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Chapter 4 Ideology and Social Subjectivity
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Chapter 4
Ideology and Social Subjectivity

Despite Althusser's general concept of ideology as a social symbolic system governed by practical interests and subject-centered experience, his focus, in For Marx and Reading Capital , is almost exclusively on a restricted aspect of ideological discourse, its functioning as a "knowledge effect" in relation to scientific discourse. In his later works, particularly a key 1969 essay, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (in Althusser 1971), Althusser returned to the general concept of ideology and its "practical-social" function—the material production of ideology and the constitution of social subjectivity—and to the relationship of ideological to economic and especially to political practices. This change of emphasis, I have argued, should not be misunderstood; it is neither a denial of the conceptual distinction between science and ideology nor a reversal of Althusser's defense of the relative autonomy of science as a social practice. It is rather a logical consequence of Althusser's rejection of philosophical rationalism and an attempt to develop further his materialist concept of ideology as a structured system of meaning embodied in and reproduced by concrete practices and institutions. By formulating the concept of ideology within a modernist framework of ontological realism and epistemological relativism, Althusser is able to specify the inner relationship between Marxism as a scientific discourse and Marxism as a philosophical position with respect to anti-Marxist perspectives: "Ideologies are not pure illusions (Error), but bodies of representations existing in institutions and prac-


tices: they figure in the superstructure, and are rooted in class struggle. If the science founded by Marx shows up the theoretical conceptions of its own prehistory as ideological, it is not therefore simply to denounce them as false: it is also to point out that they claim to be true, and were accepted and continue to be accepted as true—and to show why this is so" (Althusser 1976, 155).

While theoretically rejecting rival conceptions of historical practice as ideology/error, Marxism must also account for them in a scientific way, as objectively existing historical-social practices whose truth or falsehood is not at issue. Of course, an important element of this approach was already present in For Marx and Reading Capital , particularly when Althusser spoke of ideology in terms not of truth or falsehood but of the "imaginary":

So ideology is a matter of the lived relation between men and their world. This relation, that only appears as "conscious " on condition that it is unconscious , in the same way only seems to be simple on condition that it is complex , that it is not a simple relation but a relation between relations, a second degree relation. In ideology men do indeed express, not the relation between them and their condition of existence, but the way they live the relation between them and their conditions of existence: this presupposes both a real relation and an "imaginary," "lived " relation. (Althusser 1969, 233)

As an imaginary relation, ideology is neither necessarily true nor necessarily false; it is simply an order of consciousness in which, as Althusser rather clumsily puts it in For Marx , the "practico-social function is more important than the theoretical function" (Althusser 1969, 231). This "imaginary" relation may or may not correspond to a relation posited by a science; even though all ideologies are "imaginary," they are not therefore false.[1] In this sense, ideologies are more basic to social formations than are the sciences since, unlike sciences, they are necessary to any conceptualization of social formations. Ideology, Althusser maintains, is "an organic part of every social totality . . . not an aberration or contingent excrescence of history [but] a structure essential to the historical life of society" (Althusser 1969, 232-33). In contrast to science, ideology performs a ubiquitous social function, one that must be fulfilled in every society, including a socialist society, since in all societies men and women must be formed, transformed, and equipped to respond to their conditions of existence. This process of socialization requires a system of ideas, beliefs, and values by which men and women experience their world as a coherent whole and find their place within it as subjects.


In "Ideology and the Ideological Apparatuses of the State," Althusser posits an account of social subjectivity more complex than the one presented in his early works. The initial view of the Althusserians defined the function of ideology in terms of social "cohesion" and the "masking" of social contradictions. The following citation, from Nicos Poulantzas's Political Power and Social Classes (originally published in 1968), is representative:

Ideology, which slides into every level of the social structure, has the particular function of cohesion . It fulfills this function by establishing at the level of the agent's experience relations which are obvious . . . and which allow their practical activities to function within the unity of a formation. . . . Ideology has the precise function of hiding real contradictions and of reconstituting on an imaginary level a relatively coherent discourse which serves as the horizon of the agent's experience; it does this by moulding their representations of their real relations and inserting these in the overall unity of the relations of production. . . . [The function of ideology] is not to produce knowledge effects, not to give agents knowledge of the social structure, but simply to insert them as it were into their practical activities supporting the existing social formations. (Poulantzas 1973, 207-8)

Ideology aims for cohesion, and it achieves this aim by means of the social subject, not as a result of the autonomous activity of human beings, but rather by means of the structured process of constituting human beings as social subjects. For Althusser, any theory of ideology predicated on an individual or a class subject not only slips inevitably into an essentialist problematic of alienation but also mistakes effect for cause since ideology creates subjects rather than breaks them down or alienates them from their nature or essence. Ideology also masks existing social contradictions by naturalizing existing social relations, the positions occupied by social subjects, within an imaginary discourse that presents these relations as inevitable (thereby excluding the possibility that things might be different) and coherent (thereby excluding or rationalizing the existence of problems within these social relations).

This initial conception of ideology asserts both too much and too little. It claims too much by blandly proclaiming the total success of ideology with respect to its functions of cohesion and masking (without any elaboration of the specific mechanisms by which such effects are realized). It claims too little insofar as the effectivity of ideology, despite certain indications to the contrary, is defined largely in negative and oppressive terms—as nothing more than the "false consciousness" without which capitalism could not survive. Finally, the emphasis on cohesion and masking ignores the uneven development of the field of


ideology and the existence of contradictions within the socialization process. In "Ideology and the Ideological Apparatuses of the State," Althusser goes beyond his initial problematic of cohesion and masking to explain the mechanisms by which subjects are formed and the political implications of the process. Althusser's efforts have been greatly extended by others, Pierre Bourdieu and Göran Therborn in particular, and have served as the point of departure for the work of postmodern icon Michel Foucault, whose negative dependence on Althusser deserves special consideration in light of his celebrity status and his anti-Marxism.

Althusser: The Interpellation of Social Subjects

In "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," Althusser abandons the rather amorphous idea of cohesion in favor of a more concrete concept of the function of ideology, namely, the reproduction of existing relations of production: "[The] reproduction of labor power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e., a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression" (Althusser 1971, 132). Althusser argues that the function of ideology is to reproduce this submission and this ability, but to comprehend this process requires a good deal more than the traditional metaphor of base/superstructure. However, it is only by locating the role of the superstructure in securing the reproduction of the mode of production that we begin to develop an adequate theory of the superstructure. Althusser proposes two theses regarding this process: "Thesis 1: Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their conditions of existence. . . . Thesis 2: Ideology has a material existence" (Althusser 1971, 153, 155). The first thesis, with which we are already familiar, is developed in conjunction with the second by means of the category of the subject: "Every human, that is to say social individual, cannot be the agent of a practice unless he takes the form of a subject. The 'subject form' is in fact the form that the historical existence of every individual, every agent of social practices, takes: for the relations of production and reproduction necessarily involve, as the integrating element, what Lenin called [juri-


dico-] ideological social relations which, in order to function, impose on every individual-agent the form of a subject" (Althusser 1976, 95).

To reproduce the existing relations of production, there must be individuals equipped to respond to the needs of society, and this end is achieved by constituting the social subject, a process Althusser calls "interpellation." For Althusser, the category of the subject is constitutive of all ideology, "in so far as all ideology has the function (which defines it) of 'constituting' concrete individuals as subjects" (Althusser 1971, 171). All ideology and all ideological discourse are therefore based on the subject-form, the category of the subject, which, Althusser insists, pre-exists the concrete individual (who is to become a social subject) by means of an operation of the category of the subject on the concrete individual.

This is a proposition which entails that we distinguish . . . between concrete individuals on the one hand and concrete subjects on the other, although . . . concrete subjects only exist insofar as they are supported by a concrete individual. . . . [I]deology "acts" or "functions" in such a way that it "recruits" subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or "transforms" the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation . . . called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: "Hey, you there!" . . . [T]he hailed individual will turn around [and] by this mere one-hundred-and-eighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject . Why? Because he has recognized that the hail was "really" addressed to him, and that "it was really him who was hailed" (and not someone else). (Althusser 1971, 174)

Ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects by means of the pre-existing category of the subject. It invariably creates subjects and controls them by recognizing them as subject-objects, subjects in relation to objects (or more precisely, in relation to possible object-directed practices). From the perspective of any meaningful concept of social practice, therefore, there is an underlying complicity beneath the superficial "opposition" of subject and object within traditional philosophy. As Alex Callinicos observes, "The notion of a subject cannot be separated from that of its object, and from the relation held to subsist between them. In a sense, subject and object are made for each other. To conceive of a subject is to conceive of whatever it is the subject of. To conceive of an object is to conceive of whatever it is an object for" (Callinicos 1976, 65).[2] What we call the individual is in fact a structured combination of relations of subjectivity or subject-object relationships.


The process of interpellation is accomplished by means of a general framework of centering, which Althusser describes in terms of an absolute Subject around whom an infinity of individuals/subjects is interpellated. Taking religion as a classic manifestation of this process, Althusser notes that religious ideology is indeed addressed to individuals in order to transform them into subjects. However, this process is dominated by the central position of God: "there can only be such a multitude of possible religious subjects on the absolute condition that there is a Unique, Absolute, Other Subject , i.e., God" (Althusser 1971, 178). A reciprocal relation of mutual recognition exists between this absolute Subject and individual subjects. "Were not men made in the image of God? As all theological reflection proves, whereas He 'could' perfectly well have done without men, God needs them, the Subject needs the subjects, just as men need God, the subjects need the Subject" (Althusser 1971, 179). The relation between the Subject and the subjects may be understood as a "mirror-connection" or, more precisely, "[a] double mirror-connection such that it subjects the subjects to the Subject, while giving them in the Subject in which each subject can contemplate his own image (present and future), the guarantee that this really concerns them and Him, . . . i.e., those who have recognized God and have recognized themselves in Him, will be saved" (Althusser 1971, 180).

Mirror-connections pervade the ideological instance; the Subject is there before we are born, and we are marked by the interpellation process even as we emerge from the womb. For Althusser, the individual is "always already subject" and, as such, always already enmeshed in the practices and rituals of ideological recognition. These rituals, inscribed in material institutions, assure that the majority of individuals will reproduce the existing relations of production. They are subjects in both senses of the word: (1) free subjects, with a free will, and (2) subjected beings stripped of all freedom. "The duplicate mirror-structure of ideology ensures simultaneously (1) the interpellation of 'individuals' as subjects; (2) their subjection to the Subject; (3) the mutual recognition of subjects and Subject, the subjects' recognition of each other, and finally the subject's recognition of himself; (4) the absolute guarantee that everything really is so, and that on the condition that the subjects recognize what they are and behave accordingly, everything will be all right" (Althusser 1971, 180-81).

There is an obvious and important parallel between the concept of interpellation and the concepts of "imaginary" and "symbolic" put for-


ward by Althusser's contemporary Jacques Lacan (whose rereading of Freud has caused at least as much controversy as Althusser's rereading of Marx).[3] According to Lacan, the unconscious is structured like a language—a private, thus unique language that emerges during the Oedipus complex (it does not exist before this moment) when the child makes the transition from what Lacan calls the "imaginary stage" of psychological development to the "symbolic stage." The imaginary stage is characterized by relations of identification; the child does not clearly distinguish his or her separateness from the world of adults and builds up a complex network of associations between sounds and reality based on mechanisms of identification. Obviously, the child must be forced out of such relationships if he or she is to acquire a sense of individuality and a sense of place with respect to other individuals. In Lacan's view, this break is achieved with the acquisition of language (the symbolic), which, above all, gives the child the personal pronoun "I" and transposes the imaginary process of identification onto a structured field of symbols organized around the phallus, which Lacan calls the "Law of the Father," that is, the social significations, relationships, and values embedded in language. The acquisition of language creates the subject (the ego) and is accompanied by the repression of the private discourse of the imaginary stage, the latter becoming, according to Lacan, the unconscious.

The acquisition of the symbolic is a matter of both syntax and semantics. The syntactical element differentiates the child from others (the acquisition of the "I") and provides him or her a certain power to control the world of others by means of symbolic manipulation (sentences). However, the semantic element also assigns the child a place in the social space—what Althusser calls "the Law of Culture"—with which the child is supposed to identify (the transposition of the imaginary into a network of secondary identifications) and accept without question. However, the "I" of society's discourse, imposed on the child from without, does not coincide with the private language that the infant developed during the imaginary stage and whose significations (correlated signs and desires) were repressed with the acquisition of the symbolic yet persist as the unconscious. Thus there is a perpetual conflict between the unconscious and the ego, an ongoing process of contradictions between the real (desire), the symbolic, and the imaginary.

Being and consciousness are always at odds with each other, according to Lacan. The subject is never a unifying whole, since being is radically ex-centric to itself—characterized by a fundamental gap at its


center which is predicated on the difference between the language of the unconscious and the symbolic order of society and which is intensified by the ambiguity between signifier and signified characteristic of all languages. The ego is constituted in relation to an ambiguous chain of signifiers that in their unity constitute the Other that is their transcendental locus; it is through the Other that the individual ego constitutes itself in an existence where desire is possible. Desire motivates the subject, but it is always controlled (and frustrated) by the Other—the discourse of the symbolic. Desire is doomed to perpetual unfulfillment since it is always caught in the network of secondary identifications (the imaginary) that surround, or more precisely articulate, the Other. The conditions of the subject, the ego and the unconscious, are limited to what is possible in the Other. In this sense, Lacan concludes, they are all discourses of the Other.

Despite the important distinction between the social world and the world of the psyche, similar relationships apply within the Althusserian conceptualization of the ideological instance. Actual social relationships between the individual and his or her conditions of existence (the Lacanian real) are experienced through interpellated "mirror-connections" or subject-object relations (the Lacanian imaginary). The Absolute Subject, which for Althusser represents the structured system of places and roles defining social subjects in terms of a center (the second order, or double mirror-connection), corresponds to Lacan's concept of the symbolic, the Other, the Law of the Father. Ideological interpellation is contradictory because, as is the case with the Lacanian psyche, the multiplicity of subject-object interpellations does not necessarily correspond to actual lived relations, nor are these relations even necessarily compatible with each other. Althusser defines ideology as both a recognition and a misrecognition (connaissance and méconnaissance ). What we recognize (and accept as given) is our interpellation as subjects and our place in society, "the 'obviousness' that you and I are subjects—and that this does not cause any problems" (Althusser 1971, 172). What we fail to recognize (or rather what we see through a necessary distortion that is the form of recognition in ideological practice) is, "in the last resort, the reproduction of the relations of production and the relations deriving from them" (Althusser 1971, 183).

Because ideology is a different order or mode of discourse from science, Althusser's concepts of recognition and misrecognition cannot be compared to the knowledge and ideology/error of scientific practice. Ideological recognition is anchored in the real because ideology always


refers to its material conditions of existence, but its relation to the real takes the form of an imaginary identification and is thus at the same time a misrecognition; ideology only "knows" the real in order to "represent" it in an order appropriate to its practical goals. As Althusser explains, "it is not their real conditions of existence, their real world, that 'men' 'represent to themselves' in ideology, but above all it is their relation to these conditions of existence which is represented to them there. . . . What is represented in ideology is therefore not the system of real relations which govern the existence of individuals, but the imaginary relation of those individuals to the real relations in which they live" (Althusser 1971, 164-65). In the field of ideology the subject exists in relations that correspond to commodity relations in the field of the capitalist economy: as the Subject (God, but also Reason) constitutes all human beings in social relations of equivalence and naturalizes or fetishizes the subject form, so the Commodity (Money, the embodiment of exchange value) constitutes all production in social relations of equivalence and naturalizes or fetishizes the commodity form.

Ideological Apparatuses and State Power

The concept of an "ideological apparatus" is a second major innovation of the essay "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," and it is by means of this concept that Althusser grounds the process of interpellation in concrete social practices and institutions. Ideology is a domain of consciousness, according to Althusser, but it is also a material practice that exists within the context of concrete practices and rituals: "I shall talk of actions inserted into practices. And I shall point out that these practices are governed by the rituals in which these practices are inscribed, within the material existence of an ideological apparatus " (Althusser 1971, 168). Such apparatuses cannot be adequately expressed in terms of the traditional metaphor of a superstructure, for the latter term disguises their formative influence on the reproduction of existing relations of production. Nor can the traditional Marxist emphasis on the state as a repressive tool of the ruling class be allowed to obscure the many non-repressive ways in which the power of the ruling class is maintained. Althusser contends, following Gramsci (for the relationship between them, see Buci-Glucksmann 1980), that we must see the political power of a ruling class as consisting not only of their monopoly of the repressive apparatus of the state (the army, police, and so on) but also of their ideological hegemony over society, a hegemony


embodied in the institutionalization of their ideology in various apparatuses usually considered "private," what Gramsci calls "civil society." Althusser maintains that one must distinguish between state power, the objective of the political class struggle, and the state apparatus. Power may change without necessarily affecting the apparatus, he points out, and a communist revolution must insure not only the transfer of power but also the destruction of the apparatus. However, to accomplish this end, "it is indispensable to take into account not only the distinction between State power and State apparatus, but also another reality which is clearly on the side of the (repressive) State apparatus, but must not be confused with it. I shall call this reality by its concept: the ideological State apparatuses" (Althusser 1971, 142).

Ideological state apparatuses are different from the formal state apparatus, which includes the government, the administration, the army, the police, the courts, the prisons, and so on; these institutions make up what Althusser calls the repressive state apparatus. The ideological state apparatuses, in contrast, exist for the most part outside the public sphere and include such institutions as churches, schools, the family, political parties, trade unions, mass media, and culture. Althusser sums up the distinctions between the two types of state apparatuses in the following manner:

1. All the State Apparatuses function both by repression and by ideology, with the difference that the (Repressive) State Apparatuses function massively and predominantly by repression, whereas the Ideological State Apparatuses function massively and predominantly by ideology.

2. Whereas the (Repressive) State Apparatus constitutes an organized whole whose different parts are centralized beneath a commanding unity, that of the politics of class struggle applied by the political representatives of the ruling classes in possession of State power, the Ideological State Apparatuses are multiple, distinct, "relatively autonomous" and capable of providing an objective field to contradictions which express, in forms which may be limited or extreme, the effects of the clashes between the capitalist class struggle and the proletarian class struggle, as well as their subordinate forms.

3. Whereas the unity of the (Repressive) State Apparatus is secured by its unified and centralized organization under the leadership of the representatives of the classes in power, the unity of the different Ideological State Apparatuses is secured, usually in contradictory forms, by the ruling ideology, the ideology of the ruling class. (Althusser 1971, 149)

The role of the repressive state apparatus consists essentially in se-


curing by force (physical or otherwise) the political conditions of the reproduction of production, which are, above all, the political conditions for the action of the ideological state apparatuses: "it is the latter which largely secure the reproduction specifically of the relations of production, behind a 'shield' provided by the repressive State apparatuses. It is here that the role of the ruling ideology is heavily concentrated, the ideology of the ruling class, which holds State power" (Althusser 1971, 150). The ideological state apparatuses are "unified," despite their diversity and contradictions, beneath the ruling ideology or, in the language of structural causality, the "ideology in dominance" that permeates even oppositional ideologies in such a way that every subject is interpellated in relation to a common center. It is in the concept of the ideological state apparatuses and the explanation of the reproduction of the existing relations of production by means of the hegemony of the dominant ideology that Althusser's concept of history as a "process without a subject" and his theory of ideology find their common ground. As Callinicos perceptively remarks, "Ideology is the way in which men and women are formed in order to participate in a process of which they are not the makers, and ideology performs this function by giving them the illusion that history was made for them" (Callinicos 1976, 70).

Althusser's concepts of interpellation and ideological apparatuses are enormously suggestive for social theory, and as we shall see, Structural Marxists have applied them with profit to the realms of aesthetics and political theory. However, the form in which they are introduced in the 1969 essay "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" tended (understandably enough, given Althusser's initial focus on the reproduction of the existing relations of production) to identify the concept of ideology with a particular form of ideology, namely, the dominant ideology. This reduction has the unfortunate consequence of understating the complexity of the interpellation process as well as its contradictory nature. In addition, if Althusser may be said to have ignored the relationship between ideology and politics in For Marx and Reading Capital , in his later essay ideology and politics have become all but indistinguishable. All ideologies, it would seem, are appendages of the state, and the latter assumes an almost monolithic aura of invincibility. This view, as we shall see, distorts not only the concepts of ideology and politics but the relationship between them as well.[4]

Althusser has since attached a postscript to his essay in which he


acknowledges the fact that ideologies are "determined in the last instance by class struggle" and explicitly rejects the idea that the ruling ideology is some sort of "ideology in general" or even the "conflict-free realization of the ideology of the ruling class." However, it remains difficult, within the stated framework of the concepts of interpellation and ideological state apparatus, to discern the possibility of contradiction and opposition within the ideological sphere. The slogan "class struggle" is invoked as if these two (theoretically) empty words are sufficient to banish the (politically) debilitating effects of the theory to which they are appended. The fact of the matter is that certain of the issues raised by the new concepts can be answered only by penetrating beneath the rhetorical surface of the term "class struggle" to their theoretical content, a task we will take up in due course. Certain other questions, however, may be dealt with immediately, and first among these is whether or not the individual-subject may be viewed as something more than a robot fabricated by the dominant ideology: how, in other words, are we to conceptualize interpellation, not as a univocal process, but as one that remains contradictory despite the domination of the ruling ideology?

Bourdieu: Ideology, Habitus, and Symbolic Capital

French cultural anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu has provided a fruitful approach to the problem of social subjectivity, one that incorporates the structural determination of the process of interpellation within a dynamic, open-ended framework of social practice. In his Outline of a Theory of Practice (French edition, 1972; English translation, 1977), Bourdieu sublates the antagonism between phenomenological methodologies, which focus on primary experiences, and objectivist methods, which focus on the objective relations that structure primary experience, by means of a dialectical "theory of practical knowledge" focusing on the relations between objective structures and the structured "dispositions" within which those structures are actualized and which tend to reproduce them. Individuals, interpellated as subjects, Bourdieu maintains, are not imprinted with a fixed set of rules and procedures as much as they are endowed with a social sense or "cultivated disposition, inscribed in the body schema and the schemas of thought, which


enables each agent to engender all the practices consistent with the logic of challenge and riposte, and only such practices, by means of countless inventions, which the stereotyped unfolding of ritual would in no way demand" (Bourdieu 1977, 15). The structured social-symbolic field of ideological significations, which Bourdieu refers to as habitus , enables agents to generate an infinity of practices adapting to endlessly changing situations without ever being constituted as a monolithic set of rules, rituals, or principles.

For Bourdieu, the structures constitutive of a particular social formation produce a habitus wherein the agent's interests are defined and with them the objective functions and subjective motivations of their practices. Habitus is a system of "durable, transposable dispositions , structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is as principles of generation and structuring of practices and representations which can be objectively 'regulated' and 'regular' without in any way being the product of obedience to rules" (Bourdieu 1977, 72). Habitus is the condition of existence of all practice, the source of a series of moves objectively organized as strategies, which cannot be reduced to either a mechanical reaction or creative free will.

The habitus . . . produces practices which tend to reproduce the regularities immanent in the objective conditions of the production of their generative principle, while adjusting to the demands inscribed as objective potentialities in the situation, as defined by the cognitive and motivating structures making up the habitus. It follows that these practices cannot be directly deduced either from the objective conditions, defined as the instantaneous sum of the stimuli which may appear to have directly triggered them, or from the conditions which produced the durable principle of their production. These practices can be accounted for only by relating the objective structure defining the social conditions of the production of the habitus which engendered them to the conditions in which this habitus is operating, that is, to the conjuncture which, short of radical transformation, represents a particular state of this structure. In practice, it is the habitus, history turned into nature, i.e., denied as such, which accomplishes practically the relating of these to two systems of relations in and through the production of practice. The "unconscious" is never anything other than the forgetting of history which history itself produces by incorporating the objective structures it produces in the second natures of habitus. (Bourdieu 1977, 78)

Bourdieu's is a materialist theory of social action. The nature of habitus as the ideological unconscious of practice creates a "common-


sense" world endowed with the objectivity secured by a consensus on the meaning of practices and the world that exists among subjects who do not, strictly speaking, know what they are doing, but who are aware of the possible sequences and consequences of their actions. Subjects are aware of their social position and its trajectory—all the properties of which they are bearers—and hence of "the social distance between objective positions, that is between social persons conjuncturally brought together (in physical space, which is not the same thing as social space) and correlatively . . . of this distance and of the conduct required in order to 'keep one's distance' or to manipulate it strategically, whether symbolically or actually" (Bourdieu 1977, 82). The habitus has an endless capacity to engender practices whose limits are set by the historically determinate conditions of its production. Thus "the conditioned and conditional freedom it secures is as remote from a creation of unpredictable novelty as it is from a simple mechanical reproduction of the initial conditionings" (Bourdieu 1977, 95).

As a system of symbolic identifications with social positions, habitus provides coherence as well as contradiction. Because symbolic objects can enter, without contradiction, into successive relationships set up from different points of view, they are subject to what Bourdieu describes as "overdetermination through indetermination"—"the application to the same objects or practices of different schemes . . . which . . . are all practically equivalent, is the source of the polysemy characterizing the fundamental relationships in the symbolic system, which are always determined in several respects at once" (Bourdieu 1977, 110). Thus from the point of view of practice, Bourdieu insists that there are only approximate or partial logics. This is the case because practices are the product of a small number of generative schemes that are practically interchangeable, that is, capable of producing equivalent results from the point of view of the "logical" demands of practice. Their "quasi-universality" is always bound to practical interests that impose on the generative schemes a necessity that is not that of a logic but of a doxa .

For Bourdieu, every established order produces, to different degrees and with different means, the naturalization of its own arbitrariness. Of all the mechanisms tending to produce this effect, the most important and the best concealed is the dialectic of the objective chances and the agent's aspirations out of which arises the "sense of limits" commonly called the "sense of reality." The sense of reality, always the perception of a subject, is the correspondence between objective classes


and internalized classes, social structure and mental structures, which is the basis of the most ineradicable adherence to the established order.

In the extreme case, that is to say, when there is a quasi-perfect correspondence between the objective order and the subjective principles of organization . . . the natural and the social world appears as self-evident. This experience we shall call doxa , so as to distinguish it from an orthodox or heterodox belief implying the awareness and recognition of the possibility of different or antagonistic beliefs. Schemes of thought and perception can produce the objectivity that they do produce only by producing misrecognition of the limits of cognition that they make possible, thereby founding immediate adherence, in the doxic mode, to the world of tradition experienced as a "natural world" and taken for granted. (Bourdieu 1977, 164)

The principles of the construction of reality, in particular of social reality, are a central dimension of political power. While Bourdieu opposes the notion of an ahistorical and abstract application of a single economic rationality to societies that "think" differently about economic interest, he insists on the economic nature of all symbolic systems. Even those that appear economically irrational to us, he maintains, never cease to conform to economic calculations, even if they give every appearance of disinterestedness by departing from the logic of interested calculation (in the narrow sense) and playing for stakes that are of non-material nature and not easily quantified. The theory of economic practice, in other words, is simply a particular case of a general theory of the economics of practice. "The only way to escape from the ethnocentric naiveties of economism, without falling into populist exaltation of the generous naivete of earlier forms of society, is to carry out in full what economism does only partially, and extend economic calculations to all the goods, material and symbolic, without distinction, that present themselves as rare and worthy of being sought after . . . 'fair words' or smiles, handshakes or shrugs, compliments or attention, challenges or insults, honour or honours, powers or pleasures, gossip or scientific information, distinction or distinctness, etc." (Bourdieu 1977, 177).

Symbolic capital, a transformed and thereby disguised form of physical "economic" capital, produces its proper effect insofar, and only insofar, as it conceals the fact that it originates in "material" forms of capital that are also, in the last instance, the source of its effects. Only a reduced and reductive materialism can fail to see that strategies whose object is to conserve or increase the honor of the group (Bourdieu's example is based on his fieldwork in Algeria), in the forefront of which


stand blood vengeance and marriage, are dictated by interests no less vital than are inheritance or fertility strategies. "The interest leading an agent to defend his symbolic capital is inseparable from the tacit adherence, inculcated in the earliest years of life and reinforced by all subsequent experience, to the axiomatics objectively inscribed in the regularities of the (in the broad sense) economic order which constitutes a determinate type of symbolic capital as worthy of being pursued and preserved" (Bourdieu 1977, 182). Such objectification guarantees that domination need not be exercised in a direct, personal way because domination is entailed in the means (economic or symbolic capital) of appropriating the mechanisms of the field of production and the field of cultural production independently of any deliberate intervention by the agents.

However, just as economic wealth cannot function as capital until it is linked to an economic apparatus, so cultural competence in its various forms cannot be constituted as symbolic capital until it is inserted into the objective relations between the system of economic production and the system producing the producers. Habitus provides the dominant class with what Max Weber calls "a theodicy of its own privilege," a theodicy manifested, according to Bourdieu, in relations of symbolic protection and symbolic violence. The development of objective mechanisms of symbolic protection and violence permit an increasing degree of domination by indirect means. Whereas slavery is constituted by the direct appropriation of persons, client relations are characterized by gentle, hidden violence. Client relations entail "winning over" inferior classes by means of personal bonds of generosity and dignity that demonstrate that the "master" has the virtues corresponding to his status. "The system is such that the dominant agents have a vested interest in virtue; they can accumulate political power only by paying a personal price . . . they must have the 'virtues' of their power because the only basis of their power is 'virtue"' (Bourdieu 1977, 194). The gift, generosity, conspicuous distribution—the extreme case of which is the pot-latch—are operations of "social alchemy," according to Bourdieu, which may be observed whenever the direct application of overt physical or economic violence is negatively sanctioned, a gentle, hidden exploitation brought about by the transmutation of economic capital into symbolic capital.

