Foucault, Maoism, Genealogy: The Influence of Political Militancy in Michel Foucault's Thought

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Foucault, Maoism, Genealogy: The Influence of Political Militancy in Michel Foucault's Thought
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  This article was downloaded by: [Copenhagen Business School]On: 26 August 2014, At: 17:39Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK New Political Science Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: Foucault, Maoism, Genealogy: TheInfluence of Political Militancy in MichelFoucault's Thought Mads Peter Karlsen b  & Kaspar Villadsen aa  University of Copenhagen, Denmark b  Copenhagen Business School, DenmarkPublished online: 26 Aug 2014. To cite this article:  Mads Peter Karlsen & Kaspar Villadsen (2014): Foucault, Maoism, Genealogy:The Influence of Political Militancy in Michel Foucault's Thought, New Political Science, DOI:10.1080/07393148.2014.945251 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at  Foucault, Maoism, Genealogy: The Influence of PoliticalMilitancy in Michel Foucault’s Thought Mads Peter Karlsen & Kaspar Villadsen University of Copenhagen, DenmarkCopenhagen Business School, Denmark Abstract  Foucault’s inspiration from Nietzsche in terms of writing critical histories isdifficult to overestimate. However, this article advances an interpretation of Foucault’sapproach to history which focuses on another, less readily evident, dialogue partner,namely the Marxist tradition and, more precisely, French Maoism. The first part of thearticle details Foucault’s involvement in the Maoist-inspired activist group,  Grouped’information sur les prisons (GIP) . It is argued that Foucault’s practical experience from GIP left crucial marks on his contemporaneous statements on the genealogicalmethod and his critique of “totalizing institutions,” “uniform discourse” and “juridicaluniversality.” The second part of the article offers a close reading of Foucault’s reflectionson genealogy in his 1976 lecture series which demonstrates how the Maoist activist principles noticeably resonate in these statements. The aim of the article is threefold. First,to bring attention to largely neglected sources of inspiration for Foucault’s genealogicalapproach, which complement those represented by Nietzsche. Second, it seeks to obtain abetter understanding of Foucault’s relationship to Marxism, a relationship often portrayedas unambiguously negative. And third, the goal is to demonstrate how principlesdeveloped in Maoist political activism are not only realized in Foucault’s activities withinthe GIP, but also in his lecture-hall formulations of genealogy, power, and critique. Introduction The notion of genealogy, so central to Michel Foucault’s critical histories of ourpresent, has so far been predominantly ascribed to Foucault’s decisive inspirationfrom Nietzsche. In light of the advancing research into Foucault’s life andintellectual itinerary, including his diverse political engagements, we wish toreopen this interpretative consensus. This article thus aims to contribute to aspecific area—the relationship between Foucault’s political militancy and hisintellectual development which has been the subject of some recent studies. 1 We wish to warmly thank the two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and helpfulcomments to an earlier version of the article. 1 Marcelo Hoffman, “Foucault and the ‘Lesson’ of the Prisoner Support Movement,” New Political Science: A Journal of Politics and Culture  34:1 (2012), pp. 21–36; ThomasBiebricher, “The Practices of Theorists: Habermas and Foucault as Public Intellectuals,” Philosophy & Social Criticism  37:6 (2011), pp.709–734; Alain Beaulieu, “Towards a LiberalUtopia: The Connection between Foucault’s Reporting on the Iranian Revolution and theEthical Turn,”  Philosophy & Social Criticism  36:7 (2010), pp. 801–818; Marcelo Hoffman, New Political Science , 2014 q 2014 Caucus for a New Political Science    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   C  o  p  e  n   h  a  g  e  n   B  u  s   i  n  e  s  s   S  c   h  o  o   l   ]  a   t   1   7  :   3   9   2   6   A  u  g  u  s   t   2   0   1   4  To begin addressing this issue, let us consider the prevailing consensusconcerning Foucault’s notable displacement of terminology in the early 1970s.At that time, he would increasingly describe his histories of the systems of thought as “genealogies,” hereby replacing his earlier preferred designator,“archaeology.” This methodological displacement is conventionally related toanother significant modification in Foucault’s authorship, that is, thereplacement of the analysis of discourse (knowledge) with an analytics of power (practices and institutions). When accounting for these two develop-ments, scholars of Foucault often refer to Foucault’s statements about hisindebtedness to Nietzsche. Hence, in the final interview prior to his death in1984, Foucault states, “I am simply a Nietzschean.” 2 Apparently, it is Nietzsche,and particularly his concept of “the will to truth,” that provides Foucault with astronger sense that the sudden disruptions in the forms of knowledge that hehad previously studied (psychiatry, medicine, and the human sciences) had to be strictly related to transformations in the mechanisms of power occurringduring the same historical junctures. It is also easy to foreground Nietzsche,particularly his key work  On the Genealogy of Morals , as the main methodologicalinspiration which led Foucault to rethink the relationship between knowledgeand the exercise of power. 3 On this account, it is hardly surprising that a major interpretive tendencyamong Foucault commentators is to conceive of Foucault’s genealogical approachas a kind of Nietzschean historiography. 4 Indeed, Nietzsche’s influence onFoucault, particularly his approach to history, was certainly considerable.We would like to suggest, however, that the emphasis on the obvious andimportant connection to Nietzsche, close to an interpretative orthodoxy, mighthave prevented recognition of other significant connections and sources of inspiration for Foucault’s formulations of the genealogical approach.This article will advance an interpretation of Foucault’s approach to historythat focuses on another, less readily evident, source of influence on hisauthorship: the Marxist tradition and in particular French Maoism. Mostreferences to Marxism in relation to Foucault typically emphasize Foucault’sdismissal of Marxism, which is certainly not unwarranted. It does not take muchreading of Foucault, especially if one focuses on the later and most popularworks such as  Discipline and Punish ,  The Will to Knowledge , and the collection of articles  Power/Knowledge , to be convinced that Marxism is discussed in largelypejorative terms. This animosity toward Marxism is supported by both Footnote 1 continued “Foucault’s Politics and Bellicosity as a Matrix for Power Relations,”  Philosophy & SocialCriticism  33:6 (2007), pp. 756–778; Julian Bourg, “The Red Guards of Paris: French StudentMaoism of the 1960s,”  History of European Ideas  31:4 (2005), pp. 472–490. 2 Michel Foucault, “The Return of Morality,” in Lawrence D. Kritzman (ed.),  Politics,Philosophy and Culture—Interviews and Other Writings 1977–1984  (New York: Routledge,1990), p. 251. 3 Indicative in this regard is Foucault’s comparison between  Discipline and Punish  and On the Genealogy of Morals  on the dustcover of the French version of the prison book. 4 For instance, Jeffrey P. Minson,  Genealogies of Morals: Nietzsche, Foucault, Donzelot andthe Eccentricity of Ethics (London,UK:PalgraveMacmillan,1986);MichaelMahon, Foucault’sNietzschean Genealogy: Truth, Power, and the Subject  (Albany: State University of New YorkPress, 1992); David Owen,  Maturity and modernity: Nietzsche, Weber, Foucault, and theambivalence of reason  (London, UK: Routledge, 1994). 2  Mads Peter Karlsen and Kaspar Villadsen    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   C  o  p  e  n   h  a  g  e  n   B  u  s   i  n  e  s  s   S  c   h  o  o   l   ]  a   t   1   7  :   3   9   2   6   A  u  g  u  s   t   2   0   1   4  established Foucauldian commentators 5 and by the Marxist reception of Foucault. 6 However, as is the case with so many other aspects of Foucault’swork, one should be careful about jumping to conclusions. 7 In fact, a number of recent contributions suggest that Foucault’s relation to the Marxist tradition is farmore complicated than what is immediately revealed by his criticism of theoretical Marxism (targeting especially the Marxian anthropology of alienation,and conceptions of the state and of ideology) and by his rejection of dogmaticforms of  Marxist-inspired politics (the French Communist Party as well asStalinism). 8 In the following, we take inspiration from the more complex picture of Foucault’s relationship to the Marxist tradition offered by recent research whenwe examine two aspects of this relationship. In the first part of the article, weexamine a relatively neglected and under-researched part of Foucault’s life andacademictrajectory,namely his involvement inthe Maoist-inspiredactivistgroup,GIP. We shall argue that Foucault’s practical experience from the GIP left visiblemarks on his formulations of the genealogical method and his rendering of thepower–knowledge nexus. 9 As a prelude to this, it is first necessary to look moreclosely at the events leading up to Foucault’s entry into the GIP, namely what hecalls his “political experience” in 1968. In the last part of the article, wedemonstrate, through a close reading of Foucault’s most explicit reflections on hisgenealogical approach in the 1976 lectures at the  Colle` ge de France , how activistprinciples of the GIP are reflected in these considerations. In contrast to the 5 Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow,  Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics  (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1982); Barry Smart,  Foucault, Marxism and Critique  (London, UK: Routledge, 1983). 6 Alex Callinicos,  Against Post Modernism: A Marxist Critique  (London, UK: PalgraveMacMillan, 1990); Terry Eagleton,  The Ideology of the Aesthetic  (London, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 1991). 7 Foucault scholars tend to identify Nietzsche as the key figure who allowed Foucaultto free himself from the predominant Marxist and Hegelian thought of his contemporariesand as the main source of critique of this tradition. However, this view is dismissed byFoucault himself: “The interest in Nietzsche and Bataille was not a way of distancingourselves from Marxism and communism—it was the only path toward what we expectedfrom communism” (Michel Foucault, “Interview with Michel Foucault,” in JamesD. Faubion (ed.),  Power: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984  (London, UK: PenguinBooks, 2000), p. 249; cf. also Michel Foucault, “Structuralism and Post Structuralism,” inPaul Rabinow (ed.),  Ethics—Subjectivity and Truth Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984 (New York: The New Press, 1997), p. 439). 8 E´tienne Balibar, “Foucault and Marx: The Question of Nominalism,” in Timothy J. Armstrong (ed.),  Michel Foucault Philosopher  (New York: Routledge. 1992), pp. 38–57;Bradley J. Macdonald, “Marx, Foucault, Genealogy,”  Polity  XXXIV:3 (2000), pp. 259–284;Mark Olssen, “Foucault and Marxism: Rewriting the Theory of Historical Materialism,” Policy Futures in Education  2:3–4 (2004), pp. 454–482. 9 Mark Kelly notes that: “In terms of the development of the specifics of his politicalthought, the most decisive event for Foucault was his leading involvement in the Grouped’information sur les prisons [ . . . ]” (Mark Kelly,  The Political Philosophy of Michel Foucault (London, UK: Routledge, 2008), p. 18). While Kelly does not elaborate on this topic, othercommentators have focused more intensively on the theoretical importance of Foucault’scommitment to the GIP, including Richard Wolin and Marcelo Hoffman whom we drawupon to some extent (Richard Wolin,  The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the CulturalRevolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s  (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010);Hoffman, “Foucault and the ‘Lesson’ of the Prisoner Support Movement,” pp. 21–36. Foucault, Maoism, Genealogy  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   C  o  p  e  n   h  a  g  e  n   B  u  s   i  n  e  s  s   S  c   h  o  o   l   ]  a   t   1   7  :   3   9   2   6   A  u  g  u  s   t   2   0   1   4  relatively few existing contributions on the role played by the GIP and Maoism inFoucault’sthought, 10 thepresentarticlepays specialattentiontotheimportance of French Maoism for Foucault’s conceptualization of the genealogical method.In particular, we focus on how the French Maoists’ practice of “investigation”( enquˆ ete ) constituted a key source of inspiration for Foucault.The aim of the article is threefold. First, to bring attention to (largely neglected)sources of inspiration for Foucault’s rendering of genealogy that supplement hisreadingof Nietzsche. Second, we seek to obtain a morebalanced understanding of Foucault’s relationship to Marxism, a relationship often portrayed as unambigu-ously negative. And our third goal is to demonstrate how specific principlessrcinating in French Maoist political activism are not only realized in Foucault’spolitical activities within the GIP, but also in his lecture-hall ideas of genealogy.In short, we wish to shed light on Foucault’s so far comparatively under-researched “Maoist moment,” politically and intellectually, in the first half of the1970s. March 1968 AlthoughFoucault,whowasbornin1926, doesnot belongtothe“’68generation,”the protests of 1968 did have, as he repeatedly emphasizes, a crucial importancefor him, not only personally but also intellectually. If it had not been for the eventsof 1968, as he explains, he would not have been capable of carrying out hissubsequent studies of crime and sexuality. 11 This close link between personalexperience and theoretical practice, between life and work, is stressed by Foucaultin an interview from 1978: “I have not written a single book that is not, at least inpart, inspired by a direct personal experience.” 12 Before looking more closely athis 1968 experience—including the question of the role of Marxism—we need toclarify how Foucault viewed the connection between experience and thought.In the aforementioned interview from 1978, Foucault describes his books as“experience books,” a term with several connotations. First, his books are rootedin a personal experience. Second, they have been produced as a result of anexperimental exploration of a certain issue or problem (linked to a personalexperience) instead of serving as a means of communicating an alreadyestablished idea. Third, Foucault emphasizes that his books constitute or bringabout an experience, in the sense that the books seek to provoke a transformationof both the author and the reader. Foucault’s idea of writing experience books, ashehimselfpoints out, has itsmethodological implicationsforhis historiographical 10 Hoffman, “Foucault and the ‘Lesson’ of the Prisoner Support Movement,” pp. 21–36;Biebricher, “The Practices of Theorists,” pp. 709–734; Wolin,  The Wind from the East ; MichaelWelch, “Pastoral Power as Penal Resistance: Foucault and the Groupe d’Information sur lesPrisons,”  Punishment & Society  12:1 (2010), pp. 47–63; Cecile Brich, “The Grouped’Information sur les Prisons: The Voice of Prisoners? Or Foucault’s?”  Foucault Studies  5(2008), pp. 26–47. 11 Foucault, “Interview with Michel Foucault,” p. 282; Michel Foucault, “Truth andPower,”inColinGordon(ed.), Power/Knowledge: SelectedInterviews and Other Writings 1972– 1977  (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), pp. 111, 116. 12 Ibid., 239–246. It is worth noting that the French word  expe´ rience  can mean both“experience” and “experiment.” Both meanings seem to operate in Foucault’s use of theword here. 4  Mads Peter Karlsen and Kaspar Villadsen    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   C  o  p  e  n   h  a  g  e  n   B  u  s   i  n  e  s  s   S  c   h  o  o   l   ]  a   t   1   7  :   3   9   2   6   A  u  g  u  s   t   2   0   1   4
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