Re: [Foucault-L] citation query

It's worth remembering that Foucault had more than one personal friend who suffered from mental illness.

Nikki Moore's PhD thesis on Foucault, Althusser, and Jacques Martin is available on the web

'Between work : Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser and Jacques Martin' (MIT, 2005)

Like Foucault, Martin was a homosexual affliliated with the PCF, but not a member (this of course has strong resonances with Foucault's situation in the '50s), and his suicide had a big impact on Althusser, who dedicated For Marx to him. From what I remember, Foucault was close to him as well. From what I remember of Althusser's recollections, they resonate strongly with Foucault's comment cited by Clare below.

See, for example, the following passage from chapter 3 of her thesis:

"Before examining the absence of work, or what Shoshana Felman calls 'unaccomplishment at work', I would like to explore two readings of the formation of the concept 'work' itself, as it was first defined by Kant. From there I would like to explore the link between Kant's notion of work and Foucault's theorization of its absence by looking at two of Foucault's publications which mere most markedly influenced by the figure of Jacques Martin and his friendship with Foucault: L 'Histoire de La Folie a l 'age Classique and an article entitled "Madness, the Absence of Work". Following this, it is important to look through the lens of Martin, as symbol and as friend, at attempts made in secondary literature which systematize Foucault's own work along the lines of a false concept of an absence of work, in order to offer an alternative viewing which allows Foucault's own work the freedom from oeuvre making it both seeks and deserves." (pp. 36-37)

This, together with Foucault's friendship with Althusser (also a mental patient) and his work in the mental hospital suggest that the suffering of the mentally ill had a personal pertinence for Foucault

On 03/09/2010, at 7:25 AM, c.ofarrell@xxxxxxxxxx wrote:


First, it's my impression that Foucault at one point acknowledged that
people living under the description "mental illness" may be suffering
in important respects, but that the reality or unreality of that fact
was largely irrelevant to his project. I seem to recall seeing this in
an interview, but don't recall where.

I don't think he quite saw it that way. In fact one could argue that it is
Foucault's outrage at the suffering of the mentally ill and other
marginalised people that underpins this intellectual work. I think I know
the interview you mean - I can't remember which one - but he would have been
trying to distinguish what he was doing from existential or phenomenological

See his 1977 'The Lives of Infamous Men' (in Power Essential Works vol 3).
where he mentions 'the resonance I still experience today when I happen to
encounter these lowly lives reduced to ashes in the few sentences that
struck them down' (p. 158)

See also 'Reponse a Derrida' (Dits et ecrits item 104) where in a fairly
heated response to Derrida he notes that for Derrida his work on madness
must seem 'naive indeed ... in wanting to undertake this history on the
basis of these derisory events which are the enclosure of some tens of
thousands of people or the organisation of an extra-judiciary State police'
(p. 283)

Clare O'Farrell

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