Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Aaron Hanlon, Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him. The Washington Post, 31 August 2018

Postmodern theory may be the most loathed concept ever to have emerged from academia. Developed within literature and philosophy departments in the 1970s, it supposedly told us that facts were debatable, that individual perspectives mattered most, that shared meaning was an illusion and that universal truth was a myth.

The right quickly identified these notions as a danger to the very foundations of society and spent decades flogging the university lefties who promoted them. In “Tenured Radicals,” Roger Kimball accused academic theorists of trying to redefine the traditional humanities as “a species of political grievance-mongering” for which virtue equals “whatever sexual, feminist, Marxist, racial, or ethnic agenda to which the particular critic has declared his allegiance.” Norman Podhoretz believed that postmodernism was an attack on moral order. More recently, Victor Davis Hanson faulted postmodernism for President Barack Obama’s handling of health care legislation, writing, “In the gospel of postmodern relativism, what did it matter if the president of the United States promised that Obamacare would not alter existing health-care plans when it was clear that it would?”

Later, centrists and liberals searching for a culprit behind the ascent of Donald Trump and the war on fact that surrounds him joined the conservative crusade. Michiko Kakutani, the cultural critic and author of “The Death of Truth,” blames the relativism that facilitated Trump’s rise on “academics promoting the gospel of postmodernism.”

[…]

Kakutani’s suggestion that we can trace the roots of Trump-era post-truth politics to postmodernism is similar to an argument in Lee McIntyre’s recent book, “Post-Truth.” “Even if right-wing politicians and other science deniers were not reading Derrida and Foucault,” writes McIntyre, “the germ of the idea made its way to them.”

In each of these cases, the writers invoke postmodernism to describe not a contested set of observations about the state of knowledge and culture but a committed belief system that forms the basis of partisan political calculations. Kakutani’s choice of words — “the gospel of postmodernism” — conjures such a system.

[…]

it’s clear that the real enemy of truth is not postmodernism but propaganda, the active distortion of truth for political purposes. Trumpism practices this form of distortion on a daily basis. The postmodernist theorists we vilify did not cause this; they’ve actually given us a framework to understand precisely how falsehood can masquerade as truth.

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Réécouter Psychiatrie (1/4) : L’Histoire de la folie par Michel Foucault, Podcast, Chemins de la Connaissance, Radio France
10/12/2018

En 1961, Foucault soutient sa thèse intitulée “Histoire de la folie”. Objet de nombreuses critiques, elle n’est pas tant une histoire de la psychiatrie que celle des pratiques adoptées du Moyen Âge à Freud. Qu’est-ce qui a rendu possible la constitution de la folie comme objet de connaissance ?

Le docteur Philippe Pinel faisant tomber les chaînes des aliénés, d'après une peinture de Tony Robert-Fleury ((1838 - 1911)
Le docteur Philippe Pinel faisant tomber les chaînes des aliénés, d’après une peinture de Tony Robert-Fleury ((1838 – 1911) Crédits : Stock Montage – Getty

 

La psychiatrie, spécialité médicale traitant de la maladie mentale, vient du mot grec psyche, “âme ou esprit”, et iatros qui signifie “médecin”.
Avant le XIXème siècle, la médecine ne se préoccupait pas des maladies mentales, des “fous”. À l’asile, le médecin n’était pas un savant mais celui qui faisait régner l’ordre.

En 1961, Michel Foucault (1926-1984) soutient sa thèse de philosophie sur l’histoire de la folie à l’âge classique. Ni histoire des idées, ni histoire des mentalités, Michel Foucault pose les jalons d’une histoire des expériences, des discours et des pratiques que l’Occident, concernant la folie, a adoptés jusqu’à Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), qui, le premier, a atténué la polarisation entre raison et déraison.

La thèse centrale de son ouvrage souligne que la folie n’a pas toujours été perçue comme une connaissance du savoir médical, la psychiatrie naît à la faveur d’une expérience nouvelle de la folie, qui apparaît donc au XIXème siècle.

L’invité du jour :

Luca Paltrinieri, maître de conférences en philosophie politique, philosophie des sciences humaines et sociales à l’Université de Rennes 1
Auteur de L’expérience du concept : Michel Foucault entre une épistémologie et histoire aux éditions de la Sorbonne.

L’attitude inacceptable de Foucault face à la psychanalyse, Mediapart
24 NOV. 2018 PAR YVON QUINIOU

La parution des premiers écrits de Foucault sur la sexualité est l’occasion de critiquer son attitude à l’égard de la psychanalyse, contre une mode qui ne cesse de l’encenser. En réalité, il se sera opposé à elle, lui reprochant de vouloir normaliser le “sexe” et, surtout, il aura refusé d’y voir une théorie scientifique. C’est son irrationalisme foncier qui est ici en cause.

