From Marx to Foucault, via Althusser
By Gordon Hull, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 06 March 2019
As is well-known, Foucault pretty-much detested orthodox Marxism and the PCF. At the same time, his relation to Marx’s own thought, and that of Marx’s better commentators, is more complex. One way to approach this topic is via primitive accumulation (recall here). Another is by way of intermediaries. Here I’d like to consider what is, as far as I know, an undiscussed connection in a late essay of Althusser’s (as always, I welcome references). In a paper in the recent Marx & Foucault anthology, Julien Pallotta outlines what he takes to be evidence that Foucault is responding to Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (1970) in his Punitive Society lectures (1973). In particular, Foucault wants to argue that: Althusser doesn’t realize power is constitutive rather than reproductive/productive; that you need to look at more than wage relations to understand the reproduction of capital, and what you’ll discover is a whole process of moralization and control of the worker so that he’s reproduced and ready to work (capital thus needs workers to save against unemployment or disease etc., even as it works to “free” the worker); and there’s thus a process of subjectification which Foucault pursues in a lot more detail than Althusser.