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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Pickett on Foucault  

2009-02-26 20:49:08|  分类: 后结构理论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Pickett, Brent L. “Foucault and the Politics of Resistance.” Polity 28.4 (1996): 445-66.

452

       Instead of seeing human beings as having a true self, Foucault, following Nietzsche, sees all views of human nature as the expression of contingent histories and social practices. Any particular theory of what a person ought to be like by nature is false, and has effects of constraining human possibilities and marginalizing those who fall outside this ‘nature.’

       A prominent aspect of humanism, one which Foucault is particularly concerned with attacking, involves references to a ‘normal’ individual based on the scientific discourses of psychiatry or criminology. – Humanism is also the legitimating force behind liberal democracy. It tells people that although they do not have power, they are still the rulers:

In short, humanism is everything in Western civilization that restricts the desire for power: it prohibits the desire for power and excludes the possibility of power being seized.

       Because of its effects, Foucault argues that it is necessary to undermine the categories and central concepts of humanism. We need to learn from those who have been the direct targets of power and repression. Learn how they were ‘divided, distributed, selected, and excluded in the name of psychiatry and of the normal individual, that is, in the name of humanism.’

       At the heart of humanism, according to Foucault, is the theory of the subject. Foucault means two things by ‘the subject.’ The first is the subject of a hierarchical political order. This is the humanist notion of the ‘sovereign’ individual who is subjected to the laws of society, nature, truth, and God. The subject, even though he exercises no power, is the sovereign.

452-3

       The humanistic theory of the individual rests, Foucault [453] contends, upon a subjected will to power. That is, the very desire for power is to be eradicated from the individual in the name of truth, nature, and society. In order to achieve the ‘“desubjectification” of the will to power,’ that is, in order to liberate the desire to take power, it is necessary to engage in political struggle. – Foucault repeatedly emphasized that one does not struggle against power to achieve justice; rather one struggles to take power. The notion of the individual as subject, as fixed within a series of hierarchies that limit and constrain, is overthrown through this war for power.

       The second aspect of the theory of the subject is the reference to a ‘normal’ subject. Modern definitions of normalcy are invariably constructed by the human sciences. This fiction of what a normal person is like has important effects, according to Foucault, in courtrooms, prisons, and various other institutions such as universities. The attack on the normal subject is achieved through breaking the various taboos placed upon the individual. Drug experimentation, communes, and ignoring gender lines are all possible examples of this.

454

       ‘The purpose of history, guided by genealogy, is not to discover the roots of our identity but to commit itself to its dissipation.’ The genealogist/new intellectual should use history to introduce ‘discontinuity into our very being’ and thereby deprive us of the traditional grounds of ‘reassuring stability’ and its concomitant blindness.

455

       ‘Humanity does not gradually progress form 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.’

       The disruption of the metanarratives of progress, reason, and increasing humanity helps to make us aware of the constraints and exclusions built into our practices. For instance, the apparent naturalness of incarceration can be undermined, thereby better revealing the violence within that social practice.

       Three institutions to revolt against: Schools are important primarily because they transmit a conservative ideology masked as knowledge. Second, psychiatry is important precisely because it extends beyond the asylum into schools, prisons, and medicine. Finally, and probably most importantly to Foucault, is the judicial system, since it relies on the fundamental moral distinction of guilt/innocence. This allows ‘the most frenzied manifesta- [456]tion of power imaginable’ to masquerade as ‘the serene domination of Good over Evil, of order over disorder.’

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