Being an incidental note in this symphony of deconstruction, I will sound off at the appropriate moment to harmonize with one melody while causing dissonance with its other. I will represent the stance taken up by myself and miscellaneous identity #2 (hereafter referred to as miscellaneous identity 2+n), which, despite its apparent coherence, is full of self fragmentary contradictions. But, as we know, everything contains both itself and its other; that asymmetrical difference is always accompanying its partner as it speaks. But where do we assign privelige? Both sides, of course - and therefore no place, if not in the other at breaking points/ruptures/schisms. Certainly not! we have always already made the privelige in both at once or none at all.
What, if anything, is Michel Foucault saying (other than words, which he is writing - we haven't heard them being said, so it is an assumption, or a departure, if you will, to talk about what he is saying. we daren't be so pretentious)?
It is some what of an uphill battle to prove the non-articulation of something that others deem discernable (we are here referring to Miscellaneous Identity #1's assertion that Foucault's work had the expressed intent of helping us bring around social change.). I am concerned with the eternal internment of he and others in the infernal learning leanings and kernals of burning terms all teeming over into error, that's my horror!
But let's be serious.
Is Michel Foucault a libertarian? That is the question. Is he like tofu - that is to say, does he take on the aspects of that into which he is being absorbed?
What does gray matter taste like? Is it substantial and tender, or merely gelatinous and bland?
Wait, wait, wait ... what we must first ask is, can this be found in his body of work? We must work this out. I am not talking about passing comments at a gym, or about Jim, or even humourous gems. No - Foucault asks this himself: What Is an Author?
And what is an author; what is it to write and be a writer? Foucault says
First of all, we can say that today's writing has freed itself from the dimension of expression. Referring only to itself, but without being restricted to the confines of its interiority, writing is identified with its own unfolded exteriority. This means that it is an interplay of signs arranged less according to its signified content than according to the very nature of the signifier. Writing unfolds like a game (jeu) that invariably goes beyond its own rules and transgresses its limits. In writing, the point is not to manifest or exalt the act of writing, nor is it to pin a subject within language; it is, rather, a question of creating a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears. (What Is an Author)
What does it all mean?
Writing is a game. Games provide small children with exercise - writing is an exercise, then! Very well. War games are exercises, with no real casualties and only theoretical effects. Role-playing games - these are mental exercises and a form of story-telling, in which the written and the spoken go hand in hand. Yet they do not reflect the real lives of those participating in them/creating the content of them. This terrible fictive insemination of writing. The writing subject disappears! Black magic! Where does intention go? Who can we trust?
I can't stand it at all
When every word is a lie
But I go through it allLies are just exercises
" (Dag Nasty, "Exercises
", from Wig Out At Denko's
Let's not get hasty here - "lies"?
Miscellaneous Identity 2+n advises that Foucault may *not* have circumscribed his life or lifestyle anywhere in his expressed theoretical content *at any time*. Perhaps he did. In any event, can we draw out or privelige either possibilitysee above?
Does it even matter? Again, we look to the man himself for answers. We look to a combination of signifiers for clues:
... I think that, as our society changes, at the very moment when it is in the process of changing, the author function will disappear, and in such a manner that fiction and its polysemous texts will once again function according to another mode, but still within a system of constraint -- one which will no longer be the author, but which will have to be determined or, perhaps, experienced. All discourses, whatever their status, form, value, and whatever the treatment to which they will be subjected, would then develop in the anonymity of a murmer. We would no longer hear the questions that have been rehashed for so long: Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse? Instead, there would be other questions, like these: What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself? What are the places in where there is room for possible subjects? Who can assume these various subject functions? And behind all these questions, we would hear hardly anything, but the stirring of an indifference: What difference does it make who is speaking?(WIaA)
Foucault downplays the importance of the author
MISCELLANEOUS IDENTITY #1: No, I don't think that's what "WiaA?" is about. Or if it is, it was a lapse on his part. Because if that's how he really wanted his books to be treated, there would never have been a point to writing them in the first place. If he really didn't care about sides, he would have answered those questions in the debate *completely* differently.
Is he like tofu - that is to say, does he take on the aspects of that into which he is being absorbed?
Everyone has a frigging answer
, don't they? But some answers are more right then others, apparently. Miscellaneous Identity 2+n swears to God
that we do not have a more important reading of Foucault than anyone else; however, we feel that we are right in disagreeing with any absolutist readings
MISCELLANEOUS IDENTITY #1: But that's only for abstract, metaphysical standards. If you believe in some "Good" (like G.E. Moore). What I see in Foucault, and this is his inheritance from Nietzsche, is the emphasis on the aesthetic. No, he never says that forms of power are good or bad. But you've got to read between the lines. His theses are almost always insinuations. It's all about *personal* standards, for oneself, that have little or nothing to do with what other people think.
***Having read between the lines, we see paper fibre and a marked lack of ink***
Now that we have effectively, and with Foucault's blessing, disconnected (as well as made discontinuous) his life from his work*, we will look for this libertarian impulse, indeed, see if it has a pulse, and if it does, perhaps we will nurture it; perhaps we will euthanize it.
Let us follow Foucault in a recent self-characterization in which he says, "the goal of my work during the last twenty years has not been to analyze the phenomena of power, nor to elaborate the foundations of such an analysis. My objective, instead, has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects."(Introduction, The Foucault Reader)
But let's get back on the subject
How does Foucault characterize the subject/individual? This is an interesting subject - one which I will subject to a quick examination. Now, then. Now. Not then, now:
According to MF, the individual is the product of power. The individual is the subject of what Louis Althusser might call Ideological State Apparatuses mtv churches thegap fashiontrends starbucks brandnamefood whitehousepress releases partypoliticalaffilations smalltalkwitholdfriends andanyoneelsewhomaybelistening. They are well oiled machines. we are living within them right now - they are at work on us.
~(life equals work). huh? I missed that
Oh yeah, here's where we were going with this: if Foucault even sees the possibility of resistance or freedom, it is by not engaging in what he identifies as traditional power relations. You can't get away from that; if you are going to assign a coherent, unified identity to yourself then you are inextricably immersing yourself in those parameters. Any definition of identity comes from something that is not YOURS! If you want to get away from it, you have to drop the terminology, all the trappings of your "self". But you can't do that. Get a therapist. See also: the individual as language. You cannot have a functioning language outside of a social setting, because language is a social thing! You can't define anything outside of a definition that has been collectively agreed upon (re: Wittgenstein). Similarly, the individual subject has a social nature because you only define yourself or find yourself through your relations to others, how you identify yourself via those relations and how they ostensibly identify you.
These are relations of power, since all relations are relations of power
We have read Foucault again and again and we cannot find any impulse in any direction as far as a socio-political theme or agenda is concerned!
*Ironically, Foucault has given us the means to delete him from his own writing
We have even seen Foucault attempting to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of political leanings. We see analysis, geneaology, archaeology and history. We do not see Foucault.
rollin', rollin', Roland Barthes says:
We shall therefore star the text, separating, in the manner of a minor earthquake, the blocks of signification of which reading grasps only the smooth surface, imperceptibly soldered by the movement of sentences, the flowing discourse of narration, the "naturalness" of ordinary language. (S/Z)
We star the text. We do not star in the text, the text does not star us, and we do not use the text to star ourselves - although some of us may be seeing stars. (MISCELLANEOUS IDENTITY #1: Yes fine. But his books are useless if not for use with my opinion! And he knew it. And he liked it.)
Miscellaneous Identity 2+n: You are attempting to make Foucault say what you want him to say! That is different than applying his writing to your beliefs - you are instead trying to make it look as though he tailor made theories for your use instead of you trying to work with what he wrote. You are trying to superimpose your face over his.
2002.04.07 at 18:52 Conversationalist Alpha says Look, quite frankly, I've had this same criticism of my Blake paper (that I'm privileging my own reading). I really don't understand what that means. That I shouldn't believe what I'm saying?
Murder was the case that they gave me. (Calvin Broadus)
Miscellaneous Identity 2+n would like to thank Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault and Paul Rabinow for disappearing into the texts they so graciously provided us with!