Re: foucault and agency

I think subsequent posts by Nathaniel Roberts and François Gagnon should
have been sufficient elaboration. Just to reiterate subject is a particular
type of agency and does not exhaust all other concepts of agency. Foucault
uses 'subject' in a quite specific and technical sense, which roughly
corresponds to the Enlightenment conception of man. "Subjectivity" is
defined by Foucault as a form of "organisation of self consciousness" (PPC:
253) implying that there may be forms of "organisation" of
self-consciousness other than subjectivity/subject. Furthermore this also
indicates that there can be forms of individual life that are not hinged on
organisation of self-consciousness in any sense. Thus we can conceive of
forms of individuality, according to Foucault, without reference to any
concepts of identity or soul etc. Foucault tried to show this (negatively)
by tracing the genealogy of modern soul as the product of recent events in
European history and not universal concept (see Stuart Elden's excellent
exposition of this in his Mapping the Present esp. 133-136). Positively in
his later writings Foucault tries to put forth the 'vision' of alternative
forms of individuations and individual lives that are not based on the
concepts of identity or soul.

There is no return of subject in later Foucault! The care of self, self
constitution, self fashioning, aesthetics of existence etc. do not signify
return to subject: " the problem is not to recover our 'lost' identity, to
free our imprisoned nature, our deepest truth; but instead, the problem is
to move towards something radically Other" (RM:121). Foucault uses normally
the concepts of self, individual in this context but also uses the concept
subjectivity and rarely term subject as well. But in this context he is
'creating' a new concept (in Deleuzian sense) by redefining the term
subjectivity and subject and stripping them off from their Enlightenment

There is no question of going back to a lost identity, to the true identity
because there is no lost identity to go back to, there is no deeper truth to
decipher except this truth that there is no true identity, there is no deep
truth except the identity that we create ourselves and keep creating.
Foucault makes clear this point referring to "Marx's phrase: man produces
man": "For me, what must be produced is not man identical to himself,
exactly as nature would have designed him or according to his essence; on
the contrary, we must produce something that doesn't yet exist and about
which we cannot know how and what it will be . . . it is a question rather
of the destruction of what we are, of the creation of something entirely
different, of a total innovation" (ibid:121-122). Thus

". . . target nowadays is not to discover what we are, but to refuse what we
are. We have to imagine and to build up what we could be to get rid of (the)
kind of political 'double bind', which is the simultaneous individualisation
and tantalisation of modern power structures.
The conclusion would be that the political, ethical, social, philosophical
problem of our days is not to try to liberate the individual from the state,
and from the state's institutions, but to liberate us both from the state
and from the type of individualisation which is linked to the state. We have
to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of (the) kind of
individuality which has been imposed on us for several centuries" (SP: 216).


>Foucault's critics as a routine confuse his rejection of subject with the
>rejection of agency. It is not the same thing to dney agency and subject.
>One can believe in agency without believing in the notion of subject as
>understood in Cartesian and Enlightenment tradtion.

That's interesting. Can you elaborate? Thanks in advance!

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