Re: foucault and liberalism [Ari]

Ari Thanks for your brilliant post even if it was based on misunderstanding
of francois post on your part. I think francois
was saying something similar to what you are saying but in less elaborate

I think what distinguishes Foucault's treatment of liberalism from other
'left' treatments of the concept is the fact that he takes liberalism and
particularly liberal art of government very seriously. It does not imply any
praise of liberalism but it requires the full realisation of the strength of
the enemy.

In this context, the key innovation of Foucault, in my view, is to emphasise
the 'double character? of the concept of freedom. Freedom is both the
principle of intransigence and mode of subjection. Liberalism recognises
this double character of freedom and bases its art of government on this
realisation. Thus on the one hand Liberalism recognises that ?if one
governed too much, one did not govern at all ? that one provoked results
contrary to those one desired? (FR: 242). Second liberalism realises that
freedom is not only a principle of intransigence, it can also be a principle
of governence: "?. . . there is no face to face confrontation of power and
freedom which is mutually exclusive (freedom disappears every where power is
exercised), but a much more complicated interplay. In this game freedom may
well appear as the condition for the exercise of power (at the same time its
precondition, since freedom must exist for power to be exerted, and also its
permanent support, since without the possibility of recalcitrance, power
would be equivalent to a physical determination) [SP: 221].

The realisation of this 'double character' of freedom is important for
liberalism for another important reason. It is the inherent connection of
liberal governance to capitalism. Liberal governance is indeed capitalist
governance and nothing else. Capitalism for its continued production and
reproduction needs this 'double character' of freedom and its use. On the
one hand capitalism requires maximisation of utility, diversity and
multiplicity but on the other hand it requires that this multiplicity,
diversity and utility be geared towards a 'singularity' however without
hampering the process of the maximisation of utility. It is in this context
that liberal art of governance is situated in Foucault?s analysis.

What needs to be emphasised is the fact that Foucault did not deny the
existence of subjection or repression in liberalism. It is on the contrary
considered to be the most formidable machine of subjection and repression.
However, Foucault's analysis focuses on explaining the 'mode' of liberal
repression and subjection. Foucault considers 'freedom' and its double
character as necessary in this context.

Thus it is true that, "The man described for us, whom we are invited to
free, is already in himself the effect of a subjection much more profound
than himself" (DP: 29-30?). It is also true that, "The real, corporal
disciplines constituted the foundation of the formal, juridical liberties"
(ibid: 222). But this is not Foucault?s central claim. If it were, his
analysis would have been repetition of what has been said millions of times
before. Foucault's central claim is that these 'effect of subjection' and '
real corporal discipline' is not possible without the possibility of
self-subjection and self discipline. Liberal governance is above all hinged
on the possibility and viability of self-governance. I think this is
Foucault?s central claim.


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