The politics of the polis had to do with the defense of the polis which in turn meant how many healthy guys you could put in the field who were capable of hacking other healthy guys to death. This in turn depended on the economy of the polis which in turn depended on stuff like Health care and Education and Conflict Resolution and locking up drunks and rapists.
All through history, politics was 'bio-politics'. True, there was a brief period when German Catholics who failed to get into the priesthood, or even get a gig as a Professor of Theology at a Catholic University, felt they had to find something equivalent to Thomist philosophy in Political Science. After all, if the Pope had said- for no good reason- that you've got to affirm Aristotle if you want to affirm Christ- then it must be the case that in order to join the other side in the Kulturkampf you have to find some Political Philosophy which aint Kantian or Hegelian coz Nietzsche said 'God is dead' and then Weber talked some bollocks and since I'm shit at maths I've got no alternative but to choose between Husserl or Heidegger's warmed up sick.
The French knew that both Nazi shite and Soviet shite were shite- France was more advanced in many respects and definitely richer than either shithole- but it didn't want to just embrace American 'Fordism' and Operations Research and Cowles Commission mathematical economics and Statistical Sociology coz the French enjoy talking high falutin' bollocks and shitting higher than their arsehole.
For a while, the French could embrace a Kojevian Hegelianism but this just meant the European Union and France getting catch up growth through indicative planning. In other words, France stood on the brink of becoming as boring as Britain. It couldn't do Marxism- coz the French Left didn't get that it aint cool to beat up niggers and demand their expulsion- and it couldn't do Analtickle Philosophy coz France had great mathematicians who were doing amazing things in category theory which had rendered that shite obsolete.
What could the French do? They could pretend America had infinite power and that America would use that infinite power in an occult manner such that the typical Frenchman would find that his breton jersey had turned into a T shirt and the string of garlic around his neck had turned into popcorn while his beret had been magically replaced by a baseball cap.
No doubt, every less developed country had Professors with similar paranoid ideation and, we must admit, they were right. We have become Americanized. But this was through mimetic, not magical, effects. Also it cost money. Nothing came for free.
Americans didn't get that France was a less developed country. It hadn't always been- but, after the war, that was what it was. Political Philosophy in such places is a sort of nativist religion which can turn into a cargo cult. Whether it is Heideggerian, or Gandhian, or features 'Negritude', does not matter. The thing is shit.
Geoff Shulenberger, writing in American affairs, wonders why COVID didn't see more Agamben type rants from the Left. Was this because Foucault's influence has declined? The answer is, no. Don't be silly. Foucauldian shite is good if you want to write a thesis about shit you know nothing about. It's just a hoop you jump through. Nobody believes that crap.
Geoff thinks differently-
Perhaps Foucault’s most influential coinage
other than bio-politics which all politics always is save for Heideggerian or Straussian 'political philosophy' which is meant to stand in for Religion, or else Foucauldian gesture politics which is a way of saying to every 'progressive' cause that comes knocking- 'I gave at the office, fuck off and leave me alone'.
is his related notion of “power-knowledge.”
as opposed to knowledge that is utterly useless and which makes you impotent. True, if you were stuck in some shithole University Department in India or Iraq or whatever and had to pretend that Dipshit Chakroboringcunt or Michel Aflaq weren't fucked in the head because your Head of Department had some power and you had no other way to eke out a living then, sure, you might talk resentfully of 'power-knowledge'. But your students were training to be plumbers on the side and running away to places where they could make real money.
This must be distinguished from the better-known and less controversial dictum that “knowledge is power,” often attributed to Francis Bacon, which asserts that knowledge enables control of the world.
Knowledge is either a Structural Causal Model (SCM) which enables better predictions and outcomes or it is a mere shibboleth which may function as a screening or signaling device for some corrupt or stupid purpose.
For Foucault, in contrast, knowledge does not enable the exercise of power, but proceeds from it.
That's true enough. You have to have the power to do whatever the SCM says is the smart thing to do. Without that power, the SCM is useless. Fuck off and be a mystic or practice magic if you think differently.
This may not have been obvious at that time. Some may have thought the Cultural Revolution was spontaneous rather than something Mao imposed. Others might have believed that 'community activists' would transform American ghettos into something other than crack infested hell-holes. Moreover, back then, you really did have a nasty and intrusive police force which would try to entrap homosexuals and which would take pleasure in beating or gunning down blacks. As for women, there actually was a rape and harassment culture. The statistical proof can't be gainsaid. But it was those same statistical methods which provided the solution- better mechanism design through consent decrees. In other words, 'Law & Econ' not 'critical legal theory' had to do the heavy lifting.
Foucault himself may have been mentally ill, but he wasn't a complete wanker. He could see that parts of America could become safe for Gays through 'Tiebout sorting'. He didn't understand 'Neo-Liberalism' but could see that the European project might be Kojevian in a benign way.
Back in the early Eighties, there were plenty of middle of the road academics who enjoyed reading great literature and who needed to defend themselves from the Maoists on campus by pretending to be fellow travelers. Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Said, etc. provided a sort of camouflage or laissez passer such that they could carry on with their work while encouraging the more uncouth of their students to read a couple of cultured authors- like Borges- who inculcate respect for paideia and the liberal arts.
In America, the failed Catholic Nazis- Heidegger, Schmitt- or even non Nazis like Voegelin- were useful to Catholic conservatives like William Buckley. Meanwhile, Leo Strauss was providing Jews and some elitist Protestants a path from Trotskyite shite to Neo-Con stupidity. But, by the Eighties, it was obvious that the katechon is nothing but the mysterion oikonomous of the Globalized Financial Markets invisible hand. Knowledge is linked to Power through a Technology which focuses on improving efficiency. The only problem was that these cunts didn't get Knightian Uncertainty. Just adopting 'regret minimization' as Muth Rationality would put an end to all the worthless academic availability cascades which have since rolled on in Political Economy.
In this context, Foucault wasn't wholly useless. The guy was an authentically transgressive, rather than cuddly, type of Gay. His paranoia sat well with post-hippy paranoia of an Andrew Jackson or, No-nothing, type. But the main thing about him was that like Deleuze and Derrida and even Lacan, the guy genuinely was into Literature with a big L. Like Edward Said, Foucault has purple passages of a type which, in Nabakov's words, invite us to 'roll upon them as a grateful mongrel on a spot of turf fouled by a Great dane'.
But, for the English speaking world, the purple passages in Hamlet are about, not Power but losing it even over one's own mind.
We can't believe mind's generate power in proportion to their involution. We must believe the reverse because Shakespeare tells us so.
Geoff is a bright young man, shaped perhaps by the post-Crash dead cat bounce of the Left, who- being a clean cut American- may well have illusions about infinite power being available on tap.
This inversion comes about because power establishes the truth regimes that enable the production of knowledge.
It may do. It may not. If there is an incentive compatible mechanism linking power and knowledge- i.e. efficiency increases- then we may speak of 'truth regimes'- like what obtains in STEM subject. But if there is no real knowledge and no real power then you've just got academic availability cascades consisting of stupid lies which, sooner or later, nobody will pay very much for. The current market price for a Diploma in Socioproctology is less than the cost of a Federal Boob Inspector T-shirt.
The resulting knowledge perpetuates and expands power—which produces more knowledge. In Foucault’s words, “‘Truth’ is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extends it.”
If it really is Truth and increasing Power is genuinely coming on line. But we don't know this in advance. Some say String Theory has been a complete waste of time. Knightian Uncertainty is what makes Foucault as useless as Chomsky or Arrow or Sen. We don't know all possible states of the world. Our behavior has to be 'regret minimizing'. This means our 'Truth' is pragmatic and defeasible. As for power- it is merely a Hohfeldian incident. Using it may cause us to forfeit it. But so may not using it. Whether we had it or not may only be revealed after the event- or not even then.
