Monday, April 12, 2010

Marx and Foucault

"Now what is interesting here is to reflect on the way that somebody like Foucault, for example, talks about the disciplinary apparatuses that came into being in the 17th, 18th centuries in particular, as part and parcel of creating a self-discipline, in ourselves, which made governmentality so much easier for the bourgeois state. And what Foucault does, in many ways it seems to me, [is to] extend this whole idea here, through books like Madness and Civilization, through the Birth of the Clinic; and, particularly, through Discipline and Punish.

Now, there's a very interesting kind of way in which Foucault is often viewed as somehow or another being 'anti-Marxist.' Well, he was anti- the Maoists, and anti- the Trotskyists, and he was anti- the Communist Party; but it's very clear, when you read this and you read that literature, that this is his starting point. And all of those French intellectuals really started from a good understanding of [Marx] ... and I have to say when I first read all that literature by Foucault, I didn't see it in any way antagonistic to Marx at all; I saw it as an extension; it was an elaboration, and with some transformation involved too; but that this was a wonderful way in which to start to think about the sorts of issues that Marx is talking about [in Capital: Chapter 10: The Working Day]."

-- David Harvey, Reading Marx's Capital (61:25)


Richard said...

Very interesting. (I haven't quite made it that far in my reading, having had to take a week off because of problems of lucidity.)

My sense, more and more, is that too many of the nominally leftwing critics/writers are not sufficiently grounded in Marx. Or, more to the point, they've not grounded in Capital, though they've no doubt read the Brumaire and the Manifesto, things like that. In this way, I think, cultural Marxism became more dominant than a Marxian economic analysis, which it turns out is a good way to contribute to the neutering of the Left.

JRB said...

Yes, I think an intermission is in order somewhere around Chapter 10.

I actually wanted to go back and start over again, because while the component parts are endlessly fascinating, my brain has yet to fit it all together as a working whole. In any event, it is not the kind of book you just riff on in blog posts, I am finding, at least not when you are in the middle of it all.

Interesting point about cultural vs. economic Marxism. It seems to me the economic strain was predominant when state-socialism was still seen as a viable program, with the cultural trend becoming predominant ever since.

The telling thing is how many "leftists" took the "cultural" route when the Soviet Union, et al, preferenced economics (I believe this was Gramsci's innovation), and how many others have stuck with an economic critique (Chomsky, e.g.) in our heyday of "cultural studies." You might count them on one hand!