Thursday, June 25, 2009
MICHEL FOUCAULT d. JUNE 25th 1984
"Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society."
i think it's quite impossible to overstate how important foucault was to academic thinking in the late 70s. along w/barthes, he commanded everyone's attention. doug bergren brilliantly systematized the archeology of knowledge into a rigorous system of aesthetics for the infamous "aesthetics & the arts" class at new college. i remember being astonished by the brilliance of disipline & punish in fay hansen's freud seminar. every page held a new revelation.
unfortunately, his career took a hit from his death by aids. i remember being flabbergasted by richard rorty suggesting this proved he was w/o ethics. this was so outrageous that i don't think i really rose to the occasion in his defense. the work is there & i think it will endure(unlike, say, sartre's non-fictional work). it certainly gave birth to the new historicism, which has morphed into something else but is still enjoying some academic status in whatever its newest nomenclature happens to be. i suppose i'll also mention the breakthroughs his approach & methods gave to feminism, gay studies, third world studies, & globalization studies.
foucault wasn't concerned w/his place in the history of ideas. he wanted his books "to be a kind of tool-box which others can rummage through to find a tool which they can use however they wish in their own area... I don't write for an audience, I write for users, not readers." despite being shunned(homophobia) & not credited(academic asshole-ishness), he's been put to good use & that's what he wanted.