From his 1963 book The Birth of the Clinic up to the final series of lectures he delivered in the early 1980s, Foucault’s work on the inseparability of power and knowledge
was worthless. We don't and can't know what is either power or knowledge at any given time. They may always be described as 'inseparable' after the fact. But so can anything else. We could speak with equal fervor of the inseparability of Freedom and the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat.
laid particular emphasis on the political implications of biomedical science.
The fucker was a lunatic. He'd been in an asylum. His psychiatrist, Jean Delay, however, wasn't shit. The guy helped invent chlorpromazine. Naturally, the Leftists forced him out of the profession coz he actually helped schizophrenics. Delay then got cozy in the French Academy on the strength of his lapidary style.
Nobody now thinks getting the mentally ill off their meds will help them or liberate society. Nor does anyone still want to put LSD in the water supply or, like Cohn Bendit- or Foucault- suggest that buggering babies will release Society from the fatal embrace of Neo-Liberalism.
“Biopower,” another influential coinage, was his term for the diffuse array of institutions that monitor, manage, and optimize the health of the population in advanced industrial societies.
Till they suddenly collapse coz they've run out of money or oxygen cylinders or vaccines or whatever. We want our countries to have plenty of 'bio-power'. We just don't want to pay for it.
“Biopolitics” was his related term for the general involvement of the modern state in the biological life of its subjects, evident in its attention to matters like “the problems of birth rate, longevity, public health, housing, and migration” and the “explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of populations.”
Stuff like putting child molesters in jail. The alternative is that vigilantes take their time with those nonces.
The evolution of modern medicine, Foucault suggests, cannot be understood separately from the political uses it has been put to.
But Doctors can practice modern medicine without any such thing whereas Foucault could do fuck all in the way of curing anybody of a painful malady.
If you can't understand modern medicine- e.g. in what sort of patients stent placement is contraindicated- you can't understand how it evolved. On the other hand, everybody can understand that politics is about using medicine to make people healthier.
For Foucault’s critics, the implication that there can exist no disinterested, apolitical pursuit of knowledge is scandalous.
They are as stupid as him. True, if you are very very rich and very very smart you could pursue knowledge for its own sake. But you don't know in advance if you are barking up a wrong tree. Equally you may be reinventing the wheel or, like Foucault, just talking bollocks. Look at Soros. What has his Foundation achieved?
Conservatives, liberal defenders of science, and traditional humanists have all claimed that his work contributed to the politicization of universities in recent decades.
Actually, he gained salience after politics died on campus. Gesture politics was safer and anyway writing Foucaldian shite is cheap and doesn't use up much mental energy. Universities like charging high fees for Research degrees where the research costs no money. If Karen Barad was still doing theoretical physics, you'd have to spend a lot of money on giving them time on a Super-computer and you'd have to pay a lot to her Research Assistants. Then, if they make a breakthrough, you have to spend mega-bucks getting thing tested at a CERN type facility. Letting them drone about how Technoscience is raping Wimmin and Transpeeps is as cheap as chips.
Many on the right have regarded his arguments as offering a pretext for declining standards and the imposition of ideology in the classroom.
Why not admit that Classrooms where this can happen are located in shite University Departments? Defund them immediately.
Recently, critics of campus leftism including Jordan Peterson, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose have revived these attacks. The idea that Foucault and other “postmodernists” viewed scientific objectivity as a myth that disguises structures of domination has even led some to trace right-wing science denial to their impact.
Why bother 'tracing' shit? Paranoid nutters will provide yet more cogent arguments for why the Jews are behind the suppression of time travel.
Foucault’s detractors are not wrong about the extent of his influence—even if they tend to mischaracterize it.
But he influenced only the obviously feeble minded who nevertheless craved a credential. So what? David Icke has had more political impact.
Over the past fifty years, he has exercised a broader impact on the academic humanities and social sciences than almost any other thinker.
But only to the extent that they turned to shit. He didn't cause that. If it hadn't been him it would be someone else equally vacuous. Look at the research Amartya Sen or Derek Parfit has inspired. It is wholly worthless.
By some measures, he is the most cited author across those fields. In late 2020, however, some began to observe that Foucault’s citations, as reported by Google Scholar, had dropped precipitously over the course of that year, even as the global pandemic and the unprecedented political responses it generated would seem to make his account of biopolitics more relevant than ever.
Paranoid shit is only relevant if you aren't afraid of dying a painful death because of a Frankenstein virus.
Given long academic publication timelines and the likely role of random fluctuation, we probably shouldn’t read too much into Foucault’s 2020 citation slump. Nevertheless, it is emblematic of a curious absence. Even though the elite university graduates who shape media narratives and policy discussions are highly likely to have encountered his ideas,
but only in specific identitarian silos
his critical account of the politics of public health has had essentially no impact on debates around Covid-19 policy.
because it wasn't critical. By contrast Health Economics and Epidemiology and so forth has developed all sorts of tools and ways to access big data sets. On the one hand, this means manifest injustice becomes justiciable and easy to reform through mechanism design. On the other hand, some 'amateurs' have had better predictive success for their models and have gained a big Twitter following. This has changed actual policy- despite the best efforts of entrenched technocratic elites. Warmed up Foucaldian sick can't compete.
The simplest explanation of this omission is that while he is largely embraced on the political left, his account of biopolitics is at odds with many views now prevalent on that side of the spectrum.
That is a crazy explanation. In politics you constantly embrace stuff you don't believe in for a second. Even Gandhi, who was forever denouncing Western allopathic medicine, would quickly hobble to the nearest surgeon if his piles were giving him too much grief.
Even a perfunctory reading of Foucault should raise questions about the current veneration of scientific expertise and related demands to subordinate politics to science.
But even a perfunctory reading would show the guy was stupid, ignorant and paranoid.
Anyway, who would want to subordinate Fauci to Trump? Why not just put Q-Anon in charge of the CDC?
Indeed, there could hardly be an outlook more opposed to Foucault’s mode of analysis than a politics premised on “believing in science.”
No. To be fair, Foucault did run to Doctors and understood other savants would too. But 'believing in science' means that sooner or later you stop having unprotected sex in bath-houses. You become prudent. Bourgeois. Sad. Unless you die before this happens which is worse.
From a Foucauldian perspective, such a fetishization of scientific knowledge entails a blindness to its inextricability from power. In his famous 1971 debate with Noam Chomsky, Foucault asserted that “[t]he real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the working of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent.”
Back in '71, anti-psychiatry was still cool. Anyway, Homosexuality wasn't removed from the DSM list till '73. Knowledge has moved on a lot. But for that to happen Power had to decrease. Competition is the magic word in this context. American Medicine, like American Jurisprudence, faced a problem of forum shopping. Thus it had to change with the times.
In other words, the same qualities that the average professional-class liberal today views as the virtues of scientific institutions are what Foucault claimed should lead us to be skeptical.
We know that when a science is in its infancy, it is going to fuck up a lot. That's why it will want more power to protect itself. Our superior SCM in this respect dictates a regret minimizing strategy. We won't get the procedure till 'the kinks are ironed out'.
From the standpoint offered by his work, deferring to “science” for political decisions does not merely imply putting the best-informed individuals in charge. On the contrary, it means drastically reconfiguring the exercise of power. During the pandemic, the delegation of decisions to public health experts has entailed a dramatic expansion of state authority and abrogation of basic rights, most notably freedom of speech and assembly. A range of needs and values that might contravene the prevention of infection were sidelined at the behest of unelected health officials. None of this is to say there is no reasonable argument for such an approach. The problem is that this mode of politics is an attempt to circumvent reasoned argument altogether.
This would certainly have been the case if 'amateurs' on Twitter with better predictive models could not displace the 'experts' or rather, as a competitive fringe, force them to move to the competitive equilibrium.
Geoff doesn't know about Knightian Uncertainty. He doesn't know about Complexity, Concurrency and Computability problems. Thus, like elderly shitheads like Amartya Sen, he is barking up a tree which was cut down in the early Seventies.
It was for this reason that Foucault saw a fundamental tension between the principles of democratic deliberation and the modern public health bureaucracy.
But so did Public Choice mavens. People like Julian LeGrand were teaching low IQ guys like me about this back in the late Seventies and Eighties. This is stuff where you get decent budgets and smart assistants to properly research. I'd have done it if I'd had a higher I.Q and if plain vanilla Accountancy didn't pay better.
My point is that yahoos like me- doomed to do the intellectual coolie work of advanced economies- could see, at 19, how fundamental problems affecting own own 'subaltern' immigrant communities could be resolved by boring empirical work. What chance did Foucault have to influence us? We don't spend our spare time reading Racine. We don't even know from Christianity. But we've gotten richer. In Britain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary are both of Hindu, immigrant, origin. How come they don't know Foucault from a hole in the ground? After all, non-STEM Hindu academics in India can't write two sentences without invoking his name. The answer is that immigrants can only come up by selling stuff the indigenous people want. Curry? Yes Sir! Would you like poppadoms with that? Accountancy? Yes Sir! Foucauldian shite? How much does it pay? Oh... Well, I've got this idiot cousin back in India. Will she do?
This conflict becomes visible when the determinations of medical and scientific experts are presented as transcending politics, as has occurred in the past year.
This would be the case only if experts said 'politics can do nothing here. All we can do is pray.' But that's not what has happened. Medical and Scientific experts have presented different 'trade offs' between mortality and more or less economically costly counter-measures. But, they have not had any type of monopoly because the underlying Structural Causal Models are transparent and the gifted amateur can emerge as a 'giant slayer'. Taiwan has had the lowest morality rate. It brought in Audrey Tang who in turn used 'hackathons' and 'quadratic voting' to crowd-source solutions. If China has one model, Taiwan has another. There may be some feminists who have a problem with the 'trans' community. But the moment one of their number is saving your Granny or your baby's life, you put aside your bigotry.
For the average citizen, the opaqueness of the relevant calculations, along with the identification of extraordinary risks, essentially forestalls the possibility of debate.
No. The 'average citizen' who does- as many do- an ordinary job which involves modern technology and statistical methods can prove himself better than credentialized cunt siloed in Academo-Bureaucratic Ivory Towers.
Maths is transparent. Bullshit- like other types of shit- is opaque.
Questioning the determinations of health experts is treated not as participation in a democratic decision-making process, but as tantamount to “literal murder.”
Democratic decision making- like every other sort- is about being able to choose your expert advisor on the basis of your own preferences. It is not about 'participation' in stupid sophomore shite.
This logic, as we have seen, can also provide a rationale for restrictions in other realms.
No logic can provide any rationale. Only an ignorant cunt who knows shit about Maths would suggest otherwise. Why not just say P must be equal to NP so that Banach Tarski means I am always sucking my own dick? Any natural language statement can have a mathematical representation. But that representation, if senseless, fucks itself up so thoroughly that it ceases to be available for any meretricious purpose.
Thus, vesting authority in ostensibly neutral institutions can enable a massive covert expansion of unaccountable power.
The weasel word here is 'can'. Listening to Geoff can lead to our chopping off our own heads and shoving it up our poopers. Vesting shit in shit could lead to shit fucking your Mommy and making you watch.
The irony of Foucault’s current status, therefore, is that
a guy who liked reading old books and who could occasionally write a purple passage, is the center of a cult among people who can't read or write for shit
the implications of his work are at odds with many of the views of the degree-holding professional class among whom his influence is putatively the strongest. Conversely, despite the widespread derision of Foucault that has long prevailed on the right, his skeptical perspective on the politics of expertise resonates with the attacks on liberal-dominated expert institutions and the propagandistic weaponization of “science” lately heard in conservative precincts.
This is silly. We aren't living in a Phillip Pullman 'Dark Materials' world. There is only Science. Magic doesn't exist. But it is Commerce which decides what is or isn't Science. Lord Maxwell wrote, in 1874,
In the very beginnings of science, the parsons, who managed things then,
Being handy with hammer and chisel, made gods in the likeness of men;
Till Commerce arose, and at length some men of exceptional power
Supplanted both demons and gods by the atoms, which last to this hour.
The atoms, of course, could not last. Commerce needed them split and so split they were. Parsons and Gods, too, turned out to be useful. Why? If God is dead, then 'Political Philosophy' will be 'Presentist'- i.e. gas on about our duty to be at home in this world and thus to construct a God of pi-jaw. Thankfully, the existence of Knightian Uncertainty and Newcombe type problems means that ontological dysphoria is regret minimizing. At the margin, even Foucauldian shite serves a purpose coz it might get stupid Yahoos to read some proper books.
This unacknowledged realignment is newly evident
in the Covid era. But even before last year, the peculiarities of Foucault’s U.S. reception
obscured certain valences of his work
like the fact it was stupid, ignorant, shit
that might have troubled many of his erstwhile admirers.
The guardians of respectable opinion indirectly revealed their discomfort with applying Foucault’s account of biopower to Covid politics early on in 2020, when the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben became embroiled in controversy for his criticisms of the harsh lockdowns imposed in his country. Agamben, who frames much of his work as an engagement with Foucault’s, described the Italian government’s lockdown and social distancing policies as the leading edge of a “techno-medical despotism” that overrides democracy and rights in the name of security.
But it was David Icke who had a bigger impact. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn's smarter older brother played a big role in that type of stupidity.
Two decades ago, Agamben raised similar concerns about the post‑9/11 security state and the War on Terror. The demand for security at all costs, he argued then, can become the pretext for the imposition of a “state of exception” in which laws and rights are indefinitely suspended. At the time, these arguments made him an intellectual hero for much of the Left.
The fellow was a spoiled Catholic. America had already had McArthyism. Fuck could they learn from a retard from a comparatively backward part of the world?
But when he argued last year that prioritizing the risk of the virus above all other concerns has similar effects, his former allies in the global progressive intelligentsia denounced his Covid interventions as dangerous and irresponsible. Instead, it fell to observers on the lockdown-skeptical political right, including R. R. Reno and Christopher Caldwell in the United States, to cite him favorably.
I've never heard of either. Still, it makes sense for Chairman Bill's babies to quote a Schmittian cunt.
During the same period that conservatives were expressing appreciation for Agamben’s Foucault-inspired Covid critiques, the historian Blake Smith made the case for an “unwoke Foucault” in a series of essays. Foucault, Smith suggests, has much to offer to critics of the current regime on both the right and the dissenting left. Smith notes that conservatives “are adding to their long-held distrust of the state a new suspicion about the power of managerial and therapeutic experts over everyday life.”
Thomas Szasz coined the phrase 'the Therapeutic State' in 1963. But G.K Chesterton had described this dystopia in 'the Ball and the Cross' decades previously.
On the other hand, Government regulations can increase 'compliance costs' which erode competitivity. This ultimately means fewer jobs, lower real wages and a smaller tax take.
In light of these concerns, he writes, “Foucault’s work [offers] theoretical support to conservative critiques of the ‘new class’ of experts”—ironically, again, the class among which Foucault has been most widely celebrated.
No. What is needed is not 'theoretical support'. It is Economists and Accountants showing the thing is unaffordable.
Foucault developed his critique of expertise at a moment when power was undergoing a profound shift across the West—a shift noted by commentators on both the left and the right. The mid-twentieth century witnessed the consolidation of what the Trotskyite-turned-conservative James Burnham called the “managerial elite”: an unelected caste of experts who effectively govern advanced industrial societies from both the public and private sectors.
