File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_1998/foucault.9812, message 16

Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 19:17:51 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: disappeared

As a newcomer to this list I am fascinated and distressed at the manner in
which Foucault and ocassionally Nietzsche are invoked as the authors of
doctrines which we their modest readers need to properly apply now that
the masters are no longer with us.  At times the list sounds like confused
and anxious apostles waiting for a sign on how they ought to
think--something Andrew L Weber might set to music.

Pinochet can be punished because an international judicial system has
begun to operate in a domain that had previously been reserved to the
foreign ministries of major states.  That a Spanish magistrate can call a
retired tyrannt before his court shows that the rule of law as it applies
to ordinary citizens is slowly calling the previously immune class of
rulers to account for themselves.  The long-standing distinction between
rulers and citizens is being erased as the penal code expands upward to
include sovereigns.

One could go further and argue along with both our masters that Pinochet's
indictment reflects the devcelopment of a penal code that no longer
accepts brutal punishment.  Nietzsche anticipates Foucault when he writes
inthe second essay of the Genealogy of Morals about the possibility that
state grows increasingly  less inclined to physically punish lawbreakers
because they no longer represent a serious threat.  The state is able to
become humane because it enjoys a surfeit of power.  Similarly Pinochet is
open to indictment because the "international community" is no longer
preoccupied with the Cold War.  Pinochet was able to get away with torture
because he was anti-communist. Now that the West enjoys a surfeit of
power, it can brush aside its embarassing brutalities.  Pinochet is being
hung out to dry because he no longer has any protectors, or at least so it
We don't have to use Foucault and Nietzsche as way of shielding our
ignorance of Chilean history or as a means of pretending to be above it.

Daniel Purdy


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