Engaging with Foucault

Karl Carlile joseph at indigo.ie
Wed Aug 7 04:06:43 MDT 1996

Karl: Just a quick reply. Chris you miss the entire point of my
expulsion from the F-list. I was not expelled for my views but
apparently for bieng rude. Some of the very same people responsible
for my expulsion have been far from civil on this List. Furthermore
the very subscriber ddiane in a message to me, which I forwarded to
this and the F-list, stated that I should no have been unsubbed.

To question my motive for subbing to the F-list is neither here not
there. Generally speaking the motives of the other subscribers to the F-list
are not questioned. You suggest that all subscribers to that list are
admireres of Foucault. I doubt if that is true any more than I or
others are admirers of Marx.

Besides I have an interest in Foucault as I do in Habermas and many
other contemporary thinkers. Marxism is not some narrow discipline
that is compartmentalized from reality. I am prepared to join a list
in other to help nudge debate in a positive development.

If i recall correctly Chris, you are a member of at least one other
list as is Hans Ehbar. Are your motives to be questioned for being on
another list.

In short the point is that it was wrong of the moderators concerned
to expel me from the F-list. It was also wrong of them to mailbomb me. My
immeditate reinstatement on that List is the correct course of action
to be taken by Spoon.

You seem to suggest that I am in some way endagering relationships
with Spoon by what I say. Here it is again: self-censorship. Be
careful what you say! Dont rock the boat! A revolutionary is not to
be assert her/himself. If my modest utterances on this list destabilise Spoon
then it does not say very much for that Collective.

You asked what I meant by reification of the working class. by
reification of the working class I mean the transformation of the
being of the working class into "an object" so that it is reduced to
a purely passive existence; an inert being-in-itself so to speak. Reification
means being afraid to express yourself on a list for fear of being
expelled. This is so since you are then under the control of the other and are
therefore reduced to a passive condition. Expelling me from the F-list
forms part of an fumbiling attempt to reify or reinforce the
reification of the F-list and indirectly all Spoon lists.

I thank you for your response Chris and am sorry if I inadvertently
failed to respond to your question before now. Enjoy you holiday!


> I respect Karl for his apology to Lisa, and Lisa for confronting
> him directly on the matter, rather than flaming him. That clearly helped.
> One of the problems I think is that Karl has presented us with
> a quarrel rather that with the substance of the argument. While expressing
> sympathy for his anger and frustration, I did ask him to clarify what his
> goals were in participating in the Foucault l'st, and I do not recall
> reading an answer.
> If I remember a private conversation correctly, the Foucault l'st is one of the
> biggest of Spoons, bigger in number of subscribers than marxism, although the
> volume of traffic is significantly less.
> There was a time when post-modernists and readers of Foucault had a voice on
> marxism. That voice has rather been squeezed out, which IMO makes this l'st a
> poorer environment ecologically, although it has become richer
> through other participation. Nevertheless the large Foucault l'st is a close
> neighbour. A post away. Karl has helped to remind us of its existence.
> But what attitude should marxists take? Why or how would they want to converse
> with admireres of Foucault?
> Whatever crises this l'st is going through I hope Spoons read the signs that
> Karl received little support on this l'st for the apparent manner of his
> intervention even if some may be surprised at the mailbombing. I think Karl
> also deserves some explanation of the lack of support.
> It is not clear to me that
> there is anything marxist about entering another community and adopting a
> confrontational pose from the start, in the name of democracy.
> That sounds more like an assertion of a concept of bourgeois democratic
> rights than an engagement with other people who, however mistaken, are not in
> the camp of the enemy, by definition.
> If admirers of Foucault are in some sense deeply wrong, a marxist analysis would
> also surely wish to understand what conditions in the economic and social base
> give rise to such ideas. Simply to attempt to denounce them sounds IMO idealist.
> Furthermore if Karl wishes to go back to the Communist Manifesto there is
> an explicit refusal there to try to impose sectarian principles on the democratic
> movement. And if subscribers to the Foucault l'st are not at least mainly
> democrats, what is a self declared marxist doing entering it?
> I have tried to download the Foucault archives to understand the *context* of
> what happened. One feature seems to me the low volume, so that a gap in
> replying to Karl's first post might have loomed larger to someone
> coming straight off the marxism l'st. Another is the non-confrontational
> convention, the desire to avoid polar arguments, which is exactly what
> Karl was seeking.
> Another is the more frequent contribution of women.
> Another is that there was a lengthy discussion of rape, from many points of
> view, which I suspect although cannot of course prove, sensitized
> subscribers to seeing Karl's assault on the l'st as particularly unacceptable.
> The volume of mailbombing that apparently emerged so suddenly suggest strong
> group feeling.
> Once you have decided on objectives there are ways and ways. There are the politics
> of consensual interpenetration and there are  the politics of penetration.
> I fear Karl has probably already dismissed what I have to say as crap, but
> it is interesting that his first confrontation/intervention was to a post
> by one Diane, who was commenting somewhat obliquely on a post by a certain
> Colin.
> Rather exceptionally I going to take the liberty of quoting from a subscriber
> to another l'st, not in any critical spirit, but to demonstrate a different
> type of engagement.
> >>>Colin:
> Date: Wed, 10 Jul 1996 09:29:01 +0100
> Subject: Re: Power and Foucault (was Rape)
> We've actually been here before (Maybe someone should start up a Butler
> list) and to some, (I have my hand up here) Butler's appropriation of F is a
> redutio ad absurdum. Moreover, and despite the many assertions to the
> contrary, this makes Butler, and Foucault by association, a linguistic
> idealist. Now don't get me wrong, I too would graciously accept the status
> of a God. I mean who wouldn't want to be the source of creation. But, how
> true (fashionable scare quotes left out intentionally (again fashionable...,
> (this could go on all day!!)) is it. Can I, as Marx put it, stop myself from
> drowing by divesting myself of the thought of gravity? Er, probably not, and
> nor can Butler get rid of the "originary presence" via the same technique.
> Pushed this far Foucault's all too important arguments become facile and
> easy to disregard.
> <<<
> So while supporting some of the shared assumptions about Foucault,
> Colin succeeds in partly diverting the thread title to a more
> political one about power, and gets in the four letter M word in the
> course of an amiable critique of an apparent follower of Foucault.
> Diane replies, and Colin signs off amiably, in his last post,
> before Karl steps in to take up the cudgel.
> >>
> I'm off on holiday tomorrow so i can't get in too deep on this one. Your
> reading of Butler is, just about, the same as mine. Problem is that in
> acknowledging that there is a materiality to the body, but then saying that
> we can never get at it, she's got herself snared up in the same dilemma that
> Kant go into: There is a real world but we can say nothing about it. Hence
> all that we can say about is what we talk about. This is a very positivist
> ontology, BTW. Now, we can, and do say lots about the materiality of the
> body. More important, while Butler and most of the sociological tradition
> (there is a good reason for this, division of labour etc, disciplinary
> borders etc. BTW isn't Butler guilty of enforcing these?) are content to say
> that the materiality of our bodies plays no role, others perfectly happy to
> say that we can say LOTS about it are getting ready to use that knowledge;
> want to get rid of homosexuality, no problem, we can eradicate the gay gene;
> criminal tendencies Sir! no problem, erdicate criminal genes. So while we in
> sociology etc, fiddle Rome burns.
> To acknowledge that it is EXTREMELY difficult epistemologically to get at
> the materiality of the body is a different question to what that materiality
> consists of. Butler has a seemingly, socially constructed, or inbuilt
> tendency to conflate her epistemology and her ontology. Still she's in good
> company becuase so does most of the western philosphical tradition. If there
> is a materiality, then might it not be an honest intellectual enterprise to
> explore it. To say we can't get at it is to give up the intellectual
> enterprise before we have begun. Besides, how does Butler _know- we can't
> say anything about it?
> I totally accept that we can only know things through certain descriptions,
> but this is not to say that the world exists only in those descriptions, or
> that only those descriptions play a role. I also BTW reject the thing
> initself as you are positing it; it assumes a static thing, once and for all
> time. To me reality is stratified, structured, differentiated and changing.
> haven't time to check this. Probably loads of mistakes. Sorry!
> Thank, (but unconvinced!!!)
> <<
> Colin goes off on holiday, and Karl goes into exile.
> Coling has an option of returning to a listening audience. Karl does not.
> >From one point of view no doubt Karl feels he is the more principled
> Marxist. Certainly a braver one. But Colin has a degree of bravery too.
> I do not imply that Colin's arguments are 100% right or that there is
> only one way to do its. Still less in taking the liberty of quoting
> without his permission, I hope no one feels they have to subject him to
> a flame war. In that case I will have to apologise all over the internet.
> I just want to illustrate there may be more than one way of engaging with
> Foucaultists. To handle such a conflict creatively, which I think
> really requires illustration. Apologies Colin!
> So I would like to ask Karl  to broaden out the *politics* of the
> issue. Why is it important to engage with post-modernism? What are its roots?
> What are its perpetuating factors? Is it totally opposed to Marxism?
> How can marxist engage with it?
> This is more interesting than whether Spoons moderators have blown the
> whistle too early or too late on a punch up.
> OK Karl, if you think I am too waffly: please just say why you think Foucault
> is such a hot issue from your point of view, and what you want to
> do about it. Or maybe others can also say their views on the influence of
> Foucault.
> Chris Burford
> London.
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                              Yours etc.,

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