But this lead to a 'divorce between ownership and control' which in turn caused Institutional Investors to rebel against the 'managerial elite' by backing corporate raiders.
While the grand ideals of democracy live on superficially in the mediatized theater of electoral politics, power becomes concentrated in undemocratic bureaucracies. On the left, the sociologist C. Wright Mills offered similar analyses shortly after Burnham. Foucault, when he charted the transformation of power from sovereign authority and formal hierarchy into diffuse localized operations overseen by credentialed technocrats, was also responding to these developments.
A little power became concentrated in the hands of cunts like Mills and Burnham and Foucault. But they were shit. So that power turned out to be a totally limp dick. Meanwhile guys who studied plumbing or air conditioner maintenance were buying jet skis.
In his earliest books, History of Madness and The Birth of the Clinic, he traced these alternative sites of power back to their uneasy origins alongside the rise of the modern secular state.
The alternative site was the Army. It might launch a coup. Otherwise it was Judges and Legislators who exercised power. It is foolish to think that Psychiatrists were running things secretly.
On one hand, the latter accorded universal rights to its subjects; on the other, new regimes of expertise carved out exceptions to these rights.
This simply isn't true. Rights are linked to remedies. Governments practice service provision division. Some have effective remedies to rights violations, most don't. What 'exceptions' is this guy talking about? If you run around with a radish up your bum claiming to be the Emperor Napoleon you lose certain Hohfeldian immunities unless, of course, it is part of your course work for your NVQ in Social Work or Performance Art or whatever
Coercive intrusions into privacy and prolonged confinement, he showed, were legitimated by expert professionals in burgeoning fields like criminology and psychiatry.
Rapists get locked up and Maniacs end up in padded cells. How very sinister!
In societies that, in formal terms, were supposed to grant basic freedoms to all, madmen and delinquents could be deprived of their autonomy at the behest of these specialists.
Or their families or neighbors. Prisons and Asylums existed before there were 'specialists'.
Moreover, this constrictive regime of enclosed spaces revealed a logic that operated subtly across the society as a whole. This was the logic of what Foucault called “discipline.”
Foucault was wrong. Prisons and Asylums existed where there was no discipline because the thing cost money and the returns on the labor power of nutters was low. Thus rich prisoners received money some of which they used to hire servants among the poor prisoners. Some lunatics might be exhibited for a fee.
Locking up people who posed a threat to society followed the same logic as rounding up lepers and confining them in a lazaretto. This logic was about exclusion, not discipline.
Disciplinary societies, which he saw as reaching their initial apogee in the nineteenth century, established formal rights through the legal system, but simultaneously disciplined their subjects by way of the “spaces of enclosure” they occupied at every stage of life: family, school, factory, army, and so on.
This is foolish. Families have always existed. They are not 'disciplinary societies'. What fucking 'discipline' is involved in being a hunter gatherer? Armies have discipline but they have existed everywhere for thousands of years. They certainly didn't reach any apogee in the nineteenth century. Formal rights of certain sorts existed in Britain before they did so in France. This didn't make any difference save to those rich enough to be able to avail of legal remedies.
The systematic surveillance and regulation of behavior imposed within these spaces constituted the “the other, dark side” of modern freedom.
Surveillance costs money. The Government may want to watch you poop but it doesn't have enough money to do so.
In Foucault’s words, “[t]he real, corporeal disciplines constituted the foundation of the formal, juridical liberties.”
This isn't true. Formal, juridical liberties were constituted by Legislators and made effective- for a few- by lawyers and judges. Some countries may have had a lot of corporeal disciplines but no juridical liberties. In others the reverse was the case.
Foucault may have been into bondage and S&M and so forth. I happen to like cats and Harry Potter novels. Thus I claim that the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat constituted the foundation of stuff we like.
The expansion of de jure freedom, that is, was accompanied by a variety of new de facto institutional constraints.
No. The expansion of de jure freedom was either accompanied by increased tax revenue permitting the provision of more judicial services or else it was completely ineffective. De facto institutional constraints may have increased or decreased depending on their costs and benefits. Constraining shit costs money. Sometimes it is money well spent. But if no money is available, it doesn't get done.
Implicit in this analysis is a critique of any Whiggish narrative of historical progress
which ultimately is based on the high income elasticity of demand for Public Goods and finds expression in Wagner's Law
that also eschews conservative nostalgia for the ancien régime.
Apparently there are guys who are nostalgic for slavery and serfdom and shit. Who knew?
For example, Foucault’s histories of humanitarian reform efforts in criminal justice and psychiatric treatment reveal their consistency with expansive new apparatuses of surveillance and control.
Expensive, not expansive. Humanitarian reforms tended to end very quickly. Prisons and asylums were run on the basis of what was affordable, not what was ideal. Surveillance and control, too, cost money. As the population grew, it tended to decrease because of diminishing or negative returns under existing technology.
In the famous opening chapter of Discipline and Punish, published in 1975, he contrasts the brutal public torture and dismemberment of a regicide in 1757 with a timetable minutely regulating the daily lives of prisoners a century later.
In France- which had gotten richer. In India, which had gotten poorer, mutineers were being blown out of the mouths of cannons.
Each, he says, reveals a distinct “penal style.”
Nope. The former reveals that Kings really didn't like being killed and, if they had the power, would go to great lengths to really fuck up those who tried. The latter reveals that French bureaucrats, then as now, are micro-managers. France did go a bit crazy about prisons from about 1820 to the 1840s because it had a lot of ex-soldiers and political malcontents. But as it gained in prosperity it became more sensible. Peak incarceration was about 2.5 per cent whereas even the US now has only about one percent. Adjusting for age distribution, that's pretty high.
In the first case, the exercise of power is rendered visible at the symbolic center of power; its locus is the body.
The problem here is that plenty of maniacs were wandering around torturing their victims to death. They had no power. Their crimes were opportunistic. Anyway, why should power have a symbolic center? Why not a Sports complex or Gift shop or Conference center?
In the second, it is hidden in marginal spaces, and its locus is the inner self.
Marginal spaces are not hidden. Look at the margin of this page. Is it hiding? Can you really not find it? As for the 'inner self', how the fuck is it the locus of a kid's timetable? From 10 to 11 he has Geography. From 11 to 12 he has Chemistry. Is his inner self the locus of Geography and then of Chemistry?
His point is not to offer a judgment about which system is preferable, but to reveal the evolving operations of power.
If that cunt had revealed the 'evolving operations of power', people who wanted power would have studied him and become more and more powerful. Where in the world will you find a dude who quotes Foucault who isn't a sad tosser? Macron was Ricoeur's disciple. But he keeps quiet about it.
Foucault’s analysis of biopolitics, as outlined in The History of Sexuality and his late lectures, extends and modifies this approach. His definition of biopolitics proceeds from a contrast between the early modern and modern relations between the state and what Agamben would later term “bare” biological life. Foucault contrasts “the characteristic privileges of sovereign power” that were predominant in an earlier period—“the right to decide life and death”—with modern power, which reoriented itself around “the right of the social body to ensure, maintain, or develop its life.”
A peaceful and prosperous society may get rid of cruel and unusual punishment but they reappear extra-judicially when required. At no time in history did any Civilization not commit to making life better for ordinary people. The presumption was that only grave transgression put your neck at risk. It is not the case that, even in the Arabian Nights, your head might be chopped off coz the Sultan thought your life was superfluous.
The characteristic manifestation of the older form of power was execution: the sovereign’s power was revealed in its prerogative of taking life.
This is foolish. Anyone could take life in self-defense. By contrast a sovereign could not take life- as James I discovered on entering England- save by due process of the Law. The would be regicide Damiens was not executed on the King's order. It was Parlement which imposed that penalty. Since Damiens did not name accomplices- whereas if he had been well treated he would probably have named lots of people it would have been convenient to get rid off- the notion took hold that torture and barbaric types of execution weren't 'paying their way'.
