‘Singularity’

A guy called Tobias Reed is posting some stuff over at a blog called anthropos.net (linked I believe to the slumbering ‘Biopower and the Contemporary’ project at Berkeley) and yesterday he wrote about the notion of the singularity:

And yet, what “singularity” actually means, what its connotations and implications are is not quite clear. One way to approach the problem is to ask how others – who are somehow associated with it – use the term, e.g., Foucault.

The surprise was considerable: It appears that Foucault almost never uses the term singularity (at least not in French).

Reed therefore asks us, his readers, to help say what Foucault meant by this. The question is presumably meant to be taken seriously, and so we might first look at the cloud of surrounding terms such as ‘event’ and ‘episteme’. Reed then provides (rather paradoxically) a number of fine quotations from Foucault where he (Foucault) discusses the singularity. I’m not quite sure what Reed is after, but would simply offer up the idea that one commonly finds in Foucault attention to the tactical rathwer than the strategic. For example, the specific intellectual as discussed in ‘Truth and Power’ in Colin Gordon’s book (DE 192) and ‘What calls for punishment’ (DE 346).

Remember Rée:

Unlike some other stars of Parisian intellectual life, Michel Foucault was always reluctant to air his opinions about big political issues. It was not that he was uninterested in politics or indifferent to human suffering, just that he was suspicious of the sort of thinkers–”universal intellectuals,” he called them–who consider it their privilege and duty to set the world to rights, as if history had appointed them to speak on its behalf, or morality had summoned them to be the conscience of the human race.

The opening permitted by a refusal of the universal was part of the Iranian enterprise that eg., as we discussed Bush’s speech writer got wrong. For this was not a naive endorsement of islamofascism, but rather to be ‘antistrategic’:

[antistrategic resistance] is to be respectful when a singularity rises up, and intransigent when power infringes on the universal. A simple choice, a difficult job…
‘Is it useless to revolt’ Vol III Power, p. 453

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