L’attitude inacceptable de Foucault face à la psychanalyse

Michel Foucault aura eu face à la psychanalyse une position ambiguë, sinon fausse, et peu nombreux sont ceux qui osent le dire tant il bénéficie d’une aura totalement mystificatrice à mes yeux, dans le domaine des sciences humaines, que je voudrais ici dissiper rapidement. C’est ainsi que dans un bref article consacré aux premières réflexions (1964, 1969) de Foucault sur la sexualité qui viennent d’être éditées (Le Monde des livres du 23/10), E. Roudinesco nous offre un compte-rendu de celles-ci qui m’a étonné par sa partialité, sinon même son inexactitude, en en faisant un soutien proclamé de Freud.

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Yvon Quiniou, philosophe, auteur de Misère de la philosophie contemporaine au regard du matérialisme. Heidegger, Husserl, Foucault, Deleuze (L’Harmattan).

Patricia DESROCHES, La « renaissance » du sujet : Deleuze, Foucault, Lacan, Nonfiction.fr,
[vendredi 07 décembre 2018],

Livre: Frédéric Rambeau, Les secondes vies du sujet, Deleuze, Foucault, Lacan, Hermann, 2018

Un ouvrage qui s’interroge sur des modalités de « subjectivation » que l’on croyait disparues.
,
Le titre même de l’ouvrage de Frédéric Rambeau, maître de conférences à l’université de Paris VIII, suggère que la disparition du sujet – revendiquée par le structuralisme des années 1960 – n’exclut pas des possibilités de « régénération », la dissolution annoncée engendrant in fine de nouvelles formes d’existence. Précisons que Foucault, néanmoins, n’a pas toujours souscrit à l’idée d’une « seconde vie du sujet ». Dans ses premiers travaux (voir infra), il affirme que l’émergence des sciences humaines coïncide avec la « mort de l’homme », proclamation qui abolit la souveraineté du sujet ainsi que ses figures jumelles, l’anthropologie et l’humanisme . Lorsqu’il rédige en 1966 L’Archéologie du savoir, Foucault soutient que la raison analytique ignore l’homme : elle est incompatible avec l’humanisme. Un certain usage de la raison dilue le « privilège » humain, et en faisant de l’homme l’objet du savoir, le destitue de sa suprématie (qu’il s’agisse de la logique de B. Russel ou de l’ethnologie de C. Levi-Strauss). Si l’on s’en tient à la position de Foucault à cette époque, il peut être tentant d’assimiler l’apparition d’une « seconde » vie du sujet à un retour vers l’humanisme. Mais est-ce de cela qu’il s’agit ? F. Rambeau veut plutôt montrer que Deleuze, Foucault et Lacan ont effectivement mis en question(s) le sujet, contribué à dissoudre son « essence », ou, a minima, l’ont délogé de sa position prééminente (réflexivité, identité à soi etc.).

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Progressive Geographies

In the second half of term I felt I made little progress, but have done a little reading and research in and around teaching, marking, meetings and other tasks. I did write the Introduction to a translation, which should be out in 2019. More details soon, hopefully.

On the early Foucault work, among other things I’ve been reading the Acéphale journal. Acéphalewas a journal founded and mostly written by Georges Bataille in the late 1930s. I know from his notes that Foucault read the journal, which was largely about Nietzsche in its short life. The British Library has some issues although all are online. But there was a reproduction of all five issues with an introduction that appeared in 1980, which I was able to consult at the Tate Gallery library.

In 1955, Foucault’s book Maladie mentale et personnalité was reviewed in Critique. The book didn’t have…

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Neil BadmingtonReview of Michel Foucault, Patrice Maniglier and Dork Zabunyan, FOUCAULT AT THE MOVIES, Edited and translated by Clare O’Farrell, Times Literary Supplement, 23 November 2018 (Needs subscription to read full review).

Although he once likened Lucian’s second-century Hermotimus to the films of Woody Allen, Michel Foucault is not usually remembered for his writings on cinema. As Patrice Maniglier and Dork Zabunyan note in their introduction to Foucault at the Movies, however, “he did occasionally cross paths with film”, and the book, which first appeared in shorter form in French in 2011, zooms in on these crossings. Its first section features two long pieces by Maniglier and Zabunyan on Foucault’s “inchoate, incomplete, incidental, almost anecdotal” encounter with moving images. While these essays are sometimes cryptic, they provide helpful context and identify how Foucault’s writings on film relate to his more widely known work on subjects such as sexuality, power, history and madness.

The second section brings together ten short texts on cinema published by Foucault between 1974 and 1981, some of which have not appeared previously in English. These pieces address,…

Neil Badmington is Professor of English at Cardiff University, UK. His previous books include Hitchcock’s Magic (2011) and Alien Chic: Posthumanism and the Other Within (2004).

Marcelo Hoffman, Militant Acts. The Role of Investigations in Radical Political Struggles, SUNY Press, Release Date: January 2019
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-7261-4

Summary

Offers a history of the role of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century forward.

