Conversation with Claire Parnet, 1986
What are you doing in this book? Is it a homage to Michel Foucault? Do you reckon his thought isn't properly understood? Are you analyzing the similarities and differences between his work and yours and what you reckon you owe to him? Or are you, rather, trying to present a mental portrait of Foucault ?
I felt a real need to write this book. When someone that you like and admire dies, you sometimes need to draw their picture. Not to glorify them, still less to defend them, not to remember, but rather to produce a final likeness you can find only in death, that makes you realize "that's who they were." A mask, or what he himself called a double, an overlay. Different people will find different likenesses or overlays. But in the end he's most like himself in becoming so different from the rest of us. It's not a question of points I thought we had in common, or on which we differed. What we shared was bound to be rather indefinite, a sort of background that allowed me to talk with him. I still think he's the greatest thinker of our time. You can do the portrait of a thought just as you can do the portrait of a man. I've tried to do a portrait of his philosophy. The lines or touches are of course mine, but they succeed only if he himself comes to haunt the picture.
You wrote in Dialogues: "I can talk about Foucault, say he told me this or that, explain how I see him. That's irrelevant, unless I've actually come to terms with the set of chiseled sounds, compelling gestures, ideas that are all tinder and fire, extreme concentration and abrupt conclusions, laughs and smiles that seem dangerous the very moment one feels their tenderness. . . "Is there something "dangerous" in Foucault's thought that also explains the passion it continues to arouse?
Dangerous, yes, because there's a violence in Foucault. An intense violence, mastered, controlled, and turned into courage. He was trembling with violence on some demonstrations. He saw what was intolerable in things. This may be something he shared with Genet. He was a man of passion, and he himself gave the word "passion" a very precise sense. One can't but think of his death as a violent death that came and interrupted his work. And his style, at least up to the last books that attained a kind of serenity, is like a lash, it's a whip twisting and relaxing. Paul Veyne paints a portrait of Foucault as a warrior. Foucault always evokes the dust or murmur of battle, and he saw thought itself as a sort of war machine. Because once one steps outside what's been thought before, once one ventures outside what's familiar and reassuring, once one has to invent new concepts for unknown lands, then methods and moral systems break down and thinking becomes, as Foucault puts it, a "perilous act," a violence whose first victim is oneself. The objections people make, even the questions they pose, always come from safe ashore, and they're like lumps of mud flung at you to knock you down and stop you getting anywhere rather than any help: objections always come from lazy, mediocre people, as Foucault knew better than anyone. Melville said: "For the sake of the argument, let us call him a fool,-then had I rather be a fool than a wise man.-I love all men who dive. Any fish can swim near the surface, but it takes a great whale to go down stairs five miles or more. . . Thought-divers . . . have been diving and coming up again with bloodshot eyes since the world began."2 People will readily agree that intense physical pursuits are dangerous, but thought too is an intense and wayward pursuit. Once you start thinking, you're bound to enter a line of thought where life and death, reason and madness, are at stake, and the line draws you on. You can think only on this witches' line, assuming you're not bound to lose, not bound to end up mad or dead. That's something that always fascinated Foucault, the switching, the constant juggling of what's close and distant in death or madness.
Was everything already implicit in Madness and Civilization, or are there rather successive advances, crises, changes of direction?
The question of madness runs right through Foucault's work. Though of course he criticized Madness and Civilization for still giving too much weight to an "experience of madness." He shifted from a phenomenology to an epistemology where madness is trapped in a "knowledge" varying from one historical formation to another. Foucault always used history like this, he saw it as a way of avoiding madness. But the experience of thinking cannot itself be detached from some broken line running through the different figures of knowledge. To think about madness is to experience not madness but thought: it becomes madness only when it breaks down. This said, does Madness and Civilization already contain in principle everything else, for example the conceptions Foucault came to form of discourse, knowledge, and power? Certainly not. There's something great writers often go through: they're congratulated on a book, the book's admired, but they aren't themselves happy with it, because they know how far they still are from what they're trying to do, what they're seeking, of which they still have only an obscure idea. That's why they've so little time to waste on polemics, objections, discussions. I think Foucault's thought is a thought that didn't evolve but went from one crisis to another. I don't believe thinkers can avoid crises, they're too seismic. There's a wonderful remark in Leibniz: "Having established these things, I thought I was coming into port, but when I started to meditate upon the union of the soul with the body, I was as it were thrown back onto the open sea." Indeed, this ability to break the line of thought, to change direction, to find themselves on the open sea, and so discover, invent, is what give thinkers a deeper coherence. Madness and Civilization was of course itself the result of a crisis. Out of it came a whole conception of knowledge, fully elaborated in the Archaeology of knowledge - that is, in his theory of utterance-but leading into a new crisis, that of '68. For Foucault it was a great period of energy and exhilaration, of creative gaiety: Discipline and Punish bears its mark, and that's where he moves from knowledge to power. He moves into this new area to which he'd earlier drawn attention, which he'd marked out but not explored. And of course it's a radicalization: '68 stripped bare all power relations wherever they were operating, that is, everywhere. Previously, Foucault had primarily analyzed forms, and now he moved on to the play of forces underpinning those forms. He leaps into something formless, into the element of what he himself calls "micro-physics." And this takes him right through to the first volume of The History of Sexuality. But after that book there's yet another, very different, crisis-more internal, perhaps more depressive, more secret, the feeling of facing an impasse? There were lots of interconnected reasons, and maybe we'll come back to this point, but I got the impression that Foucault wanted to be left alone, to be on his own with a few close friends, to take a distance without even moving away, to reach a point where relations broke down. That was my impression, anyway, maybe it was quite wrong.
He seemed to still be working on the history of sexuality, but he was taking a completely different line, he was discovering long-term historical formations (down from the Greeks), whereas up to that point he'd restricted himself to short-term formations (in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), he was reorienting all his research in terms of what he called modes of subjectification. It was nothing to do with returning to the subject, he was creating something new, breaking out along a new line, a new exploration no longer concerned with knowledge and power in the same way. Another radicalization, if you like. Even his style changed, no longer scintillating, with sudden flashes of brilliance, but taking on an ever more austere, ever purer linearity, almost calm. It wasn't all just theory, you see. Thinking's never just a theoretical matter. It was to do with vital problems. To do with life itself. It was Foucault's way of coming through this new crisis: he was tracing the line that would take him through, and into new relations with knowledge and power. Even if it killed him. That seems a silly thing to say: it wasn't the discovery of subjectification that killed him. And yet. . . "some opening, or I'll suffocate . . . " There's one key thing that runs right through Foucault's work: he was always dealing with historical formations (either short-term or, toward the end, long-term ones), but always in relation to us today. He didn't have to make this explicit in his books, it was quite obvious, and he left the business of making it still clearer to interviews in newspapers. That's why Foucault's interviews are an integral part of his work. Discipline and Punish deals with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but can in no way be divorced from today's prisons and the Information Group set up by Foucault and Defert after '68. Historical formations interest him only because they mark where we come from, what circumscribes us, what we're in the process of breaking out of to discover new relations in which to find expression. What he's really interested in is our present-day relation to madness, our relation to punishment, our relation to power, to sexuality. Not the Greeks, but our relation to subjectification, our ways of constituting ourselves as subjects. Thinking is always experiencing, experimenting,3 not interpreting but experimenting, and what we experience, experiment with, is always actuality,4 what's coming into being, what's new, what's taking shape. History isn't experimentation, it's only the set of conditions, negative conditions almost, that make it possible to experience, experiment with, something beyond history. Without history the experiments would remain indeterminate, divorced from any particular conditions, but the experimentation itself is philosophical rather than historical. Foucault's more thoroughly philosophical than anyone else in the twentieth century, probably the only philosopher: he's completely escaped from the nineteenth century, which is why he can talk about it so well. That's what it meant for Foucault to put his life into his thought: his relation to power, and then the relation to oneself, was a matter of life or death, of madness or a new sanity. Subjectification wasn't for Foucault a theoretical return to the subject but a practical search for another way of life, a new style. That's not something you do in your head: but then where, these days, are the seeds of a new way of existing, communally or individually, beginning to appear; and are there any of these seeds in me? We must, of course, examine the Greeks; but only because, according to Foucault, it was they who invented this notion, this practice, of a way of life. . . There was a Greek experience, Christian experiences, and so on, but it's not the Greeks or Christians who are going to experience things for us these days.
Is it so very tragic, Foucault's thought? Isn't it shot through with humor too?
In all great writers you find a humorous or comic level along with the other levels, not just seriousness, but something shocking even. There's a general outlandishness in Foucault: not only outlandish punishments, which produce the great comic passages in Discipline and Punish, but the outlandishness of things, and of words. There was a lot of laughter in Foucault, in his life as well as his books. He particularly liked Roussel and Brisset, who at the close of the nineteenth century invented strange "procedures" for manipulating words and phrases. And Foucault's book of 1963 on Roussel is already, so to speak, the poetic and comic version of the theory of utterance set out in the Archaeology of knowledge. Roussel takes two phrases that have very disparate senses but differ only minimally (/es bandes du vieux pillard and /es bandes du vieux billardI6) and proceeds to conjure up visual scenes, extraordinary spectacles to connect the two phrases, twist one into the other. Working along other lines, with a crazy etymology, Brisset conjures up scenes corresponding to the way he takes a word apart. Foucault finds here already a whole conception of the relations between the visible and the utterable. And the reader's struck by the way Foucault seems to come upon themes reminiscent of Heidegger or Merleau-Ponty: "A visibility beyond the gaze .. .The eye lets things be seen by grace of their being." It's as though, implicitly, he's taking Roussel as a precursor of Heidegger. And it's true that in Heidegger too there's a whole etymological procedure bordering on madness. I really liked Foucault's pages on Roussel, because I got a more vague sense of a certain similarity between Heidegger and another author rather like Roussel in some ways,Jarry. Jarry defines pataphysics etymologically as going beyond metaphysics, and explicitly bases it on the visible or the being of phenomena. But what do you get by transposing things from Heidegger to Roussel (or Jarry)? Foucault gets a complete transformation of the relations between the visible and utterable seen in the light of the "procedures" mentioned: rather than any agreement or homology (any consonance), you get an endless struggle between what we see and what we say, brief clutchings, tussles, captures, because we never saywhat we see and never see what we say. The visible bursts out between two propositions, and an utterance bursts out between two things. Intentionality gives way to a whole theater, an endless interplay between the visible and the utterable. Each breaks open the other. Foucault's criticism of phenomenology is there, unannounced, in Raymond Roussel.
And then there's the emphasis on "one," in Foucault as in Blanchot: you have to begin by analyzing the third person. One speaks, one sees, one dies. There are still subjects, of course-but they're specks dancing in the dust of the visible and permutations in an anonymous babble. The subject's always something derivative. It comes into being and vanishes in the fabric of what one says,what one sees. Foucault draws from this a very intriguing conception of "infamous men," a conception imbued with a quiet gaiety. It's the opposite of Bataille: the infamous man isn't defined by excessive evil but etymologically, as an ordinary man, anyone at all, suddenly drawn into the spotlight by some minor circumstance, neighbors complaining, a police summons, a trial . . . It's a man confronting Power, summoned to appear and speak. He's more like something out of Chekhov than Kafka. In Chekhov there's a story about a little maid who strangles a baby because she hasn't being able to get any sleep for nights and nights, and one about a peasant who's taken to court for unbolting railway lines to get weights for his fishing rod. The infamous man is Dasein. The infamous man's a particle caught in a shaft of light and a wave of sound. Maybe "fame" works the same way:being taken over by a power, an instance of power that makes us appear and speak. There was a point where Foucault got tired of been famous: whatever he said, people were just waiting to praise or criticize it, they didn't even attempt to understand it. How could he ever again produce something unexpected? You can't work without the unexpected. To be an infamous man was a sort of dream for Foucault, his comic dream, his way of laughing: am I infamous? His essay on The Life of Infamous Men is a masterpiece.
Would you say that article also expresses a crisis?
Absolutely, yes, the article has various levels. The fact is that Foucault, after the first volume of The History of Sexuality in 1976, didn't publish any books for eight years: he suspended work on the rest of The History of Sexuality, even though the contents had already been announced. It was fascinating material, "the children's crusade" and so on," which he must have completed most of the research. What happened at this point, and during those years? If there was really was a crisis, it must have involved many very different interacting factors: disappointment, perhaps, about the way things were going elsewhere, with the eventual failure of the prison movement; on another level, the collapse of more recent hopes, Iran, Poland; the way Foucault became ever more dissatisfied with French social and cultural life; in his work, the feeling of growing misunderstandings about the first volume of The History of Sexuality and of what he was trying to do in the History; and finally, the most personal element perhaps, a feeling that he had himself reached an impasse, that he needed solitude and strength to deal with something relating not only to his thought but also to his life. If he'd reached an impasse, what did it come down to? Foucault had up to that point analyzed formations of knowledge and apparatuses of power; he'd reached the composites of power and knowledge in which we live and speak. And that was still the viewpoint of the History's first volume: establishing the corpus of utterances relating to sexuality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and ascertaining around which foci of powers these utterances take shape, either normalizing or, conversely, challenging those powers. The first volume thus remains within the method Foucault had earlier managed to establish. But I think he must have come up against the question of whether there was anything "beyond" power-whether he was getting trapped in a sort of impasse within power relations. He was,you might say, mesmerized by and trapped in something he hated. And it was no use telling himself that coming up against power relations was the lot of modern (that is, infamous) man, that it's power that makes us speak and see, it wasn't enough, he needed "some opening"... He couldn't stay locked in what he'd discovered. The first volume did of course identify points of resistance to power; it's just that their character, their origin, their production were still vague. Perhaps Foucault had the feeling that he must at all costs cross that line, get to the other side, go still further than knowledge and power. Even if it meant reconsidering the whole project of The History of Sexuality. And that's just what he's telling himself in the very fine piece on infamous men: "Always the same inability to cross the line, to get to the other side. . . always the same choice, on the side of power, of what it say or has people say".
"It's nothing to do with him repudiating his earlier work. It's all his earlier work, rather, that pushes him into this new confrontation. Only readers who've "accompanied" Foucault in his research can understand this. That's why it's so stupid to hear that "he saw he'd made a mistake, and had to reintroduce the subject." He never reintroduced the subject, and never had to do anything but what his work demanded: he left behind composites of knowledge and power and entered into a final line of research, like Leibniz "thrown back onto the open sea."
There was no other option but to pursue this new discovery, or stop writing.
What is this "line," or this relation that's no longer a power relation? Isn't it foreshadowed earlier on?
It's difficult to talk about. It's a line that's not abstract, though it has no particular shape. It's no more in thought than in things, but it's everywhere thought confronts some thing like madness, and life some thing like death. Miller used to say you find it in any molecule, in nerve fibers, in the threads of a spider's web. It's the fearsome whaling line, which Melville says (in Moby-Dick) can carry us off or strangle us as it flies out. For Michaux it's the line of drugs, "headlong acceleration," the "whiplash of a frenzied coachman." It may be a painter's line, like Kandinsky's, or the one leading to Van Gogh's death. I think we ride such lines whenever we think bewilderingly enough or live forcefully enough. They're lines that go beyond knowledge (how could they be "known"?), and it's our relations to these lines that go beyond power relations (as Nietzsche says,who could call it "a will to control"?). Are you saying they're already there in all Foucault's work? That's true, it's the line Outside. The Outside, in Foucault as in Blanchot from whom he takes the word, is something more distant than any external world. But it's also something closer than any inner world. So you get an endless switching between closeness and distance. Thinking doesn't come from within, but nor is it something that happens in the external world. It comes from this Outside, and returns to it, it amounts to confronting it. The line outside is our double, with all the double's otherness. Foucault was always talking about it, in Raymond Rousell in a homage to Blanchot, in The Order of Things.
In The Birth of the Clinic there's a whole passage on Bichat... to me a model of Foucault's method or procedure: he's analyzing Bichat's conception of death epistemologically, and it's the most thorough, the most brilliant analysis imaginable. But you get the feeling that there's something more to the text, that there's a passion there that goes beyond summarizing some long-dead author. The thing is, Bichat put forward what's probably the first general modern conception of death, presenting it as violent, plural, and coextensive with life. Instead of taking it, like classical thinkers, as a point, he takes it as a line that we're constantly confronting, and cross in either direction only at the point where it ends. That's what it means to confront the line Outside. Passionate men die like Captain Ahab, or like the Parsee rather, chasing their whale. They cross the line. There's something of that in Foucault's death. Beyond knowledge and power, there's a third side, the third element of the "system" ... An acceleration, one might almost say, that makes it impossible to distinguish death and suicide.
This line, if it's so "fearsome," how can we make it endurable? Is this what the fold is all about: the need to fold the line?
Yes, this line's deadly, too violent and fast, carrying us into breathless regions. It destroys all thinking, like the drugs Michaux had to stop using. It's nothing but délire and madness, like Captain Ahab's "monomania." We need both to cross the line, and make it endurable, workable, thinkable. To find in it as far as possible, and as long as possible, an art of living. How can we protect ourselves, survive, while still confronting this line? Here a frequent theme of Foucault's comes in: we have to manage to fold the line and establish an endurable zone in which to install ourselves, confront things, take hold, breathe-in short, think. Bending the line so we manage to live upon it, with it: a matter of life and death. The line itself is constantly unfolding at crazy speeds as we're trying to fold it to produce "the slow beings that we are," to get (as Michaux says) to "the eye of the hurricane": both things are happening at once. This idea of folding (and unfolding) always haunted Foucault: not only is his style, his syntax, shaped by folding and unfolding, so is the way language works in the book on Roussel ("folding words"), the way thought works in The Order of Things, and above all the way what Foucault discovers in his last books as an art of living (subjectification) works.
The fold and unfolding is something familiar to readers of Heidegger. It's arguably the key to the whole of Heidegger's philosophy ("to approach Thought is to be on the way to the Fold of Being and beings"). In Heidegger we find the Open, the fold of Being and beings as the condition for any visibility of phenomena, and human reality as the being of distance. In Foucault we find the outside, the folding of the line Outside, and human reality as the being of the Outside. Maybe that's why Foucault in his last interviews compares his approach with Heidegger's. And yet taken as a whole, these two ways of thinking are so different, the problems addressed are so different, that the similarity remains very external: in Foucault there's no such thing as experience in the phenomenological sense, but there are always knowledges and powers already in place, which both reach their limit and vanish in the line Outside. Foucault seems to me closer to Michaux, sometimes even to Cocteau: he brings out the relation between them in terms of a problem of living, breathing (just as he transposed a Heideggerian theme into Roussel so as to transform it). The Cocteau who, in a posthumous book called precisely The Difficulty of Being, explains that dreaming works at amazing speeds, unfolding "the folding whose intervention makes eternity endurable," but that waking life has to fold the world so we can endure it, so that everything doesn't confront us at once. Or more specifically, the Michaux whose very titles and subtitles might have inspired Foucault: The Space Within, The Distant Interior, Life Among Folds, Locked In (subtitled Poetic Capacities, Slices of Knowledge. . . ). It's in The Space Within that Michaux writes: "Children are born with twenty-two folds. These have to be unfolded. Then a man's life is complete. And he dies. There are no more folds to undo. Men hardly ever die without still having a few more folds to undo. But it has happened." You can't get much closer to Foucault than that. Yougetjust the same sense of folding and unfolding. Only in Foucault there are four primary folds instead of twenty-two: the folding of our body (ifwe're Greeks, or our flesh, if we're Christians-so there are many possible variations for each fold), the folding of a force impinging on itself rather than other forces, truth enfolded in relation to us, and finally the ultimate folding of the line outside, to produce an "expectant interiority." But it's alwaysthe same question, running from Roussel through to Michaux, that produces this poetic philosophy: how far can we unfold the line without falling into a breathless void, into death, and how can we fold it, but without losing touch with it, to produce an inside copresent with the outside, corresponding to the outside? It's a matter of "practices." Rather than talking of a more or less hidden influence of Heidegger on Foucault, I think one should talk of a convergence of Holderlin-Heidegger on the one hand, and Roussel- or Michaux-Foucault on the other. But they're working along very different paths.
Is this what "subjectification" is all about? Why that word?
Yes, this folding of the line is precisely what Foucault eventually comes to call the "process of subjectification," when he begins to examine it directly. It's easier to understand when you see why, in his two last books, he attributes it to the Greeks. The tribute's more Nietzschean than Heideggerian and is, in particular, a very clear and original view of the Greeks: in politics (and elsewhere) the Greeks invented a power relation between free men, it's free men who govern free men. Given that, it's not enough for force to be exerted on other forces or to suffer the effects of other forces, it has to be exerted upon itself too: the man fit to govern others is the man who's completely mastered himself. By bending force back on itself, by setting force in a relation to itself, the Greeks invent subjectification. We're no longer in the domain of codified rules of knowledge (relations between forms), and constraining rules of power (the relation of force to other forces), but in one of rules that are in some sense optional (self relation): the best thing is to exert power over yourself. The Greeks invent an aesthetic way of existing. That's what subjectification is about: bringing a curve into the line, making it turn back on itself, or making force impinge on itself. So we get ways of living with what would otherwise be unendurable. What Foucault says is that we can only avoid death and madness if we make existing into a "way," an "art." It's idiotic to say Foucault discovers or reintroduces a hidden subject after having rejected it. There's no subject, but a production of subjectivity: subjectivity has to be produced, when its time arrives, precisely because there is no subject. The time comes once we've worked through knowledge and power; it's that work that forces us to frame the new question, it couldn't have been framed before. Subjectivity is in no sense a knowledge formation or power function that Foucault hadn't previously recognized; subjectification is an artistic activity distinct from, and lying outside, knowledge and power. In this respect Foucault's a Nietzschean, discovering an artistic will out on the final line. Subjectification, that's to say the process of folding the line outside, mustn't be seen as just a way of protecting oneself, taking shelter. It's rather the only way of confronting the line, riding it: you may be heading for death, suicide, but as Foucault says in a strange conversation with Schroeter, suicide then becomes an art it takes a lifetime to learn.
Isn't that a return to the Greeks, though? And "subjectification," isn't it an equivocal word that does actually reintroduce a subject?
No, there's definitely no return to the Greeks. Foucault hated returning anywhere. He only ever talked about what he himself was living through; and mastering oneself, or rather the production of self, speaks for itself in Foucault. What he says is that the Greeks "invented" subjectification, and did so because their social system, the rivalry between free men, made this possible (in games, oratory, love. . . and so on). But processes of subjectification are extraordinarily varied: Christian ways are altogether different from the Greek way, and not just after the Reformation, but from primitive Christianity onward, the production of individual or collective subjectivity takes all sorts of paths. We should remember the passages in Renan about the Christians' new aesthetics of existence: an aesthetic way of existing to which Nero, in his own way,contributes, and which goes on to find its highest expression in Francis of Assisi. A confrontation with death, with madness. The key thing, for Foucault, is that subjectification isn't to do with morality, with any moral code: it's ethical and aesthetic, as opposed to morality, which partakes of knowledge and power. So there's a Christian morality but also a Christian ethics/aesthetics, and all sorts of conflicts and compromises between the two. We might say the same these days: what is our ethics, how do we produce an artistic existence, what are our processes of subjectification, irreducible to our moral codes? Where and how are new subjectivities being produced? What can we look for in present-day communities? Foucault may well go right back to the Greeks, but what interests him in The Use of Pleasure, as in his other books, is what's happening, what we are and what we're doing, today: whether recent or distant, a historical formation is analyzed only as it differs from us, and in order to trace out that difference. How can anyone see a contradiction between the theme of "the death of man" and that of artistic subjectifications? Or between rejecting morality and discovering ethics? The problem changes, and something new is created. The simple fact that subjectivity is produced, that it's a ''way, ''should be enough to convince one the word should be treated very carefully. Foucault says "an art of oneself that's the exact opposite of oneself. . . " If there's a subject, it's a subject without any identity. Subjectification as a process is personal or collective individuation, individuation one by one or group by group. Now, there are many types of individuation. There are subject-type individuations ("that's you. . . ," "that's me. . . "), but there are also event type individuations where there's no subject: a wind, an atmosphere, a time of day,a battle. . . One can't assume that a life, or a work of art, is individuated as a subject; quite the reverse. Take Foucault himself: you weren't aware of him as a person exactly. Even in trivial situations, say when he came into a room, it was more like a changed atmosphere, a sort of event, an electric or magnetic field or something. That didn't in the least rule out warmth or make you feel uncomfortable, but it wasn't like a person. It was a set of intensities. It sometimes annoyed him to be like that, or to have that effect. But at the same time all his work fed upon it. The visible is for him mirrorings, scintillations, flashes, lighting effects. Language is a huge "there is," in the third person-as opposed to any particular person, that's to say an intensive language, which constitutes his style. In the conversation with Schroeter, once again, he develops an opposition between "love" and "passion," and presents himself as a creature of passion rather than love. It's an extraordinary text; since it's only an informal conversation, Foucault doesn't try to provide any philosophical basis for the distinction. He talks about it on an immediate, vital level. The distinction is nothing to do with constancy or inconstancy. Nor is it one between homosexuality and heterosexuality, though that's discussed in the text. It's a distinction between two kinds of individuation: one, love, through persons, and the other through intensity, as though passion dissolved persons not into something undifferentiated but into a field of various persisting and mutually interdependent intensities ("a constantly shifting state, but not tending toward any given point, with strong phases and weak phases, phases when it becomes incandescent and everything wavers for an unstable moment we cling to for obscure reasons, perhaps through inertia; it seeks, ultimately, to persist and to disappear. . . being oneself no longer makes any sense. . ."). Love's a state of, and a relation between, persons, subjects. But passion is a subpersonal event that may last as long as a lifetime ("I've been living for eighteen years in a state of passion about someone, for someone"), a field of intensities that individuates independently of any subject. Tristan and Isolde, that may be love. But someone, referring to this Foucault text, said to me: Catherine and Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, is passion, pure passion, not love. A fearsome kinship of souls, in fact, something not altogether human (who is he? A wolf. . . ). It's very difficult to express, to convey-a new distinction between affective states. Here we come up against the unfinished character of Foucault's work. He might perhaps have given this distinction a philosophical range as wide as life. It should teach us, at least, to be very careful about what he calls a "mode of subjectification." For such modes involve subjectless individuations. That may be their main feature. And perhaps passion, the state of passion, is actually what folding the line outside, making it endurable, knowing how to breathe, is about. All those who are so saddened by Foucault's death may perhaps rejoice in the way that such a monumental body of work breaks off with an appeal to passion.
In Foucault as in Nietzsche we find a critique of truth. In each of them there's a world of captures, clutchings, struggles. But everything in Foucault seems colder, more metallic, like the great descriptive clinical tableaux. . .
Foucault does draw on Nietzsche. To take one specific instance: Nietzsche prided himself on being the first to produce a psychology of priests and to analyze the nature of their power (priests treat the community as a "flock," which they control by infecting it with ressentiment and guilty conscience). Foucault rediscovers the theme of "pastoral" power, but his analysis takes a different direction: he defines this power as "individuative," that is, as an attempt to take over the mechanisms individuating members of the flock. In Discipline and Punish he'd shown how in the eighteenth century political power became individuative through "disciplines"; but he eventually discovered pastoral power at the root of that tendency. You're right, the fundamental link between Foucault and Nietzsche is a criticism of truth, framed by asking what "will" to truth is implied by a "true" discourse, a will the discourse can only conceal. Truth, in other words, doesn't imply some method for discovering it but procedures, proceedings, and processes for willing it. We always get the truths we deserve, depending on the procedures of knowledge (linguistic procedures in particular), the proceedings of power, and the processes of subjectification or individuation available to us. So to get at the will to truth directly, we have to consider untrue discourses, which become confused with the procedures that produce them, like those of Roussel or Brisset: their untruth can also be seen as truth in the wild state.
Foucault and Nietzsche have three main things in common. The first is their conception of force. Power in Foucault, like power in Nietzsche, isn't just violence, isn't just the relation of a force to a being or an object, but corresponds to the relation of a force to the other forces it affects, or even to forces that affect it (inciting, exciting, inducing, seducing, and so on, are affects). Secondly, there's the relation between forces and form: any form is a combination of forces. This already comes out in Foucault's great descriptive tableaux. But more particularly in all the stuff about the death of man and the way it relates to Nietzsche's superman. The point is that human forces aren't on their own enough to establish a dominant form in which man can install himself. Human forces (having an understanding, a will, an imagination, and so on) have to combine with other forces: an overall form arises from this combination, but everything depends on the nature of the other forces with which the human forces become linked. So the resulting form won't necessarily be a human form, it might be an animal form of which man is only an avatar, a divine form he mirrors, the form of a single God of which man is just a limitation (thus, in the seventeenth century, human understanding appears as the limitation of an infinite understanding). A Man-form, then, appears only in very special and precarious conditions: that's what Foucault analyses in The Order of Things as the nineteenth century's project, in terms of the new forces with which man was then combining. Now, everyone says man's coming into relation these days with still other forces (the cosmos in space, the particles in matter, the silicon in machines. . . ): a new form is coming out of this, and it's already ceased to be human. . . Nothing excites so many stupid reactions as this simple, precise, and grand theme in Nietzsche and Foucault. The third common point, finally, has to do with processes of subjectification: once again, this is nothing to do with constituting a subject, it's about creating ways of existing, what Nietzsche called inventing new possibilities of life, already seeing its origin in the Greeks. Nietzsche saw this as the highest dimension of the will to power, artistic will. Foucault would eventually characterize this dimension by the way force impinges on or inflects itself, and would himself take up the history of the Greeks and Christians, orienting it along these lines. The key thing, as Nietzsche said, is that thinkers are always, so to speak, shooting arrows into the air, and other thinkers pick them up and shoot them in another direction. That's what happens with Foucault. Whatever he takes up he thoroughly transforms. He's always creating. You say he's more metallic than Nietzsche. Maybe he even changed what the arrow was made of. You have to compare them in musical terms, in terms of their respective instruments (procedures, proceedings, and processes): Nietzsche went through a Wagnerian phase but came out of it. Foucault went through Webern, but he's perhaps closest to Varese, yes, metallic and strident, calling for the instruments of our "actuality."
excerpt from the book: Negotiations, 1972-1990/part three: Michel Foucault by Gilles Delleuze
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