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?

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