the same time. they co-exist and are mutually interdependent. they
> pre-constitute the field of play for the intransitivity of freedom.
> if we find it too uncomfortable, in times of permanent war unilaterally
> waged by neoliberalism on the whole of the global population, to read the
> war-talk metaphors of Foucault's 70's writings, let's turn to the 80's, but
> we'll find exactly the same problematisations: the relation between truth
> and subjet when it comes to the art of governing (oneself and others) and
> their problematisation in relation to the myopic narcisism of the concerned
> liberals of his age.
> here's a little more discomfort for the liberal readers of foucault from
> the later writings:
> When one sees today the meaning [signification], or rather the almost
> total absence of meaning [signification], that is given to the expressions
> otherwise familiar and often recurring in our discourse such as: return to
> the self, self-liberation, being oneself, being authentic ect. When one
> sees the absence of meaning and of thought that there is in each of these
> expressions employed today, I believe that one shouldnt be too proud of
> the efforts made at present to reconstitute an ethics of the self. And it
> could be that these series of efforts [] more or less stopped, frozen on
> themselves, and in this movement that we make at the moment at once we
> continue to refer to this ethics of the self, whilst never giving it any
> content, I think that one must suspect something like an impossibility of
> constituting today an ethic of the self, the moment when it might be an
> urgent and fundamental task, politically indispensable, to constitute an
> ethics of the self, if it is true after all that there is no other point,
> first or last, of resistance to political power but in the relation of the
> self to the self.
> [] If one takes the question of power, or political power, and replaces it
> with the more general question of governmentality governmentality intended
> as a strategic field of power relations, in the broader, not simply
> political, sense of the term-, then, if one takes governmentality as the
> strategic field of power relations, in what they have of mobile,
> transformable, reversible, I think that the reflection on this notion of
> governmentality must go through, theoretically and practically, the element
> of a subject that would be defined by the relation of the self to the self.
> In so far as the theory of political power as institution normally refers
> itself to a juridical conception of the subject of rights, it seems to me
> that the analysis of governmentality i.e. the analysis of power as an
> ensemble of reversible relations-must refer itself to an ethics of the
> subject defined by the relation of itself to itself. I simply want to say
> that in the kind of analysis that I have tried to propose for a long time,
> you see that: relations of power-governmentality-government of oneself and
> others-relation of oneself to oneself, all these constitute a chain, a web,
> and it is there, around these notions, that one must be able to, I think,
> articulate the question of politics and the question of
> ethics.(hermeneutique du sujet, my poor translation, p. 243-243)

François Gagnon
Étudiant au Doctorat
Département de Communication
Université de Montréal
(514)343-6111 poste 1464

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