Modern biopower, in contrast, “exerts a positive influence on life, that endeavors to administer, optimize, and multiply it, subjecting to precise controls and comprehensive regulations.”
Why? Coz that's what tax-payers want. What's more, if they don't get it, tax receipts fall willy nilly.
Biopower, Foucault argues, works simultaneously at the level of the population and the individual.
But only in the sense that the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbors cat works simultaneously at every and any level you care to mention.
It closely tracks individual development and well-being through institutions including education and medicine; at the same time, sprawling new bureaucracies increasingly quantify, categorize, and manage populations on a large scale.
Fuck off. As technology improves, 'sprawling bureaucracies' disappear. Everything gets outsourced.
On one hand, professions like psychiatry classify and treat individuals according to their conformity with or deviation from the norm.
No they don't. They seek to alleviate symptoms which make patients a risk to others or themselves.
On the other hand, government officials increasingly view the health of the whole population as a set of variables to be observed, measured, and regulated.
No. The success or failures of policies is discussed in terms of these variables. True, in the short run, a policy target may be expressed in terms of an observed variable. But this triggers Goodhart' law. When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Voters have wised up in this regard.
In the earlier era of “sovereign power,” in Foucault’s periodization, a state’s involvement with the biological life of its subjects was a forceful exception.
No. Biological life had to be guarded from foreign invaders or pirates or whatever. The State did that. The Church was pretty close to the State and did provide Hospitals and Almshouses as did some wealthy merchants and Guilds and so forth. However, the fiscal basis of the 'limited monarchies' of Western Europe didn't permit anything much more sophisticated.
With the rise of biopolitics, it becomes the rule.
Only because such was the will of the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat. Why isn't everybody studying feline horcruxes of Latin American provenance? It i because the Government is watching you poop.
This modern form of power, whose modus operandi is to “qualify, measure, appraise, and hierarchize, rather than display itself in its murderous splendor,” is essentially the domain of experts rather than brutal executioners.
Plenty of maniacs would like to display their murderous splendor. Similarly, lots of worthless scholars like to 'measure, appraise and hierarchize' shit. But they have no power. Sad.
Not that executions or other murderous modes of state power vanish; the point, rather, is that these too are remade in the image of the new penal style.
Nope. Penal styles don't matter. Prison Governors aint considered real high IQ. Obama's passion for drone strikes could plausibly be linked to his distaste for Gitmo.
Here one might think of how the death penalty itself, where it persists, becomes another procedure technically administered by experts with the introduction of the electric chair and lethal injection; execution becomes one component in a series of intricate judicial processes, psychiatric evaluations, and periods of imprisonment.
Tell that to the Chinese or the Iranians or the Saudis. Come to think of it, after the Second World War, France summarily executed 10,000 collaborators and a further 6000 were sentenced to death though the number actually killed was about 700. Interestingly, the French claimed to have killed 100,000 while the Americans though the figure was 80,000. In other words, France wanted to appear to have been much more blood-thirsty than it actually was. Foucault was 19 when this was going down. Why did he pretend his country bothered with 'intricate judicial processes'? Was it coz he was aware that the UK was far more civilized?
In Foucault’s words, under the sign of biopolitics,
or the sigil of the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat
“the judicial institution is increasingly incorporated into a continuum of apparatuses (medical, administrative, and so on) whose functions are for the most part regulatory.”
This is not a continuum. It is a sequence of things wholly unlike each other.
The justification of the state’s power to put to death also shifts.
That justification is the same as the individual right to kill in self-defense.
Once the latter “gave itself the function of administering life,” the death penalty became “a limit, a scandal, and a contradiction.”
No it didn't. There is no scandal in locking up rapists and hanging terrorists while providing nice accommodation for little old ladies so they get an earthly reward for all their toil before God gives something even better.
The truth is the State does not give itself the function of administering life. That is why, just now, when I needed to urinate and I rang the Prime Minister to kindly come with a bed pan, he rather rudely told me to fuck off. I had to get out of bed and pee all by myself. No doubt, this presents a great scandal and contradiction to Geoff.
This does not, again, mean that it vanished, but that it “could not be maintained except by invoking less the enormity of the crime itself than the monstrosity of the criminal, his incorrigibility, and the safeguard of society. One had the right to kill those who represented a kind of biological danger to others.”
One has the right to kill in self-defense. Obviously, you will take a dim view of the character of a guy who kept trying to stab you. You will describe him in unflattering terms. But, if you are the strong silent type, you won't bother. It is enough to establish that a reasonable person would have used as much force as you did to protect yourself. That' it. That's the whole story. It is not the case that you have to 'maintain' any stupid shit if the Law is in your side.
Increasingly, the deliberate imposition of death was justified not as “eye for an eye” recompense, but in terms of power’s broader mandate to protect life.
No. It was justified because such was the Law. If voters were for the thing, no further justification was needed. Still, the bleeding hearts got hold of the thing and, truth be told, politicians understood that the police were shit at their jobs and so a lot of convictions were unsafe so... yeah, capital punishment declined.
This logic has surfaced in strange ways during the Covid pandemic, such as when a prominent reporter, previously employed by the New York Times, announced on Twitter that he “wanted to find an antimasker and beat them to death.”
Sadly, anti-maskers are better at kicking in the heads of the type of guys who work for the NYT.
A more measured version of this sentiment appeared in op-eds declaring to those who refused to cover their faces that “you don’t have a right to kill me.” If, throughout 2020, the unmasked were construed as threats to biological existence, the same discourse is now emerging around vaccination. The notion of “vaccine passports” explicitly defines the unvaccinated as a danger to society, who can be excluded from a variety of spaces on this basis—a prospect many liberal observers appear to relish.
It seems 'liberal observers' don't want to die or suffer a painful illness. How strange! I suggest that they may not actually be liberal at all. They were merely virtue signalers. Had they truly had bleeding hearts they would have been using their capacious rectums to smuggle people across the border the way Foucault intended.
Such biopolitical imperatives were intuitive to many on both the left and right ends of the spectrum well before Covid appeared on the scene. Consider, in the former instance, the frequency with which the term “lives” appears in political slogans. In the past year, we have seen the simultaneous prominence of “Masks Save Lives” and “Black Lives Matter,” though the latter first gained prominence some years ago. But similar phrasing also emerged several years ago in relation to another issue when the “March for Our Lives” became a site of gun control advocacy.
Lives are about living- something we want to do more amply. What's wrong with people who don't want to be shot or infected saying so in public?
The persistence of such language reveals that
language persists- that's all.
the most intense moral passions of today’s Democratic coalition are animated by the protection of what Agamben calls “bare life”—sheer biological existence.
No. Democrats aren't saying 'take in every stateless refugee'. Nor do they greatly care about the 'bare life' of a fetus. What they are saying is 'fuck Trump and his ilk.' They may also be saying other stuff about how to get their hands on Federal money but they do that sotto voce.
Whatever commitment to some vision of the good life exceeds that, it has been far less central to political messaging. When it does appear, it also heavily involves the agencies charged with biopolitical management.
All agencies are concerned with people and therefore are biopolitical. On the other hand, the Federal Bureau of Ghosts is not biopolitical. But it is also imaginary.
Consider the frequent proposals, over the past year, to replace police with social workers. Such proposals follow the logic Foucault identifies in the emergence of biopower, in which the criminologist and the psychiatrist came to enjoy greater prominence than the executioner.
Executioners were illiterate goons who wore a mask over their face so that they wouldn't be ostracized in whatever slum they lived in. They 'enjoyed' no prominence. Smart people with expensive educations may have pushed themselves forward claiming to be 'ologists' of some sort. But most were assholes, as Socioproctologists pointed out.