In contemporary industrial societies, symbolic capital is no longer associated with personal relations between biological individuals but rather with impersonal relations between objective positions within the


social space. The objectification accomplished by academic degrees and diplomas and in a more general way by all forms of credentials is inseparable from the objectification that the law guarantees by defining permanent positions that are distinct from biological individuals. Once this state of affairs is established, relations of power and domination no longer exist directly between individuals; they are a function of pure objectivity. In such societies it is not by lavishing generosity, kindness, or politeness on their social inferiors but rather by choosing the best investment for their money or the best schools for their children that the possessors of economic or symbolic capital perpetuate the relationship of domination that objectively links them with their inferiors or even their descendants. "If it be true that symbolic violence is the gentle, hidden form which violence takes when overt violence is impossible," Bourdieu argues, "it is understandable why symbolic forms of domination, so prevalent in pre-capitalist societies, should have progressively withered away as objective mechanisms came to be constituted which, in rendering superfluous the work of euphemization, tended to produce the 'disenchanted' dispositions their development demanded" (Bourdieu 1977, 196).

Therborn: The Contradictions of Ideological Interpellation

Bourdieu emphasizes habitus as a generative matrix of ideological practice and symbolic capital as the overdetermined effectivity of economic relations within the field of ideological relations. By contrast, Swedish sociologist Göran Therborn, in The Ideology of Power and the Power of Ideology (1980), emphasizes the contradictory nature of ideological interpellation. Although he accepts Althusser's theory of ideology as his point of departure, Therborn insists first that the ideological apparatuses are unevenly developed as well as structurally integrated and second that the contradictions within the interpellation process take a precise general form stemming from the fact that ideologies not only subject individuals to the existing social order but also qualify them for conscious social action. There is an internal tension within the double functioning of interpellation, which results from a lack of correspondence between subjection and qualification. The dynamic nature of social formations, Therborn contends, makes perfect interpellation impossible:


The reproduction of any social organization, be it an exploitative society or a revolutionary party, entails a basic correspondence between subjection and qualification. Those who have been subjected to a particular patterning of their capacities, to a particular discipline, qualify for the given roles and are capable of carrying them out. But there is always an inherent possibility that a contradiction may develop between the two. New kinds of qualification may be required and provided, new skills that clash with traditional forms of subjection. Or, conversely, new forms of subjection may develop that clash with the provision of still-needed qualifications. The effects of a contradiction between subjection and qualification are opposition and revolt or underperformance and withdrawal. (Therborn 1980, 17)

According to Therborn, ideology subjects and qualifies individuals by telling them what exists, what is good, and what is possible, and there is always a certain "lack of fit" between these three messages. Furthermore, these contradictions within ideology coexist with a multiplicity of contradictions between and within economic and political relations, and these are not independent. They are interrelated by virtue of "relations of overdetermination" determined, in the last instance, by the economy. "Marxism has traditionally focused upon one fundamental contradiction: that is between the forces and relations of production. . . . But it is also quite possible for political and ideological contradictions to develop—contradictions which . . . are essentially located between relations of social domination and the forces of execution of societal tasks in the state, and ideologically between subjection and qualification " (Therborn 1980, 45-46).

The dominance of the economic contradiction, Therborn argues, precludes the possibility of its permanent resolution by political or ideological means. "Marxism asserts that the political contradictions of domination-execution and the ideological contradictions of subjection-qualification are largely governed by, though not reducible to, the economic correspondence or contradiction between the relations and forces of production. . . . But if a contradiction develops between the relations and forces of production, no ideological formation can adequately and harmoniously subject-qualify the new economic subjects for the contradictory economic order. The old matrix of economic affirmations and sanctions then tends to crack" (Therborn 1980, 47). Therborn also rejects the conflation of the ideological and political instances implied by Althusser's term ideological state apparatus.[5] Therborn retains the concept of ideological apparatuses, but he introduces a distinction between these and what he calls "counter-apparatuses."

Even though ideological interpellations occur everywhere [they] tend to cluster at those nodal points in the structure-in-dominance which we may call


ideological apparatuses . . . . All such apparatuses are traversed by the class struggle, but even in a simplified model we should make a distinction between two types of apparatus bearing upon the formation of class members. One is predominantly a manifestation of the ruling-class (or ruling alliance's) organization of power and discourse; the other is made of what we might call counter-apparatuses , which largely express, although in varying degrees, the resistance and discourse of the ruled classes. (Therborn 1980, 85-86)

The term counter-apparatus is useful, for it provides a place for contradiction and class struggle to operate in the realm of the ideological, a place that does not exist in Althusser's essay. Therborn also significantly enhances the concept of interpellation by specifying what he calls the "biographical path" of an individual through a complex of apparatuses and counter-apparatuses—families, neighborhoods, schools, jobs, parties, trade unions—that are themselves complex entities whose "class" content is not nearly as transparent as Althusser seems to imply (Therborn 1980, 84-89). Indeed, Therborn is especially sensitive to the difficulty of relating all ideology to economic class position. He divides the world of ideological interpellation along two bipolar axes, one existential, the other historical. Each axis has two polar positions, an "inclusive" pole (being a member of a meaningful whole) and a "positional" pole (having a particular place in the world in relation to other members). From this typology Therborn infers the existence of four basic types of interpellation: inclusive-existential ideologies, for example, the meaning of life and death; inclusive-historical ideologies, such as nationalism or ethnicity; positional-existential ideologies, for example, gender distinctions; and positional-historical ideologies, such as social class or caste (Therborn 1980, 22-27).

Therborn admits that these are heuristic distinctions and that particular ideologies may exhibit characteristics of more than one of the four dimensions, either at the same time or in different contexts, but what is most interesting for our purposes is the relationship he posits between all these dimensions and class struggle. Therborn does not reduce them to class struggle, even though he does insist that Marxism must see them in terms of class struggle: "All ideologies (in class societies) exist in historical forms of articulation with different classes and class ideologies. This means that forms of individuality, (fe)maleness, religion, secular morality, geographic and ethnic positionality, nationalism are bound up with and affected by different modes of class existence and are linked to and affected by different class ideologies. . . . The patterning of a given set of ideologies is (within class societies) overdeter-


mined by class relations of strength and by the class struggle" (Therborn 1980, 38).

While non-class ideologies have a historical and material existence that cannot be reduced to that of the dominant mode of production, their relative autonomy does not imply that they are unrelated to that mode of production and the class struggles it engenders, for they are always linked with class positions and inscribed within an overall social formation constituted by relations of class struggle. Despite the vagueness of his reference to class struggle, it has an important theoretical benefit since it permits Therborn to rectify the silence of Althusser's original presentation with respect to the problem of the generation of ideology. To explain the emergence of ideology, Therborn advances the following general propositions:

1. The generation of ideologies in human societies is always from the point of view of social science and historiography, a process of change of pre-existing ideologies.

2. Ideological change, and the generation of ideologies, is always dependent upon non-ideological material change.

3. The most important material change is constituted by the internal social dynamics of societies and their modes of production.

4. Every mode of production requires specific economic positional ideologies and in every exploitative mode of production specific class ideologies.

5. Every new mode of production will generate new economic positional ideologies.

6. All human societies exhibit existential- and historical-inclusive as well as historical-positional ideologies.

7. The concrete forms of existential, historical-inclusive and historical-positional ideologies other than the economic are not directly determined by the mode of production, but changes in the former are overdetermined by the latter.

8. New modes of production and new classes will generate forms of existential, historical-inclusive and other historical-positional ideologies that are capable of supporting and reinforcing the new predominant class ideologies, if the former do not already exist. (Therborn 1980, 41-42)

It is possible to advance beyond the general nature of Therborn's remarks and specify precisely the relationship between ideological practice and the practices of the political and economic instances, and we shall take up this task later. At this time, however, I would like to stress a more positive point, the value of Therborn's work as an example of the vitality of the Althusserian problematic. It is a critique, often a fun-


damental one, but it is also an extension of Althusser's concepts. Therborn's efforts, and even more those of Bourdieu, who does not even consider himself a Marxist, seem to me compelling arguments for the scientific nature of Althusser's work; Structural Marxism is not a rigid or finally finished set of dogmas but an open-ended research program capable of correction, clarification, and development. The work proceeds despite the philosophical and political turmoils that continue to swirl around it, and this progress is nowhere more evident than in the case of the theory of ideology.

Althusser: The "End of Ideology" Ideology

Aside from the furor over theoretical anti-humanism, nothing has generated as much controversy as Althusser's contention that ideology is a fundamental component of all human societies rather than a temporary aberration to be overcome with the triumph of socialism.

I am not going to steer clear of the crucial question: historical materialism cannot conceive that even a communist society could ever do without ideology , be it ethics, art or "world outlook." Obviously it is possible to foresee important modifications in its ideological forms and their relations and even the disappearance of certain existing forms or a shift of their functions to neighbouring forms; it is also possible (on the premise of already acquired experience) to forsee the development of new ideological forms (e.g., the ideologies of "the scientific world outlook" and "communist humanism") but in the present state of Marxist theory strictly conceived, it is not conceivable that communism, a new mode of production implying determinant forces of production and relations of production, could do without a social organization of production, and corresponding ideological forms. (Althusser 1969, 232)

There can be no end of interpellation, Althusser maintains, for that would entail the end of human society as well. However, as Althusser also clearly indicates in this passage, the necessity of ideological practice does not imply the legitimacy of any particular system of interpellation in any particular social formation. Even less can it be construed as an implicit argument for the continued viability of the bourgeois ideology of possessive individualism, although it is the basis on which any explanation of the latter's viability must rest.

The rather obvious nature of these conclusions indicates that the real objections to Althusser's repudiation of an "end of ideology" must be sought elsewhere. For most critics the philosophical stakes have little if any relation to the consistency much less the explanatory power of Al-


thusser's theory of ideology; instead, the theory is attacked on grounds that are ideological or political. E. P. Thompson, for example, calls Althusser's description of the subjective experience of individual men and women as ideological "the ugliest thing that he has ever done" (Thompson 1978, 174). Jacques Rancière contends that Althusser's defense of the science/ideology distinction fails to recognize that "the relation of science to ideology is one not of rupture but of articulation" and constitutes a "complete distortion of the ideological struggle" in the interests of "the wisdom of the Central Committee" and "bourgeois academic discourse" (Rancière 1985, 116). In both of these cases, the crucial objection to Althusser's position is presented in terms of the "spontaneous philosophy" of an "alienated" subject—either the individual (Thompson) or the working masses (Rancière)—and, more precisely in terms of "praxis," the union of theory and practice embodied in the subjects of history.

Althusser explicitly rejects the identity of theoretical and political practice. Indeed, his whole work has demonstrated the problematic nature of every attempt to conflate the two. Philosophies of praxis, Althusser argues, set out to absorb politics and theory into a third concept that subsumes and mystifies them both. While this strategy may occasionally have a useful polemical effect, for example, when directed against economism or idealism, it is incapable of producing scientific concepts since the projected third concept, praxis, inevitably slides into an ethical philosophy of history, either a call to action or a rationalization of previous successes or failures. For Althusser, the working-class movement consists of a "fusion" of two distinct entities, an experience of exploitation and a theory of that exploitation. The two are not identical: it is not by Marxism that the proletariat discovers that it is exploited; however, it is by Marxism that it learns the mechanisms and the modalities of its exploitation.

Behind the clamor for an "end of ideology" there is always the idea of alienation. Strictly speaking, alienation is not a social but an ontological category predicated on a human essence, or, as Etienne Balibar puts it, a "primitive transparency" to be recovered with the end of ideology (Balibar 1974, 226). The category of alienation lacks the specificity demanded of a scientific concept: individuals can be alienated in private property, the state, labor, the family, religion, and so on, yet the term itself does not facilitate the analytical investigation of these different forms. Instead, as Robin Blackburn and Gareth Stedman Jones (1972, 378) have remarked, employing the term ideology prejudices the


issue by assuming some underlying homology between these different alienations.

For Althusser, the proletariat (a term whose pertinence we have yet to examine) is not out to realize its essence—only to better its existence and put an end to its exploitation. To do so, of course, requires action, and action can take place only through ideology, that is, the form of a social subject. However, the chances of successful action are considerably improved by objective knowledge of the conjuncture, and the political value of Marxism follows from the fact that it makes action based on knowledge possible. Thus, while theory and practice are never identical for Althusser, they are never totally separable either; theory is the critical guide of practice and practice is the unceasing critique of theory. Althusser's thesis that all practice takes place in ideology does not mean that practice is somehow inferior to theory. The "question of political action" does not disappear, Althusser explains; what disappears is the notion that political action is determined by "the omnipotence of 'transcendence,' that is by the liberty of 'man' [rather than] by quite different conditions: by the state of the class struggle, by the state of the labor movement, by the ideology of the labor movement . . . and by its relation to Marxist theory, by its mass line" (Althusser 1976, 53-54).

Deleuze and the New Philosophy: Postmodernism and the New Right

For Althusser, science is influenced and sometimes even perverted by ideological interests and political power, but these influences are external, not internal, to scientific practice; in its concept, scientific practice remains uncontaminated by all motives other than the production of knowledge. Structural Marxists, intent on defending the category of the scientific, have been relatively indifferent to the ideological effects of scientific practice and the functioning of various scientific institutions as ideological apparatuses. Althusser, of course, acknowledges the institutionalization (and dissemination) of knowledge to be an ideological force: he insists, for example, that the educational system is the central ideological apparatus in industrial capitalist societies (Althusser 1971, 157). Althusser is quite aware that ideology invades theoretical practice through the "spontaneous philosophy" of scientists and he insists that science, being historical and social in nature, always exists in a certain relation to ideology and power.


The way the exact sciences . . . are taught implies a certain ideological relation to their existence and their content. There is no teaching of pure knowledge [savoir ] that is not at the same time a savoir-faire —that is, the definition of a know-how-to-act-in-relation-to-this-knowledge, and to its theoretical and social function . . . . All science teaching, whether it wants to or not, conveys an ideology of science . . . based upon a certain idea of the place of science in society and a certain idea of the role of intellectuals who specialize in scientific knowledge and therefore of the division between manual and intellectual labor. (Althusser 1990, 94-95)

However, Althusser tends to portray science, and not just the Marxist science of history, as liberating and positive. It is a form of power, to be sure, but for Althusser, it is a latent power, a potential and positive power to understand and operate on the world. Science produces knowledge effects that may or may not be corrupted by power, but power itself comes from elsewhere; it is external to knowledge, not intrinsic to the very production of knowledge. About the darker side of science, the tyranny of instrumental reason (what Weber calls the "iron cage" of rationalization) and its normalizing effects on social subjectivity (insofar as the human subject becomes an object for science), Althusser has been significantly silent. In light of the Bolshevik transmutation of Marxism into an anti-democratic ideology rationalizing the class power of party functionaries, the social-political dimension of science—specifically the human sciences and most specifically Marxism as a science of history—cannot be ignored.

Althusser's defense of Marxism as a science and his assumption of the desirability of scientific knowledge were often criticized in the aftermath of the events of May 1968. In the early seventies various "ultraleftisms" enamored of spontaneity, Mao, and the Cultural Revolution denounced Althusser's "fetishism of knowledge" in favor of a view of science as simply another repressive aspect of bourgeois society. Jacques Rancière, one of the original coauthors of Lire le Capital , contended in La leçon d'Althusser that Althusser had betrayed his initial project of undermining the stranglehold of the party bureaucracy on Marxist theory and had erected a new form of "petty bourgeois" elitism, replacing the party leaders with professors and displacing concrete social struggles into a meaningless series of abstract conceptual oppositions (Rancière 1974, 55-111). Two other former students of Althusser and former Maoists, André Glucksmann and Bernard-Henry Lévy, moved beyond even Rancière in their condemnation of science, identifying Marxism with totalitarian politics and rediscovering the Cold War rhetoric of libertarian individualism. This self-styled "New Philosophy"


was an instant media sensation and typified the distressingly smooth shift of intellectual fashion in Paris to a virulently anti-Marxist, post-modern poste-gauchisme during the mid-seventies.[6] Peter Dews succinctly sums up the basic tenets of the nouvelle philosophie : "Marxism is responsible for the terror of the Soviet camps; the State is the central source of oppression and therefore any politics directed towards the seizure of State power is dangerous and vain; science always operates within and reinforces relations of power or, to raise the stakes a little higher, 'reason' is inherently totalitarian; since any political ideology will eventually be used to justify crimes against humanity the only 'safe' form of political action is a militant defense of human rights" (Dews 1979, 129).

Aside from the shamelessness of their opportunism, there is little that is noteworthy in the writings of the nouveaux philosophes . However, they are important here for two reasons: first because they represent a French variant of an international phenomenon, the neo-conservative intellectual movement known as the New Right, and second because their ideas (and those of the New Right generally) reflect a symbiotic relationship with those of the postmodern Left, a relationship rarely acknowledged yet absolutely fundamental to any understanding of the contemporary malaise of social theory. To illuminate the "elective affinity" that unites the New Right and the postmodern Left, it is therefore useful to examine the French case: the relationship between the New Philosophy and postmodern dissidents Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, from whom the New Philosophers parasitically derive their rhetoric of power and the substance of their critique of science. I begin with a brief introduction of Deleuze because his neo-Nietzschean gauchisme most accurately reflects the characteristics of postmodern dissidence and because he provides the philosophical foundation for certain of Foucault's historical investigations. Foucault's work, by contrast, must be given greater attention because Foucault is something of a renegade Althusserian and because he, more than any other figure, attempts an immanent critique of Structural Marxist concepts and proposes a post-modern alternative to Structural Marxist concepts of history, science, and ideology.[7]

From a neo-anarchist position, post-Marxist from the very beginning and postmodern avant la lettre , Gilles Deleuze has produced a series of original and important books—Différence et répetition (1968), Logique du sens (1969), and, with antipsychiatrist Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980)—each


attacking all structuration in theory and in society from a neo-Nietzschean perspective first elaborated by Deleuze in Nietzsche et philosophie (1962). For Deleuze, ontology is difference: the essence of all being is plural, productive, and devoid of deeper unity or meaning. Behind every thing or idea there are differences, yet behind difference there is nothing. By ontologizing the concept of difference, Deleuze seeks to escape from the labyrinth of absence and presence that envelops discursive practices, and it is this illusion of absence that serves as the (anti-) foundation of his thought. For Deleuze, the concept of difference is different from simple conceptual difference: the latter is merely a pseudo-difference established within a general framework of identity; the former, however, marks an authentic difference, the difference between identity and non-identity. Primal difference, according to Deleuze, is "nomadic" and "extraterritorial," totally foreign to all structures or boundaries. The historical condition of difference, however, is to be structured or coded by society, a process Deleuze calls "territorialization." Territorialization constitutes all social phenomena, according to Deleuze, yet it lacks any unified or central locus, logic, or meaning. Difference, being ontologically prior and antithetical to society, resists the coding process, and therefore all forms of territorialization are inherently unstable and incomplete.

Throughout its history, Western philosophy has attempted to repress or conceal difference by means of concepts and structures organized around "representation, similarity and repetition." These operations, Deleuze maintains, obscure the production (both the "bringing into existence" and the "showing") of differences by stressing re-presentation, identity, and "repetition of the same." For Deleuze, identity is mere illusion because there is no essence to represent; nothing exists beneath the arbitrary surface coding of difference. Meaning is precisely the existing physical state of affairs, beneath which is primal chaos, undifferentiated and formless flux. Language, which Deleuze also sees as nomadic, infinitely productive, and ultimately devoid of any "deep structure" of meaning, has also been territorialized by structural thinking, which imposes an illusion of systemic organization on language from which meaning may then be derived. In contrast, Deleuze insists that language, which appears to be built on two codings (signifiers and signifieds), is in fact based on a primal, paradoxical, self-referential illusion, a "sombre precursor," or "esoteric word." This latter term is literally nonsensical, for its self-reference simply masks the endless proliferation of difference. Language conceals difference behind the facade


of its own "logic of sense." For Deleuze, "the logic of sense" is based on "events," the meaningless conjuncture of the "mélanges" of bodies that make up the physical world, but it occludes the arbitrariness of such events by means of endless mechanisms of reference. The meaning of a sentence (the event itself) is only apparently "referred to." In actuality, because the event is the precondition of meaning, it can be referred to only by another sentence, then another, and so on in an infinite evasion (which is also a repression).

Similar and more directly political processes are at work in the realm of social institutions and the human sciences. The basic unit of meaning of Deleuze's interpretation of human existence is the "body," which he defines, in Nietzschean terminology, as a "relation of forces," or more precisely as a relation between "dominating" and "dominated" forces. All reality is always already made up of a proliferation of forces in tension with each other. The living body is an arbitrary product of the forces that compose it in a "unity of domination," a multiple phenomenon composed of "active" and "reactive" qualities whose unity is hierarchical. The historical situation of the body is to have experienced the "genealogy" of Nietzschean resentment, which Deleuze interprets as a denial and reversal of difference and the triumph of a reactive, deformed nihilism, a "will to nothing" that destroys all affirmative values from within. For Deleuze, the actualization of difference by the individual (will to power of the living body) is affirmative and healthy. The denial of difference by society (the reactive social body) is repressive and unhealthy. The social body plays the same repressive role as representation does: it serves to contain the nomadic distribution of differences and has resulted (by a kind of negative Hegelianism) in the triumph of reactive over active forces.

In Anti-Oedipus , psychic development is interpreted in much the same way. In contrast to Freudian interpretations (and their Lacanian re-interpretation), Deleuze and Guattari deny any "primal lack" or yearning for a pre-Oedipal, instinctual desire for unity. The Oedipus complex, Deleuze and Guattari maintain, does not involve the resolution of problems created by pre-existing, instinctive desires; it is first and foremost the territorialization of desire, the organization and coding of a fragmented, differentiated "desiring production" that is the essence of human reality. The various "desiring machines" that make up the unconscious are first organized by the parents (and by society) and then "resolved," that is, further territorialized into a social body, a corporal form of representation. For Deleuze and Guattari, desire is


"active," productive, a part of the social "infrastructure" yet "revolutionary" since to question its repression by a "reactive," guilt-based psychoanalysis will always reveal complementary structures of social repression.

The anti-Althusserian implications of Deleuze's work are clear. While both Althusser and Deleuze oppose domination in the form of capitalist property relations and recognize the importance of the constitution of subjectivity in maintaining these relations, the basis of explanation is radically different for each. Deleuze, following Nietzsche, sees a chaotic will to power as the ahistorical, ontological motor of history. To be sure, this chaosmos is always historically structured, but the principle of that structuration lies outside history. For Deleuze, as for Nietzsche, history is merely one more (false) structure of meaning imposed on meaningless differences taking a historical form. Change is purely formal, never substantive. Liberation, insofar as such a thing makes any sense at all for Deleuze, consists of refusing and contesting the territorialization of difference in theory, in the psyche, and in society. The social world is a mélange of structured differences lacking a central structure or an overarching pattern. Contestation cannot be localized but must be as nomadic as difference itself. Schizophrenia, a psychological refusal of the Oedipus complex, is a passive example of resistance by desiring production. Deleuze and Guattari call for an "active schizophrenia," the conscious refusal of all structures of exploitation, subjection, and hierarchy. For Deleuze, a Marxist theory of society is hopelessly narrow in its explanatory framework (classes are beside the point, and the repression of desire is universal) and dangerous in its theoretical rigor and its political implications (it entails yet another imposition of meaning on difference and implies a centered and therefore illusory locus of repression which can serve as a target for political action but which will not attack the roots or reverse the process of structuration).

Deleuze's problematic was a powerful influence on the French Left in the seventies, the decade Nietzsche replaced Marx as the central reference for French intellectuals. It seemed to provide a framework within which the ideals of May 1968 could survive the pessimism that attended their defeat. Indeed, that defeat could be rationalized by stressing the deficiencies of Marxism, which was ultimately held responsible for the failure of the revolution (Althusserian theory as a repressive and narrow rationalism; the reactionary nature of the French Community Party, which lost the revolution by pursuing limited, tra-


ditional, self-interested tactics; and so on). Leaving aside (for the moment) the theoretical significance of the neo-Nietzschean dissidence, it is clear that its negative thrust cut two ways. It did attempt to provide a critical perspective against which domination could be measured, but it also exploited the extreme disappointment within the ranks of the Left after 1968 and contributed significantly to the general anti-Marxist fervor that swept Paris after 1975. Positively, it joined with poststructuralism to form the theoretical core of what became known in the United States as postmodernism.

Foucault: Archaeology Versus History

No one weathered these sea changes of fashion with more success than did Michel Foucault. A celebrity of the age of high Structuralism, Foucault achieved superstar status in the era of postmodernism by reformulating his historical enterprise in an explicitly Nietzschean direction pioneered by Deleuze. Prior to 1968, Foucault seemed to be engaged in a project not dissimilar to that of Althusser, despite Foucault's admittedly non-Marxist orientation. Both were obviously indebted to the same philosophy of science for their focus on knowledge as a historical problem and for their relativistic epistemology; both were pursuing a structural, explicitly anti-humanist, anti-Hegelian explanation of historical phenomena; and both spoke about and against certain forms of historically structured domination that they held to be constitutive of contemporary society. Foucault was a student of Althusser, while Althusser cited Foucault's first books with approval. Nevertheless, there were significant differences between the two men, and these differences crystallized into outright opposition in 1969-70, when Althusser introduced his concepts of interpellation and ideological apparatuses and Foucault responded with his neo-Nietzschean formulation "knowledge/power."

The differences between Althusser and Foucault center on the problem of historical thinking generally and, more specifically, on historical materialism as a scientific discourse. Both perceived similar problems and limitations in existing forms of historical thinking, but their responses to the "crisis of historicism" were, from the beginning, antithetical. Althusser's project was, as we have seen, to revive Marxism as a theoretical perspective, to establish its claims as a science of history within a modernist reworking of the ideas of science and historical discourse, and to elaborate a form of historical causality that would do


justice to the complexity of social formations and human subjectivity within a framework of economic determination. Foucault, by contrast, was never persuaded by Althusser's attempt to overcome the limitations of Marxism, which Foucault insisted on dismissing as inherently simplistic. Foucault's project was to investigate the structures of human knowledge in relation to their conceptual conditions of existence and to their institutional forms without recourse to any theory of historical determination. Indeed, so strong was his reaction against historical explanation that Foucault refused to elaborate any causal relationships within society or even to defend the truth claims of his own historical writings. As a result, Foucault's ongoing attempts to develop a methodology for his brilliantly idiosyncratic "histories" were, in large part, defined negatively by an Althusserian moment with which he was in constant and not always productive tension.

Foucault is, as we would expect, a very unconventional historian. He is a historian of discourse, and more precisely of the discursive practices of the human sciences. He is concerned with both the internal rules and norms, the rules of exclusion and hierarchy that dictate what can be said within these discourses, and with the institutions, the material sites of the social power that envelop, legitimize, normalize, and sustain scientific discourse. In his early books, Madness and Civilization (1961; English translation, 1965) and Birth of the Clinic (1963; English translation, 1973), Foucault investigates the discourses of psychiatry and medicine and the ways in which these discourses produce, perceive, and regulate their objects, "sanity" and "health." Foucault seeks, provocatively, to demonstrate that distinctions basic to these discourses, distinctions between madness and sanity, sickness and health, are arbitrary distinctions related not to the progress of knowledge but to new or changing social relations of exclusion and integration embedded in institutional frameworks such as asylums and clinics, whose functions were social control—normalization and administration—and were neither scientific nor humanitarian.

While Foucault refuses to posit any general statement regarding the relationship between discourse and society, he appears to be reducing discourse to those social institutions and non-discursive forces that provide its material conditions of existence. The history of madness reveals no progress in the theoretical understanding of an illness. Rather, it indicates a consistent tendency to project general social preconceptions and anxieties into theoretical frameworks that justify the confinement of whatever social groups or personality types that appear to threaten


society during a particular period. The poor, the dissident, the criminal, and the insane are separated or herded together, treated as humans or as animals, confined or liberated, according to considerations that are primarily political rather than scientific. Medical practice, Foucault argues, is similarly grounded in social concerns, the clinic and the hospital being microcosms of those attitudes toward human nature prevailing among the dominant classes of society at a given time. Small wonder that Althusser approved of these works and saw them as recognizable offspring of his own ideas.

However, in his next two works, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1966; English translation, 1973a) and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969; English translation, 1972), Foucault shifts his perspective to the internal structural constraints of discourse alone and to a new anti-materialist methodological strategy that he calls "archaeology." Institutional and social determinations of discourse disappear, replaced by what Foucault calls an "episteme," by which he understands "the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized systems . . . the totality of relations that can be discovered, for a given period, between the sciences when one analyzes them at the level of discursive regularities" (Foucault 1972, 191). In The Order of Things , Foucault contrasts the four epistemic epochs of the so-called human sciences—discourses whose objects are life (biology), labor (society), and language (culture)—from the late Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The first of these, the Renaissance, was characterized by similitude, the desire to find the same within the different, the extent to which objects resemble each other and the extent to which words truly signify things. The tortuous attempt to demonstrate the similarity of things, that everything to a significant extent resembles everything else, exhausted itself by the seventeenth century. An "archaeological shift" occurred, bringing a new episteme that dominated the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which Foucault calls the Classical Age. The classical episteme focused on differences revealed by the Renaissance and attempted to account for them by a discursive protocol involving comparison, ordering, and representation. According to this protocol, representation is certain and logical; the principle of comparison and ordering of differences moves from the simple to the complex in a carefully calibrated system based on contiguity and continuity. The role of consciousness is one of exteriority. Mind simply observes and classifies representations that are


themselves independent and immediate. Representing the essential order of things, identity and difference, means the discovery of a system of control over them. The belief of the Classical Age was that if the correct table of relationships could be discovered, one could manipulate "life," "wealth," and "language" by manipulating the signs that signify them. However, the classical principle of order and comparison is undermined by the perception of temporality, of the differential origin of things, a perception that destroys the timeless ground of continuity and contiguity, which made things measurable and comparable.

At the end of the eighteenth century another "archaeological shift" occurred, inaugurating the Modern Age, dominated by an awareness of temporality and finitude. Knowledge was problematized as thought was increasingly absorbed with the historicity of species, modes of production, and language usages. "Man," hitherto invisible, became a knowing subject among objects and, more significantly, the object of his own historical understanding. Epistemology came into being as an attempt to discover the grounds on which representations are possible or legitimate given the finitude and limitations of the human subject. "Man" is thus no more than an epistemic creation of the Modern Age, which began with the realization of human finitude and was characterized by its attempt to overcome or transcend these limitations within the epistemic framework of the human subject—to find a ground for meaning and knowledge within what Foucault calls the "analytic of finitude." The modern episteme has exhausted itself attempting to overcome oppositions between the transcendental form of knowing and the historical content of knowledge, between the thinking cogito and the "unthought" background that is its condition of existence, and, finally, between the historical situation of man, how man is already in history and cut off from all origins, and the historical primacy of man, that man is the agent or maker of history. As a result, Foucault concludes, the Age of Man is currently being displaced by a new, fourth age that has abandoned the analytic of finitude and accepted the disappearance of the human subject, the opacity of language, and the absence of historical meaning. Significantly, Foucault credits Nietzsche with the initial insight into the coming "post-Modern" age:

In our day, and once again Nietzsche indicated the turning-point from a long way off, it is not so much the absence or the death of God that is affirmed as the end of man. . . . Rather than the death of God—or, rather, in the wake of that death and in a profound correlation with it—what Nietzsche's thought heralds is the end of his murderer; it is the explosion of man's face


in laughter, and the return of masks; it is the scattering of the profound stream of time by which he felt himself carried along and whose pressure he suspected in the very being of things; it is the identity of the Return of the Same with the absolute dispersion of man. (Foucault 1973, 385)

The foregoing remarks convey something of the breadth of Foucault's erudition and the considerable originality and penetration of his analyses. They also, however, reveal the gaps and tensions that lurk beneath the surfaces of Foucault's thought, gaps and tensions that no amount of rhetorical brilliance or historical insight can conceal. First, Foucault oscillates between the primacy of internal (in The Order of Things ) and external (in Madness and Civilization ) determinations of knowledge effects. Which, if either, is determinant in the last instance? What is their interrelationship? A second group of questions centers on the status of knowledge effects themselves. Unlike Althusser, who carefully distinguishes between the concepts of different discursive practices (science, ideology, philosophy, and, as we shall see, literature), Foucault's approach progressively erodes all such distinctions. Foucault has chosen as his object a discourse that he calls "pseudo-science," but he offers no criterion by which such a distinction might be justified. While the relationships Foucault adduces between social power and the practice of medicine and the revelation of a dependence of the human sciences on a broad "mind-set" like the episteme are illuminating, in the end we must ask if these discourses are only this and nothing more. Whereas Althusser asserts the principle of realism and the validity of scientific discourse by means of his materialist thesis, Foucault seems completely uninterested in knowledge effects as productive of knowledges. Finally there are the inevitable questions regarding the nature of Foucault's own discourse. Foucault wishes to have his epistemological cake (radical relativism) and eat it, too (have us accept his "histories" as somehow compelling). How, we must ask, would Foucault defend his discourse in the realm of philosophy?

Foucault's answers, except to disciples and those commentators with independent anti-historical or anti-materialist positions to defend, are disappointing. In The Archaeology of Knowledge , Foucault attempts to address questions of method and summarize the results of his previous work. Much of The Archaeology of Knowledge elaborates a critique of history, and the history of science in particular, which reproduces, in slightly different form, that of Althusser—a dependency that does not interest us at the moment. What is of interest is Foucault's attempt to overcome the deficiencies of history by means of an archaeological


method that is neither a science nor a philosophy nor a history. Archaeology is a "diagnosis" of systems of thought whose task, Foucault tells us, is "to make differences: to constitute them as objects, to analyze them, and to define their concept" (Foucault 1972, 205). As a diagnosis of differences, however, archaeology cannot itself be a totalizing type of discourse. Archaeology, Foucault insists, "is trying to deploy a dispersion that can never be reduced to a single system of differences, a scattering that is not related to absolute axes of reference; it is trying to operate a decentering that leaves no privilege to any center" (Foucault 1972, 206).

The particular differences with which the archaeological method is concerned are those related to statements "to describe statements, to describe the enunciative function of which they are the bearers, to analyze the conditions in which this function operates, to cover the different domains that this function presupposes and the way in which those domains are articulated" (Foucault 1972, 115). The vast "archive" of statements is noteworthy for the processes of "rarefaction" that it displays, how it is that certain statements are made and not others, and the methods of justification and refutation that confer on statements their right to be taken seriously. Foucault advances beyond Althusser in one significant sense: he introduces an important refinement to the Althusserian distinction between science and ideology, the idea of discursive "thresholds of scientificity." For Foucault, the process of discursive differentiation has several distinct moments whose distribution, succession, and possible coincidence (or lack of it) constitute the domain of archaeology.

The moment at which a discursive practice achieves individuality and autonomy, the moment therefore at which a single system for the formation of statements is put into operation, or the moment at which this system is transformed, might be called the threshold of positivity . When in the operation of a discursive formation, a group of statements is articulated, claims to validate (even unsuccessfully) norms of verification and coherence, and when it exercises a dominant function (as a model, a critique, or a verification) over knowledge, we will say that the discursive formation crosses a threshold of epistemologization . When the epistemological figure thus outlined obeys a number of formal criteria, when its statements comply not only with archaeological rules of formation, but also with certain laws for the construction of propositions, we will say that it has crossed a threshold of scientificity . And when this scientific discourse is able, in turn, to define the axioms necessary to it, the elements that it uses, the propositional structures that are legitimate to it, and the transformations that it accepts, when it is thus able, taking itself as a starting point, to deploy the formal edifice


that it constitutes, we will say that it has crossed the threshold of formalization . (Foucault 1972, 186-87)

However, there is no functional distinction between subject-centered, practice-oriented discourse and object-centered, knowledge-oriented discourse in Foucault. Furthermore, Foucault's gain in precision does not enable him to resolve the problem of the social context of this process, the problem of determinative priority between discursive and social structures, or the problem of the epistemological status of archaeology itself. Most of the time, Foucault insists that discursive practices arbitrate the transformation of savoir (the basic, general level of knowledge) to connaissance (science): "A statement belongs to a discursive formation as a sentence belongs to a text. . . . [T]he regularity of statements is defined by the discursive formation itself. The fact of its belonging to a discursive formation and the laws that govern it are one and the same thing" (Foucault 1972, 116). Yet at times he displays confusion or uncertainty as, for example, when he discusses the discourse of political economy:

Broadly speaking, and setting aside all mediation and specificity, it can be said that political economy has a role in capitalist society, that it serves the interest of the bourgeois class, that it was made by and for that class, and that it bears the marks of its origins even in its concepts and logical architecture; but any more precise description of the relations between the epistemological structure of political economy and its ideological function must take into account the analysis of the discursive formation that gave rise to it and the group of objects, concepts, and theoretical choices that it had to develop and systematize; and one must then show how the discursive practice that gave rise to such a positivity functioned among other practices that might have been of a discursive but also of a political or economic order. (Foucault 1972, 185-86)

Foucault is still unable or unwilling to situate discursive practices in any firm relationship to their historical context. He attempts to escape this difficulty by cribbing from For Marx: "the field of statements is . . . a practical domain that is autonomous (although dependent), and which can be described at its own level (although it must be articulated on something other than itself)" (Foucault 1972, 121-22). However, Foucault refuses the task of describing this "something other than itself" on which the field of statements is articulated, preferring, disingenuously, to label himself a positivist instead. The problem is resolvable only by means of a general theory of social formations, one that would establish a relationship and a hierarchy between social phenom-


ena; Foucault, unlike Althusser, refuses to supply such a theory. The reasons for the refusal lie in Foucault's determined (and futile) search for an escape from totalizing thought—that assertion of meaning which, for Foucault, is immediately a distortion and immediately contaminated by the analytic of finitude. Archaeology is neither a science nor a history; it must not attempt to penetrate beneath the description of surfaces. By a negative logic, one dominated by his obsessive refusal to assume the responsibility for asserting something, Foucault is led "to the project of a pure description of discursive events as the horizon for the search for the unities that form within it" (Foucault 1972, 27).

For Foucault, the attempt to penetrate beyond this descriptive "horizon" and develop a more powerful explanatory strategy is fraught with peril since to say something is to exercise precisely the same kind of exclusionary power that it is the task of archaeology to reveal yet refuse to perpetuate. Foucault comes to precisely the same point as Althusser with regard to the absence of a firm philosophical ground for historical (or archaeological) discourse—Foucault explicitly notes that "to tackle the ideological functioning of a science in order to reveal and to modify it . . . is to question it as a discursive practice . . . to treat it as one practice among others" (Foucault 1972, 186; my emphasis)—but he flees from the task of confronting the consequences. "For the moment, and as far ahead as I can see," he concludes lamely, "my discourse, far from determining the locus in which it speaks, is avoiding the ground on which it could find support" (Foucault 1972, 205).

Interpretations of Foucault's dense and elliptic text have ranged from serious philosophical exegesis to aesthetic appreciation of it as a parody of epistemological discourse. One interpretive strategy, surprisingly overlooked by otherwise thorough commentators, is the anti-Althusserian dialectic at work in The Archaeology of Knowledge . Foucault's "archaeological method" is largely a negative image of Althusser's differential history. Both approaches begin with the discontinuity of historical discourse and the absence of any absolute grounding for historical knowledge. The difference is that Structural Marxism incorporates these incontestable positions into a problematic that then moves on to produce knowledges whose validity it may not be able to prove philosophically but which it can use to defend itself on the battlefield of philosophy. Foucault's archaeological method, in contrast, cannot but flaunt its own arbitrariness and brazenly accept the consequences. "If, by substituting the analysis of the rarity for the search for totalities, the description of relations of exteriority for the theme of


transcendental foundation, the analysis of accumulations for the quest of the origin, one is a positivist, then I am quite happy to be one" (Foucault 1972, 109).

Foucault's discourse is willfully superficial since, in his view, any attempt to assert meaning constitutes a fall into the coils of modernist oppositions. "It is not possible for us to describe our own archive, since it is from within these rules that we speak" (Foucault 1972, 130). Yet Foucault certainly does speak, and he expects to be taken seriously: "in so far as it is possible to constitute a general theory of productions, archaeology, as the analysis of rules proper to the different discursive practices, will find what might be called its enveloping theory " (Foucault 1972, 207). Those who dare to press Foucault on matters of inconsistency, logical contradiction, or the larger theoretical implications of his archaeological method are dismissed as theoretical tyrants: "Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order" (Foucault 1972, 17). This last remark is the most prescient in The Archaeology of Knowledge . It portends the imminent resolution of the tension between the production of discourse through epistemic structures and the social determination of the structures of thought themselves by means of an undifferentiated concept of knowledge/power.

From Archaeology to Genealogy

The Archaeology of Knowledge did little more than expose the soft theoretical underbelly of Foucault's otherwise important historical works. The failure of his attempt to "out-Althusser Althusser" propelled Foucault toward the only viable approach left open to him, that is, toward Nietzsche and to the neo-Nietzschean, postmodern Left of Deleuze. In the early seventies Foucault returned to the problem of the rarity of discourse from a new "genealogical" perspective and resolved the question of determinative priority between structures of thought and the structures of society, brutally, in favor of the latter. The notion of episteme is abandoned in favor of a new term, discursive regime , which represents a strong identification of knowledge and domination. "What was missing [in The Order of Things ]," Foucault remarked in a 1977 interview, "was this problem of the 'discursive regime,' of the effects of power peculiar to the play of statements. I confused this too much with systematicity, theoretical form, or something like a paradigm" (Foucault 1980a, 113).


The move away from "theoretical forms" toward a "discursive regime" reactively mirrors Althusser's well-publicized redefinition of philosophy and shift toward the material apparatuses of ideology and the process of interpellation, and once again places Foucault in a position of negative dependence on Structural Marxism. By the time of his important essay "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" (1971, in Foucault 1977), a new set of differences between Foucault's position and that of Althusser were coming into focus. Lacking anything comparable to Althusser's multifaceted concept of ideology or any general framework for differentiating the existence and function of social practices, Foucault had always conceptualized discursive practice in one-dimensional terms, as either "knowledge" or "power"; hereafter he simply collapses them into a simple unity, knowledge/power. Foucault explicitly reformulates his idea of discourse in terms of power. The discursive regime becomes a dispositif , a system or apparatus (the debt to Althusser could hardly be clearer), signifying that knowledge is now merely an effect of power, that power alone creates structures of thought and constitutes the condition for the possibility of knowledge. In the published summary of his 1971-72 course on penal institutions, Foucault summarized his position this way:

power relations (with the struggles that traverse them or the institutions that maintain them) do not play with respect to knowledge a facilitating or obstructive role; they are not content merely to encourage or stimulate it, to distort or limit it, power and knowledge are not linked together solely by the play of interests or ideologies; the problem is not therefore that of determining how power subjugates knowledge and makes it serve its ends, or how it imprints its mark on knowledge, imposes on it ideological contents and limits. No body of knowledge can be formed without a system of communications, records, accumulation and displacement which is in itself a form of power and which is linked, in its existence and functioning, to other forms of power. Conversely, no power can be exercised without the extraction, appropriation, distribution or retention of knowledge. On this level, there is not knowledge on the one side and society on the other, or science and the state, but only the fundamental forms of knowledge/power. (Foucault, quoted in Sheridan 1980, 131)

Foucault has a valid point to make here. It is essential that social theory recognize that the production of knowledge is itself a process of interpellation embedded in an ideological apparatus. However, I suggest that Foucault has bent the stick too far in this direction, promulgating a simplistic reduction of knowledge to domination that extends beyond the history of science (where it has an undeniable, if partial,


heuristic value) to the philosophy of science (where it serves as an epistemological category based on a ontological essence, power). Concealed within the conceptual transition from episteme to knowledge/power is a rather ominous shift in Foucault's attitude toward the content of discourse. Knowledge effects are no longer neutral things (Archaeology of Knowledge ) or even effects of exterior "bad" things (Madness and Civilization ); knowledge becomes in itself an explicitly oppressive form of domination. Foucault's insight, that knowledge is a process of interpellation, is inscribed within a simple, undifferentiated negativity that distinguishes Foucault's usage of the term knowledge/power from Althusser's concepts of science, philosophy, ideology, and ideological apparatuses. Foucault's conceptualization not only forecloses any attempt to articulate a philosophical defense of its own interpretation of historical events but also pre-empts any attempt to discuss knowledge effects in relation to their theoretical object and the knowledges they produce of that object.

In actuality, Foucault's "genealogical method" is a poor alternative to the Althusserian problematic and not much of an improvement over archaeology, whose ad hoc character and bias against totalization it retains without qualification. Aside from a focus on knowledge as an ideological apparatus, all the positive attributes of genealogy derive from the recognition of subjectivity as a social production, an insight taken over completely from Althusser and then impregnated with a Nietzschean-Deleuzean vitalism. The result, far from overcoming the methodological and epistemological problems of archaeology, reproduces them in an intensified form. Whereas structural causality can easily accommodate knowledge/power in terms of an articulation of scientific practice within a social whole that assigns it a place and a function (a social whole determined, in the last instance, by the economy), Foucault can express knowledge/power only as reified and hypostatized fact. Subtracting those materialist elements it borrows from Structural Marxism, Foucault's genealogy is little more than a series of rhetorical flourishes, oscillating between a peculiarly teleological form of historicism and a strident, politicized aestheticism that denies the truth of its own research.

In "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," Foucault elaborates on what he takes to be the strengths of the genealogical method. First among these is the fact that genealogy, like archaeology, continues to reject historical determination and scientific realism, the belief in "immobile forms that precede the external world of accident and succession." If the genealo-


gist "listens to history," Foucault explains, "he finds that there is 'something altogether different' behind things: not a timeless and essential secret, but the secret that they have no essence or that their essence was fabricated in a piecemeal fashion from alien forms" (Foucault 1980a, 142). The "search for origins" that defines history for Foucault is abandoned by the genealogists in favor of an analysis of what he calls "descent." The difference between descent and origin is that the former is not based on a category of "resemblance." Rather than the unity of resemblance, genealogy is interested in "subindividual marks that might possibly intersect . . . to form a network that is difficult to unravel." The genealogist "sets out to study the beginning—numberless beginnings whose faint traces and hints of color are readily seen by an historical eye. The analysis of descent permits the dissociation of the self, its recognition and displacement" (Foucault 1980a, 145-46). In fact, the distinction between origins and "beginnings" turns on ontologizing difference in the manner of Deleuze, a move that simultaneously asserts the accidental nature of being and the privileged eye of the genealogist.

An examination of descent also permits the discovery, under the unique aspect of a trait or a concept, of the myriad events through which—thanks to which, against which—they were formed. Genealogy does not pretend to go back in time to restore an unbroken continuity that operates beyond the dispersion of forgotten things. . . . Genealogy does not resemble the evolution of a species. . . . On the contrary, to follow the complex course of descent is to maintain passing events in their proper dispersion; it is to identify the accidents, the minute deviations—or conversely the complete reversals—the errors, the false appraisals, and the faulty calculations that gave birth to those things that continue to exist. (Foucault 1980a, 146)

Genealogy, Foucault seems to be saying, is the method of knowing real history (proper dispersions ), the anti-teleological teleology (the chain of accidents ) of what exists, by means of an anti-reflectionist reflectionism (which permits the discovery of the true untruth of being). It must be left to the reader to measure Foucault's disarmingly frank embrace of ad hoc historicist reflectionism against the Structural Marxist project of differential history. Here it is necessary only to contrast Foucault's historical reflectionism with his antithetical posture of epistemological relativism in order to demonstrate the absurdity of the whole genealogical enterprise. Not only does Foucault claim to have privileged access to history—to real historical events and tendencies which he wishes to bring to our attention and against which he wishes to enlist our support—but he also disclaims any responsibility for what


he views to be the totalitarian implications of his claim to knowledge. If knowledge is power, and power is bad, then theory must be rejected: "Reject all theory and all forms of general discourse. This need for theory is still part of the system we reject" (Foucault 1980a, 231).

Foucault wants his genealogies to be part of what Deleuze and Guattari call a rhizome , a vine-like subterranean resistance that surfaces, unexpectedly, as a nomadic guerrilla attack on the global network of power and then disappears again. "Against this global policy of power," Foucault valiantly proclaims, "we initiate localized counter-responses, skirmishes, active and occasionally preventative defenses. We have no need to totalize that which is invariably totalized on the side of power" (Foucault 1980a, 212). The fear of totalization, rooted in the reduction of knowledge to power, leads Foucault to pragmatism, a reduction of his genealogies to political pamphlets whose sole value resides in their rhetorical power. "Writing," Foucault insists, "interests me only insofar as it enlists itself into the reality of a contest, as an instrument of tactics, of illumination. I would like my books to be, as it were, lancets, or Molotov cocktails, or minefields; I would like them to self-destruct after use, like fireworks" (Foucault, quoted in Megill 1985, 243). Where the coin of reason has been devalued, the counterfeit of manipulation will have to serve, and with it comes the inevitable inflation of rhetoric and voluntarism.

Both the historicist-theoretical and the rhetorical-pragmatic tendencies of Foucault's method have a common objective, the identification of and resistance to structures of domination. The problem is that these tendencies contest each other in an irreconcilable fashion. Rather than setting up a productive tension between theory and practice, one that would clarify and distinguish each in relation to the other, Foucault elides the antithesis between them, leaving us in a realm of political fiction: "I am fully aware that I have never written anything other than fictions. For all that, I would not want to say they were outside the truth. It seems plausible to me to make fictions work within truth, to introduce truth-effects within a fictional discourse, and in some way to make discourse arouse, 