[Foucault-L] foucault and social movements

David Halperin's "Saint Foucault" is perhaps the most sustained engagement with Foucault, his personal thoughts on social movements, and it's initial reception within queer-focused political action like Queer Nation and ACT-UP.

There are a lot of short references in Foucault's interviews to social movements and political emphasis - the most popular is a Deleuze/Foucault conversation entitled "Intellectuals & Power". A common reference is to Foucault passing mention of "hyper-pessimistic activism." While he was deeply involved in political action throughout his whole life (from the asylum, to the prison, and current events), he tended to stick to early-Modern France in his academic work. Biographies like Eribon's (and Halperin's) or even the semi-biographical account of Focault's time in Iran might give a fuller account of how to connect his circumscribed academic work to his greater personal involvement with political action.

As far as secondary literature goes, I like Michael Hardt's read. Included in both Labor of Dionysus and Empire are Foucault's critiques of social movements - as such. One essay that is an elaboration on a section of Labor of Dionysus is Hardt's "Withering of Civil Society" found in a mid-90s (1994?) Social Text. The argument is that 'civil society' as per Hegel is the education-qua-disciplining of labor as a pre-condition -- said otherwise, the self-inscription of governmental intelligibility that transform movements-as-themselves into movements-for-themselves at the cost of autonomy. There's loads of other "governmentality" literature out there about social movements which make the same sort of argument (Nick Rose's Powers of Freedom comes to mind) - but Hardt's is maybe the clearest succinct philosophical elaboration. And, of course, the post-colonial literature is particularly good on these points, too.

On the Agamben front, has he a reading of "movement" that opens itself onto another popular political philosophy/theory terrain of Schmitt & Arendt: http://multitudes.samizdat.net/Movement.html

If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Andrew Culp
Ohio State University
Department of Comparative Studies

Partial thread listing: