Foucault News

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

Text below posted on youtube . See also the European Graduate school site

Catherine Malabou, philosopher and author, talking about inconsistencies in Foucault’s critique of the symbolic. In this lecture Catherine Malabou discusses the unity of the symbolic and biological, a new theory of power outside the model of language, the genealogy of relations of force, the somatic in place of the symbolic, functionality as the materiality of bodies and a new notion of life in relationship to Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Friedrich Nietzsche and Immanuel Levinas focusing on sexuality, the vocabulary of war, sensation, corporeality, the living body, bare life, Homo sacer, animality, poetry, sovereignty and the absolute value of life. This is a public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe.

Catherine Malabou is a specialist of contemporary French and German philosophy, with a focus on Hegel and Heidegger. She is most famous for her concept of ontological “plasticity.” Her work also incorporates neuroscience and neuro-psychoanalysis. Malabou has published many works including Voyager avec Jacques Derrida – La Contre-allée (1999, English publication in 2004 entitled Counterpath Que faire de notre cerveau? (2004), (English publication in 2008 entitled What Should We Do with Our Brain?, La Plasticité au soir de l’écriture : Dialectique, destruction, deconstruction (2005), (English publication in 2009 entitled Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction), Changer de différence (2009), (English publication in 2011 entitled Changing differences). More recently, Catherine Malabou published a book in French with Judith Butler entitled Sois mon corps (2010). She also manages a philosophy book series for the French publisher Éditions Léo Scheer.

With thanks to Dirk Felleman for this link

8 thoughts on “Catherine Malabou. A Critique of Foucault (2012)

  1. Wow. She takes no prisoners does she?


  2. What is opinion (from an author/source) other than a symbolic assignment of (positive or negative) value?


  3. Naxos says:

    Not a very good lecture I may say. It is not even a critique. It is too clear that Catherine is too retractile to dispose herself to assimilate Foucault’s work as a whole, which is needed to assert anything more or less critic about him. Maybe she does not quite see how difficult is to criticize Foucault without having a good idea about the whole of his work. For those that already have this broader idea and have invested their time to read and reread Foucault more seriously (not moved by just a sterile negated counter-position) it is clear that she is just taking Foucault’s theory of power as reference to say things on the very vapor of the text. She is kind of stuck in the symbolic and does not get that Foucault had very good reasons to evade it in his terms, something that he did successfully. Besides, she does not mean to take into account that Foucault’s aim was to avoid feeding the Levi-Straussian ‘structure’ which by those days meant the very objectivism of the symbolic. Maybe she wanted to support her critique using Levi-Straus because he was one of the few theorist who was not very pleased with Foucault (he did not vote on his favor). Though, the symbolic that she has in mind sounds pretty much lacanian than levi-straussian. Catherine also seems to omit that Foucault’s theory of power is only a brief and necessary stage between his theory of discourse and his analysis on the modes of subjectivation: it is in the passage between one and the other that he substantializes and reifies ‘power’. Though, it is through this substantialization and reification that he could approach his analysis (of power) like no one has ever done. In fact, this transit to the modes of subjectivation was a rectification on how this substantialization and reification tended to feed precisely the inadvertend objectivism of THE structure which molds subjectivity. Catherine does not mean to comprehend Foucault but just to give an effect of critic to her speech, which is lame even to watch. While all this is done in the intimacy of the classroom, it is kind of uncomfortable to see how she uses this intimacy to do what anyone would expect her to do in the intimacy of her home, in her studio: to read Foucault all alone as she should, so to really confront herself with his work and so to get a truthful idea about it.


  4. Janet Abbey says:

    Naxos that was so interesting. I still revere what Baudrillard did to and for Foucault in his Forget Foucault. To me it is the last word on him. Just perfect. I always think and feel strange that Foucault’s “will” was so difficult for Defert to find and establish. What a tragedy if his family had gotten that legal and political power. A family who never understood what he was and is. The fact that he was dying of AIDS and must have known it to be so careless is something I have gone over and over to no satisfaction. He did finish the manuscripts of his History of Sexuality smack before he went into the hospital. And people who saw him then reported how unwell he really was. Was he in denial? That’s all I ever come up with. I didn’t listen to Malabou after reading you. I would rather read a transcription of it. Is there one?


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