Prison/Foucault

Russell Pearson spectres at innotts.co.uk
Wed Sep 4 08:59:56 MDT 1996


Russel, I have read not yet seen Kenan Malik's book, though I did
read a
couple months back his essay in *Race and Class* 37, 3 (1996)
"Universalism
and difference: race and the postmodernists", a challenge to
poststructuralist understandings of society and social scientific
methodology.  I find Malik's essay important because it does suggest
how
muddled  so much academic work on 'race' has become.

For example he argues that because of a methodological refusal  to
relate
race as it appears in society to the determinate structure or essence
of
that society, race then appears to float in society; it is not long before
it is then granted a transhistoric status, as well as a logic its own.
Utlimately the result of this seemingly radical autonomization of race is
that its historical specificity and thus the possibility of its abolition
are simply erased.

While I may not have got Malik right on my cursory re-read, I think it
is
correct to argue that he  is attempting to show how pernicious a
cheap
appropriation of poststructuralism and especially anti-essentialism can
be.
I look forward to reading his book.

Malik however does not discuss Foucault and thus that level of
Foucault's
work which is most immediately relevant to the analysis of racism--the
wedging of the biological continuum into races allowing biopower to
exercise itself, the development of juridical power into
governmentality,
the creation of docile bodies adminstered for the ends of national
efficiency, the branding of abnormal bodies and their correction. (all
this
is brought out incisively by Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg,
Michel
Foucault, Auschwitz and modernity, Philosophy and Social Criticism,
vo. 22,
no 1: 101-113)

These elements of Foucault's work--which overall clearly operates at
many
different levels with different levels of success--simply have no
equivalent in most radical political economic work which is
concerned with
the question of discrimination (narrowly defined--that is why do only
ascriptively differentiated people receive unequal pay?) or the
question of
whether racism is consciously deployed by employers to divide and
conquer
the working class.  Marxism has become economistic.

Rakesh






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Dear Rakesh

Sorry to take so long to respond- I've been spectating the sleazier
parts of Amsterdam- a vice of this list I believe....
I thought that your comments on Malik were fair- but I don't agree
with your reading of Foucault- I'll respond once I've unpacked my
luggage.

All the best,

 Russell
spectres at innotts.co.uk


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