Marxism and
Mode of Production
Mode of Information
Polity Press
© Mark Poster, 1984
First published 1984 by
Polity Press, Cambridge, in assoiation !ith "asil "lak!ell, #$%ord&
'ditorial #%%ie
Polity Press
P# "o$ 2(2, Cambridge, C"1 2"), *+
"asil "lak!ell ,td&
1(8, Co!ley -oad, #$%ord, #.4 /0F, *+
"asil "lak!ell /n&
432 Park 12enue 3outh, 3uite 14(4, 5e! 6ork, 56 1((17, *31
British Library Cataloging in Publication Data
Poster, Mark
Fouault, Mar$ism and 8istory
1& Fouault, Mihael
/& )itle
194 "&243(&19&924
(:9447:((18:2 pb
)ypeset by 3tyleset ,imited, ;arminster
Printed in <reat "ritain by
"illing and 3ons, ,td&, ;orester
Preface and Acknowledgements
)his book is intended as a set o% essays e$amining the 2alue o% the
reent !orks o% Mihel Fouault %or soial theory and soial history&
Fouault=s !orks !ritten sine 1978 >Discipline and Punish, The
History of Sexuality and numerous shorter piees? ontain some
important ad2anes in soial theory and in the !riting o% soial history&
My purpose is to separate out those ad2anes %rom other %eatures o%
Fouault=s thought !hih / %ind less bene%iial& / am not attempting to
gi2e an assessment o% Fouault=s !ork as a !hole but to %ous on and
analy@e ertain %eatures o% it&
)o that end / situate Fouault=s !ork in a double problematiA those o%
ritial soial theory and a ne! soial %ormation that / all the mode o%
in%ormation& 1lthough Fouault=s politis may be ambiguous, his !orks
are pro%itably situated in relation to ritial theory& 8e pro2ides, / !ill
argue, models o% analysis that ontain theoretial elements !hih,
properly interpreted, open up ne! diretions %or ritial theory,
diretions that an lead it out o% its urrent impasses& "ut these ne!
diretions only beome apparent !hen ertain important hanges in the
soial %ormation o% ad2aned trial soiety are reogni@ed& )o that end /
ha2e oined the some!hat in%eliitous phrase =mode o% in%ormation= to
represent these hanges and to ontrast the urrent situation to Mar$=s
onept o% the mode o% prodution&
Preface and Acknowledgements
)he term =mode o% in%ormation= designates the ne! language e$perienes
o% the t!entieth entury brought about %or the most part by ad2anes in
eletronis and related tehnologies& )his is not an essay on the mode o%
in%ormation and / ha2e not attempted to elaborate the term into a %ull
theory& 5onetheless / %ound it neessary to de2elop the term i% only to
illuminate the theoretial ad2anes / %ind in Fouault=s !ork and to
ontrast them !ith the traditions o% ritial theory based on the onept
o% the mode o% prodution& /n a %uture !ork / propose to o%%er a general
theory o% the mode o% in%ormation&
)he %irst t!o hapters attempt to situate Fouault=s reent !orks in
relation to ;estern Mar$ism and to the lassial te$ts o% Mar$& )he
remaining hapters e$amine the relation o% the theoretial de2elopments
in the early hapters to the historial te$ts o% Discipline and
Punish and The History of Sexuality& )he utility o% Fouault=s !riting %or
a ne! kind o% soial history is the point in Buestion&
My researh !as %ailitated by ollegial and institutional assistane& 1
Fello!ship %rom the 5ational 'ndo!ment %or the 8umanities in 1981:2
!as in2aluable in %urthering my !ork& / also reei2ed a 3ummer Faulty
Fello!ship %rom the 3hool o% 8umanities o% the *ni2ersity o%
Cali%ornia, /r2ine, as !ell as se2eral grants %rom the Foused -esearh
Program in Critial )heory at *C /r2ine& Friends and olleagues
pro2ided ritiism and enouragement, espeially 0onathan ;iener,
Ca2id Carroll and Frank ,entrihia& 1nthony <iddens and 0ohn
)hompson, editors o% Polity Press, !ere espeially generous !ith their
time and help%ul !ith their omments&
'arlier 2ersions o% three hapters, appeared in the %ollo!ing DournalsA
Chapter 3 in Social Research, Eol& 49, 5umber 1F Chapters 2 and 4
in Humanities in Society Eol& 4, 5umbers 3 and 4 and Eol& 2, 5umber 2
respeti2ely& )heir permission %or later 2ersions o% these artiles to
appear in the present 2olume is grate%ully akno!ledged&
or my !other, Claire
5ibelung el2es,
bo! do!n to 1lberihG
5o! he is e2ery!here,
!athing and spying&
Peae and rest
no! ha2e been banished&
;ork %or your master,
!ho !athes unseen,
and !hen least you=re a!are
sees all o% your ations&
6ou=re his sla2es,
no! and %ore2er&
;agner, Das Rheingold
Foucault and Sartre
/n the 'nglish:speaking !orld Fouault is o%ten onsidered a post:
struturalist& 8is ideas are e$amined in relation to those o% Cerrida and
,aan& 1lthough there are good reasons %or setting Fouault in the post:
struturalist onte$t, a ompelling ase an be made %or an alternati2e
strategy, one !hih depits Fouault as a ontinuation o% and departure
%rom the Mar$ist tradition& /n this book / shall onsider only =;estern=
Mar$ism& )he Du$taposition o% Fouault and ;estern Mar$ism is
espeially %ruit%ul !hen one is onsidering Fouault=s reent !orks,
!here the Buestion o% politial ommitment is in the
%ore%ront& Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality an be
interpreted as Fouault=s response to the e2ents o% May 1978 in Frane,
e$ploring a ne! le%tist politial position in !hih the traditional ritiBue
o% apitalism and ad2oay o% the !orking lass !ere held in suspense&
/% ;estern Mar$ism emerged as the theoretial response to the impasses
o% lassial Mar$ism on%ronting the e2ents %rom ;orld ;ar / to the
Cold ;ar, Fouault=s reent books may be seen as a theoretial response
to the di%%iulties o% ;estern Mar$ism in on%ronting the uphea2als o%
the197(s and the ne! soial %ormation emerging therea%ter&

;estern Mar$ism, a term oined by Merleau:Ponty in the post!ar
period, is de%ined most o%ten as a response to the theoretial limitations
o% ,eninism and the 3oial Cemoray o% the 3eond /nternational& /ts
origins go bak to <eorg ,ukHs and 1ntonio <ramsi, but its hie%
mani%estations !ere the !ork o% the Frank%urt 3hool in <ermany
the e$istential Mar$ists in Frane a%ter ;orld ;ar //&
"roadly speaking,
the ;estern Mar$ists sought to rede%ine the plae o% the subDet in
Mar$ist theory by on%ronting Mar$=s positions !ith reent intelletual
de2elopments suh as psyhoanalysis and e$istentialism& )hey also
e$amined the epistemologial di%%iulties in the Mar$ist dialeti by
reassessing its 8egelian roots
and restriting more than Mar$ had done
the metaphysial sope o% dialetial thought&
Finally, they shi%ted the
attention o% ritial theory a!ay %rom the means and relations o%
prodution to!ard issues o% e2eryday li%e and ulture& 1t e2ery point a
disturbing Buestion pursued themA !ere they still Mar$ists or simply
disgruntled intelletualsI /n general, their politial allegiane to Mar$ist
politial organi@ations !as tenuous or non:e$istent& )heoretially, their
position as Mar$ists !as at best ambiguous& /t !as rarely lear i% their
!ork !as supplementary to the lassial Mar$ist onept o% the mode o%
prodution, or a thorough going re2ision o% Mar$ist dotrine !hih
adhered only to the general spirit o% the ritiBue o% politial eonomy&
)hese issues !ere espeially di%%iult to lari%y in a politial onte$t
!here the ;estern Mar$ists had no organi ontat !ith lass struggles&
)he e2ents o% May 1978 hanged e2erything, beause in these e2ents a
radial mo2ement emerged outside the parameters o% the Mar$ist
parties, pro2iding a politial basis %or a ne! ritial theory& /n this
onDunture the ;estern Mar$ists ould at last tabulate the balane sheet
o% their relations to Mar$ism&
Fouault=s intelletual traDetory kept him separate %rom the ;estern
Mar$ists until a%ter May 1978& 8e omplains that his teahers ne2er so
muh as uttered the !ords =Frank%urt 3hool
=, so that he !as denied the
opportunity o% on%ronting a body o% theory that he no! thinks might
ha2e been o% great assistane to him then and ontinues to interest him&
)he relation o% Fouault to the Frenh ;estern Mar$ists is ho!e2er
more ompliated& 1lthough a generation younger than Merleau:Ponty
and 3artre, he !as, like them, in%luened by the 8egelian re2i2al in the
post!ar years, sine he studied !ith 0ean 8yppolite, one o% its hie%
representati2es& 8e !as also, like them, e$posed to and attrated by
<erman e$istentialism& 8is early !ork !ental #llness and
Psychology >1944?, !as indebted to ,ud!ig "in@!anger, a psyhologist
!ho himsel% o!ed muh to Martin 8eidegger& Furthermore, Fouault=s
%irst maDor !ork, !adness and Ci$ili%ation >1971?, !as animated by a
ritiBue o% ;estern reason that !as not entirely at odds !ith the anti:
sientism o% 3artre and Merleau:Ponty& Finally, like the e$istential
Mar$ists, Fouault mo2ed in and around the Frenh Communist Party in
the early post !ar years& 1nd yet, by the early 197(s, Fouault !as
muh taken !ith struturalist urrents o% thought, tendenies !hih
3artre %ound so repellent&
Fouault=s intelletual ourse thus ran some!hat parallel to that o% the
e$istential Mar$ists until the early 197(s& 1t that point he di2erged
radially %rom 3artre, onsidering his o!n position the antithesis o% all
philosophies o% onsiousness, inluding 3artrean e$istential Mar$ism&
/n this !ay the books o% this period, The Birth of the Clinic >1973,
though published in 1979?,The &rder of Things >1977? and The
"rcheology of 'no(ledge >!ritten be%ore May 1978?, are ostensibly
opposed to positions like 3artre=s !hih rely on a theory o% the subDet&
)hat muh is ertainly true& 6et e2en at this point o% e$treme opposition,
/ !ould maintain that it is possible to suggest ertain similarities
bet!een Fouault and 3artre& '2en though Parisian intelletuals
understood 3artre as the antithesis o% the ne! struturalist urrents, both
3artre and the struturalists de%ined themsel2es in opposition to !hat has
ome to be alled the ;estern metaphysial tradition& 3artre, a%ter all,
disputed the Cartesian onept o% the rational subDet as the
epistemologial and ontologial ground o% reality& ;hile it is true, as the
struturalists harged, that 3artre relied on !hat they sa! as an idealist
notion o% the subDet, it remains the ase that the e$pliit intention o%
3artre=s thought, espeially in the Criti)ue of Dialectical Reason, !as to
undermine the metaphysial grounds o% Cartesian reason, an intelletual
diretion akin to that o% Fouault& /t is also true that Fouault and others
assoiated !ith struturalism denied the suess o% 3artre at this task&
6et during the 199(s, a%ter the struturalist mo2ement had passed its
heyday, Fouault reonsidered the Buestion o% the subDet, reogni@ing
that, !hate2er the dangers it in2ol2ed o% a relapse into metaphysis, the
Buestion o% the subDet !as impossible to a2oid %or ritial theory&
;ithout some theory o% the subDet >or subDets? it !as not possible to
aount %or resistane to authority&
;hat had to be a2oided %or Fouault
!as a notion o% the subDet as transendental and unhanging o2er time,
traes o% !hih !ere still to be %ound in 3artre=s later !ork&
/n the 197(s Fouault !as openly hostile to all %orms o% humanism and
philosophies o% onsiousness, a hostility that !as also direted against
;estern Mar$ism in general and 3artre in partiular& ;hen Fouault
trumpeted the all =man is dead=, he !ould no doubt ha2e inluded 3artre
among the humanists he !as de%ying& 1%ter 1978, ho!e2er, Fouault=s
iy hostility to 3artre and ;estern Mar$ism melted a!ay& 8e began to
akno!ledge the importane o% their standpoint and to many obser2ers
Fouault, more than anyone else, had taken up 3artre=s position in the
Parisian intelletual and politial !orld&
*ntil he beame ill in the mid:199(s, 3artre had been the t!entieth:
entury 2ersion o% Eoltaire, an intelletual o% di2erse talents !ho
hampioned under the banner o% Dustie the auses o% the oppressed and
!ithout party or organi@ation did battle !ith the established order&
3artre, like Eoltaire be%ore him, enDoyed broad popularity and !as
there%ore relati2ely immune %rom retribution by the authorities& /t is lear
that Fouault has ne2er attained the elebrity status o% 3artre, but in the
early se2enties he began to hampion the auses o% se2eral oppositional
groups and to !rite politial piees %or Le *ou$el obser$ateur& 8e spoke
on behal% o% prison re%orm, and the rights o% homose$ualsF he supported
the anti:psyhiatry mo2ement and the !omen=s mo2ementF he analy@ed
the importane o% the re2olution that o2erthre! the 3hah in /ran&
these years Fouault !as perhaps the most eminent and !idely:
akno!ledged intelletual !ho partiipated in le%tist politis& /ronially,
Fouault !as at that time ritii@ing the role and %untion o% the
traditional intelletual&
;ithout understanding Fouault=s ne! politial status in the 199(s, his
praise o% 3artre in artiles and inter2ie!s !ould be perple$ing& "ak in
the 197(s a polite e$hange o% sorts took plae bet!een the t!o men in
the pages o% La +uin%aine litt,raire& 3artre akno!ledged the
ahie2ement o% Fouault=s Les !ots et les choses, but repeated a
omplaint he had registered against ,J2i:3traussA Fouault a2oided the
Buestion o% history, ho! one epistKme is supplanted by another&
1 %e!
months earlier in the same Dournal, Fouault dismissed 3artre and
Merleau:Ponty as =ourageous and generous= men o% an earlier era,
animated by a spirit that had passed %rom the intelletual sene&
in the same Dournal, in Marh 1978, only t!o months be%ore the e2ents
o% May, Fouault politely dismissed the =enterprise o% totali@ation= in
philosophy %rom 8egel to 3artre, an enterprise no longer on the

Fouault ontinued !ith a statement o% harateristi modestyA =/ think
the immense !ork and politial ation o% 3artre de%ines an era &&& / !ould
ne2er aept a omparison :e2en %or the sake o% ontrast : o% the minor
!ork o% historial and methodologial spade !ork that / do !ith a body
o% !ork like his&
6et the intelletual generation gap re2ealed in La
+uin%aine litt,raire !as shortly to be bridged as both men !orked
together in the 199(s %or the Dournal Lib,ration&
1%ter 1978 Fouault=s attitude to 3artre and ;estern Mar$ism began to
hange& 3artre !as not longer simply the philosophial enemy, as
Fouault began to diso2er points o% agreement and on2ergene o%
thought& /n one inter2ie! Fouault praised the role that 3artre played in
raising the intelletual and politial onsiousness o% the Frenh publiA
=%rom the end o% the !ar on!ards &&& !e ha2e seen ideas o% pro%oundly
aademi origins, or roots &&& addressed to a muh broader publi than
that o% the uni2ersities& 5o!, e2en though there is nobody o% 3artre=s
stature to ontinue it, this phenomenon has beome demorati@ed& #nly
3artre : or perhaps 3artre and Merleau:Ponty : ould do it )he publi=s
ultural le2el, on a2erage, has really risen onsiderably&

#r here again 3artre is alluded to as a kind o% le%tist that Fouault
identi%ies !ithA =i% the ,e%t e$ists in Frane &&& / think an important %ator
has been the e$istene o% a ,e%t thought and a ,e%t re%letion o% politial
hoies made on the ,e%t sine at least 197(, !hih ha2e been made
outside the parties&&& /t is beause, through the 1lgerian ;ar %or
e$ample, in a !hole setor o% intelletual li%e also &&& there, !as an
e$traordinarily li2ely ,e%t thought&=
Fouault=s re%erene here is learly
to 3artre, Franis 0eanson and Les Temps modernes, !hih !as a enter
%or opposition to the 1lgerian !ar at a time !hen the Frenh Communist
Party supported it& Fouault no! sees himsel% as an heir to the e$istential
Mar$ists !ho de2eloped their le%tist ritiBue outside the CP& 3peaking o%
his o!n debt to 5iet@she, Fouault is almost proud to %ind in 3artre a
similar interest in 5iet@she& =Cid you kno! that 3artre=s %irst te$t :
!ritten !hen he !as a young student :!as 5iet@sheanI =)he 8istory o%
)ruth,= a little paper %irst published in a Lyc,e re2ie! around 1924& 8e
began !ith the same problem Las FouaultIM and it is 2ery odd that his
approah should ha2e shi%ted %rom the history o% truth to
phenomenology, !hile %or the ne$t generation : ours : the re2erse !as
Fouault imagines 3artre and himsel% as hildren o% 5iet@she,
!ith the di%%erene that 3artre strayed %rom the paternal heritage&
Fouault identi%ies !ith 3artre as a brother and e2en regrets >=it is 2ery
odd that=? their di%%erenes& 1%ter May 1978 Fouault arried out a
reorientation and lari%iation o% ideas that substantially altered the
diretion o% his !ork& / am not so muh interested in the Buestion o% the
unity or inonsisteny o% Fouault=s thought, but rather in the theoretial
diretion o% his !ork a%ter 1978& / !ill argue that at this time Fouault
ame to grips !ith issues that !ere entral to ;estern Mar$ism and that
the positions he took, !hile in some ases resembling those o% ;estern
Mar$ists, generally !ent beyond their positions to!ard a ne!
%ormulation o% ritial theory& /n short, Fouault both ame to terms !ith
the problemati o% ;estern Mar$ism and arried it to a ne! le2el&
)he e2ents o% May 1978 signi%ied that an oppositional stane to!ard
e$isting soiety !as possible beyond the on%ines o% ontemporary
Mar$ist orientations& Curing the month o% May ne! groups partiipated
in the protest mo2ement, groups not traditionally assoiated !ith the
proletariat& )he e2ents !ere sparked by students, ontinued by
pro%essional and tehnial !orkers, and supported by younger %atory
!orkers !ho !ere not the mainstays o% the Mar$ist organi@ations& )hese
groups relied on ne! methods o% ation, suh as the tati o%
pro2oation !hih ser2ed to re2eal the !eaknesses o% the established
order rather than to o2erthro! authority and take po!er& )hey de2eloped
ne! organi@ational %orms, notably the 1tion Committee !hih !as
radially demorati and !as oriented to!ard the enatment o% ne!
kinds o% soial relations rather than to!ard mobili@ing the strength o% the
re2olt& 1nd %inally they %ormulated a set o% demands in their !all posters
that onstituted a post:Mar$ist ritiBue o% soiety& )he ideology
ontained in the !all posters spoke not only against apitalism, but also
against bureauray and all non:demorati %orms o% soial organi@ation&
/t ontested not so muh e$ploitation, but alienation& /ts %ous !as not
simply the %atory, but all setors o% e2eryday li%e& /t demanded not so
muh an eBual share %or all in the spoils o% apitalism, but an ati2e
partiipation >autogestion? and reati2e role in all soial ation&

For most le%tist intelletuals, May 1978 onstituted a break in the
traditions o% re2olution& /t beame apparent that a ne! soial %ormation
!as being born and that a ne! ritial theory !ould be reBuired to
aount %or it and %ormulate an opposition to it& /n addition, the opening
leared by May 1978 led to a pro%usion o% ne! protest mo2ements, not
all o% them spei%ially antiipated during the e2ents o% May themsel2es&
)he !omen=s mo2ement, the gay liberation mo2ements, the mo2ement
%or prison re%orm, the eology and antinulear mo2ement, 2arious
regionalist mo2ements and the anti:psyhiatry mo2ement all emerged in
the early 199(s as responses to the e2ents o% May 1978& )hese ne!
%orms o% protest reated a ne! politial mood, o%ten harateri@ed, in
%alse imitation o% the Chinese, as a ultural re2olution& )raditional
Mar$ism !as !oe%ully inadeBuate in aounting %or the ne! aspirations,
tending, i% it dealt !ith them at all, to homogeni@e them into the labor
mo2ement& Fouault and others, like Celeu@e, <uattari, Castoriadis,
,e%ort, ,yotard, "audrillard, Morin and ,e%eb2re, took the situation
more seriously and attempted to re2ise their thought in line !ith the ne!
politial e$igeny&
/n Fouault=s ase, the themes o% domination and po!er ame to the
%ore& /t has o%ten been noted that, starting !ith his inaugural address at
the CollKge de Frane in 199(, Fouault began to stress the onnetion
bet!een reason and po!er& )heDiscourse on Language spoke o% =the
institutional support= %or =the !ill to truth= and emphasi@ed =the manner
in !hih kno!ledge is employed in soiety=&
More to the point,
Fouault de%ined his %uture studies as genealogies o% disourse in !hih
disourse !as to be understood as %orms o% po!er& =)he genealogial
side o% disourse & & & attempts to grasp it in its po!er o% a%%irmation, by
!hih / do not mean a po!er opposed to that o% negation, but the po!er
o% onstituting domains o% obDets&=
5o longer !ould Fouault study
only systems o% e$lusion, that !hih reason repressedF he !ould
hene%orth eluidate the mehanisms by !hih reason onstituted and
shaped %orms o% ation& Po!er !as no longer a negati2e, e$lusionary
%untion, but a positi2e %ormati2e one& /n the 199(s Fouault=s books on
prisons and se$uality did Dust that&
1ssoiated !ith the ne! onern !ith po!er and its ne! =positi2e=
de%inition !as a tendeny to assoiate reason !ith pratie, a tendeny
that beame more and more prominent a%ter 1978& )he struturalist
onern !ith language and its autonomy that !as prominent in The
&rder of Things >1977?, ga2e !ay to an ill:de%ined but suggesti2e
ategory o% disourseNpratie in !hih the reiproal interplay o% reason
and ation& !as presumed& -eason, mani%ested in disourse, !as al!ays
already present in history& )here !as not innoent language !hose
internal mehanisms !ere a sienti%i paradigm that ould ser2e as a
model %or soial analysis, as !e %ind in ,e2i:3trauss=s study o% kinship&
For Fouault, language organi@ed as disourse !as al!ays assoiated
!ith %orms o% disipline, disiplines that ated upon groups o% humans
and that in turn regulated the %ormation o% disourse& )his subtle yet ill:
de%ined sense o% the interplay o% truth and po!er, theory and pratie,
beame :: the entral theme o% Fouault=s in2estigations& /t harateri@es
his e%%ort to go beyond struturalism and leads him into diret
on%rontation !ith the traditions o% ;estern Mar$ism&
)he purpose o% presenting these indiators o% hange in Fouault=s
thought is not to prepare a brie% %or a detailed intelletual history&
/nstead, / ha2e noted the ne! diretions o% his !ork a%ter 1978 as a
prelude to a systemati treatment o% the relation o% Fouault=s !ork to
that o% ;estern Mar$ism& /t should by no! be lear that suh a
omparison is opposite and indeed ruial to urrent theoretial !ork&
Fouault, %inding support in 5iet@she, elaborated a ne! %ormulation o%
the thesis that reason is !ithin history, a thesis that is entral to ;estern
Mar$ism& ;hereas %igures suh as 3artre and Marus presented this
thesis in a 8egel:Mar$ %orm, Fouault did so by resort to 5iet@she& )he
di%%erenes in their %ormulations are no less deisi2e than their
REAS!" #" $#ST!RY
)he ;estern Mar$ists argued that reason !as shaped by lass:bound
history& "oth the positions o% the theorist and those o% any ideologies
%ound in the !orld are regulated by lass& For the later 3artre, to take one
ase, the situation o% the thinker, his being:in:the:!orld, is in the last
analysis a lass situation, !ith the mode o% prodution pro2iding the
%inal hori@on o% thought& )he reason:in:history thesis e%%eti2ely
underut the pretense o% reason as arbiter o% realityF it ser2ed as a kind o%
Canteen ondition o% possibility %or thought that proteted the thinker
against the idealist tendeny to ontologi@e reason& 1nd yet this
protetion pro2ed, in most ases, to be inadeBuate& For the tendeny in
the 8egel:Mar$ tradition, best e$empli%ied perhaps in ,ukHs, !as to
sub:ordinate the preautions o% the reason:in:history thesis to the t!ists
o% the dialeti, arguing, through the bak door, %or an idential subDet:
obDet that all too %reBuently !as another !ay o% saying =reason=& )he
historial dialeti mo2ed through the lass struggleF the lass that
represented the negation o% the present !as the pri2ileged agent o%
historyF the perspeti2e o% this lass !as there%ore the true perspeti2e,
the perspeti2e the theorist ould adopt to grasp the totality& )he theorist
!as then in a position to %ormulate the )ruth& 3uh !as the reasoning
made possible by the 8egel:Mar$ thesis and suh !as the position taken
by ,ukHs in History and Class Consciousness, a %ounding !ork o%
;estern Mar$ism&
;hat sa2ed the Frank%urt 3hool, temporarily at least, %rom %oundering
on the same dialetial ree% !as their pereption that the dialeti had
de2iated %rom its ourse o% proletarian re2olution& 1%ter 3talinism in
-ussia, the ;el%are 3tate in the ;est and espeially a%ter 8itlerism in
<ermany, 8orkheimer, 1dorno and, to a lesser e$tent, Maruse beame
on2ined that the !orking lass !as not the negation o% apitalism and
did not pro2ide a pri2ileged perspeti2e on history& -eason !as
there%ore !ithout its ondition o% possibility& /n response to this
situation, members o% the Frank%urt 3hool took a di%%erent position&
Maruse, %or instane, at times de%ined the traditional position >Reason
and Re$olution?, at times sought through a speial reading o% Freud a
ne! subDeti2ity in substitution %or the !orking lass >-ros and
Ci$ili%ation? and at times ould not deide bet!een the t!o >&ne.
Dimensional !an?& 1dorno, perhaps more than any other %igure in the
Frank%urt 3hool, sought to re:e$amine the di%%iulties o% the 8egel:
Mar$ thesis& /n *egati$e Dialectics and "gainst -pistemology, he
attempted to !ork through the reason:in:history thesis so that there
appearane o% metaphysis !ould be pre2ented& 6et in both ases the
Frank%urt 3hool nurtured a ertain nostalgia %or the reason:in:history
thesis that suggested a longing %or a pre:8egelian anhor& )he pri2ilege
o% reason !as yielded relutantly i% at all& #ne %inds in the !ritings o% the
Frank%urt 3hool a linging to the 'nlightenment notion that %reedom
depends on the reason o% the indi2idual and the indi2idual an e$erise
reason best in a ondition o% autonomy&
5o one presents the ase o% the old notion o% reason al!ays lying hidden
in the reason:in:history thesis better than 0Orgen 8abermas, perhaps the
last representati2e o% the Frank%urt 3hool& 8abermas has been more
e$pliit in de%ense o% the 'nlightenment than the older generation o% the
Frank%urt 3hool& /n his !ork on the history o% ommuniations one
%inds him postulating an ideal speeh situation as the ground %or a ne!,
demorati publi sphere in !hih the indi2idual an e$erise reason
and attain the truth& For 8abermas the ideal speeh situation is al!ays
there in human ommuniation, ser2ing as a metaphysial support %or
8istorial materialism, to him, su%%ers badly i% it degrades
reason to an epiphenomenon o% the mode o% prodution& More reently,
8abermas has turned to systems theory, to theories o% moral and
psyhologial de2elopment to %ind a transendental ground %or the
emergene o% =pure reason= in history& /n this ase reason is one again
inserted in history behind the bak o% lasses and indi2iduals, ser2ing as
a bul!ark against tyranny and om%ortably ensoned as human nature&
Fouault ironially de%ends the reason:in:history thesis by gi2ing it up&
Fouault=s 5iet@shean skeptiism about truth enables him to take a
radial stane !ith respet to reasonF there is not truth, only truths, and
there is no epistemologial ground upon !hih one an stand to
ontologi@e reason, to grasp the totality and laim it all leads to this or
that& "ut Fouault=s radial skeptiism does not lead to nihilism, beause
it enables him to searh %or the lose onnetion bet!een mani%estations
o% reason and patterns o% domination& )he ouplet disourseNpratie
presumes this onnetion as a ondition %or studying it, a hermeneuti
irle that is una2oidable, though %ull o% logial ontradition& Fouault
an study the !ays in !hih disourse is not innoent, but shaped by
pratie : !ithout pri2ileging any %orm o% pratie, suh as lass
struggle& 8e an also study ho! disourse in turn shapes pratie
!ithout pri2ileging any %orm o% disourse& )hus he !rites a history o%
prisons in !hih "enthamite dotrine, responding to the 'nlightenment
re%ormer=s horror at #ld -egime punishment praties, in part leads to
inarerating institutions !hih de2elop their o!n system o% po!er to
manage inmate populations, and this in turn leads to ne! disourses
>riminology? that study =sienti%ially= and %inally in%luene the
administration o% prisons& )he interpenetration o% disourse and pratie
goes on interminably beause they imply eah other=s e$istene %rom the
beginning& /n studying disourse it is not a Buestion o% per%et truthF in
studying pratie it is not a Buestion o% determining disourse& "oth
ontologi@ing tendenies are thus ut o%% %rom the start&
"ut Fouault=s proDet !ould %inally lead to nihilism unless a %urther
dimension is gi2en %ull reognitionA the politial dimension& For the
ouplet disourseNpratie operates %or the theorist as !ell as %or the
obDet studied& Fouault=s disourse is also onneted !ith politis& 8is
o!n politial moti2ation and situation shapes his disourse& 8e has
reogni@ed this e$pliitlyA
/ !ould like to !rite the history o% this prison, !ith all the politial
in2estments o% the body that it gathers together in its losed arhiteture&
;hyI 3imply beause / am interested in the pastI 5o, i% one means by
that !riting a history o% the past in terms o% the present& 6es, i% one
means !riting the history o% the present&
)he important point is the %ollo!ing& Fouault=s o!n situation is one in
!hih disourses, like the one she !rites, are institutionali@ed as the
human sienes and play a deisi2e role in the %ormation o% pratie
>poliy studies?& /n other !ords, Fouault has been able to de2elop the
position that disourse and pratie are intert!ined in a !orld !here
domination takes the %orm o% disiplines and disourse is organi@ed into
disiplines& /n short, reason has beome, in history, a %orm o% po!er in a
!ay that it perhaps !as not be%ore the eighteenth entury& Fouault has
ome to terms !ith his situation, a !orld !here the human sienes are
organi@ed and play a politial role, by arguing %or a position that looks at
the human sienes only be de:ontologi@ing the onept o% reason&
)he Frank%urt 3hool, in %at, began to reogni@e these same onditions&
)hey !ere indebted to the !ork o% Ma$ ;eber in this regard& ;hate2er
the merits o% ;eber=s position, and there is a large body o% literature
arguing the ase %or and against, he made the strongest ase %or the
assoiation o% reason and domination as the entral trait o% modern
soiety& /n opposition to 'nlightenment assumptions, reason %or ;eber
!as not the handmaiden o% %reedom& /n bureaurati organi@ations
reason !as shaped into instrumental rationality and as suh !as
ompatible !ith authoritarian institutions >the state, the army, the
orporation?& )he human being might be, as liberals laimed, a rational
animal, but he !as not neessarily a demorati one& )he =iron age= o%
bureauray %oretold a =soulless= and =spiritless= %ate %or human soiety&
;eber noted that modern soiety brought !ith it a ne! %orm o%
organi@ation !hih he alled bureauray& *nlike %eudal soial
organi@ations, bureauray established an impersonality in soial
positions& 1rranged hierarhially, these o%%ies e2oked a %orm o%
beha2ior that reBuired a ertain moti2ational attitude on the part o% soial
agents, an attitude that appeared to on%orm to the liberal assumption
about essential human rationality but !hen analy@ed %urther %ell short o%
those hopes& "ureaurati ation, ;eber ontended, !as indeed rational,
but it !as a speial kind o% rationality& /n order to spei%y this rationality
;eber reated a set o% modes o% rationality, or =ideal types=, based on the
meansNends distintion& 1tion ould be rational in its ends or in its
meansF bureaurati rationality !as the latter type& )he ends o%
bureaurati ation !ere generated by the hierarhy, beyond the reah o%
most bureaurats& /n addition, these ends !ere de%ined by the
organi@ation itsel%A the goal o% bureaurati ation !as to ontinue the
bureauray& More important to, and originating !ith, bureauray !as
a %orm o% ation de%ined by its means& "ureaurati ation !as
moti2ated by the e%%iieny o% meansF aording to ;eber it !as
oriented to aomplish goals !ith the least e$penditure o% e%%ort and it
reBuired a ontinuous alulation o% means&
8ene bureaurati ation !as rational in that the means to attain goals
!ere based upon alulations o% e%%iieny& "ureaurati ation !as
instrumentally rational&
<eorg ,ukHs, a student o% ;eber, e$panded
this analysis o% means:rational ation into a general ritiBue o%
=rei%iation= in apitalist soiety&
;eber=s analysis o% instrumental reason, ho!e2er bears only super%iial
resemblane to Fouault=s position& For one thing, Fouault does not
in2ent ideal types and then math them against historial e$periene&
Forms o% rationality %or him might be in%inite& /n addition, the ideal type
loads the historial dieA impliit in ;eber=s analysis is a +antian
preDudie in %a2or o% ends:rationality, as might be reogni@ed by
realling +ant=s %amous moral ma$im that ation must be moti2ated by
uni2ersal ends&
Fouault pre%ers to sho! the limits o% the present by
Du$taposition !ith a di%%erent past, not !ith an ideal& /n addition,
Fouault does not analy@e soial agents and their moti2ations as ;eber
does& 8e is onerned !ith a le2el o% obDeti2ity that he alls
disourseNpratie, a ategory !hih a2oids ;eber=s subDetNobDet
dihotomy and presupposes a non:duality bet!een ideas and pratie&
;eber=s analysis remains tied to a =humanisti= assumption o% the split
bet!een moti2e and ation& Finally, Fouault=s analysis aims at the
disourses o% the human sienes >one o% !hih, soiology, !as in some
part %ounded by ;eber?, !hereas ;eber, ho!e2er ambi2alently,
presupposed the separation o% siene and soial ation& /ndeed, the
main and perhaps only point o% ontat bet!een Fouault and ;eber
rests in their e%%ort to e$amine the impliation o% reason in domination&
)he ;estern Mar$ists o% the Frank%urt 3hool addressed this problem at
t!o pointsA in 8orkheimer and 1dorno=sDialectic of -nlightenment and
in 8abermas= ritiBue o% instrumental rationality, !hih, %or my
purposes, does not di%%er enough %rom ;eber=s position to Dusti%y
separate treatment& Dialectic of -nlightenment, !ritten a%ter the
3eond ;orld ;ar by re%ugee <erman 0e!s, bears the mark o% the
holoaust& 5o perspeti2e on modem history ould be adeBuate a%ter
1ush!it@ i% it portrays the past enturies as the marh o% reason& <i2en
the brutality and bestiality o% the t!entieth entury, ;estern i2ili@ation
!as hardly a drama o% progress& 8orkheimer and 1dorno sought to
undermine the liberal >and Mar$ist? %aith in reason by dra!ing a
onneting link bet!een the in2enti2eness o% #dysseus and the
%abriations o% the ontemporary =ulture industry=, plaing partiular
emphasis on =the ahie2ements= o% the eighteenth entury& )he ;estern&
%orm o% reason, they admonished, presupposed a large measure o%
domination by positing the !orld >other human beings and nature? as an
obDet to be ontrolled&
/n the ;est a omponent o% irrationality !as
inherent in the e2olution o% 'nlightenment %rom the outset, an
irrationality !hih emerged all too learly in the politis and ulture o%
the t!entieth entury&
;hile the analysis in the Dialectic of -nlightenment ontains rih
suggestions, espeially the parts on the ulture industry !hih 1dorno in
partiular de2eloped in ensuing essays, it is limited by its le2el o%
analysis& )oo o%ten 8orkheimer and 1dorno onern themsel2es only
!ith the =great thinkers= o% the past, missing the mundane le2els at !hih
reason beomes disursi2e pratie& )heir highly philosophial analysis
and ritiBue o% reason misses the hane to present a detailed 2ie! o% the
disiplines o% truth& 5onetheless, their re%usal to take reason at its !ord
and their insistene on in2estigating its imbriation !ith domination
leads diretly to the problemati e$plored by Fouault&
FR!M %A&!R T! 'A#%Y %#FE
/n addition to problemati@ing reason, ;estern Mar$ists ha2e in ommon
!ith Fouault a shi%t o% interest a!ay %rom the mode o% prodution
to!ard the =margins= o% e2eryday li%e& /n a reent inter2ie! Fouault
identi%ies himsel% !ith the Frenh ;estern Mar$ists and redits them in
part %or the eletoral suess o% the 3oialist Party in 1981A
& & & the 3oialist Party !as greeted so responsi2ely in large part beause
it !as reasonably open to & & & ne! attitudes, ne! Buestions and ne!
problems& /t !as open to Buestions onerning daily li%e, se$ual li%e,
ouples, !omen=s issues& /t !as sensiti2e to the problem o% sel%:
management, %or e$ample& 1ll these are themes o% ,e%t thought : a ,e%t
thought !hih is not enrusted in the politial parties and !hih is not
traditional in its approah to Mar$ism&
)he themes o% daily li%e pro2ide the area %or a re2itali@ed ritial theory&
/n Frane these themes !ere pioneered by 3artre and Merleau:Ponty
in Les Temps modernes, 8enri ,e%eb2re and 'dgar Morin
in "rguments and CornJlius Castoriadis and Claude ,e%ort
in Socialisme ou barbarie&

)he maDor theoretial break in Frane ame !ith 3artre=s Criti)ue of
Dialectical Reason >197(?, !here the analysis o% e2eryday li%e beame
the entral onern o% ritial theory& /n a period !hen the !orking lass
seemed to ha2e abandoned its historial proDet as outlined by Mar$,
3artre re:e$amined the Buestion o% re2olution in terms o% the onditions
%or a %ree %orm o% subDeti2ity and the obstales to it& 8e analy@ed the
onditions in !hih a lass disrupts its routines, %ouses on its burden o%
subordination, en2isages learly a path to %reedom and takes ation to
attain that end& )o understand !hy these moments o% re2olutionary
onsiousness are so rare, 3artre in2estigated the modes o% relationships
and onsiousness among subordinated groups in daily li%e, 8e
hypothesi@ed a %orm o% interati2e being termed =the series=& /n e2eryday
li%e, the oppressed lie in a kind o% group relationship in !hih eah
indi2idual sees the other as a remote, hostile party& )he indi2idual posits
him or hersel% !ith goals and purposes, suh that others are merely
obstales& )hat !e are in %at in groups 3artre argues !ith the e$ample
o% reading the ne!spaperA many people do it and they do it at the same
time, but they are in isolation e2en though they per%orm the same ation
at the same time& )hat !e posit eah other as obstales 3artre argues by
the e$ample o% the line o% people !aiting %or a bus !here eah kno!s
that the others might take a seat that ould be his or hers& /n these !ays
the population is atomi@ed !hile remaining in groups and e%%eti2ely
de%leted %rom attaining lass onsiousness&
)he theme o% atomi@ation !as rihly e$plored by Frenh ;estern
Mar$ists during the 197(s& /t !as the maDor onern o% 8enri ,e%eb2re
in books suh as Daily Life in the !odern /orld >1978?, and <uy
Cebord=s Society of the Spectacle>1979?& "ooks and artiles !ere
de2oted to the topis o% onsumerism, urbanism, the %amily, se$uality,
eduation and leisure, eah attempting to understand ho! subordinated
groups su%%er domination and lose ontrol o2er their ommunal
e$istene& )he theme o% alienation de2eloped in Mar$=s early !ritings
!as turned to repeatedly %or oneptual guidane& "ut Mar$ restrited
the sope o% the onept o% alienation to the !orker in the %atoryF the
;estern Mar$ists employed it to lari%y the onditions o% many groups
in daily li%e& )he onlusion !as ine2itableA the !orkers, su%%er
domination not only in the %atory but in all setors o% li%e and the
!orkers, are not the only group to su%%er domination& ;omen, hildren,
the aged, students minority groups, onsumers, residents : atomi@ation
and alienation are !idespread phenomena and these phenomena annot
be grasped by e$lusi2e re%erene to the !orkplae, or by the ategories
that !ere de2eloped to analy@e the e$ploitation o% labor& Mar$ism !as
doubly inadeBuateA its ategories !ere not broad enough to re2eal
domination outside the !orkplae and the soial %ormation had hanged
sine the time o% Mar$, reBuiring a break= !ith the lassial themes o%
the ritiBue o% politial eonomy e2en in the realm o% !ork&
#ne it !as lear that %orms o% domination e$isted outside the
!orkplae, the Buestion arose o% methods and theories adeBuate to the
task o% analysis& ,ukHs= theory o% rei%iation and <ramsi=s onept o%
hegemony !ere studied& /n more drasti departures %rom lassial
Mar$ism, e$istentialism and phenomenology, psyhoanalysis,
struturalism and semiology !ere all e$plored by ;estern Mar$ists& )he
general problem %aed by ;estern Mar$ists !as that lassial Mar$ism
!as not easily trans%erable to realms o% daily li%e beyond the !orkplae&
)hey enountered a theoretial limitation o% lassial Mar$ism by !hih
the spei%iity o% domination outside the !orkplae !as lost or slipped
a!ay through the losure brought about by the theory o% the mode o%
prodution& ,ukHs, %or e$ample, had applied his theory o% rei%iation in
the !orkplae to a general ultural ritiBue o% apitalism& "ut the
mehanisms by !hih !orkers are treated as things in the apitalist
eonomy are not the same as those by !hih bureauray positions the
general population& 1nd the literary e$pression o% bureaurati@ed li%e,
%or instane in +a%ka, did not on%orm to the stylisti tenets o% realism
!hih ,ukHs sa! as the ounterpart to the ritiBue o% rei%iation&
/n the ase o% <ramsi, the same problems obtained& 8is theory o%
hegemony !as meant to aount %or the ati2e role o% ideology and
politis >the superstruture? in the lass struggle& <ramsi argued that
under apitalism& politial domination is separate %rom eonomi
e$ploitation& *nlike the %eudal system, bourgeois i2il soiety presribes
di%%erent loations %or !ork and %or %ore or oerion& )he !orkers are
not subDet to the politial !ill o% the bourgeoisie in the !ay the peasants
!ere to that o% the nobility& /nstead, apitalism asserts the hegemony or
domination o% the bourgeoisie through the mediations o% politis and
ideology& 1lthough this line o% thought an be 2ery %ruit%ul in dra!ing
out the onnetions bet!een politis and the eonomy, its theoretial
strategy is to illuminate only those aspets o% politis and ideology that
are pertinent to the relations o% prodution& <ender politis, %or e$ample,
are in general not analy@able using the ategory o% hegemony&
;hen the ;estern Mar$ists disussed aspets o% daily li%e in terms o%
the ategory o% alienation the same slippage bak to the mode o%
prodution took plae& #ne ould sho! that onsumers !ere alienated in
the marketplae through ad2ertising, that students !ere alienated in the
lassroom through the system o% e$aminations, that !omen !ere
alienated in the home through isolation and so %orth& /n eah ase,
ho!e2er, it !as assumed that the soure o% alienation remained the
!orkplae and that other %orms o% alienation !ere deri2ations %rom that
soure& *ltimately, the struggle o2er alienation in the !orkplae took
priority and the spei%i %orms o% domination in e2eryday li%e !ould be
taken are o% almost automatially a%ter the apitalist eonomy !as
o2erturned by the proletariat&
Cue to the theoretial losure inherent in Mar$ism, ;estern& Mar$ists
%ound it neessary to on%ront lassial Mar$ism !ith the theoretial
de2elopments o% the t!entieth entury& "y supplementing Mar$ism !ith
psyhoanalysis or e$istentialism, the dialeti ould perhaps be opened
up& 3artre=s e%%orts in this regard are partiularly note!orthy& )hey re2eal
both the strengths and the limitations o% the strategy o% supplementation&
/n partiular, 3artre s e$istential Mar$ism demonstrates the di%%iulty o%
Doining t!o oneptual systems into a oherent !hole and brings to light
the dangerous underlying assumption in the e%%ort, notably the ategory
o% totali@ation&
Sartre+s E,istentialism
3artre, in the Criti)ue of Dialectical Reason, noted the limits o%
Mar$ism in the analysis o% e2eryday li%e and alled %or a strategy o%
/% he !ere, suess%ul, the dialeti !ould beome a
totali@ing theory that !as not redutionist& 'ah setor o% apitalist
soiety !ould be gi2en its due !eight as a mediation in the o2erall
dialetial sheme& )he %amily, %or instane, !ould be sho!n both as
generating its o!n %orm o% domination and as a setor in the totality& /n
order to aount %or the relati2e autonomy o% eah moment o% the
dialeti, it !as neessary to elaborate, 3artre ontended, a 2ast sheme
o% ategories designed to pre2ent premature losures and redutionism&
)he key to this ategorial apparatus !as the onept o% totali@ation&
3artre argued that an adeBuate ritial theory must spei%y t!o moments
o% totali@ationA one at the beginning and one at the end o% the analysis,
one at the epistemologial le2el and one at the ontologial le2el& 1t the
ontologial le2el, it !as presumed that at any gi2en moment human
history or soiety !as a totali@ation in proess, a strutural !hole built
by human beings, a sum o% the intentions o% human agents, albeit a sum
re%leting their alienation more than their diret aims& /n addition, 3artre
argued that the ondition o% this history !as the ontologial possibility
that human beings ould all !ill the same totali@ation >%reedom?, that
they ould at upon this intention to reate a soial order !hih !ould
ha2e that %reedom as its purpose, and that they ould thereby eliminate
alienation >the e%%ets o% otherness? and produe a !orld in !hih they
!ould beome %ree subDets& /t should be noted that 3artre !as perhaps
the last maDor thinker to propose this 8egelian possibility&
1t the other end o% the analysis, at the epistemologial le2el, 3artre also
argued %or the neessity o% totali@ation& 8e resorted to e$istential
phenomenology to sho! that all pereption reBuires totali@ations, that an
obser2er is al!ays pri2ileged in dra!ing together disparate ats in an
historial %ield re2ealing a totali@ation, e2en though indi2idual ators
may not be ogni@ant o% it& ,ike a ommanding general in a
battle, the kno!ing subDet neessarily takes a 2ie! o% the !hole and
sees the parts in relation to it& 'ah indi2idual totali@es in the at o%
li2ing and the kno!er does the same& 3artre maintained that human
subDeti2ity !as the ati2ity o% totali@ing the %ield and this !as the basis
%or totali@ations by the theorist& 5ot that the theorist had automati
aess to the totality, ho!e2er& /nstead, the theorist totali@ed beause
onsiousness in eah instane !as %ree and there%ore had the totality as
a possible basis %or ommitment& "oth as a perei2er !ho ould dra!
together the disparate aspets o% the %ield and as a onsious ator !ho
ould hoose any number o% possible ourses o% ommitment, the
human subDet totali@ed& 1ordingly, the responsibility and task o% the
theorist !as to arry out totali@ation in the realm o% kno!ledge& )he
theorist=s totali@ation !as not the per%et, ertain, obDeti2e kno!ledge o%
<od or Cesartes, beause the theorist !as situated in a spei%i
historial %ield and had a spei%i history& )he theorist=s totali@ation !as
pro%oundly his o!n, but it !as also a2ailable to others !ho ould hose
to adopt it& /n this !ay, dialetial reason !as both subDeti2e, limited by
the situation o% the theorist, and obDeti2e, a possible proDet %or
;ith the ategory o% totali@ation, deri2ing %rom e$istentialism 3artre had
re%ormulated Mar$ist epistemology& 5o longer ould Mar$ism %all prey
to sientism and present its ase in obDeti2ist terms& 1t the same time
the totali@ing dialeti preempted the redutionist step inherent in the
theory o% the mode o% prodution& 'ah moment o% the dialeti !as
preser2ed in its relati2e autonomyF %orms o% domination in the %amily,
%or instane, !ere not reduible to those o% the !orkplae& 5onetheless,
eah mediation remained onneted !ith the totali@ation, but in this ase
the totali@ation did not mean the destrution o% apitalist relations o%
prodution& /t meant instead the adoption by all subordinated lasses o%
the goad o% totali@ation itsel%, the reation by %ree subDets o% a !orld
!ithout lasses and domination& )hese subDets !ould reogni@e their
%reedom by their ommitment to a %ree soiety and !ould make
themsel2es into these %ree subDets through the pratie o% reating that
1t one time in the 197(s Fouault regarded 3artre=s sheme as an error
o% the grossest sort& 3artre had ommitted the most basi sin o% %ounding
kno!ledge on the basis o% a philosophy o% onsiousness& 1ll the
illusions o% the philosopher=s position !ere reprodued by 3artre in
embarrassing e$pliitness& /n no sense, Fouault thought, ould the
philosopher : theorist reate representations o% his or her thought !hih
ould ser2e as the standard o% kno!ledge& 3artre=s resue o% Mar$ism by
use o% the li%eboat o% e$istentialism !as a %ailure that !ould ertainly
dro!n the endangered 2itim, ritial theory& '$hanging the alleged
ertitudes o% sienti%i Mar$ism %or the preposterous subDeti2ities o%
e$istentialism !as no basis %or a rene!ed ritial theory&
1nd yet there !ere elements o% 3artre=s position o2erlooked by Fouault,
!hih !ent in the diretion he !anted to arry ritial theory& Fouault=s
!ork has been onerned !ith de2eloping a %orm o% kno!ledge !hih
did not laim too muh %or reason, !hih !as not subDet to the
5iet@shean ritiBue o% the philosopher=s !ill to po!er& /n some respets
3artre=s dialetial reason on%ormed to these stritures& 3artre did not
assert that dialetial reason led to obDeti2e kno!ledgeF nor did he
laim that the theorist de2eloped ertain kno!ledge o% the totality& 3artre
insisted that the theorist !as situated, like e2eryone else, and that his or
her kno!ledge !as limited to the perspeti2e, as 5iet@she !ould say,
a%%orded by eah indi2idual=s historial and soial loation& /n the 199(s
Fouault !ould !rite his books on prisons and se$uality, as !e ha2e
seen, insisting on the rootedness o% his proDet in the present&
'2en !ith these possible points o% onordane, there remain pro%ound
di%%erenes bet!een 3artre and Fouault : most notably on the Buestion
o% totali@ation& Fouault !as so deeply onerned to limit the sope o%
the theorist=s epistemologial position that he re%used to systemati@e his
position or e2en to elaborate onepts to any great e$tent& 8e re%used to
e$plore at all the position %rom !hih he attained kno!ledge and at
times !ent so %ar as to grant that he !as a simple positi2ist in order to
a2oid the task o% sel%: re%letion& 3artre took a position at the other
e$tremeA he %ound Mar$ism so in need o% epistemologial larity that he
based the entire edi%ie o% ritial theory on the at o% kno!: ledge&
"eause onsiousness is %ree >or unde%ined?, the indi2idual totali@es his
or her proDet and thus the entire e%%ort o% kno!ledge omes bak to the
indi2idual=s need to hoose a ourse o% ation& )he elaborate omple$ity
o% the totali@ation returns to the epistemologial moment o% the theorist=s
hoie o% himsel% or hersel%& Critial theory, ho!e2er, ompelling
though it may be as an analysis o% the historial moment, is no more
than the personal 2oie o% the theorist&
)here is an element o% intelletual honesty in 3artre=s position that
Fouault annot a%%ord to o2erlook& )he position o% the theorist is ruial
to the kno!ledge he or she de2elops& /% kno!ledge is presented as
oming %rom no one and no!here, regardless o% the modest laims made
%or the 2alidity o% that kno!ledge, a ertain dupliity is introdued into
the te$t, a dupliity through !hih the te$t assumes an obDeti2e
authority that Fouault %or one !ould not !ant to laim& /n the end,
3artre=s insistene on the personal nature o% his kno!ledge is more
5iet@shean, more respet%ul o% the danger that kno!ledge is a %orm o%
po!er by other means, than Fouault=s !ithdra!al %rom the te$t in
unre%le$i2e modesty& Fouault=s salutary !arning not to treat his te$t as a
polie dossier beomes an e$use %or hiding in an epistemologial
)here are ne2ertheless good reasons %or Fouault=s elusi2enessA in
3artre=s hands the urge to sel%:re%letion ends in the Dusti%iation o% the
theorist& 3tarting %rom the simple need to de%ine his onsiousness,
3artre ends !ith an airtight, o2erblo!n system that ommands
allegiane %rom the oppressed o% the !orld& )he totali@ation o% his
situation leads to an imposing hulk o% theori@ation that stands o2er the
populae like a tyrant ommanding ation and ommitment& ;hat began
%or 3artre as an e%%ort to redue the sope o% reason through a
lari%iation o% the Mar$ist dialeti, ends in a tremendous e$pansion o%
the po!er o% the intelletual& 3artre=s dialetial, reason pre:empts the
initiati2e %rom the mo2ement o% protest, ompelling on%ormity to
theory at the e$pense o% %ree pratie& )he epistemologial need o%
ritial theory is to %ind a path bet!een the retiene o% Fouault and the
%orthrightness o% 3artre, a path that !ill respet the limits o% reason by
akno!ledging the situation o% the theorist !ithout hiding the re%le$i2e
presene o% the author in the te$t&
3artre and Fouault di%%er e2en more sharply on the Buestion o% the
obDet o% theory and again there, are strong arguments on both sides& For
3artre, the soial:historial %ield onsists o% a dialetial interplay o% men
and things& ;hile 3artre pays some attention to the trans%ormation o% the
!orld o% :things >the mode o% prodution?, his maDor onern is the
!orld o% human subDets >series, groups:in%usion? and the introdution
o% otherness into subDeti2ity >alienation? by the mediation o% things& )he
main issue %or 3artre is subDeti2ityA ho! an human beings reogni@e
and reali@e, their %reedom in the ongoing totali@ation o% historyI )he
emphasis in the Criti)ue of Dialectical -eason is on the, #bstales that
subDets on%ront in the e%%ort at sel% reognition& /n other !ords 3artre=s
%ous is the onditions %or resistane to domination, a %ous that no
doubt gre! out o% his e$periene !ith the -esistane during ;orld ;ar
// and orresponds to the situation o% an inreasingly prosperous,
ad2aned industrial soiety >Frane in the later 194(s?, one that
ontained no substantial oppositional mo2ement&
)he obDet o% theory %or Fouault, !hile at %irst glane ompletely
di2ergent %rom 3artre=s, ould be read as the opposite side o% the oin o%
ritial theory& ;riting a%ter the struturalist attak on the subDet,
Fouault, in the 199(s, %a2ors, obDeti2ity as a %ield o% in2estigation& 8e
tries to make intelligible modes o% domination or =tehnologies o% po!er=
that esaped the attention o% lassial Mar$ism& )ehnologies o% po!er,
suh as the Panoption or disiplinary system, are omposed o%
onglomerations o% disourses and praties, minutely arranged %or the
ontrol o% the body and the mind& )his le2el o% intelligibility ould not
be approahed by re%erene to the subDet or %orms o% onsiousness, but
rather through a are%ul analysis o% the %ield o% obDeti2ity& Fouault is in
this, respet %irmly at odds !ith 3artre, -esistane and the modes o%
subDeti2ity assoiated !ith it are not a serious problem %or Fouault,
!ho simply asserts that opposition to domination is e2er:present&
the 199(s the impetus o% May 1978 !as sueeded by numerous %orms
o% opposition, seemingly at e2ery point o% po!er in the soial %ield, a
marked di%%erene %rom the situation in !hih 3artre !rote& 1ttention to
the politial onDunture must not, ho!e2er, sidestep the important
theoretial issues that separate the t!o thinkers& 6et one ould dra! the
onlusion that the respeti2e onerns %or resistane and analysis o%
domination are omplementary, not neessarily ontraditory&
)he issue on !hih 3artre and Fouault do butt heads is not so muh the
%ield o% in2estigation, but the status o% the subDet& Fouault remains
suspiious o% positions !hih rely on a entered subDet as a soure o%
intelligibility& /ndi2idual sel%:onsiousness is ruled out as an obDet o%
kno!: ledge, a& reBuirement that is entral to Fouault=s proDets o% the
199(s& /n Discipline and Punish he is able to loate his obDet,
tehnologies o% po!er, only by an in2estigation that puts aside the
rationality or ageny o% the indi2idual or group& 8e looks %or
mehanisms o% disourseNpratie that are out o% phase !ith the sel%:
onsiousness o% the indi2idual& /n The History of Sexuality he goes a
step %urther, de%ining his obDet as disourseNpraties through !hih the
indi2idual is onstituted as the subDet o% truth& /n this ase the
rational indi2idual is seen not as a proposition to be de%ended >or
re%uted?, but as the onseBuene o% soial:historial proesses, not as the
intentional goal and underlying basis o% history but as its illusory result&
/n a soial system suh as ours, based on >1? the assumption o% a rational
human nature and >2? the dissemination o% sienti%i disiplines !hih
are impliated in po!er relations, the task o% ritial theory, %or
Fouault, is to sho! ho! the subDet and the disiplines are onstituted
under the sign o% the truth& /n this onte$t the rational subDet ould not
be onsidered an origin or ause&
;hat is o%ten %orgotten is that 3artre began his areer !ith a strategy
!hih he maintained almost throughout& 3artre, !ho !as onsidered the
hie% de%ender o% the subDet by the struturalists, de%ined himsel% in
opposition to all philosophies o% mind as early as 1939&
;ith his
e$istentialist : phenomenologial assumptions, 3artre opposed Frenh
aademi idealism in !hih the rational subDet !as a metaphysial
enter& /nstead, the phenomenologist posited onsiousness as a relation,
a lak !hih %lo!ed out to things and the e$istentialist depited human
reality as dispersed in the !orld, e$isting not entered in rationality&
3artre=s maDor !orks, Being and *othingness >1943? and Criti)ue of
Dialectical Reason >197(? ontinue and elaborate %urther this theme&
3artre does, ho!e2er, posit a enter %or the subDet not in terms o%
rationality but in terms o% meaning& Consiousness reates meanings, it
produes meaning e2en as it is lost in the !orld !ith others& 1ording
to some theorists, suh a 2ie! o% the subDet is essential %or a post:
struturalist ritial theory& )he problem !ith 3artre=s position %or a
thinker like Fouault is that 3artre theori@es the subDet !ho produes
meaning in ontologial rather than linguisti:soial terms& +riste2a, %or
e$ample, praises 8usserl %or =the %at that he has dra!n attention to this
obDet:onstituting subDeti2ity !hih produes positioned
onsiousness in the at o% prediation=, but not %or =the metaphysial
a%%irmation o% PbeingP or PpreseneP as the origin o% meaning=&
3artre=s ase there is an e%%ort to go beyond the ontologial %ormulation
o% the meaning:produing subDet o% Being and *othingness in
the Criti)ue of Dialectical Reason& 8ere 3artre employs soial and
historial ategories to indiate trans%ormations in the modes o%
subDeti2ity, !ithout ompletely esaping the ontologial le2el& /n this
sense, 3artre has mo2ed in a diretion similar to that o% Fouault and
!orks !ith the same problemati, !ithout going as %ar as Fouault in
surpassing the rational subDet& For his part Fouault has still not
ompletely ome to terms !ith the problem o% subDeti2ity, in that he
has been unable to theori@e the prodution o% meaning by subDets or
aount %or resistane to domination&
T-eories of %anguage
/% phenomenologial e$istentialism is one methodology employed by
;estern Mar$ists to resol2e the limitations o% lassial Mar$ism,
linguistis is another& /n his book !ythologies, "arthes demonstrates the
po!er o% strutural linguistis %or an analysis o% the languages o%
e2eryday li%e& 8e re2eals the ideologial mehanisms at !ork in
ad2ertising, %ashion and numerous leisure ati2ities& ;hen daily li%e is
2ie!ed as a %ield o% linguisti meanings >semiology?, a proess is
uno2ered !hereby soial institutions are naturali@ed, gi2en the
appearane o% uni2ersality, and on%lits are hidden behind masks o%
%loating signi%iers& 3emiology, "arthes argues, illuminates the
mehanisms o% domination in the proesses through !hih meaning is
produed in daily li%e&
)he !ork o% elaborating semiology into a ompleted ritial theory !as
arried out by 0ean "audrillard& Continuing the !ork o% "arthes and also
,e%eb2re, "audrillard de2elops a theory o% the historial trans%ormation
o% modes o% signi%iation&
)o demonstrate the linguisti mehanisms o%
present:day onsumer soiety is not enough& *nless the morphology o%
linguisti %orms is analy@ed, it !ould appear that ertain language
strutures are themsel2es uni2ersal, a position that runs ounter to the
tenets o% historial materialism& /n this spirit "audrillard analy@es the
historial origins o% the ontemporary semiologial mehanisms& /n
ad2aned apitalism signi%iers >!ords? are split o%% %rom signi%ieds
>meanings? and re%erents >things?, Dust as other struturalist linguists
ha2e sho!n& "ut this language pattern is a historial phenomenon, going
bak to the -enaissane& "e%ore that time language !as harateri@ed by
the use o% symbols in !hih all the linguisti elements !ere integrated,
not split asunder& "audrillard relies espeially on anthropologial
e2idene to support his ontention&
)he predominant linguisti %orm in ad2aned apitalism is not the
symbol but the signal& 3ine the linguisti elements are %ragmented,
signi%iers are able to =%loat= as it !ere in the spae o% soial pratie and
be ombined !ith signi%ieds and re%erents at !ill& /n %at, the proess o%
prodution has been trans%ormed by these %loating signi%iers& Capitalists
no longer rely on =use 2alue=, the imagined or real utility o% a ommodity,
to sell their produts& /nstead, in the proess o% ad2ertising, signi%iers are
attahed to ommodities seemingly at random& Qualities that are desired
by the population >se$iness, sel%:on%idene? are attributed to
ommodities irrespeti2e o% their %untionality or material utility& )hus
sha2ing reams promise se$ appealF deodorants guarantee sel%:
on%idene, automobiles are a means to an ati2e soial li%eF so%t drinks
are the key to ommunity, lo2e, popularityF and so %orth& )he proess
has ad2aned to suh a degree that the mode o% signi%iation is entral to
the apitalist mode o% prodution&
)he mehanism o% the signal, !hereby signi%iers are attahed to
ommodities, assures an immediate i% unonsious response by the
reei2er o% the message& )he ommuniations o% ad2ertising are
mediated through eletroni onduits& )he ad2ertiser onstitutes the
subDet by are%ully manipulating the struture o% the message !ith the
desired goal o% an immediate reeption o% the meaning, a reeption that
preludes rationality& 3ignals short:iruit the proess o% ritial thoughtF
the onsumer is not to !eigh are%ully the possible utility o% a
ommodity >does the signi%ier in %at orrespond to the re%erentI?, but
instantaneously assent to the message and hope%ully purhase the
produt in an impulsi2e at o% semiologial onsumption& )aken as a
!hole, signals, onstitute odes, "audrillard maintains, into !hih the
subDet is inserted and %rom !hih there is no esape& 1t %irst "audrillard
regarded his semiologial ritiBue as a supplement to standard Mar$ismA
the apitalist mode o% prodution, splitting use:2alues %rom e$hange
2alues, reates the onditions %or the ode& 1t a ertain point it beomes
neessary %or the proess o% apital aumulation to reate a onsumer
soiety& #ne basi needs are met, apitalist gro!th reBuires the
%ormation o% ne! needs and turns to the signal %or that end& )he ne!
needs o% the !orking lass are emotional and soial, so apitalists o%%er
lo2e and ommunity through the same produts that had earlier
promised %aster means o% transportation or better nutrition& )he
semiology o% ad2ertising re2eals yet another stage in the dialeti o%
1lmost as soon as he de2eloped this position, "audrillard beame
dissatis%ied !ith it on the grounds : o% its redutionism& )he mode o%
signi%iation is not so losely tied to the mode o% prodution& Eery
Buikly he began to argue %or the relati2e autonomy and then the
omplete autonomy o% the mode o% signi%iation&
Mar$ism, he
ontends is ommitted to a produti2ist model o% soiety, !hereas the
impliations o% ritial semiology leads to an e$hangist position&
Meanings are reated in the proess o% soial interation, as
anthropologists like Mauss and 3ahlins ha2e sho!n, not through the
proess o% prodution& 8istorial materialism is hained to a
utilitarianN%untionalist 2ie! o% soiety !hih relegates pre:apitalist
%ormations to subsistene positions& #nly apitalism has sol2ed the
riddle o% the surplus, rein2esting it to generate gro!th& "ut non:apitalist
soieties also generate surpluses, "audrillard responds, !ith the
di%%erene that !hat they do !ith the surpluses >in potlathes or gi%t
e$hanges? is determined not by any utilitarian rationality but by the
proess o% the e$hange o% meanings& )he %ull analysis o% the ode,
"audrillard onludes reBuires a theoretial di2ore o% the mode
signi%iation %rom the mode o% prodution&
"audrillard=s !ork, mani%esting the di%%iulty ;estern Mar$ists ha2e in&
attempting to supplement lassial Mar$ism, bears some resemblane to
Fouault=s position& )hey both seek to gi2e %ull !eight in a ritial
theory to language and they both seek to present linguisti e$periene in
relation to historial:soial ation& "audrillard=s polemial attak on
Fouault, &ublier oucault >1999?, ended all hane o% dialogue
bet!een the t!o& 6et they are both onerned !ith the onstitution o%
the subDet in& linguisti pratie, a similarity that suggests possibilities
%or %urther in2estigation& "audrillard himsel% did not pursue immediately
his earlier positions, but !ent o%% on a di%%erent path, starting
!ith Symbolic -xchange and Death >1997?, a path that led him a!ay
%rom the onerns o% ritial theory&
1nother ;estern Mar$ist !ho took a =linguisti turn=
is 0Orgen
8abermas, the main %igure o% the Frank%urt 3hool a%ter the deaths o%
8orkheimer, 1dorno and Maruse& 8abermas dissol2es the Mar$ist
onern !ith labor in an analyti di2ision o% labor, interation, and
#ne he abandoned the redutionism o% the base N
superstruture model, 8abermas in2estigated the %oundations o% ritial
theory in terms o% language& 8e argues that inherent in ordinary
language is a truth riterion that ould ser2e as a basis %or demorati
)his truth riterion is loated not at the grammatial or
syntatial le2els o% language, but at !hat 8abermas alls the pragmati
le2el, the le2el at !hih language is an at o% ommuniation& *nlike the
semiologists "arthes and "audrillard, 8abermas is not interested in
language as a ode !ith an internal logi& /nstead, he mo2es ritial
theory loser to the point !here language and ation interset&
=Communiati2e interation= is the %ield that he in2estigates& ;hile this
strategy is ertainly suggesti2e %or ritial theory, 8abermas does not
take %ull ad2antage, o% it& )he %ruit%ul line o% in2estigation !ould be to
look at hanges in speeh situations, espeially those brought about by
the eletroni tehnologies o% the reent past& /nstead, as !e ha2e seen,
8abermas is interested only in an =ideal:speeh situation= !hih ser2es as
a %oundation %or the autonomous rational indi2idual&
'2en though 8abermas and Fouault are o%ten seen as the main %igures
o% ritial theory and debates ha2e been arranged bet!een them in hopes
o% %urthering theoretial !ork, there is not muh agreement in their
positions& For 8abermas is !edded to the 'nlightenment 2alue o%
indi2idual autonomy through reason, !hile Fouault Buestions the
relation o% reason and demoray& 8abermas %urthermore, resorts to
transendental grounds %or theory, suh as the ideal speeh situation,
!hile Fouault is more rigorously historial, pre%erring to trae the
emergene o% di%%ering patterns o% disourseNpratie !ithout pri2ileging
any& 8abermas is more systemati theoretially and utopian politially,
!hile Fouault is suspiious o% systems and retient about the
elimination o% domination in the %uture& 1ll in all there is not muh room
%or agreement bet!een them and 8abermas= position inreasingly
appears as a +antian step bak!ards %or ritial theory&
)he third important methodology assoiated !ith the ;estern Mar$ist
e%%ort at theoretial rene!al is psyhoanalysis& Freud=s ideas ha2e been
2ery popular !ith ritial theorists sine the early attempt by ;ilhelm
-eih to synthesi@e historial materialism and psyhoanalysis& 1lthough
-eih had little assoiation !ith the Frank%urt 3hool, 8orkheimer !as
interested in Freud=s thought and organi@ed a proDet, !ith the important
partiipation o% 'rih Fromm, to study the relation bet!een authority
and the %amily along psyhoanalyti lines& 3ine the publiation
o% Studies on "uthority and the amily in 1934, Frank%urt 3hool
theorists returned again and again to the problem o% reoniling Mar$
and Freud& /n this 2ein& there are 1dorno=s essay on soial psyhology,
Maruse=s -ros and Ci$ili%ation >1944? and i$e Lectures0
Psychoanalysis, Politics and 1topia >199(?, and 8abermas= 'no(ledge
and Human #nterests >1991?&
1side %rom 8abermas, !ho is onerned !ith the epistemologial 2alue
o% the therapeuti e$periene, the themes treated by the Frank%urt 3hool
are similar, though there are important di%%erenes in emphasis& /n
general they applaud psyhoanalysis %or pro2iding a mediation bet!een
the understanding o% the indi2idual and soiety& Freudian ategories
lead, they ontend, to an appreiation o% the signi%iane o% the
superstrutureA onsiousness, ideology and se$uality& Psyhoanalysis
e$plains, as Mar$ism annot, regressions in history : best e$empli%ied by
<erman %asism, but also by the in%antile longings eliited by the ulture
)he entral theme in the Frank%urt 3hool=s use o%
psyhoanalysis is, ho!e2er, the notion o% se$ual repression& Maruse
and others e$pand the Mar$ist ritiBue o% apitalist politial eonomy
!ith a Freudian ritiBue o% bourgeois libidinal eonomy& /n -ros and
Ci$ili%ation, Maruse translates Freudian ategories into a Mar$ist
le$ion& 8ene the reality priniple beomes the per%ormane priniple
and the parallel !ith Mar$=s surplus 2alue is Freudian surplus repression&
"y means suh as these, the Frank%urt 3hool adds the ritial 2alue o%
psyhoanalysis to historial materialism !ithout presenting an internal
ritiBue o% either position& 1lthough many important essays resulted
%rom this intelletual diretion, it does not e2oke a re:e2aluation o% either
position, or lead to a rede%inition o% the reBuirements o% a ritial theory
o% soiety&
/n Fouault=s !riting psyhoanalysis appears in an entirely di%%erent
register& /nstead o% using Freud=s theory in his historial essay on
se$uality, %or Fouault, psyhoanalysis is part o% that history& 8e is
ritial in partiular o% the hypothesis o% se$ual repression that is
assoiated !ith the Frank%urt 3hool and !ith -eih& <i2en his theory o%
disourse Fouault maintains that bourgeois ulture does not repress
se$uality, but through the spread o% disourses on se$, inluding
psyhoanalysis, %orms o% se$ual pratie are reated& )he subDet is
%ormed as one %or !hom se$uality is his or her truth, the deep seret o%
the sel% that is ultimately its enter& /n addition, psyhoanalysis plays a
role in Fouault=s history o% se$uality as a mehanism o%
disourseNpratie not totally unlike the on%essional a po!er relation
!here the lientN subDet is onstituted and reonstituted in the disourse
o% the therapeuti situation& Fouault denies any animus to!ard Freudian
theory, yet his History &f Sexualitypromises to pro2ide a de2astating
ritiBue o% this human siene that laims to be one o% liberation %rom
repression, but praties and enats a mode o% domination& /n Frane the
appreiation o% Freud had to !ait until the 197(s
!hen interest !as
stimulated by the importane o% ;ilhelm -eih=s ideas by thinkers suh
as 0ean:FranRois ,yotard
and by the de2elopment o% a peuliar %orm o%
psyhoanalysis mi$ed !ith 8egelian phenomenology and linguisti
struturalism that is assoiated !ith the !ork o% 0aBues ,aan& For our
purposes, ,aan=s importane rests !ith his in%luene on 1lthusser,
"audrillard and Celeu@eN <uattari& /n ,aan=s omple$ and o%ten opaBue
%ormulations, the subDet is onstituted in the unonsious through a
proess mediated by language, !hih %i$es the subDet in deentered
misreognition o% itsel%& /n "nti.&edipus2 Capitalism and
Schi%ophrenia >1992?, Celeu@eN<uattari e$pand and re2erse the
,aanian position to present an elaborate ritiBue o% ad2aned
apitalism& ,ike Fouault >and perhaps this !as the basis %or their
assoiation in the early 199(s?, Celeu@e positions psyhoanalysis !ithin
the %ield o% his ritiBue, interpreting it as a %orm o% libidinal
=territoriali@ation= or =oding=& Far %rom pro2iding a means o%
omprehending psyhi %ormation, the #edipus omple$ is a parental
2ehile %or at the same time eliiting and suppressing the se$uality o% the
hild& /n apitalist soiety the natural %lu$ o% the libido is oded in the
%amily !here in earlier soial %ormations it is territoriali@ed diretly by
politis& )he aim o% Celeu@eN<uattari is to =deterritoriali@e= the libido,
liberating its shi@ophreni %lu$& '2en though Fouault annot be
identi%ied !ith suh -eihian politis o% se$ual liberation, there are
moments !hen his argument omes lose to that o% Celeu@eN<uattari& /n
)he History of Sexuality 3ol0 4, a%ter a long disussion o% the !ay se$ual
disourses are %orms o% domination that dra! the subDet into partiular
modes o% se$uality, Fouault raises the Buestion o% liberation %rom
se$ual domination&
;e must not think that by saying yes to se$, one says no to po!erF on&
the ontrary, one traks along the ourse laid out by the general
deployment o% se$uality& /t is the ageny o% se$ that !e must break a!ay
%rom, i% !e aim : through a tatial re2ersal o% the 2arious mehanisms
o% se$uality : to ounter the grips o% po!er !ith the laims o% bodies,
pleasures, and kno!ledges, in their multipliity and their possibility o%
resistane& )he rallying point %or the ounterattak against the
deployment o% se$uality ought not to be se$:desire, but bodies and
)his passage, so di%%iult to interpret, ontains a rare e$ample o% utopian
politial thinking in Fouault=s te$ts& 8e !rites not simply o% resistane
to po!er, !hih is unusual %or him, but also o% o2erturning domination
>in the area o% se$? and establishing a ne! liberating regime >o% se$?, a
possible politial statement perhaps !ithout parallel in his maDor
/t is lear that !hen he speaks o% =the deployment o% se$uality= he
signi%ies the ontemporary %orms o% disourseN pratie !hih onstitute
the =se$uality= o% the subDet& /n other !ords, our ulture generates
spei%i modes o% se$ !hih Fouault labels =se$uality=& 1gainst the
Frank%urt 3hool=s thesis o% repression and in ommon !ith Celeu@eN
<uattari, Fouault inludes the so:alled =se$ual liberation mo2ement= as
part o% the dominant %orm o% se$uality&
8ene to a%%irm one=s se$uality
and re2erse Eitorian prudery is not an at o% liberation but a mo2e
!ithin the dominant disourse, an at that does not liberate the
indi2idual %rom oppression, but rather %orti%ies him or her !ithin it& )he
point o% interpreti2e di%%iulty and te$tual surprise ours !hen Fouault
o%%ers an alternati2e pratie that !ould, he thinks, be liberati2e& ;e
must remember that Fouault argues e%%eti2ely against making suh
statements by laiming that that is not the role o% the intelletualA the
oppressed subDets must speak %or themsel2es& 5e2ertheless, in this
onte$t, Fouault shi%ts 2oies and !rites as a politial subDet, not
merely as an analyst o% politis&
Fouault trumpets the =ounterattak= against the dominant %orm o%
se$uality !ith the sounds =bodies and pleasures=& 5ormally, Fouault
speaks o% bodies as al!ays !ithin disourseNpratie, ne2er as innoent
or natural, ne2er outside soial %ores& 6et in this passage he seems to
rely on a notion o% the body !hih pre%igures soial domination& ,ike
Celeu@eN<uattari=s onept o% the %ree %lu$ o% libido, Fouault here %alls
bak upon the body as a point o% resistane to se$ual authority& /% this is
so, the pre2alent understanding o% Fouault as a pessimist !ho sees no
esape %rom domination must be re2ised& /nstead, he must be 2ie!ed as
one !ho posits the possibility o% resistane to domination and the
elimination o% domination, %or that is !hat is presupposed in his all to
arms o% =bodies and pleasures=& 1nd yet this re2olutionary statement, this
=tatial re2ersal=, sits motionless in the te$t smugly looking out at the
reader !ith an e$pression: less enigmati stare& Fouault re%uses to
de2elop the statement at all& )he reader ne2er %inds out !hat is the
nature o% =bodies and pleasures= that ha2e esaped the =deployment o%
se$uality=, ne2er learns the basis o% the resistane >underlying innoene,
natural po!ers, libidinal %lu$, unonsious dri2es, and so %orth?&
)he passage in Buestion re2eals a entral tension in Fouault=s position,
one that pro2ides an important omparison !ith the ;estern Mar$ists&
,ike them, Fouault !rites ritial theory !hih illuminates modes o%
domination& ,ike them, Fouault is dissatis%ied !ith both lassial
Mar$ism and the o%%iial Mar$isms o% =atually e$isting soialist
soieties=& ,ike them, Fouault argues %or the possibility o% hange,
hange !hih !ould eliminate domination& ,ike them, Fouault sets the
epistemologial limits o% his te$t in the situation o% the !riter& *nlike the
;estern& Mar$ists, ho!e2er, Fouault re%uses to in2estigate the soures
o% resistane& 8e reDets in turn 3artre=s notion o% %ree totali@ationF
Maruse=s notion o% eroti sensibilityF 8abermas= notion o% the ideal:
speeh situationF and the general ;estern Mar$ist ommitment to a
onept o% dialetis& )hough he is right to be skeptial o% these grounds
o% re2olution, he nonetheless %aes the problem that he annot a2oid
ompletely some reliane on a notion o% a resisting subDet& 1s a result
he slides into a elebration o% =bodies and pleasures= !ithout ha2ing the
theoretial Dusti%iation %or doing so&
1 omparison o% Fouault !ith 1lthusser, another theorist in the amp
o% ;estern Mar$ism, re2eals !ith partiular larity the e$tent to !hih
Fouault has ontinued and broken a!ay %rom the problemati o%
;estern Mar$ism& 1lthusser, unlike 3artre, omes to terms !ith
struturalism and language theory, arguing that Mar$ had antiipated
these trends& /n !orks a%ter 1844,The 5erman #deology and Capital,
Mar$ and 'ngels, aording to 1lthusser, shed their 8egelian skins and
established the siene o% historial materialism by theori@ing the obDet
>the mode o% prodution? !ithout resort to the subDet,
an ahie2ement
that appears to parallel that o% Fouault& 1lthusser maintains a
ommitment to siene in a !ay that the 5iet@shean Fouault does notF
but in eliminating the metaphysial support o% the rational subDet their
!ork bears some similarity&
1%ter dismissing the problem o% the subDet in his !ork o% the 197(s
1lthusser %ound himsel% returning to that topi a%ter May 1978& /n his
essay o% 199(, =/deology and /deologial 3tate 1pparatuses=, 1lthusser
approahes the onept o% the subDet through ,aan=s linguisti
Freudianism& First 1lthusser, like other ;estern Mar$ists, reDets the
lassial Mar$ist %ormulations o% the problem o% ideology& )he
baseNsuperstruture distintion, !ith its allo!ane only %or the relati2e
autonomy o% the superstruture, is replaed by the problemati o%
reprodution& )he role o% ideologial %ormations emerges learly !hen
the Buestion o% the reprodution o% the relations o% prodution is posed&
#ne an then %ous on the mehanisms through !hih hegemony is
maintained& 1lthusser reasons that ideology promotes reprodution by
establishing the subDet as a subDet in an imaginary relation to soiety&
/deology pro2ides the subDet !ith the illusion that it is a enter o%
meaning, so that the subDet li2es its relation to soiety in a !ay that
reprodues the e$isting lass struggle& "ut ideology is not understood as
pure ideasF it makes its appearane only in pratie and is
institutionali@ed or materiali@ed in !hat 1lthusser alls, =/deologial
3tate 1pparatuses= >shool, %amily, politis, la!, trade unions and
ommuniations& media?&

1lthusser=s %ormulation o% the problem o% the subDet as onstruted
through mehanisms o% pratie that in2oke ideology re2eals a ertain
similarity !ith Fouault=s theory o% disourseNpratie& Fouault, like
1lthusser, grants no truth 2alue to disursi2e systems, regarding them as
mehanisms o% po!er that onstitute subDets& "oth thinkers are also
alike in re%using to di2ide ideas and ation into separate realms& 1nd
both are onerned !ith unmasking systems o% domination& "ut there
the parallels end& Fouault gi2es more !eight to disourse, sine %or
1lthusser ideology remains a %untional ategory >reproduing lass
relations? !ithout muh inner omple$ity or interest& 3o long as
ideology satis%ies the riteria o% positing a entered subDet, 1lthusser
!ants little more to do !ith it& Fouault in2estigates more onretely the
spei%i %orms o% subDeti2ity onstituted by disourse& For in& the end,
1lthusser is onerned only !ith the e%%ets o% ideology on the !orking
lass, !hereas Fouault in2estigates di2erse soial groupings, i&e&
prisoners, homose$uals, the insane and medial patients&
*nderlying these di%%erenes bet!een Fouault and 1lthusser is a more
%undamental one ha2ing to do !ith their relati2e ommitments to
Mar$ism& 1s a Mar$ist, 1lthusser theori@es the totality through the
ategory o% the mode o% prodution& Fouault, reDeting the ategory o%
totality in general and the Mar$ist 2ersion o% it in partiular, re%uses to
limit himsel% to an analysis o% the !orking lass& )he ategory
disourseNpratie is thus not inserted into a totali@ed theory but %loats
like a ha!k o2er the soial historial proess, ready to s!oop do!n
upon any topi that seems appropriate& )he theoretial hoie o%%ered by
these t!o theorists is dramati and urgent& /n my 2ie! Fouault=s
position in the present onte$t is more 2aluable as an interpreti2e
strategy and ultimately, although this may strike a disordant note,, more
Mar$ist& /% by Mar$ism one means not the spei%i theory o% the mode o%
prodution or the ritiBue o% politial eonomy, and not e2en the
supposed dialetial method, but instead a ritial 2ie! o% domination
!hih as historial materialism takes all soial praties as transitory and
all intelletual %ormations as indissoiably onneted !ith po!er and
soial relations : then Fouault=s position opens up ritial theory more
than 1lthusser=s both to the hanging soial %ormation and to the soial
loations !here ontestation atually ours& /n a !orld !here soial
proesses inreasingly depend on in%ormation proessing and !here
protest is di%%used in multiple non:entered sites, a totali@ation through
the determination in the last instane o% the eonomy, suh as
1lthusser=s, is more mysti%ying than heuristi&
)he onlusion is inesapable that Fouault is ontinuing the !ork o%
the ;estern Mar$ists by other means& -eDeting almost the entire
intelletual edi%ie o% ritial theory, Fouault ne2ertheless remains
!ithin its problemati& )he ruial theoretial Buestion that remains is,
)o !hat e$tent does Fouault=s reDetion o% so muh o% the ;estern
Mar$ist tradition o% ritial theory lead to a gradual dissipation o% that
tradition or to a rene!al o% ritial theory along ne! linesI
"e%ore engaging this, Buestion diretly / !ant to e$plore the %ault lines
o% lassial Mar$ist theory, to look %or those plaes in the Mar$ist
position that in the present onte$t are obstales to ritial theory& /n
partiular / !ill analy@e systematially the Mar$ist onept o% labor in
the onte$t o% an ad2aned industrial soiety inreasingly dominated by
!hat / all the mode o% in%ormation& /n establishing the limitations o% the
Mar$ist position on this Buestion, / !ill point to the plaes in Fouault=s
!ork that pro2ide a2enues o% ad2ane&
1& Perry 1nderson, Considerations on /estern !arxism >,ondonA 5e! ,e%t "ooks,
1997? and %or a di%%erent 2ie!, see -ussell 0aoby, Dialectic of Defeat2 Contours of
/estern !arxism >5e! 6orkA Cambridge *ni2ersity Press, 1981?&
2& Martin 0ay, The Dialectical #magination2 " History of the ran6furt School and the
#nstitute of Social Research, 4789.47:; >"ostonA ,ittle, "ro!n and Co&, 1993? and
Ca2id 8eld, #ntroduction to Critical Theory2 Hor6heimer to Habermas >"erkeleyA
*ni2ersity o% Cali%ornia Press, 198(?&
3& Mark Poster, -xistential !arxism in Post(ar rance2 Sartre to "lthusser >PrinetonA
Prineton& *ni2ersity Press, 1997?&
4& 8erbert Maruse, Reason and Re$olution2 Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory >5e!
6orkA #$%ord *ni2ersity Press, 1941?&
4& )heodor 1dorno, *egati$e Dialectics, trans& '& "& 1shton >5e! 6orkA 3eabury
Press, 1993, original edition 1977? and 0ean:Paul 3artre, Criti)ue de la raison
dialecti)ue >ParisA <allimard, 197(?&
7& <eorges -aulet, =/nter2ie! !ith Mihel Fouault=, Telos, 5o& 44 >3pring, 1983?, p&
2(( and Mihel Fouault, =1%ter!ordA )he 3ubDet and Po!er=, in 8ubert Crey%us and
Paul -abino!, !ichel oucault, Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics >ChiagoA
*ni2ersity o% Chiago Press, 1983? %or a statement by Fouault on his politial position
prior to his death&
9& Mihel Fouault, Po(er<'no(ledge2 Selected #nter$ie(s and &ther /ritings, 47=8.
47==, ed& Colin <ordon >5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 198(?, pp& 142, 119&
8& For a sample o% these !ritings see =ManiKres de Dustie=, Le *ou$el &bser$ateur, 5o&
943 >February 4, 1999?F =*n plaisir si simple=, Le 5ai Pied, 5o& 1 >1pril 1999?F =,ettre
ou2erte S Mehdi "a@arga, ,e 5ou2el #bser2ateur, 5o& 942 >1pril 9,1999?F and /nutile
de se soule2erI=, Le !onde, May 11 : 12, >1999?&
9& La +uin%aine litt,raire, 5o& 14 >#tober, 1977?, p& 4&
1(& La +uin%aine litt,raire, 5o& 4 >May 17, 1977?, p& 14&
11& La +uin%aine litt,raire, 5o& 47 >Marh 1, 1978?, p& 2(&
12& /bid&, p& 21&
13& <eorges -aulet, =/nter2ie! !ith Mihel Fouault=, )elos, 5o& 44 >3pring,
1983?, p& 21(&
14& /bid&, p& 2(9&
14& /bid&, p& 2(4&
17& For a more omplete analysis o% May 1978, see Poster, -xistential !arxism in
Post(ar rance, Chapter 9 and also 1rthur 8irsh, The rench *e( Left2 "n
#ntellectual History from Sartre to 5or% >"ostonA 3outh 'nd Press, 1981?& For a
seletion o% douments %rom May 1978, see 3hnapp and Pierre Eidal:5aBuet, The
rench Student 1prising2 "n "nalytical Record, trans& Maria 0olas >"ostonA "eaon
Press, 1991, original edition 1979?&
19& The "rcheology of 'no(ledge and the Discourse on Language, trans& M&
3heridan 3mith >5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 1992?, p& 219&
18& /bid&, p& 234&
19& Communication and the -$olution of Society, trans& )homas MCarthy
>"ostonA "eaon Press, 1999, original edition 1997? and The Theory of
Communicati$e "ction, 3ol0, 40 Reason and the Rationali%ation of Society, trans&
)homas MCarthy >"ostonA "eaon Press, 1984?&
2(& Discipline and Punish, trans& 1lan 3heridan >5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 1999,
original edition 1994?, p& 31&
21& 3eletions o% ;eber=s lassi %ormulations may be %ound in 8& 8& <erth and C&
;right Mills >eds&?, rom !ax /eber2 -ssays in Sociology, trans& the editors >5e!
6orkA #$%ord *ni2ersity Press, 1948?& /n%ormati2e disussions o% ;eber=s position are
%ound in ;ol%gang Mommsen, The "ge of Bureaucracy2 Perspecti$e on the Political
Sociology of !ax /eber >5e! 6orkA 8arper and -o!, 1994?F 1nthony
<iddens, Capitalism and !odern Social Theory>5e! 6orkA Cambridge *ni2ersity
Press, 1991?F and 0e%%rey 1le$ander, Theoretical Logic in Sociology, 3ol0 90 The
Classical "ttempt at Theoretical Synthesis2 !ax /eber >"erkeleyA *ni2ersity o%
Cali%ornia Press, 1983?&
22& undamental Principles of the !etaphysic of !orals, trans& Mar2in Fo$, >5e!
6orkA "obbs:Merrill, 1949, original edition 1984?&
23& Ma$ 8orkheimer and )heodor 1dorno, Dialectic of -nlightenment, trans& 0ohn
Cumming >5e! 6orkA 3eabury, 1992, original edition 1944?, p& 7 and passim&
24& Telos, 5o& 44 >3pring, 1983?, p& 2(9&
24& )hese de2elopments are traed in Mark Poster, -xistential !arxism in
Post(ar rance&
27& )his argument is made in Search for a !ethod, trans& 8a@el "arnes >5e!
6orkA +nop%, 1973? !hih appeared as the introdution to the Criti)ue although it !as
%irst published separately&
29& /n an inter2ie! entitled =Po!ers and 3trategies=, he a%%irmed, =& & & there are no
relations o% po!er !ithout resistanes & & & = )rans& in Fouault, Po(er<'no(ledge & & &,
p& 142&
28& =*ne /dJe %ondamentale de la phJnomJnologie de 8usserlA
l=intentionnalitJ=, Situations #, >ParisA <allimard, 1994, original edition 1949?, pp& 38:
29& Cited in -osalind Co!ard and 0ohn 'llis, Language and !aterialism2
De$elopments in Semiology and the Theory of the Sub>ect >,ondonA -outledge and
+egan Paul, 1999?, p& 132&
3(& or a Criti)ue of the Political -conomy of the Sign, trans& Charles ,e2in >3t&
,ouisA )elos Press, 1981, original edition 1992?&
31& The !irror of Production, trans& Mark Poster >3t& ,ouisA )elos Press, 1994,
original edition 1993?&
32& Martin 0ay, =3hould /ntelletual 8istory )ake a ,inguisti )urnIA -e%letions
on the 8abermas:<adamer Cebate=, in C& ,aCapra and 3& +aplan >eds&?, !odern
-uropean #ntellectual History >/thaaA Cornell *ni2ersity Press, 1982?, pp& 87:11(&
33& =)ehnology and 3iene as P/deologyP =, in To(ard a Rational Society, trans&
0eremy 3hapiro >"ostonA "eaon Press, 199(, original edition 1978?&
34& Communications and the -$olution of Society&
34& 3ee, %or e$ample, )heodor 1dorno, =#n the Fetish Charater in Musi and the
-egression o% ,istening=, in 1ndre! 1rato and 'ike <ebhardt >eds&?, The -ssential
ran6furt School Reader >5e! 6orkA *ri@en, 1998?, pp& 29(:299&
37& 3herry )urkle, Psychoana4ytic Politics2 reud?s rench Re$olution >5e!
6orkA "asi "ooks, 1998?, p& 149&
39& or example, D,ri$e @ partir de !arx et reud >ParisA 1(N18, 1993?&
38& Mihel Fouault, The History of Sexuality, Eolume 1, trans& -obert 8urley
>5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 1998?, p& 149&
39& Maruse, o% ourse, re2ersed his earlier position in 'ros and Ci2ili@ation,
oming to see the se$ual re2olution as a produt o% =repressi2e desublimation= brought
about through the hanneling o% se$ual dri2es in late apitalist soiety& &ne.
Dimensional !an >"ostonA "eaon Press, 1974?&
4(& Reading Capital, trans& "en "re!ster >,ondonA 5e! ,e%t "ooks, 199(,
original edition 1978?&
41& =/deology and /deologial 3tate 1pparatuses=, in Lenin and Philosophy and
&ther -ssays, trans& "en "re!ster >,ondonA 5e! ,e%t "ooks, 1991?, p& 139&
Mode of Production/ Mode of
/% Fouault=s reent !orks deri2e %rom and surpass the ;estern Mar$ist
tradition, they also present a %ormidable hallenge to the lassial
Mar$ist theory o% history& "e%ore assessing the 2alue o% Fouault=s
ritial theory %or the !riting o% soial history, / !ant to e$amine and
assess the position o% Mar$& From the perspeti2e o% the ritial theory
o% soiety, a Buestioning o% the 2alue o% Mar$ism is long o2erdue&
Mar$ism itsel% may no! be an obstale to soial ritiism& ;hat is
needed is a relentless, systemati ritiBue o% Mar$ism, one that roots out
those %eatures that !ere problemati %rom the beginning, those that ha2e
beome obsolete, and those that ha2e pro2en themsel2es inadeBuate %or
the task, !hile preser2ing those that retain their ritial po!ers&
)he historial hanges o% the late nineteenth and t!entieth enturies all
into Buestion many %eatures o% the Mar$ist position& /ndeed, Mar$ism is
haunted by the speter o% history& Mar$ism has hanged history, but so
too has history hanged Mar$ism& 'merging in the midst o% industrial
apitalism in the nineteenth entury and prolaiming itsel% the
gra2edigger o% that soiety, Mar$ism today %ails to inspire the
re2olutionary !ill o% the proletariat in the enters o% ad2aned
apitalism& /t has pro2ed itsel% instead the great hope o% the oloni@ed
urban and rural masses in largely pre:industrial soial %ormations&
Mar$ist theory %oretells the ad2ent o% ommunism in the de2eloped
apitalist soial %ormations, those plaes !here, the organi omposition
o% apital is !eighted to!ards mahines not labor, !here the
immiseration o% the proletariat e$aerbates soial ontraditions, !here
the rate o% pro%it has long been delining, !here all soiety has ome
under the rule o% the ommodity& 6et preisely in these plaes, !here
liberalism has long been relegated to the status o% an historial uriosity,
Mar$ism& too appears to be a reli out o% the past&
Con%ronted !ith these hanges Mar$ist theorists o%ten turn a dea% ear&
Mar$ism is not only a mo2ementF it is also a theory& Mar$ism raises
history to an epistemologial priniple, but history in turn alls into
Buestion the truth:2alue o% some Mar$ist ategories& More than anyone
be%ore him Mar$ opened philosophy to the !orld, bonded theory to
pratie, intert!ined reason and history& Mar$ posited the theoretial
neessity o% taking the situation into aount, establishing the onte$t as
the prete$t o% thought& 3iene ould de2elop, he ontended, only by
adopting the point o% 2ie! o% the proletariat& For Mar$ this theoretial
at !as not moral but epistemologial& /n order to a2oid the pit%alls o%
ideology, that is, the intentional or unintentional Dusti%iation o% the
!orld as it is, Mar$ ele2ated history to the status o% a ondition o%
kno!ledge& #nly by omprehending the !orld as a transitory soial
%ormation, there%ore as an historially limited phenomenon, ould
philosophy ahie2e sienti%i truth& )he historial:soial !orld beomes
the internal limit o% reason, the nontransendental %oundation o% the
ategories o% thought& 1nd yet today Mar$ists are seemingly unable to
respond to hanges in the !orld& ;hat 3artre long ago said o% 3talin
applies no! more generallyA Mar$ists are idealists !ho ontinuously
restate Mar$=s ategories, !ho on%ront the !orld !ith the theory o% the
mode o% prodution, insulating reason %rom history and saluting the
hegemony o% Mar$=s thoughts o2er a !orld that has long sine belied
them& '2en beyond the reah o% go2ernments that prolaim themsel2es
soialist, Mar$ists at like the bishop in "reht=s 5alileo, re%using to
look through the telesope %or %ear o% diso2ering that reality re%utes
herished illusions&
/n the ritiBue o% Mar$ism, !hat must be a2oided are the traditional
stanes in opposition to Mar$, and these are many& )here are lassial
anarhism and )rotskyism !hih %ind a moral %la! in some aspet o%
Mar$ism, the %ormer reDeting it ompletely, the latter seeking to
reonstitute it !hole outside the e2il o% 3talin& )here is the Frank%urt
3hool stane o% benign neglet o% Mar$=s te$ts& 8ere the basi anti:
apitalist impulse is kept, but the obDet o% ritiBue shi%ts to the
superstruture& ;ith the possible e$eption o% 1dorno, the Frank%urt
3hool retains the %undamental premises o% historial materialism, ne2er
Buestioning them diretly but instead re%ining and ele2ating the le2el o%
ritiBue& )here are also the e$istential Mar$ists, among !hom / ounted
mysel% at one time, !ho preser2e the totali@ing po!er o% Mar$ !hile
e$panding the sope o% the theory through the onept o% mediations&
8ere again ertain limitations o% the theory are akno!ledged, !ithout,
ho!e2er, a omplete ommitment to their ritiBue& )here are, %inally, a
host o% basially politial postures against Mar$ !hih %ous on the
pratie o% spei%i soialist regimes and %ind them !anting in some
regard& /n this ase the ritiBue is limited to an attak on the leadership
o% the proletarian mo2ement, or to a spei%i 2ersion o% it suh as the
3oial Cemorats, the "olshe2iks, the Maoists& )his strategy too lea2es
untouhed the theoretial premises o% Mar$ and assumes that, though
mistakes ha2e been made else!here, one an do it right !hen the time
omes& #% ourse the time ne2er omes as Chronos ontinues
uninterruptedly to mo! the !heat o% apitalist history&
)he %irst assumption in Mar$=s te$ts that needs to be Buestioned is the
notion o% human beings ating upon nature& Mar$ onstitutes the soial
%ield as one in !hih human beings at upon natural materials to
produe use%ul obDets& )his is, o% ourse, the ati2ity o% labor %rom
!hih Mar$ deri2es the entire omple$ o% ideas kno!n as the mode o%
prodution, as !ell as those ideas assoiated !ith the ritiBue o% politial
eonomy& /n The 5erman #deology the %igure o% laboring man and
!oman is posited as a =premise=, one that is neessary %or the !riting o%
history& Mar$ reasons that
& & &!e must begin by stating the %irst premise o% all human e$istene and
there%ore, o% all history, the premise, namely, that men must be in a
position to li2e in order to be able to =make history=& "ut li%e in2ol2es
be%ore e2erything else eating and drinking, a habitation, lothing and
many other things& )he %irst historial at is thus the prodution o% the
means to satis%y these needs, the prodution o% material li%e itsel%& 1nd
indeed this is an historial at, a %undamental ondition o% all history,
!hih today, as thousands o% years ago, must daily and hourly be
%ul%illed merely in order to sustain human li%e&&& )here%ore in any
interpretation o% history one bas %irst o% all to obser2e this %undamental
%at in all its signi%iane and all its impliations and to aord it its due
)he %ate o% the dotrine o% historial materialism hangs on Mar$=s
%undamental =premise= that men and !omen !ork in& order to sur2i2e, a
statement that arri2ed like a thunderbolt in the 8egelian <ermany o% the
184(s& 3oial theory rapidly had to shi%t gears& /t had to abandon the airy
reahes o% the human speies= sel%:onstitution in spirit in order to arri2e
at the earthly steppes o% the laboring animal, one !ho %ashioned the
!orld, then beame its obDet, only to beome onsious o% this
dialetial detour and hope%ully in& the end to make the !orld one
more, this time in a shape onsonant !ith %reedom&
Mar$ autiously besto!s upon his position the status o% a =premise= and
regards the ognition o% history as an at o% =interpretation=& 1t the
epistemologial le2el then, Mar$=s laim %or his theory o% history %alls
outside Cesartes= absolutism, the Buest %or ertainty& /% historial
materialism is not grounded on a laim to a truth superior to other
theories o% history, !hat then is the basis o% its 2alueI /n The 5erman
#deology Mar$ does not attempt to Dusti%y his =premise= or his
=interpretation= in epistemologial terms& 8e presents his 2ie!
oherently, appealing to the reader to reogni@e its ad2antages& /t is as i%
Mar$ !ere saying to the reader, =3urely you annot deny that human
beings must labor in order to eat, lothe and house themsel2es&= #ne
that postulate is granted Mar$ is ontent to go on and elaborate the
onept o% the mode o% prodution, a onept !hih demonstrates that
lass struggles >and polities generally? deri2e %rom ontraditions in the
relations and %ores o% prodution& 3till the original turn in Mar$=s
argument to the premise= o% labor remains little more than that, a

;hat is most surprising to me about Mar$=s relati2e silene on the issue
o% the labor premise is the strong onte$tual ase that ould ha2e been
made %or it but !as not& For in the mid:nineteenth entury ;estern
'urope !as undergoing a great trans%ormation preisely in the !ay men
and !omen labored& )he institution o% the %atory and its inorporation
o% steam po!er, all !ithin a apitalist legal onte$t, !ere altering
drastially and there%ore ma6ing historical the at o% labor& "e%ore the
nineteenth entury one ould argue that labor !as a onstant, a relati2ely
unhanging %eature o% the soial landsape, un!orthy o% attention by
historians beause o% its stagnant Buality& )hat position !as o% ourse
inorret, but it !as plausible& /n the nineteenth entury industrial
apitalism !as upsetting patterns that had endured %or a thousand years,
and its impliation, as Mar$ noted !ell, !as =the automati system=
>automation? !hih might do a!ay !ith manual labor altogether and
inaugurate the =realm o% %reedom= in plae o% the =realm o%
For !hate2er moti2e, Mar$ hose not to bolster his argument
on onte$tualist grounds and instead to present his analysis o% industrial
apitalism as the onlusion reahed by his theory& 1nd at that le2el one
an e$amine the premise o% labor as a possible soure o% limitation to the
theory o% historial materialism&
)he premise o% labor ontains !ithin it a 8egelian sub:premiseA that the
soial %ield onsists o% subDets >laborers? and obDets >matter?, and that
the interation bet!een the t!o results in the trans%ormation o% both&
Mar$, it is true, re2ises 8egel=s position, insisting on the independene
o% the obDet and thereby resisting the 8egelian tendeny to ollapse the
relationship o% the t!o into the immanene o% the subDet& ;hat interests
us, ho!e2er, is the !ay this subDet:obDet relation limits the ritial
apaity o% historial materialism& /n a later moment o% the theory it
plays a ruial role in the determination o% alienation and e$ploitation as
the spei%i %eatures o% the apitalist system that reBuire re2olutionary
trans%ormation& /n the instane o% alienation, Mar$=s strutural ritiBue o%
apitalism ontends that under this mode o% prodution the subDet:
obDet relation is re2ersed&
)he laborer beomes the obDet o% the
mahine, as men and !omen lose ontrol o2er the !ork proess& #r, on
another issue, human speies= being is th!arted beause the reati2e
harateristis o% the subDet beome subordinated to its obDeti2e,
material need to sur2i2e& 8uman beings !ork in order to li2e, Mar$
omplains, not in order to %ul%ill their reati2e potentialF !ork is not
enDoyment, reali@ation, or satis%ation, but neessity and drudgery&
Capitalism is in need o% re2olutionary ritiism, Mar$ asserts, beause it
onstitutes improperly the subDet:obDet relation in the realm o% !ork&
)his ritiBue %rom the 4ABB !anuscripts is ehoed in Capital !hen
Mar$ analy@es the ommodity struture o% labor& *nder the apitalist
mode o% prodution the ommodity %orm is generali@ed& Produts are
manu%atured not %or the use o% the produers, but to be sold in markets&
)hese produts, or ommodities, %lo! through the soial system, taking
on peuliar Bualities and trans%orming relations bet!een men and
!omen, Mar$ is disturbed by the %at that under the ommodity %orm,
the subDeti2e Buality o% labor is distortedA
1 ommodity is there%ore a mysterious thing, simply beause in it the
soial harater o% men=s labor appears to them as an obDeti2e harater
stamped upon the produt o% that laborF beause the relation o% the
produers to the sum total o% their o!n labor is presented to them as a
soial relation, e$isting not bet!een themsel2es, but bet!een the
produts o% their labor&
Commodities are a soure o% onern to Mar$ beause human properties
are in2ested in things, or beome %etishi@ed& )he obDet appears to be the
subDet& "ut !hat is !orse is that the re2erse is also trueA the subDet
appears to be the obDet& ,abor itsel% beomes a ommodity, a thing& 0ust
as there is, under apitalism, a market %or soy beans, so there is a market
%or soy bean pikers& ;ork is subDet to the double harater that all
ommodities ha2eA it has a use 2alue and an e$hange 2alue& 1s a
onseBuene, human Bualities are e2aluated in the same terms that one
uses to e2aluate things&
#ne again, apitalism is %aulted beause
subDets beome obDets, !orkers beome things&
)he notion o% e$ploitation deri2es %rom similar assumptions& )he
!orker:subDet produes thing:obDets %or the apitalist but does not
reei2e bak the proper amount o% thing:obDets %rom the apitalist&
3urplus 2alue, reated by !orker:subDets and stolen %rom them by
apitalists, is the strutural basis o% the apitalist system& /t should be
pointed out that the urrent di2ergene bet!een humanist and
struturalist Mar$ists does not a%%et the issue& "oth positions %ail to
Buestion the labor premise& )he struturalists attempt to e$triate
Mar$ism %rom the subDet:obDet relation, but they do so at a later point
in the theory& ;hat remains unhallenged is the premise that men and
!omen labor and that they do so by ating upon materials to produe
)he Buestion that needs to be asked about Mar$=s premise is thisA is
domination re2ealed best on the basis o% onstituting the soial %ield as
one in !hih men and !omen at on thingsI 1nother premise, one
!hih onstitutes the soial %ield in Buite another manner and !hih
shall be de%ined belo!, !ould ser2e that %untion better& "esides, there is
muh reason to Buestion the premise e2en i% an alternati2e !ere not
a2ailable& /t annot be taken %or granted that human soieties are
strutured by the subDet:obDet relation o% labor, nor that hange in
soiety an best be understood by re%erring bak to a subDet !ho makes
something, in this ase a soial hange& #n the ontrary, there is reason
enough to be suspiious& /t an be argued, %or e$ample, that the model o%
subDet ating upon obDet deri2es %rom the 0udeo:Christian 2ision o%
reation, in !hih <od ats upon >speaks to? matter and brings %orth the
'arth and its inhabitants as a %inished produt& )he model o% labor easily
slips into a model o% reation&
For a theory that alls itsel% historial materialism, a reationist model is
suspet& )he leanings to!ards aspets o% idealism !hih Mar$ !ants to
a2oid are strong in the subDet:obDet dihotomy& /n %at an immediate
soure %or Mar$=s onept o% labor !as 8egel=s disussion o% the master:
sla2e relation in the Phenomenology of !ind&
/n that book the sla2e:
!orker represents human %reedom not so muh beause he manipulates
things, but beause he establishes an idea o% !hat he !ants to make and
then produes in the !orld a material arti%at that represents that idea&
)he sla2e:!orker in that !ay deri2es a sense o% his po!ers, a on%idene
that his subDeti2ity an be the basis %or the order o% the !orld& )he
!orker apprehends the %ore o% his intellet and this is the basis %or his
%reedom& )hings operate muh the same !ay in Mar$=s te$ts& #ne an
argue that the =materialism= o% the labor premise is deei2ing, that it has
rather a loud note o% idealism, that Mar$ elebrates and analy@es not the
grime o% the body=s ati2ity but the po!er o% the mind o2er it& )he entire
analysis o% the organi@ation and e$ploitation o% labor is subordinate, in
one sense, to Mar$=s on2ition that the subDet=s %reedom to at upon its
ideas is 2iolated under the apitalist mode o% prodution&
1nother premise a2ailable to historial materialism has been o%%ered by
Fouault& /n this ase the soial %ield is onstituted by a grid o%
tehnologies o% po!er !hih at upon the body& /t is assumed that there
are human beings and things, but it is argued that the le2el o%
intelligibility pertinent to ritial theory lies else!here, at the point
!here spei%i arrangements are loated through !hih
disourseNpraties are reated and onstitute the soial %ield as 2arying
modes o% domination& )his alternati2e premise does not deny the
e$istene o% human beings and things, or their interation, but it does
maintain that the signi%iant obDets o% in2estigation %or historial
materialism are arrangements in !hih the model o% labor does not ser2e
as the impetus o% interpretation& )he premise o% tehnologies o% po!er
suggests that disourses and praties are intert!ined in artiulated
%ormations ha2ing the domination o% one group o2er another as their
primary trait&
/n addition, Fouault is able to %ous his analysis on the
body more diretly than Mar$& "eause he is not looking %or subDets
and obDets but %or tehniBues o% domination, Fouault is able to raise
the Buestion o% the body more e%%eti2ely than Mar$& 8e, asks ho! the
body is marked, positioned, temporali@ed, olleted, and so %orth, not so
muh ho! human beings ha2e been degraded into things&
3uggesti2e as it is, the premise o% tehnologies o% po!er is not %ully
oneptuali@ed in the !orks o% Fouault and reBuires %urther theoretial
elaboration& '2en in a rough state, ho!e2er, the premise is supported by
an important onte$tual argument, one that has not reei2ed enough
attention& /% the Mar$ist premise o% labor !as bolstered, at least
impliitly, by the dramati hange to industrial apitalism, that support
has begun to e2aporate in the ad2aned soieties o% the late t!entieth
entury& Put Buite simply, one an no longer assume as a basi paradigm
o% pratie human beings !orking on things& )he labor premise itsel% has
been re2olutioni@ed as the %atory system is inreasingly marginali@ed&
)he *nited 3tates, eonomists alulate, is the %irst ser2ie eonomy in
!orld history& More than hal% o% the !orking population is engaged
neither in the primary setor >agriulture? nor the seondary >industry?,
but rather in the tertiary >ser2ie?& )his means that labor no! takes the
%orm o% men and !omen ating on other men and !omen, or, more
signi%iantly, people ating on in%ormation and in%ormation ating on
people& 'speially in the ad2aned setors o% the eonomy, the
manipulation o% in%ormation tends to harateri@e human ati2ity& 3ome
eonomists, argue that in%ormation !orkers do not harateri@e only the
ad2aned setor but are in the maDority o2erall&
)he reation,
trans%ormation, and mo2ement o% in%ormation are the obDets o% most o%
the important ne! tehnologies that are introdued into the eonomy&
;e are told that 2ery soon mo2ement in the soial %ield !ill in2ol2e
in%ormation >eletronially proessed?, not men or ommodities& People
!ill stay put !hile pulsations o% eletroni in%ormation !ill %lo! through
soial spae&
/% ad2aned apitalism is beoming an in%ormation soiety, in addition
to the older on%iguration o% a labor soiety, the labor premise an no
longer be the %irst priniple o% ritial theory& Comination annot be
theori@ed %rom the point o% 2ie! o% the labor ati2ity, o% the subDet
ating on matter to produe things& 1 ne! logi is alled %or that
oneptuali@es the soial %ield on a di%%erent basis& 1nd ertainly one o%
the important %eatures o% the ne! premise must be that it aounts %or the
prominent plae o% in%ormation in the soial spae& / !ould maintain that
Fouault=s ategory o% disourseNpratie begins to meet the riteria %or
the ne! premise&
;hen disourse is theori@ed as the prominent %eature o% the soial %ield,
a ne! logi o% domination is suggested, one that eshe!s the traits o% the
subDet:obDet relation but %ollo!s rather the model o% tehnologies o%
po!er& 8istorial materialism in the age o% in%ormational apitalism
%inds its premise in po!er that is the e%%et o% disourseNpratie& "y the
same token, the logi o% disourseNpratie %inds its Dusti%iation in the
proli%eration o% in%ormation tehnologies& )he 2alue o% the ategory
disourseNpratie an be demonstrated only in empirial studies&

MAR*+S '!(TR#"E !F REAS!"
)here are other premises in Mar$=s !ritings that poorly ser2e the
interests o% historial materialism& #ne in partiular that needs ritiism
and re2ision is the notion o% reason& Mar$ made 2ery %e! statements
about epistemology, lea2ing the impression that the de2elopment o%
re2olutionary thought ould proeed !ithout e$tensi2e re:e$amination
o% e$isting >8egelianI? dotrines o% truth& /n its assumptions about the
nature o% kno!ledge, ritial theory !as not, in Mar$=s eyes,
substantially at 2ariane !ith traditional theory& 1t least one an dedue
this %rom Mar$=s silene& 8e did, it is true, o%%er one maDor inno2ation in
epistemology& )he ele2enth =)hesis on Feuerbah= states, =)he
philosophers ha2e only interpreted the !orld, in 2arious !aysF the point,
ho!e2er, is to hange it&=
3ine re2olutionary theory is not simply
interpretation but the basis %or ation, the riteria %or truth annot be
limited to attributes o% reason but must inlude Dudgements about the
pratial onseBuenes inurred by it& 8ene in the seond =)hesis on
Feuerbah=, Mar$ dismisses the epistemology o% ontemplati2e reasonA
=)he dispute o2er the reality or non:reality o% thinking !hih is isolated
%rom pratie is a purely sholasti Buestion&=
<i2en this distintion,
Mar$ does not e$plore %urther the relation o% thought to pratie&
)he %irst di%%iulty enountered !ith Mar$=s dotrine o% reason is the
assumption that the indi2idual theorist an and should oneptuali@e the
totality& /n Mar$=s !ritings one annot %ind the slightest hesitation on this
Buestion& 8e assumed as surely as he breathed that !ith the proper e%%ort
the intelletual an represent the real in oneptual terms& "y the same
token he takes it %or granted that it is neessary to do this in order to
de2elop re2olutionary theory& 1t stake here is not the issue o% the
omple$ity o% the !orld, a skeptiism that !ould retreat %rom
kno!ledge in modest homage to the ine%%able mysteries o% li%e& )he
issue is rather one o% po!er, the po!er o% disourse& "y assuming that
the totality is a2ailable to the theorist, Mar$ arrogates to his disourse
and to his %untion as intelletual a kind o% po!er that does not ser2e the
interests o% historial materialism& "y %ashioning itsel% as a theory o% the
totality, historial materialism ends in a%%irming the po!er o% reason
itsel%, appropriating %or disourse the 2ery re2olutionary apaity it
!ould attribute to the proletariat& /n this sense, Mar$ism, although
e$pliitly re2olutionary, is impliitly a onser2ati2e dotrine tied to a
traditional epistemologial premise&
/n the te$ts o% Mar$, the e%%ets o% this le2iathan reason are at play and
do their damage in numerous !ays& 1 good e$ample is the use o% the
notion o% uni2ersality in relation to the !orking lass& "e%ore Mar$,
liberal theory attributed uni2ersality to demorati re2olutions& ;hen
states !ere ereted based on popular so2ereignty, %reedom !ould
beome uni2ersal& *ni2ersality !as thus a politial !eapon in the hands
o% liberals in their battle against the =partiality= o% monarhial and
aristorati regimes& ,iberals agitated %or the %reedom o% all against the
%reedom o% the one or the %e!& /n the eighteenth and nineteenth
enturies, politial onstitutions !ere, dra%ted and put into e%%et !hih
laimed uni2ersal %reedom& Mar$, o% ourse, sa! through the dupliity
o% liberal uni2ersalism& /t !as little more than a bourgeois de2ie,
perhaps !ell intended but then only sel%:deluding, to legitimate the
hegemony o% the apitalist lass& )he politial emanipation o% the
liberals established the %reedom o% the bourgeoisie to e$ploit the
*nder the rule o% representati2e demoray, the state
beame uni2ersal, but i2il soiety remained di2ided into lasses and
subDet to the domination o% apital&
1%ter e%%eti2ely re2ealing the lass interests at !ork in the liberal use o%
the notion o% uni2ersality, Mar$ !ent on to apply the term in his o!n
2ery di%%erent but still problemati manner& /% the bourgeois re2olution
emanipated humanity only in the politial sphere >and there%ore only
partially?, the proletarian re2olution !ould emanipate humanity in the
soial, sphere and there%ore totally& Complete emanipation is possible
beause %atory !orkers, unlike the bourgeoisie, onstitute
a uni$ersal lass& )he lassi statement o% Mar$=s position is %ound in
the Contribution to the Criti)ue of Hegel?s Philosophy of Right2
1 lass must be %ormed !hih has radial hains, a lass in i2il soiety
!hih is not a lass o% i2il soiety, a lass !hih is the dissolution o% all
lasses, a sphere o% soiety !hih has a uni2ersal harater beause its
su%%erings are uni2ersal, and !hih does not laim a partiular redress
beause the !rong !hih is done to it is not a partiular !rong but
!rong in general&
)he same statement is made again by Mar$ in The 5erman #deology,
a%ter the supposed epistemologial break that 1lthusser thinks liberated
Mar$ %rom 8egelian superstitionsA
)his appropriation Lo% pri2ate propertyM is %urther determined by the
manner in !hih it must be e%%eted& /t an only be e%%eted through a
union, !hih by the harater o% the proletariat itsel% an again only be a
uni2ersal one, and through a re2olution, in !hih, on the one hand, the
po!er o% the earlier mode o% prodution and interourse and soial
organi@ation is o2erthro!n, and on the other hand, there de2elops the
uni2ersal harater and the energy o% the proletariat, !ithout !hih the
re2olution annot be aomplished&
Fatory !orkers, are thus ele2ated %rom the plane o% e2eryday li%e and
assume heroi proportions at the enter o% the !orld:historial stage,
upon !hih the drama o% humanity=s redemption is being enated&
-eason indeed has its ruse, but not the one indiated by 8egel& Mar$
!ants to argue that %atory !orkers are subDeted to a mode o%
domination !hih is di%%iult to omprehend beause it is not based on
personal domination and is shrouded in the liberal theory o% the %ree
ontrat& 3urely he is orretA alienation and e$ploitation are strutural
e%%ets o% the apitalist mode o% prodution& "ut that is not enough %or
Mar$& 8e insists on attributing to the oppression o% %atory !orkers a
uni2ersal su%%ering& 8e piles argument upon argument to make this aseA
the !orkers=: su%%ering is uni2ersal beause men and !omen must eat
be%ore they an pray, beause they ha2e no property and hene no
pri2ate interests to protet, beause in the labor ati2ity they subordinate
their li%e to their !ork, beause the bourgeoisie has e$panded trade to a
!orld sale and to o2erturn this system is to prepare %or !orld:!ide
%reedom, beause automation is at the heart o% the industrial system
promising the liberation o% human beings %rom toil, beause labor is a
ommodity stripping !orkersF o% their humanity, and so %orth : all o%
!hih is true but none o% !hih pro2es the point about uni2ersality&
1 simple obDetion an be raised against the laim o% proletarian
uni2ersality& Mar$ ontends that only proletarians are apable o%
reating a lassless soiety beause their subDugation is total, beause
they ha2e nothing to protet one they take po!er& 8ene they ha2e no
interest in domination& )he bourgeoisie %ailed to establish a %ree soiety
beause it had an interest in proteting its property& #ne it abolished
aristorati rule, it proeeded to eret ne! lass di2isions& 5ot so !ith
the proletariat, Mar$ maintains& 6et Mar$ o2erlooked important
onsiderations& '2en the !rethed state o% the nineteenth:entury %atory
!orker !as not de2oid o% interests in domination& )he male proletarian
had =interests= in dominating his !i%e and hildren so that his re2olution
!ould be one that !ould perpetuate patriarhy and the authoritarian
%amily& /n this sense proletarians did not su%%er =!rong in general= and
ould not beome the bearers o% a uni2ersal re2olution&
/ do not kno! ho! this argument esaped Mar$=s attention, although it
an be mentioned that in relation to his o!n %amily he !as in many
!ays a typial bourgeois %ather, More signi%iantly, this =o2ersight=
ontributed to the systemati subordination o% the Buestions o% !omen=s
and hildren=s oppression !ithin soialist mo2ements& /t !as easy to
assume that one the uni2ersal lass attained po!er, others= onerns
!ould naturally be resol2ed& /% !e limit oursel2es to the task o%
interpreting Mar$=s te$ts, ho!e2er, an ans!er to the Buestion appears at
hand, Mar$ allo!ed himsel% to attribute more to the proletarian
re2olution than !as !arranted beause o% the assumption be held about
the apaity o% reason& 8is disourse appropriated the po!er to in2est
uni2ersality in the proletariat beause he assumed that it !as a legitimate
%untion o% the philosopher:theorist to make suh Dudgements& /ndeed
suh Dudgements !ere the stok in trade o% the theorist& Countless
thinkers in ;estern 'urope and the *nited 3tates !ere setting about the
task o% determining the nature o% the uni2ersal& Mar$ !as partiipating
in a olleti2e disourse in !hih it !as taken %or granted that reason
ould and should de%ine the nature o% the uni2ersal& 1lthough his
solution to the Buestion !as bold and original, it perpetuated a
theoretial disourse !hih, %ar %rom enating an epistemologial break
!ith the past, ontinued and e2en e$panded the po!er o% reason& 1t one
le2el >the ritiBue o% the apitalist mode o% prodution?, Mar$=s disourse
e%%ets a ritiBue o% dominationF at another le2el, it establishes and
rein%ores a mode o% domination peuliar to disourse itsel%&
'manipatory disourse need not attribute the uni2ersal to a partiular
soial group and it need not theori@e the totality& ;hen it does so, it
on%lits !ith emanipatory pratie in t!o important respetsA >1? it
remo2es %rom the popular %ores the ability to de%ine the limits and aims
o% pratie, and >2? it gi2es the intelletual po!er o2er the liberation
mo2ement& )he %untion o% theory as =guide= %or pratie beomes in the
ourse o% history the diret domination o% theory o2er pratie& )he
di2ision o% mental and manual labor in the apitalist mode o% prodution
is mirrored in& the anti:apitalist mo2ement as the intelletual beomes
the brain and the proletariat the musles o% the re2olutionary body&
totali@ing the soial %ield in terms o% the uni2ersal su%%ering o% !age
labor, Mar$ at the same time e%%eted a losure !hih pre2ents other
modes o% domination %rom being named and analy@ed& )he
epistemologial problem %or ritial theory is thus not the one de%ined by
1lthusser, that is, to demonstrate the sienti%iity o% Mar$=s theoretial
re2olution& /t is rather a +antian proDet o% de%ining the limits o% reason&
)he Buestion is this, 8o! an modes o% domination be theori@ed and
analy@ed in suh a !ay that the theorist does not appropriate more po!er
than is neessary to arry out the theoretial %untionI /% Fouault is
right that disourses are al!ays already po!ers, an a distintion be
dra!n bet!een disourses !hose po!ers strengthen e$isting modes o%
domination and those that !ork to undo themI /% it is impossible
adeBuately to de%ine this epistemologial distintion, it may at least be
possible to enumerate aspets o% ritial theory !hih operate as modes
o% domination, suh as Mar$=s use o% the term =uni2ersal=&
MAR*+S )SE !F T$E '#A%E(T#(
'Bually disturbing, %rom this perspeti2e, is Mar$=s use o% the dialeti
to aount %or historial hange& Cisussions o% the dialeti in Mar$
o%ten hinge on the relationship !ith 8egel& Cid Mar$ simply turn an
idealist dialeti onto its materialist %eet, or !as the alteration more
drasti in natureI Can a materialist kernel be e$trated %rom an idealist
husk, as another Mar$ist image o% the relationship maintainsI ;as the
8egelian in%luene limited to the early Mar$, or did it persist throughout
his li%eI )hese Buestions ha2e inspired muh interest and produed a
2igorous debate& For the present purposes, ho!e2er, the issue o%
8egelian in%luene an be bypassed and the disussion limited to an
analysis o% Mar$=s position&
/n Mar$=s hands the broom o% the dialeti !as able to s!eep a!ay into
the pro2erbial ashan the ommonplaes o% liberal historiography& )he
dialeti ga2e a di%%erent shape to the past, presented a di%%erent
e$planation %or the birth o% the modern !orld, and %oretold a di%%erent
%uture %or it& 8istorial hange !as not to be onei2ed as an inremental
rise in the inidene o% a gi2en 2ariable, suh as sienti%i truth or gross
national produt& 5or !as it to be seen as the emergene o% an already
e$isting natural property& 3oial systems, the dialeti taught, had
internal ontraditions& )he seeds o% their o!n destrution !ere inherent
in their struture, spei%ially in the shape o% lass on%lit& 8istorial
hange, there%ore, !as not the e2olutionary rise o% some %eature o% the
soial sene, but the omplete trans%ormation o% soiety as a
onseBuene o% the ontest o% masters and sla2es& 8istory !as not a
ontinuous inrease in la! o2er arbitrary !ill, but a periodi,
%undamental reshaping o% systems o% santions and restraints, to ite one
,iberal histories !ere populated by sientists and magiians, la!yers
and tyrants, rational merhants and %anatial obsurantists all loked in a
on%lit that !as traed to the da!n o% time& )he dialeti, on the
ontrary, re2ealed the inner trans%ormation o% both obDet and subDet,
!ithout relying on %i$ed haraters to per%orm the historial drama&
-ather than a liberal 2ision o% good and e2il indi2iduals, the dialeti
established an image o% humanity in a ontinual proess o% sel%:reation,
!ith eah set o% haraters emerging out o% the past through a
mehanism o% opposition and trans%ormation& ,ike the trans%ormation o%
the sla2e in the hapters on ,ordship and "ondage in
8egel=s Phenomenology, soial groups in Mar$=s dialeti !ere
%undamentally di%%erent in eah epoh& From the perspeti2e o% the
dialeti, hange !as %ar more !ide:ranging than liberal e2olutionism
!ould ha2e it& )he birth o% industrial apitalism, %or e$ample, signi%ied
not simply a rise in li2ing standards %or manual laborers along !ith the
institution o% the labor ontrat& 1s Mar$ demonstrated, it inluded a
ne! organi@ation o% labor, !ith tools and labor proesses no longer at
the disposal o% the laborers: /t meant, in short, the reation o% a ne!
soial %igure, the proletarian, !ho in no !ay resembled the artisan o% the
past e2en though he may ha2e produed the same produt&
/n addition, the dialeti enabled Mar$ to sho! onnetions bet!een
phenomena that other!ise remained unrelated& Politial re2olutions and
ideologial hanges !ere no! illuminated by being related to hanges at
the soial and eonomi le2el& /deas no longer popped up ine$pliably
%rom the brain o % some genius& /ntelletual in2ention =orresponded= to
some aspet o% soial pratie, !ithout being determined
mehanistially by it& )he use o% the dialeti permitted Mar$ to analy@e
historial phenomena that remained hidden %rom those !earing liberal
spetales& 1bo2e all, it enabled Mar$ to present a systemati ritiBue o%
the e$isting soial system, to re2eal its transitory nature and to %oresee a
possible alternati2e ourse o% historial trans%ormation& )he apitalist
system !as struturally %la!ed beause it depended on a degraded type
o% labor !hih ould not be ameliorated by impro2ed material
onditions& /n that setting, representati2e demoray !ould be %ored to
operate in& the interests o% the apitalists against the !orkers& 3ienti%i
ad2anes !ould ser2e not the integration o% the human speies and
nature at a higher, more automated le2el, but !ould be limited by the
onstraints o% the proess o% apital aumulation& -elations bet!een the
industrial and non:industrial !orlds !ould in2ol2e not an eBual
e$hange o% surpluses but a brutal system o% e$ploitation by the %ormer&
/n yet another !ay the dialeti pro2ided Mar$ !ith an ad2antage o2er
his liberal opponents& )he dialeti not only oneptuali@ed the historial
%ield in a ne! !ayF it also trans%ormed the nature o% reason& /n
the Criti)ue of Dialectical Reason, 3artre pro2ides a omprehensi2e
disussion o% the di%%erene bet!een the analytial reason o% liberalism
and the dialetial reason o% Mar$&
#nly one aspet o% this, di%%erene
needs attention here& )he dialeti led Mar$, against liberal
presuppositions, to theori@e %rom !ithin the historial onDunture& Mar$
e$pliitly adopted =the point o% 2ie! o% the proletariat=& -eason !as thus
dependent upon the situation& For liberals, reason !as a apaity
inherent in human nature, one !hose e$erise !as idential regardless o%
time or plae& For Mar$, reason !as %ar less ontemplati2e and
deduti2e& /t !as bound to the task o% the ritiBue o% domination and
hene to the soial %ield& 1lthough the dialeti !as not determined in a
,okean manner by sense impressions, it nonetheless pre2ented the
theorist %rom adopting a 2antage point outside time and spae&
)he theoretial ad2anes o% the dialeti are !ell kno!n and annot be
e%%eti2ely disputed& 5e2ertheless, signi%iant di%%iulties remain
unresol2ed by the dialeti, di%%iulties !hih are atually introdued by
it& First there is a teleologial momentum in the dialeti, a %or!ard
motion direted to!ard the resolution o% soial ontradition, e2en !hen
historially no suh mo2ement e$ists& ;ith a dialetial 2antage point,
the Mar$ist looks %or and antiipates soial agents !ho !ill reogni@e
the ontradition and at upon that lass onsiousness& ;hen suh
pratie is not diso2ered by the historial materialist a negati2e term :
%alse onsiousness : is introdued, a term that does little to illuminate
the spei%iities o% the onDunture& /t is di%%iult %or the dialetiian to
%ollo! the sharp turns and sudden starts o% historial e2ents& /n short, the
dialeti is an o2er:ambitious onept that %oresees too muh,
determines too muh, and too easily %ools the analyst into a %alse
seurity& 1rmed !ith suh a po!er%ul analyti tool, the historial
materialist %alls into the habit o% lass analysis and beomes un!illing to
seek out the une$peted&
3eond, there is a homogeni@ing tendeny in the dialeti& 1%ter all,
8egel=s great ambition !as a uni%ied 2ie! o% the real and the strategy o%
his dialeti !as al!ays to diso2er the onnetions bet!een things,
onnetions o%ten lost in the humble proedures o% 1ristotelian logi&
8istorial materialism arries o2er this harateristi o% the 8egelian
dialeti, at times approahing a 2ersion o% e2olutionism& )he
appliation o% the ategory o% lass struggle to di%%erent historial epohs
introdues into the analysis an un!anted onstany& 3ubordinate lasses
al!ays seem to oppose domination and ruling lasses begin to look alike
in the strategies they adopt to pre2ent re2olution& 1t another le2el o%
analysis : that o% the hange %rom one mode o% prodution to another :
the same trend to!ard unity makes itsel% %elt& Modes o% prodution, %rom
a dialetial 2antage point, lead into one another to suh an e$tent that
the breaks and ruptures o% history are smoothed o2er& "eneath the sound
and %ury o% the lass struggle, the logi o% ontradition ontinues
uninterruptedly, mo2ing %rom one mode o% prodution to another, eah
time approahing more losely the ine2itable result : the lassless
soiety& Ceades ago Merleau:Ponty omplained that the dialeti does
not allo! %or ontingeny&
#ne may add to that ausation that it does
not allo! %or di%%erene either&
/% one, goal o% historial materialism is to demonstrate the transitory
nature o% praties and institutions, thereby a2oiding an ideologial
Dusti%iation o% !hat is, a primary onsideration must be to indiate that
things !ere not al!ays the !ay they are, that di%%erene e$isted& "ut the
dialeti mo2es by a logi o% reoniliation or synthesis, bringing
opposing %ores together in a resolution that at one anels and
preser2es their di%%erenes& 3uh a logi ser2es to domestiate the past,
taming its strange and threatening %eatures& )he medie2al hronilers
traed the glories o% a noble lineage %rom the distant past to the present,
elebrating eah generation=s ontribution to the house& /n di%%erent !ays
and to di%%erent degrees, liberal and Mar$ist historians resemble their
medie2al olleagues& /n eah ase, the present age emerges as a
ulmination o% the past, %inding support in the sheer !eight o% bygone
A%TER"AT#0ES T! T$E '#A%E(T#(
Friedrih 5iet@she, that determined hater o% his o!n age, de2eloped an
alternati2e historial logi&
<enealogy, as he termed it, !as an e%%ort to
delegitimi@e the present by separating it %rom the past& )he historian
ould depit the present as %inite, limited, e2en repugnant, simply by
loating di%%erenes in the past& )he 5iet@shean historian begins !ith
the present and goes bak!ard in time until a di%%erene is loated& )hen
he proeeds %or!ard again, traing the trans%ormation and taking are to
preser2e the disontinuities as !ell as the onnetions in the historial
;ith the notion o% di%%erene as the guiding thread, historial
materialists ould open up the soial %ield, unloking the door o%
dialetial on%inement& /nstead o% the searh %or totali@ed, uni2ersal
su%%ering, historians ould loate partiular modes o% domination,
indiating the operations o% tehnologies o% po!er, as Fouault alls
them, and traing their lines o% di%%erential, disontinuous de2elopment&
)he rationali@ations, Dusti%iations, and ideologial nieties that mask
praties o% domination in the present ould be re2ealed in Du$taposition
to eBually oherent, but 2ery di%%erent, ideas and praties %rom the past&
Fouault has pro2ided this sort o% analysis o% the prison systems o% the
#ld -egime and the nineteenth enturyF 1riKs
and <utman
ahie2ed similar analyses o% %amily li%e in Frane and the 1merian
3outh& /n eah ase, a spei%i mode o% domination is analy@ed, its
anient ontours rendered omprehensible and Du$taposed by parallel,
modern praties& /n these analyses, the historial %ield is le%t open and
redued to the mode o% domination in Buestion& /t is true, as Mihel de
Certeau points out,
that Discipline and Punish at times regresses to a
totali@ing logi in !hih the Panoption beomes the model %or all %orms
o% domination& "ut this must be onsidered a lapse in a study that
attempts to set into play a 5iet@shean logi o% di%%erene&
)here is one plae in the 5erman #deology !here Mar$ re%lets on the
nature o% his premises& /n the setion entitled =/deology in <eneral,
<erman /deology in Partiular=, Mar$ distinguishes his o!n position
%rom that o% the 2arious %orms o% ontemporary 8egelianism& 8egelian
philosophers, he argues, do battle against =oneptions, thoughts, ideas=,
=illusions=, =%antasies= : all the =phrases= o% the !orld& *nlike these Bui$oti
!arriors, he !ill take on reality itsel%& From the %at o% ha2ing the real as
his obDet, Mar$ dedues the epistemologial ertainty o% his premisesA
)he premises %rom !hih !e begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas,
but real premises %rom !hih abstration an only be made in the
imagination& )hey are the real indi2iduals, their ati2ity and the material
onditions under !hih they li2e, both those !hih they %ind already
e$isting and those produed by their ati2ity& )hese premises an thus be
2eri%ied in a purely empirial !ay&
T$E %#M#TAT#!"S !F $#ST!R#(A% MATER#A%#SM
;ith these %ate%ul !ords, Mar$ opens the door to historial materialism
and loses the door behind him on idealism& 8istorial materialism
loates its beginnings in a double maneu2er !hih splits disourse %rom
pratie and then subordinates the %ormer to the latter& /n that !ay he
introdues a di2ision in ritial theory bet!een !hat human beings say
and !hat they do, a di2ision !hih an no longer go unhallenged& "y
e$luding mental operations %rom the domain o% historial materialism,
Mar$ remains !ithin the traditional, 'nlightenment metaphysi, only he
%a2ors its ,okean, sensationalist shool& /n the notebooks o% historial
materialists, impressions o% labor ati2ity an be reorded& )hus the
ritiBue o% apitalism is =2eri%ied in a purely empirial !ay=&
*n%ortunately Mar$=s premises remain arbitrary as the distintion he
dra!s bet!een idealism and materialism preser2es in a mirror image the
metaphysi o% liberalism& )he problem is not, as Cerrida thinks, that
Mar$ pri2ileges matter or idea beause o% the %ormer=s property o%
/n the Theses on euerbach, Mar$ de%ines his ne! type o%
materialism against the e$isting %orms o% idealism and materialism& 8e
is interested not so muh in the logial oherene o% eah position, as in
the kind o% %ield eah opens up %or historial in2estigation& )hus
idealism an be reDeted beause it is onerned only !ith !hat men and
!omen say, not !ith !hat they do& Materialism an be reDeted beause
it onstitutes its obDet as a passi2e determinant, %orgetting =that it is men
!ho hange irumstanes=&
)he onlusion Mar$ reahes is that
historial materialism must ombine the =real= obDet as de%ined by
materialism and the harateristi o% ati2ity as de%ined by idealism& )he
resulting historial materialism !ould ha2e pra$is as its obDetF that is to
say, history !ould be onstituted as lass struggle, as human beings
ating to hange the !orld&
;ithout denying the ad2antages %or ritial theory o% historial&
materialism as ompared !ith liberal de%initions o% history, one an still
not o2erlook the di%%iulties it ontains& 8istorial materialism presumes
an ati2e subDet !ho is ready to hange the !orld and it pri2ileges
pratie o2er disourse& /n order to reonstitute historial materialism, it
is neessary to proeed %rom di%%erent assumptions& /nstead o% an ati2e
subDet, ritial theory needs to onstitute its obDet as modes o%
domination& 3imilarly, instead o% =real indi2iduals=, a ategory suh as
disourseNpratie in Fouault a2oids many o% the ha@ards o% gi2ing
priority to ation o2er thought&
8istorial materialism is not the opposite o% historial idealism& /n many
respets the same premises are employed by historians o% both liberal
and Mar$ist stripes& )he %ormer !rite the history o% politis, diplomay,
and ideasF the latter !rite the history o% modes o% prodution, soial
groups, and imperialism& ,iberals narrate the past as e2olution and
reord the moral ats o% the hero, the indi2idual subDetF Mar$ists
analy@e soial ontraditions and register lass on%lits, the olleti2e
subDet& "ut this opposition is like that o% Protestants and Catholis&
,uther and Cal2in broke the hegemony o% the Papists and hanged some
dotrine, rituals, and organi@ational %orms& /n the end they still remained
Christians Dust as Mar$ists remain hildren o% the 'nlightenment or
)he te$ts o% Mar$ist historians employ many o% the ategories and
premises o% the liberals& "oth positions totali@e the soial %ield, presume
the apaity o% reason to grasp the real, searh %or auses o% hange and
origins o% phenomena, domestiate the past by traing its ontinuity !ith
the present, oneptuali@e the historial %ield through the subDet:obDet
dihotomy, and establish a human siene in !hih theory go2erns
pratie, reason ontrols history, the intelletual dominates the
mo2ement o% emanipation& )oday, !hen the roles o% the humanities
and the soial sienes are alled into Buestion, neither historial
idealism nor historial materialism an pro2ide the %rame!ork %or
ritiBue& #ne kno!ledge is impliated in po!er, Mar$ism like
liberalism annot esape the abuse o% history&
;ith the limitations o% lassial Mar$ism learly be%ore us, !e an turn
to an e$amination o% Fouault=s proposals %or de2eloping a ne! kind o%
history, one that attempts to a2oid the di%%iulties o% both liberal and
Mar$ist historiography& / !ill be interested in partiular in establishing
Fouault=s redentials as an historian, in re2ie!ing the ategories he
de2elops to pro2ide an alternati2e to e$isting models, and in assessing
the suess o% his position as a ritial theory o% the mode o%
in%ormation& 1s a reminder to the reader, let me state that / !ill be
onerned primarily !ith his post:1978 !orks, books in !hih the
ritiBue o% domination and the onept o% po!er are entral and
there%ore authori@e an e2aluation in relation to the problems de2eloped
by ;estern Mar$ists&
1& +arl Mar$, The 5erman #deology, in -obert )uker >ed&?, !arx.-ngels
Reader >5e! 6orkA 5orton, 1998?, pp& 144:7&
2& 3ee <erald Cohen, 'arl !arx?s Theory of History >5e! 6orkA #$%ord
*ni2ersity Press, 1998?&
3& Mar$, Capital, Eol& 3, in )uker, !arx.-ngels Reader, p& 441&
4& Mar$, 4ABB !anuscripts, in )uker, ibid&, pp& 77:124&
4& Mar$, Capital, Eol& 1, in )uker, ibid&, p& 32(&
7& <eorg ,ukHs, History and Class Consciousness, trans& -& ,i2ingstone
>,ondonA Merlin, 1991?&
9& <& F& ;& 8egel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans& 1& E& Miller >5e! 6orkA
#$%ord *ni2ersity Press, 1999?&
8& For e$amples, se Mihel Fouault, Discipline and Punish, trans& 1lan
3heridan >5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 1999?&
9& Mar Porat, The #nformation -conomy2 3olume 4, Definition and
!easurement >;ashington, CCA Cepartment o% Commere, 1999?, p& 8&
1(& 0aBues Con@elot, The Policing of amilies >5e! 6orkA Pantheon,1999?&
11& Mar$, Theses on euerbach, in )uker, !arx.-ngels Reader, p& 144&
12& /bid&, p& 144&
13& Mar$, The Ce(ish +uestion, in )uker, !arx.-ngels Reader, pp& 27:42&
14& Cited in )uker, !arx.-ngels Reader, p& 74&
14& Cited in ibid&, p& 192&
17& -udol% "ahro in The "lternati$e in -astern -urope, trans& Ca2id Fernbah
>,ondonA 5e! ,e%t "ooks, 1998?, notes that Mar$ and ,enin attempted to
resol2e the lak o% de2elopment among !orkers by gi2ing theory a role in
dominating the mo2ement& 3ee pp& 39%%&
19& 0ean:Paul 3artre, Criti)ue of Dialectical Reason, trans& 1lan 3heridan 3mith
>,ondonA 5e! ,e%t "ooks, 1997?, pp& 18:21&
18& Maurie Merleau:Ponty, Sense and *on.Sense, Part ##, trans& 8ubert and
Patriia Crey%us >'2anstonA 5orth!estern *ni2ersity Press, 1974?&
19& Friedrih 5iet@she, The 1se and "buse of History, trans& 1& Collins >5e!
6orkA "obbs:Merrill, 1949?, and The 5enealogy of !orals, trans& ;& +au%man
and -& 8ollingdale >5e! 6orkA Eintage, 1979?&
2(& Philippe 1riKs, Centuries of Childhood, trans& -obert "aldik >5e! 6orkA
Eintage, 1974?&
21& 8erbert <utman, The Blac6 amily in Sla$ery and reedom, 4=:;.478: >5e!
6orkA Eintage, 1997?&
22& Mihel de Certeau, =#n the #ppositional Praties o% '2eryday ,i%e=, Social
Text, 3 >Fall, 198(?, pp& 23%%&
23& Mar$, The 5erman #deology, in )uker, !arx.-ngels Reader, p& 149&
24& 3ee the disussion o% the issue !ith 0aBues Cerrida, in Positions, trans& 1lan
"ass >ChiagoA *ni2ersity Press, 1981?, pp& 7(:79&
24& Mar$, Theses on euerbach, in )uker, !arx.-ngels Reader, p& 144&
A "ew 2ind of $istory
/% the Mar$ist onept o% labor annot ser2e as the organi@ing priniple
o% historial researh, the Buestion o% an alternati2e theory beomes
urgent& /n this hapter / delineate the main %eatures o% Fouault=s theory
o% history and assess its merits as a ne! general %rame!ork %or
/n the past %e! deades the disipline o% history has been re2olutioni@ed
by ne! methodologies and ne! obDets o% study !hih %all under the
rubri o% =soial history=& 0ournals like the "nnales in Frane and Past
and Present in 'ngland ha2e been the enters o% the ne! onerns&
)opis like population, the ity, the %amily, !omen, lasses, sports and
psyhobiography ha2e risen to prominene o2er more traditional
historial subDets& Methodologies ha2e been imported %rom e2ery soial
sieneA eonometris %rom eonomis, %amily reonstitution %rom
demography, =thik interpretation= %rom anthropology, 2oting analysis
%rom politial siene, Buestionnaire analysis and lass analysis %rom
soiology, psyhoanalysis %rom psyhology& #ne a %ield in& the
humanities relying on narrati2e !riting, history has beome a potpourri
o% soial siene methods& 5ot sine -anke=s time has history undergone
suh dramati re2isions& Mar$ists ha2e bene%ited %rom the ne!
eletiism as historial materialism has %inally been aepted by the
pro%ession& 1nother inde$ o% the hange is the ne! status o% psyho:
history& /t !as only a short time ago that 'rik 'rikson=s master%ul study
o% Martin ,uther !as spurned by historians, not e2en reei2ing a re2ie!
in the"merican Historical Re$ie(& )oday there are ourses on psyho:
history, Dournals o% psyho:history and on%erenes at maDor uni2ersities
on psyho:history&
/t goes !ithout saying that there is onsiderable on%usion& 1 standard
urriulum in history is a thing o% the past& ;hile there is muh to be
said %or the intelletual 2igor o% the situation, it is also possible to
onlude despairingly that the disipline is shattered into ountless
splinters and !ill ne2er again take on a reogni@able shape& /t may
instead be absorbed by the indi2idual soial sienes as an ornament to
their o!n onerns& 1 maDor reason %or the inoherene o% historial
!riting today is the absene o% theoretial re%letion by the pratitioners
o% soial history& Mar$ist historiographers are, one !ould think, an
e$eption, sine their !riting deri2es %rom a !ell:artiulated theoretial
tradition& 6et that is not al!ays the ase& #ne o% the most prominent
Mar$ist historians, 'd!ard )hompson, looks upon theory !ith no more
understanding than does his at, to Dudge %rom his reent re2ealingly
titled polemi against 1lthusser, The Po$erty of Theory >1998?& ;hile
)hompson=s anti:theoretial animus is not shared by all Mar$ist
historians, a maDor tendeny in their !riting is to adopt empiriist
positions only bolstered by a strong politial ommitment to soialism&
)he non:Mar$ist soial historians are %or their part e2en more adamant
in ignoring the theoretial presuppositions o% their !ork& 1 large
segment o% them simply adopt a Buantitati2e methodology and pursue
the %ats de%ined by the method, ne2er e$amining the oneptual
parameters o% the %ield onstituted by that method& )hus in Peter
,aslett=s !riting, %amily history is redued to the number o% blood
relations residing in the same household& 3ine statistial preision is
reBuired, Buestions about %amily li%e that are not Buanti%iable beome
irrele2ant and are suppressed& /n general, ho!e2er, among soial
historians, methodologial purity does not suppress intelletual uriosity
and the ne! tendenies must be regarded !ith %a2or&
5e2ertheless, despite lear ad2anes, the opportunity raised by soial
history to Buestion the basi assumptions o% the %ield onstituted by
historial in2estigation has gone unreogni@ed&
)he mere 2ariety o%
topis pursued by historians today enourages a rigorous e$amination o%
the theoretial assumptions o% the %ield& /% %amily history, urban history,
!omen=s history and en2ironmental history are all 2alid %ields o%
in2estigation, !hat are the priniples by !hih one hooses to do one or
the otherI 8o! is the soial %ield being onstituted by eah tendenyI
Co the obDets o% in2estigation in eah one bear any relation to those o%
the othersI 1re they in ontradition or an they someho! be olleted
together as a general historyI )hese Buestions are only the beginning o%
a theoretial e$amination o% soial history that is muh needed today&
)he 2irtue o% the reent !ritings o% Fouault is that by their 2ery
di%%erene %rom soial history they raise the important theoretial
Buestions in the most %ore%ul !ay&
)he %lo! o% Fouault=s te$ts, the !ay one thing is put a%ter another,
disturbs the e$petations o% the reader %amiliar !ith soial history& )here
appear to be huge gaps in the narrati2e, silenes that sream at the
reader& )opis are annoyingly plaed out o% the normal order, disrupting
one=s sense o% logial seBuene& ,e2els o% analysis are mi$ed together in
irritating on%usionA the di%%erene bet!een ideas and beha2ior goes
unreogni@ed and is 2iolated& 3imple Buestions o% ausality are ignored
or appear in re2erse order& )he !riting is thik and metaphori and the
point o% 2ie! o% the narrati2e line is o%ten lost& )he obDet o%
in2estigation is ne2er Buite lari%ied and appears to be neither
indi2iduals, nor groups, nor institutions& ;hat is !orse, things seem to
shi%t in the ourse o% the !ritingF at the beginning one issue is at stake,
by the end !e seem to be reading about something else& ;orst o% all, the
author=s attitude to!ard the topi o% study ne2er emerges learly& 8e
seems to take a per2erse pleasure in shi%ting his stane, or simply in
adopting pro2oati2ely an unorthodo$ attitude to!ard a topi& Finally,
!hile muh researh has ontributed to Fouault=s studies, a great deal o%
material has not been looked at& )he e2idential basis o% the te$ts is odd
and inomplete& 5o !onder historians are skeptial about the 2alue o%
his e%%orts&
1lthough Fouault=s !ork is read by anthropologists, soiologists,
psyhologists, philosophers, literary ritis, and historians, the basi
impat o% his !ork is historial& Fouault o%%ers a ne! !ay o% thinking
about history, !riting history, and deploying history in urrent politial
struggles& /% Fouault is the enfant terrible !ho !ould destroy the
human sienes, he is also one o% their most %asinating pratitioners,
reshaping their ontours aording to an original i% most peuliar
historial pratie& Fouault is an anti:historial historian, one !ho in
!riting history, threatens e2ery anon o% the ra%t& #ne an ask,
there%ore, i% there is a theory o% history in Fouault=s te$ts& Can one
diso2er, against the grain o% Fouault=s anti:systemati !riting, a set o%
onepts or ategories that re2eals the basis o% his po!er%ul and
shoking aomplishmentsI
1 reading o% Fouault=s maDor !ritings might lead one to onlude that
Fouault has not de2eloped anything like a theory o% history& 8e has
!ritten no )oynbeean study o% the past enompassing the last %e!
millennia in a shema o% ategories& 8e has !ritten no theory o%
ausation to argue that one %ator or set o% %ators direts human destiny&
8e has !ritten no teleologial trat to pro2e that the meaning and %uture
o% mankind !ill be reali@ed in a gi2en manner& Moreo2er, pratiing
historians in& the 'nglish:speaking !orld %or the most part !ill not e2en
grant that Fouault is one o% their o!n& Many 1merian and "ritish
historians ha2e reei2ed Fouault=s books not as the de2elopment o% a
ne! theory o% history and not e2en as the !ork o% an empirial historian,
but rather as an attak on the disipline o% history& #ne historian notes in
passing Fouault=s e$treme =dismissal o% the intrinsi 2alue o% the
disipline o% history=&
1nother historian, !riting in the
prestigious Cournal of !odern History, spends %i%ty pages !arning
historians o% the dangers o% Fouault=s !riting %or their ra%t&
"y !hat
right then an one speak o% Fouault=s theory o% historyI
/t must be realled that Fouault held a hair in history >8istory o% the
3ystems o% )hought? at the CollKge de Frane until his untimely and
tragi death& /t must also be mentioned that Fouault has !ritten a hal%
do@en books that onern aspets o% the 'uropean past& !adness and
Ci$ili%ation >1971?, The Birth of the Clinic >1973?, The &rder of
Things >1977?, The "rcheology of 'no(ledge >1979?, Discipline and
Punish >1994?, and The History of Sexuality >1997? are all at least
super%iially !orks o% history& 8o! an it be that someone !ho has
studied the past so produti2ely is not granted the title historianI
T$E T$ES#S !F '#S(!"T#")#TY
)he ans!er, it !ould appear, is learA Fouault does not narrate the
e2olution o% the pastF he does not tell the story o% ho! =the seamless !eb
o% yesteryear= leads slo!ly and ine$orably into the present& /n short,
Fouault is not an historian o% ontinuity but o% disontinuity& Fouault
attempts to sho! ho! the past !as di%%erent, strange, threatening& 8e
labors to distane the past %rom the present, to disrupt the easy, o@y
intimay that historians ha2e traditionally enDoyed in the relationship o%
the past to the present& 8e stri2es to alter the position o% the historian
%rom one !ho gi2es support to the present by olleting all the meanings
o% the past and traing the line o% ine2itability through !hih they are
resol2ed in the present, to one !ho breaks o%% the past %rom the present
and, by demonstrating the %oreignness o% the past, relati2i@es and
underuts the legitimay o% the present& 1nd Fouault does this bluntly,
e2en abrasi2ely, as in this e$ample !here he hides intelletual
historians %or their obsession !ith the %iliation o% ideas, a 2ariation o% the
ontinuity thesisA
&&& to seek in this great aumulation o% the already:said the te$t that
resembles =in ad2ane= a later te$t, to ransak history in order to
rediso2er the play o% antiipations or ehoes, to go right bak to the %irst
seeds or to go %or!ard to the last traes, to re2eal in a !ork its %idelity to
tradition or its irreduible uniBueness, to raise or lo!er its stok o%
originality, to say that the Port:-oyal grammarians in2ented nothing, or
to diso2er that Cu2ier had more predeessors than one thought, these
are harmless enough amusements %or historians !ho re%use to gro! up&
)he maturation o% the historian thus reBuires the aBuisition o% the taste
%or the past as a penhant %or !hat is di%%erent& Fouault unmasks the
epistemologial innoene o% the historian& 8e raises the disom%orting
BuestionA ;hat does the historian do to the past !hen he or she traes its
ontinuity and assigns it its ausesI For Fouault, history is a %orm o%
kno!ledge and a %orm o% po!er at the same timeF put di%%erently, it is a
means o% ontrolling and domestiating the past in the %orm o% kno!ing
it& )he historian pretends to rereate the past, in -anke=s phrase, as it
really !as& *sing an a!k!ard ombination o% anedote and statisti, the
historian paints the landsape o% the past in the olors o% the present& 8e
or she e$plains the present by the past,claiming the disclosure o% the
truth or a truth about both& )he historian aomplishes this goal !ithout
plaing himsel% or hersel% in Buestion& /nstead, the historian=s !ork is
moti2ated by the sheer %ore o% truth, the Buest %or kno!ledge&
,et us not misunderstand !hat is at stake& Fouault=s ritiBue is not
based on the opposition o% obDeti2ity and relati2ity, o% siene and
ideology& 8is position may sound similar to the attak on 2alue
neutrality, but something else is in Buestion& /t !ould not help, %or
e$ample, i% the historian !ere to akno!ledge openly his 2aluesA lo2e o%
ountry, party ad2oay, or the like& Fouault=s ritiBue is more basi
than this& ;hether one !rites history under the guise o% obDeti2ity, or
%or the e$pliit purpose o% an ideologial ause, is not the heart o% the
matter& /nstead, !hat is at issue is the at o% an indi2idual laiming to
ontain !ithin his or her onsiousness a ertain truth about the past and
representing it in !riting& Fouault does not laim that suh an e%%ort is
impossible or illegitimate, but that this operation is an ati2e, !ill%ul
!orking on materials& /t is a reation, a %ition, in the %ull sense o% the
term, one !hih, as it has been pratied by positi2ists, liberals, and
Mar$ists alike, produes a disourse !ith a set o% meanings that ats
upon e2eryone !ho omes into ontat !ith it& 8istorial !riting,
Fouault ontends, is a pratie that has e%%ets, and these e%%ets tend,
!hate2er one=s politial party, to erase the di%%erene o% the past and
Dusti%y a ertain 2ersion o% the present& 1nd %inally, the pratie o% the
disourse o% the past plaes the historian in a pri2ileged positionA as the
one !ho kno!s the past, the historian has po!er& )he historian beomes
an intelletual !ho presides o2er the past, nurtures it, de2elops it, and
ontrols it& 3ine, under the thesis o% ontinuity, the historian is able to
ollet !ithin himsel% or hersel% the e$periene o% the past, he or she has
an ideologial interest in maintaining its importane, reasserting the
ine2itability !ith !hih the past leads to the present, !hile at the same
time denying that there is a ertain po!er at stake& Fouault !ritesA
Continuous history is the indispensable orrelati2e o% the %ounding
%untion o% the subDetA the guarantee that e2erything that has eluded him
may be restored to himF the ertainty that time !ill disperse nothing
!ithout restoring it in a reonstituted unityF the promise that one day the
subDet : in the %orm o% historial onsiousness : !ill one again be able
to appropriate, to bring bak under his s!ay, all those things that are
kept at a distane by di%%erene, and %ind in them !hat might be alled
his abode&
/n this !ay history, as presently pratied, enats an 8egelian
totali@ation o% the past and the present&
Fouault=s ritiBue o% the epistemology o% historial pratie is lari%ied
and re2eals its importane !hen it is brought to bear on those historial
shools that present themsel2es onsiously as ad2oates o% progress&
;hen the relationship is made e$pliit bet!een the !riting o% history
and the mo2ement o% liberation in the present, the %ore o% Fouault=s
thesis o% disontinuity beomes apparent and appears most appropriate&
)he Mar$ist shool o% historiography is the most %ruit%ul e$ample&
1ording to the tenets o% historial materialism, there is a diret
relationship bet!een theory and historial !riting on the one hand and
the mo2ement %or soial emanipation on the other& )he in2estigation o%
lass on%lits under the aegis o% the theory o% the mode o% prodution is
a guide %or the ondut o% the struggle in the present& 8istory, %or
Mar$ists, is !ritten neither %or amusement nor %or sel%:ulti2ation& #ne
!rites history in order to promote re2olution& Class struggles o% the past,
ho!e2er di2erse their haraters, are gathered by these historians and
on%irm the mo2ement o% soial liberation in the present& 8ene the
ontinuity o% the past and the present is maintained& )he Mar$ist
historian is no mere urator o% a museum o% %orgotten struggles but, by
2irtue o% his or her kno!ledge, a pri2ileged partiipant in the present
situation o% re2olt& )he theoretially in%ormed historian kno!s more than
the !orkers about the strategy %or hange& Mar$ism thereby santions a
ertain type o% intelletual to represent the !orkers in the task o%
re2olution& ,eninism %inds its support in historial materialism,
reei2ing po!er o2er the !orkers by dint o% the intelletuals= ability to
kno! the past and there%ore the present& )he truth o% the mo2ement %or
soial trans%ormation is remo2ed %rom the hands o% the !orkers and
trans%erred into the minds o% the intelletuals& 8istory has been abused,
aording to the Fouauldian thesis, as the dotrine o% ontinuity has
allo!ed the struggle o% the !orkers to be appropriated by the
)he intention o% this argument is not to single out Mar$ists and ondemn
their errors, as anti:Communist old !arriors might suppose& )he same
analysis ould be gi2en o% liberal historians, positi2ists, and e2en that
most realitrant o% all groups, empiriists& /n %at, sine empiriists still
dominate historial !riting in the *nited 3tates and "ritain, they are the
ones most in need o% ritial e$amination& 5e2ertheless, / !ill e$plore
Fouault=s theory o% history %urther by ontinuing to interrogate
Mar$ism, beause that shool o% historiography is, / belie2e, the most
important and beause Fouault himsel%, situated in Frane, is onerned
most diretly !ith it&
/n the 199(s Fouault produed t!o books, Discipline and
Punish and The History of Sexuality, !hih initiated something o% a ne!
departure %rom& his earlier !ritings and de2eloped signi%iantly his
theory o% history& /n the books on prisons and se$uality, his aim is to
e$plore a on%iguration o% kno!ledge and po!er, or a set o%
on%igurations, that ha2e beome inreasingly harateristi o%
t!entieth:entury 'uropean and 1merian soiety& 8e argues that
kno!ledge and po!er are deeply onneted and that their on%iguration
onstitutes an imposing presene o2er ad2aned industrial soiety,
e$tending to the most intimate reesses o% e2eryday li%e& )he %orm o%
domination harateristi o% ad2aned apitalism is not e$ploitation, not
alienation, not psyhi repression, not anomie, not dys%untional
beha2ior& /t is instead an ne! pattern o% soial ontrol that is embedded
in pratie at many points in the soial %ield and that onstitutes a set o%
strutures !hose ageny is at one e2eryone and no one&
/n the last hapter / analy@ed Mar$=s onept o% labor, pointing out its
theoretial limitations& 1t this point / !ill restate some o% those
obDetions, plaing them in the onte$t o% Fouault=s ritiBue o% the
subDet and indiating !hy they appear, %rom Fouault=s perspeti2e,
similar to liberal assumptions about history& / !ill then sho! ho! the
onept kno!ledgeNpo!er, Fouault=s alternati2e to the ategory o% the
laboring subDet, is able to illuminate the historial %ield in a promising
manner& / !ill then go on to disuss the ;estern Mar$ist ategories o%
ideology and repression& From a Fouauldian perspeti2e, these ideas
are also %la!ed in their appliation to historial disourse& 1ording to
Fouault and se2eral radial theorists !ho present an assoiated line o%
argumentation ><illes Celeu@e, FJli$ <uattari, 0ean "audrillard, 0ean:
FranRois ,yotard?, Mar$=s onept o% labor is %la!ed by its reliane on
aspets o% liberal theory !hih it seeks to transend& )he onept o%
labor as de2eloped by Mar$ists and liberals alike onstitutes the soial
!orld as the produt o% a olleti2e subDet, the !ork %ore& Mar$ists
then sho! ho! the produts o% labor are stolen %rom the !orker:subDet
by the mehanisms, o% e$ploitation and alienation& For liberals, the
!orker reei2es a Dust !age, determined by the market, so that
domination is eliminated& /n both ases, ho!e2er, the Buestion o%
historial :: soial analysis enters on the subDet& For liberals, the drama
reahes its risis !hen the ontrat is madeA t!o subDets, ating
rationally, agree to mutual obligations& For Mar$ists, the sript is 2aried
at one le2el and the same at anotherA !orker:subDets at upon matter,
reating things that irulate through the hannels o% the soial !orld&
"ut e2en here !e ha2e the some!hat theologial drama o% ati2e
subDets shaping matter into desired %orms& /n both ases the soial:
historial %ield is a2ailable %or analysis %rom the point o% 2ie! o%
For Fouault, these analyses are inadeBuate and Mar$ism annot be the
basis %or a ritial theory o% history, beause the modes o% domination in
the t!entieth entury annot be perei2ed %rom the limited 2antage point
o% the subDet& /nstead, domination today takes the %orm o% a
ombination or struture o% kno!ledge and po!er !hih is not e$ternal
to the subDet, but still unintelligible %rom his or her perspeti2e& Critial
theory annot present history as the transition %rom abusi2e aristorats to
e$ploiting apitalists, beause domination is no longer entered in or
aused by subDets& )he result is that the labor proess, as theori@ed by
Mar$, does not make intelligible soures o% radialism that are adeBuate
to o2er:turning urrent modes o% domination&
)he point is not that the labor proess is %ree o% oppression or o% the
pre2ailing =tehnologies o% po!er=& /t is rather that the shi%t to the ne!
ritial onepts is arried out better by re%erene to other soial
praties : in part beause Mar$ism has oloni@ed the ategory o% labor,
in part beause the dominant strutures ha2e de2eloped else!here& /n the
praties o% punishment and se$uality, in the soial loations o% the
%amily, the military, and the asylum, Fouault uno2ered the birth and
de2elopment o% ne! modes o% domination, ombinations o% disourses
and praties that onstituted ne! %orms o% subDugation& )his proess
also a%%eted labor praties under apitalism but not in the !ay Mar$
onei2ed it& )he disipline o% the %atory must not be eBuated !ith the
mehanisms o% e$ploitation and alienation&
/n Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality Fouault di2ides
the histories o% rime and se$ into t!o or three main periods, !ith the
eighteenth entury ser2ing as one o% the di2iding lines& /n the earlier
periods, kno!ledge and po!er about rime %oused on the body o% the
transgressor& /n the e$emplary but not representati2e ase o% the regiide
Camiens, =tehnologies o% po!er= !ere e$erised to e$trat the =truth= o%
the rime by a omple$ o% seret torture and publi punishment&
Camiens=s body beame the target o% the kno!ledgeNpo!er o% the
Dudiial apparatus o% the #ld -egime& 8is brutal publi e$eution !as
the %inal ritual through !hih the pre:modern system o% punishment !as

"e%ore the Counter -e%ormation kno!ledgeNpo!er o2er se$uality also
onerned the body, its ats, and its transgressions&
/n this ase, the
disourse about se$uality !as go2erned by lerial, not seular
authorities& )he on%essional !as the plae !here se$ual ats !ere
e$amined, disussed, and e2aluated& Questions !ere aimed at
determining !hat !as done, by !hom, in !hat positions, and ho! many
times& 1 %i$ed shedule o% penane !as elaborated o2er time to regulate
atonement %or 2iolations o% the rules& /n the pre:modern period, then,
kno!ledgeNpo!er reated and shaped praties o% riminality and
se$uality through manipulations o% the body, rearranging it !hen
neessary to produe and reprodue the soial order& )he %ull impat o%
Fouault=s analyses o% these tehnologies o% po!er reBuires a are%ul
reading o% his te$ts& "ut the rough outlines o% his diso2eries should be
lear e2en %rom this brie% aount&
)he early modem period is separated %rom the nineteenth entury and its
uniBue struture o% kno!ledgeNpo!er by a dramati disontinuity& /n the
more reent period, disourses about se$uality and tehnologies o%
po!er o2er rime hange dramatially& Crime and se$ beome subDets
o% ne! disiplinary authorities that enat an e$traordinary =mirophysis
o% po!er=, e$tending throughout the soial landsape& -egarding rime,
"entham=s Panopticon beomes one o% the soures %or a ne! prison
systemF and %or se$uality, Freud=s theory o% repression e2entually omes
to go2ern the li%e o% the %amily&
/n both ases ne! regimes are
established in !hih on2ited riminals and se$ual ati2ity >espeially
o% hildren? are srupulously monitored& )he obDet o% ontrol has
shi%ted %rom the body to the mind, and the methods o% ontrol ha2e been
e$tensi2ely artiulated as the e%%ets o% the tehnologies o% po!er
onstitute ne! types o% subordinated groups& 'laborate bureauraies are
established to keep tabs on peopleF e$tensi2e %iles are de2eloped !ith an
enormous e$pansion o% disiplines and sienti%i e$perimentation to
study, e$amine, and probe the most banal thoughts and ations o%
potential riminals and reidi2ists, hildhood masturbators and
hysterial !omen& )he elaboration o% institutionali@ed disourses and
po!ers is endless& '2entually, the population an be put under
sur2eillane and obser2ed almost ontinuously, like an amoeba under a
mirosope& 1lthough not e2ery soial institution adopted the model o%
the Panoption, its dissemination, as desribed by Fouault, !as
there !as a !hole series o% mehanisms that did not adopt the ompat=
prison model, but used some o% the areral methodsA haritable
soieties, moral impro2ement assoiations, organi@ations that handed
out assistane and also pratied sur2eillane, !orkers= estates and
lodging houses& & & 1nd, lastly, this great areral net!ork reahes all the
disiplinary mehanisms that %untion throughout soiety&
/n the instanes o% rime and se$ studied by Fouault, the e$erise o%
kno!ledgeNpo!er annot be omprehended under the sign o% repression&
3e$ !as not repressed in the nineteenth entury, as Freudo:Mar$ists
!ould ha2e us belie2e&
)hat is not the !ay tehnologies o% po!er
operate& #n the ontrary, Fouault points out that disourses on se$
%lourished in the nineteenth entury as ne2er be%ore& /% o2ert se$uality
passed under a ban in polite soiety o% the Eitorian era, that is only
beause it had beome more, not less, o% a preoupation& /n bourgeois
%amilies, parents studied the ne! medial literature on hild rearing
!hih !arned them& o% the dangers o% masturbation& 1 ombined
operation both denied hildhood se$uality and marshaled parents=
energies against it& 3e$uality !as eliited %rom hildren and then
subDeted to e$tensi2e rules to pre2ent its o2ert mani%estation& 3imilarly,
the lassi hysterial& !oman !as onsidered to ontain a bundle o%
se$ually ontraditory impulses and, at the same time, !as ideali@ed as a
2essel o% purity and innoene& /n these instanes, there !as not an
ati2ity !hih !as =repressed=, but an e$tensi2e de2elopment o%
kno!ledgeNpo!er !hih shaped, onstituted, and ontrolled praties
aording to omple$ rules& 8and in hand, tehnologies o% po!er and
disourses are, aording to Fouault, positi2e, reati2e %ores, not
negati2e, pre2enti2e measures&
/% this is so, ho! an one e$plain the !idespread belie%, one not limited
to the Freudo:Mar$ists, that po!er is something that denies, %orestalls,
represses, pre2entsI /n one o% his numerous inter2ie!s, Fouault
pro2ides a highly suggesti2e hypothesis to aount %or the 2ie! that
po!er is negati2e&
)he ;estern system o% la!, he argues, !as
de2eloped in the onte$t o% the monarhial system& 1s the kings
established themsel2es as enters o% po!er, they !ere opposed
suessi2ely and at times onurrently by the nobility and the
bourgeoisie& )he nobility sought to regain rights and liberties !hih the
monarh denied them, as in the Magna Carta, and the bourgeoisie
generated a system o% la! !hih aimed at urtailing, limiting, and
pre2enting ations o% the monarh !hih !ere inDurious to the
instauration o% a market eonomy& )he monarh pre2ented pri2ate %euds
among aristorats and bourgeois la! abolished the arbitrary abuses o%
kingship& /n both ases !hat !as at stake !as a oneption o% po!er as
negati2e or repressi2e& #2er the enturies, the praties and disourses
onerning po!er ha2e thought o% it only in this !ay& 3ine po!er is
atually positi2e, the 2ie! that it is negati2e %untions as an ideology
masking its atual nature&
T$E (!"(EPT !F #'E!%!4Y
0ust as the onept o% repression deri2ing %rom the Freudian tradition is
inadeBuate as a guide to the !orkings o% po!er, so the onept o%
ideology in the Mar$ist tradition %ails to pro2ide a theoretial ompass to
the historial mani%estations o% kno!ledge and disourse& "e%ore
e$amining Fouault=s ritiBue o% the onept o% ideology, / must e$plain
its importane to the ontinuing 2itality o% Mar$ist theory& /n the
t!entieth entury, Mar$ist theorists in /taly, Frane, and <ermany ha2e
turned inreasingly to the onept o% ideology to aount %or 2arious
phenomena o% ad2aned apitalism& 1ntonio <ramsi and <eorg
,ukHs, the Frank%urt 3hool, 0ean:Paul 3artre and ,ouis 1lthusser ha2e
all resorted to the notion o% ideology to e$plain, !ithin a Mar$ist
%rame!ork, important ultural trans%ormations that ha2e apparently
delayed the progress o% proletarian re2olution& )he role o% nationalism in
de%using lass on%lit in times o% !ar, the role o% rae in di2iding the
!orking lass, the role o% onsumerism in purhasing !orkers=
allegiane to apitalism, the role o% the eduational system and the
media in trans%orming ontradition into onsent, the role o% the %amily
in pro2iding an esape %rom the battle o2er the means o% prodution : all
these ha2e insured that the ideas o% the ruling lass shall remain the
ruling ideas& ==)he onept o% ideology thus oupies a ruial position in
the apparatus o% Mar$ism, e$plaining ho! lass onsiousness slips
ontinuously into %alse onsiousness& /% the onept o% ideology is
undermined and %ound !anting, Mar$ists might be hard put to present a
oherent aount o% the relati2e absene o% lass struggle in the
ad2aned soieties&
Fouault presents the %ollo!ing ritiBue o% the onept o% ideologyA
)he notion o% ideology appears to me to be di%%iult to use %or three
reasons& )he %irst is that, !hether one !ants it to be or not, it is al!ays in
2irtual opposition to something like the truth& 5o! / belie2e that the
problem is not to make the di2ision bet!een that !hih, in a disourse,
%alls under sienti%iity and truth and that !hih %alls under something
else, but to see historially ho! truth:e%%ets are produed inside
disourses !hih are not in themsel2es either true or %alse& )he seond
inon2eniene is that it re%ers, neessarily / belie2e, to something like a
subDet& )hirdly, ideology is in a seondary position in relation to
something !hih must %untion as the in%rastruture or eonomi or
material determinant %or it& For these three reasons, / belie2e that it is a
notion that one annot use !ithout preautions&
Fouault=s %irst obDetion to the onept o% ideology addresses the binary
opposition o% sieneNideology that holds a prominent plae in Mar$ist
thought, espeially 1lthusser=s&
/deology is onei2ed here as a %orm o%
mysti%iation that does not attain the status o% kno!ledge or siene& )o
study ideology is thus to study ideas that ha2e been distorted through
ontamination !ith some aspet o% relations based on domination, as in
8abermas= notion o% the ideal speeh situation&
From Fouault=s
5iet@shean perspeti2e, ho!e2er, all disourses are merely
perspeti2es, and i% one has more 2alue than another that is not beause
o% its intrinsi properties as =truth=, or beause !e all it =siene=, but
beause o% an e$tra:epistemologial ground, the role the disourse plays
in onstituting praties& "y designating itsel% =siene=, Mar$ism gi2es
itsel% a %alse and easy legitimay, one that enables the Mar$ist theorist to
plae himsel% or hersel% abo2e the masses as the bearer o% the uni2ersal&
1s a siene, Mar$ism beomes Dust one more disourse that %untions
to generate a subDugated pratie& )hus Fouault ontends that the
onept o% ideology is but one more e$ample o% the !ay reason omes
to dominate the 2ery obDet it intends to liberateA man&
Fouault=s seond obDetion to the onept o% ideology deri2es %rom his
anti:humanism& )he notion o% ideology plaes the soure o% =ideas= in
subDets, suh as the ruling lass !hih, as the phrase %rom Mar$ goes,
e$presses the ruling ideas o% e2ery age& )he re%erene bak to the subDet
pre2ents one %rom e$amining ideas in the manner pre%erred by Fouault,
as disourses !hose intelligibility does not deri2e %rom subDets&
Fouault=s anti:subDeti2ism is one o% the guiding threads in his !ritings,
!hih on other issues hanged onsiderably %rom the 197(s to the
199(s& )his tendeny, it must be akno!ledged, deri2es %rom the
struturalist 2ie! o% language as a deentered totality& ,anguage %or the
struturalists is not a tool %or the e$pression o% the subDet=s ideas but a
system o% relations bet!een signs !hih onstitute its obDet as the
subDet is Fouault has onsistently denied allegiane to
!hih is aurate sine he is not a %ormalist, pursuing a
uni2ersal ombinatory in the manner o% Claude ,J2i:3trauss&
Fouault=s animus against the subDet is moti2ated by his proDet to
analy@e the mehanisms o% the human sienes& )he disiplines !hih
take =man= as their obDet also ha2e =man= as their =subDet=& )his
hermeneuti irle produes a ertain blindness !hih allo!s the human
sienes to a2oid re%leting upon their e%%ets on pratie& Fouault
thinks that, by taking a point o% 2ie! other than that o% the subDet, one
an deipher the mehanisms through !hih the human sienes ome
to dominate, not liberate, the subDet& 8is e%%ort to de2elop the onept
o% disourse is moti2ated by this, intention& )hus he de%ines disourse in
opposition to the subDet as %ollo!sA
/ shall abandon any attempt &&& to see disourse as a phenomenon o%
e$pression : the 2erbal translation o% a pre2iously established synthesisF
instead, / shall look %or a %ield o% regularity %or 2arious, positions o%
subDeti2ity& )hus onei2ed, disourse is not the maDestially un%olding
mani%estation o% a thinking, kno!ing& speaking subDet, but, on the
ontrary, a totality, in !hih the dispersion o% the subDet, and his
disontinuity !ith himsel% may be determined&
3uh a non:subDeti2ist onept o% disourse in2alidates the Mar$ist
notion o% ideology in its ompliity !ith e$pressi2ist assumptions& )he
onept o% ideology is inadeBuate %or deoding the dimensions o%
domination inherent in the human sienes, disiplines !hih are
ubiBuitous today&
)he third obDetion to the onept o% ideology, that ideas are reduible to
the mode o% prodution, is %ound in Fouault=s insistene upon the
immanent relation o% kno!ledge and po!er& Perhaps more than Mar$,
Fouault lays the basis %or a materialist history o% kno!ledge, sine he
onei2es o% ideas in suh lose pro$imity to pratie& Cisourses, %or
Fouault, are already po!ers and do not need to %ind their material %ore
some!here else, as in the mode o% prodution& Most signi%iantly %or a
ritial theory o% history, suh a perspeti2e shi%ts the %ous o% attention
a!ay %rom the sublime ideas o% the intelletual elite and to!ard the
mundane disourses o% disiplinary institutions that more diretly a%%et
the e2eryday li%e o% the masses& /deology is no longer seen as the airy
dialogue o% great minds, but as the prosai enounter o% riminal and
riminologist, neuroti and therapist, hild and parent, unemployed
!orker and !el%are ageny&
Fouault is there%ore opposed to a entral dotrine o% historial
materialism upon !hih the onept o% ideology restsA the distintion
bet!een the base and the superstruture& )o the e$tent that Mar$ism
depends upon this distintion, it an no longer ser2e as the primary basis
%or radial theory& 3ome Mar$ists de%end their position by resorting to a
onept o% mediations, de2eloped most e$tensi2ely by 3artre in Criti)ue
of Dialectical Reason& )he notion o% baseNsuperstruture, these Mar$ists
is a reli o% the 3eond and )hird /nternationals, no longer to
be taken seriously by Mar$ists& Contemporary Mar$ists aount %or so:
alled superstrutural le2els, reogni@ing the mutual impat o% base and
super:struture& )he old eonomi determinism o% the 192(s and 193(s
is dead& Mar$ and 'ngels themsel2es, it an be pointed out, denied suh
redutionism and !arned their %ollo!ers against it& ;hile it an be
admitted that the notion o% mediations is an impro2ement o2er
redutionism, it must also be noted that the impro2ement does not go %ar
enough& )he perspeti2e o% the reiproal relations o% base and super:
struture is still unable to aount %or the internal omple$ity o% any
aspet o% the =superstruture= and remains tied to a totali@ing impulse that
Fouault %inds problemati&
A M)%T#P%#(#TY !F F!R(ES
/nstead o% re%urbishing Mar$ism !ith a more omple$ method o%
totali@ation, Fouault proposes a multipliity o% %ores in any soial
%ormation, a multipliity !hih is dispersed, disontinuous, and
unsynhroni@ed& 3oial theory %or him annot grasp an entire soial
%ormation in one key onept or shema& /t must rather e$plore eah
disourseNpratie separately, unpaking its layers, deoding its
meanings, traing its de2elopment !here2er its meandering path may
lead& Fouault is an ardent detotali@er, pre%erring a synopated approah
!hih ne2er pretends to apture the !hole o% a historial moment& 8e
goes so %ar in this diretion as to akno!ledge, in some plaes, a
penhant %or pluralism&
/n good part beause Mar$ism >as !ell as
liberalism? has so inured us to the habit o% totali@ing, the urgent need
today is %or shattering those great generalities :the rise o% the
bourgeoisie, the emergene o% demoray, the lass, struggle, the
apitalist mode o% prodution : !hih %or so long ha2e dominated
historial thinking& Fouault asks, ;hat is the %ear that leads to suh
hasty totali@ationI /n plae o% =global history= he !ould put =general
history=, in !hih the aim !ould be to =desribe the peuliarity o%
praties, the play o% their relations, the %orm o% their dependenies=&

/n this spirit the emphasis in Discipline and Punish and The History of
Sexuality is on the multipliity and dispersion o% kno!ledge and po!er,
an emphasis !hih enats a shi%t %rom the earlier notion o% the epistKme&
/n The &rder of Things, %or e$ample, the epistKme %untioned as the
master key to all disourses, e2en i% Fouault did not intend it as suh,
and history !as a suession o% epistKmes& 'ah age had its uniBue
epistKme !hih !as the ground o% all utteranes& )he epistKme operated
as a totali@ing onept !hih rendered Fouault de%enseless against the
ommon attak that he ould not e$plain the hange %rom one epistKme
to another&
)he substitution o% the idea o% a multipliity o% disoursesNpraties %or
the epistKme allo!s Fouault to esape %rom the problems o% ausation
and hange& 5o! Fouault an& deal !ith the birth o% prisons by
inorporating the notion o% disontinuity into a properly historial
analysis, one that an %ollo! hanges !here they our and still put the
stress on disontinuity& 8e an sho! %irst ho! the Panoption system
breaks drastially !ith the past and seond ho! it inorporates aspets
o% earlier disiplinary modes, suh as the tehnology o% po!er
de2eloped in the military to regiment large bodies o% men and later
trans%erred to the prison system& )here an, in& a Fouauldian analysis,
be spei%i auses %or spei%i hangesF and ontinuities o% partiular
types !ithout losing the main argument that disontinuity is the entral
%ous o% historial researh&
Fouault=s reent !ritings also a2oid the harge o% a historial
struturalism by inorporating notions o% arheology and genealogy&
1lthough these onepts remain some!hat unlear and impreise in
Fouault=s te$ts, they do initiate a shi%t to an& historial problemati that
promises to strengthen his position 2is:S:2is Mar$ism and traditional
historiography& 1t the most general le2el, arheology and genealogy are
morphologial strategies, searhing out the hanging struture o% di2erse
phenomena& Fouault uses the term arheology to denote a le2el o% the
analysis o% disourses !hih grasps their Prules o% %ormationP !ithout
re%erene to the subDet&
)he term genealogy implies the politial
%untion in !hih history is =the re2ersal o% a relationship o%
)he historian an undermine the present order by re2ersing its
images o% the past& )he method ad2oated by Fouault reBuires the
historian to go bak in time until a di%%erene is loated, suh as the
torture o% Camiens, the pre:)ridentine on%essional, the medie2al ship o%
%ools& )hese alien disoursesNpraties are then e$plored in suh a !ay
that their negati2ity in relation to the present e$plodes the =rationality= o%
phenomena that are taken %or granted& ;hen the tehnology o% po!er o%
the past is elaborated in detail, present:day assumptions !hih posit the
past as =irrational=, are undermined&
)his hapter has disussed the broad outlines o% Fouault=s reipe %or
!riting history& /n the subseBuent hapters / !ill e$amine in more detail
t!o o% his te$ts& Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality&
"e%ore going on to those analyses / !ant to pause in order to lari%y an
espeially di%%iult problem, i&e&, the preise relationship o% the theories
o% Fouault and Mar$& /t is tempting to maintain that Fouault simply
replaes Mar$ as the master theorist o% history& 3ome readers might in
%at ome to that onlusion i% they !ere on2ined by the abo2e
disussion& 6et that it not my intention, nor is it my Dudgement&
Fouault=s disourse analysis, !hate2er its merits, annot replae lass
analysis or e2en liberal analyses o% politial and intelletual e2ents& )he
issues %all at t!o distint le2els !hih reBuire separate Dudgements about
the impat o% Fouault=s !orkA >1? the general le2el o% an historial
%rame!ork and >2? the le2el o% partiular, monographi historiography&
Fouault=s !ork is most threatening to Mar$ism at the general le2el& 1s
a totali@ing %rame!ork that enompasses all history in an e2olutionary
sheme and relates all le2els o% soiety under the dominane o% the mode
o% prodution, Mar$ism annot be sustained& )he limitations o% this kind
o% totali@ing thought ha2e already been disussed and need not be
repeated here& 3u%%ie it to say that Fouault=s ase is strongest in
arguing %or detotali@ing historial theory& 8is ritiBue o% the subDet is
sustained both at the le2el o% the obDet o% historial in2estigation >the
laboring subDet in Mar$? and the authorial subDet !ho !rites history&
)o repeat, the point o% 2ie! o% any partiular subDet >proletariat,
demorati@ing politial, rational indi2idual? is an inadeBuate basis %or a
totali@ation o% the soial %ield& 1t the same time the !riter o% an
historial te$t employs a theoretial %rame!ork !hih is al!ays partial,
al!ays limited in the %ield that it illuminates and there%ore an ne2er
ser2e as an e$lusi2e, all:enompassing %oundation %or historial theory&
3ine kno!ledge is al!ays tied to po!er, the speial position o% the
author o% an historial te$t must al!ays limit the sope o% his or her
laim to truth&
#ne the pretensions o% Mar$ism to ser2e as a totali@ing historial
theory are put to rest, it is then possible to assess the 2alue o% lass
analysis %or partiular historial obDets& 1t this le2el Fouault=s position
does not at all e$lude Mar$ist historial analysis& 1t this le2el the
relati2e merits o% Fouault=s genealogy, Mar$ist lass analysis and ;hig
history to illuminate the soial:historial %ield need to be assessed in
eah partiular ase& 1t this le2el o% the on%lit o% interpreti2e shemes,
the merits o% Fouault=s position an be Dudged on the basis o% ho! one
en2isages the needs o% the present situation& /% one is on2ined that
open publi debate and parliamentary demoray are the %undamental
reBuirements o% the present situation, then 8abermas= e2olutionary
linguistis or liberal politial analysis pro2ides the key indies o%
historial analysis& /% one is on2ined that the struggles o% the !orking
lass are the enter o% the ontemporary drama, then the Mar$ist position
reei2es priority %or historial !ork& /% one is on2ined that a ne!
soial %ormation is emerging in the ad2aned soieties >the mode o%
in%ormation? in !hih kno!ledge is inreasingly impliated in modes o%
domination and in !hih protest has shi%ted its %ous a!ay %rom the
proess o% prodution, then Fouault=s shema is the urgent item on the
historiographial agenda& /n any ase, ho!e2er, eah position !ill be
able to illuminate ertain aspets o% the historial %ield and the merits o%
eah position 2is:S:2is the others are relati2e not absolute&
;ith these autions in mind it beomes apparent that in the disussion
in this hapter / ha2e emphasi@ed the di%%erenes bet!een Mar$ist
historial !riting and that o% Fouault& / ha2e done this simply to lari%y
Fouault=s position and also beause this hapter remains at the general
le2el o% theoretial %ormation& /n the hapters that %ollo! the issues
beome more spei%i, the histories o% prisons and se$uality& /n these
onte$ts also the merits o% the positions o% Fouault and Mar$ are
subDet to relati2e not absolute Dudgements&
1& 1 maDor e$eption is the !ork o% Cominik ,aCapra, espeially in History
and Criticism >/thaaA Cornell *ni2ersity Press, %orthoming?&
2& 0ames 8enretta, =3oial 8istory as ,i2ed and ;ritten=, "merican Historical
Re$ie(, 5o& 84 >Ceember, 1999?, p& 1299&
3& 1llan Megill, Fouault, 3truturalism, and the 'nds o% 8istory=, Cournal of
!odern History, 5o& 4 1 >3eptember, 1999?, p& 441:4(3&
4& Mihel Fouault, The "rcheology of 'no(ledge, trans& 1& M& 3heridan:3mith
>5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 1992?, p& 144&
4& Fouault, "rcheology of 'no(ledge, p& 12&
7& Mihel Fouault, Discipline and Punish, trans& 1& 3heridan >5e! 6orkA
Pantheon, 1999?&
9& Mihel Fouault, The History of Sexuality, Eol& 1, "n #ntroduction, trans&
-obert 8urley >5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 1998?&
8& For an e$ellent supplement to Fouault=s History of Sexuality on the role o%
psyhoanalysis, see 0aBues Con@elot,The Policing of amilies, trans& -obert
8urley >5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 1999?&
9& Fouault, Discipline and Punish, p& 298&
1(& )he literature o% Freudo:Mar$ism is Buite e$tensi2e, %rom 'rih Fromm and
;ilhelm -eih to 8erbert Maruse, -eimut -eihe, and Mihael 3hneider&
For a ritiBue o% this literature, see Mark Poster, Critical Theory of the
amily >5e! 6orkA Continuum, 1998?, h& 2&
3ee the important inter2ie!, =)ruth and Po!er=, in Mihel Fouault, Po(er<'no(ledge2
Selected #nter$ie(s and &ther /ritings, 1992:1999, ed& Colin <ordon >5e! 6orkA
Pantheon, 198(?, pp& 1(9:33& )his piee also appears in =Mihel FouaultA Po!er, )ruth,
3trategy=, /or6ing Papers >1999?, pp& 29:48&
11& =)ruth and Po!er=, /or6ing Papers, p& 37&
12& For a omparison o% Fouault and 1lthusser on this issue, see P&,& "ro!n,
='pistemology and MethodA 1lthusser, Fouault, Cerrida=, Cultural
Hermeneutics, 5o& 3 >1ugust, 1994?, p& 149:73& For an e$ellent, but to my
mind %inally unon2ining, Mar$ist ritiBue o% Fouault, see Peter Ce!s&
=)he *ou$elle Philosophie and Fouault, -conomy and Society 8 >May, 1999?,
pp& 129:91& 3ee also "arry 3mart, oucault, !arxism and Criti)ue >,ondonA
-outledge and +egan Paul, 1983?&
13& For a %ine omparison o% 8abermas and Fouault, see Ca2id 8oy, =)aking
8istory 3eriouslyA Fouault, <adamer, 8abermas=, 1nion Seminary +uarterly
Re$ie(, 34 >;inter, 1999?, pp& 84:94&
14& )he losest Fouault omes to struturalism is in !adness and Ci$ili%ation,
!here he de%ines his proDet in terms that look 2ery muh like those o% the
struturalists >!adness and Ci$ili%ation, trans& -ihard 8o!ard >5e! 6orkA
Eintage, 1974?, p& $ii& /n other !orks, ho!e2er, Fouault goes out o% his !ay to
insist that he is not one o% them& 3ee, %or e$ample, =8istory, Cisourse, and
Cisontinuity=, Salmagundi, 5o& 2( >3ummer:Fall,1992?, p& 234n
and "rcheology of 'no(ledge, p& 11&
14& Fouault, "rcheology of 'no(ledge, p& 44&
17& 3e, %or e$ample, -aymond ;illiams, ="ase and 3uperstruture=, *e( Left
Re$ie(, 5o& 82 >5o2ember:Ceember, 1993?, pp& 3:17&
19& Fouault, =8istory, Cisourse, Cisontinuity=, p& 227, !here he statesA =5o!, /
am a pluralist&=
18& /bid&, p& 24(&
19& Fouault, "rcheology of 'no(ledge, pp& 2(
Fouault, =5iet@she, <enealogy, 8istory=, trans& Conald "ouhard and 3herry 3imon, in
Conald "ouhard >ed&?,Language, Counter !emory, Practice >/thaaA Cornell *ni2ersity
Press, 1999?, p& 144& 1lso o% interest are 0aBues Cerrida, Spurs2 *iet%sche?s Styles, trans&
"arbara 8arlo! >ChiagoA Chiago *ni2ersity Press, 1999? and <illes
Celeu@e, *iet%sche et la philosophie >ParisA P*P, 1979?& 3ee also the de%inition gi2en
in Po(er<'no(ledge, p& 83& For Fouault=s presentism, see Mihael -oth, Fouault=s
8istory o% the Present=, History and Theory, 5o& 2( >1981?, pp& 32:47& 1lso o% interest is
the speial issue on Fouault o% Humanities in Society, 5o& 3 >;inter, 198(?, !ith
ontributions by Mihael 3prinker, Paul "o2J, +arlis -ae2skis, and 0onathan 1ra&
Prisons and Sur7eillance
Discipline and Punish >1994? o%%ers the best e$ample o% Fouault=s
alternati2e to Mar$=s historial materialism& /n methodology, oneptual
de2elopment and ontent, Fouault=s book presents a 2ersion o% ritial
theory in !hih the mode o% prodution is not the totali@ing enter o%
history& )o esape %rom the on%ines o% Mar$=s materialism, Fouault
turns to 5iet@she and adapts to his o!n ends the onept o% genealogy&
1s he said in 1997, =5o!adays / pre%er to remain silent about
5iet@she &&& /% / !anted to be pretentious, / !ould use =the genealogy o%
morals= as the general title o% !hat / am doing&
)he ne! strategy o%
ritiBue reDets the 8egelian e2olutionist model in !hih one mode o%
prodution %lo!s dialetially out o% another in %a2or o% a 5iet@shean
tati o% ritiBue through the presentation o% di%%erene&
)he methodology o% Discipline and Punish resounds !ith dissonane to
the ears o% Mar$ists and liberals& Causes and onnetions are not entral
onerns %or Fouault& )he te$ture o% his history o% prisons is hoppy,
disonneted, e2en arbitrary& "ut there is a reason %or this peuliar
approah& Fouault takes his topi, prison systems, and in 5iet@shean
%ashion goes bak in time until he %inds a point !here the pre2ailing
penal pratie looks to modem eyes ridiulous, !ithout sense, irrational&
)he degree o% intelletual disom%ort is a measure o% the di%%erene o%
that system %rom& our o!n& Fouault loates suh a prison system in the
eighteenth entury as e$empli%ied in the punishment o% the regiide
Camiens& )he details o% Camien=s torture olor%ully display a !orld o%
punishment that is genuinely %oreign to our o!n&
)he ne$t analyti step is ruial to the suess o% the genealogial
method& 1Lhe torture o% Camiens must be reonstruted in suh a !ay
that the logi o% the pre:modern prison system is reaptured& /nstead o%
ondemning the barbarism o% pre:modern soiety, its inhumanity,
inDustie and irrationality, Fouault !ill present the di%%erene o% the pre:
modern system by demonstrating that, on its o!n terms, it makes sense
and is oherent& )he reason %or doing so, let it be noted, is not to present
a re2ised piture o% the past, nostalgially to glori%y the harms o%
torture, but to underline the transitory harater o% the present system
and there%ore to remo2e the pretense o% legitimay that it holds by dint
o% a nai2e, rationalist ontrast !ith the past& )he genealogy o% prisons
re2eals that the modern system is %irst, %inite and seond, !ithout
e$lusi2e rights to rationality& 3ine the torture o% Camiens is part o% a
oherent prison system, the modem one is not the only one possible&
"y pro2ing the historiity o% the modern penal institution Fouault, /
maintain, is at one !ith historial materialism& 1%ter all, Mar$ ontended
that the purpose o% re2olutionary ritiism !as to re2eal the historiity o%
institutions that the dominant ideology pretended !ere eternal& )he %irst
step o% the ritiBue !as to sho! that the la!s o% apitalism !ere not
uni2ersally neessary but historially spei%i& "ut, i% Fouault is
Mar$ist at one point in his methodology, he is anything but Mar$ist at
another& )he ritial %ore o% Fouault=s genealogy deri2es not, as !ith
Mar$, %rom the demonstration o% ontradition !ithin the modern&
3ystem and there%ore o% its ine2itable ollapse at some point in the
%uture, but simply in the di%%erene bet!een the pre:modem and modern
strutures& )here is no hint o% dialetial neessity in Fouault=s pages,
no suggestion that the modern system is less than rational and there%ore
imper%et& Progressi2e e2olutionism is absent %rom his aount& /nstead,
the ritiBue relies on the pure demonstration o% di%%erene& /n short, the
appeal to reason, the promise o% a more rational !orld, that is impliit in
Mar$ is laking in Fouault&
Discipline and Punish begins !ith a detailed, stomah:turning aount
o% a punishment in the style o% the #ld -egimeA
#n 2 Marh 1949 Camiens the regiide !as ondemned =to make the
amende honorable be%ore the main door o% the Churh o% Paris,= !here
he !as to be =taken and on2eyed in a art, !earing nothing but a shirt,
holding a torh o% burning !a$ !eighing t!o pounds=F then, =in the said
art, to the Plae de <rK2e, !here, on a sa%%old that !ill be ereted
there, the %lesh !ill be torn %rom his breasts, arms, thighs and al2es !ith
red:hot piners, his right hand, holding the kni%e !ith !hih he
ommitted the said parriide, burnt !ith sulphur, and, on those plaes
!here the %lesh !ill be torn a!ay, poured molten lead, boiling oil,
burning resin, !a$ and sulphur melted together and then his body dra!n
and Buartered by %our horses and his limbs and body onsumed by %ire,
redued to ashes and his ashes thro!n to the !inds&=
3uh ati2ity !as then and remains to this day the nemesis o%
enlightened re%ormers and liberals& Camiens= tra2ail !as onsidered by
them simply monstrous, beyond nature& ;hat they did not see, or
re%used to see, !as that torture !as not an at o% gratuitous ruelty in the
manner o% the isolated murderers and rapists o% today, but an orderly
soial ritual, onsiously designed to produe spei%i e%%ets on the
riminal, the o%%ended party and soiety at large& Camiens= torture !as
publi beause it !as intended to restore the po!er o% the monarhy, a
ritual enatment o% the king=s po!er be%ore the !orld& /t marked the
%lesh o% the riminal as a symboli restoration o% the material !rongs he
had aomplished& /t ourred a%ter a Dudiial proedure !hih attempted
to arri2e at the truth in seret sessions during !hih a ombination o%
torture and Buestioning !as employed& )he pre2ailing 2ie! !as that any
aused person !as not simply guilty or innoent, but subDet to
gradations o% guilt& #ne a shred o% guilt !as pro2ed, torture !as a
permissible means to get at the rest o% the truth& 1%ter all, #ld -egime
logi ran, the guilty party should su%%er some punishment& /n this !ay,
Fouault argues, the system o% punishment o% the #ld -egime !as not
pure barbarism, but a =regulated pratie=& /t !as designed to produe
terror in the hearts o% the publi that !itnessed the torture and thereby to
rea%%irm the po!er o% the ruling lass&
)he analysis o% the torture ser2es to highlight the di%%erene bet!een
pre:modern and modern systems o% punishment& ,ike 5iet@she=s
desription o% the ethis o% the Eikings !ho plundered, raped and
murdered at !him and !ith no sense o% guilt, Fouault=s depition o%
Camiens= su%%erings on2ines one that a system o% punishment other
than our o!n is possible& )his strategy ser2es to de%ine and limit the
temporal sope o% the modern system& /t !as begun a%ter the old system
!as o2erthro!n and it has harateristis that are not those o% the past&
)he remarkable ahie2ement o% Fouault=s 5iet@shean disourse is that
it aptures the past !ithout Dusti%ying the present, as liberals do, or
antiipating an e2olutionary, utopian %uture, the !ay Mar$ists do& )he
display o% the di%%erene o% the past a2oids the danger o% dismissing it
>as barbarism? and thereby legitimating the present, in the manner o%
liberals, as a superior and unsurpassable !orld& 1s %or Mar$ists, they
take the punishment system o% the #ld -egime and =e$plain= it by
re%erene to the mode o% prodution& )he %untion and limits o% this type
o% e$planation !ill be disussed belo!& "ut %or no! it an be said that
Mar$ist aounts are similar to liberals= in that they impliitly ondemn
eighteenth:entury praties and assume that the %uture rational !orld o%
ommunism !ill automatially abolish the embarrassing in%antilisms o%
earlier ages& "oth liberals and Mar$ists ad2oate reason in plae o% past
praties, legitimating their o!n positions !ithout e$ploring the
genealogial radialism o% !hat they reDet&
1%ter the presentation o% di%%erene in the torture o% Camiens, Fouault
ontinues his genealogy o% prison systems !ith an aount o% proposals
%or re%orm& )he philosophes o% the 'nlightenment reated 2ehemently
against the punishment system o% the #ld -egime& )hinkers like Cesare
"earia in &n Crimes and Punishments >1974? !ished to humani@e
punishment by eliminating torture, reduing the po!er o% the monarh
and abo2e all regulari@ing the impat o% the Dudiial system& "elie2ing in
the %ore o% reason, the re%ormers !ished to shi%t the lous o%
punishment %rom the body to the mind, to present to riminals, the
ertain prospet that their ats !ould ause more pain than pleasure so
that, as rational beings, they !ould a2oid ommitting illegalities in the
%irst plae& 6et the plans o% the philosophies !ere not to beome the
basis %or the ne! system o% punishment that emerged in the nineteenth
entury& )he enterpiee o% that system : the prison : !as, Fouault
notes, =e$pliitly ritii@ed by many re%ormers& "eause it is inapable o%
orresponding to the spei%iity o% rimes& "eause it has no e%%et on
the publi& "eause it is useless, e2en harm%ul, to soiety&
/n e%%et, the
modern system o% punishment based on inareration is separated, %or
the genealogist, %rom the system o% torture by a sharp disontinuity&
)he gap bet!een the old and the ne! ser2es to undersore in yet another
!ay the priniple o% di%%erene at the heart o% Fouault=s historiography&
"y allo!ing the disontinuity to remain une$plained, he 2iolates the
assumptions o% both liberal and Mar$ist methods& )he role o% ause or
e$planation is se2erely redued in the post:struturalist te$t, sine it
leads to e2olutionist onlusions and !orks against the purposes o% the
genealogy o% di%%erene& ,et us be lear about this point& Fouault does
attempt to, e$plain ertain historial phenomena and he does pro2ide
e2olutionary histories at ertain points in his te$t& )here is no Buestion o%
ruling out entirely the role o% ause, e$planation, e2olution& /t is only that
i% these methodologial strategies pre:dominate in the historial te$t, the
ritial %untion o%, di%%erene !ill be lost& Fouault is not proposing a
ne! metaphysis o% history in !hih one age is ontologially separate
%rom the others& -ather he attempts to e$trat %rom the omple$ity o% the
past ertain lines o% struggle beause, he thinks, they an ha2e an impat
on the !ay !e think about the strutures o% domination in the present&
1lthough the ideas o% the eighteenth entury re%ormers did not
materiali@e into a ne! system o% punishment, those o% 0eremy "entham
!ere more suess%ul& /n %at, "entham=s Panopticon !as the leading
anteedent o% the ne! tehnology o% po!er than !as instituted in the
nineteenth entury prison& )here are three %eatures o% Fouault=s
understanding o% the prison system that are important %or ritial theory&
First, the spei%i %eatures o% the prison as Fouault sees it are signi%iant
to the omprehension o% the ne! role o% in%ormation systems in
ad2aned apitalism& 3eond, the manner in !hih Fouault e$plores the
prison system as a struture o% domination suggests a detotali@ed 2ersion
o% ritial theory& )hird, Fouault=s method o% introduing the oneptual
basis o% his genealogy >%or e$ample, the onept o% tehnology o%
po!er? lea2es unresol2ed ertain epistemologial Buestions %or ritial
)he nineteenth:entury system o% punishment bore little resemblane to
that o% the #ld -egime& /nareration, a minor %eature o% the eighteenth:
entury penal system, Buikly beame the norm in the nineteenth
entury& 3eret Dudiial proeedings !ere e$hanged %or publi trials&
Publi tortures ga2e !ay to seret or hidden terms o% imprisonment& )he
ontrasts bet!een the t!o systems are elaborated in detail by Fouault&
"ut attention to the di%%erenes should not obsure the uniBue %eatures o%
the prison& 1 total institution, as soiologists !ould say, !as established
in !hih e2en the minutest details o% the e2eryday li%e o% the inmate
!ere enuniated in rules& 3ome o% the %eatures o% the prison regimen
!ere deri2ed %rom earlier praties& )he are%ul ontrol o% the temporal
and spatial loation o% the bodies o% the inmates !as taken %rom old
military praties& /n this spei%i ase Fouault akno!ledges an
e2olutionary onnetion aross disontinuous phenomena& ;hat is to
Fouault the astonishing ne! %eature o% the prison system, ho!e2er, is
the method by !hih the prison authorities sought to ontrol the minds
o% the prison population& "entham ad2oated that the prisoners be
housed in a retangular struture that surrounded a ourtyard, in the
middle o% !hih !as a to!er ontaining a guard& )he building !as
arranged so that the guard !as able to see into eah ell !ithout himsel%
being seen by the prisoners& 8ene the term Panoption >all:seeing?& )he
ingenious purpose ser2ed by this arrangement !as that the prisoner
!ould be onsious o% being under ontinual sur2eillane& )he guard, a
representati2e o% soiety=s authority, beame a kind o% <od:surrogate
!ho ould obser2e the prisoner at !ill, monitor beha2ioral aberrations
or impro2ements and mete out re!ards and punishments aordingly&
Fouault does not dra! attention to the likeness o% the Panoption and
the Christian <od=s in%inite kno!ledge& 5or does he obser2e the
similarity o% the Panoption !ith Freud=s notion o% the super:ego as an
internal monitor o% unonsious !ishes& 1n e2en loser parallel that
goes unnotied by Fouault is that bet!een the Panoption and the
omputer monitoring o% indi2iduals in ad2aned apitalism, a point /
shall return to shortly&
"e%ore turning to the latter omparison, / !ant to emphasi@e ertain
%eatures o% the Panoption& Fouault sees the Panoption as a tehniBue
%or ontrolling large numbers o% people in a partiular institution, or,
!hat he alls, disipline, as in the %ollo!ing desription o% a Buarantine
during an epidemiA
)his enlosed, segmented spae, obser2ed at e2ery point, in !hih the
indi2iduals are inserted in a %i$ed plae, in !hih the slightest
mo2ements are super2ised, in !hih all e2ents are reorded, in !hih an
uninterrupted !ork o% !riting links the entre and periphery, in !hih
po!er is e$erised !ithout di2ision, aording to a ontinuous
hierarhial %igure, in !hih eah indi2idual is onstantly loated,
e$amined and distributed among the li2ing beings, the sik and the dead
: all this onstituted a ompat model o% the disiplinary method&

1pplying the methods o% disipline to the prison through the arhiteture
o% the Panoption trans%orms simple inareration into a diabolial
means o% punishment& )he problem %aed by prison administrators o%
ontrolling masses o% people led them to turn to the solution o% the
Panoption and thereby hanged the e%%ets o% inareration %rom simple
remo2al %rom soiety to total po!er o2er the inmate& /n Fouault=s
!ords, = 8ene the maDor e%%et o% the PanoptionA to indue in the
inmate a state o% onsious and permanent 2isibility that assures the
automati %untioning o% po!er&=
From the 'nlightenment desire to
abolish torture !e ha2e mo2ed to a ne! type o% punishment,
unantiipated by the re%ormers o% the eighteenth entury, !hih in e%%et
institutes a ne! system o% domination& )he e%%et o% the Panoption is
not to re%orm prisonersA !e kno! that reidi2ism rates ha2e al!ays been
high& /nstead it introdues a method o% normali@ing indi2iduals that an
be applied to other situations& 1s Fouault !rites, =1ll that is needed,
then is to plae a super2isor in a entral to!er and to shut up in eah ell
a madman, a patient, a ondemned man, a !orker or a
Capitalist soiety thus has a2ailable a means o% ontrol, a
=tehnology o% po!er= that an be deployed at many loations&
;hen the Panoption !as introdued in the early nineteenth entury the
bureauray and the omputer had not yet been in2ented& Fouault does
not mention that they both %oster the priniples o% disiplinary ontrol&
/ndeed they e$pand its sope to a ne! le2el& ;ith the mehanisms o%
in%ormation proessing >the bureauray using peopleF the omputer
using mahines?, the ability to monitor beha2ior is e$tended
onsiderably& )he tehniBues o% disipline no longer need rely on
methods o% regulating bodies in spae as Fouault thinks& /n the
eletroni age, spatial limitations are bypassed as restraints on the
ontrolling hierarhies& 1ll that is needed are traes o% beha2iorF redit
ard ati2ity, tra%%i tikets, telephone bills, loan appliations, !el%are
%iles, %ingerprints, inome transations, library reords, and so %orth& #n
the basis o% these traes, a omputer an gather in%ormation that yields a
surprisingly %ull piture o% an indi2idual=s li%e& 1s a onseBuene,
Panoption monitoring e$tends not simply to massed groups but to the
isolated indi2idual& )he normali@ed indi2idual is not only the one at
!ork, in an asylum, in Dail, in shool, in the military, as Fouault
obser2es, but also the indi2idual in his or her home, at play, in all the
mundane ati2ities o% e2eryday li%e&

/% the sope o% Fouault=s analysis o% the prison system is e$tended by an
understanding o% the impat o% in%ormation systems in ad2aned
apitalism, the theoretial problems his position enounters are only
inreased& Fouault !ants to argue that he is simply traing the
genealogy o% the prison system, a spei%i phenomenon that is best le%t
untotali@ed& 8e himsel% is tempted by the totali@ing impulse at se2eral
points in his te$t, most notably !hen he !ritesA
& & & the ati2ity o% Dudging has inreased preisely to the e$tent that the
normali@ing po!er has spread& "orne along by the omnipresene o% the
mehanisms o% disipline, basing itsel% on all the areral apparatuses, it
has beome one o% the maDor %untions o% our soiety& )he Dudges o%
normality are present e2ery!here& ;e are in the soiety o% the teaher:
Dudge, the dotor:Dudge, the eduator:Dudge, the =soial !orker=:DudgeF it
is on them that the uni2ersal reign o% the normati2e is based&
)he impression gi2en by this passage is that the mode o% normali@ation
has replaed the mode o% prodution as the basis o% a ne! totali@ation
!ith a ne! set o% strutures o% domination& 6et Fouault !ishes to argue
the opposite, 5iet@shean standpointA that =tehnologies o% po!er= are
multiple and not reduible to eah otherF that ritial theory is best
ser2ed by detotali@ed analyses !hih restrit themsel2es to partiular
lusters, o% dominating pratiesF that epistemologially there is no basis
%or any theorist to assert a totali@ing 2ie! sine !e are eah limited by
our situated perspeti2es& Most signi%iantly Fouault agrees !ith the
5iet@shean 2ie!point that po!er is reati2e, not repressi2eF that
tehnologies o% po!er emerge at multiple points in soial spae and are
not loated in the state, as liberals and Mar$ists think& 1 disser2ie is
done to ritial theory !hen the distint but interrelated tehnologies o%
po!er endured by !omen, raial minorities, gays, prisoners, inmates o%
asylums and !orkers are redued, e2en !ith the aution o% mediations,
to the monolithi =mode o% prodution=&
Mar$ists !ho ha2e !ritten about the history o% prisons ha2e missed the
uniBue %eatures o% the Panoption %or preisely these reasons& -eduing
systems o% punishment to the lass struture they ha2e been unable to
disern& the tehnology o% po!er o% the prison system& )he lassi !ork
o% <eorg -ushe and #tto +irhheimer >an assoiate o% the Frank%urt
3hool?, Punishment and Social Structure, re2eals the limitations o%
Mar$ist theory& )hey begin their analysis in typial Mar$ist %ashion by
reDeting illusory ideologial %ormations in %a2or o% !hat they regard as
real soial relationships& )heir aim is = &&& to strip %rom the soial
institution o% punishment its ideologial 2eils and Dustie appearane and
to desribe it in its real relationships=&
)heir onlusion onsists o% the
ine2itable Mar$ist pronounementA =spei%i %orms o% punishment
orrespond to a gi2en stage o% eonomi de2elopment&=
)he history o%
prisons pro2ides nothing more than an epiphenomenon to the history o%
the mode o% prodution&
-ushe and +irhheimer e$plain 2arious aspets o% the pre:modern
system o% punishment in stritly redutionist terms& /n the late middle
ages, %or e$ample, =)he poorer the masses beame the harsher the
punishments in order to deter them %rom rime&
)hese same eonomi
%ators aount %or =the death penalty and serious mutilation=&
respet to the galley as a %orm o% punishment, their argument is
onsistentA =;hat is signi%iant in the de2elopment o% the galley as a
method o% punishment is the %at that eonomi onsiderations alone
!ere in2ol2ed, not penal&=
)hey onlude that the substitution o% galley
ser2ie %or the death penalty !as moti2ated not by humanitarianism but
by eonomis&
/t is lear that the Mar$ist approah as employed by
-ushe and +irhheimer makes no e%%ort to make intelligible the pre:
modern system o% punishment as a uniBue tehnology o% po!er&
;hen they turn to the prison system their strategy remains the same& =#%
all the %ores !hih !ere responsible %or the ne! emphasis upon
imprisonment as a punishment, the most important !as the pro%it
moti2e, both in the narro!er sense o% making the establishment pay and
in the !ider sense o% making the !hole penal system a part o% the state=s
merantilist program&=
)he obDet o% kno!ledge made intelligible by
the Mar$ist perspeti2e onsistently ignores all %orms o% domination that
are not reduible to the mode o% prodution& "entham=s Panopticon and
the prisons that installed its priniples in their arhiteture during the
nineteenth entury are not e2en mentioned& Finally, and perhaps most
importantly, -ushe and +irhheimer betray the lose onnetion o%
Mar$ism to liberalism& )hey pay homage to the ad2ane o% the human
sienes, as any good liberal !ould, but they ha2e an e$planation %or the
%ailure o% riminology to lead to the solution o% the Buestion o% rime&
)here is a parado$ in the %at that the progress o% human kno!ledge has
made the problem o% penal treatment more omprehensible and more
soluble than e2er !hile the Buestion o% a %undamental re2ision in the
poliy o% punishment seems to be %urther a!ay today that e2er be%ore
beause o% its %untional dependene on a gi2en soial order >i&e&
/n this passage -ushe and +irhheimer e$eute the Mar$ist tati o%
unmasking liberal ideologyA 2alid kno!ledge does not lead to soial
progress beause o% the inter%erene o% the apitalist mode o% prodution&
;hat is re2ealing is that they take at %ae 2alue the purpose o% the prison
systemA i&e& to sol2e the Buestion o% rime& Fouault takes a di%%erent
approah, as !e ha2e seen, one that allo!s him to re2eal a di%%erent sort
o% soial maneu2er& 8e onsiders the prison system not in terms o%
sol2ing the problem o% rime, but as instituting a system o% po!er that is
trans%erable to other soial institutions and has its e%%et as a ne!
struture o% domination&
)he point o% this disussion is not to dismiss the Mar$ist ase, only to
indiate its limitations& Fouault in %at is are%ul to praise -ushe and
+irhheimer& 8e also notes onnetions bet!een the history o% prisons
and the mode o% prodution !here2er he %inds them& 8e relates =the
%ormation o% disiplinary soiety= !ith =a number o% broad historial
proesses=, among them the de2elopment o% apitalism&=
1n important
element in the onDunture o% the birth o% prisons, he states, =!as the
gro!th in the apparatus o% prodution, !hih !as beoming more and
more e$tended and omple$F it !as also beoming more ostly and its
pro%itability had to be inreased& )he de2elopment o% the disiplinary
methods orresponded to these t!o proesses, or rather, no doubt, to the
ne! need to adDust their orrelation&=
More onretely, Fouault relates
the inrease in ne! %orms o% rime >illegalities, he alls them? to the
emerging apitalist eonomy& #ne o% the dri2ing moti2es behind the
re%ormers= Buest %or greater regularity o% punishment than !as o%%ered by
the #ld -egimes= system o% torture !as the rapid inrease in ne! types
o% the%t&, o% rimes against property& Fouault repeats Mar$=s argument
in =)he Case o% the ;ood )he%t ,a!s=A apitalism trans%ormed the
traditional rights o% the poor into rimes against property& )raditional
the%t o% small game, %or e$ample, =!hile resented by the bourgeoisie
!here the o!nership o% land !as onerned, !as intolerable in
ommerial and industrial o!nershipA the de2elopment o% ports, the
appearane o% great !arehouses in !hih merhandise !as stored, the
organi@ation o% huge !orkshops& also neessitated a se2ere repression o%
'2idently, Fouault is not hostile to Mar$ist interpreti2e
strategies& /n %at, he admits that,
/t is impossible at the present time to !rite history !ithout using a !hole
range o% onepts diretly or indiretly linked to Mar$=s thought and
situating onesel% !ithin a hori@on o% thought !hih has been de%ined and
desribed by Mar$& #ne might e2en !onder !hat di%%erene there ould
ultimately be bet!een being a historian and being a Mar$ist&
5e2ertheless Fouault %inds Mar$ism insu%%iient& )he oneptual
arsenal o% Mar$ism does not permit one to go beyond the mode o%
prodution to make intelligible the %orms o% domination that emerge at
other points in soial spae and, in addition, to regard these %orms o%
domination as oneptually distint %rom the relations o% prodution& For
Mar$ists, prisoners and riminals are a marginal group& 1nalysis o% their
e$periene %ails to re2eal signi%iant repressi2e apparatuses, nor does it
make intelligible soures o% radiality that ontribute to the o2erthro! o%
the soial order& For Fouault on the ontrary, !ith his detotali@ed
assumptions, systems o% po!er and domination e$ist at multiple
loations, eah one being uniBue, and, as in the ase o% the Panoption,
some re2ealing at least as muh about the repressi2e nature o% modern
soiety as the analysis o% apitalist domination&
3ine the appearane o% Discipline and Punish Mar$ist historians o% the
prison ha2e !restled !ith the hallenge Fouault=s book presents to their
theoretial assumptions& 1t least in t!o important ases, Mihael
/gnatie%%=s 1 Cust !easure of Pain >1998? and Patriia #="rien=s The
Promise of Punishment>1982?, the test has been met in most satis%atory
!ays& "oth /gnatie%% and #="rien akno!ledge the 2alue o% Discipline
and Punish and manage to integrate its ad2anes into more traditionally
Mar$ist approahes& 1 detotali@ed Mar$ist historiography may thus be
ompatible !ith Fouault=s interpreti2e strategy&
/gnatie%% e$pliitly takes Discipline and Punish as his point o% departure&
<i2en the %eatures o% the Panoptial penitentiary as Fouault analyses
them, /gnatie%% attempts to e$plain ho! at the ideologial le2el the ne!
system o% punishment ould be a progressi2e step& 1 Cust !easure of
Pain, he proposes,
& & & tries to establish !hy it ame to be onsidered Dust, reasonable, and
humane to immure prisoners in solitary ells, lothe them in uni%orms,
regiment their day to the adene o% the lok, and =impro2e= their minds
!ith dosages o% sripture and hard labor& "et!een 199( and 184( this
%orm o% areral disipline =direted at the mind= replaed a luster o%
punishments =direted at the body : !hipping, branding, the stoks, and
publi hanging&
/gnatie%% aepts Fouault=s ritiBue o% the liberal 2ie! o% inareration
and seeks to push liberal ideology as %ar as he an so that an opening an
be breahed %or a Mar$ist ritiBue o% it&
1s a onseBuene o% Fouault=s study o% prisons, the Mar$ist historian
an no longer be satis%ied !ith e$plaining diretly the emergene o% the
penitentiary by the needs o% the apitalist mode or prodution& 1t least
one more step is no! reBuiredA the logi o% domination !ithin the prison
must be taken into aount& )he liberal position that prisons !ere a
humane impro2ement o2er torture is not treated, as it !as in -ushe and
+irhheimer&, as a ruse o% Capital !hose interests !ere the =underlying
ause= o% the ne! method o% punishment& /nstead, the Mar$ist historian
may no! on%ront the liberal position on its o!n grounds, Buestioning
e$pliitly the moral ad2ane o% the bourgeois system o% treating
/gnatie%% %rames his !ork in this more subtle Mar$ist strategy& 8is
subtitle is =)he Penitentiary in the /ndustrial -e2olution=, a phrase that
asserts the Mar$ist priority o% the mode o% prodution& "ut the spei%i
issue he addresses is the ideologial and politial dimension o%
punishmentA =a study o% prison disipline=, he argues, =neessarily
beomes a study & & & o% the moral boundaries o% soial authority in a
soiety undergoing apitalist trans%ormation&=
-ather than simply
looking at the mahinations o% the apitalist lass, /gnatie%% de2otes the
bulk o% his study to the intelletual Dusti%iations o% the prison system,
espeially as the politial and ultural elite gradually beomes a!are o%
its limitations& 1s the disturbing details o% prison li%e intruded into publi
onsiousness in nineteenth:entury 'ngland >/gnatie%%=s %ield o%
researh?, the bastions o% order !ere hard pressed to sustain their rosy
image o% the humanity o% inareration& 1nd yet they did Dust that&
/gnatie%% onludes there%ore that the ontinued legitimay a%%orded the
prison system deri2ed not %rom its inherently humane Bualities, but %rom
the imperati2es o% domination in bourgeois soiety& 8e onludes, as
Fouault did, that the Panoption instituted a tehnology o% po!er that
!as its o!n politial Dusti%iation, belying its humanitarian laimsA
)he persistent support %or the penitentiary is ine$pliable so long
as !e assume that its appeal rested on its %untional apaity to ontrol
rime& /nstead, its support rested on a larger soial need& /t had appeal
beause the re%ormers sueeded in presenting it as a response, not
merely to rime, but to the !hole soial risis o% a period, and as part o%
a larger strategy o% politial, soial, and legal re%orm designed to
reestablish order on a ne! %oundation & & & it !as seen as an element o% a
larger 2ision o% order that by the 184(s ommanded the re%le$i2e assent
o% the propertied and po!er%ul&
)he Mar$ist history o% prisons thus on%ronts the politial issue o% a
struture o% domination not reduible to the mode o% prodution&
#="rien=s history o% prisons, in this ase those o% nineteenth:entury
Frane, responds to Discipline and Punish in a manner di%%erent %rom
/gnatie%%& The Promise of Punishment is %ramed as a soial history,
history =%rom the bottom up=& 1s suh it deri2es %rom '& P& )hompson=s
lassi te$t, The !a6ing of the -nglish /or6ing Class >1973?&
)hompson there re2ises the standard Mar$ist historial strategy by
emphasi@ing the reati2e response o% the oppressed to their onditions o%
li%e& )he subDeti2e side o% the dialeti is rein2igorated, as the issue %or
)hompson is not the !eight o% apitalist strutures on the proletariat but
their resistane to them& )he model )hompson pro2ides has ser2ed !ell
a ne! generation o% Mar$ist soial historians !ho are unhappy !ith
merely enumerating the burdens su%%ered by the !orking lass&

#="rien=s book is a redit to the tradition established by )hompson& ;ith
a humanity that a2oids sentimentality, she analyses in depth the group o%
souls !ho inhabited the penitentiaries o% Frane& 3he presents omposite
portraits o% the male,, %emale and hild prisoner, noting ho! their
%eatures hange in the ourse o% the nineteenth entury& *nlike
Fouault=s aount o% the Panoption, in !hih the impression is gi2en
that all prisoners !ere dealt !ith in the same %ashion, #="rien re2eals
ho! eah ategory o% prisoner presented uniBue problems %or the
penitentiary system and !as handled in Buite di%%erent !ays& )he single
ell system, the standard %or the adult male prisoner, !as thought by
many to be unsuitable %or the %emale on2it !hose onstitution !as
onsidered !eaker than the male=s and !hose moral harater !as
imagined to be more pliant& Child prisoners !ere in general not subDet
to the Panoption at all, but seluded in rural !ork %arms& Children !ere
not isolated in ells but banded into li2ing groups alled =%amilies=& For
the !orst o%%enders the penitentiary !as like!ise unsuitableF they !ere
shipped out to the in%amous penal olonies& )hus the penitentiary !as
not at all a uni%orm system applied eBually to all riminals& ;hat is
more, the nature o% the riminal group reBuired alterations in the system
o% punishment& /n other !ords, the harateristis o% the subDets led to
2ariations in the tehnology o% po!er employed& Fouault, it !ill be
realled, a2oided re%erene to the subDets in his analysis& #="rien=s
aount o% the 2ariety o% treatment o% prisoners suggests that the subDets
should indeed be brought into the historial drama& /% this is not done the
historian annot desribe or e$plain the limitations o% the dissemination
o% the disiplinary system o% punishment&
5ot only did the obDeti2e traits o% the prison population a%%et the nature
and e$tent o% the Panoption model, but so too did the response o% that
group to their punishments& )he prisoners, in #="rien=s aount, !ere
not an inert mass passi2ely aepting the ditates o% the ne! mode o%
domination& -ather they responded to the administration o% their li2es by
resisting in di%%erent !ays the impositions plaed upon them& )hey
rioted, they re%used to partiipate in the routines established %or them,
they de2eloped their o!n language, they tattooed their bodies, they
engaged in illiit %orms o% se$uality : in short they reated a prisoner
subulture& )his subulture established statuses, hierarhies and norms
and !as spread %rom prison to prison by the reidi2ists& )he guards and
prison authorities !ere helpless in eradiating this ulture, e2en !hen, as
in the ase o% homose$ual praties, they regarded the beha2ior as
no$ious& #="rien demonstrates %or Frenh prisoners !hat !e kno! to be
the ase %rom studies o% 5a@i e$termination ampsA human beings ha2e
the apaity to resist e2en the most e$treme %orms o% authority and the
authorities ine2itably aept most aspets o% the subDugated group=s
ulture beause administration o% the institution !ould ollapse !ithout
it& )he impression le%t by Discipline and Punish o% the passi2ity o%
prisoners %aed !ith Panoptial regimentation must be orreted& #%
ourse, Fouault does not argue that the prisoners obeyed the guards& 8e
says 2ery little about the response o% the prisoners to the ne! system o%
authority, sine he is only onerned !ith the harateristis o% the ne!
tehnology o% po!er& 5e2ertheless, #="rien=s onstrution o% the ulture
o% the prisoners as an ati2e reation o% resistane ser2es as a 2aluable
orreti2e to Fouault=s !ork&
)here are still other %eatures o% The Promise of Punishment that
illuminate the history o% prisons& /n the ourse o% the nineteenth entury
Frenh prisons beame %atoriesA they produed ommodities %or the
market& Prison labor !as organi@ed and super2ised most o%ten by
businessmen !ho signi%iantly !ere plaed in harge o% the sur2eillane
and disipline o% the inmates& )he administration o% the Panoption !as
not solely the !ork o% the guards, but !as shared by apitalists& /% the
ne! tehnology o% po!er spread to the apitalist mode o% prodution, or
indeed !as partly in%luened by it, one need look no %urther than this
group o% entrepreneurs %or the link bet!een prison and %atory&
Moreo2er, the !ork o% the prisoners brought them into on%lit !ith the
!orking lass& /n some instanes prison prodution presented a
hallenge to the proletariatF the prisoners !ere a heap soure o% labor in
ompetition !ith the =%ree= labor market& /n all o% these !ays #="rien
adds a ne! dimension to our understanding o% the relation bet!een
apitalism and the penitentiary& /n ontrast to -ushe and +irhheimer,
Fouault is right to assert that the apitalist mode o% prodution did not
=determine= the origins and nature o% the prison system& "ut the atual
relationship bet!een the t!o institutions is more ompliated than that&
)he prison ser2ed as a training ground %or apitalists in& the ne!
tehnology o% po!er and it spa!ned a =lass struggle= pitting inmates
against the proletariat, de2elopments that %it neatly into neither the
traditional Mar$ist nor Fouault=s model&
#="rien onludes her soial history o% the prison %rom the bottom up !ith
a re2ised image o% the prisoner lass& /n the early nineteenth entury
prisoners !ere seen by the Jlites as a segment o% the !orking lass& )hey
!ere a group born to and reated by onditions o% po2erty& )he ouplet
laboring lasses, dangerous lasses= summed up the pre2alent attitude
to!ard riminals& "y the end o% the entury the riminal =element= !as no
longer assoiated !ith the proletariat& )he Panoption had produed =the
hardened riminal=, a ne! soial type !hose reidi2ism ould be
e$plained not as a onseBuene o% po2erty but as a result o% li%e in the
penitentiary itsel%& )he emerging human siene o% riminology and
assoiated disiplines produed =kno!ledge= about the riminal lass that
th!arted attempts to identi%y it solely !ith the proletariat& 3pei%i traits o%
heredity and personality !ere the ne! determinants o% soial disorder& /t is
a %asinating storyA the ne! tehnology o% po!er is set into plaeF its
subDets resistF reidi2ism emerges as an inde$ o% the %ailure o% liberalismF
a human siene is born !hih =e$plains= the %ailure in a !ay that de%lets
blame %rom the bourgeoisie and reloates it in the remote realms o%
genetis and psyhology, indiretly legitimi@ing the Panoption&
The Promise of Punishment adds immeasurably to the aomplishment
o%Discipline and Punish& /n that !ay it only rein%ores the argument
against totali@ing historial theory& 1t the same time it eloBuently speaks
%or the ombination o% Mar$ist and Fouauldian perspeti2es& 1nd yet
the Buestion o% the status o% the subDet in Fouault=s disourse and more
generally a theory o% resistane remains open& Fouault=s hie% argument
remains intatA the disiplinary tehnology o% po!er is made intelligible
only by onstituting the historial %ield outside the perspeti2es o% the
subDet& 1nd yet, thus onstituted the obDet o% history
>disourseNpratie? is inadeBuate in aounting %or resistane&
)he ahie2ement o% Discipline and Punish goes beyond its 2alue %or a
history o% prisons in the nineteenth entury& /t raises in addition
Buestions about a %orm o% domination in the t!entieth entury and it
does so in t!o distint !ays& First, Fouault=s te$t analyses the
disiplinary tehnology o% po!er in relation to sur2eillane& 1s /
indiated abo2e, ne! tehnologies onerned !ith eletroni
in%ormation e$tend the reah o% sur2eillane %ar beyond its nineteenth:
entury limits& )he 2ast ability o% the established authorities to gather
in%ormation about indi2iduals or groups plaes in Buestion or e2en
eliminates the distintion bet!een the publi and the pri2ate& 1t this
time it is not possible to estimate the impat on the population o% this
sur2eillane apability&
)here is another side to the Buestion o% sur2eillane, one that is more
indiret than the monitoring o% indi2iduals& Discipline and Punish astutely
dra!s a onnetion bet!een sur2eillane and normali@ation& )he prison
!as designed to rehabilitate riminals, to re:orient their minds and
beha2ior in a manner loser to that o% the non:riminal, normal
population& Crime is abnormal& )he guards are trained to be alert to
de2iations %rom the norms o% the penitentiary routines& /mpliit in
sur2eillane systems is the riterion o% the norm& 3ur2eillane selets out
%or e$amination those items that are di%%erent %rom the norm& 1 blak man
!alking at night in a !hite suburban neighborhood is suspet& ,oud
laughter or dane:like mo2ements in an e$lusi2e department store are
signs that alert the seurity system& 5ormali@ation is disseminated
throughout daily li%e and seured through sur2eillane monitoring&
3till another le2el remo2ed %rom the sur2eillane o% prisoners pertains to
sur2eillane through the eletroni ommuniations media& )hese
in%ormation systems rely upon normali@ing riteria in onstituting their
audienes& )he ommuniations media speak to the population, but they
do so !ithout the %eedbak in%ormation o% t!o:!ay on2ersations& )hey
are onstrained to organi@e their emissions in suh a manner that the
reei2er an aept them& )he reei2er must be a general reei2er,
!ithout too many indi2iduali@ed traits, not a real person but a
%itionali@ed norm o% a person& "y the same token, the reei2er o% the
message must trans%orm him or hersel% into the norm in order to
omprehend the message as it !as intended& )he reei2er must beome
the norm& #ne an resist, at least %or a !hile& 1 literary riti !athing a
)E sho! an maintain a distane and take note o% grammatial
mistakes, 2ulgar harateri@ation, and so %orth& 1 blak person an be
a!are, that the 2alues impliit in the sho! are raist& 1 reent immigrant
an reogni@e the alien mores o% a di%%erent ulture in net!ork dramas&
6et ine2itably eah one !ill gradually aept the norms displayed on the
sreen and ome to regard them as the real norms& /t is %air to say that
the result o% the reei2er=s sel%:trans%ormation is a kind o% sur2eillane
pratied ontinuously in ad2aned industrial soiety& )he mode o%
in%ormation enormously e$tends the reah o% normali@ing sur2eillane,
onstituting ne! modes o% domination that ha2e yet to be studied&
)he seond !ay that Fouault=s te$t raises Buestions about the mode o%
domination in the t!entieth entury onerns the onept o% disourse
and the treatment o% language more generally& 1gainst the assertion
that Discipline and Punish should be interpreted as a history o% prisons
Fouault ounters that it must be e2aluated in relation to a history o%
;hat is at stake in the =birth o% the prison=I Frenh soiety in a gi2en
periodI 5o& CelinBueny in the 18th and 19th enturiesI 5o& Prisons in
Frane bet!een 197( and 184(I 5ot e2en that & & & /n short it is a
Buestion o% a hapter in the history o% =puniti2e reason =&
Fouault=s topi is thus disourse, disourse o% a ertain type&
1s !e ha2e seen, in the ase o% prisons Fouault relates the disourses o%
ertain human sienes to the praties instituted in the penitentiary& )he
ouplet disourseNpratie is intended to bypass the traditional separation
bet!een attitudes and beha2ior, language and ation in the historial %ield&
Critial soial theory has not looked %a2orably on positions rooted in
theories o% language, suh as Fouault=s onept o% disourse& /n The
5erman #deologyMar$ relegated language to a minor plae in soial
From the start the =spirit= bears the urse o% being =burdened= !ith matter
!hih makes its appearane in the %orm o% agitated layers o% air, sounds, in
short, in the %orm o% language& ,anguage is as old as onsiousness& /t is
pratial onsiousness !hih e$ists also %or other men and hene e$ists
%or me personally as !ell& ,anguage, like onsiousness, only arises
LentstehtM %rom the need and neessity o% relationships !ith other men&
)he =need and neessity o% relationships !ith other men= beomes the
entral onern o% historial materialism& ,anguage tends to be analy@ed
in the %orm o% ideology, as obsuring and mysti%ying human
relationships& ;orkers atF the bourgeoisie Dusti%ies the struture o%
ation through language&
Fouault=s onept o% disourse must be 2ie!ed in this light i% its
ad2antages are to be grasped& First, Fouault reDeted the split bet!een
kno!ledge and po!er, disourse and pratie& 3ine, as 5iet@she had
sho!n, kno!ledge !as a %orm o% po!er and sine po!er reated and
shaped pratie rather than limited it, disourse !as deeply impliated in
the ritiBue o% domination& )his strategy reBuired that disourse be
analy@ed not as a %orm o% onsiousness, not as an e$pression o% the
subDet, but as a %orm o% positi2ity& )he reDetion o% the subDeti2ity o%
disourse led Fouault in The "rcheology of 'no(ledge to elaborate a
ne! set o% ategories that !ould allo! disourse to stand on its o!n as a
%orm o% po!er&
/ shall abandon any attempt&&&to se disourse as a phenomenon o%
e$pression : the 2erbal translation o% a pre2iously established synthesisF
instead, / shall look %or a %ield o% regularity %or 2arious positions o%
subDeti2ity& )hus onei2ed, disourse is not the maDestially un%olding
mani%estation o% a thinking, kno!ing, speaking subDet, but, on the
ontrary, a totality, in !hih the dispersion o% the subDet, and his
disontinuity !ith himsel% may be determined&
)his is a onept o% disourse >language? appropriate to a ritial theory
o% the mode o% in%ormation, one that, properly understood, remains
materialist beause it points to the analysis o% modes o% domination in
ontemporary soial spae&
8istorial materialism is based on the on2ition that the obDet o%
historial kno!ledge annot be ideas, beause the ideas that people hold
about soial e$istene do not determine their e$istene& Mar$ %ormulated
this salutary priniple at a time !hen historial thinking, espeially in
<ermany, !as indeed idealist& 1t that time ho!e2er, in the mid:
nineteenth entury, 2ast soial hanges !ere ourring in the
organi@ation o% politial and eonomi ation& 1 theory grounded in
idealism !as partiularly unsuited to lay bare the strutures o% these
politial and eonomi trans%ormations& "ut !hat must beome o%
historial materialism at a time !hen the strutures o% linguisti
e$periene are undergoing drasti hange : !hen bureauraies
aumulate e$tensi2e %iles on the populationF !hen 2isual and aural
eletroni impulses >)E, telephone, radio, %ilm? onstitute signi%iant
portions o% the ommuniations in e2eryday li%eF !hen ommodities are
produed through the mediation o% omputers and sold through the
mediation o% lusters o% meanings generated by ad2ertising teamsF !hen
politial proesses are shaped by mass ommuniation de2iesF !hen
the digital logi o% the omputer threatens to e$tend itsel% into e2ery
orner o% the soial !orldF !hen the human sienes and the natural
sienes are integrated into the systems o% soial ontrol and
reprodutionI /n this onte$t, historial materialism must do more than
alulate rates o% e$ploitation and delining pro%it margins& /t must do
more than demonstrate the alienated onditions o% the at o% labor&
/ndeed, it must take into aount these ne! %orms o% languageF it must
de2elop ategories to analy@e the patterns o% domination and distortion
inherent in their ontemporary usage, and it must e$amine the historial
stages o% their de2elopment&
'mploying only the traditional ategories o% Mar$ism, perhaps adDusted
by the traditions o% ;estern Mar$ism, one !ould learn ho! the ne!
systems o% language ser2e the ruling lass and are ontrolled to some
degree by them&
;hile that is a 2alid enterprise, it is not by itsel%
adeBuate %or the analysis o% the mode o% in%ormation& Fouault=s reent
!ork is use%ul preisely on this aount& Discipline and Punish a2oids
entering ritial theory on a totali@ing onept o% labor& /t grasps
strutures o% domination in their spei%iity and, !hile relating di%%erent
patterns o% domination to eah other, resists the temptation to redue one
to another& /n addition, the book employs a notion o% disourse,
elaborated %urther in The History of Sexuality, !hih santions the
analysis o% language yet a2oids grounding it in subDeti2ity& Critial
theory thus has an e$ample o% an e$amination o% a struture o%
domination in language that is not rooted in idealist assumptions& For
these reasons aspets o% Fouault=s methodology are 2aluable %or a
ritial theory o% the mode o% in%ormation& /n hapter 7, / shall present
the main outlines o% the onept o% the mode o% in%ormation& "e%ore,
doing that / must e$amine The History of Sexuality, paying partiular
attention to the de2elopment by Fouault o% the onept o% disourse&
1& Po(er<'no(ledge2 Selected #nter$ie(s and &ther /ritings,1992: 1999, ed&
Colin <ordon >5e! 6orkA Pantheon, 198(?, p& 43&
2& Discipline and Punish2 The Birth of the Prison, trans& 1lan 3heridan >5e!
6orkA Pantheon, 1999?, p& 3&
3& /bid&, p& 114&
4& /bid&, p& 199&
4& /bid&, p& 2(1&
7& /bid&, p& 2((&
9& / do not mean to adopt the standard attitude to!ard the spread o% omputer
tehnologyA that is, that it !ill sol2e all soiety=s problems and !ill replae all
other %orms o% tehnology& 1n e$ellent e$ample o% an analysis o% the
introdution o% one omputer tehnology is %ound in -ob +ling, =Ealue
Con%lits and 3oial Choie, in 'letroni Funds )rans%er 3ystem
Ce2elopments=, Communications of the "C!, Eol& 21, 5o& 8 >1ugust, 1998?,
pp& 742:49& +ling demonstrates ho! the 2alues and interests o% 2arious soial
groups are a%%eted b the introdution o% a ne! omputer tehnology& )he
resulting piture is shaded in graysF di%%erent groups are a%%eted di%%erently,
some bene%it, some do not& #nly nai2e ideologists an make themsel2es
belie2e in an utopia through omputers&
8& Discipline and Punish, p& 3(4&
9& <eorg -ushe and #tto +irhheimer, Punishment and Social Structure>5e!
6orkA -ussell and -ussell, 1978, original edition 1939?, trans& M& Finkelstein,
p& 4&
1(& /bid&, p& 7&
11& /bid&, p& 18&
12& /bid&, p& 19&
13& /bid&, p& 44&
14& /bid&, p& 49&
14& /bid&, p& 78:9&
17& /bid&, p& 2(9&
19& Discipline and Punish, p& 218&
18& /bid&
19& /bid&, p& 84&
2(& Po(er<'no(ledge, p& 43&
21& Mihael /gnatie%%, " Cust !easure of Pain2 The Penitentiary in the #ndustrial
Re$olution, 194(:184( >5e! 6orkA Columbia *ni2ersity Press, 1998?, p& $iii&
22& /bid&
23& /bid&, p& 2 1(&
24& Patriia 1& #="rien, The Promise of Punishment2 Prisons in *ineteenth
Century rance >PrinetonA Prineton *ni2ersity Press, 1982?& 3ee also her
essay, =Crime and Punishment as 8istorial Problem=, Cournal of Social
History >1998?, pp& 4(8:2(, !here she e2aluates Discipline and Punish&
24& Mihelle Perrot >ed&?, L?#mpossible Prison2 Recherches sur le systDme
p,nitentiaire au E#Ee siDcle >ParisA 'ditions du 3euil,198(?, p& 33
27& 'aston and <uddat, eds&, The /ritings of the Foung !arx on Philosophy and
Society >5e! 6orkA 1nhor, 1979?, p& 421&
29& The "rcheology of 'no(ledge, p& 44&
28& 8erbert 3hiller, /ho 'no(s2 #nformation in the "ge of the ortune :;;>5e!
6orkA 1ble$, 1981?&
True 'iscourses on Se,uality
3hortly a%ter the appearane o% Discipline and Punish Fouault initiated a
ne! proDet, the study o% the history o% se$uality& 1 short prolegomenon to
the proDet !as published in 1997, traing the methodologial outlines and
general themes o% the larger e%%ort& The History of Sexuality, 3olume 4,
there%ore, presented no researh and ontained no %inished kno!ledge,
although this did not deter ritis %rom attaking the book as i% its
hypotheses !ere really %inal statements& )he book is germane to this study
%or its de2elopment o% the onept o% disourseNpratie and %or its
lari%iation o% Fouault=s antithetial relation to ;estern Mar$ists, in, this
ase in the %orm o% Freudo:Mar$ism&
3ine ;orld ;ar / se$uality has beome a topi o% inreasing onern
among soial theorists& /n the 192(s popular ulture in 'urope and the
*nited 3tates shi%ted a!ay %rom the pre:!ar Eitorian ethos o%
respetability and rushed to!ard a more uninhibited !ay o% li%e, one that
akno!ledged openly the pleasures o% the %lesh& /n the onte$t o% the
-oaring )!enties, psyhoanalysis !as taken as a theoretial support %or
o2erturning onstraints on se$uality& Freud appeared to demonstrate the
2alidity o% the ne! middle:lass ethosA restritions on se$ual ati2ity
!ere harm%ul mentally and physially& Psyhoanalyti theory pro2ided
an alibi %or those !ho, reDeting Christian and bourgeois asetiism,
heralded a great re2olution in se$ual beha2ior& 1lthough isolated %igures
in the past, suh as Charles Fourier in the nineteenth entury, had
ad2oated se$ual liberation, ;ilhelm -eih initiated a trend in the
t!entieth entury !hih ele2ated se$uality to a primary plae in soial
-eih ga2e shape to a mode o% thought that has gro!n in
importane sine his day& Combining ideas %rom Mar$ and Freud, he
%ormulated a theory o% se$ual re2olution that oriented most thinking on
the topi& /% Mar$ pro2ided a radial ritiBue o% the organi@ation o% labor,
-eih argued, so Freud in2ented a radial ritiBue o% the organi@ation o%
lo2e& ;ork and se$, he ontended, needed to be %reed %rom their
apitalist and patriarhal prisons& )he synthesis o% Mar$ and Freud
proposed by -eih !as in his eyes a bliss%ul union& "oth thinkers !ere
pronouned thoroughly dialetial& /n addition, the history o% the mode
o% prodution and mode o% reprodution >or se$uality? !ere parallel and
harmonious& +no!ledge about one inreased kno!ledge about the
other& Changes in the eonomy and hanges in se$ual organi@ation
ourred simultaneously and in the same diretion&
From -eih=s %ormulation emerged a history o% se$ that has had great
suess among radial soial theorists& )he onset o% apitalism, the story
goes, marked an inrease in the le2el o% se$ual repression& ;hen the
bourgeoisie took ontrol o% the soial order, it instituted a regime o%
se$ual denial ne2er be%ore e$periened& )he authoritarian bourgeois
%ather, de2oted obsessi2ely to aumulating apital, hoarded his energies
%or the marketplae and %atory& )he preoupation !ith sa2ing
e$tended %rom the realm o% !ork to the realm o% the bedroom& Finanial
eonomy !as mathed by spermati eonomy& Freud=s harateri@ation
o% ontemporary apitalist soiety as =the high:!ater mark o% se$ual
repression= !as easily e$plained by -eih as the diret onseBuene o%
the rule o% the bourgeoisie&
/n the history o% se$uality stemming %rom -eih=s Freudo:Mar$ism, an
assumption had rept into soial theory !hih both Freudians and
Mar$ists might %ind !anting& -eih had introdued naturalism into the
theories& For -eih labor and se$uality ould be redued to bodily needs&
3oialism ould be understood as an impro2ed dietary regimen, and
psyho: analysis !as a method o% attaining more pleasure%ul orgasms&
Mar$ and Freud !ere theorists o% health : the %ormer o% nutrition, the
latter o% se$ : and soial ritiism !as rooted in the natural needs o% the
body& 3ine apitalism %ailed to pro2ide good %ood %or the !orking lass
and patriarhy %ailed to pro2ide good se$ %or the !orking lass, these
soial arrangements reBuired basi trans%ormation&
-eent Freudo:Mar$ists ha2e not o2erome the %la!s in -eih=s original
positions& )hey ha2e attempted, ho!e2er, to update the history o% se$ by
aounting %or the loosening o% se$ual restritions sine ;orld ;ar //&
8erbert Maruse, -eimut -eihe, Mihael 3hneider, and others ha2e
o%%ered e$planations %or the apparent ollapse o% bourgeois Eitorianism&
)he se2ere prudishness o% nineteenth:entury apitalism has been
on2erted into the %reneti sensualism o% ad2aned apitalism& /n the short
spae o% a entury se$ual mores ha2e ompletely altered, or so it seems&
;i%e s!appingF s!inging partiesF se$ therapiesF pornographi or eroti
%ilms, books, and maga@inesF 2arieties o% se$ual aidsF plaes like Plato=s
-etreat : these phenomena are e2idene, in their !ide proli%eration, o% an
intense Buest %or se$ual %ul%illment and grati%iation&
Freudo:Mar$ists ha2e e$plained the o2ernight turnabout in se$ual mores
in a 2ariety o% !ays& Maruse argued that the so:alled se$ual re2olution
is not a threat to the established order but only another method this order
employs to ontrol the populae&
1lthough traditional repressions ha2e
been li%ted, a ne! kind o% repression o% se$uality : repressi2e
desublimation : has been substituted %or the older type& *nable to
maintain the asetiism o% the past, apitalist soiety has de%used the
potential threat posed by demands %or se$ual liberation by hanneling
them into aeptable outlets& 'motional needs ha2e been desublimated
or redued %rom high aspirations %or aestheti e$periene and soial
%reedom and then rede%ined in terms that support the established reality&
Community, lo2e, and %riendship, !hih !ere the promises o% a higher
soial order ontraditory to apitalism, are assoiated !ith onsumer
produts by ad2ertisements and made a2ailable %or easy purhase& #ne
an obtain immediate grati%iation through onsumerism instead o%
through a struggle to attain sublimated %orms o% enDoyment& "y this
argument Maruse supports the laim that apitalism is se$ually
repressi2e e2en in the %ae o% the se$ual re2olution&
)he domestiation o% the se$ual re2olution is aomplished, Maruse
argues, through a pro%ound hange in the psyhi pattern o% the %amily&
)he traditional authority o% the %ather in the %amily has been undermined
by t!o interrelated proessesA >1? a shi%t to!ard large orporations that
destroy small businesses, !iping out the property basis o% patriarhyF
and >2? a s!eeping shi%t o% emphasis a!ay %rom the %amily to!ard the
mass media, the shools, and peer groups as the hild=s signi%iant
others& )he onseBuenes o% these trans%ormations on hild de2elopment
are dramatiA =the ego=, Maruse laments, =shrinks to suh an e$tent that it
seems no longer apable o% sustaining itsel%, as a sel%, in distintion %rom
id and superego&
/n Freudian terms, !ithout the %ather as a %ous o%
repression %or the hild=s instints, the de2eloping indi2idual bypasses
the psyhi drama o% resistane to authority and there%ore gro!th o%
indi2iduality& 1s a personal agent o% authority, the %ather, aording to
Maruse, is in a uniBue relation to the hild, a relation that annot be
replaed by peer groups or state agenies& )he intense, intimate relation
o% %ather and hild is the sole basis %or later autonomy !hen the super:
ego beomes solidi%ied in the personality struture&
)he =%atherless soiety= so bemoaned by the Frank%urt 3hool produes
the onditions %or %asism& ;ithout a strong super:ego the indi2idual is
unable to resist e$ternal authority& 1n ambi2alent relationship arises
bet!een the state and the indi2idual, in !hih the latter both ra2es %or
and rebels against authority& 1 %igure like 8itler&, representing strong
authority and rebellion against >other? authorities, per%etly mathes the
psyhi needs o% indi2iduals soiali@ed in the %amilies o% late apitalism&
"ut the other side o% the story is more germane to the Buestion o%
se$uality& ;ithout patriarhy, the ego remains !eak, ine%%eti2e in
ontrolling libidinal impulses& 8ene the se$ual re2olution& 8ene also
the role o% ad2ertising in hanneling desires to the bene%it o% the
orporations& Maruse=s thesis then is that the potentials %or se$ual
liberation, !hih he propounded in -ros and Ci$ili%ation, ha2e not
emerged and indeed annot emerge in the onditions o% apitalist
soiety& Mihael 3hneider upholds the ause o% Freudo:Mar$ism in a
di%%erent !ay&
)he lassi anal:ompulsi2e personality assoiated !ith
the !ork ethi still e$ists in ad2aned apitalism aording to 3hneider&
)he organi@ation o% labor maintains a need %or people to !ork at rigid
shedules in alienating and e$ploitati2e Dobs& )hese people must repress
their libido, deny pleasure, and sa2e money and energy& 1long !ith this
personality type, ho!e2er, ad2aned apitalism demands an opposite but
onurrent emotional struture& Produti2e apaity today is so great that
the eonomy reBuires ontinuous onsumption so that apital may be
rein2ested in& greater and greater amounts& )he result is the emergene
o% a ne! personality type harateri@ed by oral impulsi2eness& #ne must
onsume on the spur o% the momentF one must let onesel% go, re!ard
onesel% ontinuouslyF one must buy produts no!, produts that !ill
yield grati%iation& )he se$ual re2olution is e$plained by 3hneider as
simply another e$ample o% the oral:impulsi2e personality& Commodity
ulture makes all se$ual partners eBual, Dust as all onsumer produts are
subDet to the same standard o% monetary 2alue&
3e$ is simply another impulsi2e at o% onsumption, and apitalism has
tamed its radial impliations& ,ike Maruse, 3hneider sustains the
Freudo:Mar$ist position that the history o% se$uality is made intelligible
through the model o% repression&
)he arguments o% the Freudo:Mar$ists raise Buestions that must be
addressed e2en be%ore onsidering Fouault=s response to them& /t must be
pointed out that the position o% the Freudo:Mar$ists, resting on the thesis
o% repression and its 2ariants in the post:Eitorian !orld, gi2es
un!arranted support to patriarhy and underuts the laims o% %eminism&
)he authoritarian %ather and his parado$ial role in %ostering autonomy is
the entral %igure o% the Freudo:Mar$ist %amily romane& 5o doubt the
position o% the %ather in the %amily has been some!hat ompromised due
to the trends that Maruse and 3hneider indiate& "ut it is the middle:
lass %ather !ho is their re%erene point, e2en though they subsribe to a
soial position !hih, o% ourse, relies on the ageny o% the !orking lass&
)his on%used lass analysis is only the beginning o% the problems !ith
More damaging is their omplete denial o% the progressi2e side o% the
hanges in the %ather=s position& )he !eakening o% patriarhy leads not
only to the prominene o% peer groups and the mediaA it is the ondition
%or the emergene o% !omen %rom the onstraints o% the role o% mother
and !i%e& )he %eminism o% the 199(s, !hih had its anteedents in the
192(s at the beginning o% this proess, must be seen by ritial theorists
and ;estern Mar$ists generally as a progressi2e step in the restruturing
o% the %amily and ad2aned, apitalism in general& /n addition, the
!idespread, demands %or se$ual and emotional %ul%illment, !hih
Maruse disredits, ha2e a liberati2e aspet& ;hat the Freudo:Mar$ists
see as a !eakened ego, and a proto:%asist super:ego, may also be
interpreted as a ne! psyhi %ormation in !hih traditional repressions
are no longer 2alid& )he relati2e ollapse o% the anal personality augurs
the emergene o% indi2iduals !ho !ill not su%%er silently the emotional
sarity o% lassial apitalism or its pseudo:%ul%illment through the
ommodities o% rih apitalism& )he needs %or lo2e and ommunity
!hih !ere at the heart o% the soialist dreams o% the nineteenth entury
may beome paramount politial Buestions in the %uture, not on the
plaards o% the proletariat but on those o% %eminists, gay liberationists
and others not inured to the repressions o% the nulear %amily& 1t the
2ery least, one an argue that the neessary data ha2e not been tabulated
or e2en in2estigated& )here need to be studies o% the preise nature o%
personality de2elopment through the %irst three stages o% the hild=s li%e
in& the onte$t o% =%atherless= %amilies& *ntil that is done, all talk o% the
ollapse o% the autonomous indi2idual remains an empty Deremiad&
)hat is the !ay things stood on the Buestion o% a theory and history o%
se$uality until the publiation o% Fouault=s The History of
Fouault has attempted to rede%ine ompletely the Buestion o%
se$uality by remo2ing it %rom the paradigm o% repression& /nstead,
se$uality %or him must be onsidered in terms o% onepts o% kno!ledge
and po!er& /n this manner Fouault plaes se$ in relation to the
emergene o% the administered soiety o% the t!entieth entury& 8e
hallenges both Mar$ and Freud by shi%ting the grounds o% the debateA
the onepts o% labor and repression no longer ser2e in the ritial
omprehension o% historyF the pri2ileged plaes in soial theory and
soial li%e are not longer the %atory and the unonsious& Fouault
suggests nothing less, than a basi reoneptuali@ation o% the logi o%
history, one that promises to re2itali@e ritial theory& /t must be pointed
out, ho!e2er, that Fouault and Maruse are in agreement on one
%undamental pointA that the alleged se$ual re2olution o% the 197(s !as
not a true liberation& ;hile Maruse dismisses the se$ual re2olution as
mere repressi2e desublimation, Fouault treats it as an e$tension o% the
pro%usion o% disourses on se$uality&
)he History of Sexuality pro2ides an arena in !hih my 2ie! o%
Fouault=s !ork an be assessed& Fouault promised si$ 2olumes
de2oted to the topi& /n 1997 the introdutory %irst book appeared !ith
the subtitle The /ill to 'no(ledge, a transparent allusion to
5iet@she=s The /ill to Po(er that re2eals Fouault=s general themeA the
relation o% se$ and sel%:kno!ledge to disourses on se$uality&

The History of Sexuality opens !ith an attak on the Freudo:Mar$ist
position& )he onept o% repression, Fouault harges, is a %alse guide to
the problem o% se$uality& /t suggests that se$ disappears in the nineteenth
entury, that se$ !as pushed out o% onsiousness and out o% pratie as
the bourgeoisie ame to po!er& '2en a super%iial reading o% history,
Fouault ounters, demonstrates the oppositeA that se$uality %lourished
as ne2er be%ore in the nineteenth entury& )his surprising assertion re%ers
not to eroti %ul%illment, but to the e$pansion o% the disourse on
se$uality& For Fouault se$ annot ha2e been =repressed= and at the same
time talked about so muh&
)here is a possible on%usion here on Fouault=s part regarding the
de%inition o% repression in Freud& ;hen, Freud !rites that ontemporary
'urope e$periened the =high !ater mark o% se$ual repression=, he !as not
re%erring to e$ternal prohibitions on se$& 8e !as not merely arguing that
people had oitus less o%ten than in the past, though this might ha2e been
the ase& -ather Freud=s onept o% repression denotes an intrapsyhi
phenomenon by !hih libidinous impulses are pre2ented %rom attaining
onsiousness in their diret %orms& )he impulses do not disappear but
return under a di%%erent, o%ten neuroti, guise& 8ene, %or Freud, se$uality
ne2er 2anishes ompletely, as Fouault seems to suggest in his
interpretation o% the dotrine o% repression& )he laim that se$ %lourished
in the nineteenth entury as a %orm o% disourse there%ore does not
neessarily ontradit the %indings o% psyhoanalysis& 5onetheless,
Freudo: Mar$ists like -eih do seem to argue that the Buantity o% se$ !as
diminished by dint o% repression in the Eitorian age&
Fouault=s main argument against the dotrine o% repression is that it is a
%alse model o% the relation bet!een po!er and se$& Follo!ing Celeu@e
and <uattari in "nti.&edipus, Fouault ontends that the la! does not
at as a negati2e obstale to the positi2e, natural dri2e o% se$, as the
dotrine o% repression implies& )hings happen Buite di%%erently&
Fouault po!er is positi2eA it reates the %orm o% se$uality& /n his !ords,
=the la! is !hat onstitutes both desire and the lak on !hih it is
)his important shi%t in the argument reBuires elaboration&
Celeu@e and <uattari ontend that the Freudian onept o% the #edipus
omple$ in2erts the truth&
1ording to Freud, hildren ha2e natural
eroti dri2es %or their parents !hih beome repressed& "nti.&edipus,
ho!e2er, argues that the se$ual attahments o% hildren %or parents is a
oding initiated by the parents !hih eliits the desire and then prohibits
it& )here are thus no natural se$ dri2es& 1ll se$uality is =al!ays already=
oded by a la!& )he hild=s desire, %alls into the la! o% #edipus and
beomes shaped by it& ;ithout iting Celeu@e and <uattari, Fouault
takes this model as the essene o% po!er& "ut i% that is so, the proDet o%
a history o% se$uality annot proeed by searhing %or prohibitions
against se$F it must look instead to po!er as the reator o% se$uality&
Fouault pro2ides e$tensi2e e$amples o% suh a 2ie! o% po!er taken
%rom the history o% mediine&
-ather than treat the history o% se$uality as a doumentation o% ats o%
repression& Fouault direts his attention to the operations o% po!er& 1t
this point he introdues the notion o% disourse& 8e pro2ides the
%ollo!ing de%inition o% disourseA
Cisourses are tatial elements or bloks operating in the %ield o% %ore
relationsA there an e$ist di%%erent and e2en ontraditory disourses
!ithin the same strategyF they an, on the ontrary, irulate !ithout
hanging their %orm %rom one strategy to another, opposing strategy& ;e
must not e$pet the disourses on se$ to tell us, abo2e all, !hat strategy
they deri2e %rom, or !hat moral di2isions they aompany, or !hat
ideology : dominant or dominated : they representA rather !e must
Buestion them on the t!o le2els o% their tatial produti2ity >!hat
reiproal e%%ets o% po!er and kno!ledge they ensure? and their
strategi integration >!hat onDuntion and !hat %ore relationship make
their utili@ation neessary in a gi2en episode o% the 2arious
on%rontations that our?&
/n this passage Fouault de%ines disourse in relation to po!er&
Cisourse %or him is not some idealist representation o% ideasF it is, in&
materialist %ashion, part o% the po!er struture o% soiety& Po!er
relations must be understood in the struturalist manner as deentered, as
a multipliity o% loal situations& Cisourses are important beause they
re2eal the play o% po!er in a gi2en situation& )hey are not =ideologial
representations= o% lass positions but ats o% po!er shaping ati2ely the
li2es o% the populae& )he history o% se$uality must study disourses on
se$uality to uno2er the shapes gi2en& to it& Fouault reDets the
distintion, !hih deri2es %rom the epistKme, o% representation, bet!een
ideasNdisourses and ationNse$uality&
"ut the pri2ileged plae he gi2es to disourse does not seem Dusti%ied&
Perhaps one an read in the disourses on se$ o% the Eitorian bourgeoisie
: i% one reads !ell bet!een the lines : the shape o% se$uality in soiety& "ut
an one do the same %or the nineteenth:entury !orking lass or %or the
peasantry o% the preapitalist periodI Fouault, o% ourse, thinks that one
an& 6et his notion o% disourse seems to apture uneBually the 2arious
periods o% 'uropean history& 1s disourses on se$uality inrease in
%reBueny %rom& the late eighteenth entury on!ards and reah an
unpreedented deluge in our o!n day, disourse itsel% beomes more and
more signi%iant in the shaping o% se$uality& /n other !ords, Fouault=s
priniple o% seletion >his %ous on disourse? is better suited and gi2es
more prominene to the reent period than the earlier one& 8e omes lose
to ompleting the irle by onluding that se$uality itsel% !as more
e$tensi2e in the reent period, i% only beause disourse on it inreased&
)hat !ill do %ine to ounter the Freudo:Mar$ists= argument about
repression, but it !ill not ser2e as a pro2en %at&
Fouault !ould ounter this argument by pointing out that he is not
re%erring merely to printed disourse but to spoken disourse as !ell,
and there%ore the inreased publiation o% books on se$uality is not an
adeBuate inde$& )his reply does not, ho!e2er, dispel suspiions o% bias
to!ard the reent period, beause the spoken disourse in a se2enteenth:
entury 2illage !ould still esape the historian=s pur2ie!& / !ould
ontend that the %ous on disourse deri2es its legitimay %rom the
broader intention o% Fouault=s thought : that is&, %rom& his re%le$i2e
onern to omprehend our o!n time, the present:day in%ormation
soiety& "eause this intention underlies his proDet and beause it is
ine2itable that historians employ a theory !hih neessarily gi2es
prominene to one epoh o2er another, Fouault=s %ous on disourse is
not only legitimate but also desirable&
Fouault is in searh o% =true disourses=& 8is de%inition o% truth is not the
philosopher=s& 8e is not a%ter the best:argued, the most logially oherent
te$t& )he douments he is a%ter are not those o% +ant and 8egel& 8e does
not read disourses literally in order to analy@e their onepts&
Cisourses %or him are loi o% po!er& )hey must be read %rom the
2antage point not o% the author or the intended audiene but %rom the
perspeti2e o% ho! they onstitute a po!er relation onerning
se$uality& )he disourses that are 2aluable are not those o% the most
penetrating thinker, those that ontain the best onept o% se$uality& )he
le2el he is a%ter is muh more mundane, muh loser to the pulse o% soial
li%e& 8is disourses are those o% ordinary dotorsF they are the %iles o%
linis that treat se$ual =disorders=F they are the letters o% loal priestsF they
are the dossiers housed in bureauraiesF they are grant proposals, %or the
study o% se$ualityF they are the psyhotherapist=s %ileF they are the %iles o%
soial !el%are agenies& 1t these loations, in these disourses, the play o%
po!er and the Buestion o% se$uality re2eal themsel2es& )his is !here =the
politial eonomy o% a !ill to kno!ledge= o% se$uality is onstituted&

/n the introdutory 2olume o% The History of Sexuality Fouault o%%ers an
outline o% the history o% se$uality that merits the attention o% historians& )he
onept o% disourse leads Fouault diretly to the Christian on%ession as
the lous o% se$uality& 8ere he %inds t!o phases& /n the earlier period, be%ore
the se2enteenth entury, the priest !as onerned !ith !hat people did& )he
%aith%ul !ere asked in detail about their se$ual acti$ities& /n that period
se$uality onerned the body, !hih !as allo!ed ertain positions and
denied others& )he disourse o% se$uality !as rudimentary and rudeF talk,
in the soiety, !as open and %rank& Fouault mentions 'rasmus, !ho
enouraged ad2ie to hildren on the seletion o% prostitutes& More e2idene
about the sensuality o% the body in this period an be gleaned %rom 5orbert
'lias= study o% i2ili@ing manners&

;ith the -e%ormation and Counter -e%ormation the disourse on
se$uality takes another %orm& /n the on%ession the priest begins to
inBuire not only about ations, but also about intentions& 3e$uality
begins to be de%ined in terms o% the mind as !ell as the body& )he sope
o% the se$ual e$pands to inlude the least thoughts and %antasies& 1
loBuaiousness about se$uality emerges& '2erything must be pored o2er
and e$amined in great detail& 1 similar pattern o% hange is diso2ered
by Fouault in his history o% rime and punishment
& Cisourse
intensi%ies %rom a onern !ith ation and the body to a onern !ith the
mind and its intentions& "ut the important hange in the disourse o%
se$uality does not take plae until later, during the apitalist period& 1t
this time, although by no means beause o% the mode o% prodution, the
on%ession beomes sienti%i& Fouault o%%ers as a hypothesis that the
great alteration in se$uality ourred !hen the disourse on se$ beame
a matter o% siene&
#ne that happened, se$uality beame a maDor
preoupation and began to assume its urrent shape&
)he maDor e$ample o% a modem disourse on se$uality, a ne! sienti%i
on%essional, is o% ourse psyhoanalysis& Perhaps Fouault=s maDor
aomplishment in The History of Sexuality is to treat Freud as part o%
history, rather than to study the history o% se$ %rom a Freudian 2antage
point& )he oneptual point d?honneur o% the Freudo:Mar$ists : that
Freud treats the instints as outside soiety and there%ore as a soure o%
soial ritiism : is shorn o% its sienti%i po!er& Freud=s onept o% the
instints beomes, in& Fouault=s hands, Dust another de2ie to ontrol
and shape se$uality& )he onept o% the instints is a po!er strategy by
the ne! medial pro%ession !hih allo!s them& to inBuire into se$, to
e$plore it by the method o% the =talking ure=, to e$amine dreams and
%antasies, the reesses o% the mind, in a !ay ne2er be%ore ontemplated&
)he Freudian 2ie! o% the instints does not pro2ide a reser2oir o%
resistane against the ruling lass& /t does not promise a se$ual
re2olution& For se$uality, to Fouault,, is not something outside soiety
!aiting to burst through the layers o% repression& #n the ontrary, by
positing a se$ual instint Freud opened up a ne! realm %or the
domination o% siene o2er se$uality&
)he heart o% the matter %or Fouault is that the history o% se$uality
amounts to a ontinuous inrease, beginning in the se2enteenth entury,
in the =mehanisms= and =tehnologies= o% po!er& Curing the ourse o%
this history the lous o% po!er shi%ts %rom the on%essional to the
researh laboratories and linis !here se$uality is the subDet o%
sienti%i in2estigation& 8istorians are direted by Fouault to e$plore in
detail the =true disourses= on se$ generated under the sign o% siene& /n
partiular he alls attention to %our =mehanisms o% kno!ledge and
po!er= on se$& )hese areA =the hysteri@ation o% !omen s bodies=, =the
pedagogi@ation o% hildren=s se$=, =the soiali@ation o% proreati2e
beha2ior=, and =the psyhiatri@ation o% per2erse pleasure=& )hese
mehanisms are direted at %our =%igures=A hysterial !omen,
masturbating hildren, Malthusian ouples, and per2erse adults& )aken
together, these =mehanisms= onstitute the =prodution o% se$uality= in
the modern period,
1nyone %amiliar !ith the history o% the nineteenth entury !ill be impressed
by Fouault=s hoie o% subDets& )he literature on se$uality is indeed
onerned !ith these %our %igures to a 2ery great e$tent& Perhaps Malthusian
ouples !ere more prominent in Frane, !here population gro!th stagnated
in the nineteenth entury, than in 'ngland or <ermany, !here demographi
statistis !ere more %a2orable& #ne might Buestion as !ell Fouault=s
e$lusion o% the se$ually diseased male, sine some historians think that
syphilis, !as epidemi in the nineteenth entury& )he aggressi2e %emale !as
another maDor onern o% dotors and parents& 1sserti2e !omen !ere
thought to be dri2en by e$essi2e se$ual impulses, and se$ual surgery, suh
as in%ibulations and litoridetomies, !ere o%ten reommended and
per%ormed& )hese topis !ould ser2e as !ell as those hosen by Fouault to
e$amine disourses on se$uality, and Fouault=s seletion must there%ore be
regarded as some!hat arbitrary&
1 thorough history o% the disourses on the %our %igures !ould not doubt
produe an impressi2e on%irmation o% Fouault=s thesis on the relation
o% kno!ledge and po!er to se$& )he %igure o% the masturbating hild, %or
e$ample, !as the subDet o% an e$tensi2e Buasi:military ampaign by
dotors and parents& Ce2ies !ere designed, produed and sold to
pre2ent eretion& 3ome %a2orites !ere metal rings !ith sharp teeth that
%itted around the penis and alarm systems that !arned parents o% their
hild=s se$ual e$itement&
/n addition to these ad2anes in
antimasturbatory tehnology, medial siene o%%ered ountless treatises
on the dangers o% onanism& )hese sober men o% learning %oresa! the
!orst& )hey attributed to masturbation e2erything %rom ane and
headahes to aner and death&
"eyond doubt an impressi2e apparatus
o% kno!ledge and po!er !as onstruted !ith the misguided aim o%
pre2enting hildhood masturbation&
1ttention to these =true disourses= on se$uality does not neessarily
onstitute a history o% se$uality& /t is doubt%ul that these %igures ould be
generali@ed to ser2e as oneptual guides %or a history o% se$uality at any
time other than the nineteenth entury& ;orse still, these %igures and
their attendant disourses only apply to one segment o% the population in
'urope and the *nited 3tates& )he bourgeoisie %its !ell into Fouault=s
ategories, but the !orking lass in the ities and perhaps the peasantry
in the ountryside do not& )hese latter groups !ere not subDet to the
kno!ledgeNpo!er o% the medial and psyhiatri pro%essionsF nor !ere
they a2id readers o% disourses on hysterial !omen and per2ersions&
Fouault might respond to the obDetion that his analysis does not
aount %or lass di%%erenes by pointing out that the spread o% the
disourse on se$ through soiety took time to un%old& 6et the Buestion
remains ho! to aount %or lass di%%erenes in the %irst plae&
Fouault is ogni@ant o% the importane o% soial lass in the history o%
se$uality& 8e presents a %asinating disussion o% the di%%erenes
bet!een the aristoray and the bourgeoisie on the topi o% the
For the aristoray the body meant blood& ,ineage !as the all:
important onsideration %or them& For the bourgeoisie, ho!e2er, the
body !as instead a Buestion o% li%e and health& )he apitalist lass
initiated a onern %or the ondition o% the body, %or its optimal
%untioning and its durability& ,ike the DoggersF and 2egetarians o% today,
the lassi bourgeoisie !as obsessed !ith hygiene and longe2ity& )he
rekless hunting, !horing, and drinking o% the aristoray lost %a2or in
the dismal !orld o% industry&
For Fouault, the distintion bet!een the aristorati and bourgeois
disourse on the body ser2es to strengthen his ritiBue o% the Freudo:
Mar$ists& Far %rom repressing the body, he ontends, the bourgeoisie
de2oted a great deal o% attention to it& 5e2ertheless, !hile his argument
is !ell taken, it does not really address the issue o% se$uality& )he
bourgeois, onern !ith the body !as not an eroti oneF good diet and
hygiene are not the same as sensuality& )he bourgeois body may ha2e
been ared %or and tended better than that o% the aristoray, but it !as
%ar less a 2essel o% se$uality& #ne suspets in %at that the bourgeois
attention to health !as a utilitarian and eonomi, Buest& 'nergy %or this
soial lass !as marshaled %or the great battles o% the market and the
%atory, not %or the gentlemanly pursuit o% a !oman=s %a2ors& 1lthough
Fouault addresses the Buestion o% lass and se$, he has not reahed the
heart o% the problem&
;ithout an adeBuate theory o% lass se$uality, the emphasis on
kno!ledgeNpo!er leads Fouault against himsel% to a totali@ing 2ie! o%
the history o% se$uality& 1lthough he asserts that there is no =unitary
se$ual politis=, he does not o%%er a basis on !hih to omprehend
se$uality in a gi2en soiety in& any !ay other than olleti2ely&
Cisourses on se$ may di%%er in a partiular epoh, but they are the
disourses o% the soiety as a !hole& 6et the history o% se$uality annot
be pursued at the le2el o% the total soiety& 3oial groups and regions
di%%er too markedly in their se$uality to be onsidered together in one
general %rame!ork& /n the ourse o% the last three enturies, the se$ual
praties o% the aristoray, peasantry, bourgeoisie, and !orking lass
di%%er more than they are alike& )hese di%%erenes simply annot be
e$plained on the basis o% disourse&
0aBues Con@elot=s The Policing of amilies, a book that is muh
indebted to Fouault=s !ork on the history o% se$uality, treats the
problem o% lass in a most satis%atory manner& Con@elot %ouses on the
%amily rather than on se$, but like Fouault he traes the omple$
interplay o% the disourses o% the human sienes and the ations o%
oeri2e institutions in shaping the praties he is onerned !ith&
Con@elot on2iningly demonstrates the di%%erential impat o% these
tehnologies o% po!er on eah soial lass& )he emergene o% the urban
industrial !orking lass in nineteenth:entury Frane presented the
ne!ly empo!ered bourgeoisie !ith a set o% %amily praties that they
%ound intolerable& ;orking lass ouples seemed to them inapable o%
onduting morally and hygienially sound %amily li2es& )he
bourgeoisie responded to the onditions o% proletarian %amilies through a
luster o% institutional and disursi2e means& 3emi:publi philanthropi
institutions !ere established, !ealthy !omen engaged in indi2idual
%orms o% assistane to the poor, rudimentary %orms o% soiologial
disiplines appeared, and %in: ally, the state itsel% inaugurated publi
poliies to deal !ith the problem& Con@elot sums up these ati2ities !ith
the term =the tutelary omple$=&
"y this phrase he means to undersore the great irony o% the situation&
)he bourgeoisie belie2ed deeply in the pri2ate nulear %amily, o% the
autonomy o% the married ouple in relation to the state& )he !orking
lass did not establish %amilies that on%ormed to the pattern o%
nulearity& )he bourgeoisie sought to help them to do so, but
inreasingly they !ere led to %ore them to do so, e2entually by the
diret inter2ention o% the state& )he state initiated !el%are poliies that
!ere intended set in motion a hange in !orking lass %amilies that
!ould result in their autonomy& "ut the 2ery %at o% the state=s
inter2ention undermined the intended resultA dependeny not autonomy
!as the %ate o% the lo!er lass %amily&
)he bourgeois, %amily set in play a 2ery di%%erent omple$ o% %ores& /% the
bond that held together the !orking lass !as %orged in a ontest !ith
Du2enile ourt and other similar state agenies, the rope that held together the
bourgeois %amily !as tied to the shooling system& /n shools teahers,
parents and medial ad2isors blended a mi$ture o% disourseN pratie that
!as the ideal toni %or the bourgeois %amily& /ts hie% ingredient !as
psyhoanalysis, but psyhoanalysis o% a partiular 2ariety, one that holds
tightly a ertain image o% %amily %untioning and employs that image
strategially to molli%y %amily on%lits& Con@elot=s term %or this disourseN
pratie is =the regulation o% images=& )he bourgeois %amily in risis
readDusted its internal relations by the guidelines o% psyhoanalysis, parent:
teaher organi@ations, %amily planning agenies and psyhotherapists& )he
all:important di%%erene bet!een the bourgeois and !orking lass %amilies
!ith respet to the onstellation o% inter2ening disourseNpraties is that
only %or the bourgeoisie !as the inter2ention initiated by the %amily& )he
bourgeois %amily employed the regulation o% images to rein%ore its
autonomy and pri2ay !hile the !orking lass %amily !as e$posed to
ontrol by the state& /n both ases tehnologies o% po!er !ere set in& play,
but !ith 2ery di%%erent results& )he attention o% Con@elot to lass di%%erenes
demonstrates the interpreti2e %ore o% Fouault=s ategories !ithout reduing
the analysis to a Mar$ist totali@ation& )he mode o% prodution may ha2e
generated the t!o lasses, but it annot e$plain the di%%erential disourseN
praties o% the %amily strutures& )he danger in Fouault=s proDet is that it
treats disourses on se$uality only in relation to soiety as a !hole&
Fouault=s aount o% the history o% se$uality also goes astray in
o2erlooking the importane o% the %amily& /% the emotional struture o%
the %amily is taken into aount, di%%erenes bet!een lasses regarding
se$uality beome intelligible& /n the sti%ling air o% the pri2ate bourgeois
%amily o% the nineteenth entury, !here the %eelings o% eah %amily
member ha2e no outlet other than the %amily, the hysterial !oman, the
masturbating hild, the per2ert, and the Malthusian ouple emerge !ith
larity& 1lthough se$uality in the bourgeois %amily !as open to the
in%luenes o% medial disourses, the struture o% e2eryday li%e in the
%amily itsel% is o% at least eBual importane in the task o% e$planation& /%
it an be sho!n, as / am on2ined it an, that se$ual patterns are
illuminated by %amily struture, then reliane on the priest, the dotor,
and the psyhiatrist an be gi2en a less in%luential but still onsiderable
role& Fouault=s program %or the history o% se$uality de%lets too muh
attention a!ay %rom the %amily in %a2or o% more distant agenies o%
po!er& ,ike Christopher ,ash=s Ha$en in a Heartless /orld, Fouault=s
book dra!s attention to the great politis o% =true disourses= !hen it
should %ous more on the little politis o% %amily romanes&
Commentaries on Fouault=s earlier !orks ha2e pointed out that his
onept o% po!er is 2ague and ambiguous& )he po!er embodied in
disourses on se$ is not the learly de%ined po!er o% the state or e2en the
disernible po!er o% the =helping pro%essions=& Po!er, Fouault
prolaims, is e2ery!here&
/n all the relations o% soiety, po!er :
espeially the po!er o% disourse :is e$erised& Fouault is sensiti2e to
the %ore o% opinion on people=s ation& 8e sees learly the !ay all
pratie is subDet to the pressure o% !hat he alls disourse& /n&
e2eryday li%e no ation is innoentF no proDet is arried out %rom the
pure intention o% the ator& /ndi2idual reason is not the po!er that
determines !hat happens& 'speially people !ho do not on%orm to
dominant soial 2alues : the handiapped, raial minorities, those !ith
unusual se$ual pre%erenes, the physially de%ormed : an %eel the
in%luene o% !hat Fouault alls =%ore relations= or =tehnologies o%
)he irony o% Fouault=s position is that although he is autely a!are o%
=po!er relations= in soiety, he pays little heed to the =po!er= o% his o!n
disourse& 8e does not pose the %undamental Buestion, ;hat is the role o%
his o!n disourse in the history o% disourse on se$ualityI /% disourse is a
mode o% po!er that eliits se$uality and shapes it, !ill not the same %ate
be%all Fouault=s disourseI Fouault seeks to liberate soiety %rom the
po!er o% =true disourse= on se$ and thereby to ontribute to the
=ounterattak= o% %ree =bodies and pleasures=& "ut nothing pre2ents
Fouault=s proDet %rom beoming yet another =true disourse=&
)hree more 2olumes o% Fouault=s The History of Sexuality ha2e reently
appeared and the degree to !hih the proDet an attain the suess
o% Discipline and Punish !ill depend on the response to these books&
the years sine the %irst installment o% The History of Sexuality Fouault has
presented to the publi, in the %orm o% addresses and artiles, indiations o%
the line o% researh they pursue&
/n these piees one theme emerges
learlyA Fouault has shi%ted the %ous o% the proDet& )he %irst 2olume
enters on se$uality as it is onstituted through disourseNpratie& )he
reent !ork plaes the subDet at the enter o% the analysis, subordinating
se$uality to the role o% the theme through !hih the subDet an be grasped&
/n the ;est, Fouault maintains, subDets ha2e ome to reogni@e
themsel2es, to %ind their =truth=, in their se$uality& Fouault gi2es se2eral
alternati2e %ormulations o% his ne! diretion& 8e speaks o% his %ield o%
interest as =the politis o% the true= or as =a genealogy o% ethis&= )he phrase
that probably indiates best his urrent proDet is =tehniBues o% the sel%=& 8e
is studying those disourseNpraties by !hih the indi2idual gi2es shape to
his or her o!n subDeti2ity&
;ith this hange Fouault oupies a territory that he had earlier plaed o%%
limitsA the subDet& 8e is studying the interiority o% the indi2idual, the terrain
o% e$istentialists, phenomenologists, psyhoanalysts : all those philosophies
o% onsiousness that he earlier reDeted %or their humanist illusions& )he
di%%erene bet!een Fouault and 3artre is seemingly narro!ed& Fouault
applauds 3artre %or a2oiding =the idea o% the sel% as something !hih is
gi2en to us&=
3artre, Fouault !rites, has a =theoretial insight to the pratie
o% reati2ity&= Fouault too !ill study the sel%:onstitution o% the subDet& "ut
3artre !ent astray !ith the riterion o% authentiity !hih ditates too muh
about the relation one has !ith onesel%& /nstead, Fouault pre%ers a more
open approah, one that !ill =relate the kind o% relation he has to himsel% to a
reati2e ati2ity=&

Fouault=s analysis o% the subDet takes on the Buestion o% the entered
subDet more diretly than e2er be%ore& The History of
Sexuality underuts the attempt to ontologi@e any 2ie! o% the subDet
>the cogito, authentiity, libido? by demonstrating the historiity o% the
%orms o% subDeti2ity as !ell as the means through !hih subDeti2ity is
onstituted& /n a sense Fouault=s proDet is more radial than those that
!ould deny intelligibility to the subDet& 8e arries the 5iet@shean
ritiBue o% =truth= probably as %ar as it an go& )ruth is studied as a
onstituted, historial multipliity, not at the le2el o% philosophial
dotrine but at the le2el o% subDeti2e sel%:onstitution& )he truth about
onesel% emerges as the result o% a omple$ity o% disourses and
praties, one that 2aries in %undamental !ays at di%%erent times and
among di%%erent soial groups& The History of Sexuality abandons the
sa%e terrain o% modern history and goes bak to the period bet!een the
4th Century "C and the early Middle 1ges& Fouault notes that during
this period the se$ual ode did not 2ary greatlyA the same basi
prohibitions !ere in plae& ,a!s restrited se$ual ati2ity to the married
ouple and in general disouraged e$ess beause o% its alleged danger
to health& )he tehniBues o% the sel%&, ho!e2er, altered drastially&
1mong the male ruling lass in the 1nient period, se$ual pratie
related to an art o% li2ing& 3e$ !as separate %rom religious matters, and
%rom soial institutions in general& )he issue o% !hih se$ual ats to
pratie !as deided on the basis o% personal ethis& 3e$ !as an ati2e
e$periene through !hih the beauti%ul li%e !as sought& 8omose$ual
lo2e bet!een a man and boy presented a di%%iulty %or the man, sine the
boy !as not able to pro2ide %ull reiproity in the relationship, a
reiproity neessary %or the best possible li%e&
;ith Christianity the relationship o% se$ to tehniBues o% the sel%
hanged in harater& 3e$ual pratie !as onneted diretly !ith
religious e$periene& 3e$ !as a matter o% the passi2e %lesh not the ati2e
body as it !as %or the 1nients& )he male eretion !as an in2oluntary
inursion by the %lesh on the soul& 3e$ !as a uniBue 2ie %or Christians
like 0oannes Cassianus >a& 39(: a& 434?& /t !as the only sin o% the %lesh
that resembled sins o% the soul like pride& )he struggle against it !as
unremitting and deep& =/t is a Buestion o% destroying ompletely an
impulse !hose suppression does not lead to the death o% the body&
1mong the eight 2ies, %orniation alone is at one innate, natural and
orporal in its origin&=
)he Christian subDet had to onstitute itsel%
through tehniBues that !ould eradiate ompletely all se$ual impulses&
3e$ !as the great testing ground o% the Christian soul& )he ultimate
standard o% %aith !as the absene o% =eroti dreams, and noturnal
pollution=& ;hen that !as attained, the subDet !as %ree o% heteronomous
Christian %aith eliited tehniBues o% the sel% that onstituted the truth o%
the subDet at a more interior le2el than the 1nients& Christian se$ual
praties set in motion a mo2ement to!ard =subDeti2i@ation= in relation
to =a proess o% kno!ledge that obliged one to look %or and to tell the
truth about onesel%&=
/n the monk=s 2o! o% hastity and in the
on%essional, Christianity established t!o sets o% praties direted
to!ard the onstitution o% the truth o% the subDet in relation to se$&
-estriti2e se$ual odes !ere only the remote hori@on o% Christian
pratiesF at the enter !as the interminable e$amination o% one=s
onsiene %or indiations o% danger&
)he parallel is striking bet!een Fouault=s depition o% the ontrast
bet!een the 1nients and the Christians and 5iet@she=s& For 5iet@she,
the master morality o% the 1nients !ith its distintion bet!een good
and bad !as a diret, simple e$pression o% the !ill to po!er& )he sla2e
morality o% the Christians !ith its distintion bet!een good and e2il !as
a omple$, indiret e$pression mediated through the poison o%
resentment& )he deeper, more interiori@ed morality o% the Christians !as
a onseBuene in part o% its onnetion !ith the religious issues o% death
and o% <od& 3imilarly Fouault diso2ers the key to the Christian
tehniBue o% the sel% in the raising o% the stakes o2er se$ by relating it to
religious issues& For both 5iet@she and Fouault, the Buestion o% the
truth about onesel% beomes a more rigorous and urgent issue in the
Christian period& Ci%%erenes bet!een the t!o genealogists are also
importantA Fouault=s %ous on the tehniBues o% the sel% through
disourseNpratie is more amenable to onrete historial analysis than
5iet@she=s philologial method and onept o% the !ill to po!er&
)he impliations o% Fouault=s proDet %or the modern period are arresting&
Curing the 'nlightenment the religious dimension o% the tehniBues o% the
sel% dissipate& 1 medio:sienti%i %rame!ork takes o2er the same set o%
disourseN praties, de2eloping them %urther and ulminating perhaps in
)he sienti%i method o% onstituting the truth o% the sel%
in se$ unom%ortably resembles the Christian ounterpart& "ut the %ull
statement o% this position reBuires a %ull analysis o% the reently published
2olumes !hih is inappropriate here&
1& 3ee espeially =Cialetial Materialism and PsyhoanalysisP& in Sex.Pol
-ssays, 1929:1934, ed& ,ee "a$andall >5e! 6orkA Eintage 1977?& For a lear
summary o% -eih=s thought and that o% other Freudo:Mar$ists, see Paul
-obinson,The reudian Left >5e! 6orkA 8arper and -o!, 1979?& 1lso
interesting is -euben #sborn, !arxism and Psychoanalysis >5e! 6orkA Celta
2& Muh o% Maruse=s !riting is on this topi& 3ee -ros and Ci$ili%ation2 "
Philosophical #n)uiry into reud >5e! 6orkA Eintage 1972?F &ne.
Dimensional !an >"ostonA "eaon Press, 1974?F "n -ssay on
Liberation >"ostonA "eaon Press, 1979?F and i$e Lectures >"ostonA "eaon
Press, 199(?&
3& 8erbert Maruse, =)he #bsolesene o% the Freudian Conept o% Man=, in Fi2e
,etures, trans& 0& 3hapiro and 3& ;eber >"ostonA "eaon Press, 199(?, p& 49&
4& Mihael 3hneider, *eurosis and Ci$ili%ation2 " !arxist<reudian Synthesis,
trans& Mihael -olo%% >5e! 6orkA *ri@en, 1994?& 1lso o% interest is -eimut
-eihe, Sexuality and Class Struggle, trans& 3usan "ennett >,ondonA 5e! ,e%t
"ooks, 199(?&
4& The History of Sexuality, $ol0 4, "n #ntroduction, trans& -obert 8urley >5e!
6orkA Pantheon, 1998?& )he Frenh title is Histoire de la sexualit,, 4, La
3olont, de sa$oir >ParisA <allimard, 1997?&
7& For interesting ommentaries on Fouault see 'd!ard 3aid, Beginnings2
#ntention and !ethod >"altimoreA 0ohns 8opkins *ni2ersity Press, 1994? and
=)he Problem o% )e$tualityA )!o '$emplary Positions=, Critical #n)uiry 4, 5o&
4 >3ummer, 1998?, pp& 793:914F Ca2id Carroll, =)he 3ubDet o% 1rhaeology,
or the 3o2ereignty o% the 'pistKme=,!odern Language *otes 5o& 93 >1998?,
pp& 794:922F and 8ayden ;hite, Fouault Ce:oded=, History and Theory12,
5o& 1 >199 1?, pp& 23:44&
9& <illes Celeu@e and Feli$ <uattari, L?"nti.&edipe2 Capitalisme et
schi%ophr,nie >ParisA 'ditions de Minuit, 1992?&
8& )he 8istory o% 3e$uality, p& 81&
9& 3ee Mark Poster, Critical Theory of the amily >5e! 6orkA 3eabury, 1998? %or
a %urther disussion o% the position o% Celeu@e and <uattari&
1(& The History of Sexuality, pp& 1(1:2&
11& /bid&, p& 93&
12& 5orbert 'lias, The Ci$ili%ation Process >5e! 6orkA *ri@en, 1998?&
13& Discipline and Punish
14& 3tephen +ern, ='$plosi2e /ntimayA Psyhodynamis o% the Eitorian
Family=, History of Childhood +uarterly 1, 5o& 3 >1994?, pp& 439:72&
14& For e$amples o% this disourse, see -ene 1& 3pit@, =1uthority and
Masturbation=& Psychoanalytic +uarterly, 5o& 21 >1942?, pp& 9(:429&
17& The History of Sexuality, pp& 122:4&
19& 0aBues Con@elot, The Policing of amilies, trans& -obert 8urley >5e! 6orkA
Pantheon, 1999, Frenh edition 1999?&
18& The History of Sexuality, p& 93&
19& -eently areA Eolume 2, L?1sage des plaisirs >ParisA <allimard, 1984?, on
<reek and -oman se$ualityF Eolume 3, Le Souci de soi >ParisA <allimard,
1984?, on early Christianity and the on%essionalF and a separate olletion o%
essays, entitled Les "$eux de la chair >ParisA <allimard, 1984?, on the
tehnology o% the sel% in the %irst t!o enturies 1C&
2(& #% these / ha2e onsulted =*sage des plaisirs et tehniBues de soi=, Le D,bat, 29
>5o2ember, 1983?, pp& 47:92 !hih is presented as the =general introdution= to
the ne$t three 2olumesF =,e Combat de la hastetJ= Communications, 34
>1982?, pp& 14:24, introdued as =an e$trat= %rom Eolume 3 >/ am indebted to
0udy Fiskin %or alling my attention to this piee?F =)he 8istory o% 3e$ualityA
/nter:2ie!= !ith "ernard:8enri ,e2y, trans& in &xford Literary Re$ie(, Eol& 4,
5o& 2 >198(?, pp& 3:14F and =8o! ;e "eha2e=, inter2ie! !ith 8ubert Crey%us
and Paul -abino! in Eanity Fair >5o2ember, 1983?, pp& 71:9, !hih appears
as part o% the promotional ati2ities assoiated !ith the appearane o% the ne!
2olumes& / also obtained tapes o% t!o talks by FouaultA =3e$uality and
3olitude=, 5e! 6ork *ni2ersity >5o2ember, 198(? and =)he "irth o%
"iophysis=, Prineton *ni2ersity >5o2ember, 198(?&
21& =8o! ;e "eha2e=, p& 74&
22& /bid&
23& =,e Combat de la hastetJ, p& 19&
24& /bid&, p& 23&
24& =8o! ;e "eha2e=, p& 79&

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful