Archive for the ‘Online commentary’ Category

Editor: Reblogged from Stuart Elden’s site Progressive Geographies

Foucault was interviewed in 1975 for a Brazilian paper:

Q: In your work, the State seems to occupy a privileged place. And the State represents a privileged instance for understanding historical-cultural formations. Could you specify the conditions of possibility which underpin the State?

A: It is true that the State interests me, but it only interests me differentially [différentiellement]. I do not believe that the entirety [ensemble] of the powers which are exercised within a society – and which assure the hegemony of a class, an elite, or a caste in that society – are entirely contained in the State system. The State, with its grand judicial, military and other apparatuses [appareils], only represents a guarantee, the reinforcement of a network of powers which come through different channels, different from these main routes. My problem is to attempt a differential analysis of the different levels of power in society. As a consequence, the State occupies an important place in this, but not a preeminent one (DE no 163, II 812).

“El filósofo responde’, Jornal da Tarde, 1 Nov 1975, pp. 12-13; translated by Plinio-Walder Prado Jr as “Michel Foucault: Les réponses du philosophie”, Dits et écrits text no 163, Vol II, p. 812 (1994 Four Volume edition).

This passage does not appear in the recent reprint of the Portuguese translation of the interview. I guess it must be in the original Portuguese version (which I have been unable to locate) because if not, what is the source for the translation in Dits et écrits? [Update 26 May 2015: the question does appear in the 1975 original – thanks to Andrea Teti for tracking down a copy.]

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David Banks, The Conservative Hacker – Cyborgology, August 26, 2015

“Lone Hacker in Warehouse” by Brian Klug

“Lone Hacker in Warehouse” by Brian Klug

The hacker label is, as Foucault might say, a “dubious unity.” The single phrase can barely contain its constituent multitude. Even if every single person that self-identified as a hacker had a stable definition, the media would warp, expand, and misunderstand the definition to include all sorts of other identities, tactics, and personas. We cannot know what is in the hearts and minds of every person that feels an allegiance to the hacker brand but this past week’s Ashley Madison hack, where deeply private information was leaked supposedly in the name of consumer protection, forces a conversation about the politics of hacking. Are hackers fundamentally conservative if not in intention, then in deed?

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The Afterlife of the Mind
August 12, 2015
By Scott McLemee

Source: Essay on Michel Foucault’s posthumous publications | InsideHigherEd

Franz Kafka left explicit directions concerning the journals, letters and manuscripts that would be found following his death: they were to be burned — all of them — unread. Whether he expected Max Brod, the executor of his estate, to follow through with his instructions is a matter of some debate. In any case, Brod refused, and the first volume of Kafka’s posthumous works came out shortly after the author’s death in 1925.

The disregard for his wishes can be explained, if not justified, on a couple of grounds. For one thing, Kafka was a lawyer, and he must have known that expressing his intentions in a couple of notes wouldn’t be binding — it takes a will to set forth a mandate in ironclad terms. And, too, Brod was both Kafka’s closest friend and the one person who recognized him as a writer of importance, even of genius. Expecting Brod not to preserve the manuscripts — much less to leave them unread! — hardly seems realistic.

On the other hand, Kafka himself destroyed most of his own manuscripts and did so in the same way he told Brod to do it, by setting them on fire. It is reasonable to suppose he meant what he said. If so, world literature has been enriched by an act of blatant disloyalty.

“Don’t pull the Max Brod trick on me,” Michel Foucault is said to have admonished friends. The philosopher and historian did Kafka one better by including a blunt, categorical line in his will: “No posthumous publications.” Be that as it may, in late spring the University of Minnesota Press issued Language, Madness, and Desire: On Literature, a volume of short texts by Foucault originally published in France two years ago and translated by Robert Bonnono. The same press and translator also turned the surviving pages of an autobiographical interview from 1968 into a little book with big margins called Speech Begins After Death. The title is kind of meta, since Foucault, like Kafka, seems to be having an unusually wordy afterlife.

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Patrick West Foucault: from libertine to neoliberal , Spiked, 3 July 2015

Was the French philosopher really a Reaganite in poststructural clothing?

Was Foucault a neoliberal?’ So asked an accusatory headline the other day in Le Nouvel Observateur, France’s centre-left news weekly. It’s a grave allegation. ‘Saint Foucault’, as the article sarcastically calls him, was a heavyweight figure in the humanities, and his theories about truth and power have filtered down into society’s mainstream. He remains a legend of postwar philosophy in France, and queer theory in general. To accuse him of Anglo-Saxon right-wingery is tantamount to lèse majesté.

Michel Foucault popularised the idea that power and truth are intimately intertwined, and that who is making a statement is as important as what is being said. As he wrote in his iconic 1975 text, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison): ‘It is not the activity of the subject of knowledge that produces a corpus of knowledge, useful or resistant to power, but power-knowledge, the processes and struggles that traverse it and of which it is made up, that determines the forms and possible domains of knowledge.’ Truth is perspectival: it is the mere creation of the strong. Might makes right. Power is knowledge.

