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Foucault and Poulantzas

Foucault and Poulantzas

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  • POULANTZAS AND FOUCAULT ON POWER AND STRATEGY
  • Bob Jessop
  • Poulantzas and Foucault
  • Some Unilateral Borrowings
  • Eight Shared Positions or Bilateral Convergences
  • 3. Eight Criticisms of Foucault and Some Possible Responses
  • Some Hidden Parallels
  • Beyond Poulantzas and Foucault
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography

POULANTZAS AND FOUCAULT ON POWER AND STRATEGY Bob Jessop After the May events in 1968, many French

intellectuals proclaimed a 'crisis of Marxism'.1 The first such crisis was declared by Masaryk at the end of the nineteenth century and other crises have been announced regularly ever since. But the post-68 crisis appeared more serious and many doubted that it could be resolved through a simple revival or revision of traditional Marxism. Indeed, May 1968 triggered a strong theoretical reaction against Marxism in both its orthodox and structuralist forms (Ferry and Renaut 1985). Its most extreme expression was the virulently anti-Marxist, postgauchiste, post-modern, nouvelle philosophie (Dews 1979; Resch 1992). More temperate were the attempts to rescue Marxism from its alleged over-identification with orthodox Communism and Stalinism by drawing on other theories. These were existentialism, structuralism, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, theories of language, and the work of Michel Foucault (Poster 1984: 20-40; for Foucault’s reflections on May 1968 for the changing intellectual climate, see 1983a [Ethics: 125], DE2 1348; 1984c [Ethics: 115], DE2 1414). Foucault, who had already left the PCF in 1953 after three years’ inactive membership and later rejected official Marxism as simplistic and partisan (Macey 1993: 40; Sheridan 1980: 5), took a different route, claiming that the May events had enabled him to sharpen questions he had already been posing and had also given them a new political significance (Foucault 1977a: 142). Thus he first turned his attention to issues of rupture and discontinuity, power-knowledge and resistance, then to governmentality and state strategy, and, later still, to the self. He also began to display a more positive but still ambivalent relationship to Marxism. On the one hand, he continued to criticize a wide range of Marxist positions that he deemed to be theoretically inadequate and/or politically unacceptable. These included vulgar Marxism; academic (or university) Marxism; ‘endless commentaries on surplus-value’; intense interest in the nature of class and neglect of the subjects, stakes, and modalities of ‘class’ struggle; its concern with consciousness and ideology rather than the materiality of the body and anatomo-

politics; epiphenomenal analyses of infrastructure and superstructure relations; the sterilizing constraints of the dialectic and the logic of contradiction; para-Marxism; Freudo-Marxism; Marxist hagiography; the ‘hypermarxification’ of social and political analyses; and ‘communistology’.2 On the other hand, ‘Foucault maintained a sort of "uninterrupted dialogue" with Marx, [who] was in fact not unaware of the question of power and its disciplines’ (Fontana and Bertani 2003: 277). Thus it is not hard to find increasingly sympathetic but generally covert references to some core themes in Marx’s own work, some of them deliberately and provocatively undeclared, and to some more sophisticated currents in contemporary Marxism (Poulantzas EPS: 74; Balibar 1992; Lemke 2003). These different reactions to the alleged crisis of Marxism provide a good basis for comparing Michel Foucault and Nicos Poulantzas. For, while Poulantzas also reoriented his theoretical and political analyses in several steps after May 1968, he never abandoned his fundamental commitment to Marxism. Nonetheless, like others at the time, in seeking to reinvigorate Marxism, he recommended resort to other disciplines and approaches. These included linguistics, psychoanalysis, and the work of Foucault (see Poulantzas 1979a: 14-5; 1979b; 1979c). But he largely ignored psychoanalysis, paid limited attention to linguistics, and took only Foucault seriously. Even then he distinguished Foucault as an epistemologist and general theorist from Foucault as an analyst of specific techniques of power and aspects of the state form. For, while Poulantzas rejected Foucault’s general epistemological and theoretical project, he found his critique of discipline, power, and knowledge useful (citing both SP and VS with qualified approval in his own magnum opus, L’État, le Pouvoir, le Socialisme (SPS: 6668, 69; EPS: 73-5, 76, 298n). This rejection makes sense on both counts. On the one hand, Foucault’s epistemology is incompatible with Marxism (see Lecourt 1972); and, more particularly, he had dismissed Marxian political economy as part of the ‘Classical’ episteme and even accorded Ricardo greater weight than Marx in this regard (Foucault 1969: 268-71). Moreover, while Foucault had rejected the temptations of state theory as one would refuse an invitation to an ‘indigestible meal’ (Foucault 1979b),3 Poulantzas aimed to develop an autonomous Marxist political science within the framework of

historical materialism and eventually claimed to have completed Marx’s unfinished theory of the state (1978b). On the other hand, Poulantzas recognized that this work of completion needed to go beyond his own initial Althusserian and Gramscian perspectives and to develop a more general, and resolutely relational, account of power. Despite their very different philosophical approaches and theoretical trajectories, there are some fascinating parallels between the two thinkers. These are most obvious during the ten years following May 1968, when Foucault and Poulantzas both moved beyond their respective earlier theoretical approaches and focused increasingly, each in his own distinctive way, on the complexities of power, resistance, and their strategic codification in the modern world. Indeed, the confused political and theoretical conjuncture of 19721977 was an especially creative period for both thinkers (on Foucault, see Gordon 1980: ix). Thus my contribution will explore the convergences, divergences, hidden parallels, and shared problems in the work of Foucault and Poulantzas on power and strategy. Poulantzas and Foucault Whereas Foucault’s work still generates debate, interest in Poulantzas’s work diminished rapidly after his death. This neglect illustrates the contemporary crisis of Marxism and deserves to be remedied. Thus I will first comment briefly on Poulantzas. He was a Greek political and social theorist who taught in Paris and was active in French as well as Greek intellectual and political life. He initially worked within a ‘Western Marxist’ framework and was strongly interested in the state and state power in advanced capitalist societies. His principal theoretical influences were French philosophy (Sartre, Althusser, and, later, Foucault), Italian political theory (Gramsci and, later, the left Eurocommunism associated with Ingrao), and bourgeois constitutional theory (and its Marxist critique). His key theoretical contribution came in the 1970s with his development of the argument that state power is a social relation that is reproduced in and through the interaction between the changing institutional form of the state and

the changing character of political class forces. Accordingly, he increasingly emphasized the nature of the state as a system of structurally-inscribed strategic selectivity and the nature of political struggle as a field of competing strategies for hegemony. In both respects he argued that power should be studied in terms of the changing balance of class forces mobilized behind specific strategies in various political conjunctures (for a detailed account, Jessop 1985). In addition to his overriding concern with the state as the strategic terrain in, on, and through which political class domination is secured, Poulantzas also considered its role in providing certain key conditions for capital accumulation and in reproducing the capitalist form of the mental-manual division of labour. His last major work, EPS (1978), extended these accounts to include the state's role in organizing the social body (its territoriality, its temporal organization, its cultural life) and the individual body (through violence, law, citizenship, language, health-care, etc.). Poulantzas’s indebtedness to Foucault's analyses is especially clear here but there are also other, less visible Foucauldian influences within his overall account of the state and its position in contemporary social formations (see below). Foucault’s own work on power emerged in initially unacknowledged ways. He sometimes claimed in interviews that an implicit interest in power informed his archaeological studies, began to surface with his genealogical studies, and gained full expression with Surveiller et Punir (1975a) and la Volonté de Savoir (1976a). It is these two books that most influenced Poulantzas. Foucault stressed three major themes in his self-described ‘nominalist’ analytics of power in this third period: the immanence of power in all social relations, its articulation with discourses as well as institutions, and its polyvalence (in the sense that its impact and significance depend on how these relations and their associated discourses and institutions are integrated into different strategies). In this context he also focused on technologies of power, the relations between power and knowledge, and diverse strategies for the structuring and deployment of power relations. In developing this analytical approach, Foucault rejected any attempt to develop a general theory of power that rested on assumptions about its essential unity, its pre-given functions, or its global strategic deployment by a master subject. Instead, its study should begin from below, in the heterogeneous and dispersed

and ‘The Birth of Biopolitics’ (1979). if at all. My analytical strategy is to consider the relations between the work of Poulantzas and Foucault and distinguish their positions in what is largely a shared approach to social and political order. whereas Surveiller et Punir was more concerned with the dispersion of the mechanisms of power. Foucault typically rejected any a priori assumption that different forms of power were linked together to produce an overall pattern of class domination. This is consistent with his more general rejection of attempts to provide a total or totalizing interpretation of social events. This interest in the macrophysics of power is even more evident in Foucault's three courses at the Collège de France entitled ‘Society must defend itself’ (1976).microphysics of power. Nonetheless such strategic codification and/or structural coherence are by no means guaranteed – for different techniques can also be disjointed and contradictory. This holds especially for the emergence (or genealogy) of various technologies of power and disciplinary techniques but Foucault also recognized that the selection of some technologies and practices rather than others and their subsequent retention are more likely to be linked to broader strategies of state and/or class power. however. Volonté de Savoir began to explore how different mechanisms were articulated to produce social order. The second and third volumes of the Histoire de Sexualité (1984a. First. despite frequent attempts to counterpose Marxist and . Territory. I will take the arguments of Poulantzas as my main reference point for two reasons. VS). and Population’ (1978). Mechanisms of power were given less prominence and more weight was given to ethical discourse about the self. 1984b) marked a further shift. to explore specific forms of exercise of power in different institutional sites and to investigate how. these were articulated to produce broader and more persistent societal configurations. This said. ‘Security.4 Thus he noted that the disciplinary techniques of the modern state originated in dispersed local sites well away from the centres of state power in the Ancien Régime and that they were only later taken up and integrated into a coherent global strategy of bourgeois domination (SP. to the emergence of the sexual subject and the formation of the self and self-identity more generally.

and comment on the individual and shared limitations of both approaches. having rejected vulgar Marxism and Freudo-Marxism in the 1960s. despite these clearly stated differences. because he is not always the best guide to his own relation to Foucault. it is because he consciously related his work to that of Foucault both positively and negatively. However. there are Poulantzas's direct and explicit borrowings from Foucault and his colleagues. First. Foucault later modified his own position along parallel lines – although this owed more to his own disjunctive theoretical development than to Poulantzas’s criticisms. referred to Poulantzas’s work. Thus he not only appropriated some of Foucault's concepts and arguments but also distinguished his own theory and its political implications from Foucault's more general approach. We can relate Poulantzas and Foucault in four main ways. Interestingly. For. if this is the case. Exploring these will help us understand some key limitations to both thinkers’ approaches to power and strategy. fourth. he claimed that one could not write history without using a whole range of concepts directly or indirectly related to Marx's thought and situating oneself on an intellectual terrain defined by Marx (1975c [P/K: 53]. These helped him differentiate his position theoretically and politically in relation to the current intellectual mood in France.5 Second. revisit Foucault's approach. Third. classes. second. however. DE1: 1621). Some Unilateral Borrowings Poulantzas's key contributions to Marxist theory concern the state.Foucauldian approaches to power and strategy and the occasional use of Poulantzas as a proxy for Marxism in this regard. Poulantzas was far less of an orthodox 'Marxist' and far more 'Foucauldian' than many of his critics suggest. Poulantzas also directed some trenchant criticisms at Foucault. Foucault grew more sympathetic towards Marxist analyses in the 1970s. I will also qualify Poulantzas’s account. . state power. Indeed. And. as far as I know. there are also hidden parallels in their respective accounts of power and the state. This was largely a oneway traffic. And. despite these unilateral borrowings and shared positions. since Foucault himself never. there are marked similarities and even unstated bilateral convergences.

Poulantzas used this distinction to criticize the role of intellectuals in Greek and French politics and to urge a more active role for specific intellectuals. if not superior. ideas in the work of Marx himself. Poulantzas drew directly on Foucault's distinction between 'specific' and 'universal' intellectuals and. 'universal' intellectuals are dilettantes whose influence depends on their general literary or intellectual position (Foucault 1977a [PK: 126-33]. DE2: 154-160). But he also discussed ideology. 98-99). the role of intellectuals. He also endorsed Foucault's account of new social movements as a response to the growth of disciplinary techniques. and the mental-manual division of labour. and his discussion of the political constitution of corporality. He argued that 'there is no relation of power without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge. on the state as such. This can be seen in his interpretation of the relation between 'power' and 'knowledge'. 81. Turning to broader issues. more significantly. Foucault related the role of intellectuals to the relations between power and knowledge. moved towards his positions in all three of these areas. 76. his account of disciplines and normalization. EPS: 72-73. 75. 82.and class struggle and his position on these issues remained resolutely Marxist in its general orientation (see Jessop 1985). no knowledge which does not presuppose and constitute at the same time relations of power' (DP: 32. Even when directly borrowing from Foucault's work. Regarding the ideological domain. SP: 00). Poulantzas borrowed from Foucault or. 69-70. Poulantzas extended this analysis by linking it to the capitalist division between mental and manual labour and also notes that Marx developed similar ideas about this link in his work on production and political domination (SPS: 55. More generally. Poulantzas used Foucault's ideas on disciplinary techniques. Poulantzas typically modified it. and panopticism as well as his views on 'anatomo-politics' and the recomposition of the body politic (SPS: 66-67. 88). and his continual references to parallel. on his discussion of 'power' and 'knowledge'. 89-90. at least. 'Specific' intellectuals are experts in particular disciplines relevant to specific areas of social life. This process of insertion-modification was made easier by . EPS: 60. Indeed he even suggested that the capitalist state is the institutional embodiment par excellence of intellectual labour separated from manual labour. normalization.

they both had long-standing interests in the nature and mechanisms of individualization. This was the . PPCS-II: 102-103). related to this was the shared analysis of the relationship between sovereignty and individual citizenship. Foucault did not start out from the existence of classes defined by the relations of production.the convergences that had developed between their arguments and analyses. For the normal capitalist state had the distinctive juridico-political form of a unified. 275-277. PPCS-I: 139-140. This recognizes the productive as well as coercive nature of the juridicopolitical and its contribution to the political disorganization of the subordinate classes. First. EPS: 76). but he was also strongly interested in the nature and mechanisms of individualization and normalization and their role in shaping bodies as well as minds in different historical periods and different sites of power. These provided points of articulation and enabled Poulantzas to draw on Foucault's work without falling into simple eclecticism. centralized. 188-189.. he willingly conceded that Foucault's analyses of normalization and the state's role in shaping corporality were better than his own account of the 'isolation effect' (SPS: 70.e. indeed. Eight Shared Positions or Bilateral Convergences There are eight main areas where Poulantzas and Foucault developed similar arguments. Both denied the existence of originating subjects and both examined the mechanisms in and through which acting and knowing subjects were constituted. This is particularly clear in Poulantzas's early analysis of the juridico-political production of the 'isolation effect' (i. the experience of class relations as relations among so many formally equal individuals with competing private interests) and its role in shaping struggles over political hegemony around competing definitions of the national-popular interest. of course. Poulantzas rooted the specificity of the capitalist type of state in the constitutive (defining) absence of a formal monopoly of power for the economically dominant class over the dominated classes. Second. These studies had a significant impact on Poulantzas’s later work and. sovereign apparatus that exercised constitutionalized authority over its individual citizen-subjects (PPSC: 132-134.

EPS: 31-38. and a wide range of institutions connected with the welfare state (FD: 195-196. whose principle of articulation is the social body and the delegative status of each citizen. interests. They could only be established in terms of the isolation effect and class strategies. DE2: 187-188). the mass media. a discourse. Poulantzas argued that class interests could not be derived in a priori fashion from the position of class agents in the relations of production. from the nineteenth century up to our own day. He emphasized that power is not a fixed quantum that can only be allocated in a zero-sum manner so that losses and gains cancel each other out. 188-193. Foucault likewise came to argue that ‘modern society. These ISAs included education. Third. This matrix involved not only the repressive state apparatus but also a plurality of ‘ideological state apparatuses’ (ISAs) located both within and beyond the state’s formal. SPS: 28-34. Althusser 1995: 107-109). an organization based on public right. 35-37. 31-36. contrary to Foucault. trade unions. and ideological capacities. 27-28. political. an emphasis on the class nature of the state. Moreover. even in PPSC. 102-107). both theorists adopted a relational approach to power and explored the links between power and strategies. 30-32. the family. His later work examined the complex links between class . 299-309. institutionally mediated expression of class power. PPCS-I: 147-148. CCC: 24-25. on the other hand. CSC: 28-29. by a closely linked grid of disciplinary coercions whose purpose is in fact to assure the cohesion of this same social body’ (1976b [P/K: 106]. He also identified many potential disjunctions between economic. and. PPCS-II: 7-11. 274-279. has been characterized on the one hand. He denied that the state could wield power in its own right and stressed that state power was a specific. cf. juridico-political boundaries.institutional matrix within which different social forces struggled to develop specific state and hegemonic projects that could secure social cohesion in a class-divided society (PPSC: 140-141. by a legislation. Poulantzas was ahead of Foucault here too but he later incorporated Foucauldian ideas into his own analysis whilst retaining. 214-215. Pouvoir Politique et Classes Sociales treated power as the capacity to realize class interests in a specific conjuncture and defined such interests in terms of the changing range of feasible class objectives. and actual power relations.

Poulantzas also reinforced his earlier arguments (dating from PPSC) that local class struggles and issue-oriented social movements operating at a distance from the state may have significant ‘pertinent effects’ from the bottom up on the exercise of state power. Fifth. This is another area where Poulantzas seems to have anticipated Foucault. see Jessop 1985: 340-343). Les classes sociales ne sont pas posées “en soi” dans les rapports de production. there is resistance. resistance always elicits counter-resistance. The relational approach to power is especially clear in EPS. and class strategies (for more detailed discussion. 159). cf. Poulantzas and Foucault concurred in treating power as productive and positive rather than simply repressive and negative. Poulantzas initially made this claim in terms of the antagonistic character of the social relations of production in class-divided societies and the resulting struggles over economic exploitation and political and ideological class domination.6 In this sense power and resistance are coeval: power always engenders resistance. ‘Il n’existe pas de classes sociales préalables à leur opposition. 155. EPS: 160-162). this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power' (HS1: 95). 50. cf. 45. 141. pour entrer en lutte (classes “pour soi”) seulement après ou ailleurs’ (EPS: 30. Foucault argued that. 145). in which Poulantzas provides his most elaborate argument that the state itself is a social relation. Hence class struggle is never in a position of exteriority to class relations: they are coeval. nor is it an instrumental depository of the power held by a dominant class subject located beyond it (SPS: 146-8. class power. For example. Poulantzas and Foucault both insisted that power is always correlated with resistance. Instead it should be understood as the material condensation of the balance of class forces in struggle. For the latter only rejected the ‘Nietzschean .interests. Likewise Poulantzas argued that 'there are no social classes prior to their opposition in struggle: they are not posed "in themselves" in the relations of production only to enter into struggle (become classes "for themselves") afterwards and elsewhere' (SPS: 27. or rather consequently. Fourth. c’est à dire à leurs luttes. It is not a subject that acquires power for itself by depriving classes of power. 'where there is power. In this context. He later coquetted with Foucauldian language to extend this claim. and yet.

shaping the spatio-temporal matrix of capitalist societies. 296-306. DE2 423-4). 255-6). Poulantzas had already treated power in these terms for several years before Foucault’s conversion. DE2: 148-151. and he also criticized 'capital logic' approaches that derived the state form and activities from its overall economic functionality. 183-189. organizing material concessions. prisons. even before he was directly influenced by Foucault's analyses of the techniques of power. etc. 144. Foucault then seems to have rejected all accounts of power that treated it as purely repressive. 136. 97. He had long criticized the 'échangiste' approach of some Italian Marxists (who derived the necessity of the state from its functions in commodity circulation). normalizing. In short. and. and negative and emphasized instead its productive. and so forth. Foucault also rejected those liberal and Marxist approaches to power that assimilated it to the commodity and/or suggested that it is always subordinate to economic imperatives. 1977e [P/K: 140]. A sixth convergence concerns the close links between power and knowledge. 240. Poulantzas later paid even more attention to the state's positive role in reproducing relations of production. Poulantzas avoided the serious faults that Foucault claimed to find in other analyses of power. 1976b [PK: 88-96. unifying the power bloc. 209-16.' (Lenin 1917: 292). censorious. It is directly linked to the 'secrecy of knowledge' and excludes the working class (and the more 'proletarianized' . producing knowledge. assigning a specific class-pertinence to non-class relations. 1977a [P/K: 119-23]. DE2: 169-174. can also be seen in his own accounts of the role of the mental-manual division of labour in reproducing political and ideological class domination. This is evident from Poulantzas's dual appropriation of Gramsci’s analyses of hegemony and Althusser’s views on ideological state apparatuses. 41-8. Indeed in treating the state as the factor of social cohesion in a class-divided society. Similarly Poulantzas was always concerned with the state's role in securing political class domination. 102-8]. more importantly here. Thus CCC interprets this division as a concentrated expression of the coupling of political and ideological relations to the relations of production (1974: 233.hypothesis’ that power is repressive in the mid-1970s. he clearly emphasized its productive role rather than the Marxist-Leninist idea that it comprises 'special bodies of armed men. and positive functions (DP: 23-8. CSC: 248-9. HS1: 5-10. 82-9.

in later analyses of state socialism. technology. Seventh. 249. 265. Foucault Interviews). the social construction and variability of the public-private distinction. rank-and-file movements. Poulantzas 1970). EPS: 277-283). SPS: 72-74. Poulantzas's interest was stimulated by the role of popular movements in the decomposition and collapse of the military dictatorships in Southern Europe in the 1970s and was reinforced by the growing politicization of branches of the state . Both stressed the common matrix of statehood. Foucault is especially well known. both thinkers examined the restructuring of the postwar welfare state. and what Poulantzas termed ‘struggles at a distance from the state’. for his explorations of the power-knowledge couplet in the 1970s. 274-5. and the rise of neo-liberalism (Foucault 1977a. during the late 1970s. 240. EPS 79-81. the individualization of political subjects. 322-3.layers of the new petty bourgeoisie) from the centres of bourgeois power (1974: 31. 271. 180. We should also note that Foucault claimed that the ‘nonanalysis of fascism is one of the most important political facts of the last thirty years’ – and that Poulantzas had made a special study of the historical specificity of fascism following the Greek coup d’état in 1967 and claims about the creeping fascisation of the French state after 1968 (Foucault 1977e [P/K: 139]. 194-195. 345-6). 251-4. new authoritarian tendencies. Poulantzas was also critical of Stalinism as a political current from an early stage in his political development and. Likewise. CSC: 195. 271. DE2 422. Eighth. criticized the totalitarian nature of the Soviet state and the failings of the command economy (SPS: 251-256. Poulantzas also suggested that basic research. 255. 255. Poulantzas and Foucault both became interested in 'micro-revolts'. 258. 252-3. 255. 292-3. Poulantzas EPS: 179-222). 274-5). CSC: 35. management. 237. and the role of nationalism in the modern state – institutional factors that shaped both political struggles in liberal democracies and in the totalitarian state (FD 1970: 320-324. of course. 236-8. both theorists noted the continuity between liberal democracy and fascist and Stalinist forms of totalitarianism. and bureaucratic organization are always closely interwoven with the dominant ideology and added that this involves specific material practices of ideological domination as well as ideas (1974: 181.

while Poulantzas criticized Foucault for insisting that micro-revolts could only succeed if they remained dispersed and uncoordinated. if generally unacknowledged and perhaps unintentional. DE2 306-7. and transformed by global strategies of societal transformation (HS1: 96. to other contemporary Marxists. DE2: 166-170). arranged in terms of seven of the . Foucault's interest in micro-revolts was stimulated by the proliferation of protest movements outside the workplace in the aftermath of May 1968 and he was notably involved in the prison reform movement. reinforced. Eight Criticisms of Foucault and Some Possible Responses Poulantzas and Foucault were by no means in full agreement. 1977c [P/K: 203]. 1976b [P/K: 85-89]. the struggle for gay rights. women's liberation. 3. indeed.7 This is reflected in regular attacks on vulgar Marxism for its economism.g. In contrast. and the anti-psychiatry movement. Moreover. including Gramsci and Poulantzas.apparatus in France in the same period as its personnel struggled in and against the state (notably the police. This can be seen in Poulantzas’s explicit criticisms of Foucault in occasional incidental remarks and some detailed comments. 1977b [PK: 159]. Thus both thinkers came to stress the need for a complex but coherent strategy towards new social movements.. I now present a synopsis of Poulantzas's criticisms. and lawyers) (CD: passim. He also attacked Marxism’s more general claims to scientificity at the expense of alternative forms of knowledge (e. PTS: 60). Foucault later accepted that different forms of resistance would need to be readjusted. magistracy. and its view of the state as a sovereign political subject that possessed and wielded a definite quantum of power from the top down (SP and VS). DE2 201-2. since he preferred general problematization to detailed critique. 1976: passim). Foucault made no direct references to Poulantzas's work – or. convergences toward more sophisticated Marxist positions. its claim to have identified the origin of power in the economy and/or class relations. But his later work also involves some interesting. This is most striking in the criticisms developed in areas where the above-noted convergences occurred.

to assume that Foucault was responding to Poulantzas’s criticisms here. that a key aspect of the new anatomo-politics was to bind men to the productive apparatus and facilitate a capitalist political economy of time based on abstract labour. Foucault. that he had noted how the disciplinary techniques first developed in this context were later deployed in factories to control the division of labour. Before proceeding. schools. DE2 203-4. prisons. These are especially interesting because several lectures contain Foucault’s self-criticism for committing some of the errors that Poulantzas identified in the two earlier texts (and for others that Poulantzas did not identify). Poulantzas did not (or could not) take account of the lectures at the Collège de France (1976-79) in which Foucault turned his attention to governmentality. which were published three and two years respectively before l’État.. EPS: 82). DE2: 652-655) . that Foucault ignored the state's real foundations in capitalist relations of production and the class struggle. Foucault would probably have responded that his earlier work had been mainly concerned with the disciplinary normalization of the conduct of persons who were not directly involved in capitalist production (e. 1978b [F/E: 217-219]. in Poulantzas's own account of the capitalist type of state (SPS: 75. But it should facilitate the subsequent argument. asylums. le Pouvoir. according to Poulantzas. This approach abandons Poulantzas's own fragmented order of presentation and also neglects Foucault's positive contributions.g. le Socialisme (1978). Poulantzas criticized Foucault for relating the form of the modern state to its role in individualizing the social and political body over which it exercised power. It would be very risky. First.above-noted convergences between their positions. 1977b [P/K: 161]. however. This meant. of course. barracks). These foundations provided the key element. we should note that Poulantzas criticized the analytics of power developed in Surveiller et Punir and Volonté de Savoir.9 and that the rise of the modern state was certainly bound up with the problem of ‘population’ in its relation to territory and wealth as reflected in the new science of ‘political economy’ (cf. if only for reasons of timing.8 It is enough to note that these self-criticisms and corrections occurred and led to greater convergence between their respective positions than either thinker might have suspected.

EPS: 49. He criticized Foucault for arguing that power has no bases beyond the power relation itself and therefore consists purely in the modalities of its exercise. And he argued that types of power vary according to how these different aspects are articulated. 1977b: [P/K: 164]. on goal-directedness (e. the workshop or hospital).. kinship.g. it does not hold for his later comments. deducing power from power’.. He likewise argued that relations of power are interwoven with other kinds of relations (production. and in the state system itself. Thus Foucault distinguished four different models of power: an emphasis on power and obedience (e. according to Poulantzas. 108-111). different rationalizations (1982: [Power: Essential Writings: 337. This means. sexuality) for which they play at once a conditioning and a conditioned role (Pouvoirs et Stratégies. or saturation by all . criticizing ‘some French "Marxists" [who] maintain that power for me is "endogenous" and that I would like to construct a real and true ontological circle. the monastery. DE2: 1053. he argues that power always operates on pre-existing differentiations and can involve different media and mechanisms. PPCS-I: 97. Whilst this critique might well apply to Foucault’s early analytics of power in Surveiller et Punir. Poulantzas identified important differences on the question of power. For he argued. different forms of institutionalization. that class power is determined in the first instance by the contrasting positions occupied by different classes in the social division of labour. penitentiary). different objectives. in the place of different classes in the various power apparatuses and mechanisms outside the state. apprenticeship).. Foucault claims that he ‘always tried to do just the opposite' (1978a: 185. Thus. 105-7.g. 161-162. that his work on technologies of power was not reducible to a metaphysics of Power with a capital P. first. 147.Second. He also criticized Foucault and his followers for emphasizing the dispersion of powers at the expense of their codification and condensation in and through the state.g. family. cf. PPSC: 95. He insisted that class domination is not inherent in the power relation as such but has precise bases in economic exploitation. DE2 206). 344-5]. It is further determined by their different forms of organization and their respective strategies in the different fields of class struggle (SPS: 44. on communication (e. More specifically. 1977/2001: 425). DE2: 630).

Second. that is to say. military discipline) (1982 [Power: Essential Writings: 338-339]. for all its omnipotence. Poulantzas argued that Foucault's analyses privilege 'power' over resistance. the limits to power are inherent in its very mechanisms. In contrast. elaborated. Again. At best he understood it as the product of a natural. DE2 150-1). DE2: 150-1). ‘power relations have been progressively governmentalized. resistances are reduced to secondary reactions to power. DE2 1059-1060). DE2 1486-88).g. therefore. Power is essentialized and absolute. and claiming that the state can only operate on the basis of other. . explain resistance. Foucault allegedly committed two complementary errors in analyzing power. Foucault also conceded that the State invests and colonizes these other power relations in a conditioning-conditioned relationship to generate a kind of ‘meta-power’ that renders its own functioning possible (1977a: [P/K: 122-3]. Foucault could not. He also argued that Revolution involves the subversive codification of a whole number of power relations same relations (1977a: [P/K: 122-3]. Indeed. DE2: 1053-4. For these mechanisms always incorporate and condense the struggles of the dominated classes without being able to fully integrate and absorb them. EPS: 163-165). for Poulantzas.. insisting that the state. primordial plebeian spirit of resistance that seeks to escape from all power relations but is always re-absorbed as soon as the 'plebs' adopts a specific power strategy.three objectives (e. and centralized in the form of. whilst still arguing for the dispersion of powers. on state power. state institutions’ (1982: [Power: Essential Writings: 345]. Foucault might have responded that he had moved away from a reliance on plebeian instincts to explain resistance because his work on assujettissement and technologies of the self had shown how independent bases might develop from which to resist the exercise of power (0000). rationalized. already existing power relations. Third. or under the auspices of. does not occupy the whole field of power relations. Poulantzas insisted that the class struggle always has primacy over the institutions and apparatuses of power (SPS: 149-52. Indeed. This explains why Barret-Kriegel could later note that 'Foucault's thought opened the way to a return to the study of the State and the law' (1992: 192). cf. 1973 [Power: Essential Writings: 83]. Fourth.

the Ordo-liberals. and law more generally in backing up these techniques. prohibitive side of law. he stressed only the positive. Fifth. Foucault ignored the positive roles of constitutional and administrative law in codifying and regulating the exercise of organized public violence and of law more generally in providing a framework for pursuing interests in a peaceful. In particular. Likewise.For. This meant in turn that he ignored the continued importance of violence. For Poulantzas himself these merely complemented and . productive side of disciplinary (state) power. law and the state both organize repression and police measures and both are actively involved in defining social relations and winning mass support. When we consider Foucault’s later analyses of liberalism. He also understated the continued importance of overt violence in the state's activities and therefore exaggerated the break between the feudal and modern states (SPS: 77-78. In contrast. consensual manner. legal-police networks. argued Poulantzas. Poulantzas’s criticisms were well directed at Foucault’s earlier analytics of power but did not (or could not) take account of Foucault’s later rejection of such positions. and selfregulation. it becomes clear that he. constitutional law. too. Poulantzas argued that the significance of the link between power and knowledge should not be overstressed. Foucault ignored the indirect role played by coercion in sustaining the web of disciplinary and ideological mechanisms. EPS 8487). police measures. and the Chicago School. in arguing that disciplinary normalization operated through internalized repression. for example. These errors led Foucault to exaggerate both the general significance of disciplinary techniques in the modern state and their particular role as a productive and positive force in securing compliance. is aware of the complex articulation and mutual implications of direct repression. while he stressed only the repressive. Thus Foucault went on to concede that he had overemphasized disciplinary power in adopting the Nietzschean repressive hypothesis and so began to focus on the ‘art of government’ (the conduct of conduct) as a means of securing the active complicity of the subjects of power in their own self-regulation. Once again.

EPS: 74-5). pace Poulantzas. it was an ideal-typical construction that was never implemented (references to follow). Seventh. we should note that Foucault was a spatially sensitive theorist (see especially Elden 1999) and was also interested in the temporal dimensions of the art of government. EPS: 72). and that.reinforced the primary and spontaneous forms of ideology secreted into the state system and/or into political practices from the capitalist relations of production and the social division of labour (SPS: 66. he cites SP on the panopticon’s role in functioning on behalf of power (SPS: 67-68. Poulantzas claimed that Foucault neglected the spatio-temporal matrix of the state (SPS: 69. Poulantzas criticized Foucault's approach to political strategy. was subsequently mobilized in the service of industrial capitalism (see below). In this context. worse still. whatever the historical status of Bentham’s design. whatever its complex genealogy. or diagram of power that could be found in many different institutional sites. technology. this is one area where Foucault could not move towards Poulantzas’s theoretical positions. Foucault had once insisted that micro-revolts could only succeed if their supporters refused to be incorporated into the state and instead concentrated on subverting it from the outside. Sixth. that came to characterize the nineteenth century disciplinary society. EPS: 75-77). he gave much greater weight to the general role of the mental-manual division of labour than did Foucault (SPS: 5962. however. Foucault certainly did describe the genealogy of ‘panopticism’ as a distinctive technique. On the contrary. EPS: 59-68). Finally. In particular. But Poulantzas might well have responded that. in his rather disingenuous insistence in a couple of interviews that he had never described Bentham’s Panopticon as a practical model for the exercise of power. Foucault addresses such claims (not necessarily as leveled by Poulantzas). Poulantzas argues that Foucault’s analyses are ultimately descriptive and. . This claim can be readily conceded because the state was never central to Foucault’s analyses but. functionalist. Given his views on the science/ideology distinction and his preference for the analysis of truth regimes.

These are all the more interesting and significant precisely because Poulantzas was so critical of much of Foucault's work on the analytics of power. rank-and-file democracy and introduce self-management networks and this would facilitate a democratic transition to democratic socialism (SPS: 153. their inability to provide a satisfactory account of the relation between what they themselves treat as the 'micro-' and 'macro-levels' of power. Provided that these strategies are designed to maintain the autonomy of the masses they will never be fully integrated. Parallels can are found in the following areas: their insistence on the ubiquity of power and the state. Some Hidden Parallels I now turn to the hidden parallels between the work of Poulantzas and Foucault. He also claimed that an abstentionist strategy might simply clear the path to an enhanced statism. EPS: 168-169). But Poulantzas added that the masses should also pursue struggles at a distance from the state. For whether or not the dominated classes are integrated into these mechanisms depends on the specific strategies they pursue and does not follow simply from the fact that they have adopted a strategy of involvement. finally. He claimed that it is impossible to locate oneself outside (state) power because popular struggles necessarily have an effect on the state (and other power mechanisms) even when the masses are physically excluded from (political) participation. They should develop direct. Poulantzas's preferred strategy involved participation inside the mechanisms of power to intensify their internal contradictions and conflicts. their insistence on the immanence of power within social relations and of the state inside the mode of production. and.Indeed new social movements should also resist any coordination by overarching political organizations (such as political parties) since this could lead to their reabsorption into the state system. their approach to diachronic relations in terms of a primitive source of resistance in plebeian qualities or 'class instincts'. . For Poulantzas it was essential to combine new social movements and struggles for direct democracy with radical changes in the representative institutions of the state system. This need not result in complete absorption and loss of autonomy.

49. a specific technology of power. language. cf. 48). pre-political existence: all social phenomena always occur in relation to the state and class division' (SPS: 39. 35-9. mais un reel social toujours en relation avec l’État et avec la division en classes’. He considered . 44. In short. For Poulantzas. Diagram and Mode of Production Foucault and Poulantzas emphasized the hidden unity of social relations achieved through the dominance of a given form of power. 43) (‘on ne peut penser. 'once the state is admitted. This refers to a distinctive formula for power. a definite mode of political domination (or sur-pouvoir). that one is never "outside" it. we cannot imagine any social phenomenon (any knowledge. 41-42. corrected translation. Ubiquity of Power and/or the State Foucault held that power is immanent in all social relations. 2. un reel social quelconque (un savoir. but are immanent in the latter' (HS1: 94). the structural matrix of the dominant mode of production pervaded all social relations and it was the state's special responsibility to invest the different sites of power and assign them appropriate class pertinence. une fois l’État posé. 25-7. 28-30. 160-162. EPS: 18. that there are no "margins" for those who break with the system to gambol in' (PK: 141). power. sexual relations). He insisted that 'relations of power are not in a position of exteriority with respect to other types of relationships (economic processes. knowledge relationships. cf. or writing) having a primitive.1. Elsewhere he argued 'that power is "always already there". une langue. he claimed that. Thus Foucault contrasted the monarchical formula of medieval society with the 'panopticism' of the disciplinary society. 184). More significantly still. 167) (‘une figure topologique d’extériorité’. 37. EPS: 44. Poulantzas also argued that all social relation are relations of power and firmly rejected a 'topological image of exteriority' in examining the relation between the state and other fields (SPS: 17. Foucault deployed the concept of the 'diagram'. 146-8. once given classdivided societies. the state is inscribed in all social relations. In contrast. 39-44. une écriture) figurant un état premier par rapport à l’État. un pouvoir.

The panoptic diagram thereby became 'the general principle of a 'new political anatomy' whose object and end are not the relations of sovereignty but the relations of discipline' (DP: 208. schools. but rather a technique. 215-6. This is reflected in how the two theorists understood struggles. disciplinary penitentiary (the Panopticon) as 'the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form . to any social space. . Foucault tends to reduce capitalist relations (e. workshops. or class. This poses a problem for Foucault similar to that in Poulantzas's claim about the all-pervading nature of production relations. Thus.. whereas Poulantzas risked reducing every social relation to a class relation through its subsumption under a dominant mode of production. Thus.. while Poulantzas tends to treat all social relations as capitalist relations. DE2 1051-1057) (on this latter tendency. Thus. he also argued that they typically involve the same forces. Likewise Poulantzas tended to argue that struggles are ultimately class struggles because they are rooted in the social division of labour and seek to transform it (SPS: passim. In this sense. or elite. In this sense the ‘prison form’ can also be found in hospitals. cf. indeed. 223). And he argued that the panoptic scheme spread throughout the social body. means. barracks. a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use' (DP: 205). Foucault risked denying the specificity of different social relations by emphasizing their use of the same technique of power. EPS: passim).. Foucault argued that 'the main objective of these struggles is to attack not so much "such or such" an institution of power. if capitalist relations of production were Poulantzas’s principal point of reference. a form of power' (1982 [Power: Essential Writings: 331]: DE2 1046). although Foucault emphasized the multiplicity of dispersed micro-power relations.g. see: Deleuze 1975). 1975: 1240-6). and. or techniques of power. the main reference point in Foucault’s analyses was the technology of power (on Foucault's concept of diagram. see Ewald. in the labour process) to disciplinary relations (1982 [Power: Essential Writings: 337-342].Bentham's design for a modern. or group.

But. an inverse energy. EPS: 166). 44-5. Poulantzas scorned resort to a spirit of refusal that was treated as an essence. 49-50. a discharge . more generally. 36. 19-20. EPS: 30. when Poulantzas tried to explain the origins of such class resistance. 276) ‘sous les effets mêmes de l’idéologie bourgeoise dans la classe ouvrière pointe toujours ce que Lénine désignait comme “instinct de classe”’ (CSC: 308. classes (SPS: 27. and. Poulantzas claimed that subordinate classes can be contaminated by the dominant ideology and adopt positions inconsistent with their own class interests. cf. André Glucksmann (1975. who had already demoted the role of the proletariat and Marxist intellectuals in favour of the revolutionary potential of the plebs. and individuals themselves which in some sense escapes relations of power . there still always breaks through in the working class what Lenin referred to as "class instinct"' (CCC: 288. DE2: 421). and as external to any specific power relation (SPS: 150.. his answer was no more satisfactory than Foucault's. Lemert and Gillan 1982: 89. 91). as absolute. This remark shows a clear debt to the nouveau philosophe. 42. 40. 36. In attempting to explain resistance Foucault was forced back to 'something in the social body. in their specificity. 174. 294).. He preferred to ground class resistance in the contradiction or antagonism between the exploiting and exploited. Yet Poulantzas argued that 'even under the effects of bourgeois ideology. 38. 1977). Foucault grounded resistance in the simple celebration of bodies and pleasures in the plural. 192-3). 31. Plebeian Spirits and Class Instincts Another parallel occurs in these theorists' accounts of power and resistance. in Volonté de Savoir.. 16-17. Later. a plebeian quality or aspect' (1977e: [P/K: 138]. For Lenin the concept of 'class instinct' was basically descriptive. in genealogies and historical knowledge to provide a link between power and subjugated knowledge (cf.3. oppressing and oppressed. Thus even the working class risked being permanently absorbed into the web of bourgeois domination. 148. in classes. 162-3.. Poulantzas tried to provide a stronger basis for class instincts in what he described as the constant resurgence in working class practices of a structurallydetermined opposition to its exploitation in the factory and material production (CCC: . cf. groups.

and the cult of violence). Foucault's starting point was the multitude of dispersed micro-powers and technologies of power. this "class instinct". This suggests that it is wrong to posit an essential and absolute 'class instinct' of resistance external to any specific class relation. 308). In short. foundered under the influence of the latter' (1970: 146). He cautioned against a priori judgments about their underlying unity in a massive and primal condition of domination.16. Poulantzas certainly did start out . genealogical approach. he is forced to admit the contingency. Micro-Diversity and Macro-Necessity A fourth parallel concerns the attempts to bridge the gap between diversity at the micro-level and relative unity at the macro-level of social relations. anarcho-syndicalism. Moreover. For resistance can never exist outside ideology and is thus always contingent and relative. In this context. relativity. 4. could secure their unity. cut off from Marxist-Leninist ideology and facing these particular forms of petty-bourgeois ideology (sc. Poulantzas did not even offer an 'instinctual' explanation for resistance to non-class forms of oppression. Poulantzas and Foucault adopted the same basic distinction – treating the micro-level in terms of specific institutional sites of power and equating the macro-level with individual societies whose boundaries coincide with those of a nation-state. CSC: 19. and he was particularly critical of the view that a central instance. such as the state. 'in the context of the rise of fascism. regarding new social movements and non-class struggles. insofar as Poulantzas seeks to move beyond a notion of 'class instinct'. Poulantzas seems to concede this when he writes that. This would force him to provide historical accounts of specific class struggles and thereby adopt a more Foucauldian. But this appears to resurrect the discredited economistic and teleological claim that a 'class-in-itself' will eventually emerge and/or to assume a philosophical anthropology in which men naturally react against exploitation and oppression. spontaneism. Such arguments are little different from Foucault's views on plebeian spirits. Elsewhere Poulantzas emphasized the role of ideology in determining even the 'spontaneous' revolt of the dominant classes. and variability of class struggle. 288.

traversed by tactics which are often highly explicit at the restricted level of their inscription in the state: they intersect and conflict with one another.. He added that 'it is especially in discussing the theses of Michel Foucault that I have been led to “coquette” my language and this is particularly true when it comes to the analysis of the techniques of power' (Poulantzas 1978b). 148-9. networks. 135-6. finding their targets in some apparatuses or being short-circuited by . The contrast here is doubly deceptive. Poulantzas continually drew attention to the prodigious incoherence and chaotic character of state policies (SPS: 132. This appears to confirm Foucault's claim that power should be studied in terms of the 'microphysics of power' rather than some overall principle of class domination and undermines the assumption that the state embodies a binary structure of class power. he always stressed their links to class struggle. although he recognized that non-class relations could be secondary sites of power and resistance. he explained that 'I am approaching some new problems and am thus at a stage of exploration'. in describing how class contradictions are reproduced in the state apparatus and depicting its various mechanisms of structural selectivity. EPS: 49). and apparatuses that pursue a multiplicity of diversified micro-policies. Indeed. on the one hand. 84. The state has a crucial role here because it invests all other areas of society with ‘class pertinence’ and is the central site for the exercise of power in regard to class and non-class struggles alike. Moreover. For other domains of power could be only substantially modified when the state had been transformed (SPS: 44. EPS: 144. cf.from a massive and primal condition of domination – the social division of labour and class struggle. Nonetheless Poulantzas still tried to explain how micro-diversity culminates in the macro-necessity of bourgeois domination. CD: 51-53. For. Indeed Poulantzas once confessed that he had turned to Foucault in EPS in an attempt to break with the dogmatic Marxism found in Althusserian structuralism. Poulantzas came to see the state as an ensemble of distinct circuits of power.. 254-255. 229. He treated the state as 'a strategic field and process of intersecting power networks . Agreeing that he had adopted a new language. 86-87). CD: 49-50. 1970: 329-30.

cf. EPS: 149). that dispersed. and this domination is organized into a more-or-less coherent and unitary strategic form. he increasingly focused on their investment and annexation by ever more general mechanisms and integrated into global forms of domination (1976b [P/K: 99]. Indeed. trouvent des points d’impact dans certains appareils. se combattent. 2003). the state's policy. all this being accompanied by numerous phenomena of inertia.others. he recognized that the interconnections among the different forms of power delineate general conditions of domination. se font court-circuiter par d’autres et dessinent finalement ce qu’on appelle “la politique” de l’État. In this sense. 1991. and resistance. This general line of force does not emerge automatically from the institutional logic of the state system. hence one should not assume a massive and primal condition of domination. tactiques qui s’encroisement. 148-150). the general line of force is a complex resultant of interaction between the state's institutional structure and the clash of specific strategies and tactics. Indeed. which traverses confrontations within the state' (SPS: 136) (‘un champ et un processus stratégiques. On the other hand. even though the state might openly discuss the strategies and tactics required to reproduce political class domination. EPS: 36. 136. DE2 180-1. a binary structure with 'dominators' on one side and 'dominated' on the other. ligne de force générale qui traverse les affrontements au sein de l’État’. displacement. and eventually map out that general line of force. 99-100. the best strategy often emerges only ex post through the collision of mutually opposed tactics (SPS: 32-33. but rather a multiform . heteromorphous. EPS: 36. où s’entrecroisent des noeuds et des réseaux de pouvoir … Ce champ stratégique est traversé de tactiques souvent fort explicites au niveau limité où elles s’inscrivent dans l’État. HS1: 94. 135-7. localized procedures of power are adapted. reinforced and transformed by these global strategies. Nor is it due to the successful application of a coherent global project formulated at the apex of the state and known in advance (SPS: 33. PTS: 39. 149). while Foucault certainly suggested beginning with the specificities of different mechanisms of power at the lowest levels.

hétéromorphes et locales de pouvoir sont réajustées. the disciplinary society. HS1: 94). que les procedures disperses. PTS: 39. de resistances.. qu’il ne faut donc pas se donner un fait premier et massif de domination (une structure binaire avec d’un côté les “dominants” et de l’autre les “dominées”).g. . 1977a [P/K: 122]. and so forth (e. 94. and liberal governmentality (Foucault 1991.. HS1: 92. transformées par ces strategies globales et tout cela avec des phénomenènes nombreux d’inertie. 'hegemony of the bourgeoisie'. 'global strategy'. This becomes even more evident in his work on the periodization of different forms of statecraft. 1977a [P/K: 122]. HS1: 92-3. dessine des faits généraux de domination. in developing his political anatomy of power. Foucault allowed for a relatively unified pattern of domination across dispersed micro-powers that is secured through ‘the strategic aims of the state apparatus’ (Sheridan 1980: 219. cf. Foucault referred to the 'general line of force that traverses local confrontations' and links them together (HS1: 94. mais plutôt une production multiforme de rapports de domination qui sont partiellement intégrables a des strategies d’ensemble (DE2 245). 1977b [P/K: 156]. 1977f [P/K: 188]. meta-power. DE2 232.g. He also gave a privileged role to the state as the point of strategic codification of the multitude of power relations and the apparatus in which hegemony. DP: 223. DE2 303). Two Lectures [PK: 101] DE2 182-184. 141. renforcées. 'hegemonic effects'. distinguishing between pastoral care. paraphrased in SPS: 136. 1977c [P/K: 199-200]. cf. DE2 199. Moreover. 'sur-pouvoir' (or a 'surplus power' analogous to surplus value). DE2 303). and PTS: 60). de décalages. in describing this general line.production of relations of domination which are partially susceptible of integration into overall strategies (1977e: [P/K: 142]. And. EPS: 149). In short. DE2 425. class domination. 'meta-power'. 'class domination'. DE2 151. 2003). que cette domination s’organise en stratégie plus ou moins cohérente et unitaire. or 'sur-pouvoir' are crystallized (e. Foucault invoked concepts such as 'social hegemonies'. Foucault 1977c [P/K: 199-200]. in addressing this emergent pattern of domination. DE2 151.

It should be added that it is not when Foucault most often quotes Marx that he most uses him. which is repeated several times. Thus. despite their contrasting starting points at different ends of a micro-macro . This movement is also seen in Foucault's changing views on micro-revolts and political struggle. the second a partial usage of Marxist tenets or affirmations compatible with Marxism. Thus we find him moving closer to positions advanced by Poulantzas in EPS and this means that Poulantzas's critique of Foucault therein was misdirected or. given Foucault’s continuing theoretical development. premature. Thus. the opposition to Marxist "theory" grows deeper and deeper whilst the convergence of the analyses and concepts taken from Marx becomes more and more significant. he later conceded the need for resistances to be readjusted. in which a movement is made from a break to a tactical alliance. and transformed by global strategies of transformation. PK: 159. nor is it when he has been reading Marx most clearly that Foucault puts forward the most radical critiques of him' (Balibar 1992: 53).The paradox of outspoken opposition to vulgar Marxism and implicit adoption of Marxian (and. Foucault noted that resistances needed co-ordination in the same way that the dominant class organized its strategies to secure its own 'sur-pouvoir' (or political preponderance) in diverse power relations (HS1: 96. For. reinforced. One might even suggest that the latter become at the same time more and more limited and more and more specifically Marxist. at least. 203. Poulantzasian) positions is similar to the contrast between Poulantzas’s rejection of Foucault as an epistemologist and general theorist and his tactical adoption of ideas from Foucault as an analyst of power. PTS: 60). the first involving a global critique of Marxism as a "theory". whilst he did celebrate the infinite dispersion of scattered resistances and micro-revolts. by implication. This is why Balibar can advance the following general ‘hypothesis’ on the Marx-Foucault relation: this strategic complexity follows a general format. in contradictory fashion.

But their approach to articulation remains highly relevant to the concerns of Poulantzas and Foucault. group. 149). 1982: 191-202. EPS: 36. Foucault HS1: 94-5. and superposed so as to produce permanent and solid effects which can perfectly well be understood in terms of their rationality. composed. the aims decipherable. the state's policy is still decipherable as a strategic calculation – but this is not the result of the rational formulation of a coherent global project but stems from the conflictual coordination of explicit and diversified micro-policies and tactics (SPS: 33. regulating behaviours (1980: 9). 136. Or. rearranging spaces. 136. for Poulantzas. 149). EPS: 35-36. Things never work out as planned because 'there are different strategies which are mutually opposed. For they treat the general field of the interdiscursive as a complex series of . which are often highly explicit at the limited level of their inscription in local sites of power (HS1: 94. see Jessop.continuum that they nonetheless conceived in more or less identical terms. Likewise. as Foucault expressed it in another place: 'the logic is perfectly clear. Foucault refers here to explicit programmes for reorganizing institutions. But it is non-subjective because the overall outcome of the clash of micro-powers cannot be understood as resulting from the choice or decision of an individual. This process is both intentional and nonsubjective. and few can be said to have formulated them' (HS1: 95). and 1990: 288-302). In using some of their ideas below I do not mean to endorse all of their theoretical and political arguments (for critiques. cf. Poulantzas's paraphrase in SPS: 136. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. and yet it is often the case that no one is there to have invented them. Beyond Poulantzas and Foucault A useful starting point for moving beyond Poulantzas and Foucault is the work of the self-professed post-Marxist theorists. even though they don't conform to the initial programming. EPS: 149). Poulantzas and Foucault seem to have agreed that the overall unity of a system of domination must be explained in terms of a strategic codification of power relations. Poulantzas SPS: 32-3. or class subject (cf. this is what gives the resulting apparatus (dispositif) its solidity and suppleness' (Foucault 1980: 10). It is intentional because no power is exercised without a series of aims and objectives.

Thus he oscillated between (a) a sociological amorphy in which resistance was grounded in a philosophical anthropology of 'plebeian instincts' or. This implies that there are a variety of possible macro-social orders (each with its own . The same distinction also suggests a way forward.'elements' available for integration into specific discourses. the celebration of bodies and pleasures and (b) a crude class reductionism in which stable societal structures derive from the global strategies of the bourgeoisie and/or from the imperatives of capital accumulation (see particularly DP and PK: 156). In short. in focusing on the fixed class 'moments' Poulantzas could only ground power structures. Foucault could find no solid base for power structures. Poulantzas began from the fixity of the 'moments' of a class-based division of labour. Thus. In focusing on fluid 'elements'. later. interests. whereas Foucault started from the fluidity of the 'elements' in a polyvalent and unstable series of micro-relations of forces. The solution to the problem of micro-diversity and macro-necessity sought by Foucault and Poulantzas can be found in the non-necessary correspondence among different elements that have been integrated into global projects and thereby transformed into relatively stable moments of a macro-social order. or resistance. he could only do so by elaborating the concepts of class analysis in ever-greater profusion and introducing ever more incoherence into the mechanisms of political class domination. But they also argue that no discourse can totally fix the meaning of these moments (there is always polyvalence and a surplus of meaning) and that no element is totally without some points of articulation with discourses (1985). For it enables us to question both the necessity of a given macro-social order and the apparent contingency of the microrelations on which it is constructed. interests. and resistance in the relations of production. although he tried to integrate greater complexity into his analysis. Conversely. The latter fix the meaning of these elements in relation to an overall discursive system and thereby transform them into relatively fixed 'moments' in that discourse. the distinction between 'elements' and 'moments' enables us to identify why Foucault and Poulantzas tended to return to their respective starting points. In these terms.

Foucault had already observed how relations of force constitute their own organization by forming relatively fixed chains and systems (HS1: 92-3). the balance of forces. Not all such attempts at disarticulation and rearticulation will succeed. in dealing with difference. Specific practices must exploit the polyvalent potential of individual relations – to deconstruct some chains of meaning and power and construct others. and (e) degrees of rationalization of the strategies (1982: 223-4).surplus of meaning and range of relatively unincorporated elements) rather than one uniquely necessary macro-social order (that links all the elements in a society as stable moments of an integrated society). The first item is particularly significant. Thus Poulantzas's account of state power as a social relation examined the state form as a strategic terrain and the role of strategies themselves in transforming the balance of forces. which restrict their fluidity and lability. although individual relations or institutions can be considered in isolation as polyvalent elements without any fixity. and strategies of domination can be deployed as part of the analytic of power in order to understand the nature and limits of political projects. it points to the discursive construction of difference (the transformation of elements into moments) as the basis of a stable exercise of power. Indeed Foucault noted two ways in which diverse micro-elements can be linked into an overall project: . At the same time Foucault's reference to means and institutional sites helps him avoid reducing power relations to a set of mere decisions or acts of will. It also implies that the diversity of micro-social relations has its limits. (c) means of bringing power relations into being. Foucault and Poulantzas seem to have been moving in this direction in their final work. In Volonté de Savoir. they are typically integrated into longer chains and systems of elements. Later he noted that an analysis of power relations must establish four key points: (a) a system of differentiations that permits a given agent to act on the actions of others. For. (d) institutional sites. For. (b) objectives held by those who so act. This is where notions such as the strategic selectivity of specific institutional ensembles.

the disposition and relation of objects in space-time) are invested with a particular functionality relative to a dynamic and variable set of objectives. Processus de surdétermination fonctionelle.enters into resonance or contradiction with the others and thereby calls for a readjustment or a re-working of the heterogeneous elements that surface at various points.positive or negative. there is a perpetual process of strategic elaboration.. Processus de perpetual remplissement stratégique. however. This comment brings out clearly the interaction between strategic discourses and strategic terrains and their implications for the relative fluidity or fixity of the elements in the play of power and strategy. voulu ou non voulu.On the one hand. et appelle à une reprise. there is a process of functional overdetermination. à un réajustement. d’autre part. . resources. d’une part. Strategy is the exploitation of possibilities which it itself discerns and creates' (Gordon 1991: 39). puisque chaque effect. the features of a terrain. positif et négatif. 196]). because each effect -. On the other hand. intentional or unintentional -.. vient entre en resonance. Global strategies have no abstract unifying function . DE2 299. This is what I call the strategic completion (remplissement) of the apparatus (1977c: [P/K: 195. avec les autres. … Voilà ce que j’appelle le remplissement stratégique du dispositif’ (1977c. ou en contradiction. 300). In adopting such an approach. one should note that global projects are only tendential attempts at totalization. des elements hétérogènes qui surgiessent ça et là. Gordon provides a useful insight on Foucault’s definition of strategy: ‘the minimum force of rationality pertaining to the exercise of power in general which consists in the mobile set of operations whereby a multiplicity of heterogeneous elements (forces.

if you like) and to constitute potential sites of structural recalcitrance and/or social resistance to the global strategy. can one assume that there is a privileged global site of strategic calculation? An alternative approach would adopt a strictly relational approach to global strategies (cf. can one really posit a global strategy. Wickham 1983). and particular policies.but must always be related to specific technologies of power. Each implied that societies could be considered as a global site (the 'macro-level') and should be analyzed 'as if' there were a global strategy. This means that there is no macro-necessity in social relations and no reason to privilege societies as the essential site of macro-social order. DE2 1056). It assumes a macro-site of social relations that is located at the level of societies and then treats this as the focus of a global strategy. In turn societies must be understood as products of a dispersed plurality of practices with no necessary centre or unifying principle. it attempts to structure the possible field and scope of action on the smaller sites (Foucault 1982 [Power: Essential Writings: 341]. In this sense neither Poulantzas nor Foucault went far enough. sites of strategic intervention. All we have are attempts to constitute contingently necessary global systems on different sites and in relation to different sets of smaller power relations. In Foucauldian terms. a global strategy attempts to subtend and articulate a number of smaller sites of power relations within its orbit. and. These smaller sites nonetheless continue to have an independent existence (to enjoy their own relative autonomy. This involves two basic problems. But. In this context the notion of global must be understood relatively. a strategy is global only in relation to its own smaller sites. A global strategy may itself constitute a 'smaller' site for an even more ambitious strategy (Wickham 1983). if there are doubts whether societies really exist and are endowed with a distinctive unity. that is. They both argued that social order at this level could be understood as a process of strategic calculation without a calculating subject. Alternative global strategies will condense and transform different sets of conflicts and contradictions in and through a state system . without a global calculating subject. From this perspective. Different global strategies will seek to articulate different smaller sites so that the global sites on which these strategies operate will also differ.

Crucial to understanding these mechanisms is the distinction between the general field of the discursive and the specific fields constituted by particular discourses. see Philp 1983). Resistance is rooted in the first instance in the availability of alternative meanings in the elements and in agents' attachment to meanings that are contrary to those which are being imposed through particular meaning systems. They are secondary because interests are always relative. class interests. Barry 1965). In turn this means that we must think of a plurality of possible global strategies even within the framework of one nation-state – whose precise nature. conjunctural. Such an approach also offers a better understanding of resistance. their identities and interests (for an analogous attempt to rescue Foucault's approach to resistance. whether in plebeian or class instincts: resistance is always a contingent effect of contrary or contradictory attempts at specifying subjects.. cohesive capacities. Finally. relational.whose precise nature will vary with the problems it confronts. and dynamics will differ according to which global strategy (if any) becomes dominant.g. This is reflected in the distinction between floating elements in the self-identities of persons and groups (as empirical referents) and the attempts to fix these elements into a particular system of differences. in developing this approach we can also provide an account of interests. They are relational because the opportunity to advance or defend one’s interests depends on the relations of force that obtain in a given context. Instead interests should be introduced as secondary effects of resistance-engendering differences. This implies that they are related to specific spatio-temporal horizons of action . There is no primal source of resistance. and strategic. social boundaries. They are relative because a given situation is only ever more or less in one's interests than some specified alternative(s) (cf. gender antagonisms grounded in patriarchal domination) with all the problems this poses for explaining the movement from latent to manifest conflicts of interest. They are conjunctural because different conjunctures will entail different sets of alternatives among which to assess interests. One must reject attempts to root interests in a material substratum of relations (e. For it is in the fixing of differences and the articulation of different subject positions that the antagonisms that produce resistance originate.

if there is an irreducible divergence between Foucault and Marx. and more pointedly. First. . Second. however. he describes the mechanisms of power. he describes the imperative of the social structure that facilitates and constrains social action. DE2 1051-2). adopting a critical realist reading of Foucault has suggested that: 'Marx explains "why".g. that the struggle for hegemony (and a key role for the state in this regard) articulating non-contradictory social relations with the changing imperatives of capital accumulation. but he does not explain "why". on the distinction between why and how [comment et pourquoi].and long-term interests or between individual and national interests). that is. see also Foucault 1982: [P/K: 336-7]. it does not lie in the contrast between the microphysics and macrophysics of power (local and global) but in the opposition between the Marxian logic of contradiction (in which the power relation is only a strategic moment) and Foucault’s logical structure of power relations (in which contradiction is but one possible configuration) (1992: 52). and so on. in the contrast between short. if one accepts. This would be a powerful criticism if one could readily subsume the dynamics of social order entirely under the logic of capital accumulation and its contradictions. Foucault explains "how". but he does not explain "how". the motive or purpose of disciplinary power' (Marsden 1999: 149.. It is less persuasive. Thus a thoroughgoing strategic-relational approach involves a basic reformulation of the key concepts involved in power analysis. alliances. tactics. And they are strategic because different conceptions of strategy imply different conceptions of interests. with Poulantzas. This focus on macro-micro issues could be seen as marginal in various ways. But this can easily be rephrased in micro-macro terms.(e. This introduces a degree of contingency into the ensemble of social relations and leaves it open whether the contradictory logic of capital accumulation is always the principal aspect of all social formations or whether there are alternatives principles of societalization. Étienne Balibar has commented that. Richard Marsden. For Foucault’s answer to the ‘how’ question provides some of the micro-foundations necessary to sustain Marx’s answer to the ‘why’ question of the macro-dynamic of capital accumulation. This is a question for which both Poulantzas and Foucault provide us with fruitful but partial conceptual toolkits. that is.

Conclusions There are major differences between the work of Foucault and Poulantzas that persisted over their intellectually productive years. as Poulantzas’s theoretical interests shifted from the attempt to develop an autonomous Marxist science of politics towards the state as the institutional condensation of a changing balance of social forces. even when interested in other topics. focused on the genealogy of the state in emergent capitalist societies. related them closely to the nature of the state as a social relation. Nonetheless. This influence involves more than a simple flirtation with Foucault's language. and generally prioritized other topics over the analysis of the state. capitalist type of state rather than the modern state more generally. Foucault rejected Marxism as a grand theory that claimed an exclusive scientific status but occasionally flirted with Marxist notions. we can identify a growing convergence in his work towards ideas and arguments that can be found in Poulantzas. and. In contrast. practices. as Foucault’s theoretical interests shifted from the micro-physics of the disciplinary society and its anatomo-politics to the more general strategic codification of a plurality of discourses. reflected deeply on the arbitrariness of claims to theoretical truth but changed his approach to this problem over the years. Conversely. experienced a succession of theoretical ruptures in his theoretical object and methodological assumptions. For he and Foucault came to share crucial . reflected deeply on the problems of Marxist theory. Poulantzas was a committed Marxist theorist. Poulantzas was more strongly influenced by Foucault than is recognized in accounts of his work that read him as a structural Marxist. was especially concerned to develop a theory of the capitalist state and state power. he became increasingly interest in the relevance of Foucault’s work on power and strategy to his own state-theoretical project. was more interested in this type of state after it had been consolidated than its genealogy. technologies of power. focused on a distinctive. and institutional ensembles around a specific governmental rationality concerned with the social body (bio-power) in a consolidated capitalist society.

It is essential to question the necessary fixity of the macro-level and the apparent fluidity of the micro-level. This broadens the space within which the sort of analyses of power and strategy favoured by Poulantzas and Foucault can be applied. they highlighted in their different ways the strategic nature of power relations and the important role that the articulation of different sites. Only by reformulating the poles of the continuum along which they moved can one eliminate their inconsistencies. each thinker oscillated in his arguments. and always unstable way. modalities. (1995) Sur la réproduction. This rules out any general theory of power in favour of specific historical accounts of the contingently necessary construction of particular patterns of social order and disorder. As means for the self-description and self-identity of societies such strategies necessarily simplify the real pattern of social relations and thereby marginalize alternative interpretations and strategies. L. while they emphasized one or other pole of the continuum respectively. Thus a surplus of meanings and practices is always available for articulation into new strategies and power relations that can exploit the polyvalence of the dominant patterns.assumptions about power and strategy and the sources of the relative unity and cohesion of social formations. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Bibliography Althusser. provisional. Such an approach to structure and strategy enables one to go beyond the limited answers of Foucault and Poulantzas. . Thus. and rationales of power plays in stabilizing (or destabilizing) individual sites. But neither analyst recognized the problems involved in starting from a micromacro continuum whose twin poles are defined as specific institutional sites and a society whose boundaries are defined by the nation-state. It undercuts Poulantzas's tendency to explain all social relations in terms of a necessary class domination and Foucault's tendency to deny the existence of macro-social order in favour of a nominalist emphasis on the diversity of the micro-social. Global strategies can then be seen as means of reducing the complexity of social relations and fixing them in a temporary. They do not invoke power as a principle of explanation external to specific social relations but as a relational phenomenon that itself needs explanation. In developing this approach.

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Marxism Today. Wickham. Somerville. (1979d) ‘Is there a crisis in Marxism?’.1979. (1980) 'Poulantzas. 107-25. Endnotes 1 An early version of this paper was published in 1987 in the long-defunct journal. (1979b) ‘La crise des partis’. (1979c) ‘Interview with Stuart Hall and Alan Hunt’. Poulantzas. pp. and the editors of Actuel Marx. N.P. Ted Benton. (1983) ‘Power and Power Analysis: beyond Foucault?’. les mouvements sociaux. le pouvoir. N. 12 (4). Paris: PUF. 00-00. May. Poulantzas. Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora. Poulantzas. J. Colin Gordon cited this in his 1996. 7-16. Useful comments were provided by Grigoris Ananiadis. Resch. 6 (3). 263. and Socialism'. London: Tavistock.Poulantzas. 468-98. 26 Juin. . Jim McGeachey. 31. 7. N. Ideas and Production (issue 6. Class and Power: Review of State. R. (1980) Repères. (1978b) ‘Les théoriciens doivent retourner sur terre’. 28. Hier et aujourd’hui. G. A. Dialectiques. le socialisme. N. Paris: Maspero. 26 September. Ideology and Consciousness. (1980) Michel Foucault: the Will to Truth. Le Monde Diplopmatique. Princeton: Princeton University Press. at p. Les nouvelles litteraires. (1979a) ‘L’Etat. N.1. Poulantzas. les partis’. Power. 59-87) and reprinted in my State Theory (1990: 220-247). 198-205. Poulantzas. (1992) Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Theory. This version reflects the appearance of further work by Foucault and my own theoretical development. Sheridan. (1978a) L’État. In a recent personal communication he confirmed the source as Lecture 4 of the 1979 Collège de France series. Poulantzas. N. N. Economy and Society. 2 3 See Foucault‘s comments on Marxism in his interviews in Dits et Écrits (1995).

extracting the maximum quantity of time but also of controlling. Marx himself. phrased differently. and he was not fond of debates with individual authors. 5 Foucault once remarked that one ‘should have a small number of authors with whom one thinks. valorizing the individual's body according to a particular system' (Power: Essential Writings. Thus both theorists tended to ignore the relationship between historical and formal constitution due to their one-sided concern with one or other process. with whom one works. 8 The three major intellectual biographies of Foucault make no mention of significant intellectual contacts with Poulantzas even though they were both employed at Vincennes and shared occasional political platforms (e. Nietzsche (before Foucault’s ‘genealogical’ turn). 4 Foucault’s early work on governmentality was more concerned with the pre-history of the capitalist type of state or. 82). the historical constitution of the modern state and its distinctive technologies of power rather than with the formal constitution of the capitalist state and its distinctive forms of political class domination. keep (see EPS: 40. Fontana and Bernati note that 'Foucault did not. he preferred problematization to polemic' (2003: 287). but about whom one does not write' (1995: 703). and Althusser in this regard.This will be published in French in September 2004 (personal communication.. French. 9 Discipline was also used to control workers' bodies: 'it was not just a matter of appropriating. 7 any record of the books he read. 6 Poulantzas seems to deny this argument and thereby exaggerates the differences On this preference. shaping. and German trajectories) and focused on the ideal-typical liberal bourgeois democratic state as the ‘normal’ form of the state (PPSC). Eribon 1989. in relation to the ‘Comité un bateau pour le Vietnam’) (cf. there is no reference at all to Poulantzas in the comprehensive index of Dits et Ecrits (1994).07. . Indeed. it appears.g. But Poulantzas is most unlikely to rank alongside Heidegger. 24. Macey 1993). 1994. Poulantzas commented only briefly on the historical constitution of the modern state (noting differences between the English. citing both Deleuze and Foucault).04).

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