Foucault News

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

Gordon Hull, Foucault, Marx and Prophecy: the 11th “Thesis on Feuerbach”, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 22 April 2021

Foucault thinks Marxism is bossy. In Society must be Defended, he lays down the gauntlet clearly enough: totalizing theories get in the way of useful things at the local level. As he notes, one should beware of:

“the inhibiting effect specific to totalitarian theories, or at least – what I mean is – all-encompassing and global theories. Not that all-encompassing and global theories haven’t, in fairly constant fashion, provided – and don’t continue to provide – tools that can be used at the local level; Marxism and psychoanalysis are living proof that they can. But they have, I think, provided tools that can be used at the local level only when, and this is the real point ,the theoretical unity of their discourse is, so to speak, suspended, or at least cut up, ripped up, torn to shreds, turned inside out, displaced, caricatured, dramatized, theatricalized, and so on. Or at least that the totalizing approach always has the effect of putting the brakes on” (SMD 6).

That is, when you insist on your theoretical unities, you get in the way of actually doing anything. What we need are to unearth “subjugated knowledges” and specific histories, and such activity requires the “removal of the tyranny of overall discourses” (SMD 8).

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