Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Foucault's Second Thoughts (II)

Foucault is still a hero to many leftists, who see him as an early champion of "identity politics" and the political correctness with which it is associated. In fact, Foucault's thinking moved on and eventually rejected it, says an article by Richard Wolin in next month's Chronicle (link below). It isn't the first instance of Foucault's thinking discomfiting his original, left-wing audience. As we wrote last year, Foucault, visiting Iran in 1979, had understood that its revolution wasn't against Western values, but against the corruption of the Shah's regime. His coverage of this enraged contemporary leftists.

Foucault, in rejecting "identity politics" as intrinsically narcisstic, and recognising that his analysis of "horizontal" power (in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality) had dismissed the claims of subjectivity (and the self) in the face of impersonal power shifts, reverted to the Classical concept of "the beautiful life" - aesthetic self-cultivation.

This aesthetic means of creating a self he preferred to what he (and Nietzsche) saw as the self-renunciation of Chritianity, as well as the narcissism of modern self-expression and identity politics.

The Chronicle: 8/31/2006: Foucault the Neohumanist?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Former Waffen-SS Man Has Book To Sell

G√ľnter Grass, the walrus-moustachioe'd leftist bore, has been forced to come clean about his membership of the Waffen-SS, 60 years after the event. Grass used the intervening time to good effect, posing as a morally-superior, politically-correct scourge of capitalists and Christians, whom he flayed with deadly hauteur and patronising put-downs. Grass even received the Nobel Prize for Literature, and - most ironically - Honorary Citizenship of Danzig/Gdansk - something Lech Walesa, for one, now deeply deplores. Grass was foremost amongst those who cast their verbal stones of contempt at President Reagan and Chancellor Kohl for visiting a graveyard containing, amongst others, a few tombs of his less fortunate former SS comrades. This episode now seems scandalous for Grass' barefaced impudence alone.

The timing of Grass' "admission" is most fortuitous. It seems that it was forced, as the relevant documents were due to be made public early next year. Pre-empting that has greatly helped him gain attention for his memoirs. It has also made it possible for him to pretend to the mantle of moral superiority and heartsearching. An earlier admission, on the other hand, would have made his subsequent career impossible.

Whilst there is nothing new about Nazis transforming themselves from committed national socialists into equally committed international socialists and greens, it is unusual for the process to be as exhibitionistic, and with as much moral superiority, as Grass made his trademark during the past 60 years. Through all this time, his crackpot views have been listened to with respect. Thankfully, all that nonsense can now come to an end.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Grass to retain Nobel despite row