Academic journal article New Formations

Discipline Is Control: Foucault Contra Deleuze

Academic journal article New Formations

Discipline Is Control: Foucault Contra Deleuze

Article excerpt

PHILOSOPHICAL STAKES

It is often assumed that Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze have compatible philosophical perspectives. There are both biographical and textual grounds for this assumption. Biographically, the two men were close friends during the early 1970s. This was a relatively brief association, however, which ended apparently because of political differences between them, specifically over Deleuze's signing, in 1977, of a petition which described the West German state as fascist and appeared to support the Red Army Faction's armed struggle against it.1

Textually, one reason the two are taken to be aligned is their explicit commentary on one another's work. Deleuze wrote an entire book on Foucault's thought. He also wrote some relatively brief and informal remarks concerning Foucault, including the focus of this article, his 'Postscript on Societies of Control' (henceforth 'Postscript'), which takes up and expands upon elements of Foucault's conceptual toolkit. For his part, Foucault wrote a couple of short pieces on Deleuze. The first was a 1970 review essay of Deleuze's Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense, 'Theatrum Philosophicum'. These two books by Deleuze were published only a year apart, in 1968 and 1969 respectively, and represent his main attempt to articulate his own distinctive philosophical position. Foucault's review is a piece of enthusiastic exegesis. This was the era of the burgeoning of their personal friendship, originating around their shared interest in Friedrich Nietzsche's thought.2

Foucault goes on briefly to incorporate some lexical elements from his review in his inaugural Collège de France lecture later the same year. Here he largely restates his 1960s research program, adding a degree of politicisation to it. He also affirms what he had previously identified in the review as crucial components of Deleuze's Logic of Sense, namely a philosophy of the 'event' concerned to give materiality to the 'incorporeal' - though he admits in his review that the concept of 'incorporeal materiality' he derives from Logic of Sense is not one Deleuze would assent to.3 Still, any influence on Foucault's thought itself here is overdetermined, in that it is already accounted for by other influences such that it is impossible to say that the influence of Deleuze was particularly decisive. Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge, released the same year as Logic of Sense, can readily be described as attempting to give a material reading of incorporeal language through the notion of the statement, and the word 'event' is already almost as prominent in Foucault's book as in Deleuze's. Perhaps Deleuze's attention to ancient Greek thought influenced Foucault to conduct research in this direction in 1970, opening a research program he would return to in force in the 1980s - yet Foucault's longstanding interest in Nietzsche already provides a motivation for this turn. Foucault and Deleuze indeed became friends partly because of such pre-existing similarities in their perspectives.

Foucault also wrote an enthusiastic preface to the English translation, first published in 1977, of Deleuze and Félix Guattari's first collaboration together, Anti-Oedipus. Like Foucault's earlier review, this is a case of laudatory exegesis, but in neither case does this imply complete agreement. There are reports that, on the contrary, Foucault disliked the book.4 Anti-Oedipus is, as its title indicates, aimed at usurping the psychoanalytic notion of the Oedipus complex. This was a cause that Foucault and Deleuze had in common: in the first volume of his History of Sexuality, Foucault criticises Freud for reinforcing the patriarchal family as an institution via the notion of the Oedipus complex, at a time when paternal authority was otherwise under attack. Foucault and Deleuze are also both each critical of psychoanalysis for overvaluing sex itself. However, the pair ultimately have almost contrary positions regarding the question of sexuality, due to a broader difference concerning the notion of social power. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.