It is not uncommon to hear people moan about the intractable bind that Foucault’s social ontology places the subject (see Žižek, Habmeras, or most people who have heard something about Foucault through youtube or a mothballed professor). “The subject is wholly produced by power”, they say. “And any resistance the subject can muster is also produced by power”, they cry. I just don’t think these folks are trying hard enough, either to understand Foucault or to resist.
How light power would be, and easy to dismantle no doubt, if all it did was to observe, spy, detect, prohibit, and punish; but it incites, provokes, produces. It is not simply eye and ear: it makes people act and speak. Foucault, M. (2000). Lives of Infamous Men. Power J. D. Faubion. London, Penguin. 3: 172
Neoliberalism is like fundamentalism or postmodernism. No one identifies as such, but we know it when we see it and when we see it we don’t like it. And go to a conference in the humanities and you’ll hear about it; again and again.
In discussing Foucault’s lectures on neoliberalism, back when it used to be neo-liberalism, Colin Gordon summarizes Foucault’s perspective as follows.
In a nutshell, he suggests that recent neo-liberalism, understood (as he proposes) as a novel set of notions about the art of government, is a considerably more original and challenging phenomenon that the left’s critical culture has had the courage to acknowledge, and that its political challenge is one which the left is singularly ill equipped to respond to’ (Gordon, ‘Governmental rationality: an introduction’ in The Foucault Effect, 1991).
Gordon wrote this twenty years ago. Foucault gave the lectures thirty years ago. Yet the left has not grown teeth and like the lion in The Wizard of Oz, courage has not been found and Toto hasn’t peeled back the curtain. This is partly due to the left seeking to critique neoliberal governmentality while holding on to a redundant theory of the State. Neoliberal practices of government do not flow from the State, but the neoliberal state, if we can call it such, is the effect of the practices. This leaves the left playing a game two moves too late.
Hack writers who know they will never be mistaken for a great writer in their own time, dream of posthumous recognition. Great writers, knowing that it will be the hacks that remain when they depart, write wills forbidding posthumous publications.
The rest of us update, like, comment, share, forward, blog and go to bed – neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.
A democratic government determined by those who cannot vote – by the people who are inside-out, outside yet in – could perhaps fulfill the ideals of a government for the demos. Rather than all the ink spilt on Rawls’s ‘original position’ and ‘veil of ignorance’, we give the Other and the stranger the vote over us.
The pleasure of eating used to be taste. The sweet taste of honey brightened Jonathan’s eyes and almost cost him his life.
What was once the holy trinity of flavour – fat, salt and sugar are now bemoaned as the axis of evil.
Today, the pleasure of eating is health. Kale shakes and brown rice balls come direct from the kitchens of concentration camps, yet they are savored and looked upon as delicacies. Beet leaves and parsnips – the diet of those malnourished cousins whose father gambled or drank away the food budget – are served at boutique restaurants to appreciative “foodies”. It as if these people are an inverted version of the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, not longing for the fatten calf but to eat from the troughs of swine, resentful that yet again they have to eat the bread and meat at their father’s table.
At least we can now understand Esau trading his birthright for a meal of lentil stew – the very stuff of life.
desperate hopeful situation of society in which I live fills me with hope despair.” (altering Agamben’s paraphrasing of Marx).
The recent election should not give birth to the exuberance it has. A loss was a avoided, a game wasn’t won. To mistake these leads to a time when a loss can’t be avoided and the game will be over.
Today, Barrack Obama is returned to office. Although limited to a lexicon of two words, the people have spoken. A
progress demise of a kind, perhaps.
As an exercise to broaden my lexicon, I have (re)started a blog…as a dog returns to its vomit.