The implication here is neutral as to the advisability of the proposal: it is simply to note that it does not abolish power, but alters its operations.
No. It abolishes State power. The gangs will take over the hood if all they have to fear is a Social Worker knocking on their door.
The Right, for its part, has long embraced biopolitical imperatives.
Embracing is a biopolitical imperative. Daddy puts his pee pee into Mummy's veejay. That's how little babies are conceived.
Most obviously, consider the framing of the “pro-life” cause, whose messaging is framed similarly to that of the “lives”-based causes enumerated above. What the pro-life movement shares with the latter is that the emotional impetus of the cause is the protection of sheer biological life per se. The apparent contradictions this has generated, such as “pro-life” activists who have murdered abortion doctors, are resolved when we consider that the logic of protecting life is a primary mode of legitimating violence on the part of the state as well. As Foucault notes, it has become the basis for war as well as the death penalty. “Life”/“lives” movements replicate this broader rationale of power.
Rationales don't matter. Power exists when it can kick the ass of anything that tries to fuck with it. Why gas on about 'contradictions'? It is a fact that Geoff wipes his own bum but doesn't wipe mine. This doesn't defy the logic of biopolitical bum wiping. There is an uncorrelated asymmetry. His bum is his. Mine is mine. The proper logic to describe this features directed graphs or sequent calculi or smart stuff of that sort. Neither Geoff nor Foucault were smart. Sad.
It was also, of course, the political Right that propelled a set of developments around the War on Terror which,
Obama widened so as to fuck up Libya and Syria. The Yemen war too started on his watch.
as Agamben has noted, anticipated much of the Covid era’s expansion of power. As with the pandemic, the concern for a particular risk to life became the basis for an expansion of unaccountable power, an introduction of new restrictions on daily life, and a new sensibility in which the perception of others as a constant sense of danger shapes behavior.
There's something wrong with that last sentence.
In both instances, in Foucault’s words, “it was life more than the law that became the issue of political struggles, even if the latter were formulated through affirmations concerning rights.”
A law which doesn't affect any lives is a dead letter. There may be political struggles re. who gets which office. But, in such cases, neither lives nor the law are involved. The thing is rent contestation simply.
Efforts to resist this power, he notes, have generally underlined the pervasiveness of biopolitical logic:
or the pervasive power of the Nicaraguan horcrux & c.
“the forces that resisted relied for support on the very thing it invested, that is, on life and man as a living being.”
It is certainly true that a force that relies on dead people is going to have its ass kicked. Man as a dead hunk of rotting flesh can't support anything save maggots.
To step outside of this framing, a political resistance must be willing to surrender life—yet amid the currently prevailing values, such a politics would be seen as sheer madness.
True. Running around naked with a radish up your butt shouting 'kiss me if you've got COVID!' would indeed be seen as crazy behavior.
The idea that Foucault’s work is not comfortably aligned with the political Left would not have been quite as surprising to his contemporaries.
It wasn't surprising to me 40 years ago. I could see with my own eyes that the scholars who took up Foucaldian shite did so coz it looked Lefty but wasn't really. Thus they weren't putting a target on their back for Campus Maoists.
The anthropologist Paul Rabinow, who produced an English-language anthology of Foucault’s work in 1984, noted that “one encounters great difficulty in trying to situate Foucault as an intellectual spokesman with a particular message to propound.” In this way, he stood out against the Parisian left intelligentsia, which remained predominantly Marxist well into the 1970s, and particularly from his older rival (and sometime collaborator) Jean-Paul Sartre, the role model of activist intellectuals worldwide. Indeed, Rabinow notes, “Foucault has been cast as a conservative by some, in the sense that he has consistently opposed much of modern French Marxism, ‘existing socialism,’ and those utopias and nightmares associated with this tradition”—in contrast to Sartre, who praised Stalin and Mao.
Foucault did try to get in on the Maoist thing in '68. His being Gay was a problem for the Communists. Stalin had criminalized male homosexuality.
In an interview completed not long before Foucault’s death, Rabinow notes the ambiguity of his politics: “[y]ou have been read as an idealist, as a nihilist, as a ‘new philosopher,’ an anti-Marxist, a new conservative, and so on.” He asks: “Where do you stand?” Foucault responds: “I think I have in fact been situated in most of the squares on the political checkerboard . . . : as anarchist, leftist, ostentatious or disguised Marxist, nihilist, explicit or secret anti-Marxist, technocrat in the service of Gaullism, new liberal, etc.” He goes on to comment that “[n]one of these descriptions is important by itself; taken together, on the other hand, they mean something. And I must admit that I rather like what they mean.” In other words, he was happy to project a political ambiguity that admirers and detractors alike seem to have forgotten.
Foucault could go on reading old books and saying obvious things about them. Nice work if you can get it- if you are a retard.
His controversial support for the Iranian Revolution has often been treated by his critics as an instance of left-wing naïveté about Third World tyrannies, but the nature of his sympathy was less straightforward than this.
What was controversial about backing guys who were chanting 'Death to America?' Surely, Americans had noticed that Parisians don't like them?
As Blake Smith puts it, Foucault “hoped that by offering a substantive ethic rooted in a collective experience of the sacred, an Islamic political movement might be able to restrain the systems of domination and manipulation that comprise biopolitics.”
In other words, those crazy guys would fuck up their own country but good. Sadly, the Shia clergy gets on very well with Doctors and Engineers and Architects and Lawyers and so forth. Indeed, they are often from the same family. One result was that Iran in the eighties was ahead of the West on the rights of transgender people. Had Saddam not attacked Iran, it might have developed rapidly into a Vilayet-e-faqih welfare state of the type described by Attar.
Specifically, he admired the Islamic revolutionaries’ willingness to sacrifice themselves: he took their declaration that “we are prepared to die by the thousands” as a call to arms against biopower.
The Iranian 'human waves' did stop Saddam in his tracks. Then the US helped him win the 'war of the cities'. Sad.
What attracted him, then, was a discontinuity with prior modern revolutions, which he believed had merely pursued the trajectory of biopolitical domination under a new guise.
In other words, they concentrated on making life better for their people. How wicked of them! What would be cool would be torture dungeons on every street corner. Why is it that you have to fork out hundreds of dollars just to receive a flogging while zipped up in a rubber gimp suit? Meanwhile, the Government wastes thousands educating little kiddies in Maths and Geography and so on. When will this madness end? Will nobody think of the children- and then cut them into little pieces as they scream in terror?
That is, the specifically religious dimensions of the revolution represented a different sort of possibility than what early generations of intellectuals had hoped for in Marxist liberation struggles.
Foucault was jizzing at the thought of all the nice Arabian Nights style torture dungeons those Ayatollahs were bound to be opening up on every street corner.
Foucault participated actively in social movements in France focused on the institutions he wrote about in his work on discipline and biopower: asylums and prisons. What connected his intellectual and practical activities in these areas was his interest in the concrete functioning of power,
which he wholly lacked and which he didn't help anybody else to gain. Thus his interest in power's concrete functioning was like my interest in the Mochizuki proof of the abc conjecture- i.e. it never engaged with its subject coz of inherent stupidity.
which he argued Marxists had too often ignored. In the essay “What Is Enlightenment?” he highlighted “the very specific transformations that have proved to be possible” in areas such as “the way in which we perceive insanity or illness,”
We perceive both as maladies Doctors can help alleviate. Why? Because Science has gotten so much better and thus Medicine has improved greatly.
in overt contrast to “the programs for a new man that the worst political systems have repeated throughout the twentieth century.”
This is foolish. We have no problem with John Dewey type programs for an educated and affluent citizenry. We do want our sons to be better men and husbands and fathers than we were. In any case, we feel that Old Adam could destroy the environment. Either we evolve or we go the way of the dinosaurs.
