Monday, December 4, 2006

Pardon his French

A good friend of mine in Japan visited me here some months ago. He's a big "fan" of postmodern, Continental philosophy (PCM); I am not particularly such a fan. But he shared some of his zeal for it with me and by the time he left, we agreed to read Michel Foucault's The Order of Things (Les mots et les choses) together in absentia, as it were. Well, after several weeks, weeks full of job changes, apartment relocations, visa runs and the like, I hit a wall at page 126 (Vintage edition). Since then, Les cots et les choses has been staring at me like a gargoyle, a Cheshire-like grin beaming from it as smugly as PCM regards its predecessors. I guess I just couldn't "pardon his French".

Well, for whatever reason, a week or two ago I bought a Foucault reader (Paul Rainbow's Pantheon edition). I was put off by Foucault's large works, but was still interested in getting a more straightforward, not so very abstruse introduction to Pere Fester (my nickname for Foucault). Well, after reading Rainbow's preface, I fell into a Foucault frenzy. I snagged his Power/Knowledge, Archaeology of Knowledge, and Miller's biography of Pere Fester, and spent much of Sunday devouring bits and pieces of them all.

It's not so much that I find Foucault irresistibly insightful; it's more basically that I LOVE clearing whole tracts of my ignorance (which is, I must admit, pretty much what my knowledge of PCM amounts to: acres of ignorance).

Basic considerations so far:

+ The present is its history; but history has a history refracted by the present.
+ Biblical powers are more explicit and believable in the light of (Foucauldian) PCM than ever.
+ Synergistic redemption on all levels is more tractable (so to speak) given the radical plasticity of social fabric.
+ Crucial ambivalence between re- and destructuring power dynamics for social "battle" and his refusal to direct the struggle. Actively committed to remaining uncommitted.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

I've had to read bits and pieces of Foucault for history classes (which is, in some sense, ironic) and I find that his ideas can be helpful, but that historians have made his lexicon into a suffocating method. Everything is discourse, everything is power.

I could be wrong