File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_1998/foucault.9810, message 70

Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 20:50:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Criticism

Matthew wrote,
>It is probably the case that Foucault thought he could not have a genuine
>conversation with someone who had written a book the title of which
>called on the public to forget about him--an exchange with Baudrillard,
>like the exchange with Derrida, might well have amounted only to a battle
>of wills.

who am I to say of course, but for once I sense something more mischievous,
even sinister (I say that with a smile) in how Foucault handled this;
knowing the text in question (Oublier Foucault), and also the stakes at the
particular time it was written (approx. 1976).  I wonder--and this is only
a personal speculation--whether Foucault's supposed 'anger' was not a way
of diffusing what seems to me the most powerful counter-position to his own
genealogies of the time (especially _Surveiller et punir_, and _La Volonte
du savoir_; where power is 'productive').  The notion of 'seduction' that
Baudrillard is formulating at the time of _Oublier Foucault_ (which to
clarify, in the French is the verb in the infinitive form: more
'forgetting', or perhaps even the process of forgetting Foucault.  Simply
'forget' would have been Oubliez), is a radical--perhaps the most
radical--challenge to Foucault's own conception of biopower specifically,
and power/knowledge in general.  Could it be that Foucault's reaction, his
blowing up, was staged; as to respond in kind would have pushed his
discourse to such levels that it would have collapsed?  Perhaps--even
though as Claire says, Foucault was a wonderful interlocutor in his own
right--he purposely avoided this particular 'battle of wills', as you say
Matthew, because to have engaged it might have run the risk of shattering
his project entirely.  It's speculation, and not meant in anyway at all as
a 'charge' against Foucault.  Idle speculation in anycase, but a mark all
the same--on a personal level--of my respect for Jean Baudrillard, who I
think has been greatly underrated in Foucauldian circles.  He says himself
that he still suffers from the reaction orchestrated in part by Foucault
(remember that on Baudrillard's account after declining to write a formal
reply which would have been published alongside Baudrillard's essay in
_Critique_, the journal of which Foucault was editor, Foucault had
seemingly said 'do what you like with it').  It would be nice if
Baudrillard was cut some slack, as his essay seems to me very much in the
faith (a perilous word)--if not the style--of Foucault's own orientation to
both critique and the text.

a short quotation to substantiate my point:

"For myself, I prefer to utilise the writers I like.  The only valid
tribute to thought such as Nietzsche's is precisely to use it, to deform
it, to make it groan and protest.  And if commentators then say that I am
being faithful or unfaithful to Nietzsche, that is of absolutely no
interest." - Michel Foucault, from 'Prison Talk'

Ian Robert Douglas,
Associate Lecturer & Fulbright Fellow,
Watson Institute of International Studies,
Brown University, Box 1831,
130 Hope Street,
Providence, RI  02912

tel: 401 863-2420
fax: 401 863-2192

"Fire includes heat and light: it is the ardour that
 emanates from the heart, the lightning that
 flashes from the intellect, which performs
 miracles in this world."  -  Napoleon


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