Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Michael Scott Christofferson, May 1968’s Black Sheep, Interview with Daniel Zamora, Jacobin, 26 December 2015

André Glucksmann died last month. Why did he and so many other French intellectuals turn to the right after May 1968?

DZ: You underline in your book the strange episode of Michel Foucault’s review of Glucksmann’s The Master Thinkers. This gushing review does not correspond with the idea that one has of Foucault today. The book was violently anticommunist and anti-revolutionary — even anti-Keynesian one could say. It seems astonishing that Foucault, that one classifies as on the Left, could support such a book. Foucault apparently said that Glucksmann’s earlier The Cook and the Cannibal was a “very important” book. How do you explain this?

MSC: First, I think it is important to understand that the 1970s was a decade in which the very definition of the “Left” was in debate. Foucault was no less hostile than Glucksmann to the traditional Left of the French Communist Party and the Union of the Left.

Foucault had concluded that the old idea of revolution as a seizure of state power was misguided because it did not address the disciplining micro-powers that constituted the subject and were at the origins of abhorrent institutions like the prison system. Fundamental change had to begin at this level of reality, Foucault believed.

These were ideas embraced by Glucksmann in the mid-1970s. More than that, they were ideas developed by Foucault during his association with the Maoist Gauche prolétarienne and the Prison Information Group that began as a Maoist initiative. Some of Foucault’s notions from this period, like the value he placed on plebian resistance, may indeed have been borrowed from Glucksmann and the Maoists.

In short, Foucault was no ivory tower theorist; rather he was in the midst of “the movement” alongside the Maoists and participated in many of the era’s preoccupations and illusions. Among the latter is his dismissal of the state, an institution that he saw as doing no good.

But, Foucault was a subtle thinker, and Glucksmann’s polemical The Master Thinkers was not. The Master Thinkers denounced the coercive state and, like The Cook and the Cannibal, argued that plebian resistance was the only viable politics.

The book went beyond his earlier condemnation of Marxism to argue that Western philosophy was essentially a philosophy of the state that justifies its power and thereby squashes plebian protest at its inception by making it inconceivable. Intellectuals, science, and reason are all complicit in the project of state domination. Against it, revolution is not an option because it only reinforces state power. The French Union of the Left was little more than a ruse of the state to increase its domination. The only defensible politics was the unreflective, self-interested action of plebian resistance.

Why would Foucault endorse this? One reason, most certainly, is his own dismissal of state-based politics and of the Union of the Left. Foucault, like Glucksmann, believed that the state was the enemy, and that the Union of the Left failed to understand that a progressive (a term the Foucault, the Nietzschean, did not use) politics could not be based on state power. Also, like Glucksmann, Foucault believed that the masses, acting on their own, would challenge disciplinary institutions and thereby bring about real, consequential change that would never come from the state, no matter who controlled it.

So, there were important convergences between Foucault and Glucksmann that reflected the period’s presuppositions and, in my view at least, point to important weaknesses in Foucault’s thought. If Glucksmann was rather more simplistic than Foucault, Foucault probably felt that The Master Thinkers, which praised him to the skies, was still useful as a vulgarization of his ideas in the intense ideological battle of 1977.

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A Foucault News exclusive.

Governmentality studies observed
Interview with Colin Gordon by Aldo Avellaneda and Guillermo Vega
September 2015

Full PDF of article

Interviewers’ introduction
Colin Gordon is considered one of the key references of what, in a rather generic although recognizable way, has come to be called “governmentality studies”. He has been involved since the late 1970s in various projects dealing with Foucault’s work and has drawn attention since then to the particularities and advantages of Michel Foucault’s study of “arts of government”. Among his key works we can mention the editing, in 1980, of Power/Knowledge (one of the first compilations and translations in English of Foucault’s work on power) and the co-editing in 1991 – with Graham Burchell and Peter Miller – of The Foucault Effect (TFE). He has also published over the last thirty years many articles and papers about the reception of Foucault in Britain, Foucault and law, the relation between Foucault and Weber, among other topics. And in so doing, he has become one of the most relevant contributors to the reception of Foucault in the Anglophone world.

During the second half of the last year we undertook, with some colleagues and friends, the reading and translation into Spanish of the well-known introductory chapter by Colin Gordon in TFE, “Governmental Rationality. An introduction” (published in Revista Nuevo Itinerario in September 2015). After we finished it, we decided to make contact with its author in order to discuss the possibilities of a Spanish edition. The interview we present below accompanies that translation and is the result of numerous emails we exchanged since February. Our main intention was to present the author’s thoughts about a wide range of topics related to governmentality studies, although we’ve tried to focus particularly on its present situation and its analytical effectiveness.

We thank Colin Gordon for his friendly and continuing cooperation.

Aldo Avellaneda
Guillermo Vega
Facultad de Humanidades,
Universidad Nacional del Nordeste – Argentina

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Michel Foucault, Against Himself: Arlette Farge Remembers Foucault on the Streets of Paris, Literary Hub, 16 Nov 2015

The following conversation with French historian Arlette Farge is excerpted from Michel Foucault, Against Himselfa collection of interviews and essays exploring the contradictions and conflicts at the heart of Michel Foucault’s life and work.

You met Foucault after the events of May 1968.

Arlette Farge: I first became acquainted with him through his work in 1975, when Discipline and Punish came out. Back then I was a teacher for young educators who wanted to work in the penitentiary system, so I knew a lot about what Michel Foucault was discussing, and the way, for example, he would go into prisons to read Discipline and Punish out loud to the prisoners. I admired him. Back then, street demonstrations, anything concerning freedom, utopia, the prison system, happiness, life that’s intolerable—those things were objects of personal and intellectual interest for me.

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Deleuze ABECEDAIRE, Fidélité Amitié, seconda parte: Foucault
Deleuze describes his friendship with Michel Foucault

With thanks to Colin Gordon for this link

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Foucault et Baudrillard — Hamdi Nabli (2015).
Livre: Foucault et Baudrillard: La fin du pouvoir (2015)

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Michel Foucault vu par son neveu La Novelle République, Communes, Vienne – Vendeuvre-du-Poitou – Vendeuvre-du-poitou, 23/09/2015

Henri-Paul Fruchaud raconte Foucault au quotidien.

Henri-Paul Fruchaud raconte Foucault au quotidien.

A l’occasion des journées du patrimoine, une exposition promenade était organisée dans les jardins de la maison familiale où Michel Foucault a écrit une grande partie de son œuvre durant les vacances. Pour Jocelyne Berge, présidente de l’association Le Jardin de Michel Foucault, il s’agit de faire découvrir aux Vendeuvrais ce philosophe connu au niveau national mais pas nécessairement localement.

“ C’est toujours lui qui faisait la mayonnaise ! ”

Environ 70 personnes étaient présentes pour assister à la causerie donnée par Henri-Paul Fruchaud, aîné des neveux de Michel Foucault. Il a évoqué le parcours professionnel et l’œuvre de son oncle à travers certaines étapes significatives de la réflexion de Foucault. L’« Histoire de la folie » (1961) marque une première étape, « Les mots et les choses » (1966) pose un deuxième jalon. Le parcours évolue ensuite avec « Surveiller et punir » (1975) qui traite de la naissance de la prison utilisée comme seul moyen de punition.
C’était aussi l’occasion de découvrir le philosophe sous un angle familial. Henri-Paul Fruchaud a raconté de nombreuses anecdotes, à commencer par l’habitude qu’il avait d’observer le travail du philosophe assis dans son bureau. Foucault écrivait au moins 3 versions de ses livres et finalisait la troisième à Vendeuvre. Il écrivait 5 à 6 heures par jour. Il participait aussi à la vie familiale. Ainsi, « c’est toujours lui qui faisait la mayonnaise ! ». Ses promenades inspiraient ses réflexions.

Il trichait au poker

Il s’adressait aux enfants comme à des adultes, jouait et trichait au poker en famille et était doté d’un rire très sonore. Henri-Paul Fruchaud a également évoqué les indignations du philosophe.

En terminant la causerie, il a annoncé que 37.000 feuillets écrits par Foucault sont déposés à la Bibliothèque Nationale. Son œuvre devrait être publiée dans La Bibliothèque de la Pleïade en novembre prochain. Désormais, on s’oriente vers la publication de ses cours, causeries et conférences enregistrés.

With thanks to Stuart Elden and Colin Gordon for this news

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RizzaMichael James Rizza The Topographical Imagination of Jameson, Baudrillard, and Foucault, Noesis/The Davies Group, 2015

Notice on author’s blog
An interview with the author, Michael James Rizza, in Hyperrhiz 12

This in-depth discussion of several canonical theorists — Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard, and Michel Foucault — traces the trajectory of their ideas from one text to the next. It focuses on how these theorists attempt to avoid the problem of representation, as well as humanist subjectivity, even as they imagine the external situations that shape individual identity. Although the author offers in-depth overviews, he does not simply rehearse the theories, such as many introductions to theory do. Instead, he excavates the topographical imagination that results from seeking to constitute the subject from without, from its external situation. He draws forth the organizing figure of each theorist’s spatial thinking—Jameson’s Marxist dialectical levels, Baudrillard’s double spiral of the symbolic and the semiotic, and Foucault’s dual bar of exclusion—which provides readers an innovative way to approach complex ideas.

From the Back Cover

The Topographical Imagination of Jameson, Baudrillard, and Foucault is indeed, as Michael James Rizza argues, a collection of several tapestries: a study of three of the most important theorists of the postmodern period, whose individual trajectories are traced over the course of their careers; an exploration of the subject as it evolves from an original Enlightenment model; a consideration of the various organizing figures–system of levels, double-spiral, dual caesura–by which today’s projected worlds are imagined. In the end, readers are provided with an intellectual history that is as wide-ranging–from Spinoza and Kant to Debord and Lefebvre–as it is incisive. And because the theoretical is always informed by a command of literature that is breathtaking in its scope–from Cervantes to Milosz to Borges to Pynchon–the discussions are certain to appeal to an audience of quite varied tastes. Integrating all of this into a seamless whole is not the easiest of tasks, and it is to the book’s great credit that it does so and in such a way as to join clarity with acuity beautifully.

Stacey Olster, Professor of English, Stony Brook University

About the Author

Michael James Rizza (PhD, American Literature) is the author of the award-winning novel Cartilage and Skin, short fiction, and various academic articles. He teaches at Kean University in New Jersey.

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