Neil Smith on Foucault and revolution

Seen in Heidelberg, Germany, June 2009

Neil Smith (Uneven Development) has added some new material to his site, including an editorial he did for Environment Planning D: Society and Space in 2007 (pdf version).

Smith’s position is that Foucault is actually useful in thinking about revolution again (ie., since the 1960s). He argues that Foucault’s position on revolution is (A) misunderstood mainly because of his visits and comments on Iran in 1978/9 and (B) potentially better than Marx’s because whereas Marx’s revolutions were tied to a specific time and place, Foucault’s is “universalized.”

Unlike other radical geographers (eg David Harvey and Nigel Thrift in our book) Smith here finds more hope in Foucault (eg Thrift once said “it always seems to be raining in Foucault country.”) That’s fair enough and each reader will take what they need from any author, but I wonder here what Neil would say to the point that he sort of makes himself: that is, that revolutions attract their own counter-revolutions. As he says:

Whatever the very real successes of these movements, they did not remain revolutionary and with only a few exceptions – foremost Cuba, perhaps – they did not dislodge the integument of capitalist social relations. On the contrary, the response to many of these challenges was the opposite: a forceful, often military, counterrevolution, often with US support, which eventually strengthened local capitalism under the banners of an emergent globalization and neoliberalism, injecting capitalist social relations deeper and deeper into the marrow of daily life.

Is this an instance of a reversal of Foucault’s famous aphorism that where there is power, there is resistance?

2 Responses

  1. maybe you can shed some light on this: how can resistance ultimately effect anything for Foucault, if resistance/repression are instances of the same power, which must both exist if there is to be power at all?

  2. Doesn’t Foucault say that there is always this kind of inherent danger in power relations?

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