Several generations of teachers, social-policy strategists, professors and politicians would have been taught Foucault at university at the height of his academic celebrity in the 1980s and 1990s. His thoughts have been widely disseminated as a consequence.

Foucault said that power was omnipresent. Hospitals and schools are no better or worse than factories or prisons: all are based on the same desire to inspect, classify, control, monitor. A security camera is a manifestation of power in action, but so, too, is a restaurant menu or a double-yellow line on a road.

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Above picture can be found here

And on another site..(fastcodesign.com)

Note to Designers: Forget Wearables, Tackle Senseables

Ravi Sawney, CEO of RKS, calls on designers to think about the next stage of personal technology.

Let’s face it: the concept behind wearables—collecting data on oneself—is something people have sought for generations. French philosopher Michel Foucault, for instance, points to the ancient technological development of the hypomnema, a collection of writings one would keep on things one read, heard, saw, or thought throughout the day, which would then be reread in order to better connect to both the world and to, well, oneself. As Foucault explains, “There was a culture of what could be called personal writing…which must be reread from time to time so as to re-actualize their contents.”

So in the tradition of hypnomnema, wearables in their current form, creeping up our arms from wrist to elbow, are just the flavor of the month.

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Terry Eagleton, The Slow Death of the University, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 April 2015

Editor’s note: My excuse for posting this excellent analysis of the parlous state of the contemporary university, which readers of this blog who are employed by universities will no doubt recognise only too well, is that Eagleton does in fact refer to Foucault in an elegant alliterative passage (see below after the introductory paragraphs). The article is hidden behind a subscription paywall, but you could try a google search of the title to see what’s out there if you don’t have access to a subsription.

A few years ago, I was being shown around a large, very technologically advanced university in Asia by its proud president. As befitted so eminent a personage, he was flanked by two burly young minders in black suits and shades, who for all I knew were carrying Kalashnikovs under their jackets. Having waxed lyrical about his gleaming new business school and state-of-the-art institute for management studies, the president paused to permit me a few words of fulsome praise. I remarked instead that there seemed to be no critical studies of any kind on his campus. He looked at me bemusedly, as though I had asked him how many Ph.D.’s in pole dancing they awarded each year, and replied rather stiffly “Your comment will be noted.” He then took a small piece of cutting-edge technology out of his pocket, flicked it open and spoke a few curt words of Korean into it, probably “Kill him.” A limousine the length of a cricket pitch then arrived, into which the president was bundled by his minders and swept away. I watched his car disappear from view, wondering when his order for my execution was to be implemented.

This happened in South Korea, but it might have taken place almost anywhere on the planet. From Cape Town to Reykjavik, Sydney to São Paulo, an event as momentous in its own way as the Cuban revolution or the invasion of Iraq is steadily under way: the slow death of the university as a center of humane critique. Universities, which in Britain have an 800-year history, have traditionally been derided as ivory towers, and there was always some truth in the accusation. Yet the distance they established between themselves and society at large could prove enabling as well as disabling, allowing them to reflect on the values, goals, and interests of a social order too frenetically bound up in its own short-term practical pursuits to be capable of much self-criticism. Across the globe, that critical distance is now being diminished almost to nothing, as the institutions that produced Erasmus and John Milton, Einstein and Monty Python, capitulate to the hard-faced priorities of global capitalism.


As professors are transformed into managers, so students are converted into consumers. Universities fall over one another in an undignified scramble to secure their fees. Once such customers are safely within the gates, there is pressure on their professors not to fail them, and thus risk losing their fees. The general idea is that if the student fails, it is the professor’s fault, rather like a hospital in which every death is laid at the door of the medical staff. One result of this hot pursuit of the student purse is the growth of courses tailored to whatever is currently in fashion among 20-year-olds. In my own discipline of English, that means vampires rather than Victorians, sexuality rather than Shelley, fanzines rather than Foucault, the contemporary world rather than the medieval one. It is thus that deep-seated political and economic forces come to shape syllabuses. Any English department that focused its energies on Anglo-Saxon literature or the 18th century would be cutting its own throat.

With thanks to Stuart Elden at Progressive Geographies for this news

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Jim Russell, The Existential Crisis of the American University, Pacific Standard, Mar 11, 2015

My favorite philosopher (Michel Foucault) wasn’t a philosopher so much as he was an innovative historian. Instead of casting his gaze at some well-defined era, Foucault studied the breaks between eras. Why did the model of the way the world works change? Instead of a history, Foucault offered histories. In that tradition, I offer the recent histories of the American university. The first Foucauldian moment, “The Day the Purpose of College Changed“:

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