He also indicted leftist intellectuals for their “refusal to pose the problem of internment,” which he attributed to their loyalty to the Soviet bloc and need to excuse the gulag.
So he was catching up with Raymond Aron. Cool.
Far from initiating the politicization of scholarship, in many ways Foucault’s work marked a break with the traditions and habits of the engagé left-wing French intellectual establishment, as embodied notably in Sartre.
Why? Because history reached a turning point in 1968 and failed to turn. The Gaullists won the elections by a landslide. Pompidou, a non-politician who had taught Literature before becoming a Banker with the Rothschilds, replaced De Gaulle. The heroic age was over.
Instead of positioning himself within a universal revolutionary struggle,
in which case the Commies would have thrown the fact that he was mad and gay in his face
in both his writing and his activism Foucault emphasized localized institutional realms and an attunement to the “micro-physics of power” implemented at that level.
Power is an emergent. It arises out of macroeconomic instruments on a plane where Time is Newtonian. Micro-physics deals only with interactions. One has to import, from the Macro sphere, power which however gives rise to Heisenberg uncertainty. All this was well known. Foucault chose to look at things which, for a priori reasons, he wouldn't be able to see. The reason he founded an academic availability cascade is that some donkeys like blinkers.
As he puts it in his famous discussion of power resistance in the first volume of the History of Sexuality, “there is no single locus of great Refusal,
Yes there is. If enough people show they refuse x and if this causes y and z to be withdrawn there there is a 'single locus'- e.g. storming the Bastille or the Boston tea party etc.
no soul of revolt,
only if the revolting have no souls
source of all rebellions, or pure law of the revolutionary. Instead there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case.”
But equally these may actually be a plurality of insistences and none may be particularly special.
Foucault was not a practitioner of “identity politics” of the current American variety—indeed, he forcefully rejected any notion of a homosexual identity—but he became a godfather to new identity-focused fields like queer theory that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.
They had plenty to chose from. Writing Foucauldian shite required less research. So, it was a cognitively cheap way to get a sheepskin.
Likewise, although the marginalized groups that most interested Foucault were prisoners and asylum inmates rather than more familiar categories, his ideas and approach would be widely adapted by scholars focused on race, gender, sexuality, and other modes of identity.
These guys were focused on getting tenure. They would have babbled any shite that would have helped them do so coz they were otherwise unemployable.
On these grounds, erstwhile Marxist allies criticized Foucault for turning away from class politics and universalism and toward identity politics.
But those Marxists had zero following! The working class told them to fuck off and suddenly there was no Soviet Union which might dole them out a little money.
In contrast to current detractors who accuse him of recasting all knowledge as a political ruse, they faulted him for depoliticizing scholarship.
But these 'current detractors' are equally shite. Why not just teach your students to crap into their own cupped hands and fling their feces about?
To be sure, Foucault’s conception of power as a pervasive force distributed across society played a role in reshaping the dominant conception of politics in academia and beyond.
But academia had no power. Smart kids were quitting college to set up billion dollar enterprises.
In History of Sexuality, he writes that “[p]ower is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere.”
and jizzes in your eye
Moreover, “[r]elations of power are not in a position of exteriority with respect to other types of relationships (economic processes, knowledge relationships, sexual relations), but are immanent in the latter.”
Like the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat.
Such claims played some role in the rise of a mode of analysis that vastly expands the range of what can be treated as political.
But is completely useless. Meanwhile Trump leverages his appearance on a Reality Show to take the White House. He is replaced by a guy only 16 years younger than Foucault. But Biden became a Senator in 1972. He exercised more power in one day than Foucault and Foucauldians have done over the last six decades.
This emphasis has given rise to a style of academic research focused on exposing the hidden machinations of power in unexpected places.
But this research is a Ponzi scheme. Kids are being cheated. Q Anon is the best place to learn about hidden machinations of power in unexpected places- like the Post Office or the DMV.
A version of this approach also thrives in popular cultural criticism, as when the Marvel Comics Universe is presented as a site for the contestation of power, or experimenting with sexual positions becomes a mode of political resistance.
Or farting into a crowded lift and exiting swiftly.
Academics and journalists alike present these seemingly minor interventions in discourse as strategies of radical subversion. After all, if “points of resistance are present everywhere in the power network,” even the most minor gestures can be valorized as politically significant.
This idea was old when the Situationists were young.
Foucault’s approach might also seem to dovetail with the “intersectional” worldview, where convergent identity struggles take precedence over any universal political movement.
That shite failed in the Eighties.
Again, this sensibility has weathered as much criticism from Marxists as it now tends to attract from centrist liberals and conservatives. From an older Marxist perspective, the implications of Foucault’s work were conservative, because rather than aiming to constitute a broad revolutionary class, he emphasized marginal groups whose social force they regarded as insufficient to bring about any broader political transformation.
But the Marxists had constituted shit.
This critique is quite distinct from the more common ones heard today, which lament the erosion of Enlightenment faith in objectivity and neutrality.
But you have to have at least a 100 IQ to qualify as a 'reasonable person' or 'impartial spectator'. Still, if you are not too obviously disabled to serve on a jury, it turns out you can do 'objectivity' and 'neutrality' along with a dozen of your peers.
Foucault’s critics have long viewed his account of power as a threat to the legitimacy of institutions, not least the universities in which his ideas circulate most widely.
They cross-subsidize STEM subject research by swindling Liberal Arts meatheads. Their power increases if they are getting plenty of money from patents and so forth.
If knowledge is viewed as an instrument of political domination, the reasoning goes, the credibility of those who pursue it will become unsustainable.
They have no credibility. By contrast, a guy who served as an Under Secretary or a Broadsheet editor or such like can always get a Professorship.
But a more plausible view is that the delegitimation of expertise
which hasn't happened. A guy with high domain knowledge in a strategic field is a legitimate authority and will be treated as such by Courts and Colleges which will offer him tenure- provided his rolodex really has some juicy names in it.
is a response to factors far broader than the influence of a particular philosopher. Indeed, the reverse is probably true. An epistemology that links knowledge instrumentally to power is likely to be appealing amid the decline of what Foucault’s contemporary Jean-François Lyotard called “grand narratives”: the legitimating stories that ennoble the pursuit of knowledge as a means of civilizational progress towards truth or the preservation of a common culture.
Bullshit! There is a grand narrative behind Harvard Business School and Yale Law School and so forth. That's why smart people pay a lot of money to go there. They then make shedloads of money and gain power and influence. Some 'grand narratives' failed. Others are still with us. Rabbis are making good money. That's a grand narrative which has been around for 3000 years.
In the same period in which the lofty ideals of liberal education gave way to the nebulous raison d’être of the corporate university, the Foucauldian analysis of power has made many careers.
But University administrators make more money. Also, since the quality of students in shite Departments falls year by year, you have to ask whether tenure was really worth it. You could have set up a dry cleaning business instead.
It has also furnished a means of mythologizing professional activity as a mode of radical politics. Academic advancement strategies can be understood as modes of political contestation: peer-reviewed articles and conference papers as nodes of resistance, tenure committees as sites of nascent radical struggle, and so on. In this sense, Foucault’s influence did not undermine institutions so much as offer a new rationale for savvy operators within them. As sociologist Daniel Zamora remarks, Foucault “offers a comfortable position that allows a certain degree of subversion to be introduced without detracting from the codes of the academy.”
Lots of other shitheads were offering the same thing. It was a crowded market. Why was Foucault, not Baudrillard, a Schelling focal solution to the underlying coordination problem? The answer, simply, is that Foucault's purple passages show some interest in Literature and the Arts. Also, it is easy to write in his strain without knowing shit about shit.
Zamora has written extensively about an underexamined aspect of Foucault’s later work: his surprising affinities with Anglo-American neoliberalism, evident in particular in his lectures on the Birth of Biopolitics.
Poor chap, Foucault believed Hayek who said the market has no totalizing representation. Actually it does but it is in higher time-complexity class. The result was that Foucault started babbling nonsense of a sort which Kojeve might have approved.
According to Zamora, Foucault “saw in neoliberalism a ‘much less bureaucratic’ and ‘much less disciplinarian’ form of politics than that offered by the postwar welfare state.” Scholars other than Zamora have likewise acknowledged an “affinity between aspects of Foucault’s late account of subjectivity and the neoliberal account of subjectivity” derived from Chicago-school economics. This observation offers a new way of understanding Foucault’s emergence as “official philosopher” in humanities and social science departments alongside the general restructuring of the university system around market incentives.
No it doesn't. Foucault's early work- which had purple passages- is what wowed people. Nobody really read the later, utterly turgid, shite. Anyway, the guy soon died, quite literally, of ignorance. It is safer to study a dead White male or, if not study exactly, then fraudulently cash his pension checks.
In a sense, Foucault’s discussion of power and resistance in the History of Sexuality anticipated the professionalized and commoditized political radicalism of many of his followers. He wrote there that “resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power.”
That may well be true of the French Resistance. Still, once the Nazis were on the run, they killed plenty of people.
In other words, resistance can “play the role of adversary, target, support, or handle in power relations.”
or it can sit in a corner sucking its thumb
It can, that is, serve just as much to broaden the range of operations of power as it can to oppose that expansion. An example central to the History of Sexuality is the way that the apparent liberation of sex from Victorian constraints in the twentieth century was closely linked to an ever-greater monitoring and medicalization of sexuality by medical and psychiatric authorities.
How come nobody has been monitoring and medicalizing my sexuality? How fucking twisted do you have to be for your G.P to start asking you about that sort of thing?
This outlook is consistent with a certain mood of resignation that shades into cynicism. And this cynicism is appropriate to an academic sphere that is at once rhetorically subversive and institutionally conservative.
and utterly shite.
If all subversive energies ultimately feed into domination, it is unsurprising that the humanities and social sciences have become a space where overt ideological fervor coexists comfortably with covert careerist hypercompetitiveness, bourgeois professionalism, and the reproduction of elites.
Elites own super-yachts and Lear jets. Why do these cretins think they are above the common ruck?
But for this reason, the Foucauldian account of transgression as a stratagem of power, like his critique of institutions, can only be taken so far.
It has been taken no distance at all. The thing is simply silly.
Such radicalism, rather than challenging the university, merely offers a new pretext for its power.
I'm challenging the university- but then I also say that only stupid people buy Lottery tickets- still, the thing helps pass the time and anyway Student Loans don't really have to be paid back, do they?
The implication here is that Foucault became the intellectual patron saint of the contemporary academy because his work captured fundamental truths about how the latter institution functions.
No. The guy was a Professor and managed to sell some books and make a little money. The fact that he was as stupid as shit made him a good target for Tardean mimetics. Also maybe it would get you laid by like beefy African American football players.
It offered a form of immanent self-critique as well as a kind of modus operandi for functioning within the neoliberal university.
Which was permitting this Ponzi scheme to flourish so as to cross-subsidize STEM subjects and meet affirmative action quotas.
But those whose livelihoods depend entirely on the power of such institutions will be unlikely to apply his work in a way that calls that power into question.
By torturing and raping students.
Acceptance of the localized domain of struggle leaves the totality unquestioned. But critics of this mode of power may find a different sort of value in some aspects of his work.
In 1977, the philosopher Jean Baudrillard exhorted the public to Forget Foucault in a polemic published under that title. Judging by his far larger impact in academia in subsequent decades, Foucault seemed to get the better of his rival. Nevertheless, his almost total absence from public debates around the Covid pandemic, and the political responses to it, suggests that, in spite of his massive influence, we did forget Foucault—or at least the parts of his work most challenging to our guiding political assumptions.
We tend to assume that torturing peeps is naughty.
The Left, which has spent decades poring over his oeuvre in its academic redoubts, has in the past year largely acquiesced to a dictatorship of expertise that might as well be using the Foucauldian account of biopower as an instruction manual.
In other words, it is trying to make life better for us instead of setting up torture dungeons on every street corner and laughing maniacally as it chops bits of us.
Its abandonment of the tools of critique offered by his work has been sudden and almost total.
He wanted to get his hands on your tool right enough. But his critique would have made your eyes water.
Foucault’s politically orphaned status also proceeds
from the fact that he had no Mummy or Daddy- politically speaking, unless Giles de Retz and the Marquis de Sade count.
in part from a cluster of misapprehensions regarding so-called postmodernism
there is no misapprehension. It was ignorant shite.
, an umbrella term for many of the themes under discussion: the disappearance of the historical grand narratives of progress offered by liberalism and Marxism,
Fuck off! The grand narrative of Scientific progress is doing just fine. But then so is that of Chinese Marxism- upon which John Dewey set his stamp.
the fragmentation of politics and knowledge alongside the delegitimation of institutions. Postmodernism’s critics often blame the ideas that fall under that heading for the evolution of values away from universal values and the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. At its most interesting, however, the body of thought classified as “postmodernism” helps characterize transformations that were underway by the time its epigones were writing.
No. Those guys were completely unaware that Maths had moved on. It had shown that concurrency, complexity and computability problems vitiated their project. On the other hand, structuralism triumphed in the sense that any Math must have univalent foundations but, sadly, there will always be more Maths than mathematicians.
Foucault’s detractors, whether conservative, centrist, or Marxist, converge in their repudiation of what they see as the consequences of his ideas: a rejection of objectivity and neutrality, a valuing of subversion and transgression, and a fetishization of social marginality.
But Commerce discovered that anti-Tardean mimetics effects are a bonanza for Marketing and Fashion and Popular Music etc.
But in reality, he was a late arrival to this project of counter-modern transvaluation. The philosophical lineage he is part of extends all the way back to the beginning of the modern era, and passes through figures including the Marquis de Sade in the eighteenth century, Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth, and Martin Heidegger in the twentieth.
So nutters or Nazis. Cool.
To attribute any of these tendencies to a single thinker’s influence is to ignore the fact that they are built into the operating system of modernity.
The operating system of modernity is Economics. It isn't whatever shite it is these cunts roll around in.
Foucault’s more original contributions lie in his anchoring of a philosophical account of the relationship between truth and power in a historical analysis of specific modern institutions.
There is no relationship between truth and power. Nothing can be anchored in what doesn't exist. Why speak of a 'philosophical account'? The thing is paranoid raving.
His wide-ranging impact, I have argued here, owes something to his insights into the ascendancy of the same professional class of credentialed experts amongst whom his theories have achieved the most traction.
We don't call a guy who babbles about Foucault an expert. We call him a stupid cunt.
But the dimensions of his ideas that might offer a means of criticizing the guiding assumptions of that class have generally remained unexplored, lest they prove too potent.
why are these guys not chopping up their students instead of just buggering their brains?
Right-wing critique of liberal institutions, suspicious as it is of a figure who appears to be a guiding light for the enemy side, remains unlikely to find value in his critiques. They may, however, have a renewed utility for the politically heterodox across the spectrum, especially insofar as his critiques of institutions expose the limits of our dominant modes of politics.
If that's 'renewed utility' what is eternal futility?
COVID has shown our mode of politics is a bit shit. But we already knew we were falling behind China and now have a better idea of how to arrest our relative decline. This comes down to mechanism design. By the folk theorem of repeated games, we know anything achieved coercively can be achieved just by incentive compatibility. That's it. That's the whole story- unless you believe the Government is watching you poop and coz Power interpenetrates everything and Foucault babbled about Power so Foucault is watching you poop. This is why we need a radically subversive biopolitics founded upon the catachresis of the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat.