Sneven Best The Politics of Historical Vision: Marx, Foucault, Habermas





Is it not necessary to draw a line between those who believe that we can continue to situate our present discontinuities within the historical and transcendental tradition of the nineteenth century and those who are making a great effort to liberate themselves, once and for all, from this conceptual framework?

—FOUCAULT (1977:120)

After Marx's death in 1883, the complexities and tensions of his works were resolved into a dogmatic and mechanistic science. Beginning with Engels' Dialectics of Nature, written between 1872 and 1882, and continuing through the Second International and Soviet Marxism in the 1920s and 1930s, Marxism became a universalist and monistic method. In the form of "dialectical materialism," Marx's work was transformed into a positivistic and teleological science of history that erased social complexity and causal contingency and promised the global victory of communism. Marx's emphasis on the need for a mature and independent proletariat was completely lost in the bureaucratic command of workers by the Vanguard Party. Rather than assisting workers in the abolition of classes, intellectuals established themselves as a new ruling class over workers and peasants.

There was a strong reaction against these developments, however, as "Western" Marxists emphasized the critical over the scientific aspects of Marxism (see Gouldner 1980). Beginning in the early 1920s, Lukacs, Korsch, Gramsci, and members of the Frankfurt School tried to recover Marx's emphases on the importance of alienation, political consciousness, the practical will, and the critique of ideology. Against the bogus guarantees of teleological Marxism, their analyses stressed the importance of critical consciousness in directing social change. Yet when the development of capitalist forces of production led to greater forms of domination rather than to liberation, Marx's enthusiastic support of science and technology gave way to the Frankfurt School critique of instrumental and technical reason. When socialism failed to distinguish itself from barbarism and "the contradictions of capitalism" failed to "unfold," pessimism paralyzed the practical will and blinded emancipatory political vision.

In France, Marxism did not become an influential discourse until the 1930s and it arrived in fairly orthodox form (see Poster 1975; Kelly 1982). For the next three decades, stimulated by a revival of Hegel through the work of Hyppolite, Kojeve, and others, Marxism was the dominant theoretical framework for French intellectuals, rivaled only by existential phenomenology. By the late 1950s, however, structuralism and (Lacanian) psychoanalysis had emerged to pose strong challenges to both of these theories. The belief of existential phenomenology in a unified subject at the center of human experience was overpowered by new arguments that the subject was produced as an effect of linguistic structures and the unconscious. At the height of the structuralist influence in the 1960s, Althusser championed Marxism as the science of history, Sartre abandoned his radical individualist outlook to proclaim Marxism the "unsurpassable philosophy of our time," and there were numerous attempts to merge Marxism with existentialism, feminism, and psychoanalysis.

Simultaneously, however, other movements were developing that led a new generation of French intellectuals away from Marxism altogether. Nietzsche had replaced Marx as the master thinker, and attention shifted from modes of production to systems of power. In the 1960s Deleuze, Derrida, and others rejected dialectics as a totalizing methodology and sought new philosophies of difference that emphasized the irreducibility of the singular and the multiple apart from any identity, system, or whole. Beginning in the mid 1950s, an unknown theorist named Michel Foucault was also beginning a path of study that would lead him out of the Marxist orbit, away from dialectics and humanism, toward original analyses of discourse and power that would make him arguably the most important French intellectual since Sartre.

Foucault's works have been extremely influential in all fields of contemporary criticism, inspiring not only the "new historicism," but also innovative research in the areas of the family, sexuality, social regulation, education, prisons, law, and the state. In a series of historical studies on madness and psychiatry, illness and medicine, the human sciences, prisons and punishment, sexuality, and ethics, Foucault redefined the nature of social theory by calling into question conventional assumptions concerning the Enlightenment, Marxism, rationality, subjectivity, power, truth, history, and the political role of the intellectual, Foucault breaks with universalist, foundationalist, dialectical, and normative standpoints and emphasizes principles of contingency, difference, and discontinuity. Adopting a nominalist stance, he dissolves abstract essences and universals such as Reason, History, Truth, or Right into a plurality of specific sociohistorical forms. He challenges traditional disciplinary boundaries between philosophy, history, psychology, and social and political theory, as well as conventional approaches to these fields. He does not do "theory" in the modern sense, which aims at clarity, consistency, comprehensiveness, objectivity, and truth; rather, he offers fragments, "fictions," "truth-games," "heterotopias," "tools," and "experiments" that he hopes will prompt his readers to think and act in new ways. Trying to blaze new intellectual and political trails, Foucault abandons both liberalism and Marxism and seeks a new kind of critical theory and politics.

This does not preclude certain similarities with Marx. Long before Foucault, Marx placed great emphasis on the importance of research and erudition to inform radical vision. In his long hours in the British Museum, Marx established his genealogical pedigree by drawing on the government's Blue Books, which were rife with factual material on British industry, trade, finance, and working-class life. Like Marx, Foucault rejects the positivist search for universal laws of history, and he seeks to reveal the historical and political forces constituting phenomena understood as given or eternal. Foucault also works to recover the importance of the "event," of points of historical specificity and rupture, while simultaneously grasping significant lines of continuity throughout history. Foucault follows Marx in rejecting idealist theories that see history as the development of thought or the expression of universal essences. Like Marx, Foucault believes that consciousness and intentionality are derivative of material and social forces, although he minimizes the role of agency far more than Marx.

Early in his academic career, Foucault, like many French intellectuals, was considerably influenced by Marxism. Believing Marxist theory to be fundamentally sound, Foucault joined the Communist Party in 1950. This decision was the result of his disagreement with French involvement in the Indochina war and the influence of his Marxist friend and teacher, Louis Althusser. Foucault was not actively involved in meetings or activities, however, and left the Party in 1953 in part because of its contempt for homosexuality (Eribon 1991) and his disgust with its fabrication of a plot to kill Stalin (Foucault 1991:52-53). At this time Foucault was immersed in the study and practice of psychology and initially pursued this research from a Marxist perspective. His first book, Mental Illness and Psychology, was heavily influenced by Marxist humanism and spoke frequently of class, contradiction, alienation, and the social context of illness and madness.

But new influences came into Foucault's life in the early 1950s with the reading of Bataille, Blanchot, and Nietzsche. He took leave of Marxism in 1955 and edited Marxist references out of his book in subsequent revisions. By 1963, Foucault concluded that Marxism was a reductionistic discourse unable to analyze key forms of human experience such as sexuality and desire, and was a derivative by-product of bourgeois political economy. In the early 1970s, Foucault made a temporary alliance with French Maoists and preached revolutionary rhetoric, but in the late 1970s, he became a fervent anticommunist and embraced "New French Philosophers" such as Andre Glucksmann who saw direct links between Marxism and totalitarianism. At the same time, Foucault began work on a noneconomistic analysis of power that he felt was disallowed by the Marxist point of view. Foucault continued to employ some Marxian economic categories, as is clear in major works from this period like Discipline and Punish, but he made a decisive break from Marx's method, politics, and modes of critique.

Foucault and Marx assail forces of domination in the present and envisage the possibility of future freedom, but their visions of this future are completely different. Instead of Marx's modified linear pattern of progress that traces a coherent movement of freedom through various modes of production, Foucault sees a cyclical pattern of successive forms of power and violence that lead to ever greater forms of domination. Although both Marx and Foucault foresee a future where individuals can be free of domination, Foucault does not share Marx's vision of a communal harmony of associated producers; rather, Foucault adopts an individualist vision of persons free from all social norms, which he equates with social constraints, and champions a creative differentiation of selves from one another. Instead of Marx's dialectical notion of the social individual, Foucault merges Nietzsche's notion of the higher type with Bataille's philosophy of excess to exalt the model of a Dionysian hero exploring the intensity of "limit experiences" (sexuality, death, madness, and crime) through the creation of new pleasures, bodies, and identities beyond the "good and evil" of conventional morality. Ultimately, Foucault's vision of history is not a Hegelian vision of continuity, progress, reconciliation, and social freedom, but a Nietzschean vision that denies progressive tendencies in history and advocates the proliferation of unreconciled differences, the aesthetic transformation of the self, and a rupture with the trajectories of Western history.

In this chapter I assess Foucault's vision of history and the methods of historical writing and social analysis that he calls "archaeology" and "genealogy." I counterpose these methods to other approachs to history, including structuralism, positivism, the history of ideas, and Marxism. I examine the claims both of Foucault's detractors, who assail him for factual errors, unwarranted generalizations, and problematic textual interpretations and periodization schemes, and his apologists, who argue that he is producing a new kind of history whose function transcends modern concerns for truth and factual accuracy. I attempt to describe Foucault's work in terms of its continuities and discontinuities in its different stages of development. I argue that despite his shifts in method, emphasis, and style, there is an overall unity and coherence to his work in terms of its critique of modernity and its search for transgressive experiences that break free of coercive norms and identities. Despite his critical stance toward key modern concepts, values, and methods, I argue that Foucault retains important aspects of modern historiography and social theory and therefore cannot unqualifiably be read as a "postmodernist."1 Rather, Foucault produces a new kind of critical theory that is somewhere between the modern and postmodern, that reworks certain modern elements in a postmodern framework. Within this new context, Foucault emphasizes principles of difference and discontinuity; rejects the optimistic and rationalistic aspects of Enlightenment thought; breaks from humanism, transcendentalism, and progressivist and utopian visions of history; and adopts an aloof posture in relation to normative language, truth, and their principles of justification. Here, and in Chapter 4, I assess the validity of Foucault's critique of Marx and ask what is gained and lost in his new form of critical theory.


In his introduction to Canguilhem's The Normal and the Pathological, Foucault claims that there has been a fundamental division within French philosophy that begins in the nineteenth century and runs throughout the twentieth century, a division between a "philosophy of experience, of sense and of the subject, and a philosophy of knowledge, of rationality, and of concept" (1989b:8). On the former side, Foucault places existential phenomenology and figures like Sartre and Merleu-Ponty; on the latter side he situates the history and philosophy of science, and figures like Cavailles, Koyre, Bachelard, and Canguilhem. Foucault was certainly knowledgeable of the former tradition; indeed, one finds strong influences of existentialism (in particular, Heidegger) in his early works on madness and mental illness (see Gutting 1989). Yet his main intellectual influences stem from the history and philosophy of science. While numerous intellectuals were experimenting with structuralist-Freudian-Marxist syntheses, Foucault notes, others "did not follow this movement. I am thinking of those who were interested in the history of science—an important tradition in France, probably since the time of Comte. [This tradition formed especially] around Canguilhem, an extremely influential figure in the French university. . Many of his students were neither Marxists, nor Freudians, nor structuralists. And here I am speaking of myself' (1988d: 22).

Foucault was primarily interested in philosophers and historians of science insofar as their works, along with Nietzsche's, helped to develop a critical analysis of modern forms of rationality. In France, as Foucault observes (1988d:26), the critique of rationality was developed not through the work of Weber and the Frankfurt School, very little-known figures at that time, but rather through French theorists of science. Foucault notes that the work of Koyre, Bachelard, Canguilhem, and others helped to challenge "a rationality which makes universal claims while developing in contingency" (1989b:12). Their work analyzes "a reason whose autonomy of structures carries with itself the history of dogmatisms and despotisms— a reason which, consequently, has the effect of emancipation only on the condition that it succeeds in freeing itself of itself" (12).

For Foucault, the most important figure from this tradition was the historian of science, Georges Canguilhem, supervisor of his doctorat d'etat, Folie et deraison (condensed and translated as Madness and Civilization). Canguilhem's work in turn was decisively influenced by Gaston Bachelard, a philosopher of science.2 Bachelard believed that the best way to analyze reason was through a historical reflection on the nature of scientific rationality. He rejected the concept of unified scientific rationality and argued that science is constituted by different "regions of rationality." Bachelard did not altogether reject the concept of scientific progress, but he did renounce the prevailing view that progress is attained through a steady, continuous accumulation of knowledge towards truth, and instead emphasized that scientific knowledge develops through "epistemological breaks." For Bachelard, truth was not a Platonic form or Cartesian idea that sufficiently clear reason could attain, but rather a pragmatic outcome negotiated within a scientific community. The emergence of a new field of scientific knowledge is prevented by what Bachelard terms "epistemological obstacles," a set of unconscious and habitual resistances to theoretical change.

With Bachelard, Canguilhem emphasized the historical nature of rationality and its discontinuous development. Canguilhem, however, shifted focus from physics and chemistry to biology and medicine and emphasized that there are also important continuities between different forms of knowledge. Undertaking a history of scientific concepts, he argued that these were "theoretically polyvalent" and that the same concepts can mean different things in different theories, He also developed an analysis of science as a normative discipline and theorized scientific accounts of norms and the normal.

Like Bachelard, Foucault holds that rationality is historical in nature, that general theories of knowledge must be abandoned in favor of specific and regional theory, and that knowledge develops in discontinuous forms and is theory laden in character. Foucault also accepts many of Canguilhem's critiques of Bachelard, however—in particular the view that there are continuities as well as discontinuities between different historical forms of knowledge. Like Canguilhem, Foucault theorizes how use of the same concept can mask different underlying epistemological assumptions, and Canguilhem's concern with the distinction between the normal and abnormal in science became central to Foucault's critique of the human sciences.

Yet Foucault also transforms the work of Bachelard and Canguilhem in important ways. Like them, Foucault is interested in the historical constitution of objects of knowledge, but he shifts the focus of inquiry in three significant ways. First, where they concentrated on well-defined fields of formal science such as physics, chemistry, and biology, Foucault examines nonformal fields, the domain of the human sciences that study the human subject as a living, laboring, and speaking being. Foucault theorizes what Ian Hacking (1979) has termed the "immature sciences" in an attempt to show they too have a coherent empirical order (see Foucault 1973b: ix). Second, following Nietzsche, Foucault shifts focus from the history of rationality to the history of truth and its relation to discourse and knowledge (Foucault 1991:62).

Finally, Foucault reorients research from the ways in which scientific objects are constituted to the ways in which human beings are constituted as subjects of knowledge, insofar as they themselves become objects of knowledge and receive moral and psychological identities through scientific discourse. In Foucault's words, "While historians of science in France were interested essentially in the problem of how a scientific object is constituted, the question I asked myself was this: how is it that the human subject took itself as the object of possible knowledge? Through what forms of rationality and historical conditions? And finally at what price?" (1988d: 29-30). By coming to know phenomena such as madness or economics, for example, Western societies have also constituted the rational subject. Through the influence of Bataille, Foucault analyzes this as a process of reducing limit experiences such as madness or sexuality into controlled objects of knowledge. Here, "the themes of Georges Bataille may be recognized, reconsidered from the point of view of a collective history, that of the West and its knowledge. The relationship between limit-experiences and the history of truth: I am more or less wrapped up in this tangle of problems" (Foucault 1991:71).

By theorizing the connections between knowledge, truth, and power, as they emerged in the domain of the human sciences and are bound up with constitution of individuals as distinct kinds of subjects, Foucault transforms the history of science and reason, along with the concern for limit experiences, into a political critique of modernity and its various modes of power that assume the form of "normalization" or "subjectification." Foucault holds to the Nietzschean view that to be a "subject"—that is, to have a unified and coherent identity—is to be "subjugated" by social powers. This occurs through a "deployment" of discourse that divides, excludes, classifies, hierarchizes, confines, and normalizes. Hence, toward the end of his career, Foucault declares that his ultimate project has been not so much to study power, but rather the subject itself: "the goal of my work...has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our [Western] culture, human beings are made subjects" (1982a:208). But this is a misleading distinction that signals merely a shift in emphasis rather than approach, since subjectification is the means through which modern power operates. In a series of historico-theoretical studies, Foucault analyzes the formation of the modern subject from the perspectives of psychiatry, medicine, criminology, and sexuality, whereby limit experiences are transformed into objects of knowledge.

Foucault's works are strongly influenced by an anti-Enlightenment tradition that rejects the equation of reason, emancipation, and progress. Foucault argues that an interface between modern forms of power and knowledge has served to create new forms of domination. With thinkers like Sade, Nietzsche, and Bataille, Foucault valorizes transgressive forms of experience such as madness, violence, or sexuality that break from the prison of rationality. Where modern societies "problematize" such forms of experience—that is, turn them into governmental problems, into areas of life in need of control and regulation—Foucault in turn problematizes social problematizations by uncovering their political motivations and effects and by challenging their character as natural, necessary, or timeless.3 In what he calls a "diagnostic critique" that combines philosophy and history (1989a:38-39, 73), Foucault attempts to clarify the nature of the present historical era, to underline its radical difference from preceding eras, and to show that contemporary forms of knowledge, rationality, social institutions, and subjectivity are contingent sociohistorical constructs of power and domination, and thus are subject to change and modification.

Foucault's ultimate task, therefore, is "to produce a shift in thought so that things can really change" (quoted in O'Farrell 1989:39). The goal of Foucault's historico-philosophical studies, as he later came to define it, is to show how different domains of modern knowledge and practice constrain human action and how they can be transformed by alternative forms of knowledge and practice in the service of human freedom. Foucault is concerned, above all, to analyze various forms of the "limit experience" by which society attempts to define and circumscribe the boundaries of legitimate thought and action. The political vision informing Foucault's work foresees individuals liberated from coercive social norms, transgressing all limits to experience and transvaluing values, going beyond good and evil to promote their own creative lifestyles and affirm their bodies and pleasures, endlessly creating and recreating themselves.

In his periodization schemes, Foucault distinguishes between two post-Renaissance eras: the "classical" era (1660-1800) and the "modern" era (1800-1950). In his early and middle works, he gives very little analysis to the Renaissance and even less to the "post-modern" era that he suggests is presently forming, concentrating on the classical and modern eras. Foucault sees the classical era as inaugurating an intense mode of domination over human beings that culminates in the modern era.

Foucault analyzes "modernity"—a term I use to refer to both the classical and modern eras as represented by Foucault—from various standpoints and different methodological perspectives.4 Rejecting the concept of synchronic totality, the idea that society is a unified whole, Foucault examines the classical and modern eras from the standpoints of their key institutions. While each institutional optic is unique, the separate analyses have a general coherence insofar as all are concerned with a critique of reason and the different ways in which individuals are constituted as subjects. Moreover, like Nietzsche, Foucault rejects the philosophical pretension to systematically grasp all of reality within one philosophical system or from one central vantage point. Foucault believes that discourse "is so complex a reality that we not only can, but should, approach it at different levels with different methods" (1973b:xiv).

No single theory or method of interpretation by itself can grasp the plurality of discourses, institutions, and modes of power that constitute modern society, and Foucault's belief is that methods which break with the totalizing assumptions of modern theory are needed to analyze properly the complex nature of discourse, history, and social reality. As I demonstrate below, Foucault inititally focuses on knowledges and discourses (archaeology), then institutional practices (genealogy). Realizing that both perspectives are inadequate insofar as they deny the subject any powers of agency, he adopts a third perspective that analyzes ways in which subjects can constitute themselves (ethics and technologies of the self).5 Each particular approach informs the other and all interrelate in his later works.


What one is seeing. is the emergence of a whole field of questions, some of which are already familiar, by which this new form of history is trying to develop its own theory.

—FOUCAULT (1972:5)

Beginning with Madness and Civilization, Foucault characterizes his position as an "archaeology of knowledge" that seeks a "mapping of the enunciative field" (1972:131), of different forms of discourse and knowledge. He rejects the idealist version of discourse theory and insists that discourse is inseparable from practices and institutional settings. Discourse "is a complex, differentiated practice, governed by analysable rules and transformations" (211). As we have seen, this archaeological approach draws from recent developments in the philosophy and history of science, such as developed by Canguilhem and Bachelard, and, as I show, it is sharply differentiated from other historical methods such as positivism, Marxism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, structuralism, and the history of ideas.6

Foucault's archaeological approach is suggested in his first major work, Madness and Civilization (1973a, orig. 1961), where he attempts to grasp madness as a discursive construct bound up with institutional practices of isolation and confinement. In his next book, The Birth of the Clinic (1975, orig. 1963), he analyzes the formation of modern medical discourse and how it objectifies the body through the scientific gaze. Next, in The Order of Things (1973b, orig. 1966), he studies the discursive foundations of the human sciences as they developed throughout the Renaissance, classical, and modern eras. Finally, in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972, orig. 1969), he pauses for an autocritique and a methodological reflection on his past books before abandoning the purely archaeological stage of his work altogether.

In the Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault aligns his work with new historiographical trends. Throughout this book we find Foucault trying to overcome the dogmatic slumbers of conventional theorizing, attempting to tear away the veils of theoretical self-evidence of modern historical concepts in order to free the methodological problems they hide. His main task is to employ a "systematic erasure of all given unities" of discourse (1972:28), of terms such as author, text, oeuvre, and period. In the opening pages, Foucault describes the different methods, categories, and problems that characterize the "epistemological mutation of history" (11) within which he is operating. He rejects core concepts of modern social theory and historiography—subject, origin, continuity, teleology, causality, change, period, and totality—and attempts to reconstruct some of these while employing an idiosyncratic vocabulary that includes terms such as "statement," "positivity," and "discursive formation."

Unlike Hoy (1988), who claims that Foucault in his archaeological period is still a modern theorist, and does not become a postmodern theorist until his genealogical stage, my argument is that there are already salient postmodern elements present in the archaeological stage, and these are especially pronounced in The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge. The main methodological moves of archaeology, its attack on metaphysical cornerstones of modern theory and its countervalorization of difference and discontinuity, are clear postmodern moves. Moreover, in this stage of his work, Foucault marks a rupture in history that is the end of the modern era and the beginning of a new postmodern era within which he unambiguously situates his own work (see below).

A major goal of Foucault's historiography is to complicate modern accounts of society and history, which he considers to be simplistic and reductionistic. Discourse is a "highly complex domain" (1972:146) and must be described in its various relations, interdependencies, and forms of difference and dispersion. This complication allows the historian to liberate the differences and discontinuities of discourse that are suppressed in totalizing modern theories through concepts such as subject, influence, originality, spirit, and worldview. "These pre-existing forms of continuity, all these syntheses that are accepted without question, must remain in suspense.we must show that they do not come about of themselves, but are always the result of a construction of rules of which must be known, and the justifications of which must be scrutinized" (25). As Foucault demonstrates most clearly in The Order of Things, these rules of formation of discourse emerge in the modern era, and the possibility of their critique and supersession opens up in a new postmodern space that Foucault tries to operate in and describe.

The metaphor of archaeology suggests that Foucault is attempting an excavation of knowledge, a search for its underlying conditions and determinants. As an archaeologist of Western culture, Foucault seeks to identify the fundamental codes of discourse and knowledge as they emerge and develop historically. For a structuralist like Levi-Strauss, human speech and action is transhistorically determined by the same unconscious rules of language; all forms of cultural production are merely variations of an unchanging set of linguistic rules. Structuralists analyze language as a structure, a coherent whole of interrelating parts, that is governed by rules of intelligibility. Archaeology follows structuralism in the search for underlying rules of human thought and knowledge. Like structuralists, Foucault rejects the phenomenological theory of the subject as a conscious originator of meaning and claims that the subject is determined in and through language. The subject does not stand at the center of language synthesizing its various linguistic acts; rather, it is dispersed throughout its various modes of speaking.

Consequently, a major goal of archaeology is to free the history of thought from the problematic of subjectivity, "to define a method of analysis freed of all anthropologism" (1972:16). Discourse is not the product of a founding, transcendental subject (Descartes, Kant, Fichte, Husserl), or even an expression of a collective consciousness (Durkheim), but rather emerges from an unconscious, anonymous system of rules that determine subjective consciousness. Foucault rejects the transcendental standpoint that appeals to universal structures of experience discerned by and grounded in a subject that constitutes meaning. The goal of archaeology is to cleanse history of all "transcendental narcissism" (203). Archaeology attempts "to explore scientific discourse not from the point of view of the individuals who are speaking, nor from the point of view of the formal structures of what they are saying, but from the point of view of the rules that come into play in the very existence of such discourse. the historical analysis of scientific discourse should, in the last resort, be subject, not to a theory of the knowing subject, but rather to a theory of discursive practice" (Foucault 1973b:xiv). By knocking out the constituting subject as the origin of discourse, one can analyze discourse on its own terms, in its real complexity, as it develops unevenly on multiple levels apart from any unifying operations of a transcendental consciousness.

Thus, archaeology seeks to identify the conditions of possibility of knowledge, the determining "rules of formation" of discursive rationality (discursive objects, concepts, statements, themes, and theories) that operate beneath the level of "thematic content" and subjective awareness and intention. These rules form the "positive unconscious" of all knowledge, perception, and truth. They are "the fundamental codes of a culture— those determining its language, its schemes of perception, its exchanges, its techniques, its values, the hierarchy of its practices" (Foucault 1973a: xx). As such, they constitute a whole epistemological field, what Foucault has called an "episteme" "discursive formation," or "discursive practice" (a term that serves to emphasize the imbrication of words and things, speech and action). As Foucault says, "It is these rules of formation, which were never formulated in their own right, but are to be found only in widely differing theories, concepts, and objects of study, that I have tried to reveal, by isolating, as their specific locus, a level that I have called. archaeological" (1973b:xi).

Clearly, archaeology is antithetical to the idealism of a Collingwood who sees history as the outcome of conscious action and historiography as the reenactment of past thought. But it is opposed even to the materialist approach of Marx; where Marx claims that "circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances" (Marx and Engels 1978: 165), Foucault resolves this dialectic into an unqualified determinism that denies agency altogether. Archaeology is also opposed to "commentary," a hermeneutics that seeks "to uncover the deeper meaning of speech" based on the assumption that there is an implicit meaning not explicitly expressed in statements and is rooted in subjective intention. Archaeology abandons a hermeneutic analysis of the meaning of texts for a quasi-structural analysis of the codes underlying thought and speech.

But archaeology is "neither formalizing nor interpretive" (Foucault 1972: 135), neither structuralist nor hermeneutical, but "beyond" both (see Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982). Archaeology differs from structuralism of the Levi-Straussian kind in its rejection of a universal, transhistorical unconscious rooted in human nature. Archaeology holds that the rules of discursive formation undergo dramatic changes in different historical periods, creating fundamentally different epistemic conditions. Hence, Foucault calls these rules the "historical a priori" of a given culture. Archaeology proceeds from the assumption that discourses and their objects are not ideal essences (Levi-Strauss) or informed by pregiven, unchangeable rules of grammar (Chomsky), but rather are determined by historical forces. The "a priori" of discourse can be understood in the

Kantian sense of the conditions of possibility of discourse, with the qualification that these conditions are not universal and immutable, but rather are historical and transitory.

Where some versions of structuralism privilege the synchronic over diachronic aspect of discourse, Foucault analyzes both synchronic and diachronic dimensions. At any given time, discourse has a synchronic coherence or "positivity" that allows the archaeologist to identify its governing rules, yet positivities change and mutate. The emphasis on diachrony means that archaeology is not simply another formal and ahistorical form of structuralism, as Sartre and others have charged.7 While Foucault gives credit to traditional historians of ideas for their efforts to account for changes in conceptual fields, he breaks with their use of linear models that analyze change in terms of an evolving continuity of ideas and renounces the use of categories such as origin, influence, and progress. If he is killing history, Foucault would say, it is the History of the philosophers informed by vast continuities and the myths of emerging freedom. For Foucault, change in configurations of knowledge does not involve a steady accumulation of knowledge or the gradual progress of truth or reason, but rather a sudden and abrupt shift in the way the world is understood. Discontinuity refers to the fact that in a transition from one discursive formation or historical era to another "things are no longer perceived, described, expressed, characterized, classified, and known in the same way" (Foucault 1973b:217). The shift from the tolerance of madness in the Renaissance to its confinement in the classical era is an example of such a break.

Thus, in defiance of the norms of modern historiography, archaeology does not see discontinuity as a blight on the historical narrative signaling a failure to find underlying continuities linking historical events; rather, for the "new history," discontinuity is a positive working concept necessary to identify real discursive ruptures. Yet archaeology does not simply reject continuity in favor of discontinuity, for it analyzes historical transformations at both levels:

To say that one discursive formation is substituted for another is not to say that a whole world of absolutely new objects, enunciations, concepts, and theoretical choices emerges fully armed and fully organized in a text that will place that world once and for all; it is to say that a general transformation of relations has occured, but that it does not necessarily alter all the elements; it is to say that all objects or concepts, all enunciations or all theoretical choices disappear. On the contrary, one can, on the basis of these new rules, describe and analyze phenomena of continuity, return, and repetition. One of these elements—or several of them—may remain identical (preserve the same division, the same characteristics, the same structures), yet

belong to different systems of dispersion, and be governed by distinct

laws of formation. (Foucault 1972:173)

Thus, archaeology does not deny continuity, it complicates it by analyzing it in a dialectic with discontinuity, an approach, I have argued (see Introduction), that must be employed to understand the discourse of the postmodern. It is because of this qualified, dialectical position that Foucault has rejected the label of "philosopher of discontinuity" (1988d: 99-100).

Foucault opposes his new concept of a "general history" to the traditional concept of a "total history." He summarizes the difference in this way: "A total description draws all phenomena around a single centre —a principle, a meaning, a spirit, a world-view, an overall shape; a general history, on the contrary, would deploy the space of a dispersion" (1972: 10).8 For Foucault, evolutionary history attains its narrative totalizations through the construction of illegitimate abstractions. Beneath these abstractions are complex relations and interrelations, a shifting plurality of decentered, individualized series of discourses, unable to be reduced to a single law, model, unity, or vertical arrangement. Hence, the goal of this postmodern historiography is to break up the conceptual unities of modern historiography "and then see whether they can be legitimately reaffirmed; or whether other groupings should be made" (26). The potential result of such detotalizing moves is that "an entire field is set free"— the field of discursive formations, complex systems of difference and dispersion that can be analyzed apart from totalizing prejudices.

The task of archaeology is "to make differences: to constitute them as objects, to analyze them, and to define their concept" (205). But archaeology is not a radical anarchism that dissolves all previous unities into a random, chaotic flux without any pattern, order, or intelligibility. If archaeology calls into question modern unities and totalities, it is to reconstruct them in a more concrete and differentiated form.

Hence, while Foucault attempts to map discourse in its actual complexity and heterogeneity, he also finds an underlying unity of different groups of statements. His oxymoronic characterization of a discursive formation as a "system of dispersion" suggests that he is not pulverizing discourse into a chaotic flux of unrelated fragments, but rather is analyzing a dialectic of discursive difference and identity. For Foucault, the unity of discourse is not to be found at the surface level of concepts or themes, for similar concepts and themes can be informed by quite different assumptions, but rather at the archaeological level of constituting rules. In the classical era, for example, the disciplines of medicine, natural history, and general grammar are constituted by the same underlying rules; one basic discursive system governs the dispersion of different kinds of statements in different fields.

Where, typically, the unity of discourse is related to what is given to the speaking subject, Foucault decenters the subject and finds unity in an anonymous, prereflexive system of rules that are immanent in a practice and define its specific nature. While a given discursive formation is comprised of various discourses that can be described only in their particular domains, at the archaeological level these domains can be related to one another and be found to share the same underlying conditions. But this unity is not to be confused with an abstract totality: "The horizon of not a science, a rationality, a mentality, a culture; it is a tangle of interpositivities whose limits and points of intersection cannot be fixed in a single operation. Archaeology is a comparative analysis that is not intended to reduce the diversity of discourses, and to outline the unity that must totalize them, but is intended to divide up their diversity into different figures" (1972:160).

Thus, archaeology rejects traditional concepts of "period" and "change," substituting for them new concepts of "episteme" and "transformation." Synchronically, archaeology attempts to establish the dialectic of difference and unity within a given discursive formation and its system of dispersion; diachronically, archaeology attempts to establish discontinuity and multiple, evenly developing levels of change. Different discourses within the same positivity change at different rates.

While archaeology analyzes the transformations from one discursive formation to another, it does not "explain" the forces behind such changes. This move is opposed, first, to positivist attempts to subsume diverse events under invariant universal laws. Second, it rejects the hermeneutic attempt to discover hidden forces of history and focuses instead on shifting discursive fields. But the shift away from explanation is mainly directed against Marxism. Archaeology avoids both an idealist "symbolic analysis" that analyzes discursive practices solely in terms of linguistic expression and communication, and a Marxist "causal analysis" that analyzes the determination of consciousness by political and economic events.

Foucault does not reject causal analysis; rather, he "suspends" it (1972: 164), postponing it for work he considers more fundamental. Archaeology seeks "forms of articulation" between discursive and nondiscursive systems. The rules of formation are to be mapped first; then one can explore the "positivities" these form, their imbrication with nondiscursive elements, and the effects these have on discourse. Archaeology wishes to show, for example, not how political practice determines the meaning of medical discourse, a typical Marxist approach, but how medical discourse is a practice bound up with a specific field of objects, a particular group of individuals, and which exercises distinctly political functions in society (1972: 163-164).

The thrust of Foucault's displacement of causal analysis is to establish "the autonomy of discourse" (1972:163) far beyond what he thinks Marxism allows. Archaeology refuses to see discourse either as the direct surface on which expressive symbolic projections are written or as the mechanical effect of social processes. The concept of discursive practice breaks down Marx's base/superstructure distinction by showing that discourse is always already articulated with practices and that practices are informed by discursive rules. Foucault's approach is similar to Sahlin's (1976), who argues that the economic level of society is inseparable from culture, since "production" is always constituted through a set of symbols and meanings and not merely an instrumental logic. While archaeology seeks to describe the autonomy of discourse, Foucault explicitly renounces idealism: archaeology "seeks to discover that whole domain of institutions, economic processes, and social relations on which a discursive formation can be articulated; it tries to show how the autonomy of discourse and its specificity nevertheless do not give it the status of pure ideality and total historical independence; what it wishes to uncover is the particular level in which history can give place to definite types of discourse, which have their own historicity, and which are related to a whole set of various historicities" (1972:164-165).


One finds the purest example of the archaeological focus on discourse (largely abstracted from institutions and practices) in The Order of Things. In this text, Foucault attempts to trace the emergence and development of the human sciences and the humanist-anthropological discourse of "Man." He describes the conceptual underpinnings of successive Western orders of knowledge in the Renaissance, classical, and modern eras, while signaling the end of the modern era. Through exposition of this text, I wish to show (1) what Foucault takes to be the archaeological conditions of modern discourse; (2) why he thinks Marx's work is continuous with, rather than a break from, the modern era; and (3) how Foucault anticipates the dawning of a new postmodern era in knowledge.

In the classical era, words and things were assumed to stand in a perfect, God-given correspondence and language was a translucent mirror of reality. All classical thought, not only the mathematical disciplines but also the various "purely empirical domains," attempted to provide an exhaustive systematization of the world. This was accomplished through the construction of ordered tables of identities and differences of all things as given to representation, through a mathesis universalis. The knowing subject grasped the totality of natural relations without itself figuring in the representing process as a representing subject or an object to be known.

At the end of the eighteenth century, this classical knowledge collapsed and gave way to the modern episteme. The modern era is characterized by a "profound upheaval" in thought whereby language, objects, and the human subject itself acquire an empirical and historical density. Where classical thought saw representation as a mere given, modern thought is preoccupied with the question of the origins and legitimacy of representation. In the modern framework, representation no longer involves the autonomous power of the mind to order reality according to analytic grids. The data of representation are now given to thought from sources outside of immediate consciousness, buried within the finite conditions of human existence, within the dimensions of its biological life, its productive activity, and its communicative processes. The static categories of the classical episteme are now overturned by the flow of time as Order gives way to History, which mediates all knowledge and experience. "History in this sense is not to be understood as the compilation of factual successions of sequences as they may have occured; it is the fundamental mode of being of empiricities" (Foucault 1973b:219). In the modern era, Foucault claims, the data of knowledge are understood to change, evolve, and have a historical origin and nature. Thus, the very presuppositions of Foucault's own discourse emerge here, and hence there are important modern elements in Foucault's "postmodern" discourse.

With its fall from a privileged place in the natural order of things into the depths of empirical facticity and temporality, the subject is transformed into "Man." Within the new "analytic of finitude," Man is understood as a finite and historically conditioned being, subject to the laws of biology, production, and language. Man is both the subject and object of knowledge, appearing in the epistemic space carved out by the new empirical sciences (biology, economics, and philology). Abandoning the field of classical representation, the empirical sciences, and the human sciences (psychology, sociology, and literature and myth) after them, "withdraw into the [empirical] depths of things and roll up upon themselves in accordance with the laws of life, production, and language" (1973b: 313).

Where the empirical sciences withdraw from the realm of representation altogether, not taking man as an object of study, philosophy and the human sciences take up the issue of representation in a new way, focusing on the conditions of possibility of representation as a form of knowledge and being. Both philosophy and the human sciences acknowledge that the subject is a constituted being, yet each believes it is also a constituting being who can overcome the limitations on its knowledge. To square this circle, each field takes a transcendental turn. The human sciences construct a transcendental theory of the object by claiming that it precedes the conditions of knowledge and provides the foundation for the unity of subjective representations. The human sciences see Man as empirically determined in its biological, economic, and linguistic nature, but it can grasp these laws and "subject them to total clarification" (1973b:310) through reflexive analysis.

Philosophy constructs a transcendental theory of the subject by claiming that the subject determines its relation to the object through a priori conditions of experience. Beginning with Kant, modern philosophy constitutes Man within a series of "doublets" that convert empirical constraints on knowledge into transcendental grounds of the possibility of knowing that are rooted in the subject's very being. These include the transcendental/empirical doublet, in which the empirical contents of knowledge speak of the conditions that make all knowledge possible; the cogito/unthought doublet, where the unconscious ground of all thought reveals itself to the conscious mind; and the doublet of retreat/return of the origin, in which the very history that precedes Man provides the pathway back to the origins of his nature.

For both philosophy and the human sciences, the immediacy and translucency of knowledge in the classical episteme gives way to the opacity and density of thought. All modern thought is preoccupied with the problem of the "unthought," whereby knowledge is gained only by grasping what eludes immediate consciousness. Philosophy seeks this unthought in a transcendental consciousness; the human sciences in a more distant region beyond the subject itself, in the realms of biological function, social conflict, and linguistic signification. Yet this epistemological deficit that threatens the certainty of knowledge and the supremacy of the knowing subject is annuled and transformed into an ontological asset. Man is the being whose limitations on its knowledge provide the basis for its total recuperation. Since Man is the experience given to himself, the labor whose law constrains him, and the subject of a language that determines him, he is "able to recover his integrity on the basis of what eludes him" (323). Thus, although the status of the subject as originator of knowledge becomes threatened in the new field of temporality and finitude, its sovereignty is maintained in its transcendental reconstitution. The goal of modern thought is to return the Other to the Same, to reconstruct the foundations of knowledge, in spite of history, and to recapture the identity of Man. The goal of a postmodern thought, conversely, would be to overthrow these fictions, to dissolve the subject into language, and to liberate history from metaphysical constraints.

For Foucault, Marx's works belong entirely to the modern era and are ensnared in its aporias. In contrast to Althusser and others who interpret Marx's later work as an "epistemological break" from both his earlier humanist works and bourgeois theory in general, Foucault sees Marx's ideas as wholly derivative of the modern episteme: "At the deepest level of

Western knowledge, Marxism introduced no real discontinuity: it found its place without difficulty. within an epistemological arrangement that welcomed it gladly.and that it, in return, had no intention of disturbing and, above all, no power to modify, even one jot, since it rested entirely upon it. Marxism exists in nineteenth century thought like a fish in water: that is, it is unable to breath anywhere else" (1973b:261-262). Foucault does not deny that Marxism stands in opposition to bourgeois economic theories, but he sees these disputes as family squabbles within the modern episteme and emphasizes the importance of their similarities over their differences. "Their controversies may have stirred up a few waves and caused a few surface ripples; but they are no more that storms in a children's paddling pool" (262).

Thus, it should be no surprise that Foucault's analysis of nineteenthcentury political economy takes up Ricardo rather than Marx, just as he foregoes explication of Darwin to focus instead on Cuvier. Marx's fundamental economic ideas, such as labor as the source of value or the primacy of production over circulation, were already anticipated by Ricardo, Smith, and others, and were possible only in the modern episteme. Ricardo, not Marx, first introduced historicity into economics, such that "The mode of being of economics is no longer linked to a simultaneous space of differences and identities, but to the time of successive productions" (1973b: 255). Ricardo and Marx each give different answers to the problem of the immobility of history that emerges in the nineteenth century. This theme arises as a result of what some perceived as a stabilization of eco nomic dynamics and the culmination of the sense of human finitude in modern capitalism (258-259). Where Ricardo pessimistically views history as moving gradually to a point of final stabilization, Marx optimistically sees an increase of crisis tendencies in capitalism that allow for its revolutionary transformation. Yet, Foucault regards these "options" as of no consequence, as nothing more than two different ways of combining history, economics, and anthropology, of voicing the fundamental themes of the modern era.

Thus, Foucault's deconstruction of Marx shows his thought to be bound to a framework it cannot reject, to be contaminated by the same conceptual elements as the theories he opposes, to be determined by the same linguistic rules. Consequently, Foucault claims that Marx's thought, like any other modern thinker, is fractured by the doublets of the modern episteme. Trying to negotiate the empirical and transcendental, Foucault claims, Marx acknowledges human finitude and historicity, but posits a human essence that stands beyond time and social conditioning; caught between the cogito and the unthought, Marx seeks to bring the unconscious forces determining thought into conscious awareness; split between the retreat and return of the origin, he sees communism as the means to recover the lost origin and essence of the human subject, as the "true appropriation of the human essence through and for man," and "the emancipation and recovery of mankind" (Marx 1975a:348, 358). Like Comte, Marx's work shows that positivism and eschatology, seemingly opposite, are "archaeologically indissociable" (320) insofar as both seek a truth grounded in an empirical discourse whose historical genesis is retraced, and culminates in modern science. The eschatological themes prominent in Marx pronounce the end of history with the end of alienation: "calendar time will be able to continue, but it will be, as it were, void, for historicity will have been superimposed exactly upon the human essence" (262).

Thus, for Foucault, Marx is simply another modern thinker trapped in transcendental metaphysics. Foucault is in agreement, then, with Baudrillard, Sahlins, and others (see Chapter 1), who see Marx as ensnared in the rationalistic logic of bourgeois political economy. This critique is made not only in The Order of Things but also, and perhaps even more forcefully, in a key but neglected essay on Bataille, "Preface to Transgression" (1977). It is there, following the same path taken in the early 1960s by Derrida, Deleuze, and others, that Foucault seeks an alternative to humanism, anthropology, and dialectics, drawing inspiration from the works of Sade, Bataille, Blanchot, Klossowski, and Nietzsche. With the death of God, and the consequent discovery of sexuality, Foucault claims that the key phenomenon of modern times has been the experience of finitude and being, limit and transgression. Foucault counts himself among those, in particular Bataille, "seeking a language for the thought of the limit," a nondiscursive, nonrepresentational language through which one confronts eroticism, ecstasy, limit experiences, and trangression. To develop this new thinking, it is necessary to renounce not only the philosophy of the subject, but the tradition of dialectics since Kant in order to move into the "extreme forms of language" supplied by Bataille, Blanchot, and Klossowski, thinkers who "bring us closer to the possibility of a non-dialectical language" (1977:41).

In place of the search for totality, Foucault calls for the interrogation of the limit; in place of the movement of contradictions, he envisages the act of transgression and the rupture with ordinary being. Experiences such as sexuality cannot be illuminated through dialectics and productivist anthropology. Foucault rejects Marxian anthropology as a bourgeoisinspired, utilitarian reduction of the human being to rational categories:

In a form of thought that considers man as worker and producer— that of European culture since the end of the eighteenth century— consumption was based entirely on need, and need based itself exclusively on the model of hunger. When this element was introduced into an investigation of profit (the appetite of those who satisfied their hunger), it inserted man into a dialectic of production which had a simple anthropological meaning: if man was alienated from his real nature and immediate needs, it was nevertheless through its agency that he recaptured his essence and achieved the indefinite gratification of his needs. But it would undoubtedly be misguided to conceive of hunger as that irreducible anthropological factor in the definition of work, production, and profit; and similarly, need has an altogether different status, or it responds at the very least to a code whose laws cannot be con fined to a dialectic of production." (1977: 49-50)

Thus, Foucault rejects not only dialectics, but also Marxian anthropology, as a rationalist discourse that cannot grasp the profound nonutilitarian dimensions of human existence that he links to sexuality, eroticism, forms of excess, and the sacred. While we have already registered the importance of this critique, Foucault, like so many of Marx's critics, proves himself insensitive to the complexities of Marx's analyses and fails to take note of the multiplicity of models with which Marx operates. In "Preface to Transgression," we find that he reduces Marxian dialectics to a search for abstract totalities. He does not account for the phenomenon of contradiction and conflates simple with complex wholes, failing to see the differentiating element in dialectics as well as its concern to grasp unities and interrelationships.

In The Order of Things, Foucault reduces Marx's theories to a simple essentialism and metaphysics of alienation, equating certain tenden cies or moments in Marx's work with its complex totality. Part of his objection is to the hermeneutical dimension of Marx's thought that seeks to grasp the forces constituting the appearances of reality. For Foucault, hermeneutics belongs to an antiquated Renaissance epistemology and is bound up with an essentialism that seeks the underlying essences of reality. Clearly, the hermeneutic attempt to decipher the mystified appearances of social reality need not appeal to underlying timeless essences. This may be the case for Plato, but it is not the case for Marx and the archaeological attempt to find rules of formation that determine consciousness itself can be nothing but a type of hermeneutics (see Best 1988 and Dreyfus 1984). Only through the hermeneutic attempt to go beyond the surface appearance of social reality to its underlying "essence" (by which Marx only meant social reality adequately understood), was Marx able to grasp the social relations behind the seemingly autonomous circulation of commodities and to reveal the mode of exploitation behind the surface justice and equality of the wage.

Foucault fails to appreciate that for however brief a period in his 1844 humanist writings Marx flirted with essentialism, he decisively broke with it in the same year to emphasize the historical production of needs and subjectivity. Arguably, by "human essence," Marx meant not an ahistorical and unchanging human nature, but rather basic characteristics that distinguish human beings from animals and that evolve and change historically. Hence, Marx would insist that "the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations" that condition each individual and change historically (1975a:423). What human beings "appropriate," then, is not a lost essence or substance a la Hegel, but their own historically created possibilities embodied in objective forms, including social knowledge, modes of technology, and their dynamically evolving humanity. Foucault equates the attempt to appropriate the continuously developing wealth of human beings with a metaphysical "return of the origin," thereby blocking a politics of transfiguration (see Chapter 1). Moreover, Foucault never acknowledges the similarities to his own approach, not recognizing that Marx broke sharply with progressivism to insist on historical discontinuities, the uneven development of different social levels, and the contingency of practical change.9

In The Archaeology of Knowledge, however, Foucault seems to reverse the view of Marx presented in The Order of Things. Where in The Order of Things he emphasizes the continuities between Marx and modern thought, in The Archaeology of Knowledge he sees Marx as the first theorist to initiate a decentering movement that situates the subject within larger economic forces that determine it. On this point, then, Marx escapes from the modern episteme to take the first step toward a posthumanist, postmodern historiography. Foucault's claim now is that Marx initiated "an entirely new discursive practice on the basis of political economy" (1972:188). Apparently Foucault no longer believed that Marx is bound to the modern doublets, since belief in an abiding essence of the subject is the common factor in all doublets.

Perhaps Foucault, like Althusser, is thinking here of the Marx of Capital, who defines human individuals as mere bearers of social functions. Yet Marx's view of the subject tended mainly toward a dialectical view, neither determinist nor voluntarist, structuralist nor phenomenological, but rather hermeneutical—a socially situated subject who shapes the forces that shape it. Unlike Foucault, Marx sees the subject as something active and as having a positive content, a social, natural, and historical being whose creative capacities evolve through time. In his conception of the subject as an empty form that is acted on by shifting discursive formations but itself never acts, that never changes except in its forms of speech and thought, and that has no evolving practical abilities, it is Foucault's theory, not Marx's, that is essentialist and ahistorical.


Paradoxically, the modern era inaugurates both the birth and death of History and Man. In the closing pages of The Order of Things, Foucault describes the first indications of a new postmodern epistemic space where the subject, now interpreted as an effect of language, desire, and the unconscious, is once and for all dethroned. There are numerous apocalyptic references to the coming of a new postmodern era (1973b:384-387).10 The postmodern era is understood strictly in terms of shifts in discourse and knowledge, as a posthumanist era. Oscillating between the positive and the fundamental, the empirical and the transcendental, attempting to construct a solid foundation over a perilous epistemological fault line, modern efforts to construct the figure of Man necessarily failed. While the "death of Man" perhaps was initiated first by the human sciences in their appeal to a region of determination beyond consciousness, the "countersciences" (psychoanalysis, ethnology, and linguistics) abandon the standpoint of Man altogether, identify the conditions of knowledge to lie entirely outside of a representing consciousness, and thereby inaugurate a new post-modern episteme.

Clearly, archaeology itself belongs to, and is made possible by, this emerging postmodern episteme. Against modern theories like phenomenology and Marxism, Foucault wants to create a new postmodern form of thought that does not reduce difference and dispersion to a unified Same, that abandons the "problematics of origin" as well as the metaphysics of Return that seek to recuperate Man's essential identity alienated in history and thereby try to "subjugate time" (1973b:335). Modern thought sets itself the impossible task of reconciling empirical and transcendental standpoints and resorts to metaphysical fictions in the process. It moves haltingly toward a historicist outlook, but cannot shake the hangover of metaphysics and essentialist thinking. The task of archaeology is to break from the doublets of modern thought by abandoning all transcendental and humanist standpoints. Archaeology repudiates the view of the subject as a foundation for knowledge and truth —whether conceived in static terms of an immutable nature, or in more dynamic terms of a historically unfolding human essence—and seeks to awaken thought from its "anthropological slumbers."

The demolition of Man and the modern episteme and the emergence of a new postmodern form of thought are presented in liberatory tones. Foucault believes we are just now on the verge of another historical rupture, where new forms of thinking, inaugurated by Nietzsche and the countersciences, are emerging, but where the old forms still dominate. New forms of thought can emerge once the foundations of the modern episteme erode, and it is Foucault's task to help in the process of erosion by abolishing talk about the essence or liberation of Man. By questioning the whole basis of modern thought, Foucault attempts "to renew contact in this way with the project for a general critique of reason" (1973b:342), which is an implicit goal of his archaeological investigations. What political implications this critique would have, and what forms of thought would replace anthropology, is not specified until his genealogical and ethical works. What is clear is that Foucault finds a great deal of promise in the posthumanist, linguistic space opened up by Nietzsche and the countersciences.

Yet, in line with his emphasis on a dialectic of continuity and discontinuity, Foucault's incipient postmodern thought is not premised on a total break with the classical and modern epistemes, but on a reconfiguring of some of their key elements. Where the classical era understood the coexistence of human beings and language, Foucault sees the "most important philosophical choice of our period" to be undertaking an analysis of this coexistence that avoids "a naive return to the Classical theory of discourse" (1973b:339, 338). Most importantly, as we have seen, Foucault draws from the historical problematic of the modern era opened up by Hutton's uniformitarianism at the close of the eighteenth century and continuing in the nineteenth century in the work of Lyell, Darwin, Hegel, Marx, and others. Where classical thought analyses reality primarily in terms of spatial categories, modern thought, through the analytic of finitude, relies fundamentally on temporal categories.

In his brief "history of History" (1973b:367-373), Foucault concedes that History—that is, historical consciousness—has existed long before the modern era, since the beginnings of antiquity. History has fulfilled a number of functions in Western cultures, serving as "memory, myth, transmission of the Word and of Example, vehicle of tradition, critical awareness of the present, decipherment of humanity's destiny, anticipation of the future, or promise of a return" (367). Foucault capitalizes this kind of history to signal that it is a metaphysical mode of time that reduces temporality to a linear order and difference to a frozen essence or identity. This mode of time was drastically altered in the modern era, however, which discovered that rather than a single time, there were a plurality of unevenly developing times specific to different forms of life, labor, and language.11

Thus, beginning in the nineteenth century, within the analytic of finitude, things are understood to have their own forms of history and Man becomes a part of these. The paradoxical result is that Man is dehistoricized insofar as his history is nothing but the temporal modulation of the different empirical orders to which he is subjected. Man, on Foucault's determinist schemes, does not have his own history independent of things. Moreover, while history provides the conditions of possibility for the human sciences, it also destroys any claim they might make to universal validity, since it destabilizes and relativizes their contents. While

Foucault rejects the problematic of Man constituted within the analytic of finitude, modern history provides the conditions of possibility for Foucault's work itself, and he attempts to advance the modern rejection of linear order and unified time beyond its metaphysical containment.

Thus, Foucault does not reject modern thought en toto; rather, he appropriates the emphasis of modern thought on the historical constitution of "Man" and breaks with the various methods and concepts that try to limit the decentering and historicizing impulses this constitution inaugurates through a subordination of the empirical to the transcendental. For Foucault, besides "myth" and "transmission of the Word and Example," history can serve as "memory" and "critical awareness of the present." These are key themes Foucault will develop in later stages of his work, in his "diagnostic critique" that continues the archaeological project of redefining historiography in nonmetaphysical form. I examine below the problems with a complete abandonment of the subject and some of the totalizing dimensions of a postmodern methodology designed to liberate difference. Let us turn now to the next major stage in Foucault's work and examine the similarities and differences between archaeology and genealogy.


[P]ower in its strategies, at once general and detailed, and its mechanisms, has never been studied. What has been studied even less is the relation between power and knowledge, the articulation of each on the other.

—FOUCAULT (1980a:51)

My role—and that is too emphatic a word—is to show people that they are much freer than they feel, that people accept as truth, as evidence, some themes which have been built up at a certain moment during history, and that this so-called evidence can be criticized and destroyed. To change something in the minds of people—that's the role of an intellectual.


As we have seen, Foucault's archaeologies privilege analysis of discourse and knowledge over practices and institutions, but without such analysis constituting an idealist project. On Foucault's definition of discourse, language is always bound up with actions, practices, and institutional networks. Foucault never regards discourse as anything but a discursive practice embedded in institutional networks of power and authority. Yet while discursive practices are socially conditioned and variable, Foucault believes discourse has an autonomy from political and economic processes. He thus seeks to bracket the nondiscursive context of discourse to focus on the conditions of emergence and intelligibility of various discursive formations. Beginning in 1970, in the shift from archaeology to genealogy, Foucault removes these brackets and situates discourse within its larger social and political context, explicitly addressing the relationship between knowledge and power, and analyzing the power effects of discourse as they constitute subjects and their bodies.

Foucault's most detailed reflections on the genealogical method occurs in his essay "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" (1977, orig. 1971). Ostensibly an exposition of Nietzschean genealogy, Foucault simultaneously articulates his own appropriation of the genealogical method—as becomes obvious halfway through the essay when Foucault shifts from "he" (Nietzsche) to "we." The key aspect of Nietzschean-Foucauldian genealogy is its attempt to break from the metaphysical assumptions informing "traditional history" and to recapture the complexity of historical time in a new "wirkliche" or "effective" history. Effective history rejects the view of traditional history, in which time is nothing but an accidental veneer to be peeled away in order to find the essences and identities that abide throughout the flux of history. Against this detemporalization of history, genealogy holds that there is nothing constant in history, that there are no essences or identities, that everything is historically consitituted and so has a history. Reason, sentiments, values, and the body itself are all historically variable and constituted phenomena.

Traditional history employs a metaphysics of origins and endings. The search for "origins" involves an ahistorical attempt to grasp a pure essence, a primal, undifferentiated source that abides in the face of historical change and contingency. Against this, genealogy advances the notion of an always already begun beginning, an overdetermined event that is constituted within a pregiven context, and practices that are constantly changing within historical relations. When acknowledging change at all, the search for origins valorizes the first moments of existence as pure and untainted and contrasts this with a subsequent fall and decline. Overturning the lofty pretensions of metaphysics, genealogy finds the impure and lowly grounds of values and practices in human sentiments and the will to power. Thus, it finds the "origins" of reason in unreason, of disinterested truth in scientific passion, of law in the thirst for violence, of morality in immorality, and of liberty in the machinations of elites, authorities, and ruling classes.

Genealogy is also opposed to the notion of a plan, goal, or end in history, which presupposes a purpose as established by God, Reason, or Spirit. It therefore rejects all forms of universal history, progressivism, and metanarrative. Genealogy is an attempt to "free historical chronologies and successive orderings from all forms of progressivist perspective" (Foucault 1980a:49). For the genealogist, history is not the march of reason toward freedom, but rather a haphazard succession of various power formations: "Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law finally replaces warfare; humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination" (151).

Genealogy breaks with teleology and causal determinism to vindicate the operations of chance, accidents, contingency, discontinuities, and reversals in history. Teleological schemes are reductionistic insofar as they force all events into a predetermined meaning, treating them as mere moments of an ideal and fictitious continuity. For Foucault, "events" are singular and mark points of reversal or discontinuity. Like any historian, the genealogist tries to reconstruct historical processes, but does so neutrally "without imposing on them a positivity or a valorisation" (1980a: 50). As demonstrated in the opening pages of Discipline and Punish (1979), in his graphic description of the torture of Damien, the genealogist begins by finding a discontinuity in the past, an event that seems entirely foreign to the present sensibility, in order to disturb the complacency of the present, to mark its rupture with the past, and to rethink the values of the present.

The break with metaphysics and metanarrative allows for the emergence of real historical time, unfolding in its actual complexity. The first task of genealogy is deconstructive; it seeks to dismantle homogenizing narratives and identify areas of difference, discontinuity, and dislocation. Genealogy's understanding of time is informed by a glance that "distinguishes, separates, and disperses, that is capable of liberating divergence and marginal elements—the kind of disassociating view that is capable of decomposing itself, capable of shattering the unity of man's being through which it was thought that he could extend his sovereignty to the events of the past" (1977:153). The search for descent "disturbs what was previously considered immobile; it fragments what was thought unified; it shows the heterogeneity of what was imagined consistent with itself" (147).

Genealogy also opposes the kind of progressivist view that Marx developed in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts and The German Ideology, but broke with in succeeding years, that sought to grasp fundamental lines of continuity in history that can be "appropriated" for future purposes:

Genealogy does not pretend to go back in time to restore an unbroken continuity that operates beyond the dispersion of forgotten things; its duty is not to demonstrate that the past actively exists in the present, that it continues secretly to animate the present, having imposed a predetermined form to all its vicissitudes. Genealogy does not resemble the evolution of a species and does not map the destiny of a people. On the contrary, to follow the complex course of descent is to maintain passing events in their proper dispersion; it is to identify the accidents, the minute deviations—or conversely, the complete reversals—the errors, the false appraisals, and the faulty calculations that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and have value for us; it is to discover that truth or being do not lie at the root of what we know and what we are, but are the exteriority of accidents. (1977:146)

Abandoning a "suprahistorical history" whose memory is informed by metaphysical assumptions, Foucault substitutes a "countermemory." Genealogy is a "countermemory" in two distinct senses. First, it is a countermemory in that it opposes the dominant forms of "memory" and historical representations created by ruling groups and presented as factual truth. Through validating the narratives and experiences of marginalized and oppressed groups, genealogy helps to awaken and create different historical memories that can help challenge and subvert forms of domination. Second, genealogy is a countermemory because it rejects the metaphysical model of a pure consciousness reflecting on a continuous past. Countermemory involves "a transformation of history into a totally different form of time" (1977:160), one that breaks with universalist, evolutionist schemes and admits hitherto largely alien temporal schemes involving discontinuity, plurality, uneveness, and randomness.

It should be clear that genealogy has strong continuities with archaeology. Like archaeology, Foucault characterizes genealogy as a new mode of historical writing, calling the genealogist "the new historian" (1977: 160). Both methodologies break with metaphysical views that efface temporality from history. Using painstaking measures to reconstitute the past on the basis of dusty documents, both approaches attempt to historicize what is thought to be immutable and to find the hidden histories of present-day values, discourses, practices, and institutions. Both reexamine the social field from a micrological standpoint to enable analysis of discursive discontinuity and dispersion. Both seek to purge historical writing of humanist assumptions by decentering and dispersing the subject. Both analyze modern reason through historical researches into the beginning of the human sciences. Both reduce the individual to nothing but an effect of prepersonal forces, be they discourse or power.

Foucault does not reject archaeology in favor of genealogy since his focus is still on discourse and knowledge; rather, genealogy "concerns the effective formation of discourse, whether within the limits of [political] control, or outside them" (Foucault 1972:233). Archaeology and genealogy now combine in the form of theory/practice where theory is immediately practical and political in character; they are two different, and complementary, perspectives in the analysis of power formations.12 The main difference between these two perspectives is not methodological, but lies in their respective objects of study: rules, discourse, and knowledge as compared to practices, institutions, and power. But the continuity between the two different approaches is even stronger, since the emphases of genealogy were always implict in archaeology and archaeology, was never conceived as an "idealism" to be opposed to the "materialism" of genealogy. Genealogy marks the explicit politicization of Foucault's work, where the goal is to analyze various power/knowledge formations and to help create new power/knowledge formations to overturn regimes of domination. The thematic of power was implied in the archaeological studies, but in genealogy it shifts from the background to the foreground. Thus, Foucault states: "When I think back now, I ask myself what else it was that I was talking about, in Madness and Civilization or The Birth of the Clinic, but power? Yet I'm perfectly aware that I scarcely used the word and never had such a field of analyses at my disposal" (1980a:115; see also 1991:145-146). In both works, Foucault was concerned with the social methods of regulating experience through division, classification, incarceration, and surveillance.13

The shift from archaeology to genealogy was accompanied by a parallel shift from aloof archivalist to impassioned militant. Foucault's remarkable political career began in 1968 and continued until the end of his life. Although formerly denounced by leftists, students, and many of his colleagues as a Gaullist technocrat, a conservative, or apolitical mandarin, after 1968 Foucault became a model of the engaged intellectual.14 Unlike Marx, Foucault's political activities went far outside the orbit of workers' struggles, although they included these; on numerous occasions he involved himself with unions, strikes, and workers' experiences.15 For the most part, however, Foucault worked in different areas, with the new struggles emerging in the schools, prisons, courts, and elsewhere, and he tried to respond to political events as they unfolded around him.

Foucault's most well-known and successful political intervention came in 1971, when he founded the Groupe d'Information sur les Prisons (GIP), an organization designed to protest the deplorable conditions of French prisons, to help the prisoners articulate their needs and defend their rights with their own voices, and to question the social distinction between the innocent and the guilty. As markers of the success of this group, it helped to spark prison reform and disbanded in 1972, having evolved into a new organization comprised only of prisoners themselves. In subsequent years, Foucault passionately involved himself in the struggle for the rights of French immigrants, Vietnamese boat people, Soviet dissidents, condemned Spanish militants, the solidarity movement in Poland, the Iranian revolution, and sexual politics. As with Marx, an important part of Foucault's politics was realized in journalistic activity.16 In countless petitions, speeches, and demonstrations, Foucault spoke out against injustice wherever he found it and sought to advance the cause of human rights on an international level.17 Never afraid of "dirty hands," he put in long hours performing the most mundane political duties, such as organizing demonstrations and keeping financial books. In 1983, Foucault planned to write a book attacking the failures of the Socialists then in power, and the French Left in general for lacking skill in the "art of government." One of his last projects was to organize a group of intellectuals interested in disseminating information and exploring new possibilties for political action.

With the turn to genealogy, Foucault follows Marx's lead in breaking with the apolitical character of positivist historiography and using historical research for leftist political goals. Like Marx, Foucault employs historical analysis in an effort to defetishize and denaturalize the present, to underline the discontinuities between the present and the past. Foucault maintains that to criticize is to specify "how the present is absolutely different from all that it is not, that is to say, from our past" (1989: 39). Genealogy thereby problematizes the present as eternal and selfevident and exposes the operations of power and domination working behind neutral or beneficent facades. In Foucault's words, "It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the work ing of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercized itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight them" (1984:6). Genealogy attempts to demonstrate how objectifying forms of reason (and their regimes of truth and knowledge) have been made, treating them as historically contingent rather than eternally necessary forces. Consequently, "they can be unmade, as long as we know how it was they were made" (Foucault 1988d:37).

Foucault claims that his genealogies owe a great, unacknowledged debt to Marxism:

There is also a sort of game that I play. I often quote concepts, texts and phrases from Marx, but without feeling obliged to add the authenticating label of a footnote with a laudatory phrase to accompany the quotation.. It is impossible at the present time to write history without using a range of concepts directly or indirectly linked to Marx's thought and situating oneself within a horizon of thought which has been defined and described by Marx. One might even wonder what difference there could be between being a historian and being a Marxist. (1980a:52-53)

In fact, Foucault greatly overstates his case, since the thrust of genealogy is directed away from the core assumptions of Marx's theory of history and politics.

In large part, the differences between Marx and Foucault stem from different understandings of power, of what and where it is. Foucault claims that, as a result of Marx, we have a good understanding of the mechanisms of exploitation, but we still know very little about power (1977: 212-213; 1991:148-149). Marx understands power as the means whereby a dominant class exercizes control over society through control of the social means of production. Power is centralized in the hands of a superordinate class and wielded against all subordinate classes. Power and domination are enforced through exploitation and backed by ideology. Foucault believes the Marxist analysis of power is reductionistic. Where Marx equates power with exploitation, Foucault, like Weber, argues that exploitation is only one aspect of power, which is itself far more general in its nature, strategies, and range of effects. Power should be understood not as exploitation, but as rationalization, or rather, as a series of discursive-institutional employments of rationality that seek to "normalize" and "discipline" the social population through the liquidation of alterity and the production of docile minds and bodies.

Against the Marxist "economic subordination" of power to class, Foucault painstakingly tries to uncover the historical emergence of a disciplinary power that operates in all institutional spheres of society and not just the factory; that regulates the body itself and not just the working day; that is exercized more by means of surveillance than extraction of surplus labor, that confines subjects in a psychological straightjacket of "normal" identity; that creates discourses of truth rather than merely false consciousness; and that involves a production, not just repression, of subjects.

This analysis is undertaken primarily in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality. In these works, Foucault argues that beginning in the eighteenth century, industrial society generated a disciplinary power based on regulating individuals and controlling their thoughts and movements. While disciplinary power has a coherent strategy of normalization, its mechanisms are heteromorphous and diffused throughout the various institutional networks comprising society, creating a "disciplinary archipelago." Power is ubiquitous, but it is not omnipotent. Foucault and Marx share a similar vision of society as structured around conflict and struggle. Foucault insists that power necessarily engenders resistance and to underscore this point he employs an inverted Clauswitzean model to conceive of politics as the continuation of war by other means, seeing "all problems of power in terms of relations of war" (1980a:123).18 In fact, to mark his break with idealist linguistic models, Foucault claims, "one's point of reference should not be to the great model of language (langue) and signs, but to that of war and battle. The history which bears and determines us has the form of a war rather than that of a language: relations of power, not relations of meaning" (114).

Foucault does not so much deny Marxist claims to be true as he insists they are incomplete and inadequate, that they effect a totalizing closure on other forms of analysis. In understanding the intimate connection between capitalism and normalization, Foucault shows, for example, that disciplinary power emerges within the general context of industrial capitalism and is used as a strategy by the capitalist class (1980a: 105, 188). Thus, Foucault's argument is not that disciplinary power is independent of economics and production, only that it cannot be reduced to these.

Foucault's understanding of power reorients historical research. Following Nietzsche's genealogies of morality, asceticism, justice, and punishment, Foucault seeks to write the histories of unknown, forgotten, excluded, and marginal discourses that are suppressed by Marxism and forms of traditional history alike. Genealogy "must record the singularity of events outside of any monotonous finality; it must seek them in the most uncompromising places, in what we tend to feel is without history—in sentiments, love, conscience, instincts" (Foucault 1977:139-140). Genealogy involves the "making visible of what was previously unseen" (1980a: 50) due to a too-narrow focus on large-scale economic and political processes. This entails "addressing oneself to a layer of material which had hitherto had no pertinence for history and which had not been recog nized as having any moral, esthetic, political or historical value" (5051). Thus, Marxian history itself is too limiting in its scope; although it goes beyond a merely political history to analyze the social and historical impact of trade, commerce, and industry, it remains a reductionistic macrohistory that ignores or occludes the study of independent microhistories. Foucault complains that Marxists, subsequently, have rejected his analyses as "politically unimportant and epistemologically vulgar" (1980a:110; 1991:76-78).

Against the Marxist charge that genealogy writes the history of the "banal," Foucault undoes the opposition between sublime and banal history and tries to vindicate the importance of micronarratives. A macrotheory that centers analysis around production and class must give way to a series of microtheories that analyze various institutions without seeking a totalizing "theory of society." The discourses of madness, medicine, punishment, and sexuality have independent histories and institutional bases, irreducible to larger phenomenona such as the modern state and economy.

The pluralizing and detotalizing moves of the genealogical model have important political implications. Genealogy must wage a twofold struggle, within both the realm of theory and that of society at large. Within the institution of theory itself, the genealogist seeks to battle for legitimacy. Against "the tyranny of globalising discourses" (1980a:83), Foucault calls for "an insurrection of subjugated knowledges" (81), of those "disqualified" discourses that both positivistic science and Marxism reject because they do not fit comfortably into a systematizing framework, because they are deemed marginal and incapable of being formalized, "located low down on the hierarchy, beneath the required level of cognition or scientificity" (82). Genealogies are the combined product of the erudite knowledge of the historian and the popular knowledge of chronicled struggles. The genealogist attempts to recuperate lost and forgotten histories and struggles insofar as they bear on the understanding and transformation of present-day power relations. "In the specialised areas of knowledge there lay the memory of hostile encounters which even up to this day have been confined to the margins of knowledge" (83). Genealogy attempts to make tactical use of suppressed histories and knowledges, to deploy a counter-memory of the past, to find the relevance of these memories and histories for contemporary struggles.

Foucault characterizes genealogies as "anti-sciences," not because they seek to "vindicate a lyrical right to ignorance or non-knowledge" and attack the concepts and methods of science per se, but rather because they contest "the [coercive] effects of the centralising powers which are linked to the institution and functioning of an organised scientific discourse" (1980a: 84). The question is not so much whether a particular theory— Marxism, psychoanalysis, genealogy—is or is not a "science," and therefore legitimate or illegitimate, but rather what kind of aspirations to power accompany the search and demand for science. Foucault is not denying the possibility of scientific discourse, or rejecting it as oppressive per se, rather he is objecting to the exclusion of everything that is not "scientific" from the realm of legitimate knowledge. Such a rigid boundary, enforced by bourgeois and some Marxist theorists alike, automatically disqualifies local, popular forms of knowledge that Foucault believes are critical for understanding and transforming contemporary relations of power.

Hence, where productivism in theory entails a workerism in politics, genealogy in theory demands a micropolitics in practice. The detotalizing optic of genealogy allows for the analysis of a whole range of micropowers that are invisible to or clouded over by the economistic vision. If, analytically, it is discerned that power is local and decentered in form, so forms of political struggle must be of similar character in order to combat the various facets of power. The subjugated voices of history speak to hidden forms of domination; to admit their speech is necessarily to revise one's conception of what and where power is. Unlike classical Marxism, genealogy allows a pluralization of power struggles, it legitimates a multiplication of struggles that could facilitate the kind of larger (systemic) social struggles Marxists anticipate. Genealogy precludes the dismissal of sexual, racial, or cultural politics as inconsequential or secondary in relation to class politics. The struggles of students, minorities, women, homosexuals, prisoners, and other groups no longer need be subordinated to the class struggle; the "margins" move into the "center," or rather, these spatial metaphors and the oppositions they imply are dismantled.

Since power operates far beyond the confines of production, class, and exploitation, Foucault argues that simply changing the mode of production of the state is politically ineffective because it does nothing to alter the various power mechanisms that circulate throughout various social institutions. Because the state is not the source of disciplinary power, but rather its effect, a crystallization of various regional powers, power has to be analyzed not in a descending manner, from a centralized point of a king or class that moves below toward the subjects of power, but in an ascending manner, in fragmented analyses of various social institutions where disciplinary mechanisms arise and later congeal in the state. Hence, for a modern concept of macropolitics, where clashing forces struggle for control over a centralized source of power rooted in the economy and state, Foucault substitutes a postmodern concept of micropolitics where numerous local groups struggle against diffuse and decentered forms of power spreading throughout society, in the prisons, asylums, hospitals, and schools.

Foucault's concept of power/knowledge has direct implications for a critical theory of political knowledge as it is instantiated in totalizing narratives of history and society and in universal intellectuals. Genealogy voices a suspicion of Enlightenment reason that informs the Marxist tradition, along with the scientific models Marx and many of his followers have uncritically appropriated. As Foucault claims, a leftist appropriation of reason, science, and truth can be just as authoritarian as that of the Right. In place of the truth of politics Foucault analyzes a politics of truth that sees truth as a discourse that legitimates power and authority. Genealogy breaks with the elitism of hierarchical Marxist models insofar as it attempts to democratize knowledge and erode the privileges of a theoretical avant-garde. The universal intellectual who legislates the political will for all groups is replaced by the concept of the "specific intellectual" who intervenes only at the local level, on specific issues. Marx's unfortunate metaphor of the intellectual as the head of the struggle and the proletariat as its heart or body (1975a:257) was disastrously literalized by Lenin, Stalin, and their successors in the form of the vanguard party. Yet, as I argue in Chapter 1, the thrust of Marx's politics anticipates Foucault's attack on the bureaucratic manipulation of politics by an intellectual elite.

If Marx thought the intellectual should exert a strong, but not authoritarian, role in the organization of the working class, Foucault thinks the role of the intellectual should be far more minimal, limited to critical questioning and providing instruments of analysis. As a specific intellectual, the genealogist contributes to the production of a counterknowledge and political practice that challenges dominant knowledges in the service of normalization by exposing their historical, contingent, and modifiable character. The specific intellectual makes no pretensions to speak ex cathedra, from the standpoint of absolute knowledge, or even to draw up manifestos and deliver inaugural addresses. The intellectual does no more than challenge existing ways of thinking and acting and offer to different groups or individuals historically based forms of knowledge. The intellectual's task is to raise questions, not provide answers; to induce skepticism, not complacency; to deconstruct, not reconstruct; to describe, not prescribe:

The job of an intellectual does not consist in molding the political will of others. It is a matter of performing analyses in his or her own fields, of interrogating anew the evidence and postulates, of shaking up habits, ways of acting and thinking, of dispelling commonplace beliefs, of taking a new measure of rules and is a matter or participating in the formation of a political will, where [the intellectual] is called to perform a role as citizen. (Foucault 1991:12)

The intellectual participates in the creation of a political will, but does not constitute or mandate it. Like Lukacs, and some tendencies in Marx, Foucault privileges the knowing standpoint of actors directly involved in struggles, rather than that of the intellectual analyzing them from the outside.

The intellectuals should listen to the nonintellectuals and help them formulate their problems and solutions, but the former should never speak for or above the latter: "I absolutely will not play the part of one who prescribes solutions. I hold that the role of the intellectual today is not that of establishing laws proposing solutions or prophesying, since by doing that one can only contribute to the functioning of a determinate situation of power that to my mind must be criticized" (1991:157). This attitude is crucial, as shown in Chapter 3, for understanding why Foucault refuses to specify the normative underpinnings of his analyses: he believes that normative justification is relevant only for those who make prescriptive statements, a project that he resolutely avoids.

Despite differences between the archaeological and genealogical stages of Foucault's work, a key continuity in his work to this point is his rejection of the subject, seeing it as completely determined by discourse or power. The contradiction of trying to activate politically nonexistent subjects is one of the factors that impels Foucault to reconsider his view of subjectivity and to move into a new stage of analysis.


Develop your legitimate strangeness.


Perhaps one day, [the idea of transgression] will seem as decisive for our culture, as much a part of its soil, as the experience of contradiction was at an earlier time for dialectical thought.

—FOUCAULT (1977:33)

In order to trace the beginnings of modern normalizing practices to deeper historical matrices, Foucault's 1980s works depart from the familiar territory of modernity to analyze Greek, Roman, and Christian cultures. Specifically, Foucault's concern with the genealogy of the modern hermeneutics of desire, the search for the "deep truth" of onself in one's sexuality through the ritual of confessional practices, leads him to the more distant beginnings of this process in premodern sources. Thus, The History of Sexuality (initially conceived as a six volume project) carried over into two subsequent works, The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self, before being cut short by his death.

This shift in the objects of historical study is accompanied by a num ber of important philosophical changes. Foucault now sees positive aspects of Enlightenment rationality, he rejects his deterministic view of the subject, he employs an ancient and modern discourse of freedom and autonomy, and he finds models for resistance to disciplinary power in the ethical practices of ancient culture.19 Where he once sought a subject that disassociated itself from all forms of identity to achieve a "happy limbo of non-identity" (1980c:xiii), he now sees the necessity of producing new, positive forms of "identity," of a self's conscious relation to itself.20 He now weaves premodern, modern, and postmodern elements into the complex layers of his thought. These changes raise numerous questions about Foucault's work: has he broken completely with his earlier concerns with power and domination? Has he abandoned politics for ethics, aestheticism, or dandyism? Has he renounced his structuralist-inspired rejection of the subject for a neohumanism?

In his works from the 1960s and 1970s, Foucault analyzed the subject as an effect of discourse and disciplinary practices and equated forms of rationality with mechanisms of domination. He now notes the one-sidedness of this view and, in an "auto-critique," rejects his prior deterministic view of the subject: "If one wants to analyze the genealogy of the subject in Western civilization, one has to take into account not only techniques of domination, but also techniques of the self. One has to show the interaction between these two types of self. When I was studying asylums, prisons, and so on, I perhaps insisted too much in techniques of dominatio.. I would like, in the years to come, to study power relations starting from techniques of the self" (Foucault and Sennet 1982:10).

In The Use of Pleasure (1986) and The Care of the Self (1988a), Foucault follows through on this proposal. Using the Greeks and Romans as his model, he analyzes how they problematized their everyday practices to create a free self. In an elaborate, self-created "ethics," using "technologies of the self," men from Greek and Roman ruling classes set down rules for regulating their behavior in the realms of diet, family relations, and sexuality, The ultimate goal of ethics was aesthetic, to stylize one's life and transform it into a work of art.21

Foucault finds in Greco-Roman technologies of the self examples of how individuals can seek knowledge about themselves, discipline themselves, and create new identities in a space of freedom rather than domination. Technologies of the self, the care and art of the self, provide a way to break with socially imposed identities, with essentialist definitions of truth and human nature promoted by normalizing disciplines. The goal of these technologies, or ethical techniques, was not to discover or recuperate one's real "nature," a normalized construct that only appeared with Christianity and modernity, but continually to produce oneself as a free and creative agent. Where earlier (1980b) Foucault was promoting new pleasure and bodies, in a Bataillean-Dionysian vein, he now employs an Aristotelian-Apollonian element and advocates creating entirely new selves and identities rooted in self-styled ethics.

Most generally, Foucault embraces a Nietzschean-modernist project of the endless reinvention of the self, of constant self-overcoming, becoming, and transformation.22 He calls for experimentation with all the forms of experience that Western society tolerates, when it does at all, only in the realm of literature (1977:222). In place of the Socratic maxim, "Know thyself" and the modern injunction to grasp the truth of onself, Foucault's mandate is to get free of oneself, which means to continuously create oneself anew. Against Marxist humanism and the Frankfurt School, Foucault claims: "the problem is not to recover our 'lost' identity, to free our imprisoned nature, our deepest truth; but instead, the problem is to move toward something radically Other.we must produce something that doesn't yet exist and about which we cannot know what it will be" (1991: 121). Foucault seeks not a (Marxian) production of the self, but its (Bataillean) destruction and (Nietzschean) reconstruction, "the creation of something entirely different, of a total innovation" (122).

While there are important advances over Foucault's earlier works, insofar as he breaks with his deterministic view of the subject, many of his critics see these later works as a regression from his fruitful analyses of power and domination. Wolin (1986), for example, claims that Foucault adopts an amoral, apolitical aestheticism that shifts focus from the social world to the self and emphasizes beauty to the exclusion of other intellectual and moral values. Rochlitz (1992:251) argues that the later work of Foucault holds that the "sole purpose" of the art of the self is to live a beautiful life.

These critiques have a degree of truth, but they need qualification. First, as Wolin reminds us (1992), Foucault was preoccupied with subjectivity ever since writing Folie et deraison, where he saw madness as an important limit experience and source of transgression of normalizing rationality. In subsequent works, he looked to language, death, and pleasure as other sources of transgression.23 Second, as I have argued, we should see Foucault's later concern with the self as an advance over his earlier determinism, which granted no role to creative agency. Third, we know from biographical facts that during the late 1970s and early 1980s, in addition to doing drugs and frequenting the San Francisco bathhouse scene, Foucault was also intervening in numerous important political issues at an international level.

Although it is true that Foucault's later emphasis shifts from disciplinary power to the aesthetics and care of the self, we cannot rightly see his later work as purely aestheticist, since the selfhood he is valorizing has an ethical and rational component that requires moderation, reflexivity, and consciously defined relations toward others. What we find instead is Nietzsche's ideal of the "grand style," in which Dionysian passions are sublimated into a consciously controlled and stylized life. A greater mistake would be to interpret Foucault's later work as apolitical. This reproduces the orthodox Marxist dichotomy between the personal and political and stigmatizes personal concerns as merely "bourgeois." Rejecting a false dualism between ethics and politics, Foucault instead seeks a "politics as ethics" (1982b), precisely in order to overcome the deficiencies of his earlier work and to root politics in practices of the self. If power operates through discipline and normalization, struggle against it cannot be divorced from personal existence. Foucault thus joins a countercurrent within the Marxist tradition (Gramsci, Lefebvre, Debord, and others) that has emphasized the importance of a politics of everyday life for a larger social transformation. This shift was initiated out of awareness of the historical changes in capitalism that lead to the commodification of culture and colonization of previously "private" spaces of life. As Foucault has emphasized (1983), a politics of desire and everyday life is necessary in a world where fascist tendencies have burrowed deep into the core of subjectivity.

Rather than espousing a neodandyism, Foucault's intent is to employ ethics and aesthetics to reconstitute normalized subjectivity. While Foucault is not uncritically endorsing the Greeks as an "alternative"—since he rejects their sexist, hierarchical values—he finds that they nevertheless provide examples of nonnormalized identities. As Bernauer says, Foucault makes reference to Greek morality "in criticism of those models which would confine human creativity to the realm of art and replace the task of self-elaboration with the duty of a self-discovery governed by a hermeneutics of desire" (1992:260). Against a "science of life," an "aesthetics of existence" seeks "to free us from the obligation of deciphering ourselves as a system of timeless functions which are subjected to corresponding norms" (262). The aesthetic stylization of life is more the result than the aim of a critical ethics, which includes both rational and political components. The attempt to transform oneself into a work of art is not only an aesthetic task, but also an ethical project that requires moderation, sublimation, and practical reasoning, in addition to a political project that challenges normalizing rationalities and institutions as social inventions. As O'Farrell argues, "The modification of the self.produces a modification of one's activity in relation to others, and hence a modification in power relations, even if only at the micro-level to begin with" (1989:129). It is in and through ethics that individuals pursue a transformative practice that results, ideally, from critique.

Yet while there are important logical and practical connections be tween ethics and politics, it is undeniable that Foucault has shifted emphasis from the social to the personal, that he undertheorizes their interconnection and does not analyze how ethics or the aesthetics of existence could link to larger social struggles. The fact that Foucault only discusses struggle at a personal rather than also at a collective level, suggests that he still equates social relations with coercion, treating them as something from which individuals have to escape if they are to acquire freedom. Thus, while the later Foucault finally brings the active subject into politics, he fails to develop the dialectical notion, such as we find in Marx, of the social individual. Marx too envisioned a creative, aesthetic transformation of life, but understood the self as the developmental product of history and analyzed the social (workers democracy) and technological (advanced automation) conditions required for individuals to have the time and opportunity for creative self-actualization.

Unlike Greek and Roman ethics from which they are derived, Foucault's ethics turn out to be entirely individualized; lacking any social component of duties and obligations toward others, they concern only the transformation of the self. For McCarthy, "the aesthetics of personal existence is an inadequate ethical-political response to a world in which misery and injustice are rampant" (Hoy and McCarthy 1994:234). Indeed, as Rochlitz notes (1992), Foucault's project of self-transformation is available only to a small minority of people who are relatively autonomous from the drudgery of work and poverty and can focus their time and energy on matters of lifestyle, rather than mere survival. Foucault's "politics as ethics," therefore has no mass relevance, is entirely cooptable by new-age movements and capitalist culture industries, and is in danger of lapsing into individualism or dandyism by inadequately stressing the dialectical connections between personal and social struggle. While Foucault's ethics as politics retain a potentially subversive force, since the cultivation of personal freedom entails a break from coercive social norms and institutions and may lead to radical social action, such action is not a necessary extension of his project and is not explicitly developed.

Foucault develops his final political reflections in his key essay, "What is Enlightenment?" (1984). This essay is Foucault's philosophical swan song, and provides a fitting summary of his political perspectives. It should be read not as announcing entirely new themes, although there are some, but rather as articulating his lifelong concern with limit experiences, with identifying and transgressing the lines of forbidden behavior, with experimenting with the self and moving it toward an ever greater space of freedom. The disconnected analyses on technologies of domination and technologies of the self come together somewhat in this essay, which sees the labor of freedom and the project of criticism to be intimately connected. Here, Foucault aligns his work with Kant and Enlightenment criti cism and further develops a view of the subject as a potentially active and autonomous agent.24 The model of Enlightenment criticism that Foucault now champions issues from Kant's 1784 response to the question of Was ist Aufklarung? According to Foucault, Kant's essay inaugurates a new tradition—stretching from Hegel to Nietzsche and Weber to Habermas— where philosophical thought reflects on the nature of the present as something fundamentally different from the past.

This emphasis on the present as difference involves what Foucault calls "the attitude of modernity" (1984:38). Bracketing any institutional analysis of modernity, Foucault defines the modern attitude as a kind of historical and critical sensibility, as "a type of philosophical interrogation— one that simultaneously problematizes man's relation to the present, man's historical mode of being" (42). Foucault draws a sharp distinction between the Enlightenment and humanism in order to disassociate the two and reassert his repudiation of the modern humanist tradition and its universal values. Yet he now aligns his own work with the Enlightenment tradition and appropriates its critico-historical outlook. He claims that "the thread that may connect us with the Enlightenment is not faithfulness to [its] doctrinal elements, but rather the permanent reactivation of an attitude— that is, of a philosophical ethos that could be described as a permanent critique of our historical era" (42).

This endorsement of Enlightenment criticism qualifies his earlier sweeping denunciation of reason as a coercive force. No longer essentializing rationality as inherently oppressive, Foucault now analyzes it as open to various uses and possibilities. Reason can provide the tools with which to criticize and counteract its own coercive effects in the disciplinary society. In a thinly veiled and misleading gesture to Habermas, Foucault now rejects "the intellectual blackmail of 'being for or against the Enlightenment'" (1984:45). The appropriation of the Enlightenment must itself be rational and critical, discriminating enough to separate its critical, historical attitude from modern humanism, essentialism, and foundationalism rooted in universal values.

Foucault employs the philosophical ethos of the Enlightenment in a postmodern context, in a new critical vision that abandons humanism and transcendentalism, champions difference, and is oriented toward "the 'contemporary limits of the necessary,' that is, toward what is or is no longer indispensible for the constitution of ourselves as autonomous subjects" (1984:43). Returning to his earlier Bataillean motifs, first developed in his 1963 "Preface to Transgression," Foucault claims that critique is a departure from a "limit attitude" that attempts to define the arbitrary limits placed on thought and action, in order to transgress them and move towards greater freedom. The goal of criticism is to ask, "In what is given to us as universal, necessary, obligatory, what place is occupied by whatever is singular, contingent, and the product of arbitrary constraints? The point, in brief, is to transform the critique conducted in the form of necessary limitation into a practical critique that takes the form of a possible transgression" (45).

The Kantian project undergoes a transformation from a critique of the limits of rationality to a reflection on the limits of experience in general, from grasping the limits of the understanding beyond which knowledge must not transgress, to grasping the (socially imposed) "limits" of subjectivity and experience that individuals must attempt to transgress. This is a shift from the negative to the positive, from epistemology to a politics that departs from "a historical ontology of ourselves" (45). In Foucault's postmodern context, criticism abandons any attempt to grasp the formal, universal structures of reason in favor of problematizations of specific historical sites. Against Habermas and the Enlightenment, criticism "is no longer going to be practiced in the search for formal structures [of the mind] with universal value, but rather as a historical investigation into the events that have led us to constitute ourselves and to recognize ourselves as subjects of what we are doing, thinking, saying" (46-47).

Thus, the Kantian employment of a transcendental framework and its search for the a priori, universal aspects of all human experience is rejected in favor of a historical examination of the social forces constituting subjectivity. Historical critique "will not deduce from the form of what we are what it is impossible for us to do and to know; but it will separate out, from the contingency that has made us what we are, the possibility of no longer being, doing, of thinking what we are, do, or think" (1984: 46). The goal of this genealogical project, then, is human freedom; "it is seeking to give new impetus, as far and as wide as possible, to the undefined work of freedom" (46). The purpose of the reformulation of the Kantian version of

Enlightenment "is to free thought from formal structures and place it in a historical field where it must confront the singular, contingent, and arbitrary which operate in what is put forward as universal, necessary, and contingent" (Bernauer 1992:271). Subjectivity and sociality are mutually connected insofar as limits of the self point to social constraints. Freedom is conceived not in terms of a disembodied, ahistorical capacity for rationality, but rather a socially situated ability to reflect critically on and reject coercive norms, values, and practices.

The politics of limits acknowledges not only the false limits placed on subjective experience, but also the real limits on knowledge and change. It claims "we have to give up hope of ever acceding to a point of view that could give us complete access to any complete and definitive knowledge of what may constitute our historical limits" (Foucault 1984: 47). The limits of what we can know of the past are matched by what we can accomplish in the future. Foucault stresses the open-ended, par tial, and experimental character of politics, based on gradual transgressive reforms rather than sudden revolutionary change. Historical inquiry cautiously tries "to grasp the points where change is possible and desireable, and to determine the precise form this change should take. This means that the historical ontology of ourselves must turn away from all projects that claim to be global or radical" (46). Reaffirming his earlier worries about radical, utopian visions of political change (1977:230), Foucault states: "We know from experience that the claim to escape from the system of contemporary reality so as to produce the overall programs of another society, of another way of thinking, another culture, another vision of the world, has led only to the return of the most dangerous traditions" (1984:46). Foucault embraces a program of "partial transformation" rather than programs for a "new man" (47). The emphasis is not on overturning capitalism, but regimes of normalization, not on smashing the state, but imposed identities.

Thus, Foucault substitutes an individualist politics of transgression for a revolutionary politics of liberation.25 As Foucault understands it, the politics of liberation combines a repression model of power with a humanist-essentialist notion of the subject and an apocalyptic conception of change. Political revolution will free human nature from the shackles of alienation, so that a new humanity can blossom in the postcapitalist world. For the politics of transgression, however, there is no human essence waiting to be liberated, no state of perfect freedom to be achieved, and no promised end of power relationships. Foucault tries to avoid pessimism and fatalism, but, borrowing a Kantian metaphor, openly acknowledges, "I do not know whether we will ever reach mature adulthood" (1984:49). Politics is a continual encounter and transgression of limits, a permanent reform of the present system based on practices of freedom and liberty, lacking any guarantee that the future can be more free than the present or past. Abandoning grand revolutionary visions, Foucault adopts a modest approach to change: "the object is to proceed a little at a time, to introduce modifications that are capable of, if not finding solutions, then at least of changing the givens of a problem" (1991:159).

There are substantive contradictions and tensions between Foucault's theory and his practice that revolve around his failure to articulate the connections between collective and individual levels of experience. Foucault's rhetoric of radicalism has shifted from social to personal change as he seeks a "complete transformation" of the self apart from normalized identities. His awareness of the dangers of social revolution has no appropriate analogue at the personal level, where radical change can be equally as dangerous and destablizing.26 Not only are there dangers of self-destruction and narcissistic hedonism, but also of fascism. If Foucault's own attempts at transgression are any example of the new politics, the fascination with death and violence, experiments with psychic derange ment and destruction of the self, the use of drugs, and the practice of sadomasochism constitute a dubious basis for progressive social transformation. While I have argued that Wolin's charge that Foucault is an aestheticist is not entirely true, his claim that Foucault is amoralist is correct.27 Through his lifelong refusal to specify the normative underpinnings of ethics and politics, and to employ any positive moral language, Foucault eschews the question of which forms of pleasure should be satisfied and which should not, which are healthy and which are dangerous, which further democracy and which promote fascism.

Moreover, the analytic relations Foucault sees between disciplinary power and capitalism are not carried through to a political critique of capitalist economic logic, but rather are directed only against its specific social institutions, practices, and norms. His awareness of the "global functioning of...a society of normalisation" (1980a:107) is conjoined with an unqualified attack on global politics. Both Marx and Foucault employ a discontinuity model at the theoretical level to analyze the specificity of capitalist society, but only Marx develops a discontinuity model at the political level to envisage a postcapitalist social order.

Ultimately, Foucault lacks a vision of the future as anything but an abstract possibility that is vaguely different from the present. In a sweeping move that can only induce paralysis and acceptance of the status quo, Foucault claims that "to imagine another system is to extend our participation in the present system" (1977:230). This critique does not discriminate between different utopian visions. While Foucault is rightly suspicious of efforts at social engineering, such as dictated by St. Simon or Pope Comte, he does not acknowledge the power of an imagination that envisages alternatives to the degraded and dehumanized present. He occludes the important difference between the attempt to suggest future possibilities, which stimulates creative action, and the attempt to impose them, which stultifies new alternatives. He does not see that the "utopian"vision of a realm of freedom, democracy, and individual creativity liberated from the drudgery of work is based on actual existing historical possibilities within the present, rather than fashioned from conjured-up fantasies. In place of "utopias" that (on his definition) offer certainties and consolation, Foucault advances "heterotopias" that attempt to disturb, shock, and shatter complacent thinking (1973b:xvii). Certainly, leftist thought can use provocations and critiques, but a strict heterotopian strategy can leave us disoriented and without social maps and positive points of reference. What Foucault in fact leaves us, however, are various ideas and "tools" for political experimentation.

Foucault's failure to specify positive alternatives forces him into vague formulations. What is entailed by terms such as "profound changes" and a "new balance of relations" (1991:162-163)? How "profound" are the changes to be, how "new" the relations? Can proceeding "a little at a time" effect significant transformation? Can "radical" change occur without profound historical discontinuity, social upheaval, and utopian imagination? Ultimately, Foucault's vision of change is directed at the personal rather than the institutional level. Genealogy betrays the nonoppositional nature of the contemporary "critical" attitude that no longer challenges the basic imperatives of a system bent on global destruction of all life forms; it therefore foresakes a ruthless critique of the grow-or-die logic of the capitalist economy. Lacking such a systemic critique, it unavoidably lapses into a Panglossian apology that admits capitalism is, after all, the best of all possible worlds and the end of history. With Candide, Foucault, by default, embraces the position that all we can do is to cultivate our own gardens, to carve out our own personal space of freedom within a system devouring the entire planet. The emphasis on the transgression of the limits of personal experience therefore must be accompanied with a vision of transgressing social and political limits.

Thus, Foucault's final vision of the future is nondialectical and has profound apolitical dimensions; it does not grasp the relation between collective politics and individual resistance, between social liberation and personal freedom, between systemic change and meaningful local reforms. Quite unlike that of Marx, Foucault's vision is not a Hegelian vision of future integration attained through an Aufhebung of the past and present, but rather a Nietzschean vision of separation, of fragmented individuals in the pursuit of different lifestyles, of a future disconnected from the historical accomplishments of the past and the possibilities of the present. Foucault does not attempt to "resolve" the basic contradictions of history and capitalism, he is content to let them stand in order to retreat, at least in his writings, to the local and private spheres of existence.


[By writing], I aim at having an experience myself—by passing through a determinate historical content—an experience of what we are today, of what is not only our past but also our present. And I invite others to share the experience. That is an experience of our modernity that might permit us to emerge from it transformed.

—FOUCAULT (1991:33-34)

What I'm saying has no objective value; but perhaps it can serve to clarify the problems that I've tried to shed light on.


Despite the various shifts and turns in Foucault's work, one can identify a general project that at first is only implicit and later is explicitly brought out and developed. Foucault undertakes a history of Western forms of truth, knowledge, rationality, and subjectivity, and analyzes their relationship with systems of power and domination. He is concerned with the problematization of fundamental domains of experience in Western culture whereby society subjects experiences such as madness, illness, deviance, and sexuality to analysis and control. He tries to show how subjectivity is constituted in a wide range of discourses and practices, within a field of power, knowledge, and truth. He seeks a "diagnostic critique" of modernity that exposes the operations of power that limit experience and espouses a transgression of those limits in favor of a greater freedom of the self. Foucault's works articulate the surrealist goal of depaysment, of making experience strange and problematic so that richer forms of subjectivity can be developed.

Foucault's fundamental concern with the power mechanisms of modernity has been pursued from various methodological perspectives: first, in the 1960s, from the standpoint of archaeology; then, in the 1970s, from genealogy; finally, in the 1980s, from ethics and technologies of the self. These different standpoints should be seen not as incompatible frames of reference, but rather as complementary, overlapping perspectives that analyze the imbrication of knowledge, power, truth, and subjectivity.

While Foucault combines elements of Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bachelard, Canguilhem, Bataille, Blanchot, and others, he transforms them into an original framework of research that overturns numerous tenets of modern historiography and social theory while reconstrucing other elements. He attempts to escape from the transcendental, teleological, progressivist, and humanist assumptions of eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury thought, and to advance new theoretical and political perspectives informed by detotalizing and antifoundationalist postmodern principles. Where modern theories typically assume an overarching unity and coherence to society and history, Foucault seeks to dissolve and unravel unities and universal constructs, to destroy society and history as objects of totality and identity, and to rethink them as differentiated and heterogeneous fields. He makes no attempt, therefore, to discover general causal laws to which one can reduce particular events and by which these events receive their intelligibility. Rather, he tries to recover the specificity of events, the occurence of historical breaks, lines of continuity and discontinuity, and possible points of resistance and trajectories of freedom. Where modern theorists evince predilections toward universal values rooted in natural law or a timeless human nature, Foucault sees only local, specific, changing, nongeneralizable events, discourses, and values. Where the modern mind is prone to find the progression of reason and freedom in history, Foucault sees a kaleidoscopic melange of events with no directional tendencies except toward greater forms of domination.

Foucault's detotalizing impulse applies as well to his own works and method. While there is a general coherence to Foucault's works, they do not comprise a systematic philosophy in the manner of Kant or Hegel; rather, they constitute fragmentary analyses and often represent conflicting perspectives (see Best and Kellner 1991). Foucault claimed that his works are provisional and experimental in character, not finished systems or master keys. Hence, he saw theory as a "toolkit" that provides new instruments for research and political activity to be applied in specific situations (1980a:145).

Foucault's works defy classification, since he freely crosses disciplinary boundaries, working at once within the fields of history, philosophy, social theory, and politics. Although he certainly rejects the "philosophy of history" as a universalist, progressive historical vision, philosophy and history converge in a philosophical critique of the present era. While there are a number of properly "philosophical" issues in his work—concerning problems of language, truth, identity, and so on, they are never analyzed abstractly and ahistorically; rather, such issues are examined in concrete, historical terms that show how these problem emerge, how they become possible in certain epistemic settings, how they change throughout time, and how they have practical implications. While Foucault has renounced the label of "philosopher," saying he is more interested in having direct experiences than in constructing theoretical systems (1991:29), he is renouncing only a certain conception of philosophy—that concerned with an abstract and ahistorical analysis of truth and foundations of knowledge. He lays claim to the title in a different sense: that of someone who engages in critique, who attempts to "think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known" (1986:9). Conversely, although he plays the "truth-game" of history by using dates and periodizations, by citing references, and by quoting texts, Foucault eschews the label of "historian." This is in part because he never analyzes history for its own sake, but always with certain philosophical and political problems in mind, such as the impetus behind the sudden explosion of discourse about sexuality in the modern era. Still, against the charges of Sartre and others, Foucault insists that he is not a "negator of history," and he is adamant about the need of the theorist to do his or her own original historical research to illuminate political problems, rather than relying on standard narratives (1991:124129).

Ultimately, we should see Foucault neither as philosopher nor historian, but as a politically engaged thinker undertaking a historico-philosophical critique of the present. Foucault reorients historical inquiry away from standard attempts to refamiliarize readers with the past in favor of forcing us to confront our real distance to the past in a process of defamiliarization (White 1978). He forcibly underlines the fact that knowledge and experience are contingent and historical in character rather than universal and eternal. Archaeology and genealogy help to overcome essentialist definitions of human experience and practices by analyzing them in a historical context characterized by discontinuity. After reading Foucault, it is difficult to analyze phenomena such as "madness" and "sexuality" from the ahistorical and essentialistic perspectives of "mental illness" and "human nature." To know that a form of rationality has a distinct history is to conceive of social reality being other than what it presently is. Hence, Foucault says, "experience has taught me that the history of various forms of rationality is sometimes more effective in unsettling our certitudes and dogmatism than is abstract criticism" (1988d: 83). In his selective appropriation of "modernity," Foucault abandons universals and preserves a critico-historical "attitude" that calls universals into question, challenging their status as givens. "All my analyses are against the idea of universal necessities in human existence" (Foucault 1988c:11).

Foucault's histories are unique in their focus on topics most historians and revolutionaries thought unimportant. What previously were marginal topics for historians—madness, medical practice, punishment, sexuality— become central points of focus for Foucault. Where a historian like Collingwood tries to limit history only to the study of what is thought (1956:304), a Nietzschean-Foucauldian genealogy greatly enlarges the boundaries of research to include previously excluded phenomena such as mechanisms of power, the body and its desires, and practices of the self. In place of hagiographic celebration of figures such as modern psychiatric reformers Tuke and Pinel, Foucault substitutes a critical analysis that exposes previously unseen forces of power suppressed by liberal, Whiggish histories as well as by Marxism.

Foucault's originality lies not in being the first to write micronarrative histories, or, certainly, to study mechanisms of power, but rather in combining emphasis on power and the local; in analyzing microhistories in relation to power networks; in theorizing power as a mechanism, tactic, and technology in its own right, rather than something wielded by a monarch or a class; in seeing power as a positive and productive force that does not simply inhibit, prohibit, and repress. By vividly alerting us to the "dangers" of rationality, and the increasing control of personal and social life by the processes of "governmentalization," Foucault successfully accomplishes one of his core objectives. He induces an important skepticism about the achievements of liberalism and democracy by showing that behind the rhetoric of increased freedom lies the mechanisms of detailed control and coercion. He points to ways in which "reason" is violence and "truth" is the concealment of power. He illuminates how, far before the "information society," modern society was based not only on the accumulation of capital, but also the "accumulation of knowledge" (1991:165) and how modern forms of knowledge have direct connections to power through the tactics of division, subjugation, confinement, and normalization.

Through detailed, concrete readings of the historical constitution of discourse and practices, Foucault convincingly challenges linear models that see history as a progressive continuum of concepts and action toward a culmination of freedom and knowledge. By appealing to the fundamental archaeological level of discourse, Foucault shifts attention away from the usual concern with the intentions of subjects or the influence of ideas to the more fundamental unconscious ground of discourse. This decenters the usual privileged figures of history to focus attention on more marginal figures. It allows a better understanding not only of historical discontinuity, but also of historical continuity, insofar as archaeology can delve beyond superficial difference among different thinkers to uncover the same underlying rules or codes to which their thought conforms. Where contemporary theory has done much to deconstruct modern notions like the subject, Foucault's works help to deconstruct History, to pluralize it as many histories with independent and unevenly developing trajectories, to recover the integrity and importance of microhistories that have been suppressed by monolithic macrohistories, and to recuperate a sharp sense of contingency lost in teleological Marxism. "The originality of Foucault amongst the great thinkers of this century has been that he does not convert our finitude into the foundation for new certainties" (Veyne quoted in O'Farrell 1989:129)

While Foucault is weak on a dialectical analysis of modernity, he develops an important perspective on the emergence of modernity as a discursive order. The archaeology of the human sciences provides suggestive resources for understanding the metaphysical themes that can be found in much modern theory. Foucault's archaeological perspective provides a way to analyze the discursive dimensions of social reality that does not simply reduce them to ideology; his genealogical perspective establishes the importance of a historical critique of Western reason at the micrological levels of society; and his work on technologies of the self suggest new ways of theorizing historical agency and ethical self-constitution.

Foucault's works also have helped to deconstruct Marxism itself, by exposing its reductionist and essentialist dimensions, and by showing the extent to which it has assimilated problematic elements of Enlightenment and liberal-humanist thought that have helped to spread rather than destroy coercive forms of power. Foucault alerts us to the fact that modern discourse, even when "revolutionary," itself can help to expand the powers of reason over social life. Yet, rather than abandoning Marxist analysis, we need to contextualize it within a larger, multiperspectival framework, to replace its false claims to universality with the truth of its local or regional validity.28 Marxism can illuminate production, labor, class, and state and other phenomena insofar as they are affected by capitalism, but it is not the only or the best means to analyze all those political, cultural, and personal phenomena it has marginalized as elements of the social "superstructure." What must be renounced is not Marxism itself, but the Marxist attempt to monopolize the historical and political terrain. Thus, one could conclude with Mark Poster that "The emancipatory interests promoted by historical materialism are sustained only with a detotalised stance such as that proposed by Foucault" (1989:73).29

Yet, as Poster and many others have seen, despite his antitotalizing rhetoric, Foucault has his own totalizing dimensions. Specifically, these concern his homogenizing analyses of epistemes and his one-sided evaluations of modernity, truth, reason, and subjectivity. Much of the controversy centers around the totalizing periodization schemes in Madness and Civilization and The Order of Things. Sedwick (1982), Midelfort (1980), and others claim that in Madness and Civilization Foucault posits too sharp a break in history in terms of practices of normalization and confinement. They argue that the medieval and Renaissance eras were not always in dialogue with madness, just as the classical era did not only confine and normalize it. They point to historical evidence that the insane were imprisoned, treated in a cruel manner, and placed in therapy long before the "Great Confinement"—as early as the fifteenth century. While the classical era may have intensified such treatment, it was not the first period to initiate it. This evidence suggests that there is more continuity between the capitalist and precapitalist past than Foucault acknowledges and that his historical divisions are far too rigid and monolithic. Midel-fort claims that Foucault's analysis of the "classical experience" is essentializing insofar as it assumes an essence of the age that applies to all countries, when in fact England, France, and Germany adopted different attitudes toward madness.

In The Order of Things, Foucault employs terms such as "classical thought, "modern thought," and "Western thought," all of which imply a homogenous framework. He denies that these terms represent undifferentiated monoliths or abstract totalities, but this qualification must be weighed against his claim that "in any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one episteme that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge" (1973b:168, my emphasis). This statement implies that discursive difference and plurality are only surface effects of a deeper archaeological unity, that there can be no overlapping of different epistemes, since they appear only in pure form and en bloc, and that there are no regional or even national differences in knowledge. It involves a structuralist-inspired attempt to find the one, ultimate structure of mind that underlies all consciousness of a given era. But as Midelfort notes, "There is too much diversity in any one period, and too much continuity between periods, for the relentless quest for the elusive episteme to prove ultimately useful" (1980:259). Similarly, Poetzl finds that Foucault's analysis in The Order of Things "eliminates almost all nonparadigmatic formulations. He also identified each episteme with a long period of time so that in spite of his claim to preserve differences he imposed a uniformity of thought on periods as long as a century and a half" (1983:164-165). How can one isolate pure epistemes, as Foucault tries to do in this text, if continuities exist between them? Ironically, Foucault's notion of episteme is basically Hegelian in its attempt to resolve oppositions into the unity of a general structure and in its arrangement of the epistemes into a historical succession, albeit one devoid of Hegel's teleology.

Merquoir also has criticized The Order of Things for constructing epistemes as monoliths. He argues that in his selective focus on the human sciences, Foucault has ignored important continuities of knowledge that occur in the fields of physics and mathematics, such as the continued importance of mathematics from the Renaissance to the modern eras (1985: 58ff.). The lineage from Galileo to Einstein is far more continuous than that from Buffon to Darwin. While Merquior forgets that it was never Foucault's intention to analyze the mature sciences, it could be argued that they should have a more important role in an examination of theoretical knowledge, and it suggests that the theory of discontinuity may be relative to different branches of the sciences throughout different epistemes. For Merquior, Foucault ignores "transepistemic streams of thought," the ability of old ideas (e.g., phlogiston) to inspire new research, and the "epistemic lags" within a given episteme.

In his response to such critiques in The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault bemoans "the absence of methodological signposting [in The Order of Things that] may have given the impression that my analyses were being conducted in terms of a cultural totality" (1972:16, my emphasis). His reply shows regret more for the style than for the substance of his work, but the problems here are not merely semantic. If the historical data Midlefort and others point to is correct, then Foucault has overstated his case and has produced too simplistic and monolithic accounts of the modern and premodern epistemes.

Yet in The Archaeology of Knowledge Foucault goes to great lengths to overcome any interpetation of his work as totalizing, and his actual analyses shift away from the totalizing use of epistemes employed in The Order of Things. While different fields are governed by the same rules, and therefore form a "perfectly describable system" (Foucault 1972:62), each field has its own specificity that cannot be mapped through a universalizing approach; there are identities and differences. Foucault explains, "These groups of rules are specific enough in each of these domains to characterize a particular, well-individualized discursive formation; but they offer enough analogies for us to see these various formations form a wider discursive grouping at a higher level" (63). Foucault vehemently declares, "Nothing would be more false than to see in the analysis of discursive formations an attempt at totalitarian periodization, whereby from a certain moment and for a certain time, everyone would think in the same way, in spite of surface differences, say the same thing, through a polymorphous vocabulary, and produce a sort of great discourse that could travel in any direction. On the contrary, archaeology describes a level of enunciative homogeneity that has its own temporal articulations" (148).

While the critiques of Midelfort and others make valid points, they do not give an accurate picture of the overall thrust of Foucault's work, which is to identify both lines of continuity and discontinuity in history. In his later work, he made the disclaimer that he never proposed a "philosophy of discontinuity" (1988b:149) and said that he sometimes exaggerated discontinuities in order to counter the traditional emphases on continuity. In The History of Sexuality, he states that historical breaks include some "overlapping, interaction, and echoes" (1980b:149) between the old and the new. There are numerous instances in his works where he is careful to specify continuities and discontinuities, as when he analyzes the ways representation continues to be an important issue for modern philosophy and the human sciences, in a quite different way than it was for the classical era, or when he emphasizes continuity between medieval Christianity and modernity in terms of the constitution of the individual whose deep truth is its sexuality, or when he seeks "that [critical-historical] thread that may connect us [postmodern thinkers] with the Enlightenment" (1984:42).

Interpretations of Foucault's works as either totalizing or detotalizing are themselves totalizing, since one finds both aspects in his work. As with Marx, what is needed is a more discriminating and contextualized analysis of the conflicting impulses at war within Foucault's work. The totalizing accounts of epistemes in The Order of Things, for example, contradict the more pluralizing emphases in The Birth of the Clinic, in which Foucault identifies different forms of clinical medicine coexisting in space and time (Poetzl 1983:164). While the general thrust of Foucault's outlook is detotalizing, he occasionally falls into totalizing schemes that erase the very forms of plurality and differentiation he champions.

Nowhere is this more clear than in his attacks on the Enlightenment, modernity, reason, truth, and subjectivity. Typically, when Foucault and other postmodern theorists attack modern theory and the Enlightenment, they construct an ideal model that hardly fits the complexity and diversity of theorists. As pointed out by Walzer (1986), Taylor (1986), Habermas (1987a), and numerous other critics, Foucault reduces the complex dialectic of modernity, the historical creation of new forms of freedom and domination, to a caricatured distortion of a vast system of domination. He romanticizes the preclassical past as a time when difference was tolerated. The converse of this romanticization is a demonization of modern societies that exaggerates the evils of modern reform measures. Other historians (e.g., Doerner 1981) have argued that the reform measures of Tuke and Pinel had a genuine humanitarian and enlightened aspect to them. Evincing an attitude of gauchisme popular among the radical French intelligentsia in the 1960s, Foucault sti matizes capitalism, rationality, and the Enlightenment without qualification, In his treatment of psychiatry as a "gigantic moral imprisonment" and a "moralizing sadism," Foucault does little justice to historical fact and evinces an inability to analyze modernity dialectically. Unlike Marx and Habermas, therefore, Foucault entirely occludes the progressive aspects of modern democracy, science, technology, and liberal individualism.

In addition to its totalizing aspects, historians have called into question the historical accuracy of Foucault's work. In his careful survey of historical literature on the history of madness, Midelfort shows how Foucault has misread or distorted the historical sources he used to construct his interpretation of madness. Among other errors, Midlefort claims that Foucault disregarded the way madhouses developed from medieval hospitals and monastaries, that he reproduced the false myth of the ship of fools and their pilgramage to reason (in fact, the mad were occasionally sent away on boats in order to be rid of them), that he ignored Pinel's debt to earlier English theorists and to classical antiquity, and that he neglected to show how Tuke used therapeutic methods besides moral authority and surveillance. Pierre Hadot (1992), whose work on ancient ethics was an important influence in Foucault's interpetations, argues that Foucault systematically misread ancient texts, leaving out the crucial fact that the self was cultivated not for its own sake, but it order to make connection with universal reason and nature. Foucault's interpretations, therefore, represent the Stoics and Platonists as more individualistic than they were. Pierre Vilar sums up such frustrations with Foucault's works by denouncing them as a confused collection of "authoritarian hypotheses," "mixed-up dates," "texts mistreated," "historical absurdities," and "errors so gross that we must believe them deliberate" (quoted in Megill 1985: 133).

Given these errors, some critics tend to dismiss Foucault as a bad historian and unreliable interpreter. Such critiques can be traced all the way back to the reception of Foucault's dissertation thesis, Folie et deraison, by Canguilhem and others. Setting the tone for subsequent receptions of Foucault's work, they admired his brilliance and originality, but criticized him for historical inaccuracies, cryptic rhetoric, and unwarranted interpretations that falsify texts to support idiosyncratic readings (see Eribon 1991:108-115; Miller 1993:103-105). Against such critiques, others came to Foucault's rescue, anticipating later defense of his work. Barthes, for example, saw Folie et deraison as "something other than a book of history" and read it instead as "something like a cathartic question asked about madness" (quoted in Eribon 1991:118).

Foucault himself evinces contempt for the positivistic-inspired criticism directed at his thesis, as well as for conventional historiography, stating "I am not a professional historian" (quoted in Megill 1985:117). He has insisted throughout his entire career that he is not engaged in historical study in any traditional sense that purports to be subserviently faithful to the "facts." Foucault claims that his books function more as experiences than as demonstrations of historical truth (1991:36). For Foucault, the essential thing is not that his "experience books" function in a factual mode, in the language game of truth or falsehood, but whether or not they allow us to have a different experience, whether or not they "might permit an alteration, a transformation, of the relationship we have of ourselves and our cultural universe: in a word with our knowledge" (37).30

Foucault's defenders are well aware of such larger, unconventional purposes of his books. Hirst, for example, warns us that "one must be very careful of historians' criticism of Foucault precisely because they take their own practice as a privileged point of departure, which Foucault does not" (1985:148). Hirst claims that Foucault's selection of historical material is governed by the kinds of problems he is trying to illuminate and does not attempt to provide a complete description of a given period. Dews holds that "Foucault is not a historian in the conventional sense but a spinner of philosophical allegories" (quoted in O'Farrell 1989:27). For many critics, the real value of Foucault's works is not their literal historical truth, but his method and provocations. Hence, even Midelfort, one of Foucault's sharpest critics, says, "Historians...should not conclude that a catalogue of Foucault's errors vitiates his whole enterprise, for he still has much to teach us: namely, the necessity of reading omnivorously and of reading closely; the necessity of probing behind a verbal facade to the emotion or unconscious intention within; and the need for a history of mental structures that dares to imagine discontinuity as well as continuity" (1980: 259-260).

Miller (1993:105-109), defends Foucault's style and images as crucial to the purposes of provoking new thought and experience. Connolly (1985) champions Foucault's rhetoric of disruption, which foregoes attempts to ground normative claims to focus on the genesis of social practices and how they limit us, hopefully inciting the reader to political action. While critical of his evacuation of epistemological and normative concerns, Bernstein praises Foucault's ability "to expose instabilities, points of resistances, places where counterdiscourses can arise and effect transgressions and change" (1992:299).

It is true that factual inaccuracies and textual misreadings do not refute Foucault's work. Foucault's works are meant to challenge our normal perceptions of the present, to show that power relationships are contingent and fragile, and to provoke new thought and action. Foucault might well say that the first task is to provoke new ways of thought and action and let others sort out the exact "facts." It is difficult, moreover, to accuse Foucault of misreading "texts" and "authors," since for him these terms imply a set of metaphysical assumptions that he rejects (i.e., the "meaning" of a text or the "intentions" of an author).

Indeed, Foucault eschews "responsibility" for "accurate" readings of texts in favor of using them for seemingly predetermined purposes. What he says of his favorite writers may be true for his research in general. "I prefer to utilize the writers I like. The only valid tribute to thought such as Nietzsche's is precisely to use it, to deform it, to make it groan and protest" (Foucault 1980a:53-54). On this postmodern approach, aesthetic criteria are privileged over factual criteria. Yet, factual errors and textual misreadings pose a real problem for Foucault if he intends his works to have any credibility or claims to be offering better interpretations of modernity than other accounts. Of course, questions concerning what is and is not a "good" or "accurate" reading of history or a text implies some kind of evaluative criteria that must be specified and defended, a move Foucault refuses to make for fear of falling into foundationalist traps. One must ask, with McCarthy, "Can we write history in contrast, say, to fiction, propaganda, or rationalization without being oriented to the idea of truth?" (Hoy and McCarthy 1994:234).

Ultimately, these hermeneutical problems require some attention to epistemology and metatheoretical issues that Foucault, like Marx, dismisses as irrelevant to the practical concerns of social change but that Habermas argues is of fundamental importance. Although they share some concerns and positions, Foucault and Habermas take diametrically opposed positions on fundamental issues. The encounter between Foucault and Habermas is a confrontation between vastly different outlooks, a clash of the leading representatives of French and German theory, a battle between postmodern and modern visions of theory and politics. Just before Foucault's death, these two thinkers had begun efforts at a dialogue that sought in a positive way to explore their similarities and differences. Although the face-to-face exchange can no longer take place, Foucault's works survive to make this important confrontation possible.


1. Although there are clear postmodern moves in Foucault, he himself never used the term "postmodern." See Best and Kellner (1991).

2. For an excellent account of Foucault's relation to Bachelard and Canguilhem, see Gutting (1989).

3. As stated by Foucault himself, his works have grown out of his personal experiences: "Whenever I have tried to carry out a piece of theoretical work, it has been on the basis of my own personal experience, always in relation to processes I saw taking place around me. It is because I could recognize in the things I saw, in the institutions with which I dealt, in my relations with others, cracks, silent shocks, malfunctionings.that I undertook a particular piece of work, a few fragments of autobiography" (1988d:156). Foucault describes his books, accordingly, as "experience-books" that not only articulate his experiences, but allow him to have new experiences, facilitate a change in himself, and prompt others to change as well (1991:25-42). I return to this important concept below and in Chapter 4. Taking Foucault's own cue, one can clearly see Foucault's practical experiences in hospitals and prisons as a psychologist in the early 1950s as a key experiential stimulus for his studies on madness, medicine, and criminality. His homosexuality, which brought on profound depression and guilt feelings early in his life, helps to explain his theoretical studies on sexuality as well as his fascination with limit experiences. Some of those who knew Foucault personally believe that his obsession with psychology and abnormality stems from his own psychological problems and self-identity as a homosexual (Eribon 1991:27). Both his early apoliticism and later militancy also must be understood in terms of his personal experiences (see below). Needless to say, Foucault's work cannot be reduced to his biography, for this would ignore, among other things, a host of important intellectual influences acquired from his reading (itself an important experience). But such biographical inquiries are both relevant and necessary for a thorough understanding of his work. Foucault asked us not to expect him to remain the same, but not to ignore the relation between his work and biography. For valuable biographical information on Foucault, see Eribon 1991, Miller, 1993, and Macey 1993.

4. As I show below, however, Foucault in his later work understands modernity more as a historical attitude, a mode of critique, than a historical period.

5. Foucault's various perspectives rehearse Aristotle's organization of the sciences around knowing (theoria), doing (praxis), and making (techne). It is difficult to be postmodern when one can hardly succeed in being post-Greek.

6. Foucault also lists Georges Dumezil, a historian of comparative religion and myths and colleague at the University of Uppsasla in the 1950s, as a major influence on his archaeology: "He is the one who taught me to analyze the internal economy of a discourse in a manner that was entirely different from the methods of traditional exegesis or those of linguistic formalism. It was he who taught me how to describe the transformations of a discourse and its relations to an institution" (quoted in Eribon 1991:75-76).

7. For a summary of Foucault's debate with Sartre over this issue, see Eribon (1991:163-165). Sartre is correct, however, in charging Foucault with evacuat ing praxis from his analyses and therefore with being unable to account for a key element in the specific forces behind historical change.

8. These are terms Foucault borrows from the Annales school of French historians. For Foucault's relation to this school, see Dean (1994).

9. The main example here comes from the Grundrisse, in which Marx recognizes that Greek culture develops in a manner autonomous from its economic mode of production and continues to attract the modern aesthetic sensibility even though its economic system has long since passed away (1973: 110-111).

10. Foucault continues his references to a new era in The Archaeology of Knowledge, speaking of "established positivities that have recently disappeared or are still disappearing before our eyes" (1972:177). See also Foucault (1989a: 30) where he also delineates a postmodern era that begins around 1950.

11. See, for example, the nonevolutionist approach of Cuvier, discussed in Eiseley (1958). Cuvier rejects linear models of evolution and argues in favor of different life forms evolving along divergent paths.

12. As Foucault states, "'archaeology' would be the appropriate methodology of the analysis of local discursivities, and 'genealogy' would be the tactics whereby, on the basis of the descriptions of local discursivities, the subjected knowledges which were thus released would be brought into play" (1980a: 85).

13. In The Birth of the Clinic, for example, Foucault's most abstract work outside of The Order of Things, he is concerned already with how the "medical gaze" targets the body as an object of knowledge, anticipating his later analysis of disciplinary power and the panopticon. Moreover he shows how medical knowledge was employed as a means of establishing norms of health and policing the social body, anticipating his later analysis of bio-power.

14. These charges stemmed from his refusal to work in a political movement (he did not, for example, take an active part in the antipsychiatry movement his work helped to spawn); his aversion to Communism and Marxism counterposed to his fascination with Sade, Bataille, and Nietzsche; and his work with the department of education to create reforms in the French school system. Foucault's removal from politics before 1969 should be understood in part to have resulted from his alienation from orthodox Communism, leftist sectarianism, and mainstream political parties. Foucault preferred the solitude of his studies on language to what he saw to be the sterile ideological battles and debates of "hyper-Marxism." His turn to militant politics was motivated by the 1968 student struggles that erupted for him not during May in France, but during March in Tunisia, where he was teaching (Foucault 1991:136). Foucault felt compelled to support the students, who were risking their lives and freedom. At the end of 1968, he joined the faculty at the University of Paris, Vincennes, where he fought the police and pushed for radical changes in the university system.

15. For example, in 1972, Foucault spoke on behalf of the needs of exploited young French workers. In 1973 he proposed a regular column in Liberation entitled "Chronicle of the Workers' Memory." As a part of this project, Foucault conducted an interesting interview with a Portugese worker at the Renault plant. He also demonstrated tirelessly in favor of Polish solidarity workers, and tried to create an organizational base of support between them and the French workers union, the Confederation Fran^aise des Travailleurs Democratique (CFDT). For Foucault, the point was not to bid adieu to the proletariat, but to expand the notion and terrain of politics and critique.

16. In the 1970s, in association with a group of French journalists, Foucault sought to produce a means of alternative information and images that would counter the dominant media powers. This project evolved into the creation of Liberation, the Leftist daily, to which Foucault contributed a number of articles. Foucault's most sustained journalistic venture involved numerous trips to Iran in the 1980s as the revolution against the Shaw unfolded. Foucault thought this to be one of the most important political events of the contemporary world and wanted to study the events first-hand. His work led to a series of interesting articles published in the Italian daily Corriere della sera and the French paper Le Nouvel Observateur.

17. It is interesting that despite his theoretical condemnation of liberalism, Foucault made constant use of the liberal discourse of rights. He became increasingly interested in the liberal tradition and spoke of developing a "new form of right" (1980a:108), which, unfortunately, he never fleshed out.

18. "[I]f I don't ever say what must be done, it isn't because I believe that there's nothing to be done; on the contrary, it is because there are a thousands things to do, to invent, to forge, on the part of those who, reocognizing the relations of power in which they're implicated, have decided to resist or escape them. I say certain things only to the extrent to which I see them as capable of permitting the transformation of reality" (Foucault 1991:174).

19. Already in the late 1970s, Foucault saw that his dramatic rhetoric of the "death of man" obscured the perennial reality of human agency and changing forms of subjectivity: human beings "never ceased constructing themselves, that is, to shift continuously the level of their subjectivity, to constitute themselves in an infinite and multiple series of different subjectivities that would never reach an end and would place us in the presence of something that would [become historically constituted as] 'man'" (1991:123-124).

20. The ambiguity in the word "identity" allows one either to condemn or praise it. In its negative connotation, "identity" suggests a static, imposed selfconsciousness, a normalized mode of being to which one is to conform and that limits one's freedom. In its positive connotation, "identity" suggests a self-created, conscious relation to oneself that is dynamic and evolving.

Until the 1980s, Foucault, following Nietzsche, operated only with the former sense of identity. Once we remove the normalizing and essentializing connotations of the term, to have an "identity" no longer seems a terrible thing; in fact, it is the lack of identity, selfhood, and stable (not static) ego that allows for the imposition of a normalizing selfhood and for the creation of a mentality predisposed to fascism.

21. Foucault defines technologies of the self as practices "which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality" (1988c:18).

22. For a similar exhaltation of endless becoming, see Deleuze and Guatarri (1983, 1987); for a critique of this position, see Best and Kellner (1991).

23. Such a quest, of course, conflicts with Foucault's claims that there is no pure space of freedom outside of power, that there is no essence that is not social ly constituted; the quest also betrays an emancipatory and utopian impulse that he otherwise wishes to renounce.

24. As clarified by Schmidt and Wartenberg (1994), this essay is not the first time Foucault confronted Kant. His engagement of Kant dates back to his (still unpublished) These complementaire translation of Kant's Anthropology. In The Order of Things, of course, Kant plays a prominent role as the initiators of modern philosophical anthropology organized around "Man" and his doublets. In "What is Enlightenment?" Foucault offers a far more positive view of Kant not as the founder of humanism, but of the modern tradition of historical critique that Foucault himself draws from. Foucault engaged Kant's essay on the Enlightenment on at least two occassions prior to 1984, each time bringing out different, yet positive, aspects of it. That Kant's essay provided a model of critique for Foucault is an important fact in qualifying the "postmodern" nature of Foucault's work. As I show below, however, Foucault makes important changes in Kant's conception of criticism that relate more to a postmodern than a modern sensibility.

25. Foucault did not initially conceive his politics as reformist and rejected the dualism between radical and reformist. In his discussion with radical lycee students, "Revolutionary Action: Until Now" (1977), he employs the rhetoric of revolution and "radical contestation." He see radical change as emerging from local points of struggle and argues for the need to unify local actions so they are not isolated. He claims that minority struggles "are actually involved in the revolutionary movement to the degree they are radical, uncompromising and nonreformist" (216). After this time, however, Foucault increasingly moves toward more conservative positions and abandons all radical rhetoric, as is clear in the essay "What is Enlightenment?"

26. This was, in contrast, a crucial theme for Deleuze and Guattari (1987), who emphasized that the need to destroy the personal ego had to be done in a careful and measured way so that the individual achieved a "breakthrough" rather than a "breakdown."

27. Chomsky's experience with Foucault is illuminating here. After his televised debate with Foucault before a Dutch audience, where Foucault rejected any use of notions such as responsibility, justice, or law and advocated the position that might makes right ("One makes war to win, not because it's just"), Chomsky concluded: "I'd never met anyone who was so totally amoral" (cited in Miller 1993: 201).

28. In an acrimonious response to a young Maoist, for example, Foucault exclaimed, "Don't talk to me about Marx any more! I never want to hear anything about that man again.. I've had enough of Marx" (quoted in Eribon 1991: 266). As is made clear by comparing this remark with his statement that his work is deeply influenced by Marx (1980a:52-53), Foucault retained an ambivalent attitude toward Marx(ism) after leaving the French Communist Party.

29. Throughout Madness and Civilization, Power/Knowledge, and Discipline and Punish, Foucault makes frequent references to Marxism and contextualizes his analyses within the framework of "capitalism," "class power," and "industrial society." Despite his denunciation of the "economic subordination" of power to a commodity logic and his insistence that power is a "complex domain" in its own right, he also states: "That is not to say that it is independent or could be made sense of outside of economic processes and the relations of production" (1980a: 188). Clearly, he believes that Marx's work and his own analyses are compatible and complementary if employed intelligently.

30. Hence, Foucault insists his experiences not be solipsistic ones, but rather connect with, and help clarify, the experiences of others: "Starting from experience, it is necessary to clear the way for a transformation, a metamorphosis which isn't simply individual but which has a character accessible to others: that is, this experience must be linkable, to a certain extent, to a collective practice and way of cannot have its full impact unless the individual manages to escape from pure subjectivity in such a way that others can—I won't say reexperience it exactly—but at least cross paths with it or retrace it" (1991:38-39, 40). The commonality of experience is allowed by the fact that power itself is a generalizing force and targets different people in similar ways. That Foucault's own experiences indeed have spoken to others is clear from the fact that his "experience book" on madness helped to generate the antipsychiatry movement in England and Italy and his experience book on prisons helped to spawn the GIP and the prisoners' movement in France, to say nothing of the impact of his work on a worldwide readership.