Two reviews of Paras, Foucault 2.0 address the question of whether Foucault reintroduced the notion of the subject in his later writings. Additionally, on this week when the president of Iran visits Columbia U, they comment on Foucault’s journalism in the late 1970s with the Iranian revolution.
These topics speak to the different Foucaults that are out there. There’s the one that is seen by say cultural studies people and cultural anthropologists. Then not too far away, there’s the Foucault of sexuality. There’s the Foucault seen by those interested in political theory and governmentality. And there’s the Foucault that is seen by Serious philosophers studying the ramifications of archeology and genealogy. As I’ve learned doing this blog, there’s also the Foucault of modern theology students (ethics and culture of the self). (Then of course there are all the Foucaults, with egghead glistening, who play the role of villain in the nightmares of David Frum and co.)
Over a career as productive as Foucault’s it’s not surprising that people find these Foucaults and set them going but it does raise the question of how, if at all, they might fit together.
This is how the first review begins:
Readers of Foucault’s texts have long been perplexed by the apparent shift his writings underwent in the late 1970s. Following the appearance of the first volume of The History of Sexuality (Le volunté de savoir, translated as The History of Sexuality: An Introduction) in 1976, Foucault’s investigations inexplicably change focus: from an investigation of the prison and the mechanisms of power that produce the modern individual in Discipline and Punish, the second and third volumes of the History of Sexuality focus on practices of the self in ancient Greece and Rome. Indeed, at the time of his death, Foucault was at work on a fourth volume examining the practices of the self in the Christian era.1 How does one account for the fact that the thinker who had written in 1966 that the one could “certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand and at the edge of the sea” was suddenly writing about the various practices of the self prevalent in the ancient world, practices that were meant to ensure individual freedom and autonomy?
Corey McCall, Other Voices, May 2007. (By the way, Other Voices is planning a future issue on biopolitics if you wish to submit something. Also by the way, there’s an odd thing on the OV site called the Manual of Lost Ideas which can only be interpreted as an extensive fiction in the style of Mark Z. Danielewski.)
A more recent review of Paras appears at Event Mechanics. EV thinks the title is atrocious if it refers to web 2.0 (I dunno if it does) becausethe latter is:
an expression of the worst excesses of the cultural industry capitalising on a techno-enthusiasm
This is all well and good until Paras seems to lose the ‘plot’ a bit in what I assume is meant to be the point of the book’s argument, the “Deep Subjects” chapter. Another reader had similar problems with Chapter Four: “Paras’ interpretive strategy blinds him to the continuities at work across Foucault’s texts and reduces his later texts to something of a death bed conversion to the time-honored values of liberal humanism.” The problem, condensed: Paras writes from within neo-liberal discourse and argues from the assumption that “interests” equals “individuals”, thus transforming Foucault’s two courses (77-78 and 78-79) into a project “that viewed the individual as the secret bearer of his own deep truth” (113).
I think he has to say a bit more about why individuals are not their interests. This smacks a bit false consciousness-y.
Filed under: Review