Militant Acts presents a broad history of the concept and practice of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century to the present. Radicals launched investigations into the conditions and struggles of the oppressed and exploited to stimulate their political mobilization and organization. These investigations assumed a variety of methodological forms in a wide range of geographical and institutional contexts, and they also drew support from the participation of intellectuals such as Marx, Lenin, Mao, Dunayevskaya, Foucault, and Badiou. Marcelo Hoffman analyzes newspapers, pamphlets, reports, and other source materials, which reveal the diverse histories, underappreciated difficulties, and theoretical import of investigations in radical political struggles. In so doing, he challenges readers to rethink the supposed failure of these investigations and concludes that the value of investigations in radical political struggles ultimately resides in the possibility of producing a new political “we.”

“The kind of archival and synthetic work on investigations that this book evinces has been accomplished nowhere else. Hoffman’s survey provides the reader with an understanding of how investigations fit into the theoretical practice of many important Marxist thinkers, along with an argument for their utility. Further, original insights into these thinkers, which enhance or even contradict our available understandings with better historical evidence, are offered.” — William S. Lewis, author of Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism

“Hoffman focuses on a distinctive, yet little recognized practice of resistance and shows how it impacts and is impacted by the theories of ideology and power in which it was employed. The scholarship is not only sound, but truly pathbreaking in its treatment of various traditions, languages, and even its usage of extremely diverse source materials.” — Kevin Thompson, DePaul University

Marcelo Hoffman is an independent scholar who received his PhD in international studies from the University of Denver and the author of Foucault and Power: The Influence of Political Engagement on Theories of Power. He recently served as a Visiting Specialist Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences of the State University of Campinas in Brazil.

Gordon Hull, Foucault’s “Analytic Philosophy of Politics”, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 02 July 2018

The current issue of Foucault Studies contains the first English translation of a lecture Foucault gave in Japan in 1978.  This “Analytic Philosophy of Politics” is essential reading if you have an interest in the transition between Foucault’s “power” and “ethics” work and/or his later understanding of power and resistance.  The Tokyo lecture underscores a profound continuity in his thought along a number of lines. Here are a few things that emerged for me on a first reading (there are also references to Confucianism that I am totally unqualified to address, so I will simply note that they are present):

(1) Foucault proposes that the question of power emerges in the wake of fascism and Stalinism, which he treats as both singular but as tied to “a whole series of mechanisms that already existed within social and political systems” (189).  That is, movements now challenge “this overproduction of power that Stalinism and fascism clearly manifested in its stark and monstrous state” (189).  The emphasis on Stalinism and fascism corresponds to the lectures that bookend Society must be Defended a few years prior, where Foucault begins by critiquing “totalitarian” discourses in the form of orthodox Marxism and closes with an analysis of state racism (exemplified by the Nazis) as a form of biopower.  So too, at the beginning of SMD, he refers to some of the same movements – anti-psychiatry, the recovery of “subjugated knowledges” that are the examples in the Tokyo lecture.

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Interview with Shelley Tremain by Dave O’Brien on
Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability, University of Michigan Press 2017
September 11, 2018 Podcast, New Books Network

How should we understand disability? In Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability (University of Michigan Press, 2017), Dr. Shelley Tremain explores this complex question from the perspective of feminist philosophy, using the work of Michel Foucault. The book is a fascinating critique of much contemporary philosophy and policy, providing a detailed, but easy to follow overview of key works in feminism and in Foucault’s thought. The book places these discussions in the context of inequalities within academic philosophy itself, drawing attention to the marginalisation of key questions of disability and gender from contemporary philosophy as it is currently organised. Overall the book is important reading not only for disability studies and philosophy, but anyone wanting to understand how society disadvantages difference. You can read more of Dr. Tremain’s work, and key debates on philosophy and disability as part of the Discrimination and Disadvantage blog.

Seyla Benhabib, Below the Asphalt Lies the Beach. Reflections on the legacy of the Frankfurt School, Boston Review, A political and literary forum, October 09, 2018

[…]
The Dialectic of Enlightenment is a bridge text to a broader conception of critical theory—of oppositional and emancipatory knowledge—that emerged in the last decades of the twentieth century. Although Michel Foucault quipped that he had never read the Dialectic of Enlightenment (published in 1944), his work replaced the creative subject that Horkheimer took from Hegel, Marx, and Lukács with a theory about how subjectivity is created. History is a not a record of the deeds of a collective or singular subject, he argued; rather, it is formed by a series of epistemes—configurations of power-knowledge—each giving shape to different conceptions of knowledge and action. In the essay “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” Foucault explains that whereas archaeology digs into the layers of what is manifest in the present, genealogy searches for the breaks and displacements between the source and the phenomena. Genealogy searches for emergence (Herkunft), but emergence does not mean a smooth evolution from a known original (Ursprung). Just as there is no continuous narrative that can be told of a unified collective subject unfolding in history, so too genealogy does not trace an uninterrupted line of development from the past to the present, providing a narrative of improved knowledge and moral progress. Instead, society is constituted by a discontinuous and fragmentary series of power-knowledge configurations, full of displacements and erasures. Knowledge is not just emancipatory but also disciplinary; power can only be confronted by power. “The ‘Enlightenment,’ which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines,” he writes in Discipline and Punish (1975).

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