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anno VI, numero 11-12 gennaio-dicembre 2017 ISSN 2239-5962


materiali foucaultiani peer reviewed

DIREZIONE & REDAZIONE

Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini , Martina Tazzioli Hanno collaborato alla preparazione di questo numero: Chiara D’Agostino, Giulia Guadagni, Clara Mogno, Francesco Montanaro, Valentina Moro, Benedetta Piazzesi, Olivia Tersigni, Natascia Tosel COMITATO SCIENTIFICO

Philippe Artières, Étienne Balibar, Jean-François Bert, Alain Brossat, Judith Butler, Edgardo Castro, Sandro Chignola, Pierre Dardot, Arnold I. Davidson, Mitchell Dean, Didier Fassin, Domingo Fernández Agis, Colin Gordon, Frédéric Gros, David Halperin, Jonathan X. Inda, Bruno Karsenti, Christian Laval, Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, Boyan Manchev, Manuel Mauer, Achille Mbembe, Sandro Mezzadra, Brett Neilson, Peter Nyers, Johanna Oksala, Aihwa Ong, Michael A. Peters, Mathieu Potte-Bonneville, Jacques Rancière, Judith Revel, Michel Senellart, Jon Solomon, Vincenzo Sorrentino, Ann Laura Stoler, William Walters, Robert J.C. Young Si ringrazia il Comitato di lettura per l’eccellente lavoro svolto.

© 2017 mf/materiali foucaultiani www.materialifoucaultiani.org e-mail: redazione@materialifoucaultiani.org

ISSN 2239-5962 Grafica e impaginazione | Laura Cremonesi e Daniele Lorenzini Immagine in copertina | Jesús R. Velasco


materiali foucaultiani ANNO VI, NUMERO 11-12

GENNAIO-DICEMBRE 2017

SOMMARIO 3 Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli Le confessioni della carne

Michel Foucault et la subjectivation 9 Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli Introduzione. Soggettivazione e assoggettamento, a partire da Foucault 15 Pierre Macherey Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 39 Guillaume le Blanc N’être personne ! Variations sur les usages critiques de la fonction-sujet 49 Miguel de Beistegui Le gouvernement du désir. Foucault à l’épreuve du libéralisme 63 Étienne Balibar Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault

Regimes of Visibility 83 Didier Bigo The Dis-Time of Security and Visibility in Contemporary Governmentalities. An Interview with Didier Bigo by Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli 93

Deirdre McDonald Seeing and Saying. Foucault’s Analytic of Knowledge Production

Saggi 119 Laurence Barry Foucault’s 1978 Lectures and the Archaeology of Probability and Statistics 141

Jon Solomon Foucault, 1978: The Biopolitics of Translation and the Decolonization of Knowledge

173

Alain Brossat Michel Foucault and China. A Missed Appointment


Le confessioni della carne di Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli


L’anno 2018 si è aperto con una importante novità editoriale che, una

volta di più, ridefinisce almeno in parte il panorama degli studi foucaultiani. Les aveux de la chair, quarto volume della Storia della sessualità e oggetto del desiderio (e di tante speculazioni più o meno fondate) negli ultimi trent’anni, ha finalmente visto la luce, nell’edizione curata da Frédéric Gros per Gallimard1. Gli eredi di Foucault hanno deciso di autorizzarne infine la pubblicazione, derogando così ancora una volta alla volontà espressa dal filosofo francese nel suo testamento («niente pubblicazioni postume»), per una serie di ragioni tra le quali la più rilevante e interessante è senza dubbio legata al fatto che gli Aveux non si presentavano sotto forma di un manoscritto frammentario e lacunoso, ma testimoniavano di uno stato di avanzamento tale da permettere di considerarli come un vero e proprio libro nella sua versione quasi definitiva. In effetti, Foucault ha redatto il manoscritto degli Aveux tra il 1981 e il 1982, dopo aver pronunciato, all’inizio del 1980, il corso Del governo dei viventi2 (in larga parte consacrato allo studio del primo cristianesimo e quindi di una serie di testi che costituiscono anche la tela di fondo degli Aveux) e soprattutto, nell’autunno dello stesso anno, un seminario al New York Institute for the Humanities di prossima pubblicazione (Vrin) e che rappresenta una prima versione, certo ancora molto schematica, di quello che sarebbe poi diventato il “capitolo cristiano” della Storia della sessualità. Nell’autunno del 1982, Foucault deposita il manoscritto da Gallimard per farlo dattilografare, ma decide di ritardarne la pubblicazione perché intende far precedere il volume sulla carne cristiana dal volume (che poi diventeranno due) sugli aphrodisia greco-romani. Dopo aver dato alle stampe L’uso dei piaceri3 e La cura di sé4, Foucault – già gravemente malato – si dedica allora alla correzione del dattiloscritto degli Aveux, testimoniando così della propria volontà di pubblicarli al più presto. Purtroppo però la morte lo sorprenderà prima che fosse riuscito a completare il lavoro di revisione delle bozze. È quindi un libro vero e proprio, nella sua versione quasi definitiva, quello che, qualche mese fa, è stato pubblicato da Gallimard. Non è certo questo il luogo per proporne un riassunto o una recensione, ma ci sembra M. Foucault, Les aveux de la chair. Histoire de la sexualité 4, Gallimard, Paris 2018. M. Foucault, Del governo dei viventi. Corso al Collège de France (1979-1980), Feltrinelli, Milano 2014. 3 M. Foucault, L’uso dei piaceri. Storia della sessualità 2, Feltrinelli, Milano 1984. 4 M. Foucault, La cura di sé. Storia della sessualità 3, Feltrinelli, Milano 1985. 1 2

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 3-6.


4 Cremonesi, Irrera, Lorenzini, Tazzioli importante interrogarci sul tipo di intervento che quest’opera era chiamata a effettuare nel “presente” del 1984, e sul peculiare effetto di “ritorno al futuro” che è suscettibile di produrre oggi, nel nostro presente. La pubblicazione degli Aveux è stata accolta e celebrata da un convegno internazionale che ha avuto luogo alla Bibliothèque nationale de France e all’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne all’inizio di febbraio5. Questo evento, che rappresenta un momento estremamente rilevante nel panorama degli studi foucaultiani (è il primo convegno dedicato al tema “Foucault e i Padri della Chiesa”), ha permesso già di mettere in luce la straordinaria accuratezza e profondità della lettura che Foucault offre, negli Aveux, delle fonti cristiane, ma anche di interrogarsi su alcune delle sue scelte – la più delicata delle quali è senza dubbio quella di non fare sostanzialmente alcun riferimento alle Confessioni di Agostino, sebbene l’ultima parte del volume sia dedicata per intero al vescovo di Ippona. Ma che ruolo giocano più precisamente gli Aveux nel progetto foucaultiano di una storia della sessualità? Come è noto, dopo aver profondamente ridefinito il “primo” progetto della Storia della sessualità alla fine degli anni settanta, Foucault ha posto al cuore del “secondo” l’obiettivo di ricostruire una genealogia del soggetto di desiderio. Gli Aveux prolungano tale progetto: Foucault vi sostiene che è soltanto nei testi che Agostino consacra al matrimonio e alla concupiscenza che il soggetto di desiderio (nel senso pieno del termine) viene alla luce. Tuttavia, questa conclusione deve essere immediatamente precisata: se Foucault attribuisce ad Agostino un ruolo così cruciale, infatti, non è tanto per sostenere che il vescovo di Ippona avrebbe “inventato” il soggetto di desiderio (tutti gli Aveux si propongono di mostrare, al contrario, che tale “invenzione” è in realtà il prodotto di un lungo processo storico e del lavoro di molteplici autori), quanto per affermare che egli ha posto le basi per l’articolazione delle nozioni di soggetto di desiderio e di soggetto di diritto. Il problema fondamentale che Foucault esplora negli Aveux è la tensione tra vita casta e vita coniugale nel cristianesimo dei primi secoli. La prima parte del volume tratta della creazione e della procreazione, ma Foucault vi riprende anche l’analisi del battesimo, dell’exomologesis e dell’exagoreusis che aveva già sviluppato nel 1980, in particolare in Del governo dei viventi. È così che, alla fine della prima parte, Foucault si concentra in particolare sul problema dell’obbedienza: nella confessione/exagoreusis, in effetti, il “Foucault, les Pères et le sexe”, Paris, 1-3 febbraio 2018: <https://bnf.hypotheses. org/2086> (consultato il 25 aprile 2018). 5


Le confessioni della carne 5

soggetto è chiamato a ripiegarsi su se stesso e sul proprio desiderio per verbalizzare la verità di sé – e questo schema costituisce, secondo Foucault, la matrice del nostro modo di obbedire, di essere “assoggettati” nei due sensi del termine. La seconda parte degli Aveux affronta il tema della verginità che, nel cristianesimo dei primi secoli, non corrisponde a una sorta di radicalizzazione dei precetti antichi di continenza e misura, all’imposizione generalizzata di una regola di astinenza assoluta, ma all’elaborazione di un rapporto specifico di sé con sé che scava all’interno del soggetto uno spazio di “interiorità”. È a questo livello che Foucault individua l’emergenza della prima “piega” della soggettività occidentale centrata ormai sul problema del desiderio, della tentazione, della concupiscenza. Infine, nella terza parte degli Aveux, Foucault si concentra sul matrimonio e mette chiaramente in luce il contributo decisivo (e innovativo) dei testi di Agostino rispetto alle dottrine elaborate dai suoi predecessori. Con Agostino si assiste in effetti a una vera e propria “libidinizzazione” dei rapporti sessuali, e tale dispositivo libidinale costituisce, secondo Foucault, l’elemento che rende gli individui responsabili dei loro desideri – trasformandoli quindi in soggetti di diritto. Questa conclusione è particolarmente intrigante se combinata con ciò che già sappiamo delle analisi che Foucault ha condotto sul potere pastorale e la governamentalità moderna tra il 1978 e il 1980, in particolare in Sicurezza, territorio, popolazione6. Infatti, è proprio l’articolazione tra il soggetto di desiderio e il soggetto di diritto che costituisce la condizione di possibilità dello sviluppo delle arti del governo pastorale così come, sebbene al prezzo di trasformazioni significative, degli apparati governamentali moderni. In altri termini, nella lettura di Foucault, Agostino inaugura niente di meno che una modalità inedita di condotta degli individui attraverso la giuridificazione del governo spirituale delle anime e del comportamento sessuale della coppia sposata: il peccatore è concepito come un soggetto di diritto, responsabile della propria libido sebbene quest’ultima venga definita come un elemento involontario della sua volontà. È questa mossa che, agli occhi di Foucault, costituisce la condizione di possibilità della codificazione dettagliata ed esaustiva della condotta sessuale degli individui che sarà sviluppata nel Medioevo. L’analisi che Foucault offre, negli Aveux, dell’elaborazione agostiniana del soggetto in quanto al contempo soggetto di desiderio e soggetto di diritto risulta dunque cruciale non solo nell’economia di una storia della sessualità, M. Foucault, Sicurezza, territorio, popolazione. Corso al Collège de France (1977-1978), Feltrinelli, Milano 2005. 6


6 Cremonesi, Irrera, Lorenzini, Tazzioli ma anche e soprattutto in quella di una storia della governamentalità, poiché costituisce la condizione di possibilità dello sviluppo non tanto di un potere repressivo sul desiderio sessuale, ma di una serie di tecnologie di governo che mirano a condurre la condotta degli individui attraverso specifiche strategie di verbalizzazione e “valorizzazione” dei loro desideri. La domanda che gli Aveux intendevano introdurre nel contesto storico che ha accompagnato la loro composizione, e che introducono oggi nel nostro presente, è quindi la seguente: come è stato possibile costruire questa forma specifica di soggettività che ancora ci caratterizza e che è chiamata a rendere incessantemente conto della propria “struttura desiderante” – una soggettività che viene non solo definita, ma anche e soprattutto governata sulla base di quest’ultima? Bruxelles, Londra, Parigi, Pisa novembre 2018 Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli


Michel Foucault

et la subjectivation


Introduzione

Soggettivazione e assoggettamento, a partire da Foucault

Questa sezione monografica raccoglie alcuni degli interventi pronun-

ciati alla giornata di studi “Michel Foucault et la subjectivation”, tenutasi all’Université Paris-Est Créteil il 1° giugno 2016 e da noi organizzata. Il centro tematico di questa giornata era costituto da due importanti concetti foucaultiani, quelli di “soggettivazione” e di “assoggettamento”. A nostro avviso, infatti, essi devono essere considerati come la coppia concettuale principale per comprendere il lavoro di Foucault, in particolar modo le sue analisi tra la fine degli anni settanta e i primi anni ottanta. In modo più specifico, la nozione di “soggettività”, che sta attualmente trovando un ampio uso nel dibattito accademico, dovrebbe essere analizzata alla luce della correlazione costitutiva tra processi di soggettivazione e meccanismi di assoggettamento. Può essere infatti utile ricordare che, per Foucault, l’attuale compito filosofico ed etico-politico consiste nel tentare di rilanciare la nostra capacità di trasformazione di noi stessi, senza, però, che questa elaborazione di sé sia disgiunta da un lavoro radicale sull’assoggettamento e contro di esso. Da questo punto di vista, il lavoro di soggettivazione è in primo luogo un’opera di disassoggettamento. Proprio per l’attualità dei temi che questa coppia concettuale mette in gioco, riteniamo che sia necessario analizzare questi due concetti in modo più approfondito, sia singolarmente, sia nella loro relazione. La prima cosa da notare, è che essi non vengono tematizzati da Foucault nello stesso momento. La soggettivazione è infatti un concetto già presente nei lavori di Foucault sin dai primi anni settanta, come parte dell’analitica del potere e dell’analisi delle tecniche disciplinari. Tale concetto appare, ad esempio, nel Corso al Collège de France del 1973-1974, Il potere psichiatrico, in cui Foucault illustra le differenze tra sovranità e potere disciplinare e individua una di queste nel «rimaneggiamento in profondità dei rapporti tra la singolarità somatica, il soggetto e l’individuo»1. Foucault spiega: M. Foucault, Il potere psichiatrico. Corso al Collège de France (1973-1974), edizione italiana a cura di M. Bertani, Feltrinelli, Milano 2014, p. 63. 1

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 9-14.


10 Cremonesi, Irrera, Lorenzini, Tazzioli Nel potere di sovranità la funzione-soggetto non è mai agganciata a una singolarità somatica […]. Nel potere disciplinare, al contrario, la funzionesoggetto coincide esattamente con la singolarità somatica. […] La disciplina è quella tecnica di potere in virtù della quale la funzione-soggetto arriva a sovrapporsi e ad aderire esattamente alla singolarità somatica. In breve, potremmo dire che il potere disciplinare ha come proprietà senza dubbio fondamentale quella di fabbricare corpi assoggettati e di applicare [épingler] per l’appunto la funzione-soggetto al corpo2.

Il modo d’azione del potere disciplinare consiste dunque nel connettere una funzione-soggetto alle singolarità somatiche, il cui effetto è un’individualizzazione operata attraverso l’assoggettamento dei corpi. Anche se non appaiono esplicitamente, in questa descrizione del potere disciplinare si trovano alcuni elementi che aprono alla coppia assoggettamentosoggettivazione. Come ha ben messo in luce Arnold I. Davidson, infatti, «negli anni settanta Foucault parla della desoggettivazione, strettamente legata al disassoggettamento, ma manca l’espressione centrale dell’ultimo Foucault, e cioè la soggettivazione o i modi di soggettivazione. Ciò nonostante, anche in La volontà di sapere l’assoggettamento, sempre sorretto dalle relazioni di potere, non è completamente chiuso, perché queste relazioni di potere non sono immobili, anzi sono reversibili. L’assoggettamento non è un tipo di determinismo della condotta dell’individuo. Come afferma Foucault, “là dove c’è potere c’è resistenza”, vale a dire che si può resistere all’assoggettamento, modificando le relazioni di potere»3. La dimensione della soggettivazione non è quindi del tutto assente dai lavori di Foucault degli anni settanta. Tuttavia, come molti critici hanno notato, in questo periodo Foucault ancora non concettualizza una forma specifica di resistenza alla capacità soggettivante del potere – intesa come capacità di assoggettare e di produrre, allo stesso tempo, una soggettività assoggettata. La principale forma di resistenza al potere psichiatrico è infatti data dall’azione delle isteriche, che inventano sempre nuovi modi per aggirare e invertire i dispositivi del sapere medico, sfidandolo continuamente in una lunga battaglia, risoltasi poi storicamente a favore del potere psichiatrico4. Ivi, p. 64. A.I. Davidson, Dall’assoggettamento alla soggettivazione: Michel Foucault e la storia della sessualità, in «aut aut», n. 331 (2006), p. 8. 4 Cfr. A.I. Davidson, Introduction, in M. Foucault, Psychiatric Power. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973-1974, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2006, p. XX. 2 3


Introduzione 11

La lettura foucaultiana della “battaglia” tra isteria e potere psichiatrico è centrale sotto molti aspetti: essa dà inizio a una genealogia della funzionePsy5, mette in luce il modo di funzionamento del potere psichiatrico e svolge, infine, un ruolo importante per le critiche ai metodi e alle pratiche della psichiatria (si pensi al movimento dell’antipsichiatria che, in quegli stessi anni, stava portando avanti importanti lotte). È però evidente un limite di questa posizione di Foucault, che vede come principale forma di resistenza al potere psichiatrico una dinamica tra isterica e medico che sembra in gran parte prodursi in modo involontario e automatico – o almeno, la posta in gioco, cioè la sessualità, sembra emergere in modo automatico e non essere intenzionalmente al centro della battaglia. È quindi probabile che, proprio a partire da questo problema, Foucault abbia avvertito la necessità di affiancare a questo modo di pensare la resistenza anche un’altra forma, fondata nella messa in atto volontaria di alcune pratiche. Egli apre così un nuovo ambito concettuale che gli permette di prendere in conto questa dimensione. Tale ambito emerge da due movimenti diversi, ma interconnessi: si tratta, da una parte, dell’introduzione del concetto di “governo”, nel 1978, principalmente nel Corso al Collège de France Sicurezza, territorio e popolazione6 e, dall’altra, dell’interpretazione del mondo antico, in cui Foucault individua – anche grazie al lavoro di Pierre Hadot e alla sua nozione di “esercizi spirituali”7 – un repertorio di tecniche finalizzate a produrre una soggettività legata a una forte dimensione di autonomia. Per quanto riguarda la questione del governo, ne Il soggetto e il potere Foucault afferma di voler modificare la sua precedente analitica del potere e introdurre una nuova griglia concettuale, centrata su due elementi: il governo e la condotta. Forse la natura equivoca del termine “condotta” è uno dei migliori aiuti per arrivare a cogliere la specificità delle relazioni di potere. “Condurre” significa al contempo “guidare” gli altri (a seconda dei meccanismi di coercizione più o meno rigidi), e un modo di comportarsi all’interno di un campo più o meno aperto di possibilità. L’esercizio di potere consiste nel guidare la possibilità di condotta, e nel regolare le possibili conseguenze. Fondamentalmente, il potere M. Foucault, Il potere psichiatrico, cit., pp. 90-92. M. Foucault, Sicurezza, territorio, popolazione. Corso al Collège de France (1977-1978), edizione italiana a cura di P. Napoli, Feltrinelli, Milano 2005. 7 P. Hadot, Esercizi spirituali e filosofia antica, a cura di A.I. Davidson, Einaudi, Torino 2005. 5 6


12 Cremonesi, Irrera, Lorenzini, Tazzioli non è tanto un affrontamento tra due avversari o l’obbligo di qualcuno nei confronti di qualcun altro, quanto una questione di governo8.

La novità introdotta da Foucault sta nel fatto che questi due concetti permettono di pensare l’articolazione di due movimenti: quello dell’azione del potere sugli individui, per dare forma alla soggettività (la dimensione della condotta e del governo degli altri), e quello dell’azione degli individui su se stessi, per contrastare l’azione del potere (la dimensione della condotta e del governo di sé). In questo modo, la costituzione della soggettività emerge non solo dall’azione del potere, nel suo sforzo di prevalere su una serie di resistenze, come quelle delle isteriche, ma anche da un gioco strategico tra tecniche di governo e tecniche di sé. Ne consegue che, oltre alle arti di governo, esiste anche un altro ambito di tecniche che può essere studiato. Il mondo antico è un campo privilegiato per individuare queste tecniche di sé, e se Foucault sviluppa un interesse per l’antichità, è proprio al fine di esaminare le tecniche di sé antiche, la cui esistenza gli era stata suggerita dai lavori di Hadot. Per Hadot, infatti, la filosofia antica non era centrata sulla produzione teorica, come quella moderna, ma era concepita soprattutto come una maniera di vivere, costellata da una serie di pratiche, che egli chiama “esercizi spirituali”. Questi esercizi permettevano di operare una vera e propria trasformazione del modo di essere e della visione del mondo dell’individuo. Foucault reinterpreta quindi gli esercizi spirituali come “tecniche di sé”, scoprendo un modo di costituzione della soggettività radicalmente diverso da quello cristiano. A questo processo di soggettivazione antico egli dà il nome di “cura” di sé, per distinguerlo con precisione dall’“ermeneutica” del sé cristiana. Le differenze tra questi due modi di soggettivazione vertono sulla loro relazione al potere e al sapere. La soggettività cristiana è infatti prodotta all’interno di una rete di obbedienza e la “verità” è estratta da essa tramite le tecniche della confessione (una pratica che produce una forma molto forte di assoggettamento); quella antica, invece, lascia uno spazio ben maggiore all’azione autonoma degli individui (padronanza di sé) e la verità qui in gioco riguarda principalmente il cosmo, senza alcuna particolare attenzione per la verità interiore degli individui. M. Foucault, Il soggetto e il potere, in H.L. Dreyfus e P. Rabinow, La ricerca di Michel Foucault. Analisi della verità e storia del presente, La casa Usher, Firenze 2010, p. 292. 8


Introduzione 13

Secondo Foucault, la soggettività cristiana è per noi particolarmente importante, perché essa fornisce il modello e la matrice delle nostre forme di soggettivazione contemporanee. Questo modello è stato riprodotto e secolarizzato dalle arti di governo moderne, attraverso l’azione di dispositivi psichiatrici, medici e giudiziari, che hanno ampiamente tratto le proprie tecniche da quelle, cristiane, di confessione e condotta. A partire dal 1978, dunque, Foucault introduce la questione della soggettivazione, intesa come l’insieme delle tecniche di sé che possono essere poste in atto dagli individui per dare forma alla propria soggettività. Tuttavia, secondo Foucault, nella modernità le pratiche di soggettivazione devono essere correlate alla forma attuale della nostra soggettività – assoggettata dai processi della governamentalità. In altri termini, se è possibile mettere in atto una serie di tecniche e pratiche per modificare il nostro modo di essere, queste devono prendere avvio dalla forma storicamente costituita della nostra soggettività. Come sottolinea Judith Revel, la forma della nostra soggettività è un «effetto provvisorio di modi di soggettivazione oggettivanti, come anche di modi autonomi di soggettivazione», e ha dunque una «struttura chiasmica»9, in cui le due dimensioni di assoggettamento e soggettivazione non possono mai essere completamente separate. Questo non significa, però, che un lavoro di trasformazione di sé sia impossibile o inutile. Per Foucault, il nostro compito etico-politico è proprio quello di cercare di spingere il più lontano possibile le nostre capacità trasformative, anche se questa elaborazione di noi stessi deve essere connessa a un lavoro radicale contro l’assoggettamento: in un certo senso, essa è innanzitutto un lavoro di “disassoggettamento”10. Foucault sviluppa questo lavoro sulle forme assoggettate della nostra soggettività nelle sue ricerche archeologiche e genealogiche e, più precisamente, in una serie di indagini storiche sui modi in cui la nostra soggettività ha assunto la sua forma. Si tratta quindi di capire quali dispositivi di sapere e di potere e quali discorsi e tecniche abbiano giocato un ruolo nella costituzione storica del nostro essere. Solo questa analisi J. Revel, Between Politics and Ethics. The Question of Subjectivation, in L. Cremonesi, O. Irrera, D. Lorenzini e M. Tazzioli (a cura di), Foucault and the Making of Subjects, Rowman & Littlefield, London 2016, p. 171. 10 M. Foucault, Illuminismo e critica, a cura di P. Napoli, Donzelli, Roma 1997, p. 40. 9


14 Cremonesi, Irrera, Lorenzini, Tazzioli storica permetterà di mettere in luce i punti in cui una modificazione del nostro essere storico è «possibile e auspicabile»11. Questa modificazione è, dunque, sempre in qualche modo “condizionata” dalla storicità del nostro essere. Tale condizionamento storico può però essere letto in due modi: da un lato, esso lega l’azione a una precisa analisi della forma storicamente data della nostra soggettività; dall’altro, la contingenza, la non necessità e l’arbitrarietà della formazione del nostro essere apre ampi margini a nuove possibilità autonome di modificazione e di trasformazione del nostro essere o, come afferma Foucault, «cerca di rilanciare il più lontano e il più diffusamente possibile il lavoro indefinito della libertà»12. Bruxelles, Londra, Parigi, Pisa novembre 2018 Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli

M. Foucault, Che cos’è l’Illuminismo?, in Archivio 3. Estetica dell’esistenza, etica, politica, a cura di A. Pandolfi, Feltrinelli, Milano 1998, p. 229. 12 Ivi, p. 228. 11


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault Pierre Macherey

Lorsque Canguilhem a eu connaissance du premier grand ouvrage de

Foucault, Histoire de la folie, sur lequel il a eu à rédiger, en tant que rapporteur de thèse, un rapport, il en a immédiatement souligné le caractère novateur et l’importance, bien au-delà des limites imparties à un travail spécialisé concernant l’histoire de la psychiatrie ; quelques années plus tard, il faisait paraître, dans la collection « Galien » qu’il dirigeait aux PUF, Naissance de la clinique, l’ouvrage de Foucault qui, sans doute, l’a le plus intéressé parce que son sujet le concernait au plus près, et auquel il s’est souvent référé dans ses propres travaux1 ; enfin, lorsque Les mots et les choses a été mis en circulation, il lui a consacré, sous le titre « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », une importante étude parue en 1967 dans Critique, où, prenant sa défense contre ses objecteurs ou ses censeurs – on était alors en plaine querelle de l’humanisme –, il saluait la « lucidité » de la démarche de Foucault, à propos de laquelle il allait jusqu’à suggérer en conclusion qu’elle pourrait jouer à l’égard des sciences humaines un rôle comparable à celui joué par la Critique de la raison pure pour les sciences de la nature. Par ailleurs, l’un des derniers écrits de Foucault, sinon le tout dernier, est une présentation générale de la démarche de Canguilhem, au moment où celui-ci était traduit aux États-Unis : ce texte, intitulé « La vie : l’expérience et la science », est sans doute l’un des plus importants et des plus pertinents commentaires qui aient été consacrés à la pensée de celui que, dans la conversation, Foucault appelait à l’occasion, sans ironie aucune, et alors qu’il était avare de ce type d’épanchement, « notre vieux Tout à la fin de la partie complémentaire, rédigée « vingt ans après », sur laquelle s’achève Le normal et le pathologique, Canguilhem signale que « en des pages admirables, émouvantes, de la Naissance de la clinique, Michel Foucault a montré comment Bichat a fait « pivoter le regard médical sur lui-même » pour demander à la mort compte de la vie » (G. Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique, op. cit., p. 215). Cette conversion du regard est celle que Canguilhem a lui-même essayé de pratiquer. Les deux livres de Foucault, Histoire de la folie (1961) et Naissance de la clinique (1963) sont donnés en référence dans le Supplément à la bibliographie de la nouvelle édition, en 1966, de La connaissance de la vie, ce qui souligne l’importance que Canguilhem leur accordait. 1

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 15-38.


16 Pierre Macherey maître ». On peut donc dire que Canguilhem et Foucault se sont, au sens fort du terme, reconnus, et même pour une part reconnus l’un dans l’autre à travers le partage d’intérêts et de valeurs réflexives communes : est passée entre eux une relation intellectuelle forte dont on peut supposer qu’elle a joué un rôle non négligeable dans le développement de leurs pensées respectives. Pourtant, cette reconnaissance était loin d’aller de soi, et même, à première vue, elle n’aurait pas dû avoir lieu, en raison à la fois de la différence des positions des protagonistes de cette relation à l’intérieur du champ philosophique et de la distance passant entre certains des présupposés intellectuels dont relevaient leurs démarches respectives2. Canguilhem, en effet, était avant tout, dans la lignée d’Alain, un philosophe du jugement, du devoir-être et du sujet qui en assume, comme il le disait, les « exigences » en étant, autant qu’il le peut, « normatif  », alors que Foucault, au moins au départ, se caractérisait par sa réserve à l’égard d’une position subjectivante, tendanciellement humaniste, axée sur la prise en considération privilégiée des figures de la conscience, ce dont la conséquence était qu’une question comme celle du devoir-être, au sens d’un impératif assumé de manière réfléchie, n’avait a priori guère pour lui de sens, voire même n’en avait aucun. D’autre part, Canguilhem, figure respectée de l’Université, sinon à proprement parler gardien du temple, s’était fait connaître, en tant que professeur, inspecteur général, membre ou président du jury de l’agrégation, par la rigueur de ses positions, qui Dans le livre qu’il lui a consacré, F. Dagognet signale que « les amis de Georges Canguilhem parfois s’interrogent – une interrogation qui confine à la condamnation – sur l’estime, voir, selon certains l’indulgence, dans laquelle il a tenu les travaux de Michel Foucault » (F. Dagognet, Georges Canguilhem philosophe de la vie, Paris, Les empêcheurs de penser en rond, 1997, p. 15). Il poursuit en expliquant que cet étonnement, que, peutêtre, il a lui-même partagé à un degré ou à un autre, trouve sa justification dans une interprétation unilatérale de la pensée de Canguilhem : le fil conducteur de son livre est que cette pensée présente des « versants » contrastés, l’un tendanciellement conservateur, qui l’éloignait de Foucault, l’autre tendanciellement contestataire, qui l’en rapprochait. Dagognet remarque ensuite : « Hostile à la standardisation et à l’uniformisation des corps, la thèse sur le normal et le pathologique anticipe les futures analyses de Michel Foucault ; c’est pourquoi Georges Canguilhem sera inévitablement retenu par elles, tant il les a devancées, même si, par la suite, il les intégrera à d’autres développements. » (ibid., p. 51) On peut suivre Dagognet lorsqu’il avance que la relation entre Canguilhem et Foucault, relation essentiellement complexe, associe proximité et éloignement, dans des conditions telles que leur tension ne peut être directement résolue. Allons plus loin : c’est cette tension qui rend leur relation féconde en pratique. 2


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 17

avait pu faire interpréter celles-ci dans le sens d’un certain conformisme3, alors que les rapports de Foucault avec les institutions de savoir ont été dès le départ empreints de méfiance, ce qui leur a donné un caractère difficile, voire même à l’occasion tumultueux. Pour résumer d’un mot cette situation, Canguilhem, lecteur assidu de Renouvier, de Lachelier et d’Hamelin, philosophes néo-kantiens réputés alors d’arrière-garde auxquels on imagine difficilement que Foucault ait pu s’intéresser, était en plein dans « le système », même s’il y détenait, de l’intérieur de celui-ci, une position singulière, alors que Foucault, qui avait eu du mal à digérer son échec à l’agrégation de philosophie lorsqu’il l’avait passée pour la première fois, adoptait vis-à-vis de ce « système » l’attitude d’un contestataire, qui consent tout au plus à en occuper certaines marges, ce qui a amené sa carrière universitaire, si toutefois cette expression est approprié à son cas, à suivre une trajectoire assez imprévisible et irrégulière, non moins brillante pour autant. Comment, dans ces conditions, Canguilhem et Foucault sont-ils parvenus à s’entendre, tout en tenant ferme sur leurs positions respectives que, chacun de son côté, ils assumaient avec la plus grande rigueur ? La La plupart des réflexions et des interventions de Canguilhem au sujet de l’enseignement de la philosophie dans les Lycées, enseignement auquel, en raison de son parcours personnel, il était viscéralement attaché, sont marqués par ce conformisme. Canguilhem était ouvert aux tentatives d’innovation pédagogique, mais, sur le fond, il attribuait à l’enseignement de la philosophie, et au modèle proprement français de cet enseignement qui confère à celui-ci une fonction sociale éminente, une valeur primordiale qu’il n’était pas disposé à remettre en cause. Foucault portait sur le modèle français de la classe de philosophie un regard nettement plus distancié, comme en témoignent ses remarques à ce sujet dans un entretien paru en 1970 dans Le Nouvel Observateur intitulé « Le piège de Vincennes », où le « jeu » du système d’enseignement français est résumé de la façon suivante : « Aux élèves du primaire, la société donne le « lire-et-écrire » (l’instruction) ; à ceux du technique elle donne des savoirs à la fois particuliers et utiles ; à ceux du secondaire, qui doivent normalement entrer en faculté, elle donne des savoirs généraux (la littérature, la science), mais en même temps la forme générale de pensée qui permet de juger tout savoir, toute technique et la racine même de l’instruction. Elle leur donne le droit et le devoir de « réfléchir » ; d’exercer leur liberté, mais dans l’ordre de la seule pensée, d’exercer leur jugement, mais dans l’ordre seulement du libre examen » (M. Foucault, Dits et écrits, Paris, Gallimard, 1994, t. II, p. 69). Était ainsi souligné le caractère paradoxal du régime de la Société-École tel qu’il est pratiqué en France depuis le XIXe siècle, sous des formes qui associent intégration et clivage, incorporation et exclusion. Sans la condamner, car il était ouvert à l’esprit d’utopie, Canguilhem, de son côté, considérait l’expérience menée dans le département de philosophie de Vincennes avec une certaine perplexité. 3


18 Pierre Macherey présente étude a pour fil conducteur l’hypothèse suivante : c’est autour de la relation entre le normatif et le subjectif que s’est nouée la discussion entre Canguilhem et Foucault. À la question « qu’est-ce qu’être sujet sous des normes ? » ils ont répondu, l’un en raisonnant du sujet aux normes, donc en posant que les vraies normes dont celles que des sujets mettent en œuvre dynamiquement en « prenant parti »4 (Canguilhem), l’autre en raisonnant des normes au sujet, donc en posant qu’il n’y a de sujets qu’assujettis à des normes qui ont leurs sources ailleurs que dans une conscience instance de jugement (Foucault). Nous allons voir que, en développant jusqu’à leurs dernières conséquences ces deux options de sens apparemment inverse, Foucault et Canguilhem ne s’en sont pas moins rapprochés et entendus, dans un esprit de réelle connivence, sans que toutefois leurs positions respectives en viennent exactement à se confondre. Pour donner un contenu précis à l’alternative qui vient d’être esquissée, voyons comment elle est intervenue dans le cadre de la discussion soulevée par le concept d’épistémè. Dans « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », Canguilhem signale : « Il n’y a pas aujourd’hui de philosophie moins normative que celle de Foucault, plus étrangère à la distinction du normal et du pathologique »5. Cette remarque prend tout son relief lorsqu’on se souvient que, à l’opposé, Canguilhem fait lui-même passer au premier plan dans son travail la considération du normatif et traite la distinction du normal et du pathologique comme cible principale de sa réflexion. En conséquence, on ne s’étonne pas qu’il soulève dans la suite de son article la question suivante, qui se présente à première vue comme une objection faite à Dans un de ses tout premiers écrits, Canguilhem se réclame d’une « philosophie du parti pris » (G. Canguilhem, « Fascisme et révolution » (1933), dans Œuvres complètes, Paris, Vrin, 2013, p. 453). Trouve là sa justification philosophique son engagement dans la Résistance, à la suite de Cavaillès, engagement qui répond lui-même à l’exigence d’être « normatif  » et non soumis à des normes convenues, dont la formule « Travail, Famille, Patrie » constitue l’expression caricaturale. En théorie comme en pratique, Canguilhem accorde une valeur primordiale à l’esprit de « vigilance », au sens de ce que Alain avait appelé les « Vigiles de l’esprit » : paradoxalement, c’est la mise en œuvre rigoureuse de cet esprit de vigilance qui, au moment de la guerre, l’a éloigné d’Alain et du groupe des alaniens (qui, eux, se sont rapprochés de Vichy). 5 G. Canguilhem, « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », Critique, n° 242, 1967, p. 612, reproduit dans « Les mots et les choses » de Michel Foucault. Regards critiques, 19661968, Caen, Presses universitaires de Caen, 2009, p. 266. 4


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 19

Foucault : « S’agissant d’un savoir théorique, est-il possible de le penser dans la spécificité de son concept sans référence à quelque norme ? »6. Penser un savoir théorique dans la spécificité de son concept, en le réintégrant dans la dynamique propre à la connaissance scientifique qui est une activité à part entière dont le déroulement est historique, ce n’est pas en effet l’appréhender sur un plan de généralité, comme un ordre théorique pur, indifférencié et neutre, dont le développement univoque serait soumis à une loi objective de laquelle il tire son caractère de nécessité, mais c’est suivre le cheminement effectif au cours duquel se sont peu à peu élaborés, de manière imprévisible et irrégulière, les concepts permettant de traiter de problèmes spécifiques, comme par exemple celui du comportement réflexe, sujet de la thèse que Canguilhem a préparée sous la direction de Bachelard7 : or, faire l’histoire d’un concept, c’est recenser les choix qui ont été faits à tel ou tel moment par tel ou tel savant qui, en en écartant d’autres, les a privilégiés, à l’essai en quelque sorte ; et on ne voit pas comment ces choix auraient pu être effectués en l’absence de normes, donc de principes d’évaluation, assumés en toute responsabilité par ceux qui s’en réclament, qui en aient fixé les orientations en réponse à des attentes d’ordre axiologique, et non uniment logique. De fait, l’histoire des sciences pratiquée par Canguilhem, qui est à la fois une histoire des problèmes et une histoire des concepts qui permettent de formuler ces problèmes dans l’attente de leur solution qui n’était nullement préfigurée dès le départ dans leur énoncé, est, non un déroulement prédéterminé dans et par sa structure de départ, mais une succession d’expériences et d’aventures théoriques menées par des savants, authentiques sujets de savoir, qui, au fur et à mesure, et en se Ibid., p. 267. L’idée directrice de l’étude que Canguilhem a consacrée à La formation du concept de réflexe aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris, PUF, 1955) est que, contrairement à ce qu’on se figure généralement parce que l’on considère a priori que les choses auraient dû se passer ainsi, le concept de réflexe n’est pas apparu dans le contexte d’une étude du fonctionnement des organismes appuyée sur un présupposé mécaniste (Descartes), mais au contraire dans un contexte vitaliste (Willis). On trouve là une application du principe général selon lequel l’histoire des sciences, qui est une histoire au plein sens du terme, ne peut être ramenée sur le plan d’une déduction rationnelle ne faisant aucune place à des événements de pensée : elle n’est pas une histoire des théories et de leur enchaînement, histoire dans laquelle il n’y a pas place pour de tels événements, mais une histoire des concepts dont la formation est soumise à des aléas, ce qui la rend pour une part imprévisible. 6 7


20 Pierre Macherey rendant, à leurs risques et périls, normatifs, ont décidé de se diriger dans tel ou tel sens et de tirer toutes les conséquences de ce choix. C’est donc en pesant soigneusement ses mots que Canguilhem a intitulé la conférence qu’il a prononcée en 1964 en commémoration du quatrième centenaire de la naissance de Galilée : « La signification de l’œuvre et la leçon de l’homme »8. Une chose est la signification de l’œuvre, c’est-à-dire la valeur de vérité, donc le degré de scientificité, pouvant être attribués aux thèses qu’elle véhicule ; une autre est la leçon de l’homme, c’est-àdire l’engagement de celui-ci dans un travail de pensée jalonné de prises de parti, comme le rejet du géocentrisme. Canguilhem montre dans sa conférence que, en s’engageant dans cette voie – un choix dont on sait qu’il lui a coûté personnellement très cher –, Galilée, on peut l’affirmer aujourd’hui, «  était dans le vrai  », sans que cela signifie à proprement parler qu’il savait le vrai, car, de fait, il ne disposait pas de toutes les preuves – celles-ci n’ont été fournies que dans la cadre de la mécanique newtonienne – permettant d’établir le bien-fondé de ce choix, qui était, au sens fort du terme, un choix, un pari en quelque sorte, résultant d’un jugement effectué en attente de sa validation, donc pour voir : « Être dans le vrai, cela ne signifie pas dire toujours le vrai. Et c’est ici que la leçon de l’homme va venir éclairer la signification de l’œuvre »9. De même que, être en bonne santé, ce n’est pas se trouver dans un état stable dont la perpétuation serait à l’épreuve de tout risque10, être dans le vrai, pour un savant, ce n’est pas se trouver sur un chemin conduisant tout droit et en toute assurance à la vérité, ce qui nécessiterait que celle-ci préexiste à sa manifestation ; mais c’est être normatif, en prenant le risque de choix théoriques audacieux, faisant rupture, dont la pertinence n’est pas d’emblée, donc automatiquement, garantie : se figurer qu’il pourrait en être autrement, c’est concevoir le devenir de la connaissance comme le développement d’un système de part en part rationnel dont les conditions étaient fixées au départ, suivant un parcours conduisant nécessairement de G. Canguilhem, « La signification de l’œuvre et la leçon de l’homme » (1964), dans Études d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences, Paris, Vrin, 2002, p. 37-50. 9 Ibid., p. 46. 10 Canguilhem en conclut qu’il n’est pas, comme on se le figure trop souvent, « normal » d’être en bonne santé. Ce thème paradoxal est développé, tout à la fin de la partie complémentaire rajoutée, vingt ans après, à l’étude sur Le normal et le pathologique, dans les considérations consacrées à « la maladie de l’homme normal » (G. Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique, op. cit., p. 216). 8


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 21

vérités et vérités, sans confrontation à des possibilités d’erreur et d’écart11. En ce sens, Galilée était bien, à titre personnel, par son engagement propre, le « sujet » authentique des interventions dont les résultats sont consignés dans son œuvre. De manière comparable, dans l’histoire de la biologie, domaine auquel Canguilhem a consacré une grande partie de ses recherches, Claude Bernard ou Darwin, loin d’être noyés dans le cours d’une logique inexorable de vérité à l’égard de laquelle ils n’eussent plus disposé d’aucune marge d’initiative, ce qui ferait d’eux de simples jalons de son déroulement, ont été de vrais inventeurs, des créateurs de concepts (le milieu intérieur pour Claude Bernard, l’évolution des espèces pour Darwin) dont la pertinence était destinée à être mise à l’épreuve, dans une C’est ce qui conduit Foucault à affirmer, en conclusion de son texte « La vie : l’expérience et la science » : « Cet historien des rationalités, lui-même si « rationaliste », est un philosophe de l’erreur ; je veux dire que c’est à partir de l’erreur qu’il pose les problèmes philosophiques, disons plus exactement le problème de la vérité et de la vie » (M. Foucault, Dits et écrits, op. cit., t. IV, p. 775). Autrement dit, avec Canguilhem on apprend à raisonner, non de la vérité, considérée comme un acquis, à l’erreur, considérée comme une déviation par rapport à cet acquis, mais de l’erreur à la vérité, appréhendée dynamiquement comme une cible à atteindre, sans garantie de succès. Ce renversement de perspective résulte du passage d’une logique de la loi, s’appliquant à ce qui est, à une logique de la norme, orientée dans le sens de ce qui doit ou peut être, avec la marge d’incertitude signalée par la locution « peut-être » : le possible est à la fois, selon la définition qu’en donne Aristote, ce qui est et n’est pas, entre présence et absence. « Une norme tire son sens, sa fonction et sa valeur du fait de l’existence en dehors d’elle de ce qui ne répond pas à l’exigence qu’elle sert. Le normal n’est pas un concept statique ou pacifique, mais un concept dynamique et polémique » (G. Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique, op. cit., 2e partie, « Vingt ans après », p. 176). Ce passage est commenté par Foucault de la façon suivante : « La norme ne se définit pas du tout comme une loi naturelle mais par le rôle d’exigence et de coercition qu’elle est capable d’exercer par rapport aux domaines auxquels elle s’applique. La norme est porteuse par conséquent, d’une prétention de pouvoir. La norme, ce n’est pas simplement, ce n’est même pas un principe d’intelligibilité ; c’est un élément à partir duquel un certain exercice du pouvoir se trouve fondé et légitimé » (M. Foucault, Les anormaux. Cours au Collège de France. 19741975, Paris, Seuil-Gallimard, 1999, p. 46, leçon du 15 janvier 1975). « Une prétention de pouvoir », « un certain exercice du pouvoir » : « pouvoir », corrélé à l’intervention de la norme et non à celle de la loi, doit alors s’entendre de manière polémique, en opposition à ce qui est, au sens de l’ontologie et de la conception de la rationalité qui en dérive (celle qui définit la vérité comme « adaequatio rei et intellectus »). Ce pouvoir-là, celui qui s’adosse à l’exigence et à la coercition portées par la norme, ne consiste pas en une domination imposée au nom du fait établi, mais dans le mouvement en vue d’un changement d’état, donc d’un « peut être » ou d’un « peut-être ». Tout comme celui de norme, le concept de pouvoir est « dynamique et polémique ». 11


22 Pierre Macherey ambiance forcément polémique de devoir-être. C’est pourquoi l’histoire des sciences telle que Canguilhem la pratique est, au sens fort du terme, une histoire de savants qui se sont confrontés, avec les moyens dont ils disposaient, et par rectifications successives, au débat du vrai et du faux, sans savoir exactement au départ où ils allaient, sauf à réinsérer fictivement leurs démarches dans le mouvement rétrograde du vrai. Chez Foucault, à première vue, les choses se présentent de manière toute différente : on s’en doute d’emblée, sa réflexion va contourner aussi bien des problèmes concernant « la signification d’une œuvre » que ceux concernant « la leçon d’un homme ». Lorsqu’il a eu intervenir à l’Institut d’histoire des sciences à l’occasion des Journées d’étude organisées en 1969 pour le bicentenaire de la naissance de Cuvier par Canguilhem12, il en a, dans le cadre du débat assez tendu qui a suivi son exposé, généralisé les enjeux de la façon suivante : Dans l’Introduction, signée du nom de Canguilhem, à la présentation de l’ensemble des interventions présentées au cours de ces journées d’études, il est précisé, au sujet des discussions menées dans le cadre du groupe d’étude qu’il animait personnellement au cours desquelles ces journées avaient été préparées : « Il s’agissait de soumettre à l’épreuve d’un examen critique la thèse brillamment soutenue par M. Michel Foucault dans son ouvrage Les mots et les choses » (G. Canguilhem, « Présentation », Revue d’histoire des sciences, t. XXIII, n° 1, janvier-mars 1970, p. 7). De fait, au cours de ces journées, la thèse paradoxale, iconoclaste, soutenue par Foucault selon laquelle Darwin est finalement plus proche de Cuvier, en dépit du « fixisme » professé par ce dernier, que de transformistes comme Lamarck, héritier intellectuel de Jussieu, et par son intermédiaire défenseur de la théorie de l’échelle des êtres, théorie qui constituait l’obstacle principal à la formation du concept d’évolution des espèces, a été discutée par des chercheurs dont la plupart étaient proches de Canguilhem. Celui-ci, pour sa part, avait déjà expliqué, dans « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du cogito ? » paru deux ans plus tôt que, le point de vue de Foucault, tout en étant sujet à discussion, lui paraissait parfaitement défendable : « Même si l’on ne pense pas que Foucault a raison sur ce point – et nous pensons personnellement qu’il a raison – est-ce une raison suffisante pour l’accuser d’avoir envoyé promener l’Histoire ? » (G. Canguilhem, « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », art. cit., p. 260). En somme, Canguilhem estime que, en l’occurrence, Foucault est dans le vrai, même s’il est impossible d’affirmer en toute certitude que ce qu’il dit est vrai, ce qui ouvre un champ au débat. Non sans malice, Canguilhem renvoie ainsi Foucault à sa propre normativité de sujet de savoir. On peut aussi remarquer que le retournement opéré dans ce cas précis par Foucault, qui revient à interpréter le rapport de Cuvier à Darwin, non dans un sens dépréciatif, en soutenant que le fixisme de Cuvier a constitué un obstacle à la formation de la théorie de l’évolution, mais dans un sens positif, n’est pas sans présenter formellement une analogie avec la réhabilitation du vitalisme effectuée par Canguilhem quelques années plus tôt dans le cadre de ses recherches sur le concept de réflexe. 12


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 23 Quand il s’agit d’étudier des nappes discursives, ou des champs épistémologiques qui comprennent une pluralité de concepts et de théories (pluralité simultanée ou successive), il est évident que l’attribution à l’individu devient pratiquement impossible. De même, l’analyse de ces transformations peut difficilement être référée à un individu précis. […] De sorte que la description que j’essaie de faire devrait se passer au fond de toute référence à une individualité, ou plutôt, reprendre de fond en comble le problème de l’auteur. […] Car mon problème est de repérer la transformation. Autrement dit, l’auteur n’existe pas13.

Dans la suite de son intervention, Foucault va même jusqu’à se reprocher d’avoir, dans Les mots et les choses, mis en avant la référence à des noms propres comme ceux de Cuvier, de Bopp ou de Ricardo, alors que le processus de « transformation » qu’il cherchait à mettre en évidence, sur le fond duquel l’idée de « sciences humaines » était apparue, se déroulait sur un plan où n’interviennent ni les auteurs ni les œuvres. Canguilhem assistait à cette discussion, dans laquelle, à l’exception d’une brève remarque consacrée à la thématique de l’échelle des êtres, il n’est pas intervenu14. Il serait difficile de reconstituer le fil des pensées qui ont dû se succéder dans son esprit à l’écoute des propos qui viennent d’être reproduits, que, sans doute par tactique davantage que par embarras, il s’est abstenu de commenter. Mais les personnes qui avaient assisté à ces débats, et les lecteurs contemporains de leurs comptes-rendus qui ont été publiés et conservés, n’ont pu et ne peuvent qu’être frappés par le contraste entre les positions défendues, d’une part par Foucault, pour qui, reprenons ses termes, « l’auteur n’existe pas », et d’autre part par M. Foucault, « La situation de Cuvier dans l’histoire de la biologie » (1969), dans Dits et écrits, op. cit., t. II, p. 60. Ces propos, tenus publiquement en 1969, recoupent et résument les thèses développées la même année dans la conférence « Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur ? » et dans l’ouvrage L’archéologie du savoir, paru également en 1969. 14 L’essentiel de sa participation aux débats auxquels les journées d’études ont donné lieu avait suivi l’exposé de Francis Courtes, « Georges Cuvier ou l’origine de la négation » ; cet exposé extraordinairement brillant, sans citer Foucault, allait dans le sens de sa démarche, dans la mesure où, à l’opposé de la vulgate qui rangeait Cuvier dans le camp des traditionalistes conservateurs obstinément tournés vers le passé, il assignait à celui-ci un rôle créatif dans l’histoire des idées sur la vie et sur l’organisme, du fait d’y avoir introduit de façon novatrice le principe de la négativité, dans un sens quasi hégélien. Lorsque Foucault a pris la parole, tout à la fin des Journées qui se sont achevées avec son intervention, Canguilhem, dont tout le monde savait qu’il était sur le fond d’accord avec lui, est resté silencieux, sans doute pour ne pas faire peser sur le débat son autorité personnelle que personne n’aurait osé discuter. 13


24 Pierre Macherey Canguilhem, attentif à la fois, dans l’ensemble de ses démarches en tant qu’historien des sciences, à « la signification de l’œuvre » et à « la leçon de l’homme » : et ce contraste rend d’autant plus perplexe que, la chose est avérée, sur les points précis qui étaient alors en discussion, Canguilhem se rangeait du côté de Foucault contre ses objecteurs et détracteurs, ce qui ne pouvait que troubler, voire même scandaliser certaines des personnes qui travaillaient avec lui à l’Institut d’histoire des sciences, qui ne comprenaient pas son « indulgence »15 à l’égard de thèses qui, sur le fond, contrevenaient à l’esprit de ses propres démarches, ou du moins le paraissaient. Pour débrouiller cette énigme, il est opportun de revenir sur le diagnostic porté par Canguilhem dans son article « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du cogito ? » au sujet du concept d’épistémè, diagnostic favorable dans l’ensemble, ce qui n’empêche pas cependant que soit ouverte une discussion au sujet de certains aspects de cette notion présentant des difficultés ou des obscurités. Ce qui, dans ce concept, intéresse principalement Canguilhem, c’est qu’il introduit dans l’analyse historique ce qu’il appelle d’un terme qui revient à plusieurs reprises dans son texte un principe d’« éversion » : par là il faut entendre le retournement du regard qui permet de dégager le devenir des connaissances scientifiques à la fois, sur le plan de son interprétation, du régime des idées reçues, donc de l’opinion, et, sur le plan de son déroulement réel, du présupposé logiciste selon lequel la science progresserait, en vertu de son propre élan rationnel interne, d’acquis en acquis, sans possibilité de dérivation ou de retour en arrière. Mais, ceci étant admis, est soulevée la question : « L’épistémè, raison d’être d’un programme d’éversion de l’histoire, estelle, ou non, plus qu’un être de raison ? »16. En envisageant que l’épistémè puisse n’être qu’un être de raison, Canguilhem soumet cette notion à un examen critique qui n’est pas sans présenter une certaine analogie avec celui que, dans la Dialectique transcendantale de la Critique de la raison pure, Kant fait subir aux « idées » de la raison, forcément idéales et tendanciellement idéalistes, le Moi, le Monde et Dieu. Assigner à ces idées un contenu objectif dont une discipline spéciale, la métaphysique, assurerait le traitement sous la forme C’est le terme employé par Dagognet lorsqu’il fait état des réticences de l’entourage de Canguilhem à l’égard de l’accueil favorable qu’il accordait aux propositions renversantes de Foucault. 16 G. Canguilhem, « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », art. cit., p. 262. 15


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 25

d’une connaissance soumise à l’épreuve de la vérité, c’est, selon Kant, aller plus loin que ne le permettent les capacités imparties à la raison, et, à terme, c’est légiférer dans le vide. Ne peut-on se demander, de même, si la notion d’épistémè ne répond objectivement à aucun contenu assignable, ce qui invalide la tentation d’en faire l’objet d’une science à part entière baptisée « épistémologie » ? Mais, en soulevant cette interrogation, il ne faut pas oublier que les idées de la raison, une fois que leur a été dénié un caractère objectif, n’ont pas, au point de vue même de Kant, perdu toute sorte de légitimité, sous la condition qu’un statut différent leur soit attribué : si elles n’ont pas le pouvoir de légiférer, ces idées n’en exercent pas moins ce que Kant appelle une fonction régulatrice qui, sans qu’elles se rapportent directement à des contenus réels, les fait jouer sur le mode du « comme si », donc à titre virtuel, au titre de possibilités prises en compte pour elles-mêmes17. Dans le même sens, lorsqu’il suggère que l’épistémè pourrait n’avoir d’autre réalité que celle d’un être de raison, Canguilhem, loin de considérer que cette notion doive être écartée, incite à reconsidérer son mode de fonctionnement, c’est-à-dire l’usage qu’on peut en faire dans le cadre imparti à ce que Foucault appelle une « archéologie du savoir ». C’est donc précisément l’idée selon laquelle l’épistémè pourrait avoir un contenu « objectif  » qui est remise en question par Canguilhem. Après avoir avancé l’hypothèse que celle-ci pourrait être tout au plus un être de raison, il en tire la conséquence suivante : « Une science est un objet pour l’histoire des sciences, pour la philosophie des sciences. Paradoxalement, l’épistémè n’est pas un objet pour l’épistémologie »18. Cela veut-il dire que, pour l’épistémologie, c’est-à-dire, en reprenant la terminologie employée par Foucault, pour l’archéologie, elle est autre chose Si la raison n’a pas le droit d’affirmer que le Moi, le Monde et Dieu « existent » conformément aux données habituelles de l’expérience, rien ne l’empêche d’employer ces idées à titre purement indicatif, en les traitant comme des hypothèses à certains égards raisonnables. Non seulement, rien ne l’en empêche, mais elle a besoin de le faire, car, en l’absence de ces hypothèses, une synthèse des connaissances élaborées par ailleurs par l’entendement en rapport avec les données de la sensibilité, resterait indéfiniment différée. Autrement dit, la thèse selon laquelle la métaphysique est une science exacte étant écartée, demeure ouverte la possibilité de l’employer au titre d’une fiction : allant plus loin dans ce sens, on pourrait se demander si la fonction régulatrice des idées de la raison n’est pas, chez Kant, apparentée au schématisme de l’imagination. Poincaré s’inscrit dans le sillage de cette manière de voir lorsqu’il présente les concepts scientifiques comme des fictions opératoires, dont la validité est mise à l’épreuve de leur fonctionnement. 18 G. Canguilhem, « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », art. cit., p. 262. 17


26 Pierre Macherey d’un objet ? Or, si on examine attentivement la manière dont procède la démarche archéologique qui tend à mettre en évidence, sous le devenir réel des sciences, de leurs concepts et de leurs problèmes, des invariants, on constate que ceux-ci sont appréhendés selon la modalité, non du réel, mais du possible. En effet, à quoi l’épistémè a-t-elle directement affaire ? Non pas directement à des savoirs constitués mais aux conditions de possibilité de ces savoirs, au sens où Kant parle du « transcendantal » qui se tient en arrière de toute connaissance réelle, ce dont il ne faut pas se hâter de conclure qu’il pourrait lui-même donner son objet à une connaissance réelle : le transcendantal n’est pas un autre réel qui se tiendrait en deçà du réel et remplirait à son égard le rôle d’un fondement métaphysique ; mais il représente, à même la trame du réel, ce qui constitue en elle la part du possible, du virtuel, du tendanciel. C’est la raison pour laquelle l’archéologue a affaire non à des choses mais à des discours sur les choses : il prend acte du fait que les conditions de possibilité d’un savoir ne sont pas données directement dans le réel auquel ce savoir se rapporte, mais tiennent à la forme discursive selon laquelle ce savoir est construit, ou plutôt peut être construit, c’est-à-dire a à être construit au titre d’une virtualité qui demeure à accomplir, dans le contexte d’une activité ou d’une pratique de connaissance effective qui, n’étant pas l’affaire de l’archéologue, intéresse spécifiquement, de manière tout à fait légitime, l’historien des sciences. Si l’on voit les choses sous cet angle, les démarches de l’historien des sciences qu’est Canguilhem et de l’archéologue qu’est Foucault ne sont nullement alternatives et exclusives l’une de l’autre, parce qu’elles se tiennent sur des plans différents : l’une a affaire à du réel, et plus précisément à du réel en train de se faire ; et l’autre s’occupe de possibles, qui se présentent sous forme de nappes étales, indifférenciées, indifférentes à la distinction du vrai et du faux. Tout de suite avant de faire état du caractère non normatif de l’entreprise archéologique de Foucault, Canguilhem indique : Le concept d’épistémè est celui d’un humus sur quoi ne peuvent pousser que certaines formes d’organisation du discours, sans que la confrontation avec d’autres formes puisse relever d’un jugement d’appréciation19.

Ce sur quoi ne peuvent pousser que certaines formes d’organisation du discours, cet « humus » ou terrain de formation qu’est l’épistémè, n’est pas lui-même un discours déjà organisé selon certaines formes : si ces 19

Ibid., p. 266.


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 27

formes peuvent pousser sur lui, ce n’est pas titre de germes préformés ou de représentations toutes faites, mais c’est parce qu’il en offre la possibilité, dans l’attente que celle-ci soit réalisée ce qui ne relève pas de sa propre détermination. Les formes en question, il reste donc à les faire pousser, à les cultiver, suivant des processus qui regardent, non l’archéologue, mais l’historien des sciences : ce dernier est ainsi conduit à tourner prioritairement son regard vers les choix effectués par les savants suite à des évaluations qui ont orienté leurs prises de parti dans un certain sens plutôt que dans un autre, et dont les conséquences sont soumises à l’épreuve de la vérification, qui différencie le vrai et le faux, autrement dit, pour reprendre la terminologie employée par Bachelard, fait le partage entre science périmée et science sanctionnée, ce qui n’est pas de la compétence de l’archéologue. L’archéologue, qui traite de transcendantaux et non des figures réelles émergées de leur mise en œuvre, ne s’intéresse pas à la distinction du vrai et du faux, parce que, au niveau auquel se situe sa démarche, cette distinction n’a pas une valeur probante. Dans une intervention faite par Foucault, dans le cadre des Journées d’études sur Cuvier, à la suite de l’intervention de Dagognet qui avait précédé immédiatement la sienne, est présentée cette réflexion à première vue surprenante, « éversante » aurait pu dire Canguilhem : Il faut distinguer, dans l’épaisseur d’un discours scientifique, ce qui est de l’ordre de l’affirmation scientifique vraie ou fausse et ce qui serait de l’ordre de la transformation épistémologique. Que certaines transformations épistémologiques passent par, prennent corps dans un ensemble de propositions scientifiquement fausses, cela me paraît être une constatation historique parfaitement possible et nécessaire20.

Autrement dit, que Cuvier ait eu éventuellement tout faux sur le plan de sa production scientifique propre21 ne remet nullement en question M. Foucault, « (Discussion) », dans Dits et écrits, op. cit., t. II, p. 29. Ce soupçon avait donné son fil conducteur à l’exposé de Dagognet qui, en le nourrissant, estimait peut-être que cela constituait une objection valable à la démarche de Foucault. Mais ce dernier, dans son intervention, a complètement retourné (« éverti ») cette objection, en en faisant un argument supplémentaire à l’appui de sa thèse. Canguilhem a dû beaucoup s’amuser en assistant à cet échange, dans lequel on pourrait voir une illustration de la fable de l’arroseur arrosé. Que Cuvier ait pu éventuellement se tromper n’affecte en rien le rôle qui lui est reconnu par l’archéologie. 20 21


28 Pierre Macherey la place que lui assigne l’archéologue sur le plan, non de la formation de connaissances réelles, appelées à être soumises à l’épreuve du vrai et du faux, mais du processus de « transformation » qui donne à cette formation ses conditions de possibilité, rien de plus. Pour mieux comprendre la portée de ce raisonnement, il n’est pas aberrant se servir d’un paradigme repris à la géographie. À de nombreuses occasions, en particulier dans l’entretien paru en 1976 dans la revue Hérodote22, Foucault a expliqué qu’il se sentait davantage géographe, préoccupé par des problèmes de mise en espace, qu’historien, intéressé à des évolutions temporelles. De son côté, Canguilhem s’était très tôt intéressé aux recherches en « géographie humaine » menées par l’école de Vidal de La Blache et de de Martonne, en opposition à la tradition germanique de géographie physique inspirée par Ratzel et ses successeurs : il en avait intégré les résultats à sa réflexion personnelle qui, rejetant la vulgate ontologisante, fait passer au premier plan la considération de l’axiologique. Comme on va le voir, ce débat entre géographes peut éclairer la discussion précédente au sujet de l’épistémè. Au point de vue des géographes de l’école allemande, les populations sont étroitement dépendantes du sol qu’elles occupent et auquel elles sont une fois pour toutes attachées ou adaptées, et en quelque sorte rivées : dans cette perspective, la géographie explique l’histoire qui n’en est qu’un avatar. En introduisant le concept polémique de « géographie humaine », les chercheurs de l’école française inspirés par Vidal de La Blache dénonçaient implicitement le caractère « inhumain » de cette explication qui soumet entièrement les activités humaines à un déterminisme physique auquel elles ne peuvent se soustraire, et leur refuse en conséquence la capacité d’innover, de créer, en transformant leur milieu d’existence ; or ce dernier, s’il leur offre un ensemble de possibilités, ne préjuge cependant pas des choix pratiques indispensables pour que ces possibilités, du moins certaines d’entre elles, soient effectivement réalisées ou exploitées, ce qui relève de leur initiative. Une chose est alors le milieu ambiant, espace neutre occupé par des réalités naturelles qui, étant simplement là au titre de données physiques, ne sont pas valorisées dans un sens ou dans un autre, dans la mesure où elles n’offrent pas de perspectives de choix tout tracés ; une autre est le milieu occupé et exploité en pratique par des populations qui, en particulier grâce M. Foucault, « Questions à Michel Foucault sur la géographie », dans Dits et écrits, op. cit., t. III, p. 28 sq. Voir aussi M. Foucault, « Des questions de Michel Foucault à Hérodote », dans ibid., p. 94-95. 22


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 29

aux moyens artificiels fournis par la technique, aménagent cet espace à des fins d’utilité, des fins qui n’étaient pas inscrites d’emblée dans la nature des choses, mais qu’il relevait de leur responsabilité de les y introduire23. Cette analyse élargie, au-delà de l’humain et des formes proprement techniques que prend son activité, au vivant considéré en général recoupe la distinction faite, en éthologie, par Uexküll entre Umgebung et Umwelt : le premier constitue un environnement naturel de fait, objectif, comme tel indifférent aux pratiques effectives qui s’y déroulent sous la responsabilité des sujets qui les accomplissent, alors que le second est un monde de signaux et de significations, informé par les besoins et les tendances de ses habitants qui se le sont adaptés en vue d’y mener leur vie propre24 davantage qu’ils ne se sont adaptés à lui. Lorsque Foucault introduit la notion d’archéologie, qui fait référence à un soubassement se tenant en deçà de ce qui est édifié au-dessus de lui, il cible l’attention sur l’environnement global donnant un lieu d’accueil à des activités de connaissance qui peuvent apparaître à l’intérieur de ce cadre, sans que leur apparition obéisse à un principe de détermination soumis à la loi objective des choses. Autrement dit, ce qu’il appelle l’épistémè d’une époque n’est pas l’ensemble des connaissances, déjà préformées, qui pourront être élaborées à cette époque : elle représente uniquement leur transcendantal, cet « être de raison » que constituent en fin de compte leurs conditions de possibilité. L’archéologue remonte jusqu’à ce cadre, humus sur lequel il reste à faire pousser réellement ces formations cognitives que sont les sciences proprement dites au sujet desquelles des questions comme celle de « la signification de l’œuvre » et celle de « la leçon de l’homme » méritent d’être soulevées. On comprend alors que, l’archéologie ayant mis entre parenthèses la considération de la normativité et de la subjectivité, Lucien Febvre, dans son ouvrage sur La terre et l’évolution de l’humanité (Introduction géographique à l’histoire), paru en 1922 aux éditions Albin Michel dans la collection « L’évolution de l’humanité », s’est servi de l’expression « possibilisme », en alternative à « déterminisme », pour désigner l’orientation nouvelle communiquée par Vidal de La Blache aux recherches des géographes. 24 Telle la femelle de tique fécondée qui, s’étant accrochée à une branche d’arbre, n’est sensible, dans ce qui l’entoure, qu’à une certaine odeur de beurre rance qui lui signale le passage, au pied de l’arbre, d’un mammifère à sang chaud sur lequel elle se laisse tomber pour pénétrer son épiderme et y pondre ses œufs, après quoi, son destin de tique étant accompli, il ne lui reste plus qu’à mourir : le monde extérieur, pour elle, se réduit à cette odeur ; considéré dans sa globalité, il n’est, dans la perspective qui est la sienne, qu’un « être de raison » privé d’objectivité, et comme tel irreprésentable. 23


30 Pierre Macherey l’histoire des sciences puisse, sur les bases ainsi dégagées, réintroduire cette considération, en vue de montrer comment, de l’humus primordial, sont effectivement sorties telles ou telles connaissances réelles, au long de processus qui n’étaient pas entièrement préfigurés dans leurs conditions de départ, des conditions qu’il faut se garder d’assimiler à un fondement, que celui-ci soi logique ou archéologique. Dès lors, entre la démarche de Foucault et celle de Canguilhem, il n’y a plus contradiction : mais elles apparaissent comme complémentaires l’une de l’autre. Cette complémentarité est rendue possible par le fait que l’archéologie ne se ramène pas à la mise au jour d’un système premier de connaissances, connaissances d’avant la connaissance, dont les savants n’auraient ensuite qu’à effectuer graduellement le développement. Si un tel système existait, il serait d’emblée structuré et ordonné selon des normes destinées à être appliquées de manière conforme ou non conforme. Or l’épistémè, telle que la vise la démarche de Foucault, se présente tout différemment : neutre axiologiquement, en ce sens qu’elle n’est pas soumise à des critères permettant d’éprouver sa valeur propre de vérité, elle offre seulement un champ à la recherche de vérités qui ne sont pas préfigurées en lui. L’épistémè rend possible l’épreuve de la vérité, mais elle n’est pas soumise à cette épreuve, qui en conséquence présente un caractère, non pas absolu, mais relatif  : il n’y a en effet de vérité que relativement à un contexte épistémique donné, contexte par rapport auquel il y a ou il peut y avoir de la vérité, sans qu’il y ait lieu d’interroger ce contexte sur sa valeur propre de vérité. Dans « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du cogito ? », Canguilhem soulève au passage la question de savoir si ce relativisme – mais il serait peutêtre préférable de parler d’un relationnisme, qui débouche sur une mise en réseau de la question de la vérité – n’aurait pas à voir avec celui qui donne son inspiration à la démarche culturaliste sous la forme que lui ont donnée les sociologues et anthropologues américains. Cette démarche débouche sur la révélation d’invariants, comme par exemple la « personnalité de base », qui permet de mesurer le degré d’intégration des individus à la totalité sociale dont elle constitue le paradigme identificatoire. De même, semble-t-il si on prend au sérieux ce rapprochement, le travail de la connaissance, vu au point de vue de l’archéologue, se déroulerait sur fond d’une « épistémè de base » constituant, écrit Canguilhem, « son système universel de référence à telle époque, dont la différence est le seul rapport avec celui qui lui succède »25 : cet universel de référence, n’étant universel que 25

G. Canguilhem, « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », art. cit., p. 266.


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pour son époque, est donc supposé avoir valeur en soi indépendamment d’une possibilité d’évaluation le faisant sortir de ses limites propres. Mais cette hypothèse, aussitôt soulevée, doit être écartée. En effet, il y a une différence essentielle entre l’épistémè et ce que le culturalisme américain range sous la catégorie de personnalité de base. Sous cette dernière catégorie se trouve un paradigme qui, sans avoir lui-même à être normé d’après des critères d’évaluation excédant sa nature propre, norme les comportements particuliers des individus auxquels il se rapporte dans un cadre culturel donné : neutre axiologiquement si on le considère en lui-même, il n’en est pas moins, sur le plan de son usage, clivant, générateur de conformisme, donc non neutre, ce à quoi le destine sa nature même de paradigme ; selon les termes employés par Canguilhem, il représente « le concept à la fois d’une donnée et d’une norme qu’une totalité sociale impose à se parties pour les juger, pour définir la normalité et la déviance »26. Or l’épistémè, qui offre un champ, c’est-à-dire un ensemble de disponibilités indispensables aux opérations effectives de la connaissance, ne légifère pas sur l’usage de ces disponibilités, et en conséquence ne fournit pas aux opérations que, en leur donnant des conditions nécessaires mais non suffisantes, elle rend possibles des modèles standards permettant d’en discriminer les résultats : la neutralité axiologique propre à ce champ s’étend à l’ensemble des opérations auxquelles il donne lieu, c’est-à-dire qu’il n’impose pas à celles-ci des normes de vérité préconstituées, indépendantes de leur mise en œuvre effective. Sur l’humus de ce champ, pousse, non pas du normal apprécié comme tel en rapport à des patterns donnés ne varietur, mais du normatif, c’est-à-dire un travail prospectif d’invention dont les savants ont personnellement la responsabilité, ce qui les conduit à l’occasion à « être dans le vrai », ou plutôt à s’y mettre, à leurs risques et à leurs frais, alors même qu’ils ne savent pas et ne peuvent pas savoir le vrai. Par là même est renouée une relation entre épistémè et position de sujet : s’il n’y a pas de sujet fondateur qui se tiendrait en arrière de l’épistémè – et en sens elle est bien sans sujet –, il y a place en avant d’elle pour l’action effective de sujets producteurs de concepts et travailleurs de la preuve, action à laquelle elle fournit, non des modèles préfabriqués, mais des disponibilités. Le sujet n’a pas été supprimé, mais il a changé de place, et du même coup de nature27. Ibid. C’est ce qui amène Foucault, tout à la fin de son texte « La vie : l’expérience et la science », à soulever la question : « Est-ce que toute la théorie du sujet ne doit pas être reformulée, dès lors que la connaissance, plutôt que de s’ouvrir à la vérité du monde, 26 27


32 Pierre Macherey On peut donc avancer que, même durant la période où il avait écarté de ses préoccupations la considération d’un sujet des normes, non seulement assujetti à des normes, mais créateur de normes, et comme tel enclin à ce qu’il appellera plus tard « souci de soi », Foucault n’a nullement invalidé la question du sujet mais il a préparé une toute nouvelle manière de l’aborder, qu’il mettra en œuvre durant la période ultérieure où cette question du sujet reviendra, prise pour elle-même, au premier plan de son attention. Pour caractériser ce nouvel abord, on peut reprendre la formule dont se servait Canguilhem dans l’intitulé de son article, « épuisement du cogito  », qui ne signifie pas, comme des lecteurs trop pressés se le sont figurés, la disparition du sujet, ni même, en prenant cette formule au pied de la lettre, la « mort de l’homme ». Lorsque Foucault explique que, sur le plan propre de l’archéologie, l’homme n’occupe, au titre d’objet de connaissance, que la position d’une formation dérivée, destinée, le moment venu, à s’effacer comme une figure tracée sur le sable que la marée est venue recouvrir, il s’en prend au genre de spéculation que Althusser, en se servant de références et de moyens différents, rangeait sous la catégorie d’« humanisme théorique »28 : mais, en remettant à sa place ce genre de spéculation qui, dit-il, a fait son temps, il libère le champ où pourra apparaître un notion d’un type complètement différent, dont il emprunte à Nietzsche la caractérisation, sous l’appellation du « surhomme ». Or, qu’estce que le surhomme ? C’est le type de sujet qui doit sortir de « l’épuisement du cogito », donc un sujet qui a cessé d’être substantiel, res cogitans, et ne remplit plus le rôle d’un fondement théorique, mais est devenu sujet pratique, sujet de ses activités, au premier rang desquelles celle par laquelle s’enracine dans les « erreurs » de la vie ? » (M. Foucault, « La vie : l’expérience et la science », art. cit., p. 776). Dès lors, le partage entre « une philosophie de l’expérience, du sens, du sujet » et « une philosophie du savoir, de la rationalité et du concept » mentionné par Foucault dans l’introduction de son texte (ibid., p. 764) cesse d’avoir une valeur explicative : une conception de la connaissance et de son histoire comme celle de Canguilhem, qui fait passer au premier plan la vie des concepts, loin d’évacuer définitivement la référence au sujet, conduit à repenser le statut de cette référence, donc à assigner une nouvelle position au sujet. 28 Par « humanisme théorique », il faut entendre la spéculation ordonnée à la représentation d’une « essence humaine » dont la réalité serait donnée dans l’absolu, au titre d’une « nature » à part entière, traitée, pour reprendre les termes employés par Spinoza « tanquam imperium in imperio ». C’est de cette représentation, encore dominante chez Feuerbach, que Marx a dû se détacher pour élaborer son matérialisme historique.


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il se fait lui-même, ou fait de soi son œuvre propre, à l’épreuve des valeurs dont il a fait, à ses risques et périls, non pas tout seul mais avec d’autres, et éventuellement en conflit avec eux, le choix. Canguilhem était lui aussi un lecteur de Nietzsche, et sa conception de la normativité du sujet rejoint, par d’autres voies que celles suivies par Foucault, celle d’un sujet pratique, soumis à l’exigence du devoir être tout simplement parce qu’il n’est pas déjà tout fait à la manière d’une chose : mais il a à être, il doit se faire, par sa propre activité créatrice, qui n’est en rien soumise à un déterminisme naturel, même si ce déterminisme lui offre le fond sur lequel il lui reste à se tracer sous sa responsabilité son chemin propre. Au moment où il préparait sa thèse de médecine, qui a ensuite constitué le corps principal de l’ouvrage sur Le normal et le pathologique, Canguilhem s’était intéressé aux philosophes néo-kantiens de l’école de Heidelberg29 ; dans son esprit, leur manière singulière de raisonner avait recoupé les enseignements qu’il avait tirés de Renouvier et d’Hamelin, et qui allaient dans le sens de ce qu’on peut appeler un « possibilisme »30, relevant d’un point de vue axiologique, en alternative à un « déterminisme », relevant d’un point de vue ontologique, c’est-à-dire d’une philosophie de choses31. Que l’homme, comme d’ailleurs l’ensemble des êtres vivants, évolue dans un monde rempli de choses qui peuvent Windelband et Rickert, principaux représentants de cette école, effectuent une relecture originale du kantisme, qui le ramène, sur le fond, à une philosophie du jugement et des valeurs au point de vue de laquelle la considération du « devoir-être » (Sollen) a priorité sur celle de l’être (Sein). Par exemple, une représentation vraie est celle qui doit être pensée, une action bonne est celle qui doit être accomplie, une chose belle est celle qui doit plaire, etc., au sens où « doit être » ne renvoie pas à un obligation, ou au jeu d’un automatisme, mais représente un possible qui, une fois valorisé, demeure à faire passer dans les faits : cette mise en œuvre relève, selon ces penseurs, non de la responsabilité de sujets personnels mais de la culture historique d’une époque et d’un lieu donnés considérée, non comme un système contraignant, mais comme un ensemble en train de se mettre en place, de s’ordonner, de s’orienter selon ses tendances propres. Dans la thèse de médecine de 1943, Canguilhem cite au passage une formule du philosophe autrichien Reininger, extraite de son ouvrage Wertphilosophie und Ethik (1939), qui résume cette orientation de pensée : « Unser Weltbild ist immer zugleich ein Wertbild » (G. Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique, op. cit., p. 117). Canguilhem adorait ce genre de formule-choc. 30 Rappelons que cette expression est celle dont se sert Lucien Febvre pour caractériser l’orientation propre aux recherches en « géographie humaine ». 31 Renouvier se servait de l’expression « philosophie de choses » pour caractériser la manière de penser propre à Spinoza. 29


34 Pierre Macherey indifféremment32 lui être utiles ou lui nuire, on ne peut le nier : mais cela n’autorise pas à le ramener au rang d’une chose à côté des autres, ne seraitce que parce qu’il a sa manière bien à lui d’être la chose qu’il est ; cette manière se distingue par sa capacité à changer son milieu d’existence en le transformant par la technique, et, quand il le faut, à changer de milieu, une capacité dont les autres vivants ne disposent pas, du moins au même degré. Celui de ses écrits dans lequel Canguilhem, généralement avare de considérations d’ordre général, a particulièrement mis en avant cette considération, à laquelle il donnait la forme d’une « exigence », mot qui revient souvent sous sa plume et qui concentre les enjeux de son orientation philosophique personnelle, est la conclusion de sa conférence sur « Le cerveau et la pensée » où il introduit, de manière assez inattendue la référence à Spinoza, un philosophe que, en raison du substantialisme et du nécessitarisme dont on le crédite le plus souvent, on ne serait pas enclin à ranger sous la catégorie du « possibilisme » 33. C’est la raison pour Indifféremment, dans la perspective propre à ce monde de choses, si toutefois on peut imputer à ce dernier une perspective : c’est au sujet, humain ou simplement vivant, qu’il revient de faire la différence entre ce qui, venant de ce monde, lui est utile et ce qui lui est nuisible, au risque bien sûr de se tromper. 33 Le lecteur de l’Éthique qui s’arrête à la première partie de l’ouvrage, bute, dans l’Appendice de celle-ci où l’idée de finalité naturelle est définitivement discréditée d’un point de vue rationnel, sur la formule « omnia sunt praedeterminata », « toutes les choses sont prédéterminées » en ce sens qu’elles obéissent au principe de causalité dont la source ultime se trouve en Dieu, c’est-à-dire dans la nature : s’il est curieux, il peut alors se demander si, une telle thèse étant avancée, le projet même d’une « éthique », c’est-à-dire d’une théorie de l’action, ne se trouve pas par là même invalidé, ce qui est pour le moins étrange au début d’un ouvrage intitulé précisément Ethica, et non Logica ou Metaphysica. Son étonnement commence à se dissiper lorsque, ayant poursuivi sa lecture, il découvre que, au début de la quatrième partie de l’ouvrage, Spinoza réintroduit, avec la notion de ce qui est utile au double sens de l’utile propre et de l’utile commun, la considération de la finalité, sous un tout nouvel aspect il est vrai : il s’agit en effet alors d’une finalité qui n’est pas inscrite dans la nature des choses, mais qui relève de l’activité humaine, pour autant que celle-ci, emportée par l’élan du conatus, qui pousse chaque être à persévérer dans son être, entreprise dont le succès n’est pas a priori garanti, est soumise à la loi à la fois novatrice et mortifère de l’affectivité et du désir, aux jeux d’Eros et de Thanatos serait-on tenté de dire dans le langage de Freud. Il apparaît alors que vivre – et écrire une « Éthique », c’est précisément proposer un art de vivre – n’est pas un état, une propriété de chose, mais une activité, comme telle polarisée, polémique, c’est-à-dire confrontée en permanence à l’alternative entre préférer et exclure. La référence à des « valeurs », même si elle opère le plus souvent sur le fond de la connaissance de premier genre, c’est-à-dire de l’imagination, ce qui interdit de lui attribuer un caractère rationnel, retrouve alors un intérêt philosophique : et, de fait, les deux dernières parties de l’ouvrage de Spinoza sont 32


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 35

laquelle, lorsqu’il se réfère à Spinoza pour conclure son exposé sur « Le cerveau et la pensée », ce n’est pas sous un angle théorique pouvant être rangé sous la rubrique « la signification de l’œuvre », que Canguilhem le fait : « Spinoza » – et lorsqu’il prononce le nom de Spinoza Canguilhem pense, et pense très fort, à Cavaillès qui s’était à plusieurs reprises déclaré « spinoziste » –, c’est avant tout pour lui « la leçon de l’homme », un homme qui a été un héros de la pensée non seulement sur le plan de ses choix théoriques mais sur celui de la vie pratique, et proprement de la politique, de ses violences et de ses aléas. « Spinoza », alors, plutôt qu’un nom pouvant servir d’étiquette à une doctrine ayant sa place dans l’histoire des systèmes de pensée, c’est le représentant d’une attitude, ou pour reprendre un mot dont Canguilhem aime de servir, une allure philosophique, une certaine manière de s’orienter, de profiler ses interventions, non seulement dans la pensée, mais aussi dans la vie : Quant à la philosophie, sa tâche propre n’est pas d’augmenter le rendement de la pensée, mais de lui rappeler le sens de son pouvoir. Assigner à la philosophie la tâche spécifique de défendre le Je comme revendication incessible de présencesurveillance, c’est ne lui reconnaître d’autre rôle que celui de la critique. Cette tâche de négation n’est d’ailleurs nullement négative, car la défense d’une réserve est la préservation des conditions de possibilité de la sortie. […] Défendre sa réserve impose d’en sortir à l’occasion, comme le fit Spinoza. Sortir de sa réserve, c’est le faire avec son cerveau, avec le régulateur vivant des interventions agissantes dans le monde et dans la société. Sortir de sa réserve, c’est s’opposer à toute intervention étrangère sur le cerveau, intervention tendant à priver la pensée de son pouvoir de réserve en dernier ressort34.  consacrées à l’effort en vue de retravailler la croyance en des valeurs, issue spontanément des procédures de l’imagination qui conduisent à se figurer qu’on désire certaines choses parce qu’on juge qu’elles sont bonnes, alors qu’à l’inverse on juge qu’elles sont bonnes parce qu’on les désire, afin d’élever la conviction en la valeur des valeurs au niveau de la raison, ce qui revient en fin de compte à réconcilier affectivité et rationalité, dernier mot de la sagesse. Résumons : si les considérations sur les substances, les attributs et les modes que Spinoza a choisies pour en faire le point de départ de sa démonstration paraissent faire obstacle ou écran au développement d’une axiologie, philosophie des valeurs ou du jugement, en réalité elles sont des jalons préparatoires à l’élaboration de celle-ci, dont on ne voit pas comment une réflexion « éthique », donc tournée vers la pratique, pourrait en faire l’économie. 34 G. Canguilhem, « Le cerveau et la pensée » (1980), reproduit en introduction au volume collectif  Georges Canguilhem philosophe historien des sciences, Paris, Albin Michel, 1993, p. 31.


36 Pierre Macherey Sous une forme concentrée – une extrême concentration est la marque distinctive du « style » de Canguilhem –, cette déclaration véhicule toutes sortes d’arrière-pensées. Lorsque Canguilhem assigne à la philosophie, sous la responsabilité d’un « Je » de surveillance35, une « tâche de négation qui n’est nullement négative », il exploite une conception originale de la négation qui renvoie à la fois à l’Essai en vue d’introduire en philosophie le concept de négative de Kant, à l’interprétation non hégélienne de la dialectique comme « hétérologie » de Rickert, et à la « philosophie du non » de Bachelard : penser, comme toutes les autres activités vitales, c’est se confronter à des valeurs négatives, surmonter des obstacles, donc, au sens fort du terme, « résister », ce dernier mot renvoyant à une gamme de comportements allant du fait de tenir bon dans l’adversité à celui de s’opposer, par la violence s’il n’y a pas moyen de faire autrement. Quand il évoque la nécessité dans laquelle le philosophe se trouve, à l’occasion, de « sortir de sa réserve », Canguilhem pense évidemment à l’engagement de Cavaillès dans le mouvement de la résistance contre le régime de Vichy et l’occupation allemande, un engagement qui lui a coûté la vie, et à son propre engagement dans ce mouvement dont Cavaillès lui avait, il n’a cessé de le rappeler, donné l’exemple, un exemple dont la portée est simultanément politique et philosophique, l’un n’allant pas sans l’autre. Par discrétion, par « réserve » – la réserve était un caractère distinctif de la personnalité de Canguilhem –, la conclusion de la conférence sur « Le cerveau et la pensée » ne fait pas expressément référence à cet engagement-là que Canguilhem avait lui-même pratiqué, en philosophe, en risquant sa peau sur les monts d’Auvergne : mais elle l’évoque en se servant d’une parabole empruntée à l’une des biographies de Spinoza composées après sa mort. Cette parabole, dont on ne sait pas si elle se rapporte ou non à des faits réels ou légendaires – il reste que Spinoza était, à son époque, quelqu’un à propos de qui on pouvait effectivement raconter ce genre d’histoire, que celle-ci soit vraie ou fausse –, concerne l’expédition solitaire qu’aurait menée Spinoza dans les rues de La Haye, brandissant une pancarte sur laquelle étaient écrits les mots : « Ultimi Barbarorum » ; la chose se serait passée en 1672, au moment de l’assassinat des frères de Witt, les Grands Pensionnaires du régime républicain instauré quelques années plus tôt, auquel, paraît-il – peut-être une autre légende –, il avait participé au titre de Conseiller, et dont, la chose est avérée il avait fait l’apologie dans son « Le Je n’est pas avec le monde en relation de survol, mais en relation de surveillance » (ibid., p. 29). 35


Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault 37

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus publié anonymement en 1670, un brûlot qui s’était immédiatement répandu dans toute l’Europe. Cette démarche, à la fois téméraire et symbolique, présente une signification philosophique dans la mesure où elle renvoie à l’existence d’un « Je » qui ne se contente pas d’adopter à l’égard de la réalité une position de survol, mais qui, à même ses réseaux, exerce une fonction de « surveillance ». Du même coup elle éclaire l’ensemble de la philosophie de Spinoza dont elle révèle pleinement la portée : En somme, cette philosophie qui réfute et refuse les fondements de la philosophie cartésienne, le cogito, la liberté en Dieu et en l’homme, cette philosophie sans sujet, plusieurs fois assimilée à un système matérialiste, cette philosophie vécue par le philosophe qui l’a pensée a imprimé à son auteur le ressort nécessaire pour s’insurger contre le fait accompli. D’un tel pouvoir de ressort, la philosophie doit rendre compte36. 

Vu sous angle, Spinoza est par excellence un philosophe « normatif  » qui, professant « l’épuisement du cogito », ouvre un champ d’intervention à un nouveau « Je », défini par son « pouvoir de ressort »37 qui le conduit à « s’insurger contre le fait accompli ». Ce détour par Spinoza, un penseur auquel Foucault ne semble guère s’être intéressé, ramène à lui par un biais inattendu. En effet, qu’est-ce que Spinoza pour Canguilhem ? C’est le philosophe qui détient et exerce un « pouvoir de ressort » qui le pousse à s’insurger, à résister. Il se trouve que, dans ses dernières productions théoriques et dans les interventions qu’il donnait à chaud sur des questions d’actualité, Foucault a donné une particulière importance à la notion de « résistance ». On peut même avancer que c’est cette notion qui a fait la transition entre sa réflexion sur la question du pouvoir et celle sur la question du sujet, passée au premier plan dans ses ultimes travaux. L’idée que développe Foucault à ce propos est que la résistance n’est pas un phénomène isolé, et comme tel accidentel, parce que sa nécessité est consubstantielle à l’exercice du pouvoir, dont elle constitue l’autre face : c’est la raison pour laquelle il n’y a pas de forme concevable de pouvoir qui ne comporte dans sa structure la tendance à lui résister ; en ce sens, à quelque niveau qu’il joue, le pouvoir, loin de constituer Ibid., p. 30. Cette expression « pouvoir de ressort » restitue au plus près la signification de la notion de conatus. 36 37


38 Pierre Macherey un système fermé, opaque et sans faille, laisse toujours place à la tendance à le contrer, et à la limite à le renverser. Or cette place est précisément celle par laquelle s’insinue le sujet issu de l’épuisement du cogito : un sujet qui ne revendique pas une identité substantielle indépendante, donc absolue, mais qui, en occupant les interstices de la réalité, en desserrant les « mailles du pouvoir », se rend par là même normatif, c’est-à-dire non plus détenteur d’une subjectivité dont il disposerait comme s’il s’agissait d’un fait accompli, mais auteur responsable de soi-même, créateur d’un subjectivité qui est devenue son œuvre propre. De cette orientation en direction des problèmes de la normativité et de la subjectivité, qui est devenue dominante dans les ultimes travaux de Foucault, Canguilhem avait fait à l’avance, en 1967, l’annonce dans la conclusion de son article « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du cogito ? ». Après avoir souligné l’intérêt du nouvel éclairage apporté par Les mots et les choses sur la formation de l’idée se « sciences humaines », il propose dans les dernières lignes de son texte l’hypothèse suivante : À moins que, ne s’agissant plus ici de la nature et des choses, mais de cette aventure créatrice de ses propres normes à laquelle le concept empiricométaphysique d’homme, sinon le mot même, pourrait cesser un jour de convenir, il n’y ait pas de différence à faire entre l’appel à la vigilance philosophique et la mise au jour – un jour cru plus encore que cruel – de ses conditions pratiques de possibilité38. 

Il fallait beaucoup de lucidité, et de vigilance philosophique, pour déceler, de manière prémonitoire, que, à l’arrière-plan des analyses développées par Foucault dans Les mots et les choses où la problématique du savoir semblait occuper une position prééminente, se trouvaient les préoccupations propres à une « philosophie pratique », préoccupations auxquelles, dans la suite de son œuvre, Foucault donnera effectivement de plus en plus d’importance. Pierre Macherey Université de Lille pierre.macherey@univ-lille3.fr

38

G. Canguilhem, « Mort de l’homme ou épuisement du Cogito ? », art. cit., p. 274.


N’être personne !

Variations sur les usages critiques de la fonction-sujet Guillaume le Blanc

La scène de l’interpellation

Il existe sans doute deux actes fondateurs dans la subjectivation, la nomi-

nation par laquelle un individu devient sujet et le retournement contre la nomination par laquelle un sujet s’efforce de devenir un autre sujet. Soit le Chant IX de l’Odyssée d’Homère. Premier acte, la demande du cyclope Polyphème : « Étrangers, votre nom ? D’où nous arrivez-vous sur les routes des ondes ? Faîtes-vous le commerce ?… N’êtes-vous que pirates qui, follement, courez et croisez sur les flots et, risquant votre vie, vous en allez piller les côtes étrangères ? » À quoi fait suite la réponse d’Ulysse  : «  Nous sommes Achéens. Nous revenions de Troie. Mais les vents de toute aire nous ont fait, hors de route, errer sur cet immense abîme de la mer… Guerriers d’Agamemnon, nous avons eu l’honneur de servir cet Atride… Nous voici maintenant chez toi, à tes genoux, espérant recevoir ton hospitalité et quelqu’un des présents qu’on se fait entre hôtes  ». L’interpellation d’Ulysse et de ses compagnons par le cyclope produit une scène d’identification par laquelle Ulysse rappelle qu’il est Grec (Achéen), qu’il est lié à Agamemnon  : le lignage Grec lui permet d’exiger l’hospitalité de Polyphème, placée sous l’hospice des Dieux. Le fait que la demande d’hospitalité est conditionnée par l’interpellation révèle que le sujet n’est pas seulement celui qui donne son nom mais celui qui ne peut se dérober à lui à l’intérieur d’une scène d’interpellation qui fonctionne bien comme une épreuve de pouvoir. Second acte, la seconde demande que le cyclope Polyphème adresse à Ulysse qui l’abreuve de vin tandis qu’il dévore un à un ses hommes pour connaître son nom : « Tu veux savoir mon nom le plus connu, Cyclope ? Je m’en vais te le dire  ; mais tu me donneras le présent annoncé. C’est Personne mon nom : oui mon père et ma mère et tous mes compagnons m’ont surnommé Personne ». En disant que son nom est Personne, Ulysse fait subir à la nomination une entreprise de dés-identification. Personne materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 39-48.


40 Guillaume le Blanc répond à l’enquête sur le lignage, mon père et ma mère ainsi que mes compagnons me nomment ainsi, mais cette nomination crée un vide, un blanc dans les normes propice à un soulèvement contre le Cyclope, « Qui me tue ? Personne ». Cette scène célébrissime de l’Odyssée obéit à un retournement total de la politique de l’interpellation. Si Ulysse et ses compagnons doivent se présenter comme Grecs dans un premier temps, Ulysse choisit apparemment dans un second temps de ne plus se présenter du tout. Il serait erroné de considérer que la première scène d’interpellation renvoie à un assujettissement par la désignation alors que la seconde scène d’interpellation renverrait à une subjectivation par la dé-désignation. En réalité, Ulysse et ses compagnons se nomment dans un premier temps dans l’espoir que l’hospitalité, comme pratique grecque soumise à la loi de Zeus, soit respectée : la subjectivation est bien présente dans l’assignation à un nom à laquelle conduit l’épreuve de pouvoir. Et dans la deuxième interpellation, le nom demeure présent  : Ulysse ne dit pas qu’il n’a pas de nom mais que son nom est Personne. Plus exactement, à la question, comment t’appelle-t-on  ? Ulysse répond que ses amis et ses parents l’appellent Odiss, apocope de son prénom Odissefs. Ulysse lui dit être appelé Odiss et Polyphème est trompé par la langue car il entend, sous l’effet du vin, Oudiss, répétant Oudiss (Personne) aux cyclopes qui le croient fou. Littéralement il affirme que «  Outis me kteinei », «  Personne me tue » qui peut aussi bien vouloir dire « personne ne me tue » car la langue grecque n’a pas besoin de la deuxième négation. Nous sommes littéralement dans une épreuve de langage. Le nom même de Polyphème le Cyclope renvoie à « Polyphemi », le bavard, mot qui comporte la racine du verbe phemi, manifester sa pensée par la parole. Ainsi donc Ulysse ne transgresse-t-il pas l’assignation au nom mais la tourne d’une autre manière en se servant de la proximité sonore entre Odiss et Oudiss, de telle sorte que la scène initiale de l’interpellation se retourne en une contreinterpellation, engendrée pourtant par l’interpellation. L’effet-sujet L’interpellation est donc toujours hantée par la possibilité d’un usage minoritaire, d’un contre-usage ou d’une contre-interpellation. Elle ne peut jamais fonctionner comme produisant par elle seule le sujet. Vouloir produire le sujet sur la seule base de l’effectuation de l’interpellation


N’être personne ! Variations sur les usages critiques de la fonction-sujet 41

présuppose que le sujet n’existe qu’en tant qu’assujetti. Ce qui engendre deux difficultés : 1) Comment comprendre la fonction-sujet si elle est produite par le seul assujettissement, en dehors de tout consentement ? Il faut bien, a minima, introduire un consentement à l’assujettissement pour expliquer comment du sujet peut être produit dans l’interpellation. Judith Butler le souligne à propos d’Althusser. Elle remarque dans La vie psychique du pouvoir que « Althusser ne fournit aucun indice sur la raison qui pousse l’individu à se retourner, à reconnaître la voix comme lui étant adressée et à accepter la subordination et la normalisation effectuées par cette voix »1. 2) Comment comprendre que la fonction-sujet puisse s’affirmer également dans des stratégies de dés-identification et cela dans le même temps où elle tend pourtant à être produite sur le seul registre de l’identification ? Il faut bien introduire, là encore a minima, une capacité de vociférer qui va contre la puissance majoritaire de la voix qui interpelle. Ces deux difficultés sont liées à la volonté de penser le sujet comme effet. Non seulement nous ne sommes jamais sujet dans l’absolu d’un commencement antérieur à toute relation de pouvoir mais nous sommes sujets à proportion de notre existence dans les relations qui nous produisent comme tel. Le sujet est toujours, pour reprendre l’expression de Pierre Macherey, « le sujet des normes », c’est-à-dire à la fois l’individu transformé par l’action de la norme qui opère sur lui et l’individu qui a à répondre de soi du fait de l’interpellation2. Ceci revient à dire que l’action d’un sujet se situe toujours dans le réel d’un ensemble de normes dont l’action consiste à produire un champ dans lequel se situent par avance les actions d’un sujet. Littéralement, le champ des normes contient les actions d’un sujet. Être contenu dans un ensemble de normes pour un sujet c’est être soustendu par un système de justifications, de représentations, un ensemble de savoirs et de pouvoirs qui valident par avance l’apparition d’un sujet. Mais c’est aussi être précipité à exister d’une certaine manière et se voir ainsi toujours reconduit à une fonction-sujet à l’intérieur d’un champ. Le sujet, effet des normes, ne peut alors s’effectuer qu’en effectuant les normes qui le produisent comme sujet. Il est en ce sens toujours déjà là : son futur est contenu dans le passé de ses apparitions mais plus encore dans le passé de l’effectuation des normes. J. Butler, The Psychic Life of Power. Theories in Subjection, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1997, trad. fr. par B. Mathieussent, La vie psychique du pouvoir, Paris, Léo Scheer, 2002, p. 27. 2 P. Macherey, Le sujet des normes, Paris, Éditions Amsterdam, 2014. 1


42 Guillaume le Blanc Là prennent sens les différentes critiques de la libération chez Foucault : nous sommes toujours déjà produits dans un ensemble disciplinaire qui rend illusoire toute idée de libération : à propos du dispositif de sexualité qui se met en place au XVIIIe siècle, Foucault peut conclure La volonté de savoir par ces termes : « Ironie de ce dispositif  : il nous fait croire qu’il y va de notre “libération” »3. Foucault récuse ces pointillés libératoires pour souligner que le sujet ne peut jamais se retrouver au terme d’une odyssée dont il lui reviendrait d’assumer le parcours. C’est pourquoi Foucault peut considérer que la subjectivité est fondamentalement piégée. Elle voudrait se libérer de ce qui la constitue pourtant comme sujet. Elle est assignée à la loi de reproduction du sujet dont elle voudrait pourtant se défaire. Le sujet est ainsi produit au plus loin de lui-même dans un complexe de normes qui sont à la fois des ensembles cohérents de pouvoirs locaux et des énoncés généraux capables d’acquérir une portée individuelle. Étranger à soi Est-ce à dire que le sujet n’existe que comme effet  ? Dans La volonté de savoir, Foucault cherche à reconsidérer l’analytique du pouvoir par laquelle le sujet de la sexualité est produit comme sujet et il récuse deux attitudes pratiques qu’il renvoie dos à dos. Pas plus qu’il n’y a de « promesse de libération » de la sexualité à l’égard d’un pouvoir répressif il n’existe d’affirmation du caractère toujours déjà piégé d’une sexualité entièrement fouillée, investie et produite par le pouvoir. Le sujet de la sexualité n’est ni en position de libération, ni en position d’aliénation, il nage pour ainsi dire en eaux trouble, évoluant dans un entre-deux, qui fait qu’il n’est jamais à proprement parler chez soi pas plus qu’il n’est hors-de-soi. Être sujet, c’est se découvrir d’aucun lieu, ni intérieur, ni extérieur  : c’est à la fois être plié par la norme et ne jamais pouvoir la rejoindre. Aucune adhésion à soi ne peut venir d’une quelconque jonction à la norme. D’un côté, il faut tenir que le pouvoir n’opère pas sur le sujet comme s’il s’agissait d’une prise extérieure. D’un autre côté, il faut également tenir (et cela est somme toute plus malaisé) que le pouvoir n’est pas pour autant constitutif du sujet. À propos du désir, Foucault récuse les deux options, que «  le pouvoir n’a sur le désir qu’une prise M. Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité 1. La volonté de savoir, Paris, Gallimard, 1976, p. 211. 3


N’être personne ! Variations sur les usages critiques de la fonction-sujet 43

extérieure », qu’« il est constitutif du désir lui-même »4. Nous sommes finalement ramenés à deux constats. 1) Le premier est que nous ne nous rapportons à nous-mêmes que de l’intérieur de catégories et de mécanismes dont nous avons une vue parcellaire, superficielle, de sorte que tout est irréductiblement falsifié. Nous ne pouvons jamais coïncider avec nous-mêmes car nous sommes toujours précédés par les logiques des dispositifs qui nous produisent comme sujets et auxquels nous n’avons accès en retour que par les noms les plus superficiels qui se présentent faussement comme sans histoire : désir, loi, répression, sujet. L’archéologie est alors bien une tentative pour montrer que notre naissance nous précède et nous conditionne tout à la fois et que nous ne pouvons jamais totalement nous en rendre contemporains. Le « je » ne commence jamais avec lui-même. Traitant à son tour de cette question des dates de naissance du sujet, Didier Eribon peut montrer que la formation du sujet est conditionnée par l’histoire des structures sociales. Il cite le premier volume de l’autobiographie de l’écrivaine algérienne Assia Djebar, L’amour, la fantasia, paru en 1985 : « Une constatation s’impose : je suis née en 1842 » lorsque les troupes françaises ont détruit sa «  tribu d’origine  »5. Nous sommes interpelés bien avant que nous puissions être en mesure de répondre. Seulement la nature de cette phrase et, partant, de la littérature comme opération, se comprend depuis une certaine entreprise de reconquête : le sujet est façonné par un verdict qui le précède mais il peut le dévoiler par une pratique libératrice. Libératrice non pas en ce sens moral que le sujet s’en affranchirait mais au sens éthique (Spinoza) que la compréhension de la nécessité historique autorise une action sur soi du sujet qui ouvre, par l’écriture, un espace réfléchi de liberté. Seulement, si l’archéologie est une écriture de soi en contexte historique, l’archéologue avoue d’emblée son impuissance à proposer la formulation d’un quelconque espace réfléchi de liberté qui viendrait resituer le sujet dans une certaine proximité à soi. 2) Il faut alors amplifier l’idée de Foucault qu’être sujet c’est à la fois être soi et ne jamais être soi, être produit par les normes sans jamais pouvoir y assentir pleinement. Les lectures, inspirées de Surveiller et punir et de La volonté de savoir qui ont insisté sur la production mécanique du sujet par l’assujettissement disciplinaire aux normes, n’ont tout simplement pas saisi en quoi le sujet se découvre séparé de lui-même par l’assujettissement 4 5

Ibid., p. 109. D. Eribon, Principes d’une pensée critique, Paris, Fayard, 2016, p. 33.


44 Guillaume le Blanc dont il est l’objet. Mais les lectures inspirées de L’histoire de la sexualité qui ont insisté sur la puissance de subjectivation dans la relation aux normes, n’ont pas saisi non plus jusqu’à quel point le sujet qui se subjectivise reste étranger à soi. Être sujet, c’est au sens fort se saisir comme étranger, jamais entièrement donné, jamais entièrement repris non plus, à distance de soi. Pas plus que le sujet ne s’éprouve dans l’assujettissement aliénant il ne se retrouve dans la subjectivation véridique. Le sujet n’est jamais soi-même. N’être personne ! Dans cette perspective critique sur le sujet, n’être personne pourrait bien représenter l’un des enjeux de la philosophie de Foucault. Parvenir à se dés-identifier, c’est au fond conquérir la possibilité de n’être plus reconnaissable. On sait que Foucault a constamment cherché à n’être personne. Ne revendique-t-il pas au début de L’archéologie du savoir que « plus d’un comme moi, sans doute, écrivent pour n’avoir plus de visage »6. Il faut alors remarquer que Foucault construit bien une contre-interpellation. À celui qui l’interpelle pour lui demander de rester le même, « vous n’êtes pas sûr de ce que vous dîtes ? Vous allez de nouveau changer »7, Foucault répond par une contre-interpellation, « Et quoi, vous imaginez-vous que je prendrais à écrire tant de peine et tant de plaisir […] si je ne préparais le labyrinthe où m’aventurer »8. L’effet de cette contre-interpellation est bien quelque chose comme l’effacement du visage, moins la production d’une invisibilité totale que la production d’un masque avec laquelle Foucault a d’emblée envisagé son rapport à la subjectivité lorsque, s’en prenant à la psychologie, il proposait depuis l’interpellation qui lui était faite, «  si vous vous trouviez dans une classe de philosophie, qu’enseigneriez-vous de la psychologie ? », un contre-usage : « La première précaution que je prendrais […], ce serait de m’acheter le masque le plus perfectionné que je puisse imaginer et le plus loin de ma physionomie normale, de manière que mes élèves ne me reconnaissent pas. Je tâcherais, comme Antony Perkins dans « Psychose », de prendre une tout autre voix, de manière que rien de l’unité de mon discours ne puisse apparaître »9. Le masque n’est M. Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir, Paris, Gallimard, 1969, p. 28. Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 M. Foucault, «  Philosophie et psychologie  » (1965), dans Dits et écrits, Paris, Gallimard, 1994, t. I, p. 448. 6 7


N’être personne ! Variations sur les usages critiques de la fonction-sujet 45

pas là pour masquer le visage, comme si un visage se cachait derrière le masque qu’il faudrait tôt ou tard dévoiler. Le masque défait le visage et refait visage en étant, au sens fort, le visage d’un autre. Être le visage d’un autre c’est justement n’être personne, une fonction-sujet désarrimée de tout ancrage. C’est bien, en un certain sens, ce que Foucault attendait de la littérature, produire le geste de la dispersion en effaçant toute référence à un auteur et même à un narrateur pour accomplir le foisonnement anonyme des énoncés et des fictions. L’affirmation de la disparition comme ethos de l’écriture contemporaine : « « Qu’importe qui parle ? » En cette indifférence s’affirme le principe éthique le plus fondamental peut-être de l’écriture contemporaine. L’effacement de l’auteur est devenu pour la critique un thème désormais quotidien »10. Et ceci nous renvoie aux propos des Mots et les choses de 1966 : à la question nietzschéenne de savoir qui parle, répond la proposition de Mallarmé selon laquelle personne ne parle si ce n’est le mot lui-même11. Dès lors la question se pose de savoir dans quelle mesure l’éthos de l’effacement de soi présent dans l’écriture contemporaine peut devenir une manière d’être. Si Foucault a abandonné l’exploration de la littérature c’est peut-être parce qu’elle n’apportait pas de réponse satisfaisante à cette question. N’être personne peut-il être une manière de vivre et non plus seulement une expérimentation artistique ? La voie cynique À cette question Foucault répond de plusieurs manières. L’une de ses réponses est la voie cynique par laquelle Foucault redécouvre la possibilité de quelque chose comme un discours sur la philosophie. Il y a cette histoire de la subjectivation qui culmine dans la parrêsia, le franc-parler, en tant que l’obligation de dire le vrai à propos de soi-même s’articule à une obligation de vivre le vrai. L’analyse de la vraie vie comme vie philosophique dans le Cours au Collège de France de 1984, Le courage de la vérité, est infléchie avec les Cyniques grecs en possibilité de la vie autre. Dans la Leçon du 21 mars 1984, Foucault entend problématiser le « scandale cynique » comme 10

p. 789. 11

M. Foucault, « Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur ? » (1969), dans Dits et écrits, op. cit., t. I, M. Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard, 1966, p. 316-317.


46 Guillaume le Blanc passage à la limite de la vraie vie en vie autre. « Tel est le paradoxe de la vie cynique : elle est l’accomplissement de la vraie vie, mais comme exigence d’une vie radicalement autre »12. Le thème de la vraie vie obéit à 4 motifs chez Foucault que sont la vie non dissimulée, la vie indépendante, la vie droite et la vie souveraine. Ces figurations de la vraie vie sont poussées à la limite par les Cyniques. La vie non dissimulée devient une vie littéralement nue, la vie indépendante devient une vie mendiante, la vie droite une vie animale et la vie souveraine une vie militante. Le militantisme que Foucault situe en face du thème du philosophe-roi, de celui qui peut gouverner les autres car il se gouverne soi-même, ouvre à la possibilité d’une éthique de la vie militante : « Il y a un certain nombre de notions, d’images, de termes, nous dit Foucault, qui sont employés par les cyniques et me paraissent recouvrir assez bien ce qui va devenir, par la suite, dans l’éthique occidentale, le thème même de la vie militante »13. Foucault propose ici un raccourci historique réellement étonnant et totalement inhabituel chez lui, entre le bios philosophikos de la vie cynique grecque et le militantisme moderne. Il entend penser, avec les Cyniques, une « militance en milieu ouvert »14, adressée à tout le monde, sans spécification de quelque sorte : « une militance qui s’adresse absolument à tout le monde, une militance qui n’exige justement pas une éducation […], mais qui a recours à un certain nombre de moyens violents et drastiques, non pas tellement pour former les gens et leur apprendre que pour les secouer et les convertir »15. Le renversement est complet par rapport au thème de la souveraineté. Là où la vraie vie de la souveraineté culmine dans la figure du sage qui est au fond celui qui se gouverne à la perfection, celui qui n’a besoin que de soi pour exister comme modèle pour les autres et est ainsi en mesure, paradoxalement de les gouverner, la vraie vie de la militance culmine dans la figure de l’enragé qui mord les autres et qui affirme vouloir changer le monde plutôt que se changer. On reconnaîtrait là sans aucun doute, et Foucault y insiste, l’archéologie de la figure des « rois de misère » qui parcourent l’histoire des insurrections et des pratiques de défiance vis-àvis des vrais rois. Nuit Debout n’en offre-t-il pas actuellement une version renouvelée ? Ce militantisme du souverain caché, du souverain obscur, du M. Foucault, Le courage de la vérité. Cours au Collège de France. 1984, Paris, SeuilGallimard, 2009, p. 248. 13 Ibid., p. 261. 14 Ibid., p. 262. 15 Ibid. 12


N’être personne ! Variations sur les usages critiques de la fonction-sujet 47

« roi de dérision »16, Foucault le conçoit comme l’accomplissement de la vie autre, en tant que la vie autre ne peut que combattre pour un monde autre. Le cynique c’est au fond celui qui fait surgir dans sa vie la vie autre pour un autre monde : « Une vie autre pour un monde autre »17 résume Foucault. Dans ce contexte, n’être personne a changé de signification. N’être personne ne renvoie plus tant à une pratique de dissimulation de soi engendrée par le jeu des fictions, de la littérature, qu’à une pratique de véridicité de soi engendrée par la philosophie. Car il s’agit bien toujours de devenir autre, donc de conquérir la possibilité de n’être personne d’identifiable mais la production de la vie autre est désormais l’effet extrême de la production de la vraie vie qui est la philosophie. La littérature imprégnait en sa pratique de l’anonymat et de la dispersion du langage un impératif de disparition et de désertion. La philosophie imprime au contraire dans l’affirmation d’une vie selon la vérité la nécessité de l’impératif du combat que Foucault traduit en éthique de la vie militante. Être militant, c’est bien devenir autre, non pour conquérir le choix d’une «  vie différente  » mais pour affirmer «  la pratique d’une combativité à l’horizon de laquelle il y a un monde autre »18. Conclusion Il serait possible pour conclure de s’interroger sur l’analyse que Foucault avait entreprise au point de départ de Surveiller et punir de la fonction-sujet. Dans la leçon du 21 novembre 1973 du Cours au Collège de France sur Le pouvoir psychiatrique, Foucault distingue le pouvoir de la souveraineté du pouvoir disciplinaire en établissant dans le rapport de souveraineté une séparation entre la fonction-sujet et la singularité somatique d’un individu. Foucault veut établir le couplage de la fonctionsujet et de la singularité somatique produit par le pouvoir disciplinaire. Celui-ci fonctionne comme une prise du corps, il fait du corps individuel le sujet de la discipline. Le pouvoir disciplinaire épingle la fonction-sujet à un corps déterminé et produit ainsi la longue histoire ininterrompue de la production du sujet selon l’assujettissement aux normes de la discipline Ibid. Ibid., p. 264. 18 Ibid. 16 17


48 Guillaume le Blanc mais aussi selon la possibilité d’une contre-interpellation, de la production de subjectivations à l’intérieur des foyers d’assujettissement. Revenant au pouvoir de la souveraineté, Foucault souligne au contraire que « l’épinglage de la fonction-sujet à un corps déterminé ne peut se faire que d’une façon discontinue, incidente »19. Dans ce contexte, seuls quelques moments de gloire du pouvoir, les cérémonies au sens large, auscultent la singularité somatique relativement à la fonction-sujet attendue comme effet de pouvoir. La leçon de Foucault semble simple : l’histoire de nos sociétés est bien une histoire des raffinements de la production du pouvoir dans laquelle nous sommes toujours plus soumis à exister de manière continue comme sujets du pouvoir, c’est-à-dire comme sujets produits par le pouvoir, au double sens où nous sommes assujettis à lui et où nous sommes mis en demeure de nous subjectiviser à l’intérieur des relations de pouvoir. Le caractère lacunaire de la production de la fonction-sujet dans le pouvoir de souveraineté apparaît dès lors comme une imperfection relative du pouvoir selon laquelle il demeure possible de vivre de longues plages de temps soustraites au pouvoir. C’est sur ce point que je souhaiterais m’interroger, pour conclure ces variations sur la fonction-sujet : ne sommes-nous pas revenus à un moment de l’histoire du pouvoir dans laquelle la fonctionsujet, pour les vies les plus précaires, n’est épinglée que par moments sur les singularités somatiques. Le risque est bien alors, pour les plus précaires, de n’être plus personne, plus personne d’identifiable par le pouvoir. Vie précaire, c’est-à-dire vie dans laquelle la fonction-sujet ne peut être ajustée en permanence à l’individualité somatique que représente une vie, laquelle court ainsi le risque d’être une vie injustifiée, une vie non viable au sens que Butler par exemple mais d’autres donnent à ce terme, le contraire d’une vie nue, une vie que littéralement le pouvoir laisse tomber. Guillaume le Blanc Université Paris Diderot guillaume.le-blanc@orange.fr

M. Foucault, Le pouvoir psychiatrique. Cours au Collège de France. 1973-1974, Paris, Seuil-Gallimard, 2003, p. 46. 19


Le gouvernement du désir

Foucault à l’épreuve du libéralisme Miguel de Beistegui

Introduction

Il y a dans le titre de mon article trois termes, trois concepts que je vais

devoir tâcher de justifier, individuellement tout d’abord, dans leur rapport les uns avec les autres ensuite, et dans le cadre, enfin, de la question de la subjectivation chez Foucault. On a évidemment tendance à penser – c’est un peu la faute à Foucault lui-même, et à la petite polémique qui l’opposa à Deleuze sur le sujet – que Foucault ne s’intéresse pas véritablement au désir, mais plutôt au plaisir, que son problème n’est pas de savoir comment libérer le désir, mais comment organiser le, ou plutôt les plaisirs. On n’a pas complètement tort, et il serait vain de vouloir écarter tout à fait ce déplacement de la question, du désir au plaisir. Mais il s’agit précisément d’un déplacement, qui suppose que l’on ait développé toute une généalogie et une critique du sujet du désir au préalable (et je rappelle que Foucault pense précisément la généalogie comme processus de « désassujettissement »). Or – c’est ma première thèse – c’est précisément à cette tâche que Foucault s’attelle dans les années 1970, ou, pour être plus précis, dans une période relativement courte qui s’étend du Cours au Collège de France de 1975 sur les Anormaux jusqu’à celui de 1981, Subjectivité et vérité, en passant par le premier tome d’Histoire de la sexualité et du Cours au Collège de France de 1979 sur la naissance de la biopolitique. Mais il ne s’y attelle pas de façon directe ou frontale, de sorte que, hormis le Cours au Collège de France de 1981, qui lui consacre la fin de sa dernière leçon1, cette question du désir peut passer relativement inaperçue. Un complément de cette première thèse est donc que le désir est, pour la période évoquée, une sorte de fil rouge, voire d’impensé, que je voudrais tâcher de faire M. Foucault, Subjectivité et vérité. Cours au Collège de France. 1980-1981, Paris, SeuilGallimard, 2014. 1

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 49-62.


50 Miguel de Beistegui remonter à la surface, en suggérant aussi diverses façons de le prolonger. Foucault nous a laissé, me semble-t-il, un début de chantier, et des pistes. À nous de l’étendre, et de les poursuivre. La période que je viens tout juste d’évoquer, à savoir celle qui fait suite à la parution de Surveiller et punir, est aussi – faut-il y voir un simple hasard, ou au contraire l’indice d’un lien profond ? – celle où Foucault se met à penser le pouvoir différemment : non plus comme ensemble de techniques disciplinaires, mais comme « gouvernementalité », soit comme l’art de «  faire faire  » ou de «  conduire les conduites  », ou bien encore la « technique générale de gouvernement des hommes », technique qui peut comprendre la discipline, mais qui est plus large qu’elle. Or – c’est ma seconde thèse – le désir est précisément ce mécanisme par lequel cet art ou cette nouvelle technique de gouvernement va s’exercer. Le désir – dont je vais tâcher de montrer qu’il n’est pas seulement sexuel, ou ne se déploie pas dans le seul champ de la sexualité – est un instrument de gouvernement, et donc une dimension fondamentale de l’exercice du pouvoir. Il ne s’agit pas de dire – je vais y revenir – que le sujet du désir naît avec la gouvernementalité, et sur fond de déploiement de ce que Foucault appelle le biopouvoir. Comme on le sait désormais, Foucault fait remonter les processus de subjectivation par le désir à l’antiquité tardive et au christianisme naissant. Il s’agit plutôt de dire que le statut du désir est comme transformé par son intégration dans un nouveau dispositif de pouvoir, le biopouvoir, dont il devient un des ressorts principaux, voir le ressort principal : il n’est plus, comme c’était le cas durant des siècles, ce qu’il faut dominer, contrôler ou maîtriser, afin de rendre possible la vie vraie et sensée, mais ce qu’il faut comprendre et connaître afin d’en dégager la puissance d’action ; il n’est plus l’objet de notre gouvernement, mais ce avec quoi et par quoi il nous faut désormais apprendre à (nous) gouverner. Et cette insertion de ce que Foucault appelle «  l’homme du désir » dans ce nouveau type de pouvoir passe, on va le voir, par la naturalisation et la normalisation du désir, ainsi que par l’émergence d’au moins trois discours, et la formation ou la transformation des institutions qui leur correspondent, à savoir l’économie politique, la psychopathologie, et ce que j’appellerais le discours de la reconnaissance, et qui recouvre des éléments de philosophie, de psychologie, et de droit.


Le gouvernement du désir 51

Aux sources du désir Afin de situer mon propos, je commencerai par citer une phrase de Foucault, qui peut apparaître comme une provocation. C’est une remarque qu’il fait en 1983, dans le cadre d’un débat au département d’histoire de l’Université de Berkeley. La civilisation occidentale, dit-il, est une civilisation du désir, et même vraisemblablement la civilisation du désir.2 Que faut-il entendre par là ? Que ce qu’on appelle le désir, loin de relever d’une prétendue nature humaine, ou d’un objet qui serait toujours-déjà là, et qu’il suffirait de découvrir au moyen d’outils conceptuels adéquats, de sorte que toutes les cultures seraient en fin de compte des cultures du désir, est une construction bien occidentale, ou en tous les cas correspond en occident à une construction bien particulière. Or ce que je voudrais suggérer, c’est que, en tous les cas depuis le Cours au Collège de France de 1975 sur les anormaux, et de Sao Paulo sur la sexualité, Foucault se met en tête de comprendre pourquoi et comment le désir s’est constitué en problème pour l’occident, et comment il a donné naissance à un ensemble de techniques et de gouvernement de soi, ou bien encore à ce que, dans le second tome d’Histoire de la sexualité, il appelle justement « l’homme de désir »3. Et s’il est vrai que son point de départ fut bien « l’analytique » ou le « dispositif  » de la sexualité tels qu’ils émergèrent au dix-neuvième siècle, sur fond de déploiement du biopouvoir, il s’aperçut vite que le problème était bien plus large, et plus profondément ancré dans l’histoire occidentale. À tel point qu’il n’hésite pas, dans la dernière leçon du cours de 1981, à parler du désir comme d’un « schéma transcendantal historique » à partir duquel deviendraient pensables non seulement la problématique de la chair et de la concupiscence, mais l’analytique de la sexualité ellemême4. Le désir, dont Foucault nous dit qu’il fait avec le stoïcisme, à l’instar de Marc Aurèle, puis avec la chrétienté naissante, l’enjeu d’un contrôle de soi par soi, d’une maîtrise de soi, « est bien effectivement ce que j’appellerais le transcendantal historique à partir duquel on peut et on doit penser l’histoire de la sexualité »5. C’est par le jeu de cette maîtrise du M. Foucault, Qu’est-ce que la critique ? suivi de La culture de soi, éd. H.-P. Fruchaud et D. Lorenzini, Paris, Vrin, 2015, p. 145. Voir aussi M. Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité 1. La volonté de savoir, Paris, Gallimard, 1976, p. 102-103. 3 M. Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité 2. L’usage des plaisirs, Paris, Gallimard, 1984, p. 11. 4 M. Foucault, Subjectivité et vérité, op. cit., p. 293. 5 Ibid. 2


52 Miguel de Beistegui désir (epithumia), au travers duquel je me connais et me reconnais comme sujet, que le sexe devient une « dimension permanente de la subjectivité »6, soit ce prisme au travers duquel notre être tout entier – notre corps, notre âme, notre histoire – prend sens. C’est cette articulation désir (epithumia)sexe, plutôt qu’usage des plaisirs (aphrodisia)-sexe, qu’il convient de penser au premier chef. Mais ma proposition, ou mon hypothèse, est ailleurs : en reconnaissant le désir comme un « schéma transcendantal historique », Foucault ne nous invite-t-il pas à envisager d’autres expressions du désir, qui seraient elles aussi constitutives de notre subjectivité  ? Ne semble-t-il pas au moins suggérer que le désir puisse s’incarner dans d’autres rationalités et dans un corps autre que le corps sexuel ? Partant de là, le problème du désir ne serait-il pas une façon de mener à bien cette ontologie de nous-mêmes et de notre présent dont Foucault nous dit qu’elle est la tâche même de la philosophie ? Mon hypothèse est donc que le désir est bien devenu « une dimension permanente de notre subjectivité », selon des modalités contingentes qu’il convient de mettre en évidence. Avant d’évoquer quelques pistes – trois, exactement – je voudrais, en passant, vous rappeler ce très bref et très curieux passage inséré à la fin de la première partie de Les mots et les choses, et intitulé « Le désir et la représentation ». Dans ces quelques pages qui, toutes proportions gardées, ne sont pas sans rappeler l’idée du désir comme schéma transcendantal historique, Foucault suggère que, de même que la ressemblance définit l’épistémè de la renaissance, et la représentation celle de l’âge classique, le désir annoncerait l’âge moderne, et l’émergence de rationalités telles que l’économie politique, la philologie ou la biologie. Entre les deux époques planerait la figure de Sade, qui signifie à la fois le déchaînement du désir et la volonté de tout représenter, ou « l’obscure violence répétée du désir qui vient battre les limites de la représentation »7. Trois régimes de désir J’en viens aux pistes en question, ou à ce que j’appellerais nos régimes de désir. Par-là, j’entends les façons dont « l’homme du désir » est défini ou encadré, les axes sur lesquels s’enroule son désir et à partir desquels il est conduit et se conduit. Tous trois remontent à une période qui s’étend 6 7

Ibid., p. 288. M. Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard, 1966, p. 223.


Le gouvernement du désir 53

grosso modo de la fin du XVIIIe au milieu du XIXe siècle. Et tous trois s’inscrivent dans le cadre de l’émergence du biopouvoir. Cela signifie au moins deux choses. Tout d’abord, le problème du désir se pose désormais aux côtés de celui de la vie en tant qu’ensemble de processus naturels sur lequel la puissance publique est en mesure d’agir, et en vue duquel elle agit. Le désir est ainsi naturalisé, et posé comme vital. Partant de là, le gouvernement du désir ne signifie plus ce désir qu’il s’agit de dominer ou maîtriser au nom de la vie, mais ce désir naturel, irréductible, avec lequel, au moyen duquel, et même en vue duquel il va falloir gouverner. C’est le sens même du gouvernement qui change : bien gouverner, ce n’est pas gouverner contre, mais avec les désirs. Ensuite, et c’est la conséquence de la première transformation, le désir fait l’objet d’une normalisation ou, pour être plus exact, et si vous me passez l’expression barbare, d’une normativisation. Que faut-il entendre par là ? Que le désir ne va plus se définir par rapport à la loi, à l’interdit, à la transgression, et au châtiment, mais par rapport à la norme ; que le pouvoir – que ce soit le mien, ou celui des institutions correspondant aux différents régimes en question – n’est plus de type « souverain », mais de type « normatif  ». Si la loi peut faire l’objet d’une transgression, la norme, elle, fait l’objet de déviations, et donc de techniques de correction d’un ordre tout différent : la norme – le pouvoir normatif – ne vise pas à exclure ou réprimer, mais à corriger, redresser, réintégrer, réhabiliter, bref, normaliser. Autant dire, donc, que les rationalités qui prennent en charge le désir produisent des normes, qui à leur tour produisent des sujets. Je n’ai pas le temps d’insister sur ce point, mais il est essentiel8. Enfin, et ce sera ma conclusion, tous trois nous Je me permets, sur ce point, de renvoyer au travail de P. Macherey de 1988, « Pour une histoire naturelle des normes », dans De Canguilhem à Foucault : la force des normes, Paris, La Fabrique Éditions, 2009, p. 71-97. Dans cet article, Macherey souligne aussi (et essentiellement) le fait que, si la norme n’est pas extérieure au champ auquel elle s’applique, ce n’est pas seulement parce qu’elle le produit. C’est aussi parce qu’elle s’y produit elle-même en le produisant. Pour le dire autrement, la norme n’existe pas indépendamment de son action ; elle est immanente à ce qu’elle produit, et au processus à travers duquel elle le produit. Ce qui « norme » la norme, dit-il, c’est son propre action (P. Macherey, De Canguilhem à Foucault, op. cit., p. 90). Par conséquent, il n’y a pas de « ruse » de la norme, ou bien sa ruse consiste dans le fait qu’elle est entièrement manipulée par sa propre action. Encore plus significatif et détaillé est le plus récent travail de Macherey, Le sujet des normes, Paris, Éditions Amsterdam, 2014, notamment les chapitres 1 et 3. Sur ce sujet, voir aussi F. Ewald, « Norms, Discipline, and the Law », dans R. Post (dir.), Law and the Order of Culture, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1991, et S. Legrand, Foucault et les normes, Paris, PUF, 2007. 8


54 Miguel de Beistegui permettent de jeter un éclairage nouveau sur l’origine et le sens profond du libéralisme, précisément en tant que mode de subjectivation ou technique de gouvernement. Toutes les pistes que je vais évoquer, à des niveaux et selon des modalités différentes, trouvent leur point d’ancrage dans le texte de Foucault. Et toutes voient le désir s’inscrire aux côtés d’un ensemble de concepts, grâce auxquels il parvient à fonctionner. Ainsi, le désirintérêt ou -utilité de l’économie politique et du marché diffère du désirinstinct ou -pulsion de la psychiatrie et de la psychopathologie, et du désir-reconnaissance de la philosophie, de la psychologie et du droit. Ma thèse, ici, est que le désir, précisément en tant que schéma transcendantal historique, ne fonctionne qu’en lien avec des ensembles ou familles de concepts, appartenant à des rationalités distinctes, qui peuvent néanmoins se recouper et s’associer de différentes façons. Mais il ne fonctionne aussi que grâce à un certain nombre d’institutions et un ensemble de techniques éducatives et correctives, de ce qu’on pourrait appeler une pédagogie et une orthopédie du désir, sur lesquelles je vais revenir. 1) La première articulation que je voudrais souligner est celle qui, à l’aube de la gouvernementalité libérale, reconnaît le désir comme « intérêt » ou « utilité » et, de ce fait, comme le ressort fondamental de toute action. Si on peut faire remonter les sources de cette articulation à Locke, Hobbes et Hume, c’est aux premiers économistes politiques – Français et Britanniques – que l’on doit l’idée d’un gouvernement par le désir. Voici la façon nouvelle dont se pose le problème : contrairement à ce qui se passe dans le cadre de la problématique théologique et morale de la chair, de la concupiscence, et du péché, qui fait du désir l’objet d’un gouvernement par la volonté ou la souveraineté individuelles, soit l’objet d’une maîtrise et d’une ascèse, le désir s’impose désormais comme une dimension irréductible et surtout vitale de la nature humaine, soit comme ce par quoi nous sommes naturellement gouvernés, et, partant de là, comme ce contre quoi il serait vain, voire insensé de gouverner et de se gouverner. C’est en substance ce que dit Foucault dans un long passage de Sécurité, territoire, population9, dont on pourrait dire qu’il sert de matrice à la longue analyse que Foucault fera du libéralisme, puis du néolibéralisme, l’année suivante, dans Naissance de la biopolitique. M. Foucault, Sécurité, territoire, population. Cours au Collège de France. 1977-1978, Paris, Seuil-Gallimard, 2004, p. 72-75. 9


Le gouvernement du désir 55

Que faut-il retenir de ce passage ? Que, s’agissant du gouvernement économique, qui a pour objet la population, le désir devient un outil ou un mécanisme indispensable – à la condition, bien évidemment, que ce désir trouve son expression dans le marché, qui n’est plus, comme le souligne Foucault, un espace de juridiction, emprunte de la volonté du souverain, mais un espace de véridiction et de normalisation, dont il revient à l’économie politique de faire le sens, et à la puissance publique d’assurer le bon fonctionnement. On ne se gouverne donc plus contre ou malgré ses désirs ou intérêts, mais par eux et pour eux, et le marché devient l’espace – lui aussi naturel – de leur libre jeu. Le désir n’est plus cette force qu’il faut dompter, voire étouffer, mais cette tendance qu’il faut au contraire comprendre afin d’en extraire tout le potentiel. On assiste ainsi au basculement d’une stratégie de désir dans une autre : d’une stratégie de domination et de contrôle dans une stratégie d’optimisation et de maximisation, c’est-à-dire de gestion. Et d’un régime ascétique, on passe à un régime économique. Il n’est plus question de savoir ce qu’il est légitime (ou non) de désirer, mais ce qui est susceptible de générer la plus grande satisfaction individuelle. Mais, Foucault a raison de le souligner, ce basculement n’a pu s’effectuer, et ne peut s’effectuer, sans notre participation, notre puissance d’agir, notre assentiment et notre liberté. L’espace normatif du marché, loin d’exclure ou nier la liberté, l’exige, et même la produit, au sens très précis de la liberté d’échange, de production et de consommation, de circulation des capitaux et des biens. Dans le même temps, cependant, le « libre » marché – c’est-à-dire libre de la tutelle du pouvoir souverain – crée des habitudes et des attentes, nourrit des désirs, façonne des conduites et des comportements. De façon plus significative encore, il définit un nouvel espace d’expérience et un nouveau type de subjectivité par l’invention de normes telles que l’intérêt, l’utilité, la concurrence, l’efficacité, l’adaptabilité et la compétitivité, le capital. Il aura fallu, afin de transformer le sujet occidental (et désormais planétaire) en consommateur et producteur, et plus récemment, en autoentrepreneur, c’est-à-dire en entrepreneur de sa propre existence et de son « capital humain », une dépense considérable de temps, d’effort, d’énergie, de ressources et d’inventivité. 2) La seconde articulation, la plus évidente peut-être, et dont il a déjà été question, est celle qui inscrit le désir dans l’analytique de la sexualité, et dans ses concepts d’instinct et/ou de pulsion sexuels. Les thèses de Foucault sur le sujet sont bien connues. Aussi n’y reviendrai-je pas. Mais


56 Miguel de Beistegui il est une dimension de cette articulation qu’il relève, sans à mon sens la fouiller suffisamment, et sur laquelle je voudrais insister. Il s’agit de ceci. À y regarder de près, on s’aperçoit qu’il y a un lien étroit entre la rationalité économique du libéralisme naissant et l’émergence de la science de la sexualité. J’irai même jusqu’à dire que c’est sur fond de cette rationalité, ou plutôt de ses limites ou de ses marges, que se déploie ce discours. Il est en effet frappant de voir qu’une très grande partie des concepts fondamentaux de la psychiatrie – dont je rappellerais, qu’issue de l’aliénisme de la fin du dix-huitième siècle, elle naît dans les années 1820-1830, et accouche très vite de cette branche particulière qu’est la psychopathologie sexuelle10 – se forment en réponse à des cas juridiques qui défient précisément la rationalité pénale libérale, ancrée dans les concepts (au départ économiques) d’intérêt, d’utilité et de motif, mais aussi, du côté de la puissance punitive, dans ceux de mesure, de proportion et d’efficacité. C’est précisément dans la mesure où ces cas (Cornier, Papavoine, Léger, Bertrand, etc.) mettent les tribunaux dans l’embarras – en cela que les actes « monstrueux » ou « barbares » dont il est question ne semblent relever ni d’une logique du profit, de l’intérêt ou du motif, ni de son contraire, à savoir de la folie pure et simple, ou de ce qu’on appelait la démence, mais d’un type de désir (qu’on qualifie tour à tour d’«  affreux  », «  barbare  » ou «  étranger à l’homme civilisé  ») jusque-là ignoré – que la psychiatrie va être amenée à jouer un rôle de plus en plus important. Cela, elle le fait en développant un concept en particulier, celui d’instinct, et d’instinct sexuel en particulier, dont elle va extraire une norme (hétérosexuelle, génitale et procréatrice), et répertorier les déviations possibles. Quantité de comportements ou d’actes, au spectre toujours plus large, vont être attribués à ces déviations ou « perversions », dont la psychopathologie va souligner qu’elles diffèrent par essence du concept moral et juridique de « perversité », et dont toute une littérature – je pense ici à Zola ou Armand Dubarry – va faire son fond de commerce11. Mais il est aussi indispensable de noter que, sous le nom de « monomanie », cette pathologisation du désir engendre, d’une part, une évolution du code pénal et une nouvelle criminologie  ; d’autre part, une macro-politique de la sexualité en tant H. Kaan, Psychopathia sexualis, Leipzig, Apud Leopoldum Voss, 1844. É. Zola, La bête humaine, Paris, Charpentier, 1890. Voir aussi le best-seller d’A. Dubarry, Les déséquilibres de l’amour, Paris, Chamuel, 1898-1906, vaste fresque de douze romans illustrant la typologie de Krafft-Ebing, et dont certains tomes étaient, dès 1906, dans leur quarantième édition ! 10

11


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qu’elle intéresse la puissance publique, et une micro-politique du corps sexuel, qui fait intervenir la famille, l’école, pour ne rien dire, évidemment, du cabinet de consultation ou de l’hôpital. On ne saurait trop, à mon sens, insister sur les origines médico-légales de la psychopathologie, et sur la façon dont la distinction normal/pathologique vient s’insérer dans celle, plus ancienne, licite/illicite. Je dirais que cette situation est encore la nôtre. Certes, la tendance est plutôt à la décriminalisation des anciennes « perversions », qui relevaient souvent d’une sorte de greffe de la problématique de la chair et du péché sur une clinique des instincts. Force est de constater, cependant, que les nouvelles catégories (ou «  paraphilies  ») de la psychopathologie, telles qu’on peut les voir inscrites par exemple dans cet ouvrage de référence qu’est le DSM, continuent d’émerger sur fond de cas juridiques, et comme « suppléments » (je dirais au sens très fort et très précis que Derrida donne à ce terme) à la rationalité pénale libérale, qui est toujours la nôtre. 3) Ayant évoqué le régime économique du désir, et son rapport au régime sexuel, je voudrais, pour finir, en évoquer un troisième, au sujet duquel Foucault dit, pour le coup, très peu de choses, voire presque rien. Si je devais en trouver une trace dans son texte, je citerais le passage suivant, extrait de La volonté de savoir – passage ambigu, en cela qu’il évoque les modalités de résistance au pouvoir centré sur la vie, sans pour autant percevoir ou en tous les cas articuler les nouveaux rapports de pouvoir auxquels elles donnent lieu : les forces qui résistent à cette nouvelle forme de pouvoir, dit-il, prennent appui sur cela même qu’il investit – c’est-à-dire sur la vie et sur l’homme en tant qu’il est vivant. Depuis le siècle passé, les grandes luttes qui mettent en question le système général de pouvoir ne se font plus au nom d’un retour aux anciens droits […] ; ce qui est revendiqué et sert d’objectif, c’est la vie, entendue comme besoins fondamentaux, essence concrète de l’homme, accomplissement de ses virtualités, plénitude du possible […]. C’est la vie beaucoup plus que le droit qui est devenue alors l’enjeu des luttes politiques, même si celles-ci se formulent à travers des affirmations de droit. Le « droit » à la vie, au corps, à la santé, au bonheur, à la satisfaction des besoins, le « droit », par-delà toutes les oppressions et « aliénations », à retrouver tout ce qu’on est ou qu’on peut être […]12.

Ce que Foucault reconnaît là, à mon sens, c’est la dimension de luttes internes au biopouvoir, effectivement irréductibles aux luttes 12

M. Foucault, La volonté de savoir, op. cit., p. 190-191.


58 Miguel de Beistegui contre l’exploitation et l’oppression (qui sévissent toujours, rappelonsle au passage), et qui portent sur la vie en un sens élargi (voire infini). L’hypothèse que je voudrais ici formuler est que les grandes luttes de notre époque, surtout celles menées depuis une trentaine d’années, sont effectivement et très largement de cet ordre, et prennent la forme de luttes pour la reconnaissance (au sens de l’Anerkennung). Si ces luttes se traduisent souvent par des actes législatifs (je pense, dans le monde anglo-saxon, à la reconnaissance de l’identité et l’exception aborigène en Australie, ou québécoise et indigène au Canada, ou bien encore au Gender Recognition Act en Angleterre), elles participent aussi et dans le même temps, d’une dimension autre, que j’aurais tendance à qualifier de symbolique. Or ce qu’on constate, c’est qu’à remonter aux sources de cette problématique-là, on s’aperçoit qu’elle s’insère dans une nouvelle pensée du désir. Le désir de reconnaissance, qu’il faudrait distinguer du simple désir d’honneur ou d’estime, est, à mon sens, un troisième pilier du libéralisme, un troisième axe de déploiement du désir libéral, c’est-à-dire vital et normatif. Et si je devais en faire la généalogie, je tâcherais de montrer que cette articulation-là remonte à un moment de l’histoire de la philosophie et de sa psychologie, qui va de Rousseau à Hegel. Rousseau n’utilise pas encore ce terme. Mais il parle de l’amour-propre (qu’il prend soin de distinguer de l’amour de soi, nécessaire à la survie, ou à la vie purement naturelle) comme d’un désir universel de « considération  » ou d’«  estime  », désir, dit-il, proprement social, source de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, et par conséquent obstacle qu’une société juste et une nouvelle pédagogie du désir (celle-là même qu’il décrit dans l’Émile) doivent tâcher de minimiser13. Quelques années à peine après la parution du Second Discours, Adam Smith, dans sa Théorie des sentiments moraux, parle de ce désir de reconnaissance (ou bien d’ « attention », d’« approbation » ou de « sympathie ») comment du « plus ardent désir de la nature humaine », avant de remarquer que ce désir peut se réaliser soit – mais jamais complètement, jamais suffisamment – par l’accumulation de biens et de richesses, que le marché est appelé à favoriser toujours davantage, soit par l’action morale et la vie vertueuse, qui sera toujours le fait d’une minorité. Ce ne sont pas, dit-il, les pressions du milieu et la lutte pour la préservation qui font de nous des rivaux, et introduisent le conflit parmi les hommes, mais bien notre désir insatiable de reconnaissance. Par où l’on voit que Hegel, lecteur attentif d’Adam J.-J. Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, éd. B. Bachofen et B. Bernardi, Paris, Flammarion, 2008, p. 95-99. 13


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Smith, ne tire pas sa théorie de la reconnaissance d’un chapeau. Emboîtant le pas à Fichte, qui fait de la reconnaissance le moteur de la relation intersubjective, Hegel voit cependant dans la création de l’état moderne et de ses institutions l’aboutissement rationnel et effectif de ce désir de reconnaissance. C’est la dimension proprement hégélienne qui semble l’avoir emporté dans les débats, venus d’Allemagne (Axel Honneth) et d’Amérique du nord (Charles Taylor, Francis Fukuyama), qui se multiplient depuis le début des années 1990. Il est frappant de voir à quel point, comme le soulignait déjà Foucault, ces auteurs font de la reconnaissance une question de vie (ou de mort), et l’érigent en véritable objectif et moteur de la dynamique sociale, soit en norme sociale : l’absence ou le déni de reconnaissance, disent-ils, est l’obstacle principal à la formation du sujet social idéal ; et la reconnaissance (notamment par le droit) serait en quelque sorte la vérité du désir. De la reconnaissance, il faudrait distinguer deux sens ou dimensions, tous deux à l’œuvre déjà chez Rousseau (mais à l’état simplement implicite) et désormais ancrés dans nos pratiques et institutions : a) Il y a, tout d’abord, et pour emprunter une distinction kantienne, la reconnaissance au sens du «  respect  » (Achtung) de l’autre dans sa « dignité » humaine, c’est-à-dire dans sa dignité de sujet rationnel et moral, qui m’oblige comme envers un égal.14 Reconnaissance qui, de ce fait, ne peut qu’être universelle, et ne souffre aucune exception. Toute exception est un tort, une Mißachtung, soit un déni de reconnaissance. Et l’on pourrait montrer comment, depuis la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale, et pour les raisons que l’on sait, la notion de dignité est passée du vocabulaire philosophique et moral au vocabulaire juridique, et est devenue une notion centrale et même fondatrice du droit positif. Elle a ce statut fondateur dans le Préambule de la constitution de la République d’Irlande (1937) et de la Charte des Droits Fondamentaux de l’Union Européenne, ou bien encore dans l’article premier de la Constitution (Grundgesetz) de l’Allemagne Fédérale (1949). Je dirais que le mécanisme principal par lequel passe la reconnaissance universelle en ce premier sens est (encore) le droit. b) Il y a, ensuite, la reconnaissance au sens de l’« estime » (Verehrung), concept plus difficile à cerner et qui ne s’incarne pas, ou en tout cas pas au premier chef, dans le droit. C’est peut-être lui que vise Foucault lorsqu’il parle de ce droit à « retrouver tout ce qu’on est qu’on peut être » ou de cette « plénitude du possible ». Là, le concept n’est pas tant universel que 14

I. Kant, Métaphysique des mœurs, Paris, Vrin, 1968, t. II, §38, p. 140.


60 Miguel de Beistegui particulier, et signifie la place que l’on occupe dans la société au regard de l’autre, dont on demande la reconnaissance non, encore une fois, en tant qu’égal, ni même, comme c’était encore le cas au dix-septième siècle, en tant qu’incarnant telle vertu ou telle qualité, mais en tant que différence, ou en tant que « moi-même ». Il devient donc inséparable du concept d’estime et d’amour de soi, et de toute une éthique, toute une politique proprement subjectivante, et même individualisante, de l’estime de soi, comme instrument indispensable au bon fonctionnement de la société, surtout de la société libérale (là, on est très loin de l’éthique et du gouvernement de soi d’un certain Christianisme, qui va de la seconde épître de Saint Paul à Timothée à Pascal, en passant par Saint Augustin ou Catherine de Sienne, et condamne systématique l’amor sui au nom du bon gouvernement). Au bout du compte, cette technologie de soi, ce gouvernement de soi par l’estime et l’amour de soi, est un mécanisme de l’individualisme libéral, et un mécanisme essentiel de son gouvernement. Je donnerais seulement un exemple : à la fin des années 1980, le Gouverneur de Californie avait réuni une «  Task Force for the Promotion of Self-Esteem and Social Responsibility » visant à augmenter l’estime de soi dans son état. Le groupe de travail, qui réunissait une trentaine de personnes, avait donné naissance à un rapport tout à fait passionnant. 60,000 exemplaires du rapport vendu, un vrai best-seller. Il y a aujourd’hui, comme vous le savez, toute une industrie de l’estime de soi, qui est aussi une pédagogie, une clinique, une culture, dont on peut voir les traces jusque dans les campus américains. Ma conclusion, s’agissant de cette troisième articulation, ou de ce régime symbolique du désir, est que, loin de signifier l’élimination des rapports de pouvoir, il en est le nouveau visage, proprement libéral. C’est par le jeu de la reconnaissance (et même de la « différence » entendue, il est vrai, en un sens bien particulier) que se définit tout un ensemble de problèmes (et de solutions), et par lui que se fait l’entrée dans l’espace public. Mais toute la question est de savoir qui définit les termes de cette reconnaissance, et s’il n’y a pas, au départ, et jusqu’au bout, un rapport asymétrique entre la puissance reconnaissante et le sujet qui vise sa propre reconnaissance. Foucault le disait déjà dans «  Nietzsche, la généalogie, l’histoire », dans un langage qui restait celui de la domination et des règles, plutôt que de la gouvernementalité et des normes, mais qui allait à l’essentiel : « L’humanité ne progresse pas lentement de combat en combat », je dirais de lutte pour le reconnaissance en lutte pour la reconnaissance, « jusqu’à une réciprocité universelle, où les règles se substitueront, pour toujours,


Le gouvernement du désir 61

à la guerre ; elle installe chacune de ces violences dans un système de règles, et va ainsi de domination en domination. […] Le grand jeu de l’histoire, c’est à qui s’emparera des règles, qui prendra la place de ceux qui les utilisent »15. C’est la raison pour laquelle, me semble-t-il, s’agissant de la question homosexuelle par exemple, Foucault dit qu’il ne s’agit pas tant, selon lui, de reconnaître ou découvrir l’homosexualité, y compris la sienne propre, mais de développer un « mode de vie » ou un « devenir » gay, qui remette en question les institutions – la famille, le mariage – par lesquelles aujourd’hui passe précisément sa reconnaissance, et inventer, par exemple, une nouvelle « amitié » : « Le problème », dit-il en 1981 dans un entretien à Gai Pied, « n’est pas de découvrir en soi la vérité de son sexe, mais c’est plutôt d’user désormais de sa sexualité pour arriver à des multiplicités de relations. Et c’est sans doute là la vraie raison pour laquelle l’homosexualité n’est pas une forme de désir, mais quelque chose de désirable. Nous avons donc à nous acharner à devenir [je souligne] homosexuels et non pas à nous obstiner à reconnaître [je souligne] que nous le sommes »16. On trouve des échos de cette question chez Judith Butler (je pense notamment à Undoing Gender17) ou Elizabeth Grosz dans le cadre de la question du genre et du féminisme, mais aussi chez certains auteurs penseurs post-coloniaux comme Glen Sean Coulthard18, qui montrent comment la politique de la reconnaissance menée au Canada vis-à-vis des populations indigènes, et souvent à leur initiative, se fait depuis un rapport asymétrique et inégal qu’elle ne fait que renforcer, et qui ne permet pas d’envisager la dispute ou le différend comme portant sur un mode de vie ou une éthique tout autres. Tous posent la question des stratégies de pouvoir qui sous-tendent le désir et les luttes pour la reconnaissance. De ce point de vue, il me semble que ce que le « dernier » Foucault dit au sujet de la parresia et de l’éthique de soi diffère fondamentalement de cette problématique de l’amour ou de l’estime de soi.

M. Foucault, « Nietzsche, la généalogie, l’histoire » (1971), dans Dits et écrits, Paris, Gallimard, 1994, t. II, p. 145. 16 M. Foucault, « De l’amitié comme mode de vie » (1981), dans Dits et écrits, op. cit., t. IV, p. 163. 17 J. Butler, Undoing Gender, New York, Routledge, 2004. 18 G.S. Coulthard, Red Skin, White Masks. Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 15


62 Miguel de Beistegui Conclusion Je voudrais, pour conclure, revenir à la dimension proprement critique de cette brève généalogie, et du geste généalogique dès lors qu’il s’applique au libéralisme. Pourquoi et comment se faire le critique du libéralisme dès lors que celui-ci fonctionne à la liberté et la reconnaissance, et dès lors qu’on estime qu’il ne suffit pas d’y voir un cas de fausse conscience ou d’idéologie ? On a pu lire, récemment, que Foucault était dans le fond un libéral, et même un néolibéral qui s’ignorait (à peine). Conséquence : on perdrait son temps à tâcher de trouver chez lui les ressources critiques espérées. À cela, je répondrais ceci : la généalogie du sujet du désir nous permet 1) de montrer que la façon dont on se gouverne, les cadres discursifs et institutionnels dans lesquels cette gouvernementalité s’inscrit, loin de correspondre à une quelconque nature enfin mise à jour, relèvent d’une construction aux conditions historiques bien précises ; 2) de montrer que les concepts fondamentaux qui lui sont attachés, tels que ceux d’intérêt, d’instinct, de liberté, de reconnaissance, sont des mécanismes de pouvoir, au travers desquels se façonne notre propre subjectivité. Certes, ce pouvoir n’est pas un pouvoir de pure domination ou coercition  ; mais c’est un pouvoir de normation et de subjectivation, d’autant plus efficace qu’il nous fait oublier qu’un autre type de vie, une autre existence – celle, par exemple, d’une érotique ou d’une amitié, plutôt que d’une sexualité, ou d’un « devenir » plutôt que d’une reconnaissance – est possible, et peutêtre même – à chacun d’entre nous d’en décider – désirable. Miguel de Beistegui University of Warwick M.J.Beistegui@warwick.ac.uk


Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault Étienne Balibar

Vorrei delineare un’interpretazione degli ultimi corsi di Foucault dedi-

cati alla parrhèsia e delle implicazioni che questi possono avere sulle domande che sempre più ci poniamo sul significato e sulle intenzioni della sua opera1. Fra queste domande figurano, naturalmente, l’evoluzione del suo concetto di critica, e i suoi ripetuti tentativi di dislocare l’immagine dell’intellettuale nella tradizione europea moderna, “problematizzando” il suo intervento nel campo politico (piuttosto che cercare di elaborare un concetto di politico che, bisogna dire, resta in Foucault frammentario e sfuggente). Tra gli altri significati individuati dagli storici e dai filologi, e in una relazione di complementarietà con quelli di isonomia e isègoria, il termine parrhèsia connotava per gli antichi Greci qualcosa che noi oggi chiamiamo “democrazia” (mentre dèmokratia, come è risaputo, aveva un valore essenzialmente peggiorativo). Tuttavia, più letteralmente, questo termine designava il parlar franco, la libertà di parola o il coraggio della parola (alcune lezioni pronunciate da Foucault a Berkeley su questo tema sono apparse in italiano col titolo Discorso e verità nella Grecia antica). Tutto ciò si riferisce evidentemente al nodo tra politica, critica e attività intellettuale nella sua dimensione “pubblica”, tuttavia presenta un certo numero di enigmi. Da una parte, l’instabilità e la diversità degli usi di parrhèsia in greco, la quale costituisce proprio l’oggetto della ricerca di Foucault, gli impedisce di attribuirle un significato unico, e più in particolare, di metterla in relazione con la sfera che chiamiamo univocamente politica. Se non ci si accontenta di registrare una semplice “deriva” semantica inerente ai cambiamenti di contesto e di situazioni linguistiche, potrebbe anche sembrare che questa traiettoria d’insieme delinei un progressivo ritiro dal politico verso la sfera etica e personale (“soggettiva” nel senso corrente del termine) più che un modo di problematizzare una relazione intrinseca tra il politico, il discorso e la verità. D’altra parte, quando nelle osservazioni di Foucault compaiono Intervento alla giornata di studi Michel Foucault et la subjectivation, Université Paris-Est Créteil, 1° giugno 2016. Questo intervento riprende e adatta la conferenza pronunciata in inglese il 18 ottobre 2014 al Convegno Michel Foucault: After 1984 al Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University. 1

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 63-81.


64 Étienne Balibar degli intenti e dei giudizi di valore di carattere politico, si potrebbe pensare che si tratti di una sorta di proiezione dell’indagine moderna sulla “scena” greca – cosa che costituisce una modalità alquanto tradizionale nella nostra cultura filosofica, ovvero quella di idealizzare gli oggetti della riflessione, ed è quindi sorprendente da parte di un autore che non ha mai smesso di proclamare che le sue modalità di ricerca erano volte a una problematizzazione del presente, o meglio dell’attualità. Ci si domanderà allora se la parrhèsia sia semplicemente l’oggetto di una curiosità filologica ed estetica – due nozioni che, in verità, sono sempre state molto vicine nel lavoro di Foucault, in quanto estetica dell’erudizione e della lettura. Cosa intendiamo tuttavia per “ultima opera”? Probabilmente quella che viene poco prima della scomparsa dell’autore… Ora, qualunque sia la tentazione, non solo non si deve scadere nel patetico, ma si deve pure evitare ogni implicazione teleologica, senza purtuttavia rinunciare al fatto che l’insieme della sua opera tragga beneficio dea quella prospettiva che gli ultimi corsi permettono retrospettivamente di costruire. Per definizione questi corsi non erano destinati a costituire un coronamento o una “conclusione” di tutto ciò che veniva prima. Si percepisce che essi si sviluppano in altre e nuove direzioni che non avrebbero potuto vedere la luce, e tuttavia contengono diversi indizi circa un senso di urgenza, quella di dire alcune cose importanti finché si è ancora in tempo. Sotto molti aspetti, il “soggetto di enunciazione” (o, come dice alle volte Foucault, dell’enuntiandum) è più insistente nell’enunciato stesso, più di quanto non fosse nei corsi precedenti, anche se in modo indiretto o in qualche modo mascherato. Non è quindi una futile ricerca quella di cercare di determinare la maniera in cui la ricerca sulla parrhèsia, che ha finito per assorbire la quasi totalità degli ultimi due anni di insegnamento di Foucault, comunica con la totalità della sua opera o la “riassume”, formulandone, da un certo punto di vista, le intenzioni. E proprio da questo punto di vista, il carattere incompiuto, quindi aperto, dell’indagine sulla parrhèsia costituisce una sorta di allegoria del carattere profondamente aporetico, nel senso positivo del termine, che riveste il lavoro filosofico di Foucault nella sua totalità. Per concludere queste considerazioni introduttive, proporrò cinque idee che, prese assieme, mi sembrano designare ciò che, in modo volontariamente ossimorico, chiamerò la “centralità eccentrica” della questione della parrhèsia nell’opera di Foucault. In primo luogo, è emerso che, senza insistere particolarmente sul suo nome, la questione della parrhèsia situata nel suo luogo “greco”, nasce precocemente nell’opera di Foucault. Ne è una prova questo passaggio delle


Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault 65

conferenze del 1974 su La verità e le forme giuridiche: «Questa grande conquista della democrazia greca, questo diritto di testimoniare, di opporre la verità al potere, si è costituito in un lungo processo nato e instauratosi in maniera definitiva ad Atene, nel corso del V secolo. Questo diritto di opporre una verità senza potere ad un potere senza verità ha dato luogo ad una serie di grandi forme culturali caratteristiche della società greca». Accostando direttamente questo passaggio agli ultimi corsi si potrà concludere che Foucault non ha tanto scoperto la questione della parrhèsia quanto piuttosto che vi è ritornato. Ma facendo ciò, e prendendo in considerazione ciò che suggeriva il suo nome e l’insieme dei tratti che vi si sovrappongono, Foucault l’ha anche dislocata e riformulata. In particolare, lo vedremo, ha complicato lo schema di una esteriorità reciproca tra il potere e la verità. In secondo luogo, è impossibile non attribuire un’importanza fondamentale al fatto che i corsi degli ultimi due anni sono introdotti da due lezioni sulla nozione kantiana di critica e sull’interpretazione della sua definizione di Aufklärung, secondo l’opuscolo del 1784. Si tratta delle analisi più approfondite che, lungo tutto il corso della sua vita, Foucault ha dedicato a questo tema. Come è noto oggi, il ritorno periodico al testo di Kant Was ist Aufklärung? costituisce una sorta di filo conduttore per comprendere la posizione riflessiva di Foucault sulla sua attività filosofica e sul rapporto che essa intrattiene con l’attualità, quindi anche il momento storico e la modalità di impegno o di intervento politico dell’autore2. Tuttavia, la giustapposizione del commento a Kant e dell’analisi della parrhèsia resta enigmatica, essa si presenta apparentemente come un “collage” piuttosto che come un concatenamento o una genealogia. Bisogna allora intendere con ciò che la parrhèsia sarebbe il prototipo antico di ciò che i moderni, e Kant in particolare, avrebbero chiamato Kritik? In questo caso quale sarebbe la sua funzione: delucidare un significato originario? Produrre un effetto di antitesi? O più semplicemente segnalare uno spostamento, che potrebbe metterci indirettamente sulla strada dello spostamento che noi stessi operiamo rispetto agli obiettivi e agli strumenti dell’Illuminismo? Oppure ancora suggerire che al posto delle differenti modalità della “critica” moderna, dovremmo cercare di ritornare all’ideale greco della parrhèsia in maniera più o meno immaginaria? Abbiamo oggi una visione completa della questione grazie alla pubblicazione del libro tratto dalla terza parte della tesi di dottorato di Rudy Leonelli, Illuminismo e Critica. Foucault interprete di Kant, con prefazione di É. Balibar, Quodlibet, Macerata 2017. 2


66 Étienne Balibar In terzo luogo, nel momento in cui, seguendo Foucault, ci interessiamo alle diverse tipologie che illustrano la funzione del parresiasta, questo individuo che prende la parola pubblicamente per dire la verità o dire il vero, con i rischi del conflitto e dello scontro col potere che comporta una tale iniziativa (che questo potere sia quello di un sovrano, di un dirigente, o il potere più diffuso ma non meno formidabile di una “società” e dei suoi meccanismi disciplinari o normativi), nel momento in cui prestiamo attenzione al modo in cui Foucault drammatizza questa situazione di enunciazione3, cominciamo a renderci conto che l’opera di Foucault è sempre stata popolata da parresiasti, dispersi su molteplici altre scene rispetto a quelle che costituiscono le categorie specificamente greche della polis, dell’agora, e della paideia. Certamente, ogni volta la loro condotta, le loro intenzioni e il loro linguaggio si trasformano, ma tra essi regna come un’“aria di famiglia” che si rivela proprio se li osserviamo a partire dalla scena parresiastica, se vi cerchiamo un modello e un nome comune. I martiri e gli eretici cristiani, ma anche gli asceti e i mistici sono delle specie di parresiasti, collocati sulla linea sottile che separa l’ortodossia e l’eterodossia. I folli che dicono la verità negata dal discorso della ragione cartesiana e i loro strani vicini inventati dalla letteratura, come il Nipote di Rameau, sono una sorta di parresiasti. Gli “uomini infami” degli annali di criminologia del XIX secolo (che Foucault chiama in questo modo giocando sulla doppia accezione del termine e sulla sua etimologia), in particolare l’ammirevole Pierre Rivière, che fanno vedere per mezzo di un discorso “ordinario” la relazione profonda tra la verità e la morte, sono eminentemente dei parresiasti, che Foucault aveva sognato di far uscire dall’oscurità pubblicandone le “vite”. I prigionieri, politici o di diritto comune, che si sollevarono contro l’arbitrio del regime penitenziario durante gli anni settanta in Francia, in America ed altrove, sostenendo la loro rivolta e prendendosi dei rischi spettacolari, con l’aiuto di intellettuali e di medici come i membri del G.I.P., sono anch’essi dei parresiasti, e Foucault non ha mai smesso di sottolineare il fatto che, se gli intellettuali hanno avuto l’iniziativa di questo lavoro critico e militante che porta il nome caratteristico di enquête-intolérance, sono i prigionieri stessi che ne hanno scelto i luoghi, le parole, i contenuti, o persino la “teoria” che dava loro forma. I “dissidenti” del comunismo sovietico sono chiaramente dei parresiasti del tipo più puro, e anch’essi inventano alcuni fra i mezzi di espressione e gli stili di “critica politica” che riportano all’attualità la vecchia questione della parrhèsia. Gli insorti, generalmente parlando, sono “Drammatizzare”: categoria che lo stesso Foucault prende in prestito da Nietzsche, quasi certamente attraverso Deleuze. 3


Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault 67

dei parresiasti, in ogni caso c’è un aspetto parresiastico nella loro azione che è fondamentale, al contempo e inseparabilmente legato alla lotta, all’autonomia o all’auto-organizzazione, e al discorso, ovvero al piano dell’espressione e dell’enunciazione, quindi alla liberazione della parola e alla conquista di un potere di parlare, ancora più eclatante quando emerge dal fondo di un silenzio, o di una vecchia riduzione al silenzio imposta da un potere, da una disciplina, da una norma sociale, o accettata, incorporata nella condotta e nel governo di sé attraverso una qualsivoglia modalità di “servitù volontaria”. In questo modo alla fine, si avrà la sensazione che vi siano stati, in effetti, pochi momenti nell’opera di Foucault in cui, sotto una forma o un’altra, la descrizione e la drammatizzazione della parrhèsia non sia stata ben presente. Solo che il nome stesso di parrhèsia si ritrova ed è discusso solamente in questo momento ultimo e contingente, al tempo stesso della sospensione della sua opera. In quarto luogo, non tardiamo a scoprire una vasta rete di collegamenti tra il tema della parrhèsia, o meglio il suo ideal-tipo, e numerosi eventi e processi contemporanei, ai quali Foucault è stato associato, o che hanno suscitato da parte sua un interesse particolare. Ho già menzionato il caso della rivolta dei prigionieri, dei folli e dei dissidenti sovietici4. Vorrei aggiungere qui due casi, molto differenti l’uno dall’altro nel tempo e nello spazio, che pongono dei difficili problemi di interpretazione rispetto a ciò che Foucault ne ha pensato e alle conclusioni pratiche che ne ha tratto, casi non interamente risolti o comunque una materia ancora oggi controversa. Le parole hanno qui un’estrema importanza, ordinano l’articolazione del linguaggio con l’azione, di cui fa parte l’azione del linguaggio. Il primo caso, sul quale non mi soffermerò troppo, è quello del maggio ’68. Sappiamo che Foucault non vi ha preso parte, e che ne ha avuto una percezione piuttosto critica, ma anche che dopo tutto si impegnò profondamente in alcuni dei suoi prolungamenti, sia dal lato riformista sia dal lato rivoluzionario, che oggi chiameremmo piuttosto “radicale”. È Michel de Certeau, un caro amico di Foucault, con cui condivideva degli oggetti di indagine oltre che dei metodi di scrittura, ad aver definito lo spirito del 1968 come la “presa di parola”, altrimenti detta la parrhèsia5. Il La cui prossimità è stata assicurata dal modo in cui il regime sovietico aveva praticato l’imprigionamento dei dissidenti, il più celebre dei quali fu Leonid Plyushch, in seguito al sostegno che quest’ultimo apportò ad un gruppo di matematici, in particolare francesi, a cui Foucault era legato. 5 Cfr. M. de Certeau, La prise de parole et autres écrits politiques, Seuil, Paris 1994; trad. it. La presa di parola e altri scritti politici, Meltemi, Roma 2007. 4


68 Étienne Balibar secondo caso, più delicato, è la “rivoluzione” iraniana del 1979, o come Foucault avrebbe preferito che la si chiamasse, la sollevazione del popolo iraniano, nel quale vedeva l’esempio di un movimento politico di massa essenzialmente spirituale. Nel suo tentativo di drammatizzare e stilizzare la parrhèsia, Foucault non smetterà di ritornare sulla stessa scena: «un uomo si alza [se lève] (o meglio si oppone [se dresse]) di fronte al sovrano, sfidando la sua autorità» o anche «durante l’assemblea, autorizzandosi da sé», «prendendo il potere» di parlare. Penso che si debba vedere una stretta relazione tra la questione della sollevazione e il fatto di sollevarsi [se lever] in questo modo, e che sotto molti aspetti il secondo ha costituito retrospettivamente una riflessione sui problemi che la prima poneva. Ma di che natura? Non possiamo accontentarci di dire che la “sollevazione” iraniana illustrerebbe e confermerebbe semplicemente l’importanza politica del gesto parresiastico, facendolo passare dall’individuo alla collettività persino alla massa. Perché è proprio questa generalizzazione o totalizzazione – questo Tun aller und jeder, come direbbe Hegel – che fa problema. È più verosimile, credo, che ci sia stata una dimensione critica (e anche autocritica) nel ritorno dalla Persia (moderna) alla Grecia (antica), e dalla sollevazione di massa all’azione di un soggetto singolo. La questione, come è ben noto, non ha smesso di accendere il dibattito, o persino la polemica. La mia ipotesi, formulata brutalmente, è che l’errore politico che Foucault si rese conto di aver commesso a proposito della Rivoluzione iraniana, comportò un momento riflessivo che lo spinse a cercare un chiarimento delle dimensioni secolari dell’insurrezione (e certamente la parrhèsia come l’ha descritta è eminentemente secolare in quanto gesto di parola) e ad approfondire la problematica del rapporto tra veridizione e autorità, o contestazione e “direzione” di un movimento collettivo e di una pratica istituzionale. Infine, per concludere questo primo momento, bisogna cercare di articolare tra loro la questione della parola (parola pubblica, parola come contro-potere o che si solleva di fronte al potere, parola che rompe il silenzio o che infrange il divieto di espressione) e la questione della scrittura o del testo, sia esso filosofico, politico e ovviamente letterario. Tale questione attraversa tutte le storie a cui Foucault si è interessato, sovrapponendosi costantemente al rapporto con la propria scrittura. Come spesso accade, è indispensabile fare riferimento qui a Maurice Blanchot. È Blanchot infatti che, all’ombra di Sartre e di altri “intellettuali universali”, approntò la stesura finale della Déclaration sur le droit à l’insoumission (conosciuto anche sotto il nome di Manifesto dei 121) che nel 1961 fece della denuncia


Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault 69

della tortura praticata dall’esercito francese in Algeria un affare di stato e una questione nazionale, portando un sostegno morale ai disertori e ai “portatori di valigie” che aiutavano i combattenti algerini. L’importanza di questo gesto storico per gli intellettuali francesi in generale, e certamente per lo stesso Foucault, è innegabile. Ora qui abbiamo il modello stesso del gesto parresiastico in un contesto contemporaneo. Ma c’è di più, perché lo stesso Blanchot, in un celebre testo dedicato all’opera del Marchese de Sade e in particolare al suo discorso Francesi ancora uno sforzo se volete essere repubblicani!, aveva messo in rilievo la formula con cui Sade definisce la filosofia (e che Blanchot stesso applicava alla letteratura)6. È un’altra definizione o traduzione perfetta della parrhèsia: È appunto la verità di Sade […]: per quanto gli uomini rabbrividiscano, la filosofia deve dire tutto.  Dire tutto. Bastava questa sola riga a renderlo sospetto, questo progetto a farlo condannare, la sua realizzazione a farlo rinchiudere. E non bisogna considerare responsabile il solo Bonaparte: si vive sempre sotto un Primo Console, Sade è perseguito sempre in nome della stessa esigenza: dire tutto, bisogna dire tutto, la libertà è libertà di dire tutto, l’impulso illimitato che è la tentazione della ragione, il suo voto segreto, la sua follia7.

Si noterà che, nella conferenza di Grenoble sulla parrhèsia del 1982, e più rapidamente nelle conferenze di Berkeley nell’autunno del 1983, Foucault comincia col ricordare che il significato etimologico di parrhèsia è “dire tutto”8. Sarebbe bene anche stabilire il legame tra il dire-male e l’imperativo del dire beckettiani, oltre che, per antitesi, con il dire-a-metà lacaniano, che su questo punto figurano certamente sullo sfondo della ricerca e delle formulazioni di Foucault. E ora, veniamo al posto che la parrhèsia occupa nella ricerca foucaultiana sulle forme di “veridizione”. Prima di trattare la materia greca in sé stessa, abbiamo bisogno, ancora una volta, di un elemento preliminare. Non posso addentrarmi nella descrizione completa delle due serie di termini che, convocando più lingue, strutturano l’indagine foucaultiana sulla veridizione Ho cercato in un’altra occasione di mostrare la parentela con il Manifesto dei 121. Cfr. É. Balibar, Blanchot l’insoumis, in Citoyen Sujet et autres essais d’anthropologie philosophique, PUF, Paris 2011. 7 M. Blanchot, L’entretien infini, Gallimard, Paris 1969, p. 342; trad. it., L’infinito intrattenimento. Scritti sull’insensato «gioco di scrivere», trad. di R. Ferrara, Einaudi, Torino 1977, p. 310. 8 Nei corsi al Collège de France Foucault evoca questo punto en passant. 6


70 Étienne Balibar di cui fa parte la parrhèsia (o a cui conferisce in seguito il suo radicamento originario). Ma bisogna fornirne almeno un quadro sommario. La parola nietzscheana Wahrsagen tradotta in francese con dire-vrai o in inglese con truth-telling prepara in qualche modo un “posto originario” per la parrhèsia. Dico che la prepara, ma in effetti sembra che il problema della veridizione sia stato innanzitutto costruito in termini che non lasciano spazio significativo alla parrhèsia, anche se come ho già detto questa era stata obliquamente evocata molto presto. La parrhèsia è arrivata, per così dire, in eccesso e a posteriori, nachträglich, per mostrare tuttavia che implicitamente tutta la struttura discorsiva era polarizzata dalla presenza iniziale, benché ancora sconosciuta, di questa forma di veridizione che al contempo, essendosi rivelata nella sua funzione di eccesso organizzatore, doveva produrre un capovolgimento di tutto il sistema. Il Wahrsagen o veridizione in effetti deve essere localizzato, dal punto di vista della semantica, all’incrocio di due serie, la cui funzione strutturante nelle ricerche di Foucault non va dimostrata. La prima di queste è la serie delle dizioni, che ho già cominciato ad evocare. Il lavoro di Foucault sull’antitesi e l’articolazione della veridizione e della giuridizione o giurisdizione è esplicito, onnipresente. La prima si colloca progressivamente all’interno della seconda a partire dalla confession e dall’aveu, e la questione è sapere se e come essa possa emanciparsene. Ma bisogna ampliare la serie, includere altre dimensioni “aleturgiche”, riferendoci a quelle istituzioni dove la veridizione svolge altre funzioni sociali e storiche. Poiché tutta la problematica della confessione, della penitenza, della giustificazione ne dipendono in egual misura, non si può non includere la benedizione. Ma bisogna anche, certamente, evocare la problematica della contraddizione, sulla quale ritornerò. A questo punto, il primo asse si interseca con un secondo, in cui la questione della dizione è messa a confronto con quella della finzione, nel suo senso più ampio. Ricordiamoci di Pierre Rivière: la sua confessione o autobiografia è una “dizione” allo stesso tempo forzata e assunta (o che si ritorce contro l’autorità che la impone) e simultaneamente è una finzione, o come si direbbe oggi un’“autofinzione”. Ma dai suoi primi lavori sull’archeologia del sapere e sulla storia delle formazioni epistemiche fino all’emergenza di una problematica dell’ordine del discorso e della volontà di sapere, si vede come Foucault si sia preoccupato anche delle relazioni e degli effetti di verità che mettevano in rapporto la veridizione o il “dire-il-vero” con la verifica in generale, o il “fare-il-vero” nel doppio senso della verifica scientifica, che rivendica l’oggettività, e della finzione


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artistica che “contraffà” il vero o lo imita. Se apriamo la serie ai termini tedeschi, possiamo includere in questo senso, accanto al Wahrsagen, anche il Wahrnehmen, che in francese si traduce con “percezione”, ma che (nella Fenomenologia dello spirito, ad esempio) è molto di più di un’operazione psicologica o psicofisiologica, una prima figura della contraddizione tra certezza e verità. Per riassumere, direi anzitutto che tutto l’insieme di questa rete elaborata da Foucault (e che si potrebbe ancora estendere) ha finito per strutturare, a livello delle parole, il grande progetto a cui Foucault ha dichiarato più volte di volersi dedicare (o nell’orizzonte del quale ricollocava le sue indagini), quello di una “storia della verità”: formula di origine pascaliana che, forse, Foucault è stato il primo tra i filosofi francesi del ventesimo secolo a recuperare (per la prima volta nel 1961), dapprima in un senso epistemologico, poi riformulandola come storia politica della verità, per finire con l’identificarla esplicitamente con una storia o genealogie delle veridizioni o enunciazioni, discorsi nella modalità della verità (sub specie veritatis)9. Ma la storia delle veridizioni non potrebbe esistere senza prendere in considerazione la loro articolazione con altre “dizioni” (a cominciare dalle giuridizioni, ma non solo), e con altri effetti di verità (a cominciare dalle verifiche scientifiche, ma non solo). Da un lato il diritto, dall’altro la scienza, o piuttosto i loro modelli enunciativi. Da qui la mia seconda ipotesi: in questa rete virtuale, che implica una molteplicità di pratiche e discorsi, qualcosa fa ancora difetto, c’è come un elemento mancante che, evidentemente, non diviene visibile se non quando lo si aggiunge retrospettivamente. Ma questo elemento è cruciale perché la sua aggiunta cambia interamente il modo di porre il problema. Direi, ritornando a un’ipotesi fatta in precedenza, che questo elemento è la contra-dizione, a condizione di intendere qui non una categoria statica della logica delle proposizioni (in cui essa si oppone, come sappiamo, alla “tautologia”), ma come una condotta discorsiva e quindi un’azione nel campo del discorso – quindi già una contro-condotta nel senso che Foucault dà a questo termine. In questo senso, la contraddizione è una forma antitetica e agonistica della veridizione, è un altro nome che possiamo dare alla parrhèsia, o piuttosto è la parrhèsia in quanto tale. Sul sintagma “storia della verità” nella filosofia francese contemporanea, cfr. É. Balibar, «Histoire de la vérité». Alain Badiou dans la philosophie française, in Ch. Ramond (a cura di), Alain Badiou. Penser le multiple, L’Harmattan, Paris 2002; L’histoire de l’Église doit être proprement appelée l’histoire de la vérité, in L. Bové, G. Bras e É. Méchoulan (a cura di.), Pascal et Spinoza. Pensée du contraste, Éditions Amsterdam, Paris 2007. 9


72 Étienne Balibar Mi tocca nouvamente sintetizzare, ovvero lascio da parte tutta la storia o la genealogia della verità in quanto storia della contraddizione e del “dire-contro” (che va dai Sofisti a Hegel con la sua “potenza del negativo” o, antiteticamente, a Nietzsche con la sua “distruzione degli idoli”), e mi accontento di insistere sul fatto che la “contra-dizione” sorge come un’aggiunta, in eccesso rispetto alla storia della verità e alla sua positività per come è stata precedentemente evocata (anche nella sua variante “politica”). Ma questa aggiunta o questo eccesso conferisce il suo senso a tutta l’impresa genealogica. Pensiamo beninteso alla citazione di René Char posta da Foucault nella quarta di copertina dei due ultimi volumi di Storia della sessualità: «La storia degli uomini è la lunga successione di sinonimi di uno stesso vocabolo. Contraddirla è un dovere»10. Aggiungiamo che l’obbligo contiene anche una regola di metodo. Nel volume dei Corsi di Lovanio pubblicati da Fabienne Brion e Bernard Harcourt con il titolo Mal fare, dire il vero. Funzione della confessione nella giustizia11, e nei saggi contemporanei oltre che nei corsi al Collège de France, Foucault traccia una storia lineare ma intermittente che comincia con le aleturgie greche arcaiche in Omero e Sofocle, e continua con le configurazioni cristiane della confessione, le quali a loro volta danno vita al conflitto moderno della veridizione e della giurisdizione (juridiction) nel cuore dell’istituzione penale. Si potrebbe allora pensare che basti adottare questo quadro semantico perché si delimiti il progetto di una genealogia dei rapporti contraddittori che la soggettivazione intrattiene con la soggezione (o l’assoggettamento). Tuttavia, sono più propenso a sostenere che nei suoi ultimi corsi sulla parrhèsia, Foucault abbia ritrovato un anello mancante e lo abbia collocato all’origine, nella modalità di una figura di soggettivazione e di veridizione che costituisce una contro-condotta specifica, al punto stesso dell’articolazione tra politica e filosofia. Pertanto, possiamo ricercare in tutta la storia della verità (o meglio del dire-il-vero) le repliche di questo modo di opporre la verità al potere e di conferirle un contro-potere. Non si tratta quindi della traccia di un modello o di un’idea, ma della reiterazione, in altre condizioni di attualità, di una stessa contra-dizione, o come direbbe Blanchot, di uno stesso gesto di interruzione (il cui prototipo è per lui sempre letterario, ma in una maniera che può arrivare a inglobare il politico o sconfinarlo). R. Char, L’âge cassant, J. Corti, Paris 1965. Si veda il commento di Jean-Claude Milner, Michel Foucault ou le devoir aux rives du temps, in «La Règle du Jeu», n. 28, aprile 2005. 11 M. Foucault, Mal faire, dire-vrai. Fonction de l’aveu en justice, Presses universitaires de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve 2012; trad. it., Mal fare, dir vero. Funzione della confessione nella giustizia, Einaudi, Torino 2013. 10


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Questo gesto di dire-contro non appare quindi soltanto come un’aggiunta alla storia della verità, figurando in eccesso su altri tipi di veridizione, ma comporta anche, come tipo o stile di Wahrsagen, qualcosa di eccessivo che sembra riallacciarsi, con delle modalità e dei riferimenti piuttosto diversi, alla “trasgressione” che Foucault aveva spesso rivendicato all’epoca di Storia della follia e della sua Prefazione alle opere di Bataille. Ora mi sembra che sia più importante, tenendo presente questa risonanza, concentrarsi sul modo quasi-strutturalista con cui, nei suoi ultimi corsi, Foucault ha ricostituito poco a poco il sistema delle differenti parrhèsie (o piuttosto, decliniamo meglio il greco, parrhèsiai) che lo stesso termine comprende. Non si tratta né di una genealogia semplicemente descrittiva, né di una derivazione a partire da un senso primitivo, né del cammino verso un senso finale che sarebbe “il vero”, ma di una disposizione simmetrica di forme opposte tra loro. Vorrei richiamare l’attenzione sul fatto che alla fine dei conti, ed è davvero notevole, ciò che Foucault ha costruito è una sorta di “cristallo” di antitesi che si presta alla formalizzazione, o almeno alla schematizzazione. Ed è solo l’insieme del loro dispositivo che, in realtà, “definisce” la parrhèsia, indicando il problema che questo nome riveste. So bene che dicendo ciò opero comunque una semplificazione perché Foucault, avendo assegnato un inizio alla sua indagine attraverso la lettura dello Ione di Euripide, non gli ha assegnato simmetricamente una fine e quindi non ha mostrato una chiusura all’enumerazione. Ha suggerito al contrario che delle modalità nuove della parrhèsia, delle repliche del modo di enunciazione parresiastica non cessano di sorgere dopo l’età classica greca, tanto nella forma delle pratiche filosofiche e ascetiche della meditazione, della saggezza, della cura di sé, del rapporto tra maestro e discepolo (insistendo in particolare su questo, che la parrhèsia è una questione del maestro e non del discepolo), etc., quanto nella forma di una governamentalità politica e amministrativa (in particolare con le figure del ministro, del consigliere o dello “specchio” del Principe). Tuttavia, tutte queste figure sono, in un certo senso, degli indebolimenti, per non dire delle degenerazioni, della parrhèsia classica – con la significativa eccezione di Seneca che “esporta” in qualche modo la parrhèsia al di là del campo culturale greco, la rinomina libertas, e costituisce per noi il “traghettatore” della filosofia greca verso la moralità romana. Per quanto riguarda le forme classiche su cui vorrei concentrarmi adesso, esse sono quattro, o meglio, lo vedremo, due volte due, seguendo un doppio sistema di opposizione, e si riferiscono ai nomi di Socrate, di Pericle, di Diogene, e dell’oratore populista o del demagogo (si pensi, nella letteratura classica, alla figura di


74 Étienne Balibar Cleone)12. Le polarità di questo sistema si organizzano in questo modo: vi è innanzitutto la divisione tra la parrhèsia che è detta “politica” e quella che è detta “filosofica”, poi ciascuna di esse si suddivide in due figure antitetiche. Dal lato politico il parresiasta autentico, colui che fa prova del vero e proprio coraggio della verità e la cui ambizione è dirigere la città nell’interesse dei cittadini, producendo l’emulazione da parte dei suoi concittadini, ha per antitesi un rivale mimetico, il demagogo (Cleone) che vuole “democratizzare” la parrhèsia distribuendola a tutti, conferendo così alle convinzioni della moltitudine l’apparenza della verità o installando la loro opinione al posto della verità. Dal lato filosofico, a un primo sguardo non c’è una gerarchia o giudizio di valore in questo senso (a meno che non sia segretamente invertito), ma una semplice opposizione tra la parrhèsia di tipo socratico (la funzione di Socrate era di ricordare ai suoi interlocutori che sono anche i suoi concittadini a dover esaminare la loro vita e la loro condotta nella prospettiva della morte a venire che sarà per loro il momento della verità, praticando il dialogo che diviene così il medium dell’esercizio filosofico stesso) e d’altra parte la parrhèsia cinica incarnata da Diogene. Qui avviene qualcosa di straordinario nel testo di Foucault, una cosa di cui molti lettori sono rimasti colpiti. L’esposizione svolta secondo un parallelismo tra i due rappresentanti tipici della parrhèsia “filosofica”, Socrate e Diogene (il suo “doppio” sardonico), non smette di proliferare, per sfociare nella lezione del 29 febbraio 1984 in una lunga disamina, che attraversa diverse tappe, lungo la quale il cinismo diviene una categoria trans-storica che attraversa tutta la storia occidentale, e sembra impegnare ogni figura del coraggio della verità – compresa, esempio privilegiato da Foucault, la vita come attività rivoluzionaria, con il tipo del “militante” – per trasformarla in una rottura scandalosa con la normalità e il decoro. L’elemento decisivo a mio avviso è questo: se non si includesse Diogene, questa figura di eccesso all’interno del sistema della parrhèsia classica, il sistema beneficerebbe soltanto di una completezza illusoria, e resterebbe quindi logicamente inintelligibile. Bisogna includere Diogene (anche se in un certo modo “si esclude” lui stesso dai “generi di discorso” che costituiscono la città) affinché, precisamente, il “bordo” della parrhèsia e la sua funzione di “contra-dizione” siano rappresentati. Bisogna quindi definire il tipo Diogene come parresiasta ai limiti. Qui, ho una piccola Citato da Foucault in Le gouvernement de soi et des autres. Cours au Collège de France. 1982-1983, Seuil-Gallimard, Paris 2008, p. 99; trad. it. Il governo di sé e degli altri. Corso al Collège de France (1982-1983), Feltrinelli, Milano 2009, p. 106. 12


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divergenza di opinione con alcuni interpreti autorevoli: non credo che Diogene rappresenti la vita in opposizione al discorso, o che egli incarni allegoricamente lo spostamento della filosofia verso una forma di vita in opposizione ad una forma di discorso, una verità incorporata o incarnata in opposizione ad una verità discorsiva o dialogica13. Il discorso e la vita sono altrettanto presenti e articolati l’uno con l’altro nel caso di Socrate che nel caso di Diogene, benché evidentemente non allo stesso modo. Direi che Diogene illustra un “contro-discorso” di secondo grado, o se si vuole una negatività riflessiva, in cui la discorsività raggiunge il suo limite sotto forma di gesti simbolici (come il fatto di camminare nudo, di abbaiare come un cane) e di atteggiamenti di negazione (il fatto di non rispondere alle domande; di mantenere il silenzio, rompendo con l’obbligo al dialogo e alla comunicazione su cui la filosofia, così come la partecipazione alla vita della città, sono fondate; di fare l’elogio dello squallore e della povertà; di rivendicare di aver ricevuto come missione divina la “falsificazione della moneta”, etc., tutte posizioni che, in termini moderni, ne fanno tanto un anarchico quanto un immoralista, ciò che la tragedia greca chiama apolis, un “non-cittadino”)14. Gesti e atteggiamenti sono naturalmente anche una modalità di linguaggio, sono le voci del silenzio, ma che provocano delle parole per reazione, che “tirano fuori” in qualche modo le convenzioni benpensanti dalla loro nascondiglio. La veridizione diviene “scandalo” permanente. E lo scandalo è una provocazione15. Il sistema è quindi completo con il suo eccesso interno, o la sua “via di fuga”. Esso comprende due figure positive o affermative, poste alle Posizione sostenuta da Judith Revel al Convegno di Yale Michel Foucault: After 1984. Diogene, come si sa, si dice cosmopolitès, cosa che molti interpreti comprendono negativamente, come rifiuto di appartenenza ad una determinata città, e di conseguenza rifiuto di obbedienza alle sue leggi. Foucault non usa il termine “cosmopolitismo”, ma descrive il politheuesthai che si potrebbe dire l’impolitico del cinico, inteso come un “governo dell’universo” rivendicato dal basso, dopo aver messo faccia a faccia (secondo un famoso racconto storico-mitico) la sovranità universale di Alessandro, conquistatore del mondo, e l’anti-sovranità (o sovranità segreta) di Diogene “re della miseria”. 15 Foucault riprende più volte l’espressione “scandalo della verità”. In maniera generica, essa può avere uno sfondo evangelico (Paolo dice che la predicazione di Cristo crocifisso è uno «scandalo per gli Ebrei e una follia per i Greci») (1 Cor 1:23); ma più direttamente l’espressione viene dal pamphlet di Georges Bernanos contro Maurras e la classe politica francese, dopo gli accordi di Monaco, pubblicato nel 1939: Scandalo della verità, dove si trova in particolare la frase: «Lo scandalo non è dire la verità, è non dirla tutta intera, di introdurvi una menzogna per omissione che esteriormente la lascia intatta, ma corrodendola, come un cancro, il cuore e le viscere…» (G. Bernanos, Scandale de la vérité, Gallimard, Paris 1939, p. 56). 13 14


76 Étienne Balibar due estremità della grande divisione della politica e della filosofia, Pericle e Socrate, questi “eroi positivi” della nostra eredità classica, così come due figure negative o due incarnazioni della negatività, per quanto in sensi totalmente differenti e con opposto valore: la figura del politico demagogo che formalmente è nondimeno un parresiasta (cosa che possiamo collegare al fatto che la domanda “chi sono i demagoghi” o i “populisti”? Questione sempre di una grande attualità come sapete, non sempre semplice da risolvere, potendosi addirittura rivelare indecidibile), e la figura dell’antifilosofo cinico che sembra introdurre un limite escatologico all’esercizio della parrhèsia, anch’essa infatti molto indeterminata perché oscilla, per dirlo in termini che emergeranno più tardi e che, manifestamente, tormentano il discorso di Foucault, tra l’“ultimo uomo” e il “superuomo”. Questa seconda linea di opposizione, che interseca quella del politico e del filosofico, è quindi una linea di frattura tra discorso normato, e normativo, al cuore stesso della condotta “coraggiosa”, e discorso o quasi-discorso sregolato e sregolante, che apre una zona di indeterminazione e di ambivalenza. Ma le due opposizioni non si collocano esattamente sullo stesso piano. È la seconda che surdetermina la prima, in modo che l’anti-filosofia del cinico entra anche in competizione con la politica degenerata del demagogo, e poco a poco con tutte le altre16. Per quanto tutto ciò non costituisca ovviamente che un quadro sommario distante dai testi, a cui manca quindi la prova della loro rilettura attenta, vorrei comunque dirigermi verso un’ipotesi conclusiva, tenendo a mente che avevo cominciato evocando l’articolazione del problema della parrhèsia con l’interrogazione reiterata del testo di Kant sull’Illuminismo. Perché Foucault ha dedicato tanto tempo e tante letture a far luce sul “complesso” semantico soggiacente agli usi filosofici e politici della parrhèsia antica, se non, in particolare, per tentare un chiarimento del senso dell’idea di “critica” e tracciare una linea di demarcazione tra le sue Da buoni strutturalisti si potrebbe tentare una schematizzazione di questa tavola di opposizioni, in cui il cinico (Diogene) occuperebbe la “casella vuota”, quella del significante fluttuante che, attraverso tutta la storia, cambia di significato (o d’identità): Politica retta (droite) (Pericle) Filosofia (Socrate) Politica demagogica (Cleone) Antifilosofia “apolitica” (Diogene) Logicamente, il cinismo è una sorta di “doppia negazione” della politica retta, della quale la filosofia e la demagogia (la sofistica?) sono delle negazioni semplici o parziali: ++ +-+ -16


Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault 77

opere contemporanee? Non dimentichiamo che siamo in un momento in cui Habermas, da parte sua, pubblica alcuni contributi al dibattito che si oppongono frontalmente a Foucault, o a ciò che lui crede essere la posizione di Foucault: questa è l’attualità. Rudy Leonelli insiste a giusto titolo sull’importanza di questo confronto, del quale ricostituisce una cartografia completa. Non evoca, tuttavia, la parrhèsia, perché questa questione sembra essere fuori dal “campo” della modernità su cui si incentra la discussione relativa all’Aufklärung. Io credo invece che essa vi rientri a pieno titolo, in quanto operatore di un decentramento, se assegniamo una portata sufficientemente estesa alla categoria di “intellettuale” che è qui in questione. Sospetto che il parresiasta, nella molteplicità intrinseca che ne fa una figura problematica, un complesso di opposizioni, persino in opposizione con se stessa (quando arriviamo al cinico), abbia rappresentato per Foucault la possibilità di aprire una terza via tra il cosiddetto “intellettuale universale” e ciò che lui stesso aveva a un certo punto ribattezzato (rivendicando tale statuto) l’“intellettuale specifico”, con il rischio di scambiarlo con la funzione di un contro-esperto o di un “consigliere nelle sollevazioni” in opposizione al “consigliere del Principe” (cosa che, d’altronde, Foucault è anche stato)17. Il parresiasta ideale è anche, come lo ha mostrato la sua ricerca, un parresiasta scisso, smembrato tra il primato del politico e il primato del filosofico, tra i due orientamenti del governo degli altri e del governo di sé o cura di sé: questi due orientamenti restano eterogenei, ma non possono non mischiarsi, cercare di rifondarsi l’uno sull’altro. Al punto della loro “impossibile” sovrapposizione sorge qualcosa come l’intellettuale singolare, o l’intellettuale che è messo in rapporto con le singolarità storiche, altrimenti dette i momenti di attualità: un intellettuale che non è né universale né specifico, ma si situa al di là di questa distinzione metafisica nella sua forma di vita e di discorso. Ritorniamo allora, brevemente, alla questione della democrazia e ai suoi ben noti imbarazzi. Bisogna evocare nuovamente la “scena” parresiastica di cui Foucault descrive la drammaturgia. Di fronte all’idea di una “pragmatica”, egli preferisce forgiare l’enunciato di una 17 Il confronto con altre traiettorie contemporanee sarebbe qui interessante: ad esempio Bourdieu, Said… Si veda il libro di Edward Said (tratto dalle conferenze radiofoniche della BBC: The Reith Lectures), Representations of the Intellectual, Pantheon Books, New York 1994; trad. it. Dire la verita. Gli intellettuali e il potere, Feltrinelli, Milano 1995 (di cui un capitolo si intitola, in riferimento esplicito a Foucault: «Dire la verità al potere»). Si veda il mio articolo: Speak Truth to Power, in «Journal of Contemporary Thought», inverno 2014.


78 Étienne Balibar “drammatica del discorso”, e rifiuta la nozione di “performatività”, almeno nell’interpretazione tradizionale, strettamente istituzionale, di questo termine, che suppone attribuire uno statuto speciale ai suoi attori. Possiamo rilevare qui l’importanza di due indicazioni di Foucault. La prima concerne la scena primitiva raccontata da Plutarco, di cui non si stanca mai di citare il racconto: «Un uomo insorge contro un tiranno e gli dice la verità»18. Rischiando la sua vita e, in fin dei conti, al prezzo della sua libertà, Platone si solleva (se dresse) dinnanzi a Dionigi per formulare un consiglio che va esattamente in direzione contraria rispetto alle aspettative del tiranno e della sua etica del godimento. Senza questa evocazione, l’espressione “coraggio della verità” perderebbe ogni significato, perché ne va di un rischio personale, e del fatto che un faccia a faccia con la morte rappresenta la pietra di paragone della parrhèsia. Questi due elementi non scompariranno mai, anche se si deve ammettere che essi assumono altre forme, perché vi è più di un rischio, e più di un modo di affrontare la morte, che costituiscono parte integrante dell’estetica dell’esistenza. Eppure, nessuna è qui tuttavia riducibile né al confronto con il “Maestro assoluto” della dialettica hegeliana, né con “l’essere per la morte” dell’analitica esistenziale heideggeriana. È ancora un’altra figura. Il rapporto alla morte possibile, ugualmente lontana da un’immagine di terrore e dal gioco della trasgressione, è proprio una delle componenti essenziali di ciò che Foucault chiama il “patto parresiastico” stretto dal soggetto del dire-il-vero con se stesso e con gli altri. Quanto al secondo elemento, esso emerge in particolare quando Foucault descrive l’azione di Pericle in mezzo ai dibattiti e alle contestazioni dell’agora, dove si affrontano delle opinioni in lotta, o se si vuole dei “partiti” con i loro leader che aspirano a dirigere gli affari della città. Nel “campo agonistico”, allo stesso tempo normato e scisso dall’uguaglianza del diritto alla parola (isègoria), Pericle esercita il suo “ascendente”, ovvero si mette in primo piano per conferire all’enunciazione della verità il potere – puramente discorsivo – di unire la città in una “buona politica”, una “politica retta” (che è ciò che i filosofi chiameranno la politeia stessa)19. Foucault M. Foucault, Le gouvernement de soi et des autres, op. cit., p. 49; trad. it. cit., p. 56. Non mi sembra inverosimile che Foucault abbia messo l’accento su questa drammaturgia della «messa in primo piano» e dell’«ascendente» in contrappunto al modo in cui, qualche decennio prima, Jean-Pierre Vernant aveva riorientato il corso dei dibattiti sulla città greca e le origini della democrazia insistendo sulla figura dell’“al centro” (milieu), o del posto vuoto, dove, a turno e di conseguenza alla pari, i cittadini devono andare per rivolgere la parola ai loro concittadini (en mesôi). 18 19


Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault 79

dà a questo agonismo il nome di dunasteia, parola chiave del vocabolario politico greco, ma molto difficile da tradurre nella nostra lingua. Come l’aveva sottolineato precedentemente, nella sua lettura delle tavole dell’agon omerico, la dunasteia è una potenza di comandare, essa ha quindi delle strette affinità con la tyrannis- regalità piuttosto che con la tirannia, come è testimoniato dal titolo di Sofocle: Edipo tiranno – ma essa non le è identica perché connota una virtù e una potenza di agire in situazione e non uno statuto o un titolo. D’altra parte, la dunasteia deve essere messa in relazione con l’arché, categoria fondamentale della metafisica e dell’antropologia dei Greci, che associa l’idea del potere o dell’autorità con quella di inizio, principio, origine. Un’idea che, di conseguenza, se crediamo ad Aristotele, comprende tutto lo spettro che va dalla “sovranità” generica, appartenente al popolo o alla comunità dei cittadini in un regime democratico, fino all’idea delle “cariche” o delle “magistrature” tra le quali i compiti del governo sono ripartiti. Vi è tuttavia nella dunasteia un elemento di individualizzazione ulteriore. È utile qui ricorrere al latino (e alle riflessioni sul linguaggio del potere che possiamo trovare in Arendt, Kojève o Leo Strauss): un buon equivalente della dunasteia, in quanto ascendente democratico potrebbe essere in latino auctoritas, a condizione di dargli come accezione, letteralmente, l’entrata nella funzione di autore, quella dell’iniziazione o del cominciamento nel campo della verità politica, dove l’individuo si impegna egli stesso per la difesa della verità, assumendosi di conseguenza la responsabilità personale di ciò che enuncia e il rischio delle sue conseguenze20. Una tale “autorità” non è una qualità che si riceve o di cui si è investiti come pure non è una funzione ereditaria o elettiva, è una qualità che si crea per se stessi, in qualche modo, nel momento in cui ci “si leva” nell’assemblea, dove ci si fa avanti tra i cittadini che sono degli eguali, che hanno di conseguenza un uguale diritto a parlare e a comandare (isonomia, isègoria). Si tratta di imporre attraverso l’esempio stesso del dire-il-vero una capacità di decisione o una lucidità superiore, che vale almeno in un certo frangenti, e permette di “governare” i cittadini e la città con il loro assenso, ma comporta sempre il doppio rischio dell’errore e dell’impopolarità. Penso che ciò sia intimamente legato al fatto che, secondo Foucault, il tratto comune degli interventi parresiasti, al contrario di ogni conferma dell’ordine del discorso per come era Dico “inizio”, “cominciamento”, ma mi piacerebbe appropriarmi del termine “inaugurazione” che ha proposto Judith Revel nel suo intervento alla giornata di studi all’Université Paris-Est Créteil del 2016, Michel Foucault et la subjectivation. 20


80 Étienne Balibar stato dato in precedenza, con le sue distribuzioni e le sue garanzie, è quello di “aprire uno spazio di indeterminazione”, o come potremmo dire anche di sospendere la validità della norma, che ciò avvenga in filosofia o in politica, o su entrambi i piani assieme, per eventualmente ricrearla. Non è inutile notare, in contrappunto, che le virtù e le capacità di azione evocate qui corrispondono a dei modelli tipicamente maschile, almeno secondo un’accezione tradizionale21. L’idea che ho in mente è in fondo la seguente. Non vi è dubbio che a Foucault importasse della democrazia, ma l’idea che aveva circa la sua conservazione o la sua rigenerazione era paradossale. Tanto più se la confrontiamo con le concezioni normative di Habermas relative alla reciprocità della politica e dell’agire comunicativo. Non solo per Foucault la conservazione della democrazia passa per le contro-condotte che vanno in senso contrario rispetto alla sua degenerazione in demagogia, oligarchia al servizio di interessi particolari, dominio delle macchine elettorali e delle agenzie di comunicazione, etc., ma essa comporta una dimensione quasi-aristocratica. Naturalmente l’aristocrazia qui in questione non riguarda né la discendenza (e di conseguenza il nome) né la classe sociale, la ricchezza e nemmeno la competenza o il sapere, è una “forza aristocratica” in un senso particolare e, al limite, inverso. Il tipo di potere o autorità denominato dunasteia è associato alla parrhèsia in un circolo di presupposizione reciproca, di modo che l’effetto di verità si produce se questo potere sorge e quando esso sorge, ma a condizione che questo potere stesso si distingua completamente da un dominio, da una disciplina, da una normatività, allorché esso coincide puramente con l’esercizio rischioso di un dire-il-vero che sorge in eccesso rispetto all’istituzione. Questo potere è dunque fragile, aleatorio, sempre esposto al fallimento, ma disposto a correre questo rischio (sappiamo che i politici professionali non lo sono per così dire mai). Pertanto, esso si costituisce in un quadro democratico istituzionale (com’era stata l’ekklèsia degli Ateniesi), anche se per turbarne il funzionamento e l’ordine, interrompendone la comunicazione. Si può “comunicare” per interrompere la comunicazione normale, praticare una “contro-comunicazione”. O è molto rischioso, o è irrisorio. O cambia tutto, oppure è inutile. In un certo senso l’idea con la quale Vi è tuttavia (senza la parola parrhèsia, ma riprendendo lo stesso modello) da parte di Foucault un’evocazione della condotta parresiastica “al femminile” presa in prestito dalla tragedia: la figura di Creusa nella Medea di Euripide (cfr. A. Sforzini, Dramatiques de la vérité: la parrêsia à travers la tragédie attique, in D. Lorenzini, A. Revel e A. Sforzini (a cura di), Michel Foucault: éthique et vérité, 1980-1984, Vrin, Paris 2013, p. 151. 21


Sulle parrhèsia(e) di Foucault 81

abbiamo a che fare è l’opposto dell’idea di “costituzione mista”, che va da Aristotele fino a Montesquieu e oltre, per spiegare che una “democrazia” è sostenibile solo se essa fa spazio al suo interno, attraverso una “divisione dei poteri”, a degli elementi di origine monarchica o oligarchica (funzione esecutiva presidenziale, elezione dei magistrati e dei rappresentanti, potere delle lobbies e degli esperti). Ciò che Foucault descrive o suggerisce, per mezzo del suo ritorno anacronistico alla parrhèsia, alla dunasteia e alla loro articolazione con le istituzioni della città greca in cui la filosofia occupa un posto al tempo stesso centrale e sempre contestato, è piuttosto la necessità di un intervento perturbatore per riportare la democrazia al suo “principio”. Questa prospettiva può essere detta aristocratica o quasi-aristocratica, ma essa ha un carattere fondamentalmente laico, essa differisce in particolare dall’intervento di un profeta o anche da una figura di eccezione carismatica alla Weber. Significa in sostanza che non esiste qualcosa come la “democrazia” nel senso di un’istituzione stabile della libertà e dell’uguaglianza, ma soltanto dei momenti di contra-dizione democratica, che prendono le loro distanze dalla veridizione e dalla giurisdizione radicate. È in questa prospettiva che, alla fine del ventesimo secolo, poteva avere un senso ricercare presso i Greci (ma anche forse inventare a partire dai loro racconti) una figura di “contro-democrazia” che rappresenta tuttavia l’azione democratica per eccellenza, dove la politica e l’intelligenza possono sperare di incontrarsi. Ma da un altro lato, e forse per noi, questa “eredità” è quanto di più difficile da raccogliere e da trasporre: questo aristocraticismo paradossale dello “scandalo” e dell’“autorizzazione di se stessi” per essere possibile non presuppone una certa istituzione dell’eguaglianza? Dal momento che tale aristocraticismo nasce contro (come una contra-dizione e un contrappunto), disturbando l’ordine del discorso, che succede se questa istituzione è già stata abolita, neutralizzata, snaturata, assorbita integralmente dall’industria della “comunicazione”? «La colomba leggera potrebbe immaginarsi di volare meglio nel vuoto», ha scritto il filosofo di Königsberg. (Traduzione dal francese di Francesco Montanaro) Étienne Balibar Kingston University London e.balibar@kingston.ac.uk


Regimes of Visibility


The Dis-Time of Security and Visibility in Contemporary Governmentalities An Interview with Didier Bigo

by Laura Cremonesi, Orazio Irrera, Daniele Lorenzini, Martina Tazzioli

Over the last three decades, Michel Foucault’s work has travelled across a variety of academic disciplines and scholarships and, to some extent, has contributed to unsettle the disciplinary boundaries as such. Mobilizing the Foucauldian analytical tool-box in the fields of International Relations and Critical Security Studies entails, first of all, engaging in “cut[ting] off the head of the king”1, to use a famous expression employed by Foucault himself to point to the limits of a juridical approach to power relations. In the interview that we publish here, Didier Bigo states this point very clearly: despite the increasingly widespread use of Foucault in the field of International Relations, this academic discipline “continues to conceive power as a relation of obligation and as a question of obedience, or as a matter of values”. In other words, according to Bigo, Foucault is widely cited and the notion of governmentality has become popular, in alternative to state-centered approaches, but his major challenges to the theories of power and the state ultimately have not been incorporated, on a methodological level, into critical analyses in IR. A quite similar argument can be made about the scholarship that focuses on migration and security, the other field where Bigo’s work is mainly situated: working with Foucault today involves moving beyond a panopticon-gaze on border controls and to start thinking the politics of mobility “out of security”, to borrow an expression coined by Claudia Aradau2. More broadly, in the interview that we publish here, Bigo suggests that, in the end, Foucault equips us with the adequate methodological tools for raising, again and again, the question of “what is our present?” and, thus, for inevitably moving beyond Foucault himself, instead of applying his analysis on disciplinary power to 1

p. 89.

M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Volume I, Pantheon Books, New York 1978,

C. Aradau, Rethinking Trafficking in Women. Politics out of Security, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2008. 2

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 83-92.


84 Didier Bigo the present migration context. One of the main lessons that one can learn from Foucault consists in raising questions from within a certain field of knowledge that constantly displace and destabilize the boundaries of the discipline, as Bigo compellingly puts it, generating in some way a deterritorializing move within an established academic field3. Security and visibility are the two main concepts that Bigo unpacks in this interview. Both in Critical Security Studies and in migration literature, analyses on the nexus between visibility and surveillance had been rife: the so-called securitization of borders and the implementation of monitoring tools for detecting migrants have been tackled by scholars in terms of an exponential increase in real-time surveillance towards unwanted populations. Without downplaying the effects of surveillance generated by the use of mapping and monitoring tools, Bigo gestures towards an analysis that rethinks visibility and security in light of the contemporary mechanisms of knowledge production. In a nutshell, a critical appraisal of the politics of visibility today – conceived as a regime formed by what is made visible as well as by what is left under the threshold of detectability – concerns less the activities of control and constant monitoring than the emergence of new spaces of governmentality and, relatedly, of economies of knowledge. How are populations crafted and targeted through predictive and anticipatory knowledge that stems from data collection activities? How, through security technologies, new modes of normalization are established? Through such a provocative intervention, Bigo points to the “dis-time” character of surveillance and visibility today, showing how the future is actually determining intervention into the present, through predictive analyses. However – and this is perhaps the second methodological lesson that IR and migration scholars should draw from Foucault –, as Bigo stresses, the restructuring of the economy of power is nothing but an attempt by states to frantically regain control over subjectivities and autonomous movements that constantly exceed and trouble bordering mechanisms. Question: What is the use of Michel Foucault’s work and analytical categories that you, as a scholar in the field of critical security studies, do? And to what extent do you think that Foucault’s reflections on security, discipline and visibility could help to destabilise the field of security studies? G. Deleuze & F. Guattari, Kafka. Toward a Minor Literature, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1986. 3


The Dis-Time of Security and Visibility in Contemporary Governmentalities 85

Didier Bigo: Michel Foucault est devenu très à la mode depuis une vingtaine d’années et il est extrêmement cité en relations internationales. Mais les citations de Michel Foucault restent souvent des enluminures en marge de l’argument central qui continue à utiliser une vision du pouvoir comme un rapport de coercition et d’obéissance ou d’allocation des valeurs. Par exemple on utilise gouvernementalité mais on continue à penser en terme de gouvernance à niveau multiple4. La pensée de Michel Foucault ne peut guère être réduite à un apport pour la discipline des études européennes ou internationales. Son usage n’a de sens que si cette pratique réflexive remet en question les présupposés disciplinaires5. Or, souvent, la citation de Foucault dans un texte est une manière de reprendre une pensée banale en la parant d’un soupçon de parfum français. J’essaie donc au contraire de ne pas citer en permanence Michel Foucault, et de ne pas tomber dans la séduction du texte, qui rehausserait par la qualité de son style, une pensée un peu poussive. C’est pourquoi j’aime cette notion de travail de l’œuvre, c’est-à-dire la possibilité de se servir de la réflexion de Michel Foucault comme un mode de déconstruction des savoirs les plus ordinaires de la science politique et des relations internationales, dont entre autres les réflexions sur l’État, sur les frontières, ou sur la sécurité6. Ce qui importe alors dans la démarche, c’est de « penser avec » et non de « penser sur » Michel Foucault en essayant de l’appliquer au présent car ce qui importe c’est de maintenir la ligne transversale, transdisciplinaire et de discuter le régime de vérité des savoirs disciplinaires institués7. Par exemple le fait d’employer une réflexion généalogique et archivistique va empêcher la reproduction d’une version monolitique, hérarchique et essentialiste d’un pouvoir qui appartient à quelqu’un, qui peut s’accumuler, qui peut se localiser, et qui produit des effets univoques d’obéissance. Voir pour une excellente critique T. Lemke, « An Indigestible Meal? Foucault, Governmentality and State Theory », Distnktion: Scandinavian Journal of Society Theory, vol. 8, n° 2, 2007, p. 43-64. 5 Sur la critique des sciences sociales voir M. Foucault, Foucault Live: Collected Interviews, 1961-1984, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles 1996. 6 M.C. Granjon, « Penser avec Michel Foucault », dans Théorie critique et pratiques politiques, Karthala, Paris 2005, p. 53. 7 C. Gordon, « Le possible: alors et maintenant. Comment penser avec et sans Foucault autour du droit pénal et du droit public », Cultures & Conflits, vol. 2, 2014, p. 111-134. 4


86 Didier Bigo Michel Foucault est en ce sens comme le signale Deleuze un nouveau cartographe8. Il a su s’emparer de ces questions de la sécurité, du territoire, de la population et en faire la généalogie afin de faire surgir des interrogations différentes de celles de la sciences politique ou de la géographie. Il ne s’est même pas engagé contre, il a juste fait différemment, et c’est en cela qu’il a, comme je l’ai signalé récemment « cannibalisé » la discipline de la science politique avant de l’être en retour9. Après l’avoir lu, il est impossible de continuer de parler d’un champ de savoir qui s’appellerait security studies, y compris les soi-disant critical security studies. Ces dernières se doivent de faire un hara-kiri collectif et de se renommer autrement10. Les « foyers de sens » que le terme sécurité produit dans un paradigme et une configuration socio-historique donné ne se comprenne qu’en analysant les pratiques effectives de liberté et leurs conditions d’apparition ainsi que leurs conditions limites11. Il en va de même pour le rapport à l’égalité et aux injustices. Entourer la sécurité de territoires « protégés » par des barbelés (intellectuels ou bien réels) qui privilégient la notion et en font le cœur de l’analyse est anti foucaldien. Question: Your analysis on what you called the “Banopticon” certainly constitutes an example of the way in which the notion of critical and strategic “use” of an author should not be confused with the mere translation or application of a concept into one’s own field of study. The Panopticon model has been used widely across disciplinary fields carceral geography, surveillance studies, criminology, etc. Is there, in your opinion, a possible way of putting to work in our present “the disciplinary visibility” that Foucault investigates without necessarily referring to the Panopticon and that you have recently explored after your reflections on the Banopticon?

G. Deleuze, Foucault, Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1896, p. 141. D. Bigo, P. Bonditti et F. Gros (dir.), Foucault and the International, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2017. 10 D. Bigo et E. Mc Cluskey, « What Is a Paris Approach? Deconstructing Security », dans A. Gheciu et W.C. Wolforth (dir.), Oxford Handbook of International Security, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2017. 11 F. Gros, M. Castillo et A. Garapon, « De la sécurité nationale à la sécurité humaine », Raisons politiques, vol. 4, 2008, p. 5-7. 8 9


The Dis-Time of Security and Visibility in Contemporary Governmentalities 87

Didier Bigo: J’ai fait référence dans mes travaux à l’idée de ban-optique pour montrer justement que dans les conditions contemporaines des usages de liberté d’aller et venir, comme de penser, de s’exprimer et de communiquer digitalement, il y avait très certainement un mécanisme de surveillance à distance, qui, au nom de la sécurité, se construit comme la limite et la condition de possibilité d’une expression des pratiques d’autonomie12. Ce mécanisme de surveillance agit de manière diagonale en changeant la logique verticale de la raison d’État et de son renseignement dont le regard va du haut vers le bas par le fait que ce dernier est capillarisé, et branché sur les mécanismes horizontaux des technologies de surveillance et d’autosurveillance que les bases de données, les outils biométriques, les réseaux sociaux et internet permettent quand entreprises privées et services de renseignements collaborent. Cette diagonale est transnationale. Elle traverse les jeux nationaux et ne s’y réduit pas. Elle est fondée sur des collaborations entre services et ne répond plus aux modes traditionnels d’acquisition de la sécurité nationale qui se concentraient sur le territoire13. Elle agit donc à distance mais aussi à « distemps » comme nous allons le voir. Cette extension ou intensification de la surveillance n’en est pas moins le corrélat des luttes sur les limites des pratiques d’autonomie et de passage qu’ont les individus en tant qu’êtres humains connectés ensemble. La violence et le pouvoir symbolique qui s’exprime dans cette intensification de la surveillance n’est en revanche que l’application d’un programme paranoïde dont la bible serait le Total Information Awareness, mais ce n’est certainement pas à mon avis le diagramme de pouvoir transnational qui organise les enjeux de liberté-sécurité. Nous ne partons pas vers un état d’exception généralisé comme système de pratiques, sauf à croire les dires du pouvoir et se contenter de les inverser. L’érection de murs n’est D. Bigo, « Security, Exception, Ban and Surveillance », dans L. David Lyon (dir.), Theorizing Surveillance. The Panopticon and Beyond, Willan Publishing, Davon 2016, p. 46-68 ; Id., « Detention of Foreigner, States of Exception, and the Social Practices of Control of the Banopticon », dans P.K. Rajaram (dir.), Borderscapes, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 2007; Id., « Exception et ban : à propos de l’“état d’exception” », Erytheis, vol. 2, 2007; Id., « Du pan-optisme au ban-optisme : les micrologiques du contrôle dans la mondialisation », dans P. Chardel et G. Rockhill (dir.), Technologies de contrôle dans la mondialisation, enjeux politiques, éthiques et esthétiques, Kimé, Paris 2010, p. 208. 13 D. Bigo, « Diagonal Mass Surveillance. Gulliver versus the Lilliputians », Open Democracy, 5 mars 2014, <https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/didierbigo/diagonal-mass-surveillance-gulliver-versus lilliputians>. 12


88 Didier Bigo pas inéluctable, pas plus que la militarisation des frontières de l’Union ; un abandon des politiques de visas et une ouverture des lignes de ferry changerait la donne. Il en va de même d’une certaine critique qui évoque pour le présent une surveillance de masse de type panoptique, débouchant sur la capture globale des flux internet et une mise sous surveillance massive qui serait à la fois globale et totale. Mais ce cauchemar totalitaire qui répond au cauchemar du terrorisme nucléaire est aussi un cauchemar et les deux génèrent une politique de l’inquiétude. Ces imaginaires ne rendent pas compte des dynamiques centrifuges des champs de pouvoir qui s’agencent sur la différentiation, l’hétérogénisation et non sur l’homogène et la globalité simplificatrice. Si j’appelle le dispositif, non pas un panoptique mais un ban-optique c’est justement parce qu’il ne s’applique pas également à tous en pratique. Le ban-optique est différent du panoptique qui égalise tous les surveillés entre eux et les positionnent face aux surveillants dont on ne sait quand ils regardent mais dont on reconnaît l’existence. Les pratiques ban-optiques des diverses institutions au contraire discriminent, filtrent, laissent passer certains et pas d’autres, ne retiennent qu’un faible pourcentage de suspects potentiels qui n’ont pas encore agi, et en même temps elles solidarisent les « non suspects » qui forment la majorité contre les premiers, ou tout au moins elles les normalisent et les rendent indifférents aux sorts des suspects. Elles discriminent entre les surveillés et brouillent les frontières entre la surveillance et la confiance jusqu’à faire douter de l’existence d’une surveillance ayant un impératif stratégique et font plus penser aux romans de Kafka qu’à ceux d’Orwell, avec des acteurs contribuant parfois activement à leur propre servitude. Que ce soit dans les errances forcées ou volontaires poussant à traverser des frontières, parfois au prix de sa vie, en raison des contrôles aux frontières et en amont de celles-ci, ou qu’il s’agisse de surfer sur internet et de participer aux réseaux sociaux en exprimant des ressentiments personnels ou collectifs, au prix de la labellisation de radical et terroriste potentiel, certains sont pris comme cibles ultimes de ces mécanismes de surveillance, mais ces cibles ne semblent pas tant relever d’une catégorisation souveraine que de processus technologiques activés par des guildes professionnelles en opposition qui suivent une seule règle, à savoir que leurs cibles restent toujours une petite minorité,


The Dis-Time of Security and Visibility in Contemporary Governmentalities 89

une minorité qui fait peur ou doit faire peur à une majorité. Cette majorité a alors tendance à devenir profondément hostile parce qu’elle a peur de perdre son « statut »14. Les acteurs de la surveillance, qu’ils soient publics et privés, policiers et militaires, sont presque toujours des hybrides de ces catégories et construisent à travers l’élaboration d’algorithmes prédictifs au sein de bases de données plus ou moins intégrées au sein des mêmes plateformes, de multiples profils spécifiques qui regroupent des données ou des acteurs et les filtrent, non plus vraiment sur la connaissance de ce qu’ils ont fait ou de qui ils sont comme dans la justice criminelle classique, mais sur la base de ce qu’ils pourraient faire, un peu comme dans un futur antérieur réduisant l’incertitude radicale du futur à un futur connu et gérable15. À la gestion d’un espace panoptique disciplinaire, il faut alors substituer la réflexion de corridors ban-optique géré à distance par des mécanismes de surveillance qui s’organisent autour d’un espace-temps où le futur paradoxalement prédétermine le présent. Ce caractère « distemps » donne alors à la surveillance digitale une place cruciale dans le ban-optique, en ouvrant sur des raisonnements dits « prédictifs » qui seraient capables de déterminer à l’avance qui sera coupable et qui ne le sera pas. Souvent sans lien autre que celui de la corrélation de quelques propriétés sociales ou de coïncidences malencontreusement répétées, et sans lien de causalité, une population statistique émerge de l’analyse conduite pas les algorithmes; Discriminée en tant que « watch list » à qui on refusera un voyage, un crédit ou que l’on considérera comme en voie de radicalisation, cette population n’existe pas en soi, elle est le produit qui fait vivre et prospérer les professionnels de la gestion des informations sensibles16. Ces listes qui peuvent se croiser ou non selon les moments sont les ex hopitaux généraux. Elles regroupent les marges, A. Appadurai, « Fear of Small Numbers. An Essay on the Geography of Anger », Public Planet Books, vol. 13, 2006, p. 153. 15 D. Bigo, « Sécurité maximale et prévention? La matrice du futur antérieur et ses grilles », dans B. Cassin (dir.), Derrière les grilles. Sortons du tout-évaluation, Fayard, Paris 2013. 16 D. Bigo, « Electronic Large-Scale Surveillance and Watch Lists. The Products of a Paranoid Politics? », REMHU. Revista Interdisciplinar da Mobilidade Humana, vol. 23, n° 45, 2015, p. 11-42. G. Sullivan, « Transnational Legal Assemblages and Global Security Law. Topologies and Temporalities of the List », Transnational Legal Theory, vol. 5, n° 1, 2015, p. 81-127. 14


90 Didier Bigo et visent à surveiller afin de prévenir leurs actions, soit parce qu’ils sont susceptibles de devenir des illégaux, soit en les criminalisant, soit en les transformant en ennemi. Seulement ceci réussit uniquement parce que dans le même temps qu’il bannit certains, le ban-optique normalise de larges groupes qui ne se sentent jamais concernés, qui pensent toujours ne pas pouvoir être la cible de ces pratiques. Cet aspect a parfois été gommé dans des lectures rapides. Mais c’est pour moi l’essentiel. L’exclusion visible d’un petit nombre qui varie au gré des algorithmes de recherche est alors simultanément le ressort moins visible de l’acceptation du grand nombre de la population, aux transformations de la surveillance et aux technologies qui détruisent l’intimité, l’intégrité du corps et plus généralement la vie privée. Ils y sont indifférents car ils estiment ne pas être concernés et appellent de leurs vœux une transparence des corps et des esprits permettant d’être sûr que le voisin n’a rien à se reprocher. Dans le ban-optique ils se voient donc protégés et non objets de contrôle nécessitant un auto contrôle prudent. La société de contrôle dont parle Deleuze est loin des pratiques contemporaines17. Cela explique les faibles degrés de résistance publique aux pratiques de surveillance intrusive sur internet et la facilité avec laquelle s’impose la justification de la lutte antiterroriste dans ce domaine, quand bien même elle ne concerne que moins de 2% de toutes ces extractions de données personnelles, qui sont ensuite utilisées pour construire des profils concentrant la suspicion au nom d’une vague ressemblance, de corrélations, et non de causalités et de preuves. Le fait que ceci puisse avoir lieu montre comment l’hypervisibilisation du terrorisme par rapport aux pratiques d’espionnage commercial qui restent discrètes, projette une zone d’ombre (portée) nous rendant aveugle aux conditions de production de l’inquiétude et de la gestion des peurs. Question: It seems to us that while Foucault has deeply investigated on the nexus between discipline and regime of visibility, in his work on governmentality this aspect remains less developed. What is your account of that? And what are, according to you, possible directions concerning future research in the field of governmentality in relation to visibility? G. Deleuze, « Post-scriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle », dans Pourparlers, Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1990. 17


The Dis-Time of Security and Visibility in Contemporary Governmentalities 91

Didier Bigo: Le régime de visibilité ne vaut à mon avis que par la réflexion qu’il entraine sur les ombres portées par chaque éclairage et dès lors sur la rareté du réel au vu de toutes les potentialités existantes. C’est ce que Paul Veyne appelle les bibelots de l’histoire, ces idiosyncrasies qui combinent des éléments improbables18. Le hasard, l’incertitude ont partie liée avec les pratiques d’autonomie et les manières dont la réflexivité, l’auto-discipline, le gouvernement de soi s’en accommode dans les relations sociales. D’une certaine manière c’est par rapport à cette créativité humaine que l’on duplique dans les mécanismes de surveillance à distance organisés selon un dispositif banoptique, les logiques spatiales où le regard du surveillant vise à percer des secrets avec des logiques numériques où les jeux se font sur l’espace mais aussi sur une temporalité orientée vers le scénario du pire, le futur antérieur, et le « temps réel »; temps réel qui est en fait la prétention toujours vaine à une traçabilité instantanée des individus via les relévés digitaux de leurs activités comme par exemple ce que prétend faire Eurosur avec les navires en Méditerranée19 ou ce que prétend faire la collaboration des services d’interception des communications et de l’internet20. Ce qui se joue peut-être à l’heure actuelle c’est une forme de gouvernementalité qui veut réduire les incertitudes, les calculer, et qui prend l’improbable et le créatif comme une norme à échelonner via des grands nombres pour gouverner par le milieu. Le banal devient le normal statistique. Le hasard, positif ou non, prend alors la figure des marges et souvent de l’ennemi irréductible. Les procédures de visibilisation mettent alors en œuvre une série d’opérateurs censés prédire et produire la vérité du futur, qu’ils soient technologiques avec les algorithmes et leur ingénieurs, comportementaux avec les psycho-sociologues, ou même biologiques avec les neurosciences. Il est central pour les recherches à venir de penser ces diverses modalités technologiques en lien avec les pratiques sociales P. Veyne, Writing History. Essay on Epistemology, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown 1984, p. 342. 19 M. Tazzioli et W. Walters, « The Sight of Migration. Governmentality, Visibility and Europe’s Contested Borders », Global Society, vol. 30, n° 30, 2016, p. 445-464. 20 Z. Bauman, D. Bigo, P. Esteves, E. Guild, V. Jabri, D. Lyon et R.B.J. Walker, « After Snowden. Rethinking the Impact of Surveillance », International Political Sociology, vol. 8, n° 2, 2014, p. 121-144. 18


92 Didier Bigo et les catégories du jugement politique afin de comprendre la topologie qui brouille les catégories de l’interne-externe, de la frontière comme forme d’exclusion- inclusion et de les penser sous la forme d’un ruban de Moebius et non plus d’un cercle qui découpe21. Didier Bigo King’s College London didier.bigo.conflits@gmail.com

21

D. Bigo, « Security, Exception, Ban and Surveillance », art. cit.


Seeing and Saying

Foucault’s Analytic of Knowledge Production Deirdre McDonald

Introduction1

For Michel Foucault, modern thought developed on the foundation of

the institutional mechanisms and practices in place in which various forms of discourse develop, proliferate, and circulate2. Contemporary social theorists influenced by Foucault’s formulation typically define discourse as referring to historically contingent authoritative statements on a particular subject that, in turn, enable and constrain people’s actions including how they think about and problematize their own and others’ experiences and existence. From this perspective, contemporary discourses pertaining to orders of truth, what is accepted as reality in a given society, and the institutional bases of these discourses, are generally accepted with little attention paid to their historical formation. Thus, from birth and throughout their lifetime, people come to experience their lives via the knowledge produced within respective place- and time-specific discursive contexts. Critical social analysis, however, is attuned to how discourses are evaluated, created, and sustained – factors that are explored by tracing out their origin and formation – and how various social structures facilitate changes in the political economy of knowledge through a “carving up” of things3. In Foucault’s view, social theorists who investigate discourses (Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, to name but a few) founded a new possibility of interpreting signs with the resultant consequence of endless, fragmented I am very grateful to Ronjon Paul Datta for his helpful readings, stimulating discussions, and, most of all, for encouraging my ideas on Foucault. Many thanks to William Walters, Bruce Curtis, the anonymous reviewers, and the Materiali Foucaultiani editorial board. 2 R. Keller, Analysing Discourse: An Approach from the Sociology of Knowledge, in Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 6 (2005), no. 3; M. Power, Foucault and Sociology, in Annual Review of Sociology, no. 37 (2011), pp. 35-56. 3 M. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, trans. A.M. Sheridan-Smith, Tavistock, Bristol 1989, p. xviii. 1

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 93-117.


94 Deirdre McDonald interpretation4. Depending on the social, political, historical, and cultural climate, these fragmented interpretations have the potential to become picked up by those in positions of authority and become dominant discourses. By way of discourse analysis, Foucault calls attention not to mere historical facts, but to what was said in the past, the way it was said, and how it came to be constituted in what he calls discursive formations5. Following Foucault’s approach, Jürgen Link’s definition of discourse as “an institutionally consolidated concept of speech inasmuch as it determines and consolidates action and thus already exercises power” is most appropriate6. Thus, “who is authorized to speak matters more than the intentions and actions of any specific speaker [...] namely the historical conditions of possibility for the positivity and facticity of the taken-forgranted rules inhabited by human actors”7. This understanding reveals the interconnectivity of power and knowledge, and the production of power/ knowledge relationships within discursive formation practices found in contemporary institutional settings. Much of Foucault’s post-1961 historical analyses of systems attempt to explicate experience and even subjectivity itself. These intentions become concretized in The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception8 and Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison9. Specifically, he challenges the holders of power and Enlightenment reforms, values, and attitudes acting as vehicles of more effective control that he thinks underpin modern social and political institutions, namely, the clinic and the prison. For example, where madness once resulted in banishment or confinement M. Foucault, Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, in Transforming the Hermeneutic Context, ed. G.L. Ormiston and A.D. Schrift, State University of New York Press, New York 1990, pp. 59-67. 5 M. Kelly, Foucault and Politics: A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2014, p. 6. 6 J. Link, Was Ist Und Was Bringt Diskurstaktik, in kultuRRevolution, no. 2 (1983), p. 60 (as translated by S. Jäger and F. Maier, Discourse and Knowledge: Theoretical and Methodological Aspects of a Critical Discourse and Dispositive Analysis, in Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis, ed. R. Wodak and M. Meyer, Sage, London 2009). 7 M. Power, Foucault and Sociology, p. 39. 8 M. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, first published in French in 1963 and in English in 1973. 9 M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975), trans. A.M. SheridanSmith, Random House, New York 1977. 4


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because ‘to be mad was to be bad’, restoring one’s sanity is currently seen as a medical problem dealt with by psychiatric professionals. This latter perspective – that contemporary mass disciplinary institutions of medicine and prison, whose roots extend far back to before late modernity, appear to be a natural part of society – is often the taken-for-granted assumption. Foucault, however, disturbs such assumptions by showing that they are mainly products of the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, whose discursive legacies persist and are important to our understanding of modern society, especially our attempts to understand how various forms of subjection are achieved and how individuals are socially constructed in the modern world. This article traces out how Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical research on total institutions as forms of social power, in particular, the apparatuses and practices of seeing and saying analyzed in both The Birth of the Clinic and Discipline and Punish, presents as an analytic of knowledge as opposed to a theory of knowledge. It is not by chance that Foucault picked these normalizing, predominant discourses of the human sciences as topics to critically analyze; they embody the dominant ideology of society – prisons are a necessary tool to fight crime and protect society and medicine is a necessary tool to sustain and improve society. Further, because the prison and the clinic are representations of the larger, enduring penal and medical systems, they both act as enduring sites of power with institutionalized bases whose actions and consequences have wideranging effects on the contemporary social world due to their normalizing tendencies. A significant amount of Foucault’s work concerns the history and systems of thought of people often perceived to be at the margins of society, such as prisoners, the mentally ill (madmen), and sexual ‘perverts’. These people, however, are not at the margins at all and there is nothing marginal about the significance Foucault attributes to their treatment10. Rather, the problems and experiences they produce have become central in generating the dominant discursive frameworks through which people assess modes of being/existence11. Finding no objective basis for distinguishing between the normal and the pathological, Foucault is M. Kelly, Foucault and Politics, p. 37. R.P. Datta, Foucault’s Struggle for Justice: Bourgeois versus Popular Conceptions, in Thinking About Justice: A Book of Readings, Fernwood Books, Black Point 2012, pp. 101-121. 10 11


96 Deirdre McDonald concerned that moral, value judgements are being disguised as science, and are being accepted by society without challenge. As such, punishment and medicine are historically linked in the sense that they both emerged from a need to confine the abnormal during a time when questions about the treatment of those on the margins of society were not taken seriously by those governing its practices; prisoners were incarcerated in prisons and the mentally ill were confined in asylums, and later the clinic. For Foucault, phenomenon is found within a specific socio-historical context and differs markedly from one epoch to the next, often without continuity. This is his nominalism – that is, his metatheoretical position that there is no hidden reality that we need to discover to understand the natural world. So, for example, while mental illness and deviancy are not themselves objective facts consistent across time and space, they become intelligible constructs within a specific discursive formation. What is important is how these constructs come to have lasting significant social consequences with their aforementioned normalizing tendencies. In a sense, Foucault is attempting to uncover a lot of the ontological ‘stuff ’ that previous powers or regimes (political, social, and economic) ignored or attempted to push down and render invisible. These two analyses of distinct, non-generalizable institution-based discursive formations are used by Foucault to clearly articulate concrete claims about social phenomena within institutionalized sites of power and to highlight the achievement of domination and the social construction of individuals in the contemporary world. What is more, The Birth of the Clinic and Discipline and Punish stop precisely when they arrive more or less at the point where contemporary society can be described in relation to medicine and prison, making them pertinent to the argument here and, moreover, engaging in the broader conversations about discourse and power. By focusing on these institutions, Foucault draws attention to power as boundaries that simultaneously enable and constrict possibilities for actions and, consequently, discourse development and proliferation, and on society’s relative capacities to know and shape these boundaries. Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical research methods, then, involve a reflexive socio-historical analysis. This same analytical approach is necessarily followed here, as I critically assess how Foucault’s research develops an analytic of seeing and saying by drawing upon primary and secondary sources relating to current and relevant historical literature on


Seeing and Saying. Foucault’s Analytic of Knowledge Production 97

discursive formations published by Foucault between 1963 and 1975. In addition to their concrete connectedness and contemporary significance, these works are necessary to specifying his reasons for rejecting a general theoretical approach to understanding the contingent formation of the present, and for developing instead an analytic of knowledge and power. I further explore these works to highlight the basis on which Foucault is critical of general theory at work in discursive formations (e.g. the theory of sovereignty). Context In his critical analyses of discursive practices within institutions, Foucault addresses the condition(s) under which objects are rendered visible to knowing subjects such that something authoritative can be said about it. Foucault distinguishes between the two mutually sustaining systems involved in discursive formations: illumination (seeing) and language (saying). In doing so, he further reveals the production of a power/knowledge relationship. This is relevant to the argument presented here because in The Birth of the Clinic and Discipline and Punish Foucault is interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms at work in the creation of authoritative, official statements of knowledge. Here, knowledge refers to “all kinds of contents which make up a consciousness and/or all kinds of meanings used by respective historical persons to interpret and shape the surrounding reality”12. By reflexively analyzing history and moving beyond the rules that govern grammar and logic, Foucault’s analysis of discursive formations provides the basis for examining the institutional apparatuses in place for creating the ideal conditions of seeing and saying. Specifically, Foucault argues that systems of thought/knowledge (épistémès or historically specific conditions of discursive formations) define the historical a priori necessary for constructing the framework for knowledge13. This formulation identifies the conceptual possibility of discursive formations constituting “the drive, allure and substance, or ‘embodiment’, of experience, affect, S. Jäger and F. Maier, Discourse and Knowledge, p. 33. M. Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1966), trans. A.M. Sheridan-Smith, Pantheon Books, New York 1970. 12 13


98 Deirdre McDonald and subjectivity” of the individual14. This conceptual possibility determines the boundaries of thought under specific social and historical conditions, which is important to my argument because it simultaneously reveals Foucault’s nominalism and highlights the myriad processes involved in discipline-specific discursive formation. Foucault explicitly rejects a general theory or conventional epistemology on the basis that it represents a definite discursive totality by attempting to integrate concepts of generalizability into a structural description of the history of ideas. Instead, Foucault develops an analytic of expert discourse by generating a theory of discursive formations, thereby providing tremendous insight into the production and legacies of seeing and saying. Discursive Formations Foucault’s work on discursive formations foregrounds his examination of the dominance, deployments, and effects of expert discourse – discourse developed by persons in positions of authority. Following from Nietzsche’s interpretation of the dominance of a discourse as a sign of a will to power, Foucault reveals how discursive formations within institutional settings become entrenched in social class domination (i.e. hegemonic) such that human existence comes to be subjugated in specific ways (e.g. the repressive hypothesis in The History of Sexuality). Subjugation, or more precisely, subjugated knowledges–that is, knowledges masked in function and formal structures and masked as disqualified, naïve or inferior knowledges – are, for Foucault, a consequence of the power relations between people and the institutions in which veridical discourse is produced, and between other social institutions, individuals, collectives, and experts of dominant discourse. In Discipline and Punish, for example, Foucault identifies a noncorrespondence between a general theory and actual reality surrounding the power of the sovereign, as exhibited in sovereign vengeance in eighteenth century France. Foucault argues that the juridical-political theory of sovereignty considers “power as ‘sovereign’: a unitary and centralized construct”, thereby disguising the more basic type of C. Blencowe, Biopolitical Experience: Foucault, Power and Positive Critique, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2012, p. 3. 14


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disciplinary power that has arisen in bourgeois society in terms of the legal and penal institutions15. He argues that the juridico-discursive claim “if you break the law, the sovereign has the power and right to exact revenge on your body” no longer corresponds to the dominant state of affairs in western society. Foucault further argues that physically targeting the capacity of the body to act in order to negate the capacity of the body to act is not the norm. The norm is modern modalities of disciplinary power that are productive and facilitative: hierarchical observation, normalizing judgments, and micro-penalties and rewards. Foucault issues a similar challenge (analytic) to the metanarratives or myths of modernity in The Birth of the Clinic. The incongruous relationship between the theory of discursive formations and actual reality surrounding medical practices leads Foucault to reject general theory for empirical reasons as captured in the phrase ‘rule-byrecords and rule-by-reports’16. Instead, Foucault’s theory of discursive formation involving the production of seeing and saying is advanced to explain the apparatuses and practices involved in knowledge production in terms of specific systems and concrete details, thereby illustrating his challenge to, and rejection, of a general grand theory17. Foucault’s ‘Seeing and Saying’ Foucault’s conception of ‘seeing and saying’ must be defined and contextualized in relation to the institutional apparatuses, practices, and power struggles, subtending discursive formations in the social world emphasized in his work. Foucault applies genealogical/archaeological N. Fox, Foucault, Foucauldians and Sociology, in The British Journal of Sociology, vol. 49 (1998), no. 3, p. 416; B. Golder, Re-Reading Foucault: On Law, Power and Rights, Routledge, New York 2013; B. Golder and P. Fitzpatrick, Foucault’s Law, Routledge, New York 2009; A. Hunt and G. Wickham, Foucault and Law: Towards a Sociology of Law as Governance, Pluto Press, Chicago 1994. 16 R. Smith, Rule-by-Records and Rule-by-Reports: Complementary Aspects of the British Imperial Rule of Law, in Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 19 (1985), no. 1, pp. 153-176. 17 See especially M. Foucault, Power/Knowledge. Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. C. Gordon, Pantheon Books, New York 1980; M. Foucault, Questions of Method, in The Essential Foucault: Selections from Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, ed. P. Rabinow, The New Press, New York 2003, pp. 246-258; B. Agger, Critical Theory, Poststructuralism, Postmodernism: Their Sociological Relevance, in Annual Review of Sociology, no. 17 (1991), pp. 105-131. 15


100 Deirdre McDonald approaches to his work in order to understand a text on its own significatory and regulatory terms. Referencing his archival work on structural linguistics (e.g. The Order of Things), he recognizes that language is too broad a framework to determine how knowledge is concretely produced. Hence, Foucault looks specifically at the complex combination of practices and processes in which knowledge is produced – that is to say, discursive formations. According to Foucault, there are four interlinked components involved in discursive formation: (1) institutions: objects get constituted in institutions or surfaces of emergence, e.g. the medical clinic and the prison; (2) enunciative or explicative modalities: a style of making statements and presenting ideas; (3) concepts of discursive formation: must be internally consistent and explain how concepts and categories work together so that one produces a network of concepts; and (4) strategies/ fields of strategic possibilities: the way in which theoretical interventions and innovations are made18. Knowledge statements are produced through these four interdependent components. For example, Foucault brings the issues of sound, noise, murmur, and hearing to the fore of his analysis of discursive formations in The Birth of the Clinic. These terms explain the “manner in which [Foucault] thinks of language, discourse, and literature through auditory-sonorous terms or tropes, above all, noise and murmur”19. For Foucault, the murmur is what defines the conditions of the intelligibility of discourse. The murmur, however, is anonymous: [T]he obstinate murmur of a language talking to itself – without any speaking subject and without interlocutor, wrapped up in itself, with a lump in its throat, collapsing before it ever reaches any formulation and returning without a fuss to the silence that it never shook off20.

This means that discourse is unstable and constantly transforming in the case of signifiers and signs, as outlined by the founder of structural D. Dupont and F. Pearce, Foucault Contra Foucault: Rereading the ‘Governmentality’ Papers, in Theoretical Criminology, vol. 5 (2001), no. 2, pp. 123-158; M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), trans. A.M. Sheridan-Smith, Tavistock, London 1972; M. Foucault, On the Archaeology of the Sciences: Response to the Epistemology Circle, in The Essential Foucault. 19 L. Siisiäinen, Foucault and the Politics of Hearing, Routledge, New York 2013, p. 11. 20 M. Foucault, History of Madness, trans. J. Murphy and J. Khalfa, Routledge, New York 2006, p. xxxi. 18


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linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure21. While knowledge must necessarily invoke the categories that language provides, it is about much more than that. Knowledge is about the ways we understand ourselves, processes, and even language itself within space- and time-specific contexts. Thus, Foucault parts ways with the standard ways of relating language and truth, going beyond specific words and phrases to examine the set of rules in place for determining and communicating what is true and what is false, what is valid and what is useless. In doing so, he recognizes that there is a region where unreason, if it breaks the near silence and the murmur of the complicit where classism was so convinced that it belonged, it is to collect itself once more in a silence punctuated by cries: the silence of interdiction, watchfulness and revenge22.

Here, Foucault is describing the act of bringing the object or issue of study into the full light of day in order to define it, or more specifically, to problematize it–that is, to critically examine and (re)evaluate an object or issue externally for the purpose of developing an action intended to alter the object or issue (i.e. a solution in the form of a discourse). For Foucault, then, different forms of problematization lead to different solutions. This approach depends on the objectification of the subject to be engaged in discursive formations. Foucault identifies three modes of objectification: status of sciences; dividing practices and the politics of space (inclusion, exclusion, and confinement); and self-subjectification23. There is also a fourth mode of objectification, the previously discussed role of ‘the expert’ – that is, how those in a position of authority in society operate to manipulate and control expert knowledge to their own ends, namely the exercise of power24. The effectivity of discourse is directly reflected by the strength of these modes of objectification. When these modes of objectification are combined, “the gaze of power, operating through modernistic techniques of surveillance, supplies the raw material A. Elliot, Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction, Routledge, New York 2009, pp. 55-60. 22 M. Foucault, History of Madness, p. 530. 23 M. Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. R. Howard, Routledge, New York 1989; M. Foucault, The Subject and Power, in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, ed. H. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1982, pp. 208-226. 24 R.P. Datta, Foucault’s Struggle for Justice. 21


102 Deirdre McDonald for a discourse which turns people into subjects of professions (or disciplines)”25. Once the object of study has been rendered visible or illuminated as an object of possible experience in this way, it then becomes engaged in the “visual regime”26. A visual regime is the general structuring of the visible world by determining matters of what may be seen, by whom, and under what circumstances. The inclusion of the expert mode of objectification allows one to better account for actualizations and realistic representations within discursive formations. Actualized discursive formations combine both the visible (seeing) and the articulable (saying) with respect to the object of study, that is, the conditions productive of luminosity and sensibility (the anonymous murmur)27. This action of illumination, however, is not a sufficient condition of knowledge production for actualized discursive formations. Different degrees of illumination parallel the degrees to which discursive formations are successful in the sense that the knowledge produced (statements) is deemed to be true and valid and, moreover, is successfully dispersed (discourse). The medical and penal discursive formations examined by Foucault further reveal prerequisite apparatuses (institutional, physical, and administrative) and distinct practices involved in producing knowledge in order to enhance and maintain the exercise of power and all its effects within the social body. According to Foucault, in order to link discourse and power in the real world to institutions like medicine and the penal system, the analysis of the discursive field is navigated in a very specific way. First, we must grasp the statement in the exact specificity of its occurrence, its actuality. Then, we must determine its conditions of existence, fix its limits, and establish its correlations with other statements that may be connected with it and show what other forms of statement it excludes. This is Foucault’s analytic of knowledge production. This is seeing and saying: N. Fox, Foucault, Foucauldians and Sociology, p. 416. G. Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision: Foucault and Nietzsche on Seeing and Saying, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2003, p. 2. 27 D. Armstrong, The Political Anatomy of the Body, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1983; M. Foucault, On the Archaeology of the Sciences: Response to the Epistemology Circle; G. Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision; A. Woodiwiss, Scoping the Social: An Introduction to the Practice of Social Theory, Open University Press, New York 2005. 25 26


Seeing and Saying. Foucault’s Analytic of Knowledge Production 103 We do not seek below what is manifest the half silent murmur of another discourse; we must show why it could not be other than it was, in what respect it is exclusive of any other, how it assumes, in the midst of others and in relation to them, a place that no other could occupy. The question proper to such an analysis might be formulated in this way: what is this specific existence that emerges from what is said and nowhere else28?

Thus, the analysis of power and knowledge must be clearly situated within the discourse under examination. In order to provide clarity and insight into understanding how knowledge is produced, the discourse analysis must recognize that the values, norms, laws, and rights comprising the discourse are direct products of the socio-historical outcome of the discourse itself. Analytics versus Theory Foucault addresses analytical power (perspicacity) in his archival research on discursive formations by identifying how many different things can be analyzed through a theory and whether or not they can be generalized. Foucault is consistently hostile to general theorizations about the state – whether juridico-political, Marxist, or realist – and [he grounds] power and control in the modern state, to the extent that the latter exists, in social norms and institutions and distinctive forms of knowledge rather than in sovereign authority29.

Foucault does, however, remain in dialogue with Marx and utilizes Marxian concepts in order to advance his own analytic of power. For example, both Marx and Immanuel Kant argue that “the purpose of the critique was to render explicit what otherwise would remain implicit, bringing to light buried assumptions that regulated the way we think, and submitting these assumptions to public examination”30. “Kant’s postulation of the a priori allowed him to ‘know knowledge’, allowing M. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, p. 30. B. Jessop, From Micro-Powers to Governmentality: Foucault’s Work on Statehood, State Formation, Statecraft and State Power, in Political Geography, no. 26 (2007), p. 35. 30 J. Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 1993, p. 302. 28 29


104 Deirdre McDonald reason to legislate the appropriate limits of knowledge”31. Foucault also theorizes how the a priori, albeit a historical one called the archive, structures human experience. In his criticism of a general theory (see also the Foucault-Habermas debate), Foucault directly targets what he considers to be a Kantianinspired universal aprioristic approach to the questions of theorizing power and government in the pursuit of a general truth about power and society. For Foucault, the a priori is not subjective, it is sociological and historical – knowledge is produced under specific social and historical circumstances: “there is nothing prior to knowledge, because knowledge, in Foucault’s new concept of it, is defined by the combinations of visible and articulable that are unique to each stratum or historical formulation”32. Foucault thus rejects theories of power based on “a priori assumptions about [power’s] essential unity, its pre-given functions, its inherent tendency to expand through its own power dynamics, or its global strategic deployment by a master subject”33. He argues that different forms of power were not complicit in the production of class dominance but that rather these powers had their “own distinctive disciplinary logics” directed at normalizing the “conduct of persons who were not directly involved in capitalist production (e.g., people in asylums, prisons, schools, barracks)”34. Foucault specifically targets the human sciences as they are understood to categorize what is ‘normal’ in society so that the cause of deviation may be identified (problematized) and the correct regime or solution (the discourse) is presented to eliminate the deviation. This approach is no more obvious than in contemporary medical and correctional institutions where individuals are categorized on a daily basis into legible and administrative order for the purposes of enhancing the government’s capacity to unambiguously identify, monitor, count, manage, and control its citizens and their environment. Via archaeology, Foucault gets at the order of discourse itself and the apparatuses and practices on which it depends, helping one grasp R.P. Datta, From Foucault’s Genealogy to Aleatory Materialism: Realism, Nominalism and Politics, in Critical Realism and the Social Sciences: Heterodox Elaborations, ed. J. Frauley and F. Pearce, The University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2007, p. 278. 32 G. Deleuze, Foucault, trans. S. Hand, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1988, p. 51. See also R.P. Datta, From Foucault’s Genealogy to Aleatory Materialism; M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge. 33 B. Jessop, From Micro-Powers to Governmentality, p. 36. 34 Ibidem, pp. 38-39. 31


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how “truth is a thing of this world”35. Foucault understands that how knowledge is produced is both critical and reflexive and that simply knowing the cause of a problem will not provide the solution or the path to freedom; indeed, that approach itself is part of what limits possibilities in the present. Rather, the knowledge (truth) produced about an object is an exercise of power and the two are inseparable36. Through an indepth analysis of features of power in distinct socio-historical moments and institutions with far-reaching consequences, Foucault’s analytic of knowledge production emerges. For instance, by theorizing through the institutions of the clinic and the prison, Foucault discovers that there are different ways to think about modes of subjectivity and that there are different modes of being. Further support of Foucault’s analytic lies in his ontology: a dualism between power and knowledge. His ontology of discourse is three-fold: it cannot be reduced to texts or other authored practices, it does not directly mirror the reality of historical events (the non-discursive), and it is the surface manifestation of a deeper power/knowledge relationship which is anonymous, disseminated, and cannot be known in a traditional sense37. Foucault’s analytic of how discursive knowledge is produced is methodological and heuristically oriented in its attempt to break the object of discourse down into its component parts: power, knowledge, and subjectivity. Foucault’s definition of power is derived from that of Deleuze, who stated that power is the relation of force/domination and power is exercised through types: discipline or governing38. Also drawing on Deleuze’s advancement of Baruch Spinoza’s ontology, Foucault identifies a power-body relation where the body is more than malleable; what a body is, is how a body affects other bodies and, in turn, is affected by other bodies in the sense that the body is always shifting and being formed. The notion of the body, especially illumination of the body in order to articulate something authoritative about it, is at the heart of many of Foucault’s attempts to understand how institutionalized discourses are formulated and proliferated. M. Foucault, Truth and Power, in The Essential Foucault. See also C. Blencowe, Biopolitical Experience; G. Deleuze, Foucault. 36 G. Deleuze, Foucault, pp. xii, 63. 37 N. Fox, Foucault, Foucauldians and Sociology, p. 419; G. Deleuze, Foucault, p. 15. 38 R.P. Datta, From Foucault’s Genealogy to Aleatory Materialism; G. Deleuze, Foucault; G. Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. R. Hurley, City Lights Books, San Francisco 1988. 35


106 Deirdre McDonald The Authority of Discursive Formations in Institutionalized Sites of Power Foucault explains how new discourses and new techniques of power proliferate through the significance of visibility (i.e. surveillance) “as a general principle of exercising power over the body and of coordinating individual bodies with others” – creating political subjectivities39. Foucault’s analysis of power is intimately tied to his explicit analysis of knowledge in order to conceptualize the “embeddedness of knowledge in practices of control and their related forms of resistance”40. From this position, institutionalized power is understood to be applied in order to control or discipline the behaviour of those considered to be deviant (e.g. criminals or the mentally ill). Power is a referent to which Foucault often turns. He explores power in terms of social, historical, legal, and political contexts and forces. At first, Foucault is primarily interested in the history of the treatment and conversion of people who deviate from the norm – deviants. Most of the dominant discourses in the nineteenth century surrounding these issues were based on the justification of the superiority of bourgeois morality. This observation lends itself to the question: What is it about the structure of late eighteenth century/early nineteenth century French society such that bourgeois discourses became dominant? In both The Birth of the Clinic and Discipline and Punish, Foucault uses the socio-historical referent of capitalism to describe the conditions under which the development of bourgeois discourse is effective, but not how it becomes effective. This approach again reveals Foucault’s nominalism as he is unable to provide the answer, but does provide an opportunity for one to perhaps develop an explanation. The following sections trace out Foucault’s analytic by teasing out the apparatuses and practices responsible for the creation and proliferation of dominant discourses in the medical and penal institutions of the nineteenth century and their legacies in contemporary society. In his archival research, Foucault identifies three ways in which power gets organized within institutionalized site of power: discipline (directly targeting the individual body/soul), normalization (totalizing knowledge of the social body), and governing (structuring possible action at a distance, domination from afar). The first two ways are inextricably linked to The Birth of the Clinic and Discipline and Punish in which Foucault displaces 39 40

M. Power, Foucault and Sociology, p. 39. Ibidem.


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rationality and focuses on “the body as the site and target of power”41. To this, I would add that Discipline and Punish is explicitly about a shift in penal rationality. The central thesis of these two books is that “power operates and is literally ‘materialized’ at the crucial levels of techniques, apparatuses, and institutions, and therefore can best be understood by a detailed examination of this technology in action”42. Thus, there is a distinct difference in the nature of seeing and of saying, in the visible and the articulable, in each institution. Through distinct yet interrelated analyses of discursive formations, Foucault shows that both medical and penal institutions depend on technologies of illumination, surveillance, systems of controlling visibility, and the formalization of the gaze – the prison’s uni-directional gaze and the clinic’s hegemonic medical gaze. For Foucault, the resultant archives of these two distinct institutions are the sedimentation of authoritative statements made. The Clinic Beginning in the eighteenth century, human behaviour and the human body were brought into an increasingly dense and important network of authority-based medicalization that allowed fewer and fewer things to escape visibility and interpretation. In The Birth of the Clinic, Foucault sets out to “disentangle the conditions of [medicine’s] history from the density of discourse”43. This is a systematic history of discourses with a primary focus on la clinique – clinical medicine and the teaching hospital. Here, Foucault raises the philosophical issue of the interdependence of being and death–that is, life is dependent on death to the extent that “death brings to truth the luminous presence of the visible”44. This visibility is achieved through the clinical or medical gaze – that is, the dehumanizing separation of the body (i.e. experience) from the identity of the individual – that sees and dominates. The Birth of the Clinic is all about the act of seeing – the positive gaze – and the relation of the situation and attitude to what is being spoken about and who is doing the speaking. In short, N. Fox, Foucault, Foucauldians and Sociology, p. 422. D. Garland, Review: Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’ – An Exposition and Critique, in American Bar Foundation Research Journal, vol. 11 (1986), no. 4, pp. 866-867. 43 M. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, p. xix. 44 Ibidem, p. 165. 41 42


108 Deirdre McDonald the patients’ speech is devalued and their experience is reduced to silence by “the empiricism of the dispassionate medical gaze”45. In the clinical setting, the gaze is not a new concept; rather, the gaze is the result of a renewed attention to an age-old practice of observing, monitoring, and making judgments associated with the medical institution within a pedagogic system at a precise socio-historical moment. By examining the notion of the medical gaze, Foucault issues a direct challenge to the metanarratives or myths of modernity. These myths are rejected by Foucault on the basis that they simplify or falsify the truth. The specific myths of modernity being challenged are those directly linked to the French Revolution, the understood launching point for socio-political modernity. They are: two great myths with opposing themes and polarities: the myth of a nationalized medical profession, organized like the clergy, and invested, at the level of man’s bodily health, with powers similar to those exercised by the clergy over men’s souls; and the myth of a total disappearance of disease in an untroubled, dispassionate society restored to its original state of health46.

Foucault explains these myths as drawing on medicine, politics, government, and as privileging the doctor as the epitome of wisdom. Foucault sees these myths as reinforcing the collective consciousness of the physician as one who advises not only bodies but souls and the general population. “The first task of the doctor is therefore political: the struggle against disease must begin with a war against bad government”47. The first myth – a nationalized medical profession of doctors as ministers of the human body – can be unpacked to explain a widely-held belief of the eighteenth century medical institution in the powerful ‘gaze’ of the doctor to reveal a hidden truth. Foucault employs the term ‘gaze’ to identify the authority of the doctor (e.g. an expert) to see through the abnormality of the patient (e.g. disease or illness) by simply gazing at what is visible (seeing) in order to make a diagnosis (saying). The role of the doctor became immense under the guise of the medical gaze where the doctor was the expert, and only he could reveal the truth–expert discursive formation. This first myth is explicitly rejected by Foucault when he states: M. Kelly, Foucault and Politics, p. 46. M. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, pp. 31-32. 47 Ibidem, p. 33. 45 46


Seeing and Saying. Foucault’s Analytic of Knowledge Production 109 How can the free gaze that medicine, and, through it, the government, must turn upon the citizens be equipped and competent without being embroiled in the esotericism of knowledge and the rigidity of social privilege48?

Foucault argues that the perpetuation of this myth was assisted by yet another underlying myth that prior to the nineteenth century doctors were prevented from the opening up of corpses and denied any real observation of bodies due to “the opposition of religion, morality, and stubborn prejudice”49. Any failure of the doctors’ gaze was, therefore, attributable to their lack of ability to dissect the human body. In The Birth of the Clinic Foucault tells us this revision of history was a falsification50. The second myth – the eradication of disease in society by ensuring a healthy public – is rejected by Foucault on the basis that the institutionalization of medicine (the clinic) did not make obsolete the academies and hospitals, nor did it abolish the disease supposedly created by tyranny and slavery, and extremes of wealth and poverty51. Foucault states that these two myths played an important role in discursive formations “by linking medicine with the destinies of states, they revealed in it a positive significance”52. This positivity is observed in the goal of medicine to ensure that the lives of the population were “based on the only lasting condition of happiness, namely, their benefit to the state”53. It is from this perspective, then, that Foucault argues that the transition from a medicine of health (healthy man) in the eighteenth century to a medicine of normality (model man) in the nineteenth century occurred. From this moment forward, for Foucault, life is measured by the medical gaze in a normalizing society in terms of death. The power of the medical gaze is exemplified by the operating theatre of early nineteenth century France and England. By literally opening up the human body (e.g. a cadaver or a corpse), the innards of the individual are rendered visible. The resultant medical or anatomical gaze objectifies the human being by reducing it to a ‘live’ or ‘dead’ body so that something scientific can be said about it. The medical gaze came to dominate with the invention, or rather the renewal, of tests and rules. It is the enduring belief Ibidem, p. 45. Ibidem, p. 124. 50 Ibidem, p. 125. 51 Ibidem, p. 33 et passim. 52 Ibidem, p. 34. 53 Ibidem. 48 49


110 Deirdre McDonald in the power of the medical gaze through which the medical profession (e.g. the doctor) is able to illuminate the object (e.g. the patient’s body) in order to speak about its underlying truth (e.g. diagnose problems and prescribe solutions). This is discursive formation in practice. The Prison Foucault calls the general theory of the discourse of crime and punishment into question in Discipline and Punish. This book opens with the notorious public torture and execution of Robert-François Damiens, a French domestic servant who attempted to assassinate King Louis XV of France in 1757. This event resulted in public outcry and unrest leading to the state’s problematization of how to deal with society and crime economically. Foucault privileges the role of the state as the pinnacle of strategy and power relations and as the ultimate apparatus of domination in which discourses become fixed across a range of fields of human activity. Under emergent capitalism, for example, the “political economy and police created the space for the revalorization and re-articulation of disciplines that had emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, i.e., schools, [prisons,] manufactories, [and] armies”54. The economy of punishment became the focus in France in the midnineteenth century. In attending to the causes of social disorder, discipline and incarceration were considered to be the most economical solutions. In his archival research on the prison system, Foucault reviews the larger historical shift within which practices of segmentation, individualization, surveillance, transformation, and normalization of the prison system are active under this new form of punishment – discipline. Foucault does not hold back in his criticism of the discourse of prison reform as directly contributing to the failed carceral system. Not surprisingly, Foucault’s archival research of nineteenth century literature on prison reform includes Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon (1791). Foucault interprets Bentham’s architectural sketches of the prison structure as statements; they are diagrams for facilitating a specific kind of exercise of power, power over an individual’s soul. Foucault sees Bentham’s panoptic model as an “analysis of an ‘evil eye’, transformed into architecture”55. ‘Seeing’ is the foundation of Bentham’s panoptic 54 55

B. Jessop, From Micro-Powers to Governmentality, p. 39. G. Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision, p. 294.


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model whereby the cell and the prisoner become illuminated (constantly seen without being able to see) and the observer in the central tower remains opaque (seeing everything without being seen). Bentham’s panoptic model provides the basis for Foucault’s challenge to the long-standing juridico-political theory of sovereignty. Foucault argues that the panoptic model disguises the more basic type of disciplinary power that has arisen in bourgeois society: the prison system’s attempt to “deploy a general regime of carceral vision” by imposing a particular conduct on a particular population, namely, the working-class56. The dream of disciplinary society offered by Bentham’s panoptic model was a society that was well-ordered, predictable, productive, and visible. Foucault challenges the notion that the prison system and its form of punishment – discipline – became the dominant discourse solely on the basis of humanitarianism. Foucault does this by tracing out the distinct historical shifts corresponding to the four main ideas of the book: torture, punishment, discipline, and prison. Foucault’s analysis, however, fails to completely break down the various evolutions the penal system underwent since its inception. This is a limitation, as is Foucault’s failure to explore the archives for the existence and consequences of “values other than power and control in the development of punishment”57. Foucault does, however, highlight the relationship between the state (that is, government agencies responsible for managing and controlling the population), law, and the economy to explain how “domination is achieved and individuals are socially constructed in the modern world”58. Specifically, Foucault analyzes the mechanisms of change involved in the modern western penal system based on historical French documents by comparing two distinct forms of historical power in France: eighteenth century sovereign power and nineteenth century disciplinary power. Sovereign power is that which is absolute and enforced through organized, public punishments (e.g. torture and executions) in order to instill fear in the general population. These punishments are conducted under the law of the sovereign (e.g. the King) to re-establish its authority and power. Here, the main object of punishment is the body, and its intended focus is the general public through the repression of individuals. Ibidem, p. 53. D. Garland, Review: Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’, p. 876. 58 Ibidem, p. 848. 56 57


112 Deirdre McDonald Under disciplinary power, the “body as the major target of the penal repression disappeared”59. The ultimate objective of disciplinary power is to transform or rehabilitate the soul. For Foucault, the soul must be transformed in order to discipline the body. The enforcement of disciplinary punishment, then, becomes “the most hidden part of the penal process” in which the “whole army of technicians” in disciplinary power replaced the executioners in sovereign power60. These technicians are the specialized ‘experts’ of discursive formation (e.g. psychiatrists, criminologists, police and penal institution officials, members of the legal system). Within disciplinary power, Foucault introduces three underlying elements: hierarchical observation (panopticon), normalizing judgment, and examination. Foucault further emphasizes that observation and gaze are the key instruments of power and the “dispersion of power mechanisms”61. By shifting the object of focus from the body (sovereign) to the soul (discipline), a new kind of machine is at work encompassing knowledge, experts, and discourse. Furthermore, the shift from vengeance (punitive) to discipline (corrective), led to a new way of thinking about the body, subjectivity, power, and knowledge – that is, a new way of problematizing criminals and prisoners and developing the most effective and economical ways to punish and correct them. Foucault raises an important point concerning the actuality of the prisoner and the gaze in the prison much as he does the actuality of the patient and the gaze in the medical clinic. Prior to the invention of the prison, the prisoner simply did not exist and was subsequently discovered; rather, the institution of the prison “fabricated [the prisoner] and it did so in two distinct senses”62. First, the prison reproduced the conditions under which recidivism occurs. As Garland notes, “offenders were so stigmatized, demoralized, and de-skilled in prison that after their release they tended to re-offend, to be reconvicted and eventually transformed into career criminals”63. Second, “the prison produced the delinquent in a categorical or epistemological sense, by creating in the course of its M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 8. Ibidem, pp. 9, 11; W. Montag, The Soul Is the Prison of the Body: Althusser and Foucault, 1970-1975, in Yale French Studies, no. 88 (1995), pp. 53-77. 61 B. Jessop, From Micro-Powers to Governmentality, p. 39. 62 D. Garland, Review: Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’, p. 862. 63 Ibidem. 59 60


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practices, the category of the ‘individual criminal’”64. Additionally, “the prison indirectly produce[d] delinquents by throwing the inmate’s family into destitution”65. This fabrication was accomplished by rendering the prisoner visible to authoritative scrutiny. Despite the identification of numerous defects with the modern western prison system, its dominance persists. Foucault explains this paradox by locating the category of delinquency as being deeply embedded within the wider strategy of political domination, and by arguing that the prison, much like other government institutions, carries out certain very precise functions. Foucault’s analysis demonstrates that the mechanisms and apparatuses of the prison, in both their visibility and invisibility, contribute to a wider socio-political context in which power and domination are paramount. In its advancement, the prison was intended to protect the public by controlling the criminal. Foucault’s research, however, reveals the converse to be true; by creating the criminal, the prison works to control the working-class population. For Foucault, this is the very basis for the endurance of the prison – domination of the population through the illumination of a category (the prisoner) in order to articulate something authoritative about it thereby generating new knowledge and solutions (discourse). This is discursive formation in practice. In his archival research on the medical and penal institutions of the nineteenth century, Foucault demonstrates how the relations of domination bring together all the little pieces of information necessary to generate discourses, “just like dust being kicked up by the storm”66. He does so by tracing the contingent circumstances under which these institutions are problematized in order to transform power through seeing and saying, that is by developing effective discourses of dominance. Foucault Addresses the ‘Actuality’ of Discursive Formations From the late 1960’s onward, Foucault relies on Nietzsche’s technique of genealogically tracing dominant discourses within institutionalized sites of power. Specifically, Foucault adopts Nietzsche’s point of view concerning how power gets organized as he sees relations of domination Ibidem, p. 832. M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 268. 66 G. Deleuze, Foucault, p. 29. See also M. Foucault, The Lives of Infamous Men, in The Essential Foucault. 64 65


114 Deirdre McDonald in terms of systems of thought as a precondition for discursive formation. He does this to grasp the contingent circumstances under which systems are problematized for the purpose of developing effective discourses. Foucault is concerned with the tactical polyvalence of discourse: how it gets taken up and used in different apparatuses to different ends. Deleuze offers the following example: The same slogan: ‘Put madmen in the asylum!’ can belong to discursive formations that are completely distinct from one another, depending on whether it is an eighteenth century protest against confusing prisoners with madmen or a nineteenth century demand for asylums in order to separate madmen from prisoners, or even a present-day objection to change within the hospital service67.

For Foucault, the apparatuses of discursive formations are often unthought – related to the given empirical and historical truths about who we are; the actual veridical discourse then follows68. Once knowledge is produced or enters the order of discourse under specific social and historical conditions, it has its own effectivity and consequences driven by the actual material practices and processes of discursive formations69. Simply put, through Foucault’s critical investigation of positive and negative components, he is able to counter realist, empiricist, and rationalist theoretical approaches to the pursuit of a general truth, in particular, their normative approach to explaining how knowledge is produced (e.g. good/bad, moral/immoral, mad/sane, dangerous/ harmless, or normal/abnormal). The significance of his work is relevant in contemporary society where the eighteenth- and nineteenth century discursive origins of medicine and the prison persist more or less intact, informing our understanding of modern society and how individuals come to be socially constructed. The impetus of Foucault’s analytic of knowledge production is revealed when he asks: How do we avoid reproducing the set of conditions responsible for producing existing, dominant discourses70? Foucault’s answer is simple and two-fold. First, challenge and, if necessary, reject the generalizable theories of discursive formations because different institutions produce discourses that are autonomous from one another G. Deleuze, Foucault, p. 11. M. Foucault, The Order of Things, p. 326; R.P. Datta, From Foucault’s Genealogy to Aleatory Materialism. 69 M. Foucault, The Order of Discourse, in Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader, ed. R. Young, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Boston 1981, pp. 48-78. 70 M. Foucault, Power/Knowledge. 67 68


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and are adopted in response to particular socio-historical pressures. In other words, they should not be read in terms of other discourses. Rather, discourses should be looked at objectively in order to determine what they are saying and how they are being produced. Second, experiment with different modes of being and the creation of new dispositifs. These dispositifs, however, must be developed from an actual foundation within the social body in order to demonstrate the underlying power/knowledge relationship. Otherwise, they are not a reflection of the real world, but of the engaging projects of legibility by various government agencies attempting to achieve the principle of uniformity. Foucault’s analytic is all about actualities – what actually occurred, or more specifically, the relationship between discourse and social realities. Hence, his phrase a “felicitous positivism”71, that is, light positivism without the weight and heavy baggage of metaphysics, leads him to reject humanism and humanist metaphysic’s “notions of the structuring of agency”72. These actualities are understood and defined through the archaeological examination of what was written down, what was included in or excluded from the realm of ‘true’ discourse and by what criteria, and what actually occurred. For Foucault, these actualities have to be discursively verifiable. Revealing that the actuality of discourses is not only a reflection of the will to power as posited by Nietzsche, Foucault argues that discourses take on their own practical effects in relation to the socio-historical reality in which they exist. Through discourses, existing power relations become not only codified, but, more importantly, institutionalized, actualized, and entrenched in social class domination so that human existence comes to be subjugated in specific ways – that is, individuals are in discursive formation and, furthermore, in social relations and institutions among other things. Discourses have their own material reality and, through the actions of intervening subjects, are propelled forward having an effect on social reality and experience. Under the right socio-historical conditions, if the current form of domination favors a discourse, that discourse has the potential to become dominant and exhibit effectivity. In developing an analytic of knowledge and power, Foucault explicates the influence of the socio-historic context thereby demonstrating and negating the generalizable tendencies previously identified in the realist/normative theoretical approaches to understanding the contingent formation of modern discourses. 71 72

M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, p. 234. N. Fox, Foucault, Foucauldians and Sociology, p. 419.


116 Deirdre McDonald Conclusions A critical analysis of how Foucault’s research on the clinic and the prison leads him to reject a general theory of conventional discursive formations and to develop instead an analytic of knowledge production, has been offered here. Foucault’s analytic of knowledge production within these institutions brings to the fore the gaze, which is dependent on the murmur, illustrating how ‘seeing’ acts as the support system for the dominant force of power – social control – through its collection of information for the purposes of scrutinizing it such that something authoritative can be said about it in order to create a discourse on its subject-matter. This analytic necessarily explains the historic- and institutional-specific apparatuses and practices involved in discursive formations and, more importantly, their social consequences. Thus, Foucault argues that knowledge produced about an object (even human beings) is an exercise of power and that the two concepts are inseparable. Moreover, Foucault shows that because discourses are like dominant forces of power they are therefore not generalizable from one institution to another, thus preventing false generalizations. Foucault seeks to rebut a general theory in the conventional discursive formations of the human sciences by arguing that discourses must be examined in terms of the reality of the socio-historical moment under study (i.e. actualities) while retaining power as the constant referent. The dependence of experience on the order of discourse (historical, rather than universal, a priori) echoes the dependence of experience on the contingent production of discourses that became dominant and were/are taken for granted by society. This observed dependence led to Foucault’s positive formation: the order of discourse produces experiences allowing us to interpret our mode of being; specifically, how and why things get imposed, exemplifying the transition from veridiction (what is known) to jurisdiction (what is to be done). Here, the individual is a function, or more specifically an agent, of discursive formation because the individual is enabled to make judgments and to describe and attend to an object for the purpose of improvement. This approach, however, comes at a cost because Foucault only attends to what has already been posited and fails to look to the future, to the potential. The archaeological method Foucault employs does not necessarily attempt to interpret the meaning of discursive formations; rather, it is concerned with discovering the set of rules governing its specificity and


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dispersion. Additionally, Foucault does not address the actual formation or intentions behind the generation of ideas highlighting the difficulty in attending to actualities. This is because Foucault’s analytical focus is on the regimes of practices, that is, effects of jurisdiction and veridiction and he specifically does not target institutions, theories, or ideologies. In order to theorize conditions under which a desirable outcome will happen, we absolutely need to “investigate the circumstances in which social values exist and are transformed, rather than accepting them as basic, unconditional facts”73. By attending to these issues, it is apparent under what specific, non-generalized conditions (social, historical, political, economic) one or another discourse comes to be dominant and, consequently, exhibits a power/knowledge relationship. The power exerted by discourses is evident in their ability to purposively transfer knowledge to direct collective social action in order to shape reality. Subjugation is a consequence of the power/knowledge relations embedded in discursive formations. Foucault’s analytic of knowledge production attends to the ways in which dominant, distinct discourses are created and proliferated prompting us to ask the question: Why do we have subjugated knowledges? The answer: Because the structure of society, or perhaps the structural constraints of society, shapes which discourses are dominant. Foucault’s analytic, however, does not provide us with the remedy to subjugated knowledges, rather he identifies the tools – archaeology and genealogy – necessary to manage and understand both the formation and the development of dominant discourses within distinct socio-historical moments where power/knowledge relationships are uncovered. By engaging with Foucault’s fundamental ‘boîte à outils’, we are better positioned to reflect upon and be attentive to the fundamental and often invisible relationship between power and knowledge in order to understand how domination is achieved and individuals are socially constructed in the modern world – our actualité – and, perhaps, to formulate ideas concerning the improvement of social well-being in our global present. Deirdre McDonald Carleton University DeirdrMcdonald@cmail.carleton.ca 73

D. Garland, Review: Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’, p. 877.


Saggi


Foucault’s 1978 Lectures and the Archaeology of Probability and Statistics Laurence Barry

In the years he dedicated to genealogy and the analyses of power, Fou-

cault published two books – Discipline and Punish1 and History of Sexuality I: The Will to Know2. Both deal with the intertwinement of knowledge with power, the former between the human sciences and the disciplinary apparatus, the latter between psychiatry and the sexual apparatus. But if Foucault’s interest in power first appears in the 1970s publications, his enquiries into knowledge have a longer history; those culminated with The Order of Things3, presented as an archaeology of the human sciences. Discipline and Punish further links these human sciences with disciplinary mechanisms. The emergence of man as an object of knowledge, the main thesis of The Order of Things, is now considered a correlate of the disciplinary techniques. Yet Foucault’s argument that each form of power nourishes and demands its own form of knowledge4 seems to imply that a broader historical application is possible: how then, one might ask, did the Renaissance and the Classical age epistemes develop in relation to power in the same period? I would like to contend here that the 1978 lectures at the Collège de France5 are also a re-reading of The Order of Things that answers this question. Foucault’s habit of reinterpreting his work in light of new inquiries is well-known; yet the 1978 lectures are specific on this matter, since they constitute a thorough and lengthy re-examination of each period in The Order of Things, that both supplements it with a genealogy of government and also displaces the archaeology itself. M. Foucault, Surveiller et punir (SP), Gallimard, Paris 1975. M. Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité I : La volonté de savoir (VdS), Gallimard, Paris 1976. 3 M. Foucault, Les mots et les choses (MC), Gallimard, Paris, 1966; the translations in the remainder of the text are taken from The Order of Things (OT), Vintage Books, New York 1971. 4 SP, p. 263. 5 M. Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-1978 (STP), ed. M. Senellart, trans. G. Burchell, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2009. 1 2

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 119-139.


120 Laurence Barry The argument of the lectures centers on the emergence of the population as an object/subject of knowledge and power within modernity. Many have already situated this claim in relation to Foucault’s earlier works6 or in relation to the genealogy of liberal government7, showing the importance of the concept for the contemporary exercise of power. My argument focuses instead on the omission of probability and statistics in The Order of Things, and that omission’s consequences for Foucault’s later analyses of modern power. In the 1978 lectures, Foucault depicts a history of governmentality as it unfolds from the Renaissance until the nineteenth century which awards central importance to the conceptualization of the population. This genealogy marks a shift in Foucault’s analyses of modern power8: the disciplinary regime described in Discipline and Punish is now only one aspect of liberal government, which is described instead mainly as the management of the population as a whole. The archaeology of the modern episteme is also modified; it is not the appearance of man that characterizes modernity, but the slow isolation of the population as the collective level of reality which probability and statistics enabled. One might then suggest that the omission of these knowledges in The Order of Things, which led to the elision of the population as a consequence, also explains the primary focus on disciplinary techniques until the 1978 lectures. The Order of Things’ Division into Epistemes and the Omission of Probability In his introduction to The Order of Things, Foucault explains that his interest does not lie in the description of the slow progress of a given field of knowledge towards scientific objectivity; rather, he intends to See for instance C. Gordon, Governmental Rationality: An Introduction, in G. Burchell, C. Gordon and P. Miller (eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1991, pp. 1-52; B. Curtis, Foucault on Governmentality and Population: The Impossible Discovery, “The Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie”, vol. 27 (2002), no. 4, pp. 505-533; U. Tellmann, Catastrophic Populations and the Fear of the Future: Malthus and the Genealogy of Liberal Economy, “Theory, Culture and Society”, vol. 30 (2013), no. 2, pp. 135-155. 7 L. Paltrinieri, Foucault et l’histoire de la démographie, in J.-F. Bert and J. Lamy (eds.), Michel Foucault. Un héritage critique, CNRS Éditions, Paris 2014, pp. 245-262; M. Dean, The Malthus Effect: Population and the Liberal Government of Life, “Economy and Society”, vol. 44 (2015), no. 1, pp. 18-39. 8 See M. Senellart, Situation des Corus, in STP, p. 382. 6


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disclose the common epistemological field on which different knowledges of a given period “ground their positivity”9. Rather than the vertical and continuous perspective on one field of knowledge over time, he focuses on the study of the horizontal commonalities of various knowledges in a given historical period. The definition of the type of “positivities” at stake can be found in The Archaeology of Knowledge: the positivities are “discursive formations” as the interplay of rules that creates a space for discursive practices. Looking at discourses as positivities means highlighting their materiality rather than their “rational value”10; specific epistemological objects appear in the spaces thus created, although archaeology is not concerned with the correspondence between the text and a supposed referent11. Therefore, archaeology is not about the objects of knowledge per se. Rather, it focuses on scientific discourses themselves, as “practices linked to specific conditions and subject to certain rules”, and the historical form they can take in a given time and place12. When studying the knowledges of the Renaissance, the Classical age, and the modern era, Foucault seeks the general configuration, the “a priori of knowledge” that enables a certain form of understanding common to all the knowledges of each period. Foucault’s enquiry isolates sharp discontinuities between those periods, making it easier to specify each one’s singularity. The Renaissance is defined as the episteme of similitude – a world of signs and symbols, left by a divine hand for human beings to decipher. Words and things are all God’s creation. In this episteme, a word designates a thing because it bears a resemblance to it; a flower can cure a disease because in some way it recalls the organ it is meant to heal. OT, p. xxii. For Luca Paltrinieri, the “positivity” in OT is the mode of being of objects when they enter a scientific domain, and of statements when they qualify as true or false (L. Paltrinieri, L’expérience du concept, Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris 2012, p. 140). 10 OT, p. 13. 11 M. Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir (AS), Gallimard, Paris 1969, pp. 49, 245. This method implies treating statements as historical facts, without any transcending rules lying behind them; for Gutting it thus applies a “positivist” approach to discourse. See G. Gutting, Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Scientific Reason, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1989, p. 242. 12 M. Foucault, Réponse à une question, in Dits et écrits I, 1954-1975, ed. D. Defert and F. Ewald, Gallimard, Paris 2001, p. 721, my translation. For a further distinction between Foucault’s archaeology and epistemology, see (in this issue of Materiali Foucaultiani) P. Macherey, Subjectivité et normativité chez Canguilhem et Foucault. 9


122 Laurence Barry The Classical age is the age of representation; language loses its divine origin and is now perceived as an arbitrary human creation. Words thus separate from things, and come to represent the world. The main feature of representation is that it aims at completeness; words represent the world in an exhaustive manner, without residuum. Finally, the modern period that starts with the nineteenth century is the age of anthropology, with the emergence of the human sciences that take man as an object of knowledge, characterized by his finitude13. Mercantilism, Physiocracy, and Political Economy in The Order of Things The analyses of mercantilism, physiocracy and political economy – three knowledges to which Foucault returns in depth in the 1978 lectures – form part of this general description: mercantilism and physiocracy as two moments of the Classical age, and political economy as a knowledge within the modern episteme. The break between the Renaissance and the Classical age is visible in the theory of money and trade introduced by the mercantilists. In the Renaissance, money was a sign of wealth, conditional on its having an intrinsic value in itself14. Its status changed with the advent of the Classical age and the break from the episteme of similitude to that of representation. Mercantilism seems to inaugurate this period in the economic domain, and indeed for the mercantilists money represents value, in analogy with words that represent things15. In the Classical age, convention and practice attributed the metal its value, without reference to its intrinsic properties. This in fact launches a series of new issues. In the Renaissance, gold had a true, although For a thorough analysis of the modern episteme, see B. Han-Pile, “The Death of Man”: Foucault and Anti-Humanism, in T. O’Leary and C. Falzon (eds.), Foucault and Philosophy, Blackwell, Oxford 2010, pp. 118-142. Gildas Salmon further notices that the breaks between the three periods remain stable over time in Foucault’s works. Besides, while his descriptions of modernity or the Classical age are always limited to specific types of knowledge (e.g. the empirical sciences, madness, sexuality), the diagnosis of modernity repeats from one study to the next the fact that man is taken as an object of knowledge. See G. Salmon, Foucault et la généalogie de la sociologie, “Archives de Philosophie”, vol. 79 (2016), no. 1, p. 81. 14 OT, p. 169. 15 OT, p. 175. 13


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hidden, value; it also fixed the true value of things, as the amount of gold according to which they were exchanged. With the advent of the Classical age, money comes to solely represent wealth. There is no longer any intrinsically fair price, and the value of things becomes a source of enquiry in itself. Foucault analyses two theories of value, one of them being the physiocrats’16. Their main claim (conditioned by the episteme) is that land (and God) is the source of wealth; the value of things comes from some people’s need of the surplus of others; money represents the wealth in circulation in these exchanges17. The break between the Classical and modern episteme in the economic domain, occurs in two stages. First with Adam Smith, who replaces need by labor in the theory of value, thus radically changing its equation. Yet the unit of labor, that now measures the value of goods, remains in Smith’s model a fixed entity; the amount of work still “represents” the value of the object in a monolithic way. Hence for Foucault, Smith remains at the threshold of modernity, actually opened by Ricardo. Like Smith, Ricardo considers labor as a measure of the value of things. Yet, by contrast with Smith, for Ricardo work does not represent but in fact produces valuehence the break with the episteme of representation, in three main ways. First, work is defined as a process, whose value depends on the conditions of production that determine the value of the final product18. This new understanding is the mark of the modern episteme, according to which things are no longer entirely graspable through representation. What gradually assumes importance is the organization, the mode of functioning of things which gives them a thickness (épaisseur), a “depth,” and a “density”19. But with the idea of function and system, it is as if a new dimension was added to the flat description of the world, hence the break with the Classical period: words can no longer represent things with no residuum20. Second, while scarcity in the Classical age might occur temporarily, it is easily overcome: the abundance of nature offers goods far exceeding Among the physiocrats, Foucault quotes Cantilllon and Mirabeau, but also Quesnay’s article Hommes, to which he returns in 1978 (MC, p. 205; OT, p. 192). 17 OT, p. 199. 18 OT, p. 255. 19 OT, pp. 239, 304, 310, 313. 20 OT, pp. 267-268. 16


124 Laurence Barry human needs and can cover them through exchange21. For Ricardo, by contrast, scarcity is an essential condition of human existence. It is also a characteristic feature of the modern episteme, where man is understood as a finite being, in relation to the scarcity of nature. Work in this predicament is a necessity as “the only means of overcoming the fundamental insufficiency of nature and of triumphing for an instant over death”22. Finally, exactly as the episteme marks the entry of man into history, economics is understood as having its own temporality. Mankind has an economic history, leading either to a pessimistic ending with Ricardo23 or an optimistic one with Marx24. Probability, Statistics and the Episteme of Representation As is hitherto discernible, Foucault’s description of the emergence of political economy is devoid of reference to probability or statistics, as if these knowledges had no influence on the former. While there is a short mention of probability in the Classical age, strangely enough it is not connected to the economic field, nor even directly to Pascal’s games of chance where it took shape25. Foucault speaks instead of the arbitrariness of language in the episteme of representation, leading to the relative certainty or sole “probability” of a sign in its capacity to represent things26. Yet the emergence of probability in the Classical OT, p. 256. OT, p. 257. 23 Ricardo’s pessimistic history is very close to Malthus’ on this matter. However, Malthus is mentioned only once in The Order of Things and again fleetingly in the 1978 lectures. 24 OT, pp. 258-262. For a full description of the opposition between Ricardo and Marx in OT and Foucault’s own historical context, see Ph. Sabot, Lire Les mots et les choses, PUF, Paris 2006, pp. 78-87. Sabot characterizes the emergence of political economy by two main points; the historicity of processes and the finitude of man at work. He thus encapsulates in one single phenomenon the appearance of processes and their temporality, here taken as separate elements. 25 I. Hacking sees in the last chapters of The Logic of Port-Royal the starting-point of probability. See I. Hacking, The Emergence of Probability, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2006 [1975], p. 12. Strikingly, Foucault uses the same text for his own analyses of the Classical episteme, focusing rather on the theory of signs. He seems to ignore the probabilistic chapters and their importance for the understanding of modernity. 26 OT, pp. 59-60. 21 22


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age enabled the conceptualization of various new problems in different domains, creating new epistemological objects that did constitute a break with the previous period27. As for statistics, they are completely absent from The Order of Things. One could argue that the first statistics were not considered at the time as a domain of knowledge but solely as a tool of government, and hence would not fall within the purview of Foucault’s study28. Foucault actually provides another, methodological, reason for the omission, a reason that might hold for probability too: his intention is to avoid a retrospective reading of earlier knowledges, one that would retro-project on the past the beginning of modern forms of knowledge. Instead he centers his inquiries on “the appearance of figures peculiar to the Classical age. […] An analysis of wealth that took little account of the ‘political arithmetic’ that was contemporary with it”29. Therefore, Foucault does not actually omit probability and statistics as classical knowledges, but simply focuses on other, in his view more specific to the age, discursive formations. Yet as Canguilhem remarks, their later transformation does not mean they were not in conformity with the previous episteme: Among the theoretical discourses produced in conformity with the epistemic system of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, certain ones, such as that of natural history, were rejected by the nineteenth-century episteme, but others were integrated. Even though it served as a model for the eighteenth-century physiologists of animal economy, Newton’s physics did not go down with them30.

See I. Hacking, The Emergence of Probability, pp. 99-115. See also D. Rabouin (L’exception mathématique, “Les Études Philosophiques”, vol. 153 [2015], no. 3, pp. 424425)), who highlights the fact that the emergence of probability in the Classical age was a significant break with the previous period, which rendered thinkable new objects of knowledge. 28 See H. Le Bras, Naissance de la mortalité, Seuil-Gallimard, Paris 2000, p. 123. 29 OT, p. x, emphasis added. Interestingly, each time he rejects the continuous approach that dictates a retrospective reading, Foucault mentions Petty as an example. See OT, pp. 166-168 and L’archéologie du savoir, pp. 47-48. 30 G. Canguilhem, The Death of Man, or the Exhaustion of the Cogito?, in G. Gutting (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2005, pp. 87-88. 27


126 Laurence Barry The same would hold with statistics and probability; some knowledges, so it seems, do escape their encapsulation in one single episteme, a characteristic that places them outside of the scope of archaeology. Yet this contradicts some explicit formulations of The Order of Things, where Foucault contends that “in any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one episteme that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge”31. Another possible explanation could be that, in Foucault’s view at the time, probabilities give a mathematicised formalization to existing epistemological problems or, as Canguilhem puts it32, simply function as a new language. In the case of Condorcet’s use of probabilities, Foucault indeed contends: It is no doubt of interest historically to know how Condorcet was able to apply the calculation of probabilities to politics. […] But despite the specificity of the problems posed, it is unlikely that the relation to mathematics (the possibilities of mathematicization, or the resistance to all efforts at formalization) is constitutive of the human sciences in their particular positivity33.

For Foucault, the novelty of the modern episteme stands in its positing man as an object of knowledge. The “particular positivity” of the human sciences, in this respect, designates mainly the one posed by psychology and psychiatry, with almost no reference to the social sciences34. As a corollary, Foucault misses the emergence of collective objects of knowledge such as the population, in which probabilities and statistics are paramount. Furthermore, both statistics and probability seem for him to belong to specific areas of the discursive formation of mathematics. In The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault defines mathematics as an exception to his analyses. Most discursive formations evolve indeed along various thresholds, towards a final formalization that would define them as sciences; yet some of these discourses will never become sciences, while OT, p. 183, emphasis added. G. Canguilhem, The Death of Man, or the Exhaustion of the Cogito?, p. 88. 33 OT, p. 349, emphasis added. 34 The repeated minimization of the social sciences in Foucault’s diagnosis of modernity has been frequently noticed; see for instance G. Salmon, Foucault et la généalogie de la sociologie, p. 82; Karsenti considers that Foucault in fact strategically avoids the social sciences. See B. Karsenti, Gouverner la société, in D’une philosophie à l’autre, Gallimard, Paris 2013, p. 171. 31 32


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others will. Archaeology focuses on knowledges – “savoir” – before they turn into sciences. Contrary to all other discourses, mathematics was a science from the start, hence its exclusion from archaeology35. Interestingly, Rabouin further tackles Foucault’s “an-historicity of mathematics”: it should have been treated as a knowledge – “savoir”, with its impurity and dependence on cultural circumstances36. In the same strand of thought, Le Bras insists on the historical development of statistics and probabilities, showing how some conceptualizations and developments could not occur until nineteenth or twentieth century37. Hence the “scientificity argument”, that discards sciences as outside the scope of the archaeology, does not seem to hold, neither for mathematics, nor for statistics, or probability. Such an archaeology of statistics will be performed, I will argue in the last part of this paper, in the 1978 lectures. Modernity in the Genealogy of Governmentality Archaeology allowed for the specification of distinct and static periods38, without giving any explanation for the shift from one episteme to the next39. During the 1970s Foucault supplements the archaeology with genealogy; by showing the productivity of power, the latter also exposes the political and historical conditions of the formation of knowledge40. In 1978 he then contends that “the development of scientific knowledge” cannot be understood “without taking into account the changes in the mechanisms of power. The typical case would be economic science”41. The renewed diagnosis of modernity developed in Discipline and Punish is M. Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir, pp. 252-255. Rabouin (L’exception mathématique, p. 422) contends that with mathematics Foucault actually falls into the exact discourse on the origin that he rejected in the introduction of the Archeology. 37 H. Le Bras, Naissance de la mortalité, p. 172. 38 C. Koopman, Genealogy as Critique, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2013, p. 45. 39 G.M. Mascaretti, Michel Foucault on Problematization, Parrhesia and Critique, “Materiali Foucaultiani”, vol. 3 (2014), no. 5-6, p. 137. 40 M. Foucault, La société punitive: Cours au Collège de France, 1972-1973 (SoP), ed. B.E. Harcourt, Seuil-Gallimard, Paris 2013, pp. 95-96, n. 2. 41 M. Foucault, La société disciplinaire en crise, in Dits et écrits II, 1976-1988 (DE II), ed. D. Defert and F. Ewald, Gallimard, Paris 2001, p. 533, my translation. 35 36


128 Laurence Barry formulated in terms of the entanglement of the human sciences and the disciplinary regime that pervades modern institutions42. The emergence of man as an object of knowledge, which is the main thesis of The Order of Things, is now seen as a correlate of the disciplinary techniques: the constant observation and measurement of bodies in their compliance with the norm, and the discipline that renders them docile and useful to the power apparatus, also create this figure of man. I would like to suggest here that the genealogy of government sketched in the 1978 lectures is actually a political rereading of The Order of Things, one that shows that the intertwinement of knowledge and power exceeds the modern era evoked in Discipline and Punish; this finding opens the way for more general contentions on the exercise of power. It also recognizes the importance of statistics and probability in the Classical and modern epistemes, as I will show below. The “history of governmentality”43 starts with the description of the pastoral power of the Church, namely God’s government over the world, which coincides with the episteme of similitude. In the lectures, Foucault indeed states that: A world subject to pastoral government, […] was a book, an open book in which one could discover the truth […] in the form of resemblance and analogy. At the same time it was also a world in which it was necessary to decipher hidden truths that showed themselves by hiding and hid by showing themselves, that is to say, it was a world that was filled with ciphers to be decoded44.

Pastoral power rather appears as the ancestor of disciplinary power: it functions through complete subordination and absolute obedience, by extracting from each individual a truth about himself that helps individualize him, by subjugation45. The Renaissance decipherment of the cosmos described in The Order of Things is now broadened to apply also to the individual under pastoral scrutiny. One of the effects of the epistemological shift in the Classical age is that God is understood to “rule the world through general, immutable and SP, pp. 224-226. STP, p. 108. At the end of the lesson on February 1st, 1978, Foucault says that if he could, he would change the lectures’ title to “a history of governmentality”. 44 STP, p. 236, emphasis added. 45 STP, pp. 175-185. 42 43


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universal laws”46. God reigns over the world, but he no longer governs it. Foucault calls this turn “the de-governmentalization of the cosmos”47. As a result, the specificity of the king’s role becomes a concern: the king, not God, should govern according to a rationality yet to be invented, which Foucault coins Raison d’État48. At a very early stage (in the sixteenth century), this new rationality, strongly influenced by mercantilist principles, takes the economy as a model49. In La Perrière’s text, Foucault indeed finds the contention that government should deal with “the complex of men and things”, a characteristic he attributes to the modern techniques of liberal governmentality. Yet in his view this form of government remains “blocked” until the eighteenth century50, for two main reasons. First, the “institutional and mental structures” were such that the exercise of power continued to be problematized as sovereignty. Hence mercantilism “is the first rationalization of the exercise of power as a practice of government […] but I think that mercantilism was blocked and halted precisely because it took the sovereign’s might as its essential objective”51. Second, mercantilism lacked a proper concept of the population and considered the family as the model for good government52. Raison d’État therefore remains a first stage towards modern liberal governmentality. It establishes the police as a tool for controlling the subjects of the kingdom. The police, says Foucault, empowers the state as “a power of rational and calculated intervention on individuals”53. The interesting point, from this paper’s perspective, is that the “partitioning grid” (quadrillage) of the population, a distinctive practice of both the police54 and the disciplinary regime55, needs and creates the first kind of statistics. Statistics hence develop as a necessary tool for the police: STP, p. 234. STP, p. 236. 48 Ibidem. Interestingly, at the dawn of modernity, Thiers will state the same for the king – “the king reigns but he does not govern”, a famous sentence cited by Foucault at the end of the January 25th, 1978 lecture (STP, p. 76). 49 STP, p. 95. 50 STP, p. 96. 51 STP, p. 102. 52 STP, p. 104. 53 STP, p. 327. 54 STP, pp. 10, 325-326. 55 SP, p. 166-170. 46 47


130 Laurence Barry “police and statistics mutually condition each other”56. It consists initially of knowing the number of inhabitants for the sake of taking charge of the necessities of life57. Statistics is initially the “knowledge of the state on the state”, which intends to represent exhaustively (with no residuum) the people in the kingdom. It is therefore a knowledge in conformity with the epistemological configuration of the Classical age as diagnosed in The Order of Things. The shift from the mercantilist approach to the modern one is initiated by the physiocrats’ conceptualization of the population, which has a few characteristics that strikingly link it to modernity as defined in The Order of Things. Indeed, the population is now seen as constituted by a collection of individuals, each with their own immutable desires. At the collective level, these versatile desires turn into the general interest and show a constancy that did not appear at the individual one58. Population is no longer “a collection of subject wills” (as with mercantilism) but “a set of processes”59. This in turn imbues the concept with depth and thickness, in line with other objects of knowledge in the modern episteme. This novel understanding of the population leads to the emergence of a new form of governmentality technique, liberal governmentality, that Foucault will further study in 1979: To say that population is a natural phenomenon that cannot be changed by decree does not mean, however, that it is an inaccessible and impenetrable nature, quite the contrary. And this is where the analysis of the physiocrats and economists becomes interesting, in that the naturalness identified in the fact of population is constantly accessible to agents and techniques of transformation, on condition that these agents and techniques are at once enlightened, reflected, analytical, calculated, and calculating60.

The fact that the population “cannot be changed by decree”, means that new methods and techniques of power are emerging. The link with The Order of Things remains tacit until the 1979 lectures where, coming back to the emergence of liberal governmentality with political economy, Foucault notes that “Kant, a little later moreover, had to tell man that he STP, p. 315. STP, p. 341-347. 58 STP, p. 74-75. 59 STP, p. 70. 60 STP, p. 71, emphasis added. 56 57


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cannot know the totality of the world. Well, some decades earlier, political economy had told the sovereign: not even you can know the totality of the economic process. There is no sovereign in economics”61. Following Desrosières, I suggest that political economy results from the application of probabilistic models to the descriptive statistics of Raison d’État62. The concept of population in its modern meaning thus appears: it becomes the set of observations of a given probabilistic law, distributed accordingly. This has a first and drastic consequence: while the disciplinary norm still entailed the imposition of an arbitrary will on the individual, statistical law includes in the normal curve the whole distribution of behaviors. Foucault now distinguishes between disciplinary “normation”, that posits the norm first, and statistical normalization which starts from the observation of behaviors, all considered natural, in order to deduce the adequate probabilistic law63. Modern liberal governmentality is therefore founded on the statistical analyses of the processes running through the population. It integrates the opacity of the phenomena and tries to overcome it with proper analytical techniques. These techniques further enable prediction and forecast in an uncertain environment64. From the perspective of the power/knowledge analysis, statistics allows a rereading of The Order of Things and the characterization of Renaissance, Classical, and modern epistemes through a political lens, while reinterpreting the role of mercantilism, physiocracy, and political economy. This reading enlarges the intertwinement of modern knowledge and power with earlier periods. As Karsenti puts it, “from knowledge to power, the transposition has no residuum”65; the two M. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979 (BB), ed. M. Senellart, trans. G. Burchell, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2008, p. 283. In 1978, the physiocrats seem to mark the entrance into modernity. In the 1979 lectures, Foucault corrects this point by stating that what is lacking in the physiocrats’ conception of government is the opacity introduced by Adam Smith in political economy: “The invisible hand posits […] that there cannot be a sovereign in the physiocratic sense and that there cannot be despotism in the physiocratic sense, because there cannot be economic evidence” (ibidem, p. 286). 62 A. Desrosières, La politique des grands nombres: Histoire de la raison statistique, La Découverte, Paris 2010, pp. 26-59. 63 STP, p. 57. 64 STP, pp. 1-27. 65 B. Karsenti, Gouverner la société, p. 170. 61


132 Laurence Barry epistemological shifts of The Order of Things are now entirely “translated”, so to speak, into techniques of power. But this genealogy is also and maybe more fundamentally a displacement of the diagnosis of modernity as sketched in Discipline and Punish. Indeed, while the disciplines were presented as a modern power technique originating in the monasteries of the Middle Ages, they appear in the lectures as somehow having far more in common with sovereign power and the Classical age. Foucault says, for instance: The idea of the panopticon is a modern idea in one sense, but we can also say that it is completely archaic, since the panoptic mechanism basically involves putting someone in the center– an eye, a gaze, a principle of surveillance – who will be able to make its sovereignty function over all the individuals [placed] within this machine of power66.

In many occurrences in the lectures he further insists on the novelty represented by the security mechanisms founded on probability and statistics: these techniques are “absolutely modern” or “relatively new”67, and introduce a kind of power very different from discipline68. While he insists that they do not function without discipline but in conjunction with it69, the first three lessons are dedicated to showing how these techniques are in fact “radically different” from those involved in discipline and sovereignty. Isolating the specificity of these techniques implies an archaeology of statistics that I will try to retrace in the next part. Modernity, Political Economy and the Archaeology of Probability and Statistics The genealogy sketched above makes the modern conceptualization of the population pivotal in the transformation of power techniques. Prior to the 1978 lectures, Foucault ascribed it little or no importance, although he had already discussed the physiocrats’ texts at length. The shift from archaeology to genealogy does not, by itself, explain the sudden STP, p. 66, emphasis added. STP, pp. 11, 76. 68 STP, p. 66. 69 STP, pp. 106-107. 66 67


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emergence of the concept of population in Foucault’s thought70; actually, the history of governmentality hints at an archaeology slightly different from that in The Order of Things. In a way, this alternative archaeology is also pivotal, I argue, to the shift in Foucault’s theory of modern power. Population as a Concept and the Archaeology of Statistics As Curtis noticed, early uses of the word “population” in Foucault’s texts do not refer to population as a concept, in its statistical meaning71. In The Order of Things, “population” is mentioned a few times mainly in relation to the mercantilists, for what Curtis takes to be “populousness”72, as in “the number of individuals making up the population of a state”73. The term does not even appear in relation to the physiocrats, whereas in the 1978 lectures Foucault stated that they promoted a transformation of the term74. In the modern episteme, Malthus is mentioned only once, as actually doubling Ricardo’s analyses of the human species. His theory of population and its critique by Marx are ignored75, or reduced to the abovementioned opposition between an optimistic or pessimistic vision of human history. Tellmann therefore contends that “Foucault never truly ventured to understand the figure of population in terms of the ‘anthropology of finitude’”76. One might actually argue the opposite; L. Paltrinieri, Foucault et l’histoire de la démographie, p. 261. B. Curtis, Foucault on Governmentality and Population, p. 507. Prior to the 1978 lectures, Foucault mentions once the population as a statistical notion in Bio-histoire et bio-politique, in DE II, p. 96. 72 Ibidem. 73 OT, p. 201. Actually, it is the attempt to determine this number which motivated Graunt’s inquiries. See H. Le Bras, Naissance de la mortalité, p. 23. 74 STP, p. 104. 75 L. Paltrinieri, Foucault et l’histoire de la démographie, p. 251. See also M. Dean, The Malthus Effect, p. 20. A convincing explanation for this omission comes from what J. Revel calls Foucault’s “politics of quotation” (J. Revel, La pensée verticale, in F. Gros [ed.], Foucault: Le courage de la vérité, PUF, Paris 2002, p. 79, n. 2) and, as Tellmann among others has noted: “It is thus in a way apt to say that Foucault circumvents rather than takes up the issue of economy in his attempt to dislodge the economistic and totalizing strands of the Marxist tradition” (U. Tellmann, Foucault and the Invisible Economy, “Foucault Studies”, no. 6 [2009], p. 9). See also S. Legrand, Le marxisme oublié de Foucault, “Actuel Marx”, vol. 36 (2004), no. 2, pp. 27-43. 76 U. Tellmann, Catastrophic Populations and the Fear of the Future, p. 139. 70 71


134 Laurence Barry the lens of the episteme of finitude allowed the conflation of Malthus and Ricardo on the notion of scarcity, and downplayed the role of the population in these analyses. Another reading of Malthus, that positions demography and statistics at its center, would have been possible, but it would not have matched the thesis of The Order of Things77. Foucault does give some indications of such an alternative reading in 1976 with the analyses of bio-power, where the family is taken as an instrument to implement “a Malthusian control of the birthrate”78. Given the centrality of population in the 1978 lectures, one might be surprised by the limited importance accorded, again, to Malthus. He is briefly compared to Marx in the field of political economy, in order to show two opposite interpretations that Foucault does not actually agree with; on the one hand Malthus as pointing to issues of bio-economy, on the other hand Marx as promoting a historico-political approach through the concept of “class”79. In the next passage, Foucault further shows that the population actually appeared in the nineteenth century as an object of knowledge in a variety of domains (biology, natural history, and philology); accordingly, he had claimed in The Order of Things that man was the epistemological invention of modernity. The population in Foucault’s definition of liberal government is in fact larger than its limits in bio-power; he further clarifies this point in 1979, stating that “only when we understand what is at stake in this regime of liberalism […] will we be able to grasp what biopolitics is”80. In the first three lessons of 1978, Foucault provides examples of this new technique of government called liberalism that takes the population as its relevant level of intervention. Focusing on the issue of healthy circulation, vaccination and scarcity, Foucault isolates a new “level of See for instance H. Le Bras, Naissance de la mortalité, pp. 217-219. VdS, p. 132. L. Paltrinieri also mentions Foucault’s displacement from archaeology to genealogy on the Marxian notion of “the floating population” in the 1973 lectures (L. Paltrinieri, Foucault et l’histoire de la démographie, p. 251). But here, Curtis could argue that it is rather the population as part of the social body which is at stake; Indeed, Foucault speaks of the “floating population” as opposed to the working population (SoP, p. 176), as a “layer of population close to instinct” (SoP, p. 166, emphasis added). 79 STP, p. 77. For an elaboration on the (in)accuracy of this claim, see G. SibertinBlanc, Race, population, classe: Discours historico-politique et biopolitique du capital de Foucault à Marx, in C. Laval et al., Marx et Foucault, La Découverte, Paris 2015, pp. 228-243. 80 BB, pp. 21-22. 77 78


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reality”81 for the exercise of power. Such a level takes shape, I argue, thanks to statistics: Statistics […] now discovers and gradually reveals that the population possesses its own regularities: its death rate, its incidence of disease, its regularities of accidents. Statistics also shows that the population involves specific, aggregate effects and that these phenomena are irreducible to those of the family. […] Statistics [further] shows that, through its movements, its customs, and its activity, population has specific economic effects. Statistics enables the specific phenomena of population to be quantified and thereby reveals that this specificity is irreducible [to the] small framework of the family82.

The existence of a regularity at the collective level triggers the use of probabilistic models that characterizes the rationality applied to these phenomena. Foucault defines the security mechanisms in the first lesson as the use of the probabilities of future events in order to make decisions in the present: “I think the management of these [open] series […] that can only be controlled by an estimate of probabilities, is pretty much the essential characteristic of the mechanism of security”83. This is indeed the common feature of circulation, scarcity, vaccination, or prediction in general; the individual reaction remains impossible to predict, but the average on the aggregate is known well enough to allow an accurate estimate of future results. The modern treatment of these phenomena thus takes probabilities into account in order to decide on a course of action. According to Ewald, the widespread use of these techniques by the late nineteenth-century inaugurates a new “social regime of truth. They imply a new manner for men to manage the causality of their behavior, to think their […] conflicts, and to define their mutual obligations”84. He further defines those societies “insurance societies”, and shows their flourishing throughout the twentieth century. Statistics and probability appear therefore as the knowledges that frame the security mechanisms at the heart of political economy and STP, pp. 95, 104. STP, p. 104, emphasis added. 83 STP, p. 20. 84 F. Ewald, L’État Providence, Grasset, Paris 1986, p. 26. Foucault also uses the expression “insurance societies”, for societies where individuals “are guaranteed against uncertainty, accident and damage risk” (M. Foucault, Michel Foucault: La sécurité et l’État, in DE II, pp. 385-386). 81 82


136 Laurence Barry liberal governmentality. Foucault’s use of the term “population” in the 1978 lectures derives from this statistical meaning (rather than the sole bio-economical earlier use)85: the object of knowledge is the aggregate, and not the individual. This defines the “level of reality” now pertinent for the exercise of power: “within the economic technology and management, there is this break between the pertinent level of the population and the level that is not pertinent, or that is simply instrumental. The final objective is the population”86. The Emergence of a Collective Epistemological Object and the Diagnosis of Modernity When Foucault decides to approach the government/population pair from the viewpoint of the “genealogy of the technologies of power”, he also chooses to downplay the archaeological approach that would have emphasized the emergence of certain objects such as the population, within domains of knowledge such as probability and statistics87. My contention here is that his genealogy still bears consequences for the epistemological configuration of modernity he described in The Order of Things. Surprisingly, neither Foucault nor the editors of the lectures mention the existence of Hacking’s book, The Emergence of Probability88; published in 1975, it makes explicit references to Foucault and argues that probability “emerged” in the Classical age as a break in rationality89. In analogy with Foucault’s 1978 lectures, Hacking gives an account of how the first mortality tables, as descriptive statistics of the population, were immediately linked See B. Curtis, Foucault on Governmentality and Population, p. 509: the “management” of the phenomena is rendered possible by the law of large numbers. Actually, Curtis claims that Foucault did not isolate this statistical and probabilistic definition of population (ibidem, p. 511). But he appears not to have had access to the 1978 lectures (except for the fourth lesson) which, I would argue, significantly changes the picture on this matter. 86 STP, p. 42, emphasis added. 87 STP, pp. 35-36. 88 The editorial notes on the lectures indeed mention V. John and a volume published by INSEE in 1977 (STP, p. 114, n. 31). 89 This point came from Foucault’s obvious influence on Hacking. It was further criticized since probability did not create a sharp break but an “increasing sophistication” in mathematical thought (I. Hacking, The Emergence of Probability, p. viii). Yet an important element of the episteme of representation, namely the vexing issue of how to represent uncertain events, is missing in The Order of Things. 85


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to probabilistic considerations on “chances of dying”90. Strikingly, both problems of gambling and mortality rates were raised as specific issues of the theory of value. However, The Order of Things dealt only with material goods, probabilities were elaborated in order to determine the value of lotteries91, and mortality tables were needed to understand the value of life annuities92; Foucault would have probably qualified these problems as purely mathematical at the time. Interestingly enough, statistics had been mentioned in 1963, in The Birth of the Clinic93. Foucault observed that nineteenth-century medicine relies on probabilistic thought and that “in clinical experience, variations are not set aside, they separate of their own accord; they cancel each other out in the general configuration, because they are integrated into the domain of probability; […] the abnormal is still a form of regularity”94. In 1978, Foucault uses the exact same term referring to the phenomena treated by security techniques: “there is a progressive self-cancellation of phenomena by the phenomena themselves”95. This self-cancellation allows for the regularity of the phenomenon in the aggregate. As mentioned before, Foucault contends in the 1978 lectures that the population, as a new subject/object of the exercise of power, explains the shift in all epistemological domains with the advent of modernity. More crucially, Foucault even links the human sciences to this emergence of the population. He concludes: Hence the theme of man, and the human sciences that analyze him […] should be understood on the basis of the emergence of population as the correlate of power and the object of knowledge. After all, man, as he is thought and defined by the so-called human sciences of the nineteenth century, and as he is reflected in nineteenth century humanism, is nothing other than a figure of population96.

With this conclusion, Foucault admits that the population, and not man, should be put at the heart of the modern episteme. Besides, I wonder if Foucault’s contention that “man is a figure of the population” should Ibidem, pp. 99, 109, 115. Ibidem, p. 95. 92 Ibidem, p. 101. 93 M. Foucault, Naissance de la clinique, PUF, Paris 1963, my translation. 94 Ibidem, p. 102, emphasis added. 95 STP, p. 66. 96 STP, p. 79, emphasis added. 90 91


138 Laurence Barry not be understood as meaning that the modern episteme is in fact driven by the knowledge collective phenomena. The 1978 lectures then sketch an alternative archaeology where, within the human sciences, social sciences would have greater importance. Paltrinieri suggests that for Foucault the population is transformed into its modern meaning thanks to the collection of data for the sake of the police; it thus conditions the development of knowledges rather than being constructed by them, and further renders possible biopolitics97. I would argue that the collected statistics could not be imagined in terms of “population” until the regularity of the underlying phenomena was isolated. This could not happen without the application of technical tools and calculation on the data collected98. The concept of population therefore appeared within the discursive formations of probability and statistics. Hence the real condition of possibility for the emergence of the population as a concept seems to be the emergence of probability in the Classical age. The exhaustive “transposition from knowledge to power” is now achieved within the modern episteme itself; while psychology and psychiatry are entwined with disciplinary techniques applied at the level of the individual body99, the social sciences such as sociology, demography and modern statistics nourish the security mechanisms and the management of the collective level that characterizes political economy. This alternative archaeology, that gives probability its place in the Classical episteme and leads to the isolation of the population as a modern object of knowledge, entails a different description of modern power than the one sketched in Discipline and Punish. At the end of the 1976 lectures, Foucault seems to criticize his own work in the following terms: “the normalizing society is therefore not […] a sort of generalized disciplinary society whose disciplinary institutions have swarmed and finally taken over everything – that, I think is no more than a first and inadequate interpretation of a normalizing society”100. I have tried to show above that the inadequacy of the description might be in fact the consequence of his omission of probability in the Classical age in The Order of Things. L. Paltrinieri, Foucault et l’histoire de la démographie, p. 256. See for instance I. Hacking, How Should We Do the History of Statistics?, in G. Burchell, C. Gordon and P. Miller (eds.), The Foucault Effect, p. 182. For Le Bras (Naissance de la mortalité, p. 256), Petty’s science both transforms the exercise of power and allows for the emergence of the idea of mortality as a collective phenomenon. 99 SP, pp. 159-163. 100 M. Foucault, Society Must be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976, ed. M. Bertani and A. Fontana, trans. D. Macey, Picador, New York 2003, p. 253. 97

98


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Conclusion The isolation of the statistical dimension of the population in the 1978 lectures leads Foucault to a series of displacements. It first implies a revision of the epistemological characteristics of the Classical and the modern age, in order to include probability and statistics as important domains of knowledge, that shaped and were in turn shaped by, the techniques of power. Moreover, Foucault’s description of modern power is also deeply modified by this alternative archaeology. The security mechanisms sketched in the lectures as entwined with liberal government indeed focus on collective processes rather than the individual body, as in discipline. The population is thus a new level of intervention for modern power, which recognizes the distribution of behaviors and does not try to discipline them within an arbitrary sovereign will. Besides, by associating each epistemological period of The Order of Things with a certain form of power-exercise (all of which continue to coexist nowadays), Foucault widens the scope of the modern entanglement of power with knowledge as described in Discipline and Punish to earlier periods. In the ensuing years, Foucault returns infrequently to this genealogy of government. In the last lesson of 1979 for instance, he opposes the Renaissance period, where the Prince governs “by divine truth”, to the Classical and the modern ones, where government is adjusted on rationality – first, with Raison d’État, on “the rationality of the sovereign himself ”, and then with liberal governmentality, on the rationality of “those who are governed as economic subjects”101. The following year, Foucault states that he will henceforth focus on the more general intertwinement between power and truth. He then turns to the elaboration of the notion of “government by truth”, a notion adequate both for modern and archaic power, but also for the government of others and of the self. Laurence Barry Hebrew University of Jerusalem barryl@smile.net.il

101

BB, p. 312.


Foucault, 1978: The Biopolitics of Translation and the Decolonization of Knowledge Jon Solomon

In thinking about the relation between Foucault and the postcolonial,

it is useful to refer to the gesture engaged by Foucault in his celebrated 1978 address at the Sorbonne published under the title What Is Critique?1. Foucault’s address reads like a programmatic synthesis of one of the most intriguing, yet subterranean, aspects of the French intellectual itinerary emerging in the 1960s. I am not talking about post-structuralism’s flirtation with signifying chains, but rather about a constellation of ideas that join causality (Althusser, Simondon), individuation (Deleuze, Derrida, and Simondon), and figuration (Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy) to Foucault’s own emerging interests in biopolitics, racism and the state, and that lead in the direction of a radical departure from the presuppositions of what C.B. MacPherson, author of The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism2, confidently – and somewhat misleadingly, as I will attempt to show – termed the “Western democratic ontology”3. In Foucault’s 1978 address, this radical break has as its beginning the attempt to rescue critique from “an inquiry into the legitimacy of the historical modes of knowing”4. This style of inquiry, typical of the 18th and 19th century conflation of critique with Enlightenment, is “historicophilosophical”5. Foucault is careful to explain that this amalgam of history and philosophy must not be understood in a cumulative way (philosophy of history or history of philosophy), but rather as a process of creating M. Foucault, What Is Critique?, in J. Schmidt (ed.), What Is Enlightenment? EighteenthCentury Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions, trans. K.P. Geiman, University of California Press, Berkeley 1996, pp. 382-398. 2 C.B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1962. 3 C.B. MacPherson, Democratic Theory. Essays in Retrieval, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1973, p. 24. 4 M. Foucault, What Is Critique?, p. 393. 5 Ibidem, p. 391. 1

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 141-172.


142 Jon Solomon a story6, “fabricating as through fiction”7. How could one not hear, in 1978, an echo of the path-breaking analysis of Romanticism, in which the philosophical project of Kantian subjective freedom is realized precisely through literature, that was accomplished by the deconstructive philosophers Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy in The Literary Absolute published that same year? Their analysis, which complements that of Foucault, essentially defines fiction as the creative power of a subject. They call it “fictioning” in order to highlight its ontogenetic aspect. Fictioning is nothing but the attempt to isolate, identify, and ultimately harness anthropologically creative power, turning it into the power of identification. The modern fantasy, or philosophical project, is that such creative power supports the notion of an autonomous subject that is selfcreative, who is its own origin and destination – “man creating man”. For Foucault, however, this story leads directly to the methodological horror of “Man”, a figure composed by an amphibological blurring of the transcendental and the empirical, as he had described in The Order of Things (and just several years before his definitive turn to the techniques of self that bear a difficult proximity to the object of critique in 1978). Although Foucault cannot miss, in the 1978 Sorbonne address with which we started, the opportunity to recall his earlier “archaeological” work, his focus in 1978 is rather on developing an innovative series of methodological moves, moves that lead we might say definitively away from the “Western democratic ontology” and its fictions that so many intellectuals, such as Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe, began to identify, at the end of the 1970s, with the horrors of Nazism. The foundation of the specifically modern story, writes Foucault in a gesture to the Frankfurt School, is that “our [premodern] social and economic organization lacked rationality”8. Ironically, this story about the intentional insertion of rationality into social organization through a critique of irrational forms, such as absolute kingship, dialectically produced a situation in which power, which had been one of its principal targets, essentially mutates and multiplies, invading the social field. This results in the proliferation of identities against which Foucault has a long and storied history of critique. Foucault is very careful to distinguish a mechanistic model of power, in which subjects operate upon objects, thus mimicking production, from Ibidem, p. 390. Ibidem, p. 391. 8 Ibidem, p. 390. 6 7


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one that is concerned with what Martin Heidegger would have called “subjectity” – the comprehensive relation between subject and object that forms each of the two poles9. This distinction becomes essential to Foucault’s argument as he prepares to define power in a non-objective way. Critique in the sense that Foucault wants us to understand it is a “different procedure” that begins not with the Kantian epistemological problem of critically delimiting the possibility of positive knowledge, but rather with what he calls, somewhat enigmatically, “power” and “eventialization”10. What is really at stake in the Foucaultian concept is the singularity of relations, which is always a relation of relations in a metastable environment that is mobile and, those with a Buddhist sensitivity will not fail to remark, “impermanent”11. While we might today wonder whether power is a term adequate to the task assigned to it by Foucault, the salient point to retain is that in the Foucaultian vocabulary, the term “power” really means the singularity of relations. Along with this redefinition of power according to the notion of “subjectity”, Foucault adds another curious term, “eventialization”, which is also very much informed by the Heideggerian air of his day. Yet unlike Heidegger, Foucault strictly refuses the search for origins of any kind. In the context of this address, “eventialization” refers neither to the historical point of departure and progressive accumulation of positive knowledge acquired by a subject of reason, nor to the historico-philosophical “forgetting of being” aimed at by Heidegger, but rather to the constant reticulative feedback among cause and effect such that effects are also causes and causes also effects. Foucault reminds his audience that the deployment “of another type” of theory of causality, one that is in “opposition to a genesis” or theory of origins, “has to do with pure singularities related not to a species or an essence”12. This is in fact the second time in this short address that Foucault highlights the notion that “pure singularities” are “not the individualization of a species”13. It is, in other words, a displacement of taxonomy based on causal relations. I think that it would not be much of a risk to suggest that the alternative form of critique proposed by Foucault is covering some of the same ground that was charted by Gilbert Simondon in the M. Heidegger, Hegel’s Concept of Experience, trans. K.R. Dove, Harper & Row, New York 1970, p. 110. 10 M. Foucault, What Is Critique?, p. 393. 11 Ibidem, p. 398. 12 Ibidem, p. 396. 13 Ibidem, p. 395. 9


144 Jon Solomon latter’s critique of hylomorphism begun nearly twenty years earlier (but not widely circulated until Deleuze’s interest brought greater attention to Simondon’s work). Informed by this perspective, we can begin to connect the dots in Foucault’s address leading from ontology and fictioning back to the problem of the state, which is where the problem of critique as a historico-philosophical gesture is really localized. While postmodernism acquired notoriety for revealing the problems of modern historicophilosophical narratives, biological evolution remains curiously absent from the postmodern acidic reduction of metanarrative. It was really only in Foucault’s work, especially that part conducted between 1976 and 1978, that the connection between biology and politics becomes prominent. In the 1978 address at the Sorbonne, the state is the nexus, or the apex, of the modern historico-philosophical fiction. It encapsulates the demand for rational organization, and in the process of doing so, becomes a form that is representative, in a dual sense, of speciation as individualization. The state not only represents that quality (knowledge of and as individualization) that supposedly distinguishes homo sapiens from other species, it also represents a site at which “decisions” relative to evolutionary progress – decisive moments of individualization that create and maintain homo sapiens as an exceptional species – are made as the exercise of a self-aware subject, the subject of freedom. In that sense, the state is precisely the place where “our story” is told. What is at stake, however, is not simply national history or civilizational history, but rather the history of (Aristotelian) specific difference, or again, specific difference as history. Historico-philosophical fictioning thus represents, I propose, a crucial link between the biopolitical and the archaeological. We can only ruminate with some regret over Foucault’s apparent choice at the end of the 1970s to abandon an elaboration of this link in favor of the itinerary through the technologies of the self that eventually leads Foucault, as we will discuss with Frédéric Neyrat below, back into the trap of Humanism that the former had so carefully attempted to avoid. The Law of Evolutionary Enlightenment and the Heart of Shame An important part of this anthropological apparatus can be apprehended in Kant’s response to Frederick the Great’s famous maxim, cited by Kant in his 1784 essay, An Answer to the Question: What


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Is Enlightenment? (which was the object, incidentally, of that other much more widely-read essay by Foucault from 1978, What is Enlightenment?): “Argue,” says the sovereign, “as much as you want and about whatever you want, but obey!” What interests me here more than the trivialization of debate before the tribunals of power (which the Humanities as a whole endure today more than ever) is the affective element. To leave the state of minority is to abandon the shame that comes from reliance upon the guidance of another, as well as the shame that would come from preventing others from realizing this form of mature autonomy. In his brief article, the affective qualities to which Kant refers directly include laziness, cowardice, timidity and fear. Of course, Kant does not mention shame directly, precisely because one of the hidden motives behind the text is an attempt to influence power not through a counter-power, but rather through shame14. Shame, which is not explicitly mentioned by Kant, nevertheless figures in the violation of a species-specific nature. Man has a nature, construed in terms of laws. “In the Critique of Practical Reason Kant gave a rigorous formulation of a radically new conception, in which the law is no longer regarded as dependent on the Good, but on the contrary, the Good itself is made to depend on the law […] For the first time we can now speak of THE LAW, regarded as an absolute”15. The understated, acidic humor behind Deleuze’s use of capital letters emphasizes the way in which THE LAW naturally takes precedence over mundane sovereignty. And for humans situated within nature, the primary law is that of realizing the proper employment of reason. It is well known that Kant’s views of evolution were somewhat contradictory, providing both a theoretical affirmation of the mutability of species as well as a resounding rejection of mutability on the basis of extant knowledge. By the time Kant is writing, temporal change within and among the species identified in the early part of the 18th century by Linneaus’ taxonomy is part of a burgeoning, pre-Darwinian interest in evolution. It is no surprise that this intellectual ferment percolates into Kant’s writing under the guise of juridical conceptualization. Let us call this the Law of Evolutionary Enlightenment. This is the same strategy that will be employed in the anti-colonial struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi, but without the Kantian valorization of domestication. 15 G. Deleuze, Masochism. Coldness and Cruelty, trans. J. McNeil, Zone Books, New York 2006, p. 82. 14


146 Jon Solomon While the measure of progress is not directly mentioned in Kant’s brief essay on Enlightenment, it can be inferred from the passing references to two other main categories in relation to which the human is identified through the logic of specific difference: animals and machines, each of which is seen as being an exemplary instance of immaturity (the animal because it is servile, the machine because it is not autonomous). Domestication and mastery, in other words, is the measure of evolutionary progress. To violate the law of phylogenetic progress towards the accession to majority/maturity is a cause for virtually unforgivable shame. To put it another way, the greatest shame of existence from a Kantian perspective would be extinction. Today, in a moment that some scientists are describing as the sixth great mass extinction (and the first due to human causes), we can observe with no small irony – and grief – that the shame of extinction unfortunately concerns only one’s own species, rather than species in general16. The intrinsic relation between Enlightenment and extinction is at the center of Ray Brassier’s recent Nihil Unbound. Enlightenment and Extinction, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2007. The main target of Brassier’s dogged pursuit of the implications of extinction is the entirety of “post-Kantian philosophy”, for which it always impossible to think a world, or a universe, devoid of meaningful relation to human consciousness. Yet Brassier’s work is ultimately disappointing for the same reason that it commands interest. While devoted adherence to the eradication of meaning and being effectively “indexes the autonomy of the object in its capacity to transform thought itself into a thing” (ibidem, p. 229), i.e., to operate analogically, it remains for that very reason incapable of taking up the possibility of liberation without conceptual thought. Brassier makes an Heraculean effort to arrive at the consequences of extinction, only to be held in check by conceptual thought: while Brassier does not buy immediately into the “horror” (ibidem, p. 238) evinced by philosophy at the extinction of conceptual thought, his final injunction to “recognize […] that philosophy is […] the organon of extinction” (ibidem, p. 239) leaves philosophy, now fossilized, intact. If the “subject of philosophy must also recognize that he or she is already dead” (ibidem), philosophy is nothing but a death grip, in which the philosopher and the philosophized exercise equal hold on the other. Buddhist metaphysics has always taken its point of departure from cosmic disintegration, but steadfastly refuses to turn that into a resource for the will to know. Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798) vividly describes what happens when emptiness is pursued without compassion: “There are many people who have an intellectual understanding of emptiness […] yet who can still be seen to end up reborn as demons […] reborn in the realm of the Lord of Death” (J. Lingpa, P. Rinpoche and G. Mahapandita, Deity, Mantra, and Wisdom. Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, trans. Dharmachakra Translation Committee, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca and Boulder 2006, p. 36). 16


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Addressed to sovereign power before the public of a nation, Kant’s text aims to present power – the sovereignty of kings – with its potentially greatest shame: to act in way that is contrary to, or suppresses, the natural law of species progress (accession to a state of majority). Sovereign power presents an impediment to the exit from the species of immaturity/ minority for Kant to the extent that it interdicts debate, or contains debate within a sphere cordoned off from political decisions that affect the conditions of the social bond(age). Hence, Kant places inestimable value on the public use of reason as the means by which species progress is realized. The support for this public use of reason is found in the figure of the scholar, who speaks through the written word to a national public, against which there is the figure of the civil servant, whose enunciative position is considered by Kant to be essentially private. The public/ private distinction advanced by Kant concerns not the distinction between subjective interiority and intersubjectivity, but rather the mediation of the state as a bearer of specific difference. In the language of the state, this is the perspective of progress that benefits all. Although the species concerns humanity as a whole, because humanity-as-a-whole does not account for the inscription of specific difference within humanity, the state becomes the sole effective bearer of humanity’s engagement with specific difference. It is within this context that Kant’s presentation of the role of the national scholar makes it the figure of humanity par excellence. The national philosopher is the one member of the species that is most representative, and bears the greatest burden of exposure to shame. In that sense, Robespierre’s political valorization of the minority as that which “retains an alienable right to make heard the voice of truth”17 merely reverses the Kantian figure of the philosopher, while preserving the role of knowledge (“truth”) as an implicit index of social relations. To my mind, this notion of a heart-freed-from-shame – which is quite different from a heart- freed-from-pride – speaks to the central, if unacknowledged, role of shame in the colonial-imperial modernity. To be a minority (national, sexual, linguistic…), or, to be a colonized people, are precisely the forms of shame that correspond to the biopolitical construction of area in the colonial-imperial modernity. This apparatus of area is based on the normativity of the nation-state, stabilized by the M. Robespierre, Robespierre: 28 December 1792, in M. Walzer (ed.), Regicide and Revolution. Speeches at the Trial of Louis XVI, trans. M. Rothstein, Columbia University Press, New York 1992, p. 192. 17


148 Jon Solomon supplementary logic of civilizational difference that distinguishes primarily between the family of nations – which will later be called “the West” – and those peoples lying outside this family who could be subject to colonization. The subjects produced by this apparatus are thus caught in a relative index of minority/majority, immaturity/maturity. As we see with Kant, the state of minority is a juridically-conceived category of specific difference associated with an obstacle to the ascendant realization of perfection. To exit from the state of minority/immaturity might thus be seen as one of the gestures of the “immunitarian” side of modernity, a prophylactic against shame. Rejection of the neo-Kantian “becoming-majority” of modernity, i.e., rejecting Evolutionary Enlightenment, is one of the main concerns behind Richard Cohen’s riveting study of power relations involved in the constitution of Enlightenment as a transcultural object of discourse in Beyond Enlightenment. Buddhism, Religion, Modernity18. Although Foucault is not a major methodological interlocutor in this work, he would nevertheless be completely at home with Cohen’s reading of Enlightenment as the unreserved embrace of the field of relations of relations that, in Cohen’s work, is named “politics” rather than “power”. The essential argument advanced by Cohen is that Enlightenment consists in being indifferent to Enlightenment, yet to “not seek solutions outside the sphere of politics”19. Anything less would be to engage in an anthropological project, which Cohen facetiously dubs “the scriptural human”20. This project presumes that “humanity, as a biological species, has always been religious”21. Hence, Cohen’s “aim in redescribing Buddhism as a discursive formation is to undermine the construction of humanity as a natural class”22. Cohen’s turn towards “politics” takes aim at the conception of Man through the sciences of biology, philology and economy that Foucault identified in his early work, The Order of Things. It seems to me that what we have here while composing a critical gloss on transcultural Enlightenment modernity is the kernel of a politics of reconciliation in the face of colonial legacy advanced by Naoki Sakai. R. Cohen, Beyond Enlightenment. Buddhism, Religion, Modernity, Routledge, London and New York 2006. 19 Ibidem, p. 189. 20 Ibidem, p. 113. 21 Ibidem, p. 137. 22 Ibidem, p. 148. 18


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Calling it a colonial legacy is simply not comprehensive enough to take into account all of the suffering associated with Enlightenment visited upon all kinds of terrestrial beings (not to mention other beings beyond the wafer-thin realm of causality known to us) in the course of global modernity. I have employed the term colonial because it is not only the first in a sequence of terms that appear in the consideration of a transcultural meaning of Enlightenment, but also because it tends to reappear, even after the end of political colonialism, not only in the economic relations among sovereign states, but also in the relation between humans and the biosphere. Whereas the first phase of colonialism was territorial, the second phase is decidedly biospheric. A politics of reconciliation, thus, begins with the recognition that an attempt to resolve shame through inflated self-esteem23 is as equally destructive as the outright denial of shame. The point is not to ascribe guilt and reckon debts, nor to find solace in narcissistic pride. Rather, it is to cherish the common. If there is one good thing about shame, it is that it may serve as a positive motivation to definitively abandon colonial modes of relationship, domestication and mastery, to other beings. By contrast, to free oneself from shame would be tantamount to rejecting the notion of commonality with those other beings essential to any true and lasting reconciliation. Instead, Sakai suggests that shame associated with past injustice be cherished as the basis of a common, shared relation. But what kind of commonality is this? In the current historical conjuncture, we might feel an overwhelming sense of insurmountable myriad differences and accumulated injustices inherited from the past, as opposed to commonality. Yet this kind of reconciliation does not need to wait for the wounds of the past to heal. It does not, in fact, need to wait at all, but, unlike denial or resolution, is rather immediately part of the present. But what kind of present is this? While the wound is not present, the commonality is, but it is not a present that could be accounted for through cumulative addition. This is where the path of the Bodhisattva, who defers Enlightenment for the sake of infinite other beings, is instructive. Here, waiting is displaced from the impossible healing of past wounds to the advent of a common body that constitutes a community Recent research shows that self-compassion is much more effective than selfesteem (O. Khazan, Why Self-Compassion Works Better than Self-Esteem, in â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Atlanticâ&#x20AC;?, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/05/why-self-compassion-worksbetter-than-self-esteem/481473/; accessed 5 June 2016). 23


150 Jon Solomon based on deferral: deference to others in a time deferred not to the future, but to the end of historico-philosophical time – the temporality of specific difference. To rejoin the theme of political Enlightenment, we could do far worse than consult with Étienne Balibar, who writes: “‘men’ or ‘subjects’ in this sense are never their own contemporaries, are never building a totality or a whole in the present, least of all in an eschatological future present, but must indefinitely wait for one another, wait for the unpredictable event of ‘their’ community, which in turn will acknowledge their nonidentical singularity”24. This indefinite waiting-for is not waiting for the passage of time, but rather waiting only for each other, thus instantly forming a community whose principle is not identity, but singularity and supplementarity. Needless to say, it is my express intention here to conceive of this community beyond the categories of men and speaking subjects explicitly referenced by Balibar, extending it to the entirety of the Affective Multitude. Internal Methodology The problem of fictioning, which I have borrowed from deconstructive philosophies of difference contemporaneous with Foucault’s investigations into biopolitics, has deep resonance with the biopolitical part of Foucault’s work. As Judith Revel has noted, the status of literature is a crucial point of reference for the development of biopolitics, the site of an “absolutely paradoxical situation”25 whose difficulty must be measured by the conceptual innovations it unleashed. As an irreducible form of relation that takes the dual form of a relation to exteriority and a relation to other social beings, language is composed – to follow Revel’s description of Foucault – of both the objectivizable order of discourse (which Foucault problematizes through an archaeological method that rejects the transcendental notions of origin and influence) and the non-objectivizable order of speech (which concerns the problematic distinction, always historically-constructed, between the interiority and É. Balibar, “Possessive Individualism” Reversed. From Locke to Derrida, in “Constellations”, vol. 9 (2002), n. 3, p. 312. 25 J. Revel, The Literary Birth of Biopolitics, in V. Cisney and N. Morar (eds.), Biopower. Foucault and Beyond, trans. C. Penfield, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2016, p. 33. 24


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the exteriority of language). The Foucaultian concept of speech, derived from Saussure, cannot be the object of any science. Yet unlike Saussure, Foucault locates in speech, which “crystallize[s] […] around this specific writing that is literature”26, a kernel of resistance that leads to the theorization on biopolitics. The type of resistance in play here is precisely what Foucault has in mind with the critique of historico-philosophical fictioning. Although Revel’s analysis leads to the conclusion, with which this author agrees, that there is “[n]o possibility, therefore, of redirecting [different] orders [of speech and discourse] toward one alone that would be hegemonic and foundational”27, it could be very useful for our discussion to examine more closely how such a possibility might arise. In Homo Labyrinthus, a recent work devoted to posing the question of Humanism in all of its forms (spiritual, technological, ecological…), Frédéric Neyrat attempts to show the limits of Foucault’s structuralist antihumanism in order to clear the way for a truly antihumanist stance. This admirable and important project is compromised, however, by a selective approach to Foucault’s work that ignores precisely those elements in the thinker’s oeuvres that suggest alternatives. The status of literature occupies a crucial place. The discovery of those structures that produce at a certain historical moment the figure of Man that were at the heart of the archaeological method coalesce, for Neyrat, in the Foucaultian concept of literature: “the place where Man never ceases to disappear in favor of language”28. Neyrat is keen to point out an antinomic moment in the archaeological critique. But unlike Revel, for whom the principal antinomy within the question of language and literature in Foucault’s work turns upon the irreducible distinction between the order of discourse (objectivizable) and the order of speech (excluded by linguistics from the realm of scientific study on account of its unrepresentable and unobjectivizable nature), for Neyrat the contradiction lies in the self-defeating nature of structuralist antihumanism. While the structuralist sciences create the object of Man, the archaeological method in turns reveals “Man” to be nothing other than an epistemological fiction of the sciences themselves. This fiction effaces precisely the emergent non-human aspects of the new sciences. Hence, for Ibidem. Ibidem, p. 35. 28 F. Neyrat, Homo labyrinthus. Humanisme, antihumanisme, posthumanisme, Dehors, Bellevaux 2015, p. 51; citation of Foucault, emphasis added by Neyrat. 26 27


152 Jon Solomon Neyrat, Foucault’s archaeological project finds itself in the embarrassing position of proclaiming the death of something (“Man”) that had never existed. Neyrat calls this an “aborted figure”29, and wryly remarks that 19th century Humanism essentially operated as a “veil” covering this “abortion”30. The implication is that 20th century Structuralism’s attempt to “unveil” the fabrication of this modern figure of Man by the new sciences unwittingly posits the existence of the very thing that it purports to show as non-existent. With no small irony, Neyrat rhetorically asks, “what would signify the death of something that never existed?”31. Unfortunately, Neyrat excludes from his consideration of the Foucaultian problematic the other side of the “absolute paradox” discovered by Revel (and with which one assumes Neyrat is aware, given a general reference in the text to Revel’s work on Foucaultian biopolitics). It is remarkable that Neyrat – who elsewhere in the same work refuses the Structuralist notion of language (“what expresses itself in the fact of communication is not language”), insisting instead upon “the disjunction to which each individual makes it [language] submit”32 – it is remarkable, thus, that Neyrat’s critique of Foucault’s antihumanism should have missed this other aspect of Foucault’s approach to language, literature and the humanist problem, particularly in light of its fundamental connection to biopolitics. Yet this is exactly the part of Foucault’s work – the link between biopolitics and historico-philosophical fictioning – that is overlooked by Neyrat’s critique of Foucault’s incomplete antihumanism. This is that part of Foucault that is deeply suspicious of any attempt by the self to fashion, model, or produce the self within the context of an historico-philosophical fiction (and arguably runs counter to the Foucault of the early 1980s, in whom Neyrat correctly identifies a Humanist return, in the form of the technologies of the self). The reasons for this economy on the part of Neyrat, whose work merits wide attention for the analysis and critique of the fundamental forms (spiritualist, humanist, paleo-anthropological, technological, etc.) of the apparatus of anthropological difference, are to be partially found, I propose, in the curious internal methodology with which the author begins his study. This methodology is of no small interest to us, in a Ibidem, p. 50. Ibidem. 31 Ibidem. 32 Ibidem, p. 149. 29 30


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discussion of Foucault and the colonial, because it constitutes a common methodological impasse, also found in the latter’s work, the resolution of which might be found by effectuating a translation between archaeology and biopolitics33. Neyrat, responding to the potential objection that the object of his study reproduces the colonial division between the West and the Rest, counters with a deliberately self-conscious choice: “to think from inside the Western schema”34. Curiously, we find here the exact same structure that will be discovered with so much irony by Neyrat in Foucault: “the problem, with the West, is that it doesn’t yet know that it doesn’t exist; in the meantime, it continues to persist in its effects”35. We might respond to this statement with the same corrosive irony seen in the author’s response to the archaeological critique of scientific Humanism: the internalist methodology creates the very thing about which it purports either to write an obituary or to deny altogether the existence. Yet it is the aim of this essay to argue that a more pertinent answer to this problem is to be found in the link between disciplines and populations articulated around language that constitutes, according to Revel, the foundation of the biopolitical approach. The otherwise pedestrian term schema appears in Neyrat’s work in relation to Sakai, about whom Neyrat has written a highly-recommended essay and whose work (along with his own essay about Sakai) is referenced in the passage that I have cited from Homo Labyrinthus. The schema in Sakai is a regulative structure that substitutes for an impossible object of experience, such as the totality of a language or a people. It functions like a target that regulates desire for the impossible object and creates a framework for the organization of social difference into regimes of cultural difference and translation. As such, it is always already formed in a process of cofiguration with other putative cultural unities. Schematic cofiguration is a formal device that operates ahistorically within a certain historical regime that governs the identification of language and people. It is ahistorical to the extent that it operates retroactively through representation, according to the logic of specific difference36. Its political J. Solomon, Saving “Population” From Governmentality Studies. Translating Between Archaeology and Biopolitics, in J.L. Deotte, A. Brossat, J.C.H. Liu and Yuan-Horng Chu (eds.), Biopolitics, Ethics, Subjectivation. Questions on Modernity, L’Harmattan, Paris 2011. 34 F. Neyrat, Homo labyrinthus, p. 21. 35 Ibidem. 36 N. Sakai, Shisan sareru nihongo, nihonjin [The Stillbirth of Japanese Language and Ethnos], Shinyôsha, Tokyo 2003, p. 132. 33


154 Jon Solomon effects are essentially ethical. In the case of the internal methodology under examination here, it is a question of a disciplinary ethics that take the form of an invitation rather than an interdiction. In lieu of banning the objects that a discipline, such as nationalized forms of knowledge and expression, considers illegitimate, or those that would fall under the purview of another discipline, the disciplinary ethics invites subjects to individualize according to institutionally-sanctioned, homolingual modes of address and a certain regime of translation. When we speak of language today, a departure from the Foucaultian concept of discourse is unavoidable. Yet a profitable dialogue between poststructuralist philosophies of difference and Foucault can still be undertaken. By extending biopolitical analysis into the realm of translation theory inspired by poststructuralist critiques of language – to construct a veritable biopolitics of translation, the intrinsic connection between disciplinary taxonomy and population management can be elucidated. The notion of translation to which I refer has been first elaborated by Naoki Sakai37. This is not the usual idea of translation as transfer, circulation, and modification, but is rather an account of translation as a ubiquitous social practice which gives a privileged window on individuation. This critique could be launched at many other works, if not entire disciplines in general. Neyrat’s work is an especially good place to stage the critique precisely because of its admirable and compelling commitment to think through the anthropological limits of Humanism. How is it that a work devoted to the problem of specific difference at the level of the species nevertheless surreptitiously allows into its methodological framework, at the level of culture or intra-species difference, the very presuppositions that are supposed to constitute the critical object of study? The answer to this question lies in the gap that separates the practice of knowledge as a social relation from the production of knowledge as an index of specific difference. When a claim is made to think from inside the Western schema, we understand that what is at stake is not simply “thought,” but rather the praxis of social relations in relation to the exteriority of language. The apparatus of area, as a biopolitical apparatus that articulates discipline to population, produces subjects differentially. Within this schema, the exteriority of the West is never simply an object for thought, but always N. Sakai, Translation and Subjectivity. On “Japan” and Cultural Nationalism, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1997. 37


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already an index of performativity in social relations, much like the index between minorities and majorities that we saw with Kant. Access to “thought from the inside” is never simply an epistemological operation, but always concerns the ontological level of individuation – or again, in Kantian terms, the constitution of majorities juridically-conceived. According to the ontology of specific difference that governs modern social relations, some subjects are presumed to enjoin a relation to this “inside” in the mode of intrinsic, organic intimacy, while others can only access it at an epistemological distance. The social nature of the act of “thinking from inside the Western schema” is easily visible once we begin to consider the act as a performative utterance, inevitably to be performed in a variety of different, albeit nationalized, languages each marked by specific difference ordering the exteriority between language(s) and people(s), by speakers individualized according to the logic of specific difference that demands exclusive appurtenance. The plurality of languages here does not contradict, but rather serves as the basis for, their homolingual equivalence through the representation of translation. Needless to say, my citation of this type of performative utterance is not meant to be understood by any means as a confirmation of the ethical invitation’s power to impute the exteriority of language and people to a schematic image of anthropological difference. It is rather simply designed to evoke the fact that the nature of this tautological identification between two essentially indeterminate entities, language and people, pertains exclusively to a specific historical regime of translation. To the extent that it is an identification in the mode of specific difference, it is founded on nothing more, and nothing less, than an historically-situated institutional desire for Chineseness, or, in the case of the West, Westernness, and the cofiguration of the two through the representation of translation as structural homology. The internal methodology is not simply a question of disciplinary objects, but concerns, rather, the relation to relations that Foucault names power. Within the social field, nothing typifies this concern more than language, and no use of language brings the socially-performative aspects of linguistic practice into view with greater clarity than translation. Translational practice reveals the fundamental disjunction and discontinuity of social relations. To speak, when seen through the prism of translation, is never simply a question of informational transfer. In addition to speaking about, there is also always speaking to, as well


156 Jon Solomon as speaking as if, and speaking on behalf of38. What is missing from the internal methodology is a consideration of the way in which the text is a form of address – which, like the Foucaultian concept of speech, cannot be objectivized, but rather concerns the way in which relationships establish speakers or communities and not the other way around (or again, if you prefer, the way in which individuation as an ontogenetic process occurs within relationship outside of the logic of specific difference). This is what Sakai calls the “heterolingual address”39. The internal methodology that seeks to understand the apparatus of anthropological difference from “within” the coincident mapping of discipline onto geocultural region – for instance, between theory and the West – is thus an exercise in the modern regime of homolingual address. Discipline intervenes, with regards to language, by codifying forms of address, creating schemas of cofiguration. In the schematic configuration described by Sakai, what is at stake is not relationality per se, but an abstract form of individualization based upon the exclusivist logic of specific difference. Just as a cat cannot be a dog, so the forms of social belonging that enable subjects to position themselves naturally in the interiority of a social formation, such as the West, are governed by the ontological priority of specific difference. It would be naïve to assume that the subjects of the apparatus of area formed according to the logic of specific difference could be characterized by the formal equality granted by the status of their common membership in a single species. Throughout the colonial-imperial modernity, the mobile index of majority-minority relations has always been applied to intra-species social difference. In biopolitical terms, what is at stake when the homolingual address becomes the basis for communication/community – as in the case of the modern nation-state and the disciplines of knowledge organized under its auspices – is the way in which disciplines are mapped onto populations. An example of this could be the idealized mapping of theory onto a difference between humanitas and anthropos within the homo sapiens that implicitly corresponds to evolution. The societies that produce universal theory have a greater claim to evolutionary priority over those societies whose knowledge production is restricted to the culturally particular. We can fruitfully attack this problematic situation by reference to address. The M. Suchet, L’imaginaire hétérolingue. Une alternative à la conception homogénéisante des identités (voix, démocratie et ethos), in “Transversal”, 2013, http://eipcp.net/transversal/0613/ suchet/1375427256; accessed 13 May 2016. 39 N. Sakai, Translation and Subjectivity. 38


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institutionalized aspect of address is particularly important with regard to what is called “theory” for two reasons. In the first place, the supposed universality of theory has always been mapped, throughout the colonialimperial modernity, onto an anthropological difference. Participation in the production of scientific theories about humanity ostensibly referred to a cleavage internal to human populations defined by a different stance or attitude towards the evolutionary aspect of knowledge. Behind the cleavage lie two essentially different types of human being, anthropos and humanitas40, while evolution itself was assumed, until quite recently, to be exclusively the story of increasing complexity41 with which theory was identified. Needless to say, throughout the colonial-imperial modernity, this speciesist image was invariably associated with the West. It is important to note that in this phase of Eurocentrism, the West is not to be defined by a collection of traits and characteristics tied to a restricted geographical region, but is rather defined precisely by the association of population with superior knowledge in a geographical figure that stands metonymically for the inevitable process of evolution. In that sense, the problem posed by Eurocentrism is a general problem of the apparatus of area, not limited to Europe. The level of abstraction enabled by Eurocentric, or really amphibological, theory (amphibological because it maps thought onto geoculturallydefined anthropological difference), leads, moreover, to the second aspect of institutionalized address, which relieves practitioners of theory from the responsibility to acknowledge the performative aspect of communication that we noted above. To think from inside the Western schema means to be relieved of the need to negotiate the sociallyperformative aspects of address inherent to the production and expression of knowledge. This is not just a question of the division of labor between manual and intellectual forms. We must not forget that since the rise of the nation-state as a normative form of population management in the wake of colonial encounter, the nationalization of language, which was undoubtedly motivated by the need to create a unified labor market O. Nishitani, Anthropos and Humanitas. Two Western Concepts of “Human Being”, in N. Sakai and J. Solomon, (eds.), Traces 4. Translation, Biopolitics, Colonial Difference, trans. T. Maxey, University of Hong Kong Press, Hong Kong 2006, pp. 259-274. 41 “The vaunted progress of life is really random motion away from simple beginnings, not directed impetus towards inherently advantageous complexity” (S.J. Gould, Life’s Grandeur. The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, Jonathan Cape, London 1996, p. 173). 40


158 Jon Solomon (hence tied to the division of labor), has effectively incorporated the element of address, above and beyond communicational content, into the schema of anthropological difference. It is only in the wake of the colonial encounter, when the nation-state supplemented by civilizational difference becomes the normative form of the organization of human populations and the disciplines of knowledge, that the relation between language and people becomes intrinsically politicized. Merely to address oneself to another in a nationalized language is to become engaged in a socially-performative act of species difference. The phemonenon of “last speakers”, as well as the shame associated with being unable to speak a community language in the process of, or already arrived at, extinction42 attests to the grievously ubiquitous nature of this performative index in the social relations of colonial-imperial modernity. The amphibological mapping of discipline onto population and language onto evolution elides the operations of translation institutionalized in disciplinary forms of address without which the mapping (which purports to be simply structural, hence only metaphorical) could never take place. Without this regime of mapping, it would be impossible to judge politically the effects of texts in terms of a binary opposition between interiority and exteriority with regard to the West. A potential alternative gleaned from Foucault to the problems of the internal methodology – a truly non-colonial alternative that abandons the amphibological areas of modernity – might be discerned in the frustratingly unelaborated comment made during an interview in Japan in 1978: “the object of my history”, says Foucault, following his interlocutor’s interest in colonialism, “is, to some extent, the imperialist colonization inside European space itself ”43. This is in the same interview in which Foucault specifies that, “Europe as a political and economic entity begins to form itself at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries”44. Taken together, the meaning of these teasingly undeveloped remarks is unequivocal: as a form of area, Europe is fundamentally a colonial apparatus. Hence, for any research on “Europe” that aspires to be more than an ideological justification of colonialism, there can be no question of an 42 N. Evans, The Last Speaker Is Dead – Long Live the Last Speaker!, in P. Newman and M. Ratliff (eds.), Linguistic Fieldwork, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001, pp. 256, 265. 43 M. Foucault, Dits et écrits II, Gallimard, Paris 2001, p. 581.

44

Ibidem, p. 577.


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internal methodology; such a methodology could only obscure the fact that “Europe” has no endogenous origin, and is, seen from any angle, an apparatus of colonization that comes from outside. To some extent: What a pity that Foucault himself was not able to incorporate this scintillating insight into the heart of his research, leaving it trapped instead inside a marginal comment, “to some extent”. This restrained economy continues to be a common problem in contemporary, philosophically-informed approaches to Eurocentrism. One finds it, for instance, in Alberto Toscano’s fascinating essay, Carl Schmitt in Beijing45. Schmitt is a particularly good example of the earlier form of Eurocentrism, which unabashedly claimed universalism, as opposed to the contemporary forms of Eurocentrism that hide behind a particularization of Europe, but remain fundamentally committed to upholding the various links between population, discipline, knowledge and evolution established by the colonial-imperial modernity in the paradigmatic form of the apparatus of areas. What is disturbing in Toscano’s reading of Schmitt’s The Nomos of the Earth – and particularly germane to a concern with Foucault – is the way in which the link between evolution and knowledge, or again, discipline and population, is diverted into a question of geopolitics rather than biopolitics. The passage cited by Toscano is crucial to my argument: From the standpoint of the discovered, discovery as such as never legal. Neither Columbus nor any other discoverer appeared with an entry visa issued by the discovered princes. Discoveries were made without prior permission of the discovered. Thus, legal title to discoveries lay in a higher legitimacy. They could be made only by peoples intellectually and historically advanced enough to apprehend the discovered by superior knowledge and consciousness46. 45 A. Toscano, Carl Schmitt in Beijing. Partisanship, Geopolitics and the Demolition of the Eurocentric World, in “Postcolonial Studies”, vol. 11 (2008), n. 4, pp. 417-433. Schmitt is an apposite figure for comparison to Neyrat, in spite of the immense political and intellectual gap between the two. Affectively, what brings these brilliant thinkers together is a distaste for the anthropological predicament in which “the whole world becomes a melting pot” (Schmitt, cited in ibidem, p. 427), and the species is exploded into a “flexible material, capable of becoming anything” (F. Neyrat, Homo labyrinthus, p. 16). The unbridled violence unleashed by Humanism’s bastardizing universalism calls in Schmitt for the prophylactic protection of a katechon; in Neyrat (via Lévi-Strauss) for a new “rampart” (glacis), or refusal, to replace that destroyed by technoscientific Humanism. Before refusal, what is needed first and foremost is a willingness to share heterolingual modes of address, both at the intraspecies and the interspecies levels, with the entirety of the Affective Multitude. On the basis of the valorization of sharing, refusal acquires new meaning. 46 Carl Schmitt, cited in A. Toscano, Carl Schmitt in Beijing, p. 426.


160 Jon Solomon Where Toscano focuses on the juridical aspects of Schmitt’s position (the perspective that Schmitt himself advances), he avoids the connection between knowledge and anthropological difference that is at the heart of the biopolitical paradigm elaborated by Foucault (precisely the same moment that Foucault offers a stern warning about historico-philosophical fictioning in his address at the Sorbonne in 1978). Hence, when Toscano arrives at the important conclusion that: “the ‘underlying postulate’ of the Jus Publicum Europaeum is to be found in colonial expansion”47, he is unable to articulate the geopolitical colonialism to the epistemological one. To put it another way, he is unattentive to the way in which the disciplinary divisions of the Human Sciences are intrinsically implicated in the colonial project. The approach that I have outlined above suggests, both with and against Foucault, that decolonization cannot achieve its aims until we recognize the importance of extending this effort to the decolonization of relations codified by the disciplinary divisions of knowledge. Yet I do not think, in light of Foucault’s writings about both biopolitics and archaeology, that we can simply limit the problem of knowledge to epistemology. Crucially, the problem of knowledge is inseparable from the ontology of individuation, which occurs as a temporal, rather than spatial, process. It might help to elucidate my approach by briefly observing that this is a very different perspective from the epistemic decolonialism advocated by Walter Mignolo, whose idea of spatialized epistemological breaks assumes a simplistic hybridity model for colonial encounter, in which the terms of the relation are ontologically prior to their interaction. For the same reasons that we cannot accept the internal methodology employed by Neyrat, we similarly cannot accept the notion of epistemological difference mapped onto geoculturally-defined populations as seen in Mignolo’s rejection of the so-called Western epistemology48. The identification of knowledge with civilizational difference obscures the biopolitics operative in the disciplinary divisions of knowledge. Robert Young has pointed out that civilization is always a comparative category49 used as a justification for the supposed correlation between the disciplinary organization of knowledge and the taxonomic A. Toscano, Carl Schmitt in Beijing, p. 427. W. Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs. Colonialiaty, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking, Princeton University Press, Princeton 2000. 49 R. Young, Colonial Desire. Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race, Routledge, London and New York 2005, p. 30. 47 48


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or political organization of population. Foucault’s contribution is to get us to see in the amphibological products of this correlation – i.e., “Western thought” vs “Japanese Thought” – an instance of historicophilosophical fictioning. At the end of our reflections on the internal methodology, let us return for moment to the metaphorical image of the “aborted figure” (of Man) identified by Neyrat. In order to be truly responsible to Foucault’s work as a whole, this metaphorical usage of abortion ought to enter into dialogue with Foucault’s founding involvement with the pro-choice activist association, founded in 1972, Groupe Information Santé50 – a task for which I am personally unprepared. As far as the metaphor itself goes, the “aborted figure” is certainly problematic for a biopolitical analysis. Let me illustrate this by way of a contrast with the use of the term “stillbirth” by Naoki Sakai to describe the creation of a national language in 18th century “Japan” that will serve as the basis for an equation with the ethnos and the institutionalization of subjective interiority under the auspices of the nation-state. The structure of “stillbirth” begins with a trenchant normative assumption in the face of a reality presumed deficient – in this case, that there must have existed in the past a pure, homogeneous, non-hybrid, ethnically-individualized oral language that was authentically “Japanese”, against which the multilingual, non-ethnic linguistic hybridity of the Japanese archipelago in the 18th century could be measured51. The normative assumption takes the form not of an interdiction but that of an ethical invitation. The invitation has the quality of ethics in the sense that it structures and guides, in a normative fashion, desire in the form of an opening to the future. It is particularly the role of the schema – a normative “sketch” of the way things ought to be – to provide a target for the projection of an anthropological image, such as the interiority of a national culture, that could serve as the object of ethical invitation. The projected image becomes an anthropological figure of historico-philosophical proportions, whose normative constitution is regulated by the schema itself. P. Deutscher, The Inversion of Exceptionality. Foucault, Agamben and “Reproductive Rights”, in “South Atlantic Quarterly”, vol. 107 (2008), n. 1, pp. 55-70; S. Elden, The Biopolitics of Birth. Michel Foucault, the Groupe Information Santé and the Abortion Rights Struggle, in “Viewpoint Magazine”, 3 February 2016, https://viewpointmag.com/2016/03/02/ the-biopolitics-of-birth-michel-foucault-the-groupe-information-sante-and-theabortion-rights-struggle/#rf20-6009; accessed 9 May 2016. 51 N. Sakai, Shisan sareru nihongo, nihonjin. 50


162 Jon Solomon The structural relation between an aborted figure and a stillborn one appears to be a simple inversion. Where the former proclaims the death of something that never really lived, the latter reveals the birth of something that is already dead. What distinguishes the two, however, are the operations that make each possible, and the resulting differences in subjectivation. Stillbirth posits a schema in place of an unrecoverable object from the past that is applied retrospectively, and for that very reason guides the future in a normative way. Abortion does not require a schema, because it derives its object directly from the supposed positivity of the present. Hence, while the subject of stillbirth is aetiological, the subject of abortion is teleological. Together, they constitute the trajectory of the historico-philosophical subject. An important difference between stillbirth and abortion lies, however, in the ethno-anthropological role each plays in the construction of agency and gender. Probably because of abortion’s association with agency, its role in the social construction of gender and the gendering of bodies goes much further than stillbirth. For this reason, abortion is intrinsically associated with a contradiction between condemnation and tolerance that highlights the question of subjective normativity52. Abortion is an open secret that upholds the normative fratriarchal law. What is really hidden, twice removed, behind the ruse of a science that claims to unveil the death of something that had never been born, is a certain gendering that disrupts the economy of unicity in anthropological difference. Inasmuch as “the women experiences her own individual body as culpable for making all of these dangers possible”53, the figure of abortion, or again, the aborted figure of Man, surreptitiously calls forth a question of culpability and gender, or simply gendered culpability, as if unassignable difference itself were a crime. It is difficult not to conclude that this is one of the primary risks of the internal methodology today. If, as we saw above in relation to Kant, the national philosopher is to be understood as a veritable anthropological figure of the refusal of minoritarian shame, then the assignation of a masculine gender defined as a form of specific difference to that figure is unmistakable and intrinsic54. L. Boltanski, The Foetal Condition. A Sociology of Engendering and Abortion, trans. C. Porter, Polity Press, Cambridge 2013, p. 4. 53 A. Cahill, Foucault, Rape and the Construction of the Feminine Body, in “Hypatia”, vol. 15 (2000), n. 1, p. 52. 54 These considerations could be fruitfully advanced by a critical appraisal of Justin Smith’s The Philosopher. A History in Six Types (Princeton University Press, Princeton 2016). The work’s attempt to deflect Eurocentrism is accomplished at the price of a 52


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The Biopolitics of Translation We have seen, with Judith Revel, how the difference between language and speech opens a fundamental breach through which Foucault eventually develops the concept of biopolitics. Our itinerary in this essay has thus taken the step of reading biopolitics in conjunction with that form of linguistic practice thought to be exceptional, known as translation, in order to highlight the biopolitical implications of the organization and coincident mapping of discipline and population. Via Foucault, we have tried to show how a certain regime of translation, codified in disciplinary forms of address, contributes to the mode of historico-philosophical fictioning that Foucault identifies as the major danger of colonial-imperial modernity. In effect, we have been plowing part of the field that was previously worked – coincidentally also in 1978 – by Giorgio Agamben when he portrayed the gap between language and speech as that “which first opens the space of history”55. 1978: a telegraphic moment for thinking the biopolitics of translation, before translation, precisely because intellectuals with the disciplinary tools to access and intervene in theory, like Foucault and Agamben, were at that particular historical conjuncture prevented, or diverted, from accessing the biopolitical implications of the science of language through supposedly secondary, derivative, and non-normative linguistic practices like translation. As implied by our discussion above, the reasons for this diversion ought to be sought in the relation – properly biopolitical – between discipline and population within the context of reinforcement of the apparatus of area, mainly seen in its unthematized reliance on the regime of translation articulated around the schema of configuration and homolingual address (particularly evident in the discussion in Chapter Two of the term philosophy and its various translations/expressions). Similarly, the deflection of patriarchy is accomplished, in Chapter One, by an attempted recognition of the historical repressed – those non-normative, “feminine” elements and forms of knowledge that actually played a much greater role in the construction of Philosophy than publicly-acknowledged – the price of which is to avoid characterizing any of the six “types” treated by the work in fundamentally gendered terms. Hence, Smith’s book amounts to an evasion of Philosophy’s integral role in the modern history of anthropological difference. My work argues that there is rather an intrinsic connection between Philosophy and the apparatus of area (one of the apparatuses, like gender, that produce anthropological difference), and that this connection concerns not just Philosophy, but rather the entirety of the Humanities. 55 G. Agamben, Infancy and History. The Destruction of Experience, trans. L. Heron, Verso, London 1993, p. 52.


164 Jon Solomon colonial-imperial modernity. Agamben’s conclusion echoes Foucault’s critique of historico-philosophical fictioining: “History, therefore, cannot be the continuous progress of speaking humanity through linear time, but in its essence is hiatus, discontinuity, epochë”56. Today it is up to us finally to germinate the seeds sown in 1978, but, in keeping with the metaphor of germination, our very access to these seeds unleashes a morphogenetic process – a translation – that will inevitably produce mutation. Translation, as is often the case in Agamben’s writing, plays a central, though unthematized role in the 1978 essay Infancy and History from which I have just cited. It begins with the way in which Émile Benveniste explains the difference between the translatable and the untranslatable in reference to a fundamental distinction between the semiotic and the semantic. The distinction between the semiotic and the semantic is Benveniste’s morphogenetic appropriation of the distinction between language and speech first introduced by Saussure – and which served, as we saw with Revel, as the basis for Foucault’s elaboration of biopolitics. A lengthy citation of Benveniste’s explanation of the semiotic and the semantic in Agamben’s text reveals that while the semiotic is systematic, the semantic is performative and singular. What is not directly observed, by either Benveniste or Agamben, is that the semantic, as performative and singular, concerns the establishment of relationships – or more precisely, as we have been arguing throughout this essay, it concerns individuation through relationship rather than relationship on the basis of individualization. I would like to privilege the notion of individuation that takes the relation as ontologically-primary here as it will help shed light on the way in which Agamben’s ensuing discussion both of language as a species-specific faculty and of the deactivation of translation by myth in Lévi-Strauss bears crucial implications for our understanding of the biopolitics of translation. My reading of Agamben’s essay, apparently written before his interest in biopolitics, will be quick and surgical: I am interested simply in extracting those parts of his argument that can contribute immediately to the elaboration of a biopolitics of translation. Normally, the distinction between language and speech is mapped onto a hylomorphic scheme of specific difference. Where language corresponds to the collective (the species), speech represents the individual on one side, and the semiotic, in Saussure’s sense, corresponds to the genre, on the other. Note that the relation between the individual 56

Ibidem, p. 53.


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and the species/genre is precisely the terrain of the biopolitical, the very reason that motivates Foucault’s choice of sexuality as the paradigmatic field of biopower. “For the fact that there is a difference between language (langue) and speech (parole), and that it is possible to pass from one to the other, and that each speaking individual is the site of this difference and this passage, is neither natural nor self-evident, but the central phenomenon of human language.”57. The individual is the site of a difference that concerns the entire species. Clearly, Foucault could have easily chosen language, instead of sexuality, as the paradigmatic field of biopolitical critique, for exactly the same reasons—provided he had been willing to adopt a poststructuralist approach to language (as Agamben and Derrida were doing at that time). The distinction between the semiotic and the semantic, retrieved as we noted above from Beneveniste, leads Agamben to conclude that it is based on an historico-transcendental dimension, related to the speciesspecific faculty of language. The paradoxical nature of something that is both historical and transcendental at the same time may be explained, with regard to human language, in terms of a peculiar aspect of human neoteny: if language, any language, is not acquired by an individual before the age of around 12, any subsequent attempt to acquire language will be thwarted. Agamben reminds us: “Contrary to ancient traditional beliefs, from this point of view man is not the “animal possessing language”, but instead the animal deprived of language and obliged, therefore, to receive it from outside himself ”58. The reader has to engage in a certain modification here. The “reception of language from the outside” concerns precisely the relation between an individual and the species (represented concretely by the genre). As a species, the human is – at least metaphorically speaking – most definitely “the animal possessing language”. But as an individual, the human being is deprived of language until he or she leaves the state of infancy and accedes to it. This paradoxically historico-transcendental situation leads Agamben to reflect on the nature/culture divide, once again with regard to language, in terms of a biological distinction between the endosomatic, equated with genetic code, and the esosomatic, equated with non-genetic, cultural transmission—specifically language. Agamben reminds readers, however, that the distinction between the two is insufficient and misleading. 57 58

Ibidem, p. 51. Ibidem, p. 57.


166 Jon Solomon Language is “not entirely a property of the esosomatic sphere”59. In fact, “What marks human language is not its belonging to either the esosomatic or the endosomatic sphere, but its situation, so to speak, on the cusp of the two”60. With language situated on the cusp, Agamben avoids, we might observe, turning it into a prosthetic compensation for insufficient endosomatic transmission. Instead, language is to be qualified by excessive or supplementary potentiality, rather than compensatory prosthesis. As potentiality, “human language must necessarily have a structure that permits the passage from one to the other”61. Human language, we can conclude via and beyond Agamben, fundamentally has the structure of translation. Although Agamben is not interested, in this essay, in teasing out the implications of a recognition that all language is essentially translation, and that translation as such concerns the very crux of anthropological difference, translation nevertheless continues to play an important role in his discussion, leaving us today only a little bit more work to do. In a section titled Lévi-Strauss and the language of Babel (published seven years ahead of Derrida’s famous deconstruction of the role of translation in Jakobsonian linguistics, Des Tours de Babel), Agamben attempts to explain the fundamentally unilateral nature of Lévi-Strauss’ anthropological mission. By focusing on the systematicity of language (langue) as the exclusive model of his research on culture, Lévi-Strauss unwittingly creates, according to Agamben, the perfect machine for translating culture into nature – “translating human discourse into pure language”62. Again, our understanding of individuation would lead us to rephrase the event: Lévi-Strauss appropriates the machine of translation – which, for human beings is nothing other than the power of individuation – in a way that enables it to produce individualizations of culture as nature. Agamben qualifies Lévi-Strauss as a “genius”, but the unilateralism revealed by Agamben suggests otherwise. It is this unilateral appropriation of translation by Lévi-Strauss that explains his enigmatic formula, according to which myth is the discursive mode in which the value of the saying traduttore, traditore is practically zero. Pointing out that the concept of myth in Lévi-Strauss thus occupies a “median sphere” or “intermediary dimension” (between language and Ibidem, p. 56. Ibidem, p. 57. 61 Ibidem, p. 58. 62 Ibidem, p. 59. 59 60


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speech, the semiotic and the semantic, nature and culture), Agamben’s analysis is content to conclude that Lévi-Strauss’ analyses “on the subject of the passage from language to discourse (what could be defined as the nature of man)” are “somewhat less than useful”63, before turning his attention away from translation back to the theme of history which forms the major trajectory of his 1978 essay. We, on the other hand, could benefit from listening to Lévi-Strauss a bit more closely. In his discussion of myth, cited by Agamben, Lévi-Strauss compares it to a crystal: “In relation to language [langue], on the one hand, and speech [parole], on the other, its position indeed resembles that of the crystal: an intermediary object between a statistical aggregate of molecules and the molecular structure itself ”64. Readers familiar with Simondon’s philosophy of transindividuation will of course immediately recall the paradigmatic role of crystallization in his critique of hylomorphism and specific difference. “He shows that we cannot simply begin with the form or structure (crystal) as a self-identical autonomous, given individual. Instead, he demonstrates that the individual is always in process”65. Unfortunately, Lévi-Strauss adopts a structuralist approach, apprehending the crystal according to the analytical priority of the individual (as given) – either it has a structure, in which case it constitutes by itself an individual, or else it is merely an aggregate of smaller individuals66. The biopolitical effects of capturing translation, as the most direct instance of transindividuation in the social, in the category of myth was exactly, I would suggest, what was collectively being broached, in 1978, in the constellation that I have been drawing among the primary actors, Foucault, Agamben, Lacoue-Labarthe/Nancy, accompanied by a host of supporting ones in different times and places (Simondon, Derrida, Sakai). It is really Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe who, beginning with their work in 1978 on the philosophical meaning of literary figuration up through their work in the early 1980s on Nazism and myth, provide the bridge that will link myth to the biopolitical power of historico-philosophical Ibidem, p. 60. Ibidem. 65 T. LaMarre, Afterword. Humans and Machines, in M. Combes, Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual, trans. T. LaMarre, The MIT Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 2013, p. 84. 66 For a rapprochement between Sakai’s theory of translation and Simondon’s theory of transindividuation, see J. Solomon, Logistical Species and Translational Process. Contributions to a Theory of Transmediality, in “Intermédialités”, n. 27 (2017). 63 64


168 Jon Solomon fictioning, while Agamben in 1978 lays the ground for understanding why translation is the point of biopolitical intervention par excellence into the anthropological machine of historico-philosophical fictioning. Europe, The Human Sciences, and Colonialism The last remaining piece in the puzzle bequeathed to us in 1978 is of course Edward Said’s Orientalism, the Foucaultian-inspired, nowparadigmatic study of the way in which Western knowledge production creates and sustains a colonial form of subjectivation. Yet this work, which issued the first salvo in what was to become at least two decades of orientalist critique and Postcolonial Studies, did not examine the production of orientalist knowledge as a biopolitical paradigm of the articulatory link between discipline and population in general. One of the great unassumed tasks of Postcolonial Studies was that it, except on rare occasions (notably in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s work), did not engage in a critique of the disciplinary divisions of the Humanities as a fundamental problem of the colonial-imperial modernity, and then relate that to the critique of sovereignty and civilizational difference articulated elsewhere. To have done so would have required, minimally, to account not just for the Western production of Orientalism, but also the active participation of “Orientals” in the Orientalist production, as well as the corresponding Occidentalism that circulated between the two spheres of the colonial-imperial modernity. The critique of the unrelenting cofiguration of thought with anthropological difference needs to be expanded into a critique of the assumed link between evolution and complexity (which today’s evolutionary theory does not bear out) on the one hand and language and people on the other. What is needed is not a reorganization of a single discipline, such as Philosophy, so that it becomes increasingly representative of a greater number of modern amphibological regions (such as Japanese thought and Chinese thought, etc., in addition to Western thought), but a fundamental reorganization of the Humanities. When I set out to write this essay, I was not yet fully aware of the telegraphic connections among Foucault, Agamben, Nancy, LacoueLabarthe and Said concerning the biopolitics of disciplinary divisions of knowledge and geocultural divisions of population. The provocative


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discovery that this constellation could be pinpointed around 1978 might have remained anecdotal, until I compared it with Franco Berardi’s startling characterization of the previous year, 1977, as “a turning point in the history of humanity; it is the year when a post-human perspective takes shape”67. I had always reckoned that Berardi’s brilliant reading of 20th century intellectual history in relation to the transformation of work was extremely weak when it came to the postcolonial68. Hence it came as no surprise to me that the year following that vaunted “turning point in the history of humanity”, told from a Eurocentric perspective, turns out to be the one that is really crucial with regard to smashing the apparatus of area and the anthropological basis of the colonial-imperial modernity. There is simply no exit from the human without taking into account the colonial. Through a dialogue with voices from 1978, we now understand that the underlying postulate of both the Humanities and Europe is to be found in colonization. Colonization here refers to the political expression of the supposed articulatory link between evolution and language, discipline and population. As such, it is not a property inherent to Europe in the sense of a cultural characteristic or trait, nor is it a class disposition or social prejudice inherited from the bourgeois origins of the Humanities, but is rather the essential basis for the amphibological construction of modern area through a regime of translation. It should be seen, in other words, as a general apparatus intrinsic to the colonial-imperial modernity which produces subjects in conformity with specific difference. For this reason, a “provincialization of Europe” (Dipesh Chakrabarty) cannot, in spite of its important and salutary political effects, lead to a genuine decolonization of knowledge. In this essay, we have argued that the biopolitical link between disciplinary knowledge and population management is one of the most stubbornly institutionalized forms of the colonial-imperial modernity, seen most clearly in the institutionalized forms of address that disciplines represent. Although I have taken Philosophy as the main object of F. Berardi, The Soul at Work. From Alienation to Autonomy, trans. F. Cadel and G. Mecchia, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles 2009, p. 113. 68 The reference to “Islamification” as an instance of the individual’s submission to collective domination (ibidem, p. 133) is a typical Orientalist trope. That doesn’t mean that critique should avoid it, but rather that a responsible approach consists of explaining why the participation of “orientals” in “Orientalism”, i.e., their self-ethnicization, is a moment of complicity for the postimperial intellectual. 67


170 Jon Solomon discussion, astute readers will have certainly noticed that an obverse relation to what are called Area Studies in the North American context continually informed the discussion. The disciplines must be seen as historically-specific, normative forms of individuation. These are essentially homolingual forms in the sense described by Sakai. The homogeneity is not to be found in the numerical value of countable languages, but rather in the very assumption that languages (and peoples) are by nature countable69. This assumption is invariably sustained by a certain regime of translation that characterizes the colonial-imperial modernity. Hence, to a great extent, modern humanistic knowledge is constructed on the basis of a colonial repression of the wild indeterminacy of translation. Hence, the decolonization of knowledge, without which decolonization per se will remain elusive, cannot proceed simply on the basis of the “participant observer” approach that has gained so much traction in anthropology70. In relation to the colonial history of disciplinary divisions, the distinction between participant and observer merely reproduces, in a liberal form, the biopolitical distinction between humanitas, producer of theory, and anthropos, supplier of empirical data. To combine the two together, regardless of the names used, repeats the hybridity model characteristic of colonial-imperial modernity that assumes the ontological priority of identities over relations. To follow Boellstorff ’s lead, the intersection between Queer Studies and Anthropology might serve as a paradigmatic moment. Yet if “Culture consists in the way analogies are drawn between things”71, then we must firmly reject, as Gilbert Siimondon argues, the notion of analogy as a structural relation between two givens, for this is exactly the role played by the disciplinary divisions in the Humanities. By imposing a structural discipline, relationship itself can be conceived as ontologically secondary. This point is precisely where Queer Studies could be of use were it to be understood not in terms of an intersection with Anthropology, but rather in terms of analogous viral operations that would invite Anthropology to partake, along with Queer Studies, in a complete and fundamental rejection of the anthropological-speciesist presuppositions that constitute the Humanities. N. Sakai, How Do We Count a Language? Translation and Discontinuity, in “Translation Studies”, vol. 2 (2009), n. 1, pp. 71-88. 70 See T. Boellerstorff, Coincidence of Desires. Anthropology, Queer Studies, Indonesia, Duke University Press, Durham 2007. 71 Marilyn Strathern, cited in T. Boellerstorff, Coincidence of Desires, pp. 18-19. 69


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Had the biopolitical link between disciplinary knowledge and population management not been one of the main institutional achievements of the colonial-imperial modernity, the decline of colonialism’s political forms alone would have surely sufficed to open the way for a completely new science in which the articulation between knowledge and population via evolution would have been discredited and broken forever. Yet this is clearly not what has happened. The vast majority of the changes occurring in the Humanities today (digitalization, the turn to cognitive science, the institution of evaluation) might be characterized as the ubiquitous evidence of a reactionary trend to consolidate the Humanities once again on the ground of a supposedly intrinsic link, through the category of code instead of language, between evolution and knowledge. In that sense, the changes may be seen as disparate forms of response by capital to the challenge of Globalization, understood not merely as a geopolitical transformation, but rather as an event that has made visible, perhaps only for a brief moment, the collapse of the framework of anthropological difference equating evolution with superior intelligence and complexity that has guided both the organization of populations and the disciplinary divisions of the Humanities throughout the previous colonial-imperial modernity. Unfortunately, the collapse is largely experienced as a crisis of values rather than, say, an historic opportunity for new relationships – outside the human species, to animals and machines; inside the human species, to all manner of social differences – based on a new ontology that rejects the Master/Slave dialectic of civilizational and anthropological difference. The evaluation bureaucracy that has taken control of university-based knowledge production today must be seen an elaborate mechanism to respond to this perceived crisis through the imposition of value exterior to the actual conditions of the production of knowledge today. What looks like evaluation, with its connotations of objectivity and distance, is really a very particular kind of intervention into the process of valorization described by Marx – a new reterritorialization of anthropological difference on the basis of capitalist regimes of accumulation. Undoubtedly, the road to the decolonization of knowledge and the liberation from the apparatus of area inevitably has to pass through a critique of capitalism. Yet the critique of capitalism has always faced problems of communication and solidarity. This is where contemporary discussions of primitive accumulation dovetail with our arguments about


172 Jon Solomon the apparatus of area and anthropological difference. Not just a stage in linear history, primitive accumulation is a constant feature of subjectivation under capitalist regimes of accumulation. A critique of either capitalism or colonialism alone is finally impossible. This is why the biopolitics of translation forms an essential point of intervention for the common today. In the absence of such reorganization, the biopolitical machine of historico-philosophical fictioning will not cease to churn out catastropheupon-catastrophe due to the unbridled colonization of everything in the name of evolutionary progress of one sort or another. Jon Solomon UniversitĂŠ Jean Moulin Lyon 3 jon.solomon@univ-lyon3.fr


Michel Foucault and China A Missed Appointment Alain Brossat

In a rather rambling conversation with a journalist that took place in

1972, Foucault abruptly uttered this sentence, like out of the blue: “I leave open the question of China that I know nothing about”1. This statement, with slight variations, is some sort of a ritornello one can find in many texts, articles and interviews written or given by Foucault. It is some sort of a preliminary clause in his discourse on culture, civilization, science, politics, knowledge, power, disciplines, etc. I would not pretend, he says, that what I’m stating now applies to China, for I don’t know anything about China – and then, of course, he still says something that is related to the topic of China, whether in a direct or indirect way. This is what makes the present inquiry both exciting and perilous: that its object is an absence, a “white page” or a black hole, namely the distinct absence of China in Foucault’s work, staged by the author himself – as opposed to, for instance but only to some extent, the way he deals with Japan. This threathens us with tremendous methodological and epistemological difficulties: how to analyze and comment an absence – how to connect to silence rather than, as usual, to an abundance of texts, documents, statements? What about the interpretation of a global lack or void (as Foucault would say, how to make the archeology of a silence?) that is only fleetingly interrupted by unexpected remarks or by briefly sketched analysis? It quickly becomes clear that the first condition for venturing into such a risky undertaking called for a change in what one could call the “mental software” of the researcher, in order to displace the standpoint of the research towards of some sort of a geo- or topo-philosophy, that is, an analysis whose premise would be a methodical and rigorous topologization of an author’s work, or its examination and “auscultation” not only from the angle of its content or from the statements it is made of, but also from the point of view of the epistemic and cultural territory M. Foucault, Dits et écrits II, Gallimard, Paris 2001, p. 114. Unless otherwise noted, translations are mine. 1

materiali foucaultiani, a. VI, n. 11-12, gennaio-dicembre 2017, pp. 173-193.


174 Alain Brossat it emanates from. In that sense, topologizing a philosophical work means spotting and naming its conditions of possibility and impossibility, its “politics of the truth” as well as what places it under the aegis of a history of the truth, what assigns it to its place in the densely peopled archipelago of the uses of truth, throughout history and in space as well? Besides, this urge to topologize philosophy, philosophers and philosophical works is inspired by Foucault himself. Indeed this is a rule, a principle he constantly applies to himself as he invariably insists, in his major works, that his research only has a limited and local validity, and that it applies to what he knows – basically the West, Western Europe. This is why he constantly puts forward expressions like “in the West”, “for us” (Europeans, Westerners), “in our countries” or, as well, “our civilization”, “our age”, etc. In the course of its reorientation, the reaserchcrossed the way of the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg, that is the paradigm of research as a search for clues, signs, traces and indications for a “missing” object – in this case not a dead body, but China. Since what we’re looking for in Foucault’s work is an “object” he constantly says he won’t talk about, being unqualified for that, we have to look for the traces of an object that is claimed to be absent. This also takes place in a situation where we can have good reasons to think that what Foucault says has a smell of denial and avoidance conduct; for, as we will try to show, he actually speaks about this absent object, but always in an oblique way, most of time in a “by the way” style. This mode of enunciation urges to resort to interpretation and not only comment, since we can rely on a medley of very disparate material made of digressions, allusions, roughly sketched analysis, hypothetical and tentative propositions in an informal exchange, etc. In the spirit of such a research, any sign or trace tends to become a symptom or a hint for the researcher profiled as a hunter, a doctor or an archaeologist – home-made hermeneutics, a very risky exercise. If you take a look at the various indexes at the end of the French edition of the Dits et écrits (an almost exhaustive collection of Foucault’s articles, interviews, lectures, book reviews from the early 1960s to his death in 1984), you will notice that in the index of notions, there is no mention of any concept related to Chinese philosophy; in the index of works, including not only philosophical but literary works and films, nothing that would belong to Chinese culture; and finally in the index of names, there is only three occurrences related to our subject: Mao Tsé-Toung, Lin Piao and Confucius – all together.


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It seems that Foucault never mentions the “big shots” of the French Sinology of the 20th century, for instaces Henri Maspero, Marcel Granet, Jacques Gernet, nor his perfect contemporary, René Etiemble. The only author he mentions and “uses” is Robert Van Gulik, his standard book being Sexual Life in Ancient China – a book that was published by Gallimard in the same collection as some of Foucault’s most famous books. It therefore appears, if one relies on these documentary indications, that on Foucault’s philosophical and cultural cartography, one should see, in the place of China, a huge white spot, a blank of the same kind of these sections of land or space that were designed on ancient European maps as unexplored, that is vacant and empty – hic sunt leones, this is the place where the lions live. We shall now move to the first point. After what we briefly mentioned, nobody will wonder at the fact that Foucault first “enters” China through the gate of imagination, a pure imaginary construction. A very glorious and famous entry, we must say, for it takes place on the threshold of one of Foucault’s most famous books, the book that made of him an international star – The Order of Things. The very opening of the book is about China – but it’s a decoy and instead of just saying China, we should write “China”. For the way that leads from “China” to China as a distinct object in terms of culture, geography or history is very sinuous and indirect: it is a paraphrase of a passage from Jorge Luis Borges’ book called Enquiries, where the Argentinian author mentions a “certain Chinese encyclopedia”. In this document, Borges says, he bumped into a taxonomy that is for him a marvel, since it appears to be distinctly alien to any of our (Western) categories. In this encyclopedia, Borges says, “the animals are divided into a) belonging to the Emperor, b) embalmed, c) tame, d) sucking pigs, e) sirens, f) fabulous, g) strays dogs, h) included in the present classification, i) frenzied, j) innumerable, k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, l) et cetera, m) having just broken the water pitcher, n) that from a long way off look like flies”2. Here is Foucault’s comment on this strange enumeration: “In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that”3. 2 3

M. Foucault, The Order of Things, Pantheon Books, New York 1970, p. xvi. Ibidem.


176 Alain Brossat The only problem about this “Chinese encyclopedia” is that it is part of a literary game made up by Borges, a hoax, a deception, an imaginary construction. Since we cannot further expound here the very sophisticated way Borges puts his reader on, we will say that Foucault is quite aware of that and he accepts the “rules of the game” in order to present his own problematic of radical Otherness by using this imaginary literary construction: China not as a space, a culture, a human world that is “in the distance”, far away and remote, but as a territory for imagination, a playground for imaginary constructions and philosophical speculations on the Self and the Other – and their divide(s). Foucault captures Borges’ literary game in order to define what one of the philosophical headlines of his book will be: making a show of the “exotic charm” of the other, presenting the divide between the Self (or Same) (le Même, with capital M) and the Other (capital as well) as an absolute condition for the production of discourses, as a general condition for the production of intelligibility. It is quite obvious that what charms Foucault in Borges’ literary construction is that his deadpan approach of the remote or radical Other is not placed under the sign of hostility, but rather of some sort of an ironical incredulity – laughter, even – not the Freudian uncanny that has something in common with angst and fear, but rather the beauty of the unknown. But with all that, what is left from this sort of rhetorical construction (Borges’ quotation as catch phrase for Foucault’s chef d’oeuvre) is that China or, to be more precise, the name of China has been taken hostage on the occasion of an intellectual move or operation where it (China) would basically function as the name of such a strong and radical otherness that it can easily become a white page on which any writer or even philosopher can write down what goes through their imagination. The poetic alien, if you want. So, China as a name before all, a more or less enchanted word, available for all kinds of rhetorical operations. Here is another example of the use the early Foucault makes of it, which although anecdotal, is quite funny. At the end of one of his courses at the Collège de France, in the year 1970-1971, Foucault makes a brief and dense analysis of Nietzsche’s comments on Spinoza and Kant regarding the question of knowledge and truth. He says: “If you want to escape the trap set by Kant, you have to kill Spinoza”4. What is interesting for us is that in the next sentence, M. Foucault, Lectures on the Will to Know. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1970-1971, ed. D. Defert, trans. G. Burchell, Palgrave Mcmillan, Basingstoke 2013, p. 27. 4


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he calls Kant “the old Chinese from Königsberg”. How is that? It is an approximate quotation from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (§ 210) where Nietzsche actually designs Kant as “the great Chinaman from Königsberg”. In this paragraph, Nietzsche says that the philosophy of the future cannot be reduced to the Kantian system and method, that is “critique” as science. He writes: “The critics are tools of philosophy and that is precisely why, being tools, they are so far from being philosophers! Even the great Chinaman of Königsberg was only a great critic”5. Once again, we see here very clearly what the “white page effect” of China can be: calling Kant a “great Chinese” is for Nietzsche, and for Foucault after him, a way of taking an ironical distance from him, by blaming indirectly the lack of ambition of the Kantian program – Die Kritik – deemed bookish, narrow, not inventive or creative enough, not equal to the ambitions of what a philosophy of the future should be. Calling him a “Chinese”, albeit a great one, is nonetheless a way of depreciating his philosophical gesture – Die Kritik. Die Kritik is implicitly disparaged by Nietzsche as what we would call in French “une chinoiserie” – an unnecessary and uncreative complication. Just words, as we can see, since what all this has in common with China is understandable only if you see things through Western lenses – this East, Orient, is then seen as a realm of unnecessary, awkward and uncanny complications. In French, we don’t say “It’s double Dutch” or “It’s Greek to me”, we just say: “Pour moi, c’est du chinois!” – not a language – rather a sickness. We can now move on to more serious matters, namely the way Foucault stages The Will to Knowledge, as he talks about the apparatus of sexuality, sex as knowledge, the divide and the opposition between scientia sexualis and ars erotica. Historically, there have been two great procedures for producing the truth of sex. On the one hand, the societies – and they are numerous – China, Japan, India, Rome, the Arabo-Moslem societies – which endowed themselves with an ars erotica. In the erotic art, truth is drawn from pleasure itself, understood as a practice and accumulated as experience; pleasure is not considered in relation to an absolute law of the permitted and the forbidden nor by reference to a criterium of utility, but first and foremost in relation to itself; it is experienced as pleasure, evaluated in terms of intensity, its specific quality, its duration, its reverberations F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, ed. R.-P. Horstmann, trans. J. Norman, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, p. 105. 5


178 Alain Brossat in the body and the soul. Moreover, this knowledge must be deflected back into the sexual practice itself, in order to shape it as though from within and amplify its effects […] an absolute mastery of the body, a singular bliss, obliviousness to time and limits, the elixir of life, the exile of death and its threats. On the face of it at least, our civilization possesses no ars erotica. In return, it is undoubtedly the only civilization to practice a scientia sexualis6.

This statement raises various questions. First, it makes use of a rhetorical form that post-colonial or decolonial studies usually reject since it consists in singling out an “object” that is supposed to be exemplary for the exceptionality of the West, of Western culture, civilization, science, an operation that inevitably has, as its counterpart, the construction of compact and radical forms or figures of otherness. This way of dividing between a distinct or singular “us” and a much less distinct and singular “them” is part of the general process of what these studies call othering – the arrangement of a junk-room intended for storing otherness, as a compressed medley of all sorts of “others” – incarnations or manifestations of otherness. What matters here is not so much the qualities related to otherness but what designs and enhances the uniqueness of what is related to the self – here, scientia sexualis not as a cultural value, of course, but as a form of knowledge, a discourse, a set of practices that belong to “us” (the West), or rather, that bear our distinct mark as a civilizational area. On the other side of the divide we find the other, that is, those who have invented the ars erotica and still live, to some extent, under its regime and who make a very heterogeneous or even odd whole, in cultural terms: Ancient Rome, China, India, Japan, India, the Arabo-Moslem societies, etc. In other terms, specifically those of Edward Said, Foucault’s construction of the divide between ars erotica and scientia sexualis is clearly inspired by an Orientalist bias – since what do China, Japan, India, Persia, Egypt, etc. have in common, apart from the fact that they belong, according to an immemorial Western narrative tradition, to that nebulous Orient or East whose extension and variable borders have been forged by Western imagination and narratives? Then, a careful reading of Robert van Gulik’s book, which in this case is Foucault’s only “scientific” reference as he deals with ars erotica, shows that the way he places sexual life in Chinese civilization as a whole under the M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: An Introduction, trans. R. Hurley, Pantheon Books, New York 1978, pp. 57-58. 6


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sign of the ars erotica is very disputable. For Van Gulik constantly insists on that: in Ancient China, authoritative discourses on sexuality mostly make it a domain where medical prescriptions are at work, indissociable from the care for health and the balance between vital forms. Besides, this discourse takes human sexuality into account in a cosmic perspective, it relies on a cosmology. Last but not least, Van Gulik insists on that: he says that for “more that one thousand years”, the main prescription concerning male sexuality was not aimed at the increase and the intensification of pleasure (of men) but, on the opposite, at its suspension, stoppage or adjournment, this through what van Gulik modestly or discreetly calls coitus interruptus, by using medical Latin, that is the retention of sperm: “The longer the member stays inside, the more yin essence the man will absorb, thereby augmenting and strengthening his vital force”7. Talking about pleasure in particular, we should focus on that: for a Western reader (a subject, more specifically the male subject), depriving oneself of the orgasm, by dint of will and concentration, is not exactly what he would call working hard for increasing his pleasure. We should then first ask ourselves what this permutation between pleasure and increase of the vital power, as van Gulik describes it, is made of. We must be careful not to take for granted here, of course, that van Gulik is stating the truth or what is essential about sexual life in Ancient China; rather, we should examine how Foucault reads him and what he makes of this reading. For it seems that, if we follow van Gulik’s description, the real line of divide or fracture between a Western general notion of what sexual economy is made of and a Chinese one would be found at this place – coitus reservatus as a poor substitute for pleasure or as a key device for the increase of vital energy – and it seems that, consequently, this divide very imperfectly matches together, not to speak of coinciding, with the very peremptory divide Foucault puts forward in The Will to Knowledge. Another objection to Foucault’s reading of van Gulik could be inspired by a feminist approach to the question. In effect, the latter does not only insist on the fact that sexual life in Ancient China doesn’t seem to have suffered from the central role played by the coitus reservatus in the sexual life of males and females8. He goes beyond that: in his perspective, pleasure inevitably displaces itself and becomes a female matter. “[I]n Chinese R.H. van Gulik, Sexual Life in Ancient China. A Preliminary Survey of Chinese Sex and Society from ca. 1500 B.C. till 1644 A.D., E.J. Brill, Leiden 1974, p. 46. 8 Ibidem, p. 47. 7


180 Alain Brossat literature on sex the following two basic facts are stressed again and again. First, a man’s semen is his most precious possession, the source not only of his health but of his very life; every emission of semen will diminish this vital force, unless compensated by the acquiring of an equivalent amount of yin essence from the woman. Second, the man should give the woman complete satisfaction every time he cohabitates with her, but he should allow himself to reach orgasm only on certain specified occasions”9. However, the opposition coined by Foucault between scientia sexualis and ars erotica does not really take into account these differentiations or even contrasts between the economy of male sexuality and that of female sexuality. The female angle does not really take foot in his approach of the ars erotica. The last issue is periodization. As Foucault contrasts scientia sexualis and ars erotica, he never takes such issues into consideration. On the Western side, his corpus extends from the Middle Ages to nowadays – that is, it is counted in centuries. However, van Gulik’s corpus would rather be counted in thousand years – from 1500 BC to the Ming Restoration. The surreptitious “Orientalist” effect of such an approximation or unevenness is blatant: to us Westerners belongs the distinguished version of duration, that is organized in sequences, ages, eras, periods, centuries, an epistémè made of continuities and discontinuities – and to them, the Orientals, the homogeneous and slack regime of a “lazy” duration. But this relies on a rather hasty reading of van Gulik: in his book, he deals with many breaches and fractures in the long duration of sexual mores and family life, as he comments the appearance of Confucianism and Taoism in its different versions. He mentions many discontinuities and bifurcations in terms of sensitivities, mentalities, behaviors and social organization, as far as sexual and family life is concerned. Foucault never takes these changes into account, so that it appears that he implicitly opposes two regimes of time and temporality in a very problematic way, since it appears to rely on some sort of an immemorial orientalist subconscious or unconscious. In conclusion, for what concerns this point, it seems that when Foucault explicitly deals with sexual life in Ancient China in The Will to Knowledge, he is inclined to put into practice that kind of precept he sometimes mentioned to Daniel Defert as he readied himself to leave for the Bibliothèque Nationale, what he did almost every day, in order to read the books and manuscripts he needed for his researches: “OK, now – he 9

Ibidem.


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said half jokingly to Daniel – I’ll go and check that they [the authors he was reading at the BN at that time] really said what they are supposed to have said [that is, what he already expected from their arguments, according to his own line or direction of research]”. In the present case, it is very obvious that if van Gulik is the author who holds himself in the background of Foucault’s research, he has not exactly said what he should have, according to Foucault’s requirement at least. In two chapters of The Use of Pleasure, Foucault mentions Van Gulik’s book in a comparative perspective again, albeit in a more precise way – Ancient Greece and Ancient China. Same problems of periodization again (centuries for millennia) but it is not what deserves the most attention in our case. In the quoted passages, Foucault gives up the very notion of a “big divide” between West and East, he both connects and separates, brings closer and differentiates sexual life in Ancient Greece and Ancient China. He says that in Ancient Greece, the sexual act is a source of trouble, that it disturbs, not because it would have something in common with the evil but because “it disturbs and threatens the relation of the individual to himself and his composition as a moral subject”10. He goes on to add that this is a notion that Ancient Greek culture seems to have in common with the Ancient Chinese civilization of mores: “The documents assembled by Van Gulik, pertaining to ancient Chinese culture, seem to show the presence of the same thematic complex: fear of the irrepressive and costly act, dread of its harmful consequences for the body and health, representation of the man-woman relationship in the form of a contest, preoccupation with obtaining descendants of good quality by means of well-regulated sexual activity”11. And yet, immediately after that, Foucault puts forward an element of dissociation: in Ancien China, he says referring to van Gulik, the apprehension of the violence of the sexual act is related to the fear for loosing one’s (namely, the male’s) semen; coming together with the other sex is a way of entering in contact with her vital principle and to absorb it, etc. – which is a very clear way of acknowledging that in Ancient China, at least according to van Gulik’s lesson on it, the quest for pleasure is not the first and last word of or in sexual life. M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. II: The Use of Pleasure, trans. R. Hurley, Vintage Books, New York 1985, p. 137. 11 Ibidem. 10


182 Alain Brossat In the second passage where he mentions van Gulik, Foucault also takes into account the fact that in Ancient China, “the arts of conjugal pleasure” put together not only the quest for pleasure, but, as well, the relationships between men and women, family economy, health of the partners, etc. “There [in ancient China], prescriptions concerning the woman’s obedience, her respect, and her devotion were closely linked with advice on the correct erotic behavior to manifest in order to increase the partner’s pleasure, or at least that of the man, and with opinions on the right conditions for obtaining the best possible progeny”12. Even though he still sticks to the notion of ars erotica, Foucault takes the measure of the complexity of the question he is dealing with, as he displaces his comparison from an abrupt divide between scientia sexualis (West) and ars erotica (East, Orient) to a disjunctive connection between the use of pleasures in Ancient Greece and Ancient China. What he talks about in the last quote is the entanglement of some sort of a proto-biopolitics applied to sexuality and erotics properly speaking, where the quest for pleasure is the key issue. But for all that, Foucault never really lets go the thread of the quest for pleasure as the core of the (alleged) Oriental or Eastern – in our case, Chinese – economy of sexual life. In a late interview with Dreyfus and Rabinow13, he relapses into simplifications that testify for some sort of an idée fixe tinged with Orientalism: “In Chinese erotics – if we stick to van Gulik, what mattered was pleasure that had to be increased, intensified, extended as much as possible by delaying the act itself or even by abstaining from it”. The statement, in its rather convoluted form, distinctly shows that something is misshaped construction-wise: what about a brand of pleasure whose realization goes through its cancellation or for the least that doesn’t leave any room to satisfaction (it’s only made of excitement, and leaves satisfaction apart)? Besides, it must be stressed here that when Foucault commits himself to the comparison between sexual mores in Ancient Greece and in Ancient China, a great discrepancy becomes immediately visible in terms of documentation: van Gulik as the one and only source as far as China is concerned on the one hand and, on the other, dozens and dozens of texts R.H. van Gulik, Sexual Life in Ancient China, p. 143. H. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow, Michel Foucault. Un parcours philosophique, Gallimard, Paris 1984, pp. 322-346. 12 13


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from Greek and Latin authors, not to mention secondary Western erudite and specialized literature. However, this imbalance does not necessarily turn into a charge against Foucault, by using the same accusatory tone as Jack Goody as he criticizes the alleged eurocentric failures of Needham, Elias and Braudel, and reproaches them, among many other things, not to take into account other civilizations and cultures besides Europe and the West, not to be comparative enough. It seems that the peremptory tone of this indictment would not really help us to understand how what we rather distinctly perceive as the weak links of Foucault’s analysis is indissociable from the general conditions of the production of knowledge and the formulation of statements, not only at his time but within his epoch, conditions which, in the very terms of a Foucaultian epistemology of knowledge, are made more of impossibilities than possibilities. It is a fact, among many other things, that Foucault could read Latin and Ancient Greek and not Chinese, and that his ecological niche, as a researcher, was the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, not its equivalent in Beijing or the Academia Sinica in Taipei. It seems clear enough from what was very briefly sketched out concerning the use Foucault makes of Van Gulik that his research on sexual life here and elsewhere is beyond any doubt very much Euro-centered. We must, however, add that Euro-centration and Eurocentrism are at this place two rather different matters. For, if we want to be rigorous and precise, we have to remember that Eurocentrism is the ideology of the legitimate centration (on Europe) of the narratives that deal with modernity, of the progress of reason (science) and morals, of the development of democracy, etc. There is no trace of such an ideology in Foucault’s theorization of scientia sexualis, for the latter is anything but what would give evidence for the superiority of Western or European science over other forms of knowledge (Eastern, African, etc.): scientia sexualis is for Foucault a discursive matrix with all related practices, it is a way of dealing with sexual life that is typical of Europe or the West and this has nothing in common with any alleged superiority of the West or the arrogance of European self-centrism. In The Will to Knowledge as well as in The Use of Pleasure, Foucault’s position is Euro-centered, for what matters to him is to show what is absolutely singular in the discourse on sexuality as it prospered in Western Europe, this by staging notions (and practices or devices) like the confession, or in relation with the care for truth or the promotion of


184 Alain Brossat knowledge about the sex. On the opposite, China, as it is placed under the sign of ars erotica, appears to be the necessary external referent whose name or naming (for want of a serious analysis) is required in order to stress and value, by contrast, the originality and the singularity of the Western discursive apparatus that revolves around the invention of “sexuality”. This rhetorical form certainly leads to some simplifications about “the other”, but it doesn’t derive from any Western presumptuousness – rather the opposite: on various occasions, when Foucault deals with such issues, a certain “nostalgia” surfaces for the ars erotica as something the West has lost the intuition of – a lost tradition in the West, he sometimes suggests. There is also something very striking when Foucault, although rarely, mentions China or, rather, deals with it in a more or less direct or indirect way: most of the time, in his published work and his teaching, he tackles it through the angle of sexuality (that is, Van Gulik’s rather than Needham’s reference book on Chinese science or other classics dealing with Chinese medicine), a subject Foucault was always very much interested in. As we will see, in the occasion of rather tense exchanges with a French Maoist leader or an intellectual fellow-traveller of Mao’s China at the time of the Cultural Revolution, sexual or gender issues also come to the foreground – among other things, the repression of homosexuality, or a campaign against infantile masturbation launched by the Maoist authorities of that time. One can hardly refrain from spotting here some sort of a remnant of Orientalism – the inexhaustible Western cliché or fantasy of the sensual Orient, a civilization whose quintessence would rather unveil itself from the angle of its sexual mores than from its forms of knowledge. However, once again this is the way Foucault’s research is contaminated by Orientalist stereotypes, by the Western grands récits on the East – this is not what he is promoting as theory or analysis, it is a matter of “traces” rather than convictions or a theoretical position, the latter being what he tries hard to emancipate himself from, which however is easier said than done. As Westerners, even when well-trained, attentive, vigilant, more or less familiar with East Asia, we always relapse into Orientalist images, feelings, sensations and ways of talking – we cannot jump over our own shadow: we do our best and, nevertheless, more than often, we relapse. It is some sort of a pendulum between “old habits”, cultural and linguistic potholes or ruts and the effort to displace ourselves as we think


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about the present, to change ground as Althusser would say, or, as Mignolo would, to change the terms of the conversation. Let me give an example of the way Foucault hypothetically tries to turn to Asia – China before all – or see the past, the present and the future from an Asian point of view. The excerpt is taken from an interview Foucault gave to a Japanese paper, the first time he visited Japan in 1972. In this text, called De l’archéologie à la dynastique he puts into question the hegemony of Western forms of knowledge, discourses and theories at global scale, as well as the way other civilizations and cultures appropriate these forms of knowledge in a mimetic way. How can these other civilizational areas emancipate themselves from Western hegemony by borrowing so massively on Western knowledge, sciences, technologies, etc? What he has in mind is Marxism in particular, seen as a Western invention and set of discourses – and this is where China comes at issue. He asks this question in a very balanced and open way: It might happen that in fifty or a hundred or two hundred years people realize that this appropriation, for example, of Marxism by states and cultures from the Far East has in the end only been a short episode in the history of the Far East and that, as a consequence, the West would have been completely dispossessed of these few elements it could transmit; but nevertheless, let’s say that for the present moment, our impression is rather that the scientific, economic, political communication that happens between the nations of the world, in the form of conflict and rivalry, most of the time, this communication goes through chanels, ways and instruments that originate from the West14.

In this interview, he deliberately talks as a cultural defector, projecting himself into some sort of an utopian future where Western hegemony would have been overcome. Having very obviously in sight, from the context, the rise of East Asian “young” powers, he says: “In the West, Western knowledge, Western culture have been bent by the iron hand of capitalism. We are probably too worn out to give birth to a non-capitalist culture. The non-capitalist culture, it will be non-Western and, as a consequence, it’s the non-Westerners who have to invent it. The Westerners have been trapped by their own colonization, by the Westernization of the whole world, since it is with instruments that were made in the West that the non-Western world got rid of its [the West’s] grip on them”15. 14 15

M. Foucault, Dits et écrits I, p. 1283. Ibidem, p. 1284.


186 Alain Brossat Yet in other passages of this text and in further texts or discussions, he makes much less optimistic diagnosis and prognosis – insisting on the impasses of a mimetic emancipation – a historical and theoretical monster, actually: “It seems to me that the ways through which the non-Western world emancipates itself from the horrible exploitation the West has imposed on it last century or at the beginning of this century are borrowed from the West”16. Very distinctly, what he has here in mind is, before all, China, the copycat industrialization and modernization of communist China. If we look carefully at his further furtive incursions in this almost unexplored and not waymarked area, we immediately notice that his diagnosis and prognosis about the present and the future of this formidable other become more and more disenchanted and pessimistic. In 1977, in an interview to a German journal, he gives this rather chilling answer to the question: The answer to your question is sad, because of the dark days we are going through and since the question of the succession to Mao Zedong has been solved in such a brutal way [by taking up arms]. People have been shot or imprisoned, machine-guns have been used. Today, the 14 of October [1977] is a day one may say, maybe, that since the Russian October 1917 Revolution, maybe even since the great European revolutionary movements of 1848, that is since sixty years or, if you want, since hundred twenty years, that day is the day we can say, for the first time, that it doesn’t exist on earth any spot [point] from where a spark of hope could shoout out [il n’y a plus sur terre un seul point d’où pourrait jaillir la lumière d’une espérance]. There is no more orientation. Not even from the Soviet Union, obviously. Neither from the satellite countries [of the USSR]. Nor from Cuba or the Palestinian revolution. And not from China either, of course17.

The title of this short text is expressive: La torture, c’est la raison; “Torture, that is reason”. For Foucault, “what has just happened in China” has a general prognostic value in the present, the same way Kant said that the French Revolution had a prognostic value for all humans who aspired to be “majors”, in the spirit of Enlightenment – the difference being, of course, that instead of arousing enthusiasm, these events in China make of us orphans, the orphans of traditional historical models our hope for the future used to rely on. This general collapse of our historical subjectivity leads 16 17

Ibidem. M. Foucault, Dits et écrits II, p. 397.


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him to this very radical conclusion: “There is no revolutionary movement, and particularly no “socialist state”, inverted comas, whose name we could use and say: this is the way we have to do things! This is the model! This is the direction! It’s a quite peculiar state of things. I would say that we are sent back to the year 1830, that is to say that we have to start again from the very beginning”18. It is interesting that this very radical statement – starting, in terms of active and not contemplative or purely speculative philosophy of history, starting from zero again, making a tabula rasa of all the narratives, theories and intellectual constructions that used to nourish our hope about the future – this radical conclusion and turn is inspired to him by an episode of the struggle for power in Communist China, a current episode of the Chinese Revolution – this, still and always, as he persists in insisting on the fact that he will refrain from “talking” about China since he is completely ignorant of the subject. This “double talk” is a perfect symptom of his ambivalence on all this, that is, the elusive object – China. Foucault feels, he has the intuition, that one has to “turn to China” or, more generally, to East Asia and “the East” to grasp what mutations are at issue in the present regime of history and politics or to understand how we are passing from an “epoch” to another (see on this his articles on the Iranian uprising) – but, on the other hand, as a scholar who knows about the limits of his own “range”, in epistemological terms, he has to stick to that: he cannot say anything authoritative about China, because he is not qualified for that. For this reason, he will content himself to give casual comments in the very troubled and eventful context of the Cultural Revolution, sharp remarcks that show that he made up his mind on most of the related issues – but this without ever venturing into the theoretical analysis of China’s history, Chinese culture, China as “discourse”, if you want. This is perhaps better shown by some examples that illustrate Foucault’s way of always talking about China in a “by the way” style, on the occasion of exchanges with interlocutors of various brands (journalists, activists, friends, ect.) on more general matters. In 1976, Foucault has a slightly controversial exchange with a well-known publicist and journalist, K.S. Karol, a progressive and enlightened intellectual of Polish-Jewish origin who, among many other things, has spent a few years in the Gulag during the war and who, at the time of their discussion, has 18

Ibidem, p. 398.


188 Alain Brossat great sympathies for the socialist and communist regimes in Cuba, China, etc. The general topic of their discussion is “crimes and punishments in past and present history”. Foucault immediately jumps at the chance to say what’s on his mind concerning the Cultural Revolution that is in full swing at the time this debate takes place. For him, what is typical for the Cultural Revolution is the extension, the exportation into the whole Chinese society of punishing methods and devices that originate from the camps. He phrases that in a bitterly ironical way, saying: “Everything happens as if the processes [procédés] that are internal to the camps had come to open light, had bloomed like hundred thousands of blossoms in the China of the Cultural Revolution. There is something terribly disturbing in the resemblance between scenes that were witnessed by millions of people during the Cultural Revolution and scenes that took place in camps, four or five years before. […] One has the feeling that the technical devices of the camps have spread out, as if carried by a tremendous blow within the Cultural Revolution”19. This is of course a merciless and definitive statement, that will be later backed by other examples, like the way homosexuals are repressed and suppressed in (then) contemporary China. He also makes a sharp comment, just en passant, on the reeducation of the last Emperor Pu-yi, which is a mantra of Maoist propaganda in the West at that time – this in order make things clear and deliver the message “as for myself, I don’t want any part in it!”. This comment is made during a discussion with a respected publicist and militant who, at that time, is a fellow-traveler of the Chinese revolution – or what is left of it at that time. What is rather impressive in this episode, as in some others, is the way two “Foucault(s)” collide here: on one hand, the scholar, the archaeologist of knowledge, the analyst or genealogist of discourses, that is, the Foucault who writes thick books and knows what he knows and what is out of his scope; on the other hand, the diagnostician of the present whose commitment is to track down what he calls “the intolerable” in the present and to denounce it without any delay – this is, the way he sees le courage de la vérité, the courage of the truth. Whence these constant oscillations between ritual statements like “I won’t say anything about China because I’m completely ignorant of the subject” and recurrent other claims that nevertheless deal with the “forbidden object” – not City – in a context 19

M. Foucault, Dits et écrits II, p. 73.


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where what is at issue is less “China” as a particular object than “China in the present”, things that take place in China but that matter before all as concealing or revealing something that has a diagnostic value for the historical present at global scale. Finally, we shall tackle the topic of justice and once again the fascination exerted by the Chinese Revolution on radical intellectuals and young people should be taken into account. It gives Foucault an opportunity to connect an issue he has dealt with as a professor at the Collège de France and in some of his books with his permanent urge to intensify the relation between the human subject (the Self), the question of power and, last but not least, the question of the truth – all this on the horizon of what he calls the ontology of the present. The occasion is a discussion he has with one of the leaders of a restless French Maoist group, at the beginning of the 1970s, called La Gauche proletarienne – the Proletarian Left20. This exchange took place in 1972 and the name of his discussion partner is Pierre Victor (a militant alias – later, in “another life”, he became a rabbi and a Jewish theologian, in Strasbourg, going by his real name, Benny Lévy). The rather heated matter of the discussion is the socalled “people’s courts” (tribunaux populaires) as alternatives to “bourgeois justice”, state courts that the maos (this is how this brand of Maoist or pro-Chinese groups call themselves at that time) are then trying to set up, in the context of a deadly coal mine accident and, later, of the murder of a young female worker in a proletarian city in the North of France. Sartre and some other well-known intellectuals were supporting this campaign and Daniel Defert, Foucault’s life companion and an active member of the GP at the time, was eager to have him as another famous support of the “people’s courts”. Such was, although briefly sketched, the context of the “contest” opposing Foucault to Victor. At the time Foucault had this exchange with Victor, he studied popular revolts and seditions in France in the 17th and 18th century, for his lectures at the Collège de France called Théories et institutions pénales (published in English as Penal Theories and Institutions). His main thesis, in relation to the debate with the mao leader, was that “in France and, M. Foucault, Dits et écrits I, pp. 1208-1236; trans. in Power/Knowledge. Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. C. Gordon, trans. C. Gordon et al., Pantheon Books, New York 1980, pp. 1-36. The following quotes are translated by the author; however, the corresponding pages of the English edition will be referenced in parenthesis in the footnotes. 20


190 Alain Brossat I believe, in Western Europe, the act of popular justice is deeply antijudicial (judiciary) and opposed to the form of the court”21. For him, this is a very ancient tradition that is deeply rooted in the collective experience of popular struggles, seditions, revolts against the collect of taxes, long before the French Revolution. Popular justice is what constantly conflicts with the very notion of a judiciary authority that is inseparable from a state apparatus representing public power and being an instrument of class power. For this reason, the acts of popular justice are, for him, resolutely anti-judiciary, for the judiciary is the state, it is the justice of the state. As he has to think about “popular justice” in the present, as a political and intellectual stake in the present, Foucault sticks to this tradition. For this reason, he rejects the very notion of “popular courts” or trials. However, Pierre Victor sees things very differently. For him, the masses, as they confront their enemies, cannot do it by themselves, they need to delegate – he insists on that term. What he has in mind is of course an imagery that is borrowed from the Chinese Revolution. He says: “The Chinese masses have delegated a part of their power to an element that is narrowly related to them (or deeply rooted in them) but that is still distinct – the Red People’s Army”22. For him, this delegation process is what quite naturally leads to the promotion of “state apparatuses of a new type” at the later stage – the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is exactly what Foucault cannot accept. For him, it is before all a matter of spacial arrangement or order: the very form (shaping) of the court (and how the trial fits into it) is totally incompatible with a justice that would actually be people’s justice. He says: “I do not know how they do things in China [comment ça se passe en Chine], but let’s have a careful look at what the spatial order of the court means, the way people are disposed in it (or have to face the judges). All this involves an ideology, for the least”23. And then, he makes his position even more clear: when the masses identify an enemy and the wrong he has done to them, they confront him directly, without any intermediary, without relying on “a state apparatus that has the capacity to enforce his decisions”24. People’s justice is for him what cannot be reduced to state justice, whose main device is the court, the ideology of impartiality, of the neutrality of the judge (the jury) who Ibidem, p. 1212 (p. 6). Ibidem, p. 1213 (pp. 7-8). 23 Ibidem. 24 Ibidem, p. 1214 (p. 8). 21 22


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settles conflicts by arbitration. These two models are in open conflict, they cannot be combined or reconciled – and this is what Foucault derives not only from his inquiry on popular revolts and seditions in 17th and 18th century France but, as well, in contemporary Western societies – as shown by his many articles, prefaces and interviews on the way justice was working in France in the 1970s. The interesting thing is that Victor, by contrast, puts forward the example of the Chinese Revolution as what shows that the masses are unable to put into practice and enforce justice by themselves, so they need, he says, an authority or a body (une instance) that, interestingly enough, normalizes the exercise of people’s justice – the People’s army during the anti-Japanese War and the Revolution, the Party later. So, as you can see, the lines of breach between Foucault and his discussion partner are clear: on one hand, as far as the question of people’s Justice is concerned what Foucault strictly denies and refuses, in analytical terms (for he is not, at this place, delivering political prescriptions), is an approach based on the cult of the state, on the state-controlled so-called people’s justice; while on the other hand, what he rejects is the model of representation (the army or the party as representative of the masses, of their claim for justice). On the opposite end, what the French style Maoist leader promotes by referring to the Chinese Revolution as the un-surpassable model of/for revolutionary politics is the cult of the state and the old/immemorial Platonic idea that the masses need to be led and supervised. For him, it is the natural vocation of the masses to delegate – and this is for him the main lesson he derives from the experience of Chinese Revolution. Foucault is so uncompromising on this issue that he goes as far as to say that for him “people’s justice” would rather look like the horrendous episode of the so-called Massacres de Septembre, which took place during the French Revolution – when the plebs of Paris rushed into the prisons of the city to massacre the imprisoned “aristocrats” as they felt that their fatherland was in danger – than resemble the well known people’s show trials staged by the Comité de Salut Public, leading to public mass decapitation on public squares. It is a quite untenable statement, since the Massacres de Septembre are, in French historiography and collective memory, even more than the episode of the Terror launched by Robespierre, St Just and others, the stain blood on the aura of the Grande Révolution. It seemed appropriate to mention the episode, albeit briefly, for two reasons. On one hand, it gives the opportunity to present a Foucault who is


192 Alain Brossat rather unappreciated and unrecognized by the qualified “Foucaultogists”, the Foucault who is in quest for radical alternatives to the existing political models, that is, state-oriented models, based on sovereignty, representation, or what Victor calls “delegation”. This is the reason why Foucault is “fascinated”, as his US critics often say, by historical or political situations where the masses, people from below express their will, rebel, uprise and shape up a political scene or design a political horizon where they think and act without any intermediary – for this reason, the discussion with the mao local leader directly echoes what he wrote on the Iranian uprising in his reportages d’idées. Although it might sound far-fetched to claim that this Foucault is an uncofessed anarchist, here we can maybe catch a glimpse of this possibility. On the other hand, what should be stressed on this occasion is the “use” of China in radical intellectual spheres in France and more generally in the West during the 1970s. China is used as a convex mirror, a refraction surface for domestic and local discussions. It was rarely the real and direct object of the talk for the good reason that it is, more than a model or an example, a “white page”, a sheet of paper on which young and less young intellectual radicals, artists, activists, projected their Utopian feelings and aspirations as far as history and politics were concerned, or even everyday life, the reconstruction of social life, radical alternatives to the West as a model of development, a civilization of mores, etc. The discussions previously mentioned show that Foucault didn’t share the enthusiasm of these daydreamers: he was too analytical for that, rather than realistic, for it is not a matter of realism in the ordinary sense of the word (as we know, Foucault was also available for all kinds of displacements and affective/intellectual investments in heterotopic spaces – the Iranian uprising, the revolt in the French prisons, the parricide Pierre Rivière, the “infamous men”, etc.). What made that he would not share this Utopia is that he very quickly detected that it was a trompe-l’oeil and a pretense, for it was contaminated by Western models, Western forms of development, and more generally because it appeared to belong to the same historical diagram as the West. Foucault constantly challenged the alleged saving otherness of “China” as seen by its French fellow-travelers on issues that mattered for him – sexuality, punishment, state repression, state-oriented ideology and, each time, he asked: so, after due examination, what is so different from the West? For these reasons, he could not take for granted that the Chinese Revolution and


Michel Foucault and China. A Missed Appointment 193

its continuation and repercussions are a real bifurcation in the course of contemporary history and civilization. Rather, the problem is that he could only issue this diagnosis pro domo, within a Western realm, except for when he (briefly) traveled for the second time to Japan. The paradox of the situation of his work, in general, is that while it is a vibrant manifest for the dewesternization and the re-orientation of knowledge and the discourse on history and politics, Foucault could not, as a scholar, jump over his own Western shadow, or even further, over his belonging to a rather narrow cultural area – Western Europe, or what Derrida called “the Cape”. Foucault’s missed appointment with China – as we could guess that he never had the opportunity to have even a brief an exchange with a Chinese intellectual – is one of the many signs that reflect his condition from the angle of what we previously called geo-philosophy. Deprovincializing oneself is a long march, most of those who try their skill at doing it die of exhaustion on the side of the road. Alain Brossat Université Paris 8 alainbrossat46@gmail.com

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