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BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL The Ethical Sensibility of Michel Foucault
WILLIAM CONNOLLY E. Johns Hopkins University
To be ashamedof one's immorality-that is a step on the staircaseat whose end one is also ashamedof one's morality. -Friedrich Nietzsche
THEEVILOF GOODNESS Is Foucault, who continues to live among us, a creative carrier of a politicalrestraint generous sensibility?Or a dangerousthinkerwho threatens by scrambling fundamentalparametersof morality?He is both. He challenges established morality in pursuit of a higher ethical sensibility, but dangeris inscribedin the effortto shift the termsandbases of these doctrines. For to challenge fixed conceptionsof will, identity,responsibility,normality, and punishmentis to be cruel to people (and aspects of oneself) attachedto withinestablished establishedmoralcodes; it is to open up new uncertainties terms of judgment; and, sometimes it is to incite punitive reactions among those whose sense of moral self-assurance has been jeopardized. The with every experimentin Foucauldiansensibilitysharesthese characteristics enactedtodayin courts,families,schools, churches, morality,includingthose hospitals, armies, welfare offices, prisons,and workplaces. Foucault'sethical sensibility of "care"amidstsocial conflict and coordination operates,then, within a series of paradoxesthat threatento derail it. But, as I receive his political spirituality,the most promising route is to struggle to overcome resentmentagainst the paradoxicalcircumstancesin which we are set (for no god guaranteeslife withoutparadox;indeed, most
AUTHOR'SNOTE:I would like to express my appreciationto Jane Bennett,David Campbell, TomDumm,Dick Flathman,Bonnie Honig, and TracyStrongfor criticismsof thefirst draftof this essay.
POLITICAL THEORY,Vol. 21 No. 3, August 1993 365-389 ? 1993 Sage Publications,Inc. 365
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of the ones I have encounteredembody it), and to negotiate this slippery terrainwith intellectual care and political daring. (Or vice versa? I'm not sure.) Let me considera recentessayby JamesMillerto introduce Foucauldian the I admire.Miller seeks to protecta liberalpolitics of limits against sensibility Foucauldian assaults on the morality of good and evil. He thinks that liberalism,with its commitmentto ruleof law, rights,and individualresponsibility providesthe conditionsfor a politics of limits. Foucaultblurs these limits and threatensthose moralstabilizations.In Foucault's1971 interview withActuel,"themost freewheeling magazineof the Frenchcounter-culture," Miller finds Foucaultrunningroughshodover the limits that freedom and Millerinformsus thatthe interviewis entitled"BeyondGood orderrequire.2 the and Evil," thatFoucaultattackshumanismbecause it "restricts drive for from Foucault), and that Foucault wages "total war power," (a fragment againstsociety"(Miller'sphrase).This soundslike a refusalof self-limitation, alright-one, as Miller puts it, that Foucaultreconsideredin his later work when he moved closer to liberalism. But I find this same 1971 interview to embody an admirableethical sensibility, one in which ingredients crucial to a future perspective are outlined with insufficient introductionof reservationsand cautions that become installed later.Foucaultfinds a covert problemof evil to be lodged within the conventional politics of good and evil. Evil not as actions by immoral agents who freely transgressthe moral law but evil as arbitrary taken to embody the cruelty installed in regularinstitutionalarrangements Law, the Good, or the Normal. Foucault contends, along with Nietzsche, Arendt,andTodorov,thatsystemiccrueltyflows regularlyfromthe thoughtof lessness of aggressive conventionality,the transcendentalization contingent identities, and the treatmentof good/evil as a duality wired into the intrinsicorder of things. A modernproblemof evil resides, paradoxically, within the good/evil dualityand numerousdualitieslinked to it. Evil, again, not as gratuitousaction by free agentsoperatingin an innocentinstitutional matrix but as undeserved suffering imposed by practices protecting the reassurance (the goodness, purity,autonomy,normality)of hegemonic identhe tities. To reach"beyond" politics of good andevil is not to liquidateethics of but to become ashamedof the transcendentalization conventionalmorality. It is to subjectmoralityto stripsearches. There is cruelty involved in such strip searches. But they also take a precarious step toward a social ethic of generosity in relations among alternative, problematic,and (often) rival identities.They promotea politics in of limits throughgenealogiesof ambiguityandarbitrariness culturalnorms
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that have become naturalized. This agenda can be heard in lines from the essay in question:
The campaignagainst drugs is a pretextfor the reinforcement social repression;not of the only throughpolice raids,but also through indirectexaltationof the normal,rational, conscientious, and well-adjustedindividual.3 We emphasizethe fear of criminals;we brandish threatof the monstrousso as to the reinforce the ideology of good and evil, of the things that are permittedand prohibited-precisely those notions which teachers are now somewhat embarrassed to communicate.
And then, in response to a suggestion that the distinction between the normal and the pathological is today more fundamental than that between good and evil, Foucault says,
They reinforceeach other.When ajudgmentcannotbe framedin termsof good andevil, it is stated in termsof normaland abnormal.And when it is necessaryto justify this last distinction, it is done in terms of what is good or bad for the individual. These are dualityof Westernconsciousness.5 expressions that signal the fundamental
What, then, is the ethical point of genealogies of good/evil and normal/ abnormal? Foucault, at a later stage, suggests it:
We have to dig deeply to show how things have been historicallycontingent, for such and such a reason intelligible but not necessary.We must make the intelligible appear of againsta background emptiness,anddeny its necessity.We mustthinkthatwhatexists is far from filling all possible spaces.
Several elements in the Foucauldian ethical sensibility are discernible here: Genealogical analyses thatdisturbthe sense of ontological necessity, historical inevitability, and purity of discriminationin established dualities of identity/difference,normality/abnormality, innocence/guilt, crime/accident, and responsibleagency/delinquent offender. 2. Active cultivation of the capacity to subdue resentmentagainst the absence of necessity in what you are and to affirm the ambiguity of life without transcendental guarantees. 3. Development of a generous sensibility that informs interpretations what of you are and are not and infuses the relationsyou establish with those differences throughwhich your identityis defined. 4. Explorationsof new possibilities in social relationsopened up by genealogy, those thatenablea largervarietyof identitiesto coexist in relations particularly 1.
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indifferenceon some occasions, allianceon others,and agonisticrespect of "studied" duringperiodsof rivalryand contestation.
of theseelementssuggestthe"political spirituality" FoucauldianTogether or if you thinkI projecttoo muchintothesetexts,Fou-connoism. Indeed, ism, in what follows I use Nietzsche to fill out Foucaultand Foucaultto fill out Nietzsche until we reacha perspectiveI am willing to endorse.
TO FROMMORALITY ETHICS If you think that a stubbornsource of evil resides in the paradoxical relation of identity to the differences throughwhich it is constituted,you contingent,andrelational mightdeploy genealogy to expose the constructed, so to contest the conversion of characterof established identities. Doing difference into othernessby individualsand collectivities striving to erase evidence of dependencyon the differencesthey contest.Doing so to open up other relationalpossibilities between interdependent, contendingidentities the sense of necessity from every identity. by subtracting But many moralists find such a strategy to be self-defeating. Every neo-Kantian and teleocommunitarian in North America, for instance, has issued this charge against Foucault (and those lumped with him as "postmodernists")at some point during the decade of the 1980s. Those who pursue genealogy for ethical reasons, it seems, are caught in a pragmatic contradictionor trappedin a (unique)pit of incoherencies;as a result, they emerge either as nihilists who refuse ethical restraintor as parasiteswho arekilling the moralhost they suck sustenancefrom.How can you have a moralitywithoutgroundingit in the Law or the Good, or, at the very least, in the Contract, the Rational Consensus, the Normal, or the Useful? From my (Foucauldian)perspective,these responses too often reflect a transcendental egoism that requirescontestation.Each is egoistic because it takes its own fundamental identityto be the source that must guide silently because it insists thatits identityis moral life in general;it is transcendental anchoredin an intrinsicPurposeor Law or potentialconsensus that can be known to be true.In Nietzsche's language,such transcendental egoists insist "I am moralityitself and nothingbesides is morality." They veil egoism in the demandto universalizewhat they are by presentingit as what they are commandedto be by the Law or elevatedto by experienceof the Good. They servantsof the Law or the Good, andthey presentthemselvesas disinterested
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respondto each challengeto theirego-idealismthrougha ritualof reiteration, restating the external, necessary,intrinsic characterof the fundamentthey serve.7 But so what?How does this rejoinderspeak to the fundamental question posed to the genealogist?Thatis, "Howcan a genealogist cultivatean ethical And whatmakessucha sensibilityethical?" Foucauldian of A line sensibility? be to challengetheoriesof intrinsicmoralorderwith a competing reply might ethical sensibility:to createa little space between moralityand ethics-with appropriate apologies to Hegel. A moralistoften (butnot always) thinksthata moralcode can be separated from other elements in social and political practice and presentedmore or less systematically,whereasa post-Nietzscheanthinksthat,at best, an ethical sensiblity can be cultivatedthatinformsthe qualityof futureinterpretations, actions, and relationships.More definitively,a moralistexplicitly or implicitly gives priority to the idea of a fundamentalorder of identity, gender, sexuality,and so on governingculturalformations.One type accentuatesthe verb form "toorder,"construingmoralityto be obedience to a god or nature or the dictates of reason or a transcendentalargumentor a categorical construing"moral imperative.Anotheraccentuatesthe noun form "order," order" now as an inherent,harmoniousdesign of being. Both types often anchormoralorderin a god, eitheras a commanderof last resort,a postulate requiredto give virtueitsjust rewardin the last instance,or an ultimatesource of the harmoniousdesign discerniblein being. Those who eschew a theological story present narrativesin which the fundamentalnatureof things is supposedto be highly compatiblewith strongconceptionsof identity,agency, rationality,autonomy,responsibility,andpunishment.The moralist,to put it briefly, finds some way or other to smooth out Nietzschean conceptions of and "life,""will to power,""differance," so on in the nameof a smoothmoral economy of equivalences, by projectingan intrinsicpurpose, a law, or the into the orderof things.8 plasticity of nature/bodies Moralorderas inherentcommandor harmonious purposeor as (inter)subjective impositionby humanswhose subjectivityacts uponplastic bodies and nature-often these are united in some unstable combination. Sometimes, such perspectives are explicitly articulated,but more often today they are of implicitly installedin narratives nature,identity,gender,sexuality,agency, normality,responsibility,freedom, and goodness. A post-Nietzscheanethical sensibility might, first, claim that most contemporarymoralistsare implicatedin one or several of these moral economies, and, second, contest the sense thatthey exhaustthe rangeof admirable alternatives.As the contestationproceeds,instructivepoints of convergence
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unfold between one traditionaltype of moral orderdelineated above-the design/teleologicalconception-and a post-Nietzscheansensibility. Consider a few intersections between a teleological morality and an residing temptations antiteleologicalethic. First,bothchallengeauthoritarian withinthe commandtradition. Second,bothconstruethe self to be a complex microsocial structure,replete with foreign relations,ratherthan a "disengaged"unitsolid or universalenoughto anchormoralityin itself. Third,both oppose, though differently,plastic conceptions of natureand bodies often presupposedby commandtheories,paying attentionto how humanpowers of of agency and masteryare inflated by these presumptions plasticity and "disembodiment." Fourth, both pursue a morality/ethicsof cultivation in place of one of command or rational demonstration:neither attempts to isolate a systematic"moraltheory";each cultivates a sensibility that enters and into the interpretations actions it endorses.9 and Boththegenealogist theteleologist, I Itis thislastintersectionwillpursue. then, advancean ethics of cultivation.What is cultivated?Not a Law or a categorical imperative but possibilities of being imperfectly installed in establishedinstitutional practices.Wherearethesepossibilitieslocated?How Thesearethe difficultquestionsfor bothperspectives.10 aretheycultivated? Charles Taylor, to my mind the most thoughtful and flexible among defendersof a teleocommunitarian morality,speaksof "moral contemporary sources" ambiguouslylodged between establishedpractices and a higher, fugitive experienceof intrinsicpurposefloatingabove them.Taylor's"moral laws nor sources"areneithersimple objectsto be represented transcendental to be deduced.A "source" changes as it is drawninto discursivepractice,but draws: fromwhichmoralarticulation sustenance it also providesindispensable
Moralsourcesempower.To come closer to them,to have a clearerview of them, to come to graspwhatthey involve, is forthose who recognizethemto be movedto love or respect them, and through this love/respect to be better enabled to live up to them. And articulationcan bring them closer. Thatis why words can empower;why words can at times have tremendousmoralforce.ll
affirmfor recognize, ethical If you substitutegenealogy for articulation, between the lines) "the abundance sensibility for moralforce, and (reading of life" for "a purposivegod," you have at once markedmomentarypoints lines of divergencebetween a teleocomof convergenceand fundamental and an agonopluralisticethic. These two orientations munitarianmorality a produceeach otheras competitors;they manufacture competitionin which is in a good position to write its adversaryoff as inconceivable, neither becausethe elementsof strengthandweakness in incoherent,or unthinkable
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each are too close for comfort to those in the other.These two sensibilities are well-suited-to use termsto be redeemedlater-to enterintocompetitive relationsof agonistic respect. Taylor almost recognizes this momentof affinity within difference with respect to Nietzsche, but he fails to do so with respect to Foucault and Derrida. Nonetheless, the line of demarcationhe draws between a viable cannotbe sustained moralsensibility and the amoralismof "postmodernism" once Nietzsche has been admittedinto the charmedcircle of ethics. Taylor anchors his highest moralityin an ambiguousrelationbetween two dimento sions: an identitydeepeningitself through progressiveattunement a higher purposein being. A post-Nietzscheanmight drawcorollarysustenancefrom a contingentidentityaffirmingthe rich abundanceof "life"exceeding every particularorganization of it. In the Nietzschean tradition, such fugitive "will to power,""theoblivion of differsources as "life," "bodies,""earth," an ence," "differance,""resistances," "untamedexteriority,"and "untruth" play a structuralrole remarkablyclose to the roles that "a god," "intrinsic purpose,""a higher direction,"and "the essentially embodied self' play in the teleological tradition that Taylor invokes. Several of the anarchistic sources on the first list serve, in Nietzsche's texts, as contestable "conjectures"or projectionsinformingthe ethical sensibility he cultivates. Genealogy takes you to the edge of the abyss of difference,even though it cannot of bringthis surpluswithin and aroundthe organization thingsto presence.'2 because Taylor'ssources also embody this ambiguous,fugitive character the higherdirectioncultivatedis never fully articulableby finite beings and because humanarticulation always changes the inchoatesourceit drawsinto the (revised) linguistic web. Nietzsche, Foucault,and Taylor(almost) converge in graspingthe productiverole of excess in ethico-politicalinterpretation, separatingthemselves from a host of realistsandrationalistswho either have yet to plumb this dimension of their own practicesor (as Taylormay do) are driven to treat the experience of excess as a "lack"or "fault"in a divided self always yet to be remedied. In Nietzsche's work, as I read it, "life," and other terms of its type, functions as an indispensable,nonfixablemarker, challengingevery attempt to treat a concept, settlement, or principleas complete, without surplus or resistance.This projectionchallengesalternatives projecta commanding that god, a designing god, an intrinsicidentity,or the sufficiency of reason. The case for it is closely linked to recurrentdemonstrationsof the operational failure of the other contendersto achieve the presence theirrepresentatives (sometimes) promise.'3The excess of life over identityprovidesthe fugitive sourcefrom which one comes to appreciate, perhapsto love, the an-archy and of being amidst the organ-izationof identity\difference.
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Genealogy by itself can lead either to repression of the experience of contingency it enables or to passive nihilism. Unless genealogy is combined with tactics applied by the self to itself it may well fuel the very resentment against the an-archy of being its advocates are trying to curtail. That is why Nietzsche and Foucault alike are involved serially with the genealogy of fixed experience and the application of tactics by the self to itself. Both are crucial to the generous or "noble" sensibility endorsed by each. Neither alone nor both in conjunction can guarantee the effects sought. This latter acknowledgment is a defining mark of a post-Nietzschean sensibility because the demand for guarantees in this area is precisely what fosters the most authoritarian versions of the moralities of Law and Purpose. Apost-Nietzschean ethical sensibility, then, strives, first, to expose artifice in hegemonic identities and the definitions of otherness (evil) through which they propel their self-certainty; second, to destabilize codes of moral order within which prevailing identities are set, when doing so crystallizes the element of resentment in these constructions of difference; third, to cultivate generosity-that is, a "pathos of distance"-in those indispensable rivalries between alternative moral/ethical perspectives by emphasizing the contestable character of each perspective, including one's own, and the inevitability of these contestations in life; and fourth-as Foucault eventually endorsedto contest moral visions that suppress the constructed, contingent, relational character of identity with a positive alternative that goes some distance in specifying the ideal of political life inspiring it.'4 I draw these themes from Foucault and Nietzsche, respectively: the ethical importance of the struggle against existential resentment is emphasized by Nietzsche, and the politicization of an ethical sensibility is emphasized by Foucault. Before pursuing Foucault on the second register, let me quote from the madman himself concerning the basis of an admirable ethical sensibility:
Thus I deny moralityas I deny alchemy,thatis, I deny theirpremises:but I do not deny thattherehave been alchemistswho believed in these premisesand acted in accordance with them. -I also deny immorality:not that countless peoplefeel themselves to be immoral,but that thereis any truereasonso to feel. It goes withoutsaying that I do not deny-unless I am a fool-that many actions called immoralought to be avoided and resisted, or that many called moralought to be done and encouraged-but I think that one shouldbe encouragedandthe otheravoidedfor otherreasonsthanhitherto.We have to learn to thinkdifferently-in orderat last, perhapsvery late on, to attaineven more: tofeel differently.
The "we" is a solicitation rather than a command. A new sensibility is rendered possible through genealogies. Then a set of experiments is enacted by the self upon its self to revise vengeful sensibilities that have become
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fixed. Nietzsche, like Foucaultafterhim, commendsa set of artfultechniques to modify these contingentinstallations,these "feelings."The sensibilitythat these techniquesinstallfunctionsas a corollaryto the cultivationof "virtues" in teleological theories. Thus, to cite one example of such a practice, Nietzsche in Daybreakmarksthe importanceof "littledeviantacts"in a life where accumulatedconventionsare always becoming naturalized morand alized. "Fornothingmattersmore,"Nietzsche asserts," thanthatan already mighty, anciently establishedand irrationally recognized custom should be once more confirmedby a person recognizedas rational.... All respect to Ethical generosity your opinions! But little deviant acts are worth more."16 becomes effective whenit is installedin the feelings, andthis involves a series of tactics patientlyappliedby a self to itself: "All the virtuesand efficiency of body and soul are acquiredlaboriouslyand little by little, throughmuch industry,self-constraint,limitation,throughmuch obstinate,faithfulrepetition of the same labors,the same renunciations."'7 Echoes fromthe Christian traditioncan be heardhere as elsewhere in Nietzsche, but these techniques of the self are designed to foster affirmationof a contingent, incomplete, relational identity interdependent with differences it contests ratherthan to discover a transcendental identity waiting to be released or to acknowledge obedience to a commanding/designing god. When Nietzsche, and later Foucault, commend the self as a work of art acting modestly and artfully upon its own entrenched contingencies, the aim is not self-narcissism, as neo-Kantians love to insist. The point is to ward off the violence of transcendentalnarcissism: to modify sensibilities of the self through delicate techniques, to do so to reach "beyond good and evil," so that you no longerrequirethe constitutionof differenceas evil to protect a precariousfaith in an intrinsic identity or order.The goal is to modify an already contingent self-working within the narrow terms of craftsmanshipavailable to an adult-so thatyou are betterable to wardoff the demand to confirm transcendentallywhat you are contingently.'8In Foucault's terms, "careof the self' is the operativepractice.In Nietzsche's terms,
one thing is needful:thata humanbeing shouldattain satisfactionwith himself, whether it be by means of this or that poetryand art;only then is a humanbeing at all tolerable to behold. Whoeveris dissatisfiedwith himself is continuallyreadyfor revenge;andwe others will be his victims, if only by having to endurehis ugly sight.19
The "ugliness"thatNietzsche opposes, then, reflects the demandto ratify a means. Look aroundat the next faculty contingentidentityby transcendental if you need empiricalverificationof this ratificationprocess. meeting
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But so farI have merelyoutlinedsome of the aspirations withinthisethical We have so far only glimpsedthe dangers,paradoxes,and limits sensibility. within which it operates.
PROBLEMATIC THEONTALOGICAL He Foucaultresists the languageof "life"thatNietzsche invokes.20 does I think,to fend off the suggestion such a term conveys to some (though so, not to the matureNietzsche) eitherof an elementalenergydirectlyaccessible to experienceby nonlinguisticmeansor of a vital, purposiveforce thatmust be allowed expressionregardlessof the implicationsit carriesfor anyone or anythingelse. But if Foucaultdenies a law or purposein being while also resisting the languageof life (and "will to power"),does this mean that the dimenethicalsensibilityhe endorsesis free of ontological(or "essentialist") sions?2'Does this sensibilityliquidateevery semblanceof "theuniversal"? In a recent essay on Foucault's "cultivationof the self' Pierre Hadot asserts that Foucaultmisreadsthe Stoics and the Epicureansin a way that vitiateshis own ethic. To these Greeks,"thepoint was not to forge a spiritual to identityby writingbutto freeoneself fromone's individuality, raiseoneself Foucault'sreductionof the universalbackinto the individto universality."22 ual, Hadot fears, results in a solipsistic self: "by defining his ethical model as an ethic of existence, Foucaultmight have been advancinga cultivation of the self which was too purely aesthetic-that is to say, I fear a new form I of dandyism, a late-twentiethcentury version."23 fear that Hadot, in the of others,collapses the space in which the distinctiveFoucauldian company sensibility is formed, doing so by the way he deploys "the universal"in and relationto "theself," the "aesthetic," "dandyism." Foucault, I want to say, affirms a hypotheticaluniversal that does not conformto any possibility that-Hadot recognizes. He affirmsa hypothetical, universal,one designed to disturbthe closure and narcissismof ontalogical dogmatic identities, one affirmed to be a contestable projection, and one treatedas an alternativeto ontologies of Law and Purpose.Foucaultstruggles, againstthe grainof the languagehe uses and is used by, not to project of character being. He invokes what a "logic"or orderinto the fundamental might be called an ontalogy, a "reading"of the fundamentalcharacterof being that resists imputinga logic to it and affirmsits alogical character.It is this fugitive, deniable, and contestable experience, always resistant to articulation,that is approachedthroughthe arts of genealogy and affirmed throughtechniquesof the self. And it is this criticaltaskthatmustbe renewed
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perpetuallybecause of pressuresinstalledin languageand otherelements of communallife to reinstatethe fundamental "logic"of good and evil into the of being. experience Consider again a quotationpresentedearlier.Foucaultsays "we have to dig deeply to show how things have been historicallycontingent, ... intelligible but not necessary". . ., making "the intelligible appear against a backgroundof emptiness."A deep contingency,a lack of necessity in things, a background of emptiness-these themes, inserted into the agenda of genealogy, gesture toward the ont-alogical universal Foucault would enof dorse. The "emptiness" things suggests the absence of a Law or Purpose existence. In a similarway, numerous expressionsof"plentitude," governing "doubles," and an "untamedexterior" gesture toward an abundancethat exceeds any particularset of conventions without assuming the form of a Law, Identity,or Purposegoverningthings-an emptinesswith respectto an intrinsic order, an abundance with respect to any fixed organ-ization of actuality. These are fugitive experiences to cultivate through genealogy, doing so to enhancegenerosityin rivalriesbetweenidentityandalter-identity thatprovide each with its ambiguousconditionsof existence.24 most In one essay, Foucaultstrivesto expressthis ontalogicalproblematic is actively.Herehe makesit clearthatthe ont-alogyinstalledin his researches not one thatis or is likely to become known to be true.It takes the form of a (dashadded)or "critical throughwhich quesprinciple" "happyposit-ivisim" tions are posed and criticalcomparisonswith otherpositionsare explored.It with character all otherfundaments sharesthisparadoxical presumedor posited even thoughmanyof the latterstrive to date in ethico-politicalinterpretation, so hardto conceal this statusof theirown faith. Allow me to condense a few pages in "The Orderof Discourse" into a few lines, doing so to underline how Foucaultboth elaborateshis stance and exposes tactics by which altercharacter. nativestancesof its type conceal theirposit-ivisticandcomparative venerationof "Itseems to me,"Foucaultsays, "thatbeneaththis apparent discourse, underthis apparentlogophilia, a certainfear is hidden.It is just as if prohibitions,thresholdsand limits have been set up in orderto master,at least partly,the great proliferationof discourse in orderto remove from its richness its most dangerouspart."Next, marchingorders are presentedto those who endorse such semblances: "And if we want to" . .. analyze the terms of this fear, then "we must call into question our will to truth".. .; "we must not imagine there is a greatunsaidor a greatunthought... which we would have to articulateor thinkat last" .. ; "we must not imagine that the world turns towards us a legible face which we would have only to decipher."This stack of negative imperatives,stretchedin front of a small "if,"finally culminates in an affirmativewhose standingat the end of a long
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chain of hypotheticals has (almost) been forgotten: "We must conceive discourseas a violence whichwe do things,or in any case as a practicewhich we impose on them;and it is in this practicethatthe events of discoursefind the principleof theirregularity."25 Two things. First,Foucault'sconceptionof discourse,containingits own is uncertaintiesand proliferations, initially presentedas a critical principle But this "we"pursuein ourresearches. as the imperativesthatoperationalize of pile up, it shortlybeginsto be heardas an imperative beingas such. practice The posit-ivismon whichit is foundedis all too easy to forget.This contrived forgetfulness,condensed into the space of a couple of pages, mimics and exposes the ontological forgetfulnessof moralist-politicaldiscourse. The hypothetical characterof the fundamentalpresumptionsbecomes buried beneath the weight of discursive practice,and because it is impossible to this proceedwithoutimplicitlyinvokingsome set of fundaments, set, too, all too readilybecomes receivedas a set of absoluteimperativesinstalledin the order of things. Genealogy breaksup this inertiaof presumptionthat constantly reinstates itself as Nature, God, Law, or Purpose;it scrambles the sense of ontological necessity implicit in contingentconsolidations.26 Second, Foucault contests implicit and explicit ontologies of intrinsic orderand plasticitynot simply by showing how each conceals the hypothetin and ical character multiplesites of undecidability its own imperativesbut also by projecting in competition with them an (always underdeveloped)
ontalogy of that which is "violent, pugnacious, disorderly . . ., perilous,
incessant .. , and buzzing"withindiscursivepractice. If this antilogical logos is hypothetical,comparative,and problematical, criticalcomparisonto otherfamiliar it why struggleto operationalize through to be a final answer to this question,just as alternatives?There is unlikely there is none forthcomingwith respect to the alternativesagainst which it contends. But one response resides in the fact that every interpretation presupposesor invokes some such problematicalstance with respect to the of fundamentalcharacter being; to try to eliminatesuch a stance altogether is either to repress crucial dimensions of one's own from interpretation perspective or to lapse into a passive nihilism of resolute silence. Passive to nihilism cedes the activity of interpretation dogmatic perspectives; it concedes too muchto fundamentalists treatingthe problematical by secretly standingof its own projectionsas a sufficient reason to withdrawfrom the It field of interpretation. still presumesthat this condition of discourse is a "fault"or "lack"that "oughtnot to be" ratherthan a productivesource of creativitythatmakes life possible and keeps things moving. elements in The Foucauldianproblematicelicits fugitive, subterranean whereold veritieshave fallen onto hardtimes and experience, contemporary
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where the sense of violence in them may be more palpableto more people. Foucault's ontalogical projectionspeaks to a problematicalexperience increasingly available, while contendingagainstinsistencies and resentments thatpress us to deny, evade, avoid, or defer its fugitive power.Its thematization alters the terms of contestationin political discourse. Familiardebates between the advocates of Law, Purpose, and Normality no longer seem to exhaust the available termsof debate. The sense of necessity governingthe old debate is broken,and a set of complementary assumptionsnot subjected to debateby these debatingpartners now become open to interrogation. Each alternative,including the one Foucaultadvances, is now more likely to be it received as a "problematic" thanas a "position"or "theory": is construed as a particular,tension-ridden of impulses, insistences, presumpgathering tions, and questions throughwhich interpretation proceeds ratherthan as a on in coherentsetof imperatives whichit "rests."27 a modification theterms Such of of self-presentation havesalutary can effectson thecharacter ethicaldiscourse. Foucault identifies, though more lightly and obliquely than the mentor who inspires him, ressentimentas a source from which the problematicsof moral order are constructed.Some of us now begin to hear each of these orientations as point and counterpointin the same melody of deniable revenge; more of us refuse to treatthem as The Set thatexhaustthe possible terms of ethical debate. Foucaultsays,
Thatis what is interestingin the analysisof society. Thatis why Nothing is fundamental. nothingirritatesme as muchas these inquiries-which areby definitionmetaphysicalon the foundationsof power in a society or the self-institutionof a society, etc. These are not fundamental phenomena.Thereare only reciprocalrelations,and the perpetualgaps between intentionsin relationto one another.2
It will assist my readingif you readthe first sentence along two registers: "Nothing is fundamentar'in the sense that no fundamentalLaw or Purpose or Contract governs things; "Nothing is fundamental"in the sense that energies and forces exceeding the social constructionof subjects and things circulatethrough"gaps"in these institutionalizations. So there is a politics of forgetfulnessbuilt into the characterof language, the imperatives of social coordination,the drives to revenge against the contingency of things, and the insecuritiesof identity.Genealogy disturbs this forgetfulness,in the interestsof drawingus closer to the experiencethat nothing is fundamental.The results of genealogy are then to be translated into noble effects, as you reach towarda sensibility beyond good and evil. But how can this combinationof genealogical disturbanceand noble sensitime? bility ever establishitself securelyin a self or a cultureat any particular
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It cannot.The Nietzsche/Foucaultsensibility (takingvariousforms such as passing by, generosity,agonistic respect, a pathosof distance,the spiritualization of enmity) consists of a set of elements that cannot be combined not togetherperfectlyat any single time. They lack "compossibility" because of "weakness of will" or "the crooked timber of humanity,"where the resideswithinthe self, butbecausethe accentuation one of "fault" primordial element in this combinationat any momentnecessarilyimpedesthe otherat that time. The (post) Nietzschean ideals of nobility, a pathos of distance, agonistic care, and passing by never arrive;they are at best always coming withthe otherto which to be. One elementis always incompletelyarticulated it must be united. Here we encountera "rift"or dissonance not within but between humancapacityand the temporalityin which it is set:
Moreandmoreit seems to me thatthe philosopher, being of necessitya manof tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,has always found himself, and had to find himself in to contradiction his today.29
This means, I take it, not only that the cultivatorof such a sensibility regularlyencountersconflict with a cultureinscribedby the logic of good and evil, but that the pursuer,given the continuingpower of forgetfulness amidstthe quest to incorporate generosityinto one's corporealsensibilities, always hasmoreto do to arrivebeyondthe logic of good andevil. Tocelebrate such a philosophy is always to offer "A Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future,"and thatparadoxicalconditiontoo must be affirmedby those who Foucaultplaces this Nietzscheantheme on a struggle against ressentiment. political registerwhen he says, perhapsin response to a question posed by CharlesTaylorduringa collective interview,"the farthestI would go is to say thatperhapsone must not be for consensuality,but one must be against In world, something is alnonconsensuality."30 a Nietzschean-Foucauldian ways out ofjoint ethicallybecauseit is impossibleto combineall the elements of nobility perfectly in one site at one time. The struggle to reach beyond good and evil is salutary,but the claim to have arrivedthere is always a falsificationthatreiteratesthe dogmatismof the dualityyou oppose. That is why, I think,Foucaultcelebratesthe ambiguityof politics andfinds politics, in one of its registersor another,always to be appropriate.
SPIRITUALITY AN ETHICO-POLITICAL An ethical sensibility,anchoredin an ontalogical problematic,rendered throughgenealogiesof the possible, cultivatedthroughtacticsappliedby the
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self to itself, embodiedas care for an enlarged diversityof life in which plural constituencies coexistin morecreativeways thansustained a communitarian by idea of harmonyor a liberalidea of tolerance, politicizedthrougha series of critical engagementswith establishedsocial apparatiof good/evil, normal/ abnormal, guilt/innocence, rationality/irrationality, autonomy/dependence, Severalof these dimensionscan be heardin the following security/insecurity. celebrationof "curiosity":
I like the word [curiosity].It evokes "care"; evokes the care of what exists and might it sense of reality,butone thatis neverimmobilizedbeforeit; a readiness exist; a sharpened to find what surrounds strangeand odd; a certaindetermination throwoff familiar to us ways of thoughtand to look at the same things in a differentway ... ; a lack of respect for the traditionalhierarchiesof what is important and fundamental.31
Let me locate this sensibility more actively on a political register.I do so, first, by modifying the received democraticimaginaryto correspondmore closely to a timely politics of care for the strife and interdependenceof contingent identity\differencerelations;second, by considering what relationshipssuch a sensibilitymightstriveto establishwith the fundamentalisms life; and, third,by engaging tensions that circulatingthroughcontemporary between an ethic of cultivation and persistent circumstances of persist political engagement. Foucault does not articulatea vision of democracy.His early objections against political ideals as prisons militates against it; and his later,cautious affirmationof a positive political imagination never takes this form. But in numerouscomments in the context of his participation public protestsand demonstrationsare suggestive on this score. It seems to me that a series of correspondencescan be delineatedbetween the ethical sensibilitycultivated by Foucaultand an ethos of democracythey invoke. Considerthree dimensions of democraticpracticein this light.32 1. Democracy within the territorial state. A viable democratic ethos of embodies a productiveambiguityat its very core. Its role as an instrument rule and governance is balancedand counteredby its logic as a mediumfor the periodic disturbance and denaturalization of settled identities and sedimentedconventions. Both dimensions are crucial. But the second functions politically to extend the culturaleffects of genealogy, to open up the play of possibility by subtractingthe sense of necessity, completeness, and smugness from establishedorgan-izationsof life. If the democratictask of and governanceever buriesthedemocraticethos of disturbance politicization underthe weight of nationalconsensus, historicalnecessity, and state security,state mechanismsof electoralaccountabilitywill be reducedto conduits
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others against whom to wage moral for the productionof internal/external wars of all too familiarsorts. 2. The limits of the state. We live during a time when an asymmetry between the globalization of relations and the confinement of electoral institutions to the territorialstate functions too often to intensify state chauvinismand violence. The nostalgiain political theory(and many other sites, too) for a "politics of place," in which territoriality,sovereignty, electoral accountability,nationality,and public belonging must all map the same space, depoliticizesglobal issues andfostersdemocraticstatechauvinism. During the late-moder time, productivepossibilities of thought and of practicemight be opened up by a creativedisaggregation elements in the modern democratic imagination,paying attention,for instance, to how a democratic ethos might exceed the boundariesof the state, even when electoral institutionsof democraticaccountabilityare confined to the state. financialinstitutions,intelligence During a time when corporatestructures, networks,communicationmedia, and criminalrings are increasinglyglobal democraticenergies, active below and throughthe state, might in character, also reach beyond these parametersto cross-national,extrastatistsocial of identifications, movements.A new and timely pluralization attachments, and spaces of politicalaction, alreadyunfoldingbeforeus in the late-moder era, might eventuallycompromisethe state'sability to colonize the termsof collective identityat key historicalmoments.Foucault's 1981 declarationat a press conferenceon behalf of the boatpeople is suggestive on this score in its protest against treatmentof the stateless by states, in its insistence on extending political identificationsbeyond the state, and in its identification of thatwhich diverseconstituencieswithinstates sharethatmight serve as a mobilization: cross-national contingentbasis for extrastatist,
There exists an international citizenry that has its rights,that has its duties, and that is committedto rise up againstevery abuseof power,no matterwho the author,no matter who the victims. Afterall, we are all ruled,andas such, we are in solidarity.... The will wantedto monopolize. of individualsmustbe inscribedin a realitythatthe governments This monopoly must be wrestedfrom them bit by bit, each and every day.33
3. Thepoliticization of nonstatistglobal movements.Boundary-crossing political movements, with respect to, say, gay/lesbianrights,disturbanceof international patternsof state secrecy and surveillance,contestationof the state's monopoly over potent symbols of danger and practicesof security, of and the renegotiation first world patternsof consumptionthatimpinge on of the earth can both contribute to the democratic drive to the future participatein the events that define our lives and ventilatedead pockets of
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air within contemporarystates. As a variety of cross-national,extrastatist movements alreadyin motion accelerate,they might extend the democratic ethos beyond the statethrougha pluralization democraticspacesof action. of the stateas the ultimatesourceof collective identity They might compromise whenever a crisis arises andcontest its monopolyover the rules of boundary crossing. These, then, are some of the elements in the ethico-politicalsensibility of Michel Foucault:genealogies thatdissolve apparentnecessities into contingent formations;cultivation of care for possibilities of life that challenge claims to an intrinsic moral order;democraticdisturbancesof sedimented identitiesthatconceal violence in theirtermsof closure;practicesthatenable and multifariousstyles of life to coexist on the same territory; a pluralityof identificationsextendingbeyond the state to breakup the monopopolitical lies of state-centered politics. But surely, politicization of the Foucauldiansensibility will continue to circumeet with opposition and outragefrom the various fundamentalisms life. Nietzsche and Foucaultboth teach us how lating throughcontemporary on the more optimistichopes of the Enlightenment this score are unlikely to succeed. Theistic and secularpriestspersist as voices in and aroundus: the inertia of shared practices, forces of ressentiment,the pressures of guilt arising from ambivalentidentifications,the effects of social coordinationon the reification of selves and institutions-all these forces press upon the effective generalization generoussensibilities.They makegenealogiesand of of dogmatic identities into perpetualtasks. They renderthe politicizations move "beyond good and evil" always a movement and never a secure achievement.What,then, can be the termsof engagementbetweenan ethical sensibility affirming care for the contingency of things and those moral fundamentalismsthat oppose it as nihilistic, relativistic,or parasitic?(As if everyone, everything, and every institution were not parasitical in some way!) One salutarypossibility Foucaultcultivates, I think, is to convert some relationsof antagonismbetween fundamentalists genealogists into those and (as I call them) of agonistic respect. The effective possibilities here are limited, but they are nonetheless real. Agonistic respect constitutesan element in an impossible utopia,worthpursuiteven amidstthe impossibilityof its final realization. Agonistic respect, as I construe it, is a social relation of respect for the opponent against whom you define yourself even while you resist its imperatives and strive to delimit its spaces of hegemony. Care for the strife and interdependenceof contingent identities, in which each identity depends upon a set of differences to be, means that "we" (the "we" is an invitation)
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cannot pursue the ethic that inspires us without contesting claims to the we and universality sufficiencyof the moralfundamentalisms disturb-hence and deconstruction.But this antagonismcan be translatedinto genealogy somethingcloser to agonistic respectin some cases, as each partycomes to appreciatethe extent to which its self-definitionis boundup with the other and the degree to which the comparative projectionsof botharecontestable. We opponents can become bonded together, partially and contingently, each throughan enhancedexperienceof the contestabilityof theproblematic most fervently.This is whatNietzsche meantby the "spiritualization pursues of enmity,"34 although he thought the capacity to operationalizesuch a was limited. relationship Agonistic respectdiffers from its sibling, liberaltolerance,in affirminga and strife between identities more ambiguousrelation of interdependence over a passive letting the otherbe. The lattermay be desirableon occasion, but it is less available in late-modernlife than some liberals presume.It is because our identities are bound up with not sufficient to shed "prejudice" each other in a world where pressuresto enact general policies are always active. It "cuts"deeperthan tolerancebecause it folds contestationinto the foundations of the putative identity from which liberal tolerance is often derivedand delimited.But, still, it remainsclose enough to liberaltolerance to to invite comparisonandcriticalnegotiation,pressingits debatingpartner of fold the spirit of genealogy more actively into its characterization "the individual"and arguingagainstthe spiritof complacencyso often lodged in bifurcationsbetween the privateand the public. Thereis considerableironyandfoolishness in a call to agonisticreciprocan to ity becauseit invites the fundamentalist incorporate elementwe endorse into its own identity.The invitationmay be refused. But the call is made in the context of showing him throughgenealogy some of the ways in which too his fundaments arequestionableandcontestable.And we do not demand the that the fundamentalist incorporate entire sensibilityof the opponentas the to we a conditionof respect; merelycall on the fundamentalist acknowledge andto affirmself-restrictions moralorder of contestability its claimto intrinsic in the way it advances its agendain the light of this admission.In this way, space for politics can be opened through a degree of reciprocity amid contestation;new possibilities for the negotiationof difference are created by identifying traces in the otherof the sensibility one identifies in oneself to and locating in the self elements of the sensibilityattributed the other.An is built into contestationand of contestationinto care. But, element of care as I have alreadysaid once, such invitationsare often rejected. So the difficultiescontinue.There are, additionally,numeroustimes and places where the terms of opposition are likely to remainimplacableeven
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afterthe initial positions have been softenedby reciprocalacknowledgment of the contestabilityof each stance. Debates over the di(per)vesityof sexuality, over abortion,and, perhaps,over the rightto take one's own life when one decides the time is right might have this characterto varying degrees. Some fundamentalistswho treat homosexuality as per-verse, for instance, might be moved to cultivateeithera studiedindifferenceor agonisticrespect in relationto those who celebratesexualdi-versity.But they will be less likely to do so with respectto the issue of gay parents.Those who celebratediversity here will have to try to disrupttheir operationalpresumptionsconcerning what is "natural," maintainingconfidence in the possible efficacy of genealand struggle in exposing the social constitutionof the perversitythey ogy fear.35 introductionof a Foucauldiansensibility more actively into the So, terms of political contestation,first, is likely to be refusedby many constituencies and, second, to encounter obdurateinstances of nonnegotiability even between constituencieswilling to engage it. The Foucauldianfaith, if I may put it this way, is that more extensive cultivation of a political ethos of agonistic care makes a real difference in private and public life, even if it remainsa minoritystance within that life, for it is a political problematicof interrogation, engagement,and negotiation, not a political doctrine of intrinsic identity, consensus, and resolution. Its impossible utopia is agonistic respect among differences irreducibleto a rationalconsensus in settings where it is often necessaryto establishgeneral policies. It locates freedomin the gaps andspaces fosteredby these collisions and negotiations rather than in a patternof harmonious unity or private and disturbance negotiation sanctuaryit hopes to realize.It counselsrecurrent of the numerousparadoxesof political life over attemptsto conceal, resolve, or repressthem. These last reflections, linkingan ethical sensibilityto an ethos of politics, reveal anothertension between these two registersamidst the durableconnection between them. An ethic of cultivation requires attention to the nuances of life; it applies tactics patientlyand experimentallyto the self; it affirms ambiguity and uncertaintyin the categories through which ethical judgment is made. But a politics of engagement and insurgency often generalizes conflicts so that one set of concerns becomes overwhelmed by others; it opens up the probabilityof more totalistic definitions of one side exceeding the by its opponents;it sometimes foments rapidtransformations temporal and spatial rhythmsof ethical cultivation.Cultivationof care for the contingency of things and engagementin politicalcontestation,then, are locked into a relationof strife amidsttheir mutualimplication.36 There is no way to eliminate these tensions, unless you endorse some fictive model of political agency thathas never been instantiated anywhere.
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The tension already identified between genealogy and sensibility now catapults into the medium of politics. The struggle against resentment of a world in which "nothing is fundamental" involves a willingness to act in such ambiguous circumstances,37 because although these two registers are in tension with each other, they are also interdependent: the ethical sensibility requires the ethos as one of its conditions of existence and vice versa. The aspiration is to draw agonistic respect from the effects of politics and to fold agonistic respect into the art of politics. The danger flows from suppression of such tensions and ambiguities in the name of private tranquility, rational harmony, or consummate political agency. Perhaps I can allow Foucault to have the last word (for the moment):
There's an optimismthatconsists in saying thatthings couldn'tbe better.My optimism would consist ratherin saying that so many things can be changed, fragile as they are, than self-evident, bound up more with circumstancesthan necessities, more arbitrary more a matterof complex, but temporary,historicalcircumstancesthan of inevitable constants.... You know, to say that we are much morerecentthanwe anthropological think,is to place at the disposalof the workthatwe do on ourselvesthe greatestpossible shareof what is presentedto us as inaccessible.38
1. FriedrichNietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, translated WalterKaufmann (New York:Vintage, 1966), 83. by 2. James Miller, "The Politics of Limits"(paperdelivered at the 1991 convention of the AmericanPolitical Science Association,September1-4, Washington,DC), para. 13. Action: 'Until Now,' " in DonaldBouchard,ed., Michel 3. Michel Foucault,"Revolutionary Practice (Oxford:Blackwell, 1977), 226. Foucault:Language, Counter-Memory, 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid, 230. I bypass here Miller's crude charge that, in calling in the same essay for an to attackon the "wholeof society,"Foucaultlegitimizesattempts eradicateall social institutions. thatthis It becomes clear what Foucaulthas in mind when he says, "I believe, on the contrary, particularidea of the 'whole of society' [single quotes in original] derives from a utopian of context."Foucaultattacks"thedream" "thewhole of society"becausethe dreamof wholeness and harmonyit pursuesrequiresthe destruction,elimination,or repressionof everythingthat does not fit in with it. as 6. Michel Foucault, "Friendship a Way of Life," in Foucault Live, edited by Sylvere by Lotringerand translated JohnJohnston(New York:Semiotexte, 1989), 208. 7. I hope it becomes clear as we proceedthat not all those who anchortheir moralityin the Law or the Good are locked into transcendental egoism. Only those who insist thatthe "other" cannot devise a moralityunless he or she accepts these fundamentsare so locked in. Thinkers fundamenlike Foucault,Derrida,and Nietzsche are excellent at bringingout the subterranean talism of many who otherwisedeny it.
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8. A world with no commandingor designing god is likely to be markedby discordances, accidents, and chance. This is exactly the world in which Nietzsche and Foucaultcultivate an ethical sensibility. Such a world, in turn,is not a likely source of a teleological ethic. A world with an omnipotentgod, as the nominaliststried to show the Thomists, is unlikely to be one limited by any priordesign of the world,for an omnipotentgod flourishesin a highly contingent world it can vary in any way at any time; its omni-potenceis threatenedby any design that restrictsit. A teleological moralitywithouta god is problematic,then, but it is also difficult to constructone with anomnipotentgod. Itis not thata god filling the bill is impossibleto construct, but such a delicate constructionraises the questionas to whetherit is discoveredor inventedto fill the exact purposeit is supposedto reveal.On the otherhand,an omnipotentgod seems most have had compatiblewith a moralitygroundedin a transcendental imperative,and neo-Kantians this a hell of a time demonstrating imperativewithoutrecourseto sucha deeply contestablefaith. Hans Blumenbergpursuesthese issues, in his history of onto-theologicalaporiasand debates that have markedthe Westsince the inceptionof Augustianism. Blumenberg,TheLegitimacyof the Modem Age (Cambridge:MIT Press, 1983). A last "theological"point: Althoughthere are powerful pressures binding the command and design traditionsto the authorityof a god, a ethic need not resist every conceptionof divinity.A god as "absence,"for "post-Nietzschean" instance, might be compatible with a post-Nietzscheansensibility. So might some versions of polytheism. I prefer"nontheisticreverencefor the ambiguityof being." 9. In these comparisons I take Charles Taylor to representthe "teleological" model. His version of it, I think, brings out effectively assumptions implicit in the other formulations. He might resist the title I have bestowed on him, but the language throughwhich his morality is couched is very teleological by comparison to the Nietzschean/Foucauldian sensibility defended here. Those are the only terms of comparisonthat interest me at the moment. See Charles Taylor, Philosophical Papers, vols. 1-2 (New York:Cambridge University Press, 1985). 10. Notice how the favorite critiquethat neo-Kantianspose against teleocommunitarians loses its bite against post-Nietzscheans.They contend that it is impossible to reach universal agreementon the natureof the good, commendinginsteadthe same quest with respectto rights or the proceduresof justice. I concur that a groundedconsensus on the good is unlikely, even though I emphasize much more than neo-Kantiansdo how much established conventions are treatedimplicitly by neo-Kantiansand teleocommunitarians if they were so grounded,for as both parties tend to eschew genealogy, limiting their ability to identify limits to pluralismin establishedregimes. 11. CharlesTaylor,Sourcesof the Self: TheMakingof Modem Identity(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 96. A powerful argument in Taylor's study is that advocates of "disengaged"morality are unable to account for the sources of their own moral inspirations. BernardWilliams, in an insightfulreview of this study,points to the strengthof this argument, while claiming that Taylor's frameworkof analysis is not well suited to come to terms with Nietzschean thought:"I think that Taylor,in his search for the sources of value, seems not to have taken seriously enough Nietzsche's thought that if there is, not only no God, but no metaphysicalorderof any kind,thenthis imposesquitenew demandson ourself-understanding." Review of Books, November4 (1990): 48. I concurwith this judgment. New York 12. In Identityand Difference, translatedby Joan Stambaugh(New York:Harper& Row, 1969), MartinHeidegger speaks of "the oblivion of difference.""We speak of the difference between Being andbeings.... Thatis the oblivion of difference.The oblivion here to be thought is the veiling of the difference as such" (p. 50). The thoughtis similar to Nietzsche's elusive presentationsof life. You never lift the veil of differenceas such, for difference is that which differs from the organ-ized, conceptualized,fixed, and determinate.But you might encounter
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the oblivion of differencethroughartfultechniques;you mightexperiencethe way in which the of organ-ization experiencedrawson thatwhich is itself not yet organ-ized. of and 13. Hence the indispensability deconstruction genealogyto the sensibilityin question. 14. "But,in the end, I've become ratherirritated an attitude,which for a long time was by mine, too, and which I no longer subscribeto, which consists in saying: our problem is to denounceand to criticize;let them get on with theirlegislation and theirreforms.That doesn't LawrenceD. Kritzman, Michel Foucault:Politics, Philososeem to me the rightattitude." ed., by phy, Culture,translated Alan Sheridan(New York:Routledge, 1988), 209. 15. Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak,translated R. J. Hollingdale(Cambridge: Cambridge by UniversityPress, 1982),#103, p. 104. Alan Whitegives an excellent readingof this formulation in WithinNietzsche'sLabyrinth (New York:Routledge, 1990). and 16. Nietzsche,Daybreak, #149,97. In Willto Power,translated WalterKaufmann R. J. by Hollingdale (New York:RandomHouse, 1967), #1019, Nietzsche lists six practicesthat have been wreckedby the church'smonopolyand misuses of them. They are asceticism, fasting,the and feasts,the courageto endureone's nature, death.Ineach of thesecases, Nietzsche monastery, and would refigurethe practicein questioninto one thatfends off existentialresentment fosters a "nobility" reachesbeyondthe ugly narcissismof good andevil. The notes in Willto Power that that focus on the body also focus on the priority of techniques of the self over rational or argumentation directreformof "thewill" in fosteringa generousethical sensibility. Kaufmann 17. Nietzsche,Willto Power,translated Walter (New York: Vintage,1968),#995. by narcissistloves 18. Narcissusloved not himselfbuthis imagein the pond.The transcendental commandor direction. the image of itself thatit projectsinto a transcendental 19. FriedrichNietzsche, The Gay Science, translatedby Walter Kaufmann(New York: Vintage, 1974), #290, p. 233. 20. Nietzsche himself invokes the vocabularyof life in one way in his early work and in a modified way in his laterwork. I will not pursuethatissue here, but it is the lateruses thatI am drawnto. It 21. I generallytry to avoidthe languageof "essentialism." means,variously,a philosophy that pretendsthat a highest law, nature,or principle can be broughtinto full presence; the confidence that there is a fundamentallaw or purpose governing existence that can be more in piety,andthe claim thatevery actorand every closely approximated life throughhermeneutic of invokes a set of fundamental assumptionsabout the character being in every act interpreter Thus anyone can successfully accuse anyone else of "beingan essentialist" and interpretation. on in some way or another.Foucault,as I readhim, is not an "essentialist" the first two scores but is one on the third.He comes close to whatone mightcall the "vagueessentialism"advanced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattariin A ThousandPlateaus (Minneapolis:University of this MinnesotaPress, 1970). "So how are we to define this matter-movement, matter-energy, this matter flow, this matter in variation that enters assemblages and leaves them? It is a matter.It seems to us that Husserlbroughtthoughta decisive step destratified,deterritorialized forwardwhen he discovereda regionof vague and materialessences (in otherwords,essences thatare vagabond,inexactand yet rigorous),distinguishingthem fromfixed, metricand formal essences" (p. 407). Husserldid not pursuethis insight far enough. Deleuze and Guattarido in The strategiesthey endorse Plateau6, "How Do You Make Yourselfa Body WithoutOrgans?" there are initially more extreme and dangerousthan Foucaultor Nietzsche would endorse. For Americanconceptionsthat cultivatea lawless essentialism more cautiously,see Jane Bennett, Faith and Enlightenment (New York:New YorkUniversityPress, 1986) and Donna Unthinking Haraway,Primate Visions(New York:Routledge, 1989). 22. Pierre Hadot, "Reflections on the notion of 'the cultivation of the self,' " in Timothy ed. J. Armstrong, andtrans.,Michel Foucault:Philosopher(New York:Routledge, 1992), 229.
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23. Ibid., 230. Hadotgoes on to say, "Formy part,I believe firmly ... in the opportunity for moder man ... to become awareof oursituationas belongingto the universe.... This exercise in wisdom will thereforebe an attemptto open ourselves up to the universal." 24. This ontalogical level is the one thatHabermasians, date, havebeen hesitantto engage to in Foucualt. While they do not postulatea Law or Design in being, the terms throughwhich ethics" is delineatedseems to presupposea plasticityof bodies and things that "communicative is challenged by Foucault.These two competing "communicative ethics" will enter into more reflective engagementwith one anotherwhen both partiesactively considerhow differencesin their most fundamental projectionsinto natureand bodies enterinto theirdivergentreadingsof Habermasevinces awarenessof this dimensionwhen he engages communitarians. "discourse." In one note, he indicates how Sandel would have to explicate the normative content of more carefullyto sustainhis theory:"If embodied and sharedself-understanding" "community, he did, he would realizejust how onerousthe burdenof proofis thatneo-Aristotelian approaches must bear, as in the case of A. Maclntyrein After Virtue... . They must demonstratehow an objective moral order can be grounded without recourse to metaphysical premises."Moral Action (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990). Habermas,in turn, Consciousnessand Communicative would have to show how the conception of naturehe presupposesin his discourse ethics is superiorto the projectionthat Foucaultendorsesin "TheOrderof Discourse"and elsewhere. It only defers the engagement to reduce Foucault's options to a choice between a morally obnoxious "vitalism"or the model of communicationHabermashimself invokes. I pursuethis issue between Habermas,Foucault, and Taylor in "The Irony of Interpretation," Daniel in Conway and John Seery, eds., Politics and Irony(New York:St. Martin's,forthcoming). 25. Foucault, "The Orderof Discourse," in Michael Shapiro,ed., Language and Politics (Oxford:Blackwell, 1984), 125-27, emphasesadded.I find the second half of the last sentence to be more credible thanthe first. The first might suggest thatthe level of violence is the same in all instancesand hence that it is always impossibleto curtailviolence. 26. The forgetfulnesspursuedhere runsdeeper than I have so far intimated.It is built into the very characterof shared vocabularies, where the conditions of existence of a common those languagerequirean impositionof equivalencies withintheconcepts deployedthat"forget" excesses that do not fit into these configurations.Nietzsche discusses this level of forgettingin On the Genealogyof Morals, translated WalterKaufmann RandomBooks, 1967). (New York: by In the texts in which this logic of equivalencesis discussed,he also develops linguisticstrategies that cut against it. 27. See "Polemics, Politics, and Problematizations: Interviewwith Michel Foucault,"in An The Foucault Reader,edited by Paul Rabinow(New York:Pantheon,1984), 381-89. 28. Foucault, "An Ethics of Pleasure,"in Foucault Live, edited by Sylvere Lotringerand translatedby JohnJohnston(New York:Semiotext(e), 1989), 267. 29. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, #212, p. 137. 30. Foucault,"Politicsand Ethics:An Interview," PaulRabinow,ed., The FoucaultReader in ideal"in pointing (New York:Pantheon,1984), 379. Foucaultrefusesthelanguageof "regulative out his own double relationto consensus. 31. Foucault,"TheMasked Philosopher," LawrenceD. Kritzman,ed., Michel Foucault: in Politics, Philosophy,Culture(New York:Routledge, 1984), 328. 32. These dimensionsare developed more fully in Connolly,Identity\Difference, especially the last two chapters,and"DemocracyandTerritoriality, December(1991): 463-84. Millenium," 33. Quoted in Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault, translated by Betsy Wing (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), 279. Thomas Keenan, in "The 'Paradox' of Knowledge and Power," Political Theory (February, 1987), discusses this statement thoughtfully and extensively.
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34. "The Churchhas at all times desiredthe destructionof its enemies: we, we imoralists andanti-Christians, thatis to ouradvantage the churchexists ... Inpolitics, too, enmity see that has become much more spiritual-much more prudent,much more thoughtful,much more forbearing. . . . We adopt the same attitudetoward the 'enemy within': there too we have spiritualizedenmity, there too we have grasped its value." Nietzsche, Twilightof the Idols, translatedby R. J. Hollingdale(New York:Penguin, 1968), under"Moralityas Anti-Nature," 43-44. 35. When presentingthese thoughts, I have found that about the juncture someone will interrupt,charging: "Murderis perverse! Tortureis perverse! Your ethics of 'generosity' sanctionsthese perversities. Certainlyit lacksthe abilityto opposethem."But, of course,it does and not carrysuch implications.Its governingsensibilityof care for the interdependence strife of identity\differenceobviously opposes such acts. Indeed, very often, murderand torture revengeagainstlife thatthis sensibilityseeks expressthe very dogmatismof identityandabstract to curtail.So why is the charge so predictableat this juncture?I suspect that some who wrap themselves in a fictive law they cannot demonstratewould like to punish those who keep pounding away, first, at the paradox of identity and, second, at the cruelties installed in narcissism.The next time this chargeis issued, examinethe demeanorof the one transcendental there are still laws to restrain who issues it. Does he look like he could kill you? Fortunately, dogmatistsfromacting on these impulses. 36. These comments on tensions between an ethic of cultivationand a politics of critical engagementare inspiredfrom one side by a critiquedeliveredto me every other day by Dick Flathmanand from anotherby a critiqueoffered by StephenWhite of a paperof mine at the 1991 meetingof the SouthernPoliticalScience Association,Tampa,Floridaentitled "Territoriality and Democracy."Flathmanis tempted by an antipolitics that expects little of politics a This sensibilityis broughtout effectively in Toward Liberalism because of its ugly character. (Ithaca,NY: CornellUniversity Press, 1990) and in a studyof Hobbes soon to be publishedby series. White finds my "ethic of cultivation"to be in Sage in its "Dialogue with Modernity" conflict with a "politicsof radicalhope."I find the termsin which he recognizesthe tension to rather, be too starkfor my position. I do not have "radical hopes"for a politicaltransformation; I supportradicalcritiquesthat might open up new spaces for life to be while supportingnew possibilitiesof democraticchange.Togetherthesetwo put considerablepressureon the position I seek to inhabit. It is only after I comparethe tensions in my stance with those in their's, respectively,that my confidence begins to reassertitself. 37. How can resentmentfind expressionagainsta world lackingthe kind of agency capable so of receivingthis animus?It cannot.Thatis what makesexistentialresentment dangerous,for viable substituteson which to displace itself. It (re)invents it preservesitself by manufacturing the logic of good and evil to locate evil agents to hold responsiblefor an apparent contingency of things that should not be this way. But where, asks Nietzsche, comes this last "shouldnot"? Fromthe same pool of existential resentmentthat keeps refilling itself. The logic of good and can evil keeps returning-hence the continuingneed for genealogy. Not even an "overman" simply surpassthis logic. It is timely to laugh at the overman,too. 38. Foucault, "PracticingCriticisms,"in Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture, 256. Does Foucault underplaythe tendency of "God,""the Law," "Nature,"and "Intrinsic Purpose"to reinstatethemselves offstage even as the contingencieswithin them are addressed on stage? Probably.But I preferto say that he acts as if these enactmentscan be challenged Girard,Freud,Lacan,andothersshow how final markersreinstate throughcounterenactments. basis that their most earnest supporters themselves even though they lack the transcendental yearnfor. In Freud,guilt flows fromthe ambivalentidentificationwith a model thatone hasjust (perhapsin the imagination)killed; it precedes the God and the Law invented retroactivelyto
Connolly/ BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
explain it. Freud and others challenge moralismsthat translatethe experience of guilt into a source. But the next step is to develop strategies throughwhich to politicize transcendental violences accompanyingthe conversion process. This is where the genius of Foucaultshines.
wherehe is a WilliamE. Connollyteaches political theoryat Johns HopkinsUniversity, Cornell Studies professor of political science. He is the Series Editorof Contestations: in Political Theory.His books include Political Theoryand Modernity,Identity\Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox,and The AugustinianImperative: A Reflection on the Politics of Morality.
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