File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_1998/foucault.9812, message 39

Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998 21:30:25 -0600
Subject: Re: Foucault and Pinochet

At 04:14 PM 03-12-98 +0000, you wrote: 

>There is no real interest, on the part of this Western democracy anyway,
>in deterring would-be Pinochet's. His kind are always in demand when it
>comes to protecting U.S. economic imperialist interests in Latin
>America, Asia, etc. Real political reform was been thwarted numerous
>times by U.S.-installed, non-democratic governments.
>The prosecution of Pinochet is one way for the U.S. to whipe it's hands

>The relation to Foucault thinking is clear to me. Terrorism and
>"attrocities of war" are characterized by their contrast to "legitimate"
>military action of the power-elite nations -- the U.S., Israel, France,
>the U.K., etc. The solution defines the problem. Realistically, the
>greatest distinction between "terrorism" and "strategic military action"
>is illuminated by recognizing power imbalances and the inevitable
>struggle that ensues.

But, again, this would fly in the face of what the US and the other
paragons of Western "democracy" are actually doing: trying to pre-empt
extradition, and to squash the trial by sending it back to Chile (where,
again, no one but the foreign minister and president believe there would
ever be such a trial).  So, too, fo the argument that the Pinochet-event is
working to re-install or re-assert the morality or "humanity" of western
democracy.  Thus, if we are thinking all this, via Foucault or whomever,
then it would seem to have little to do with what the powers-that-be are
actually doing.  In other words, I think it is less a matter of
hand-wiping, than one of trying to keep the dirty laundry un-aired. 

As for the event being related to a possible "legitimacy crisis":
interesting, but I am not sure how this would be related to "Foucault
thinking."  I suspect Habermas might be more useful here, or assorted
political scientists, but regardless I wonder to what extent Chile and
really any other nation, actually sees the US as "legitimate" in the first
place.  Albright et al. must at some level be worried about all this, as
the dirty laundry does pose a threat in some symbolic sense.  But on the
other hand, I also think it is easy to overestimate the significance of
"legitimacy," "the" public sphere, and perceived "consensus."  Real power
doesn't make any noise.  

It seems to me that the more interesting relation to F. lies in what Daniel
Purdy suggested: with this event, we can perhaps see an ongoing shift in
the global or general penal code ("we" can no longer tolerate
brutality...i.e., we must at least present ourselves that way, when a
rather brave and cheeky Spanish judge happens to break thru and shake
things up, embarassing the hell out of those western democracies (as Doug
noted).  Indeed, part of my own fascination with the whole event has simply
been in watching and reading a "global media event."  The whole thing was
rather unexpected, obviously, and now will not go away.  If anything, the
whole story would seem to speak most clearly to the relatively new, and
truly global, reach and power of the media.  It canot be contained as in
the olden days, though it certainly is still contained.  I have no idea how
this relates to Foucault, who never had much to say about the media or mass
culture generally.  

I also liked Daniel Purdy's remarks about how one can try and come up with
the F.-approach to all this, and in so doing, mask one's ignorance of
Chilean history, or demonstrate one's disdain for it all.  One doesn't need
to be a Latin Americanist to read the papers.  I like Ian's take, too:
perhaps everything can be or is related back to F -- or his problematic of
"modern power." And part of me has always been charmed by the Deleuzian
"ethos" of constant "becoming," "rhizomatic" thought, etc.  

But, on the other hand, and while I realize this is a F-list after all, it
could well be that "F. thinking" simply has little to do with what is
happening.  Part of what makes a given theorist useful, is knowing his or
her *limits*.  We are each of us strongest in our limits, and so is

-- Daniel


Daniel Vukovich
English; The Unit for Criticism
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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