Home > Philosophy, Politics > Intellectuals & Power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze

Intellectuals & Power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze

Below is from libcom.org:

This is a transcript of a 1972 conversation between the post-structuralist philosophers Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, which discusses the links between the struggles of women, homosexuals, prisoners etc to class struggle, and also the relationship between theory, practice and power.

MICHEL FOUCAULT: A Maoist once said to me: “I can easily understand Sartre’s purpose in siding with us; I can understand his goals and his involvement in politics; I can partially under- stand your position, since you’ve always been concerned with the problem of confinement. But Deleuze is an enigma.” I was shocked by this statement because your position has always seemed particularly clear to me.

GILLES DELEUZE: Possibly we’re in the process of experiencing a new relationship between theory and practice. At one time, practice was considered an application of theory, a consequence; at other times, it bad an opposite sense and it was thought to inspire theory, to be indispensable for the creation of future theoretical forms. In any event, their relationship was understood in terms of a process of totalisation. For us, however, the question is seen in a different light. The relationships between theory and practice are far more partial and fragmentary. on one side, a theory is always local and related to a limited field, and it is applied in another sphere, more or less distant from it. The relationship which holds in the application of a theory is never one of resemblance. Moreover, from the moment a theory moves into its proper domain, it begins to encounter obstacles, walls, and blockages which require its relay by another type of discourse (it is through this other discourse that it eventually passes to a different domain). Practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall. For example, your work began in the theoretical analysis of the context of confinement, specifically with respect to the psychiatric asylum within a capitalist society in the nineteenth century. Then you became aware of the necessity for confined individuals to speak for themselves, to create a relay (it’s possible, on the contrary, that your function was already that of a relay in relation to them); and this group is found in prisons — these individuals are imprisoned. It was on this basis that You organised the information group for prisons (G.I.P.)(1), the object being to create conditions that permit the prisoners themselves to speak. It would be absolutely false to say, as the Maoist implied, that in moving to this practice you were applying your theories. This was not an application; nor was it a project for initiating reforms or an enquiry in the traditional sense. The emphasis was altogether different: a system of relays within a larger sphere, within a multiplicity of parts that are both theoretical and practical. A theorising intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness. Those who act and struggle are no longer represented, either by a group or a union that appropriates the right to stand as their conscience. Who speaks and acts? It is always a multiplicity, even within the person who speaks and acts. All of us are “groupuscules.”(2) Representation no longer exists; there’s only action-theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.

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