Mathias Schönher, Deleuze, a Split with Foucault, Foucault Blog, October 17, 2015
There was a point in time, wrote Deleuze in 1990, before which he had been a political follower of Foucault, and after which he no longer shared Foucault’s “evaluation” of many issues. This moment must have come in 1977, when Deleuze and Foucault found themselves in quite obvious mutual opposition, first in the debate over the New Philosophers and then in relation to the Croissant case. 1977 was the year of the German Autumn, as well as of the strongest protest and resistance movement of the Autonomia Operaia in Italy. It was, however, also a year of struggles in the Parisian universities, as well as among French intellectuals. Badiou stormed a lecture by Deleuze at the head of a brigade of intervention, for example, and Baudrillard launched an open assault on Foucault’s conception of power and pleasure with his polemic Forget Foucault. It was with these and other commotions that the period in France that had begun in May 1968 came to an end, pushed into the background by a reactionary transformation of society first noticeable in 1977 that went on to mark the presidency of François Mitterrand. Deleuze perceived one important aspect of this transformation in the new importance accorded to marketing, which led to profound changes in the media landscape and influenced the public confrontation with philosophy and art.
The split between Deleuze and Foucault must be looked at against the background of the sociopolitical change occurring in the late 1970s. The probable cause of the split, at least for Deleuze, was the debate concerning the New Philosophers, in which Foucault, in line with these intellectuals, rejected the creative thinking of philosophy as dangerous: the reason could only have been that Foucault did not share Deleuze’s conception of the distinction between the prevailing relations of power and the primary forces. Unlike Foucault, who was going through a crisis at the time, Deleuze had nothing in his psychological or personal life to indicate a reason for the split. After Foucault’s death in 1984, Deleuze sought to reconcile the two positions, but his attempt only highlighted the depth of the division between the two erstwhile companions.