Hip: Chomsky

Nick Lawrence V121NQND at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu
Tue Jul 11 13:45:55 MDT 1995


Excerpts from the Foucault/Chomksy debate:

Foucault:
"The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because, for the first time
in history, it wants to take power. . . . One makes war to win, not because
it is just. . . . When the proletariat takes power, it may be quite
possible that the proletariat will exert towards the classes over which
it has just triumphed, a violent, dictatorial and even bloody power. I can't
see what objection one could make to this."

Chomsky:
"No Leninist or whatever you like would dare to say, 'We, the proletariat,
have a right to take power, and then throw everyone else into the
crematoria.' If that were the consequence of the proletariat taking
power, of course it would not be appropriate. . . . But I don't think
that's the typical situation in human affairs, and I don't think that's
the situation in the case of class-conflict or social revolution. There
I think that one can and _must_ give an argument, if you can't give an
argument you should extract yourself from the struggle. Give an argument
that the social revolution that you're trying to achieve _is_ in the
ends of justice, is in the ends of realizing fundamental human needs, not
merely in the ends of putting some other group into power, because they
want it."

--Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, "Human Nature: Justice versus Power,"
in _Reflexive Water: The Basic Concerns of Mankind_, ed. Elder (London
1974).

Foucault's Nietzcheanism here threatens to undermine any sense of
legitimacy in political struggle by trying to ground it in the struggle
itself, qua struggle. Chomsky, though perhaps too sunnily committed to
Enlightenment ideals ("I don't think that's the typical situation in human
affairs"), nonetheless makes a compelling case for that legitimacy.
The debate isn't as lopsided as has been occasionally represented.


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