[Marxism] Foucault

joonas laine jjonas at nic.fi
Fri Apr 9 08:21:55 MDT 2004

I don't know Foucault's practical politics in too much detail, but
Louis Proyect's remark on soup kitchens and squats rhymes with my
impression of the politics of at least many of his postmodernist
followers, in which neither I see very much revolutionary potential.

However, I would like to say that as to Foucault's theoretical works,
he seems to have the same kind of criticism on the agenda as Marxists,
namely to point out the historical character and thus temporary nature
of social formations, which some claim to be "natural", "unchangeable"
or whatever.

I have read 'Madness and Civilisation' and 'Discipline and Punish', I
found the latter more comprehensible and thus more valuable for
clarifying my ideas about what Foucault perhaps tries to say, though
his style of writing leaves a lot to hope for (so much so that it
says on the back cover of 'The Order of Things' that it was this
book that "established him as an intellectual giant").

I was also happy to read Mark Poster's 'Foucault, Marxism and history',
because it dealt also with the _positive_ aspects of Foucault's thought,
i.e. what might be worth keeping in it instead of merely criticising
its drawbacks (which is importaint too of course). (When I was reading
Gramsci, it struck me that some of his thoughts seemed like prototype
versions of Foucault's discourse analysis'n'stuff.)

I haven't figured it out as to what extent Foucault and Marx can be
made to converge, but certainly it seems to me that F has interesting
things to say which I'd think could be positive contributions to
critical theory.

jjonas @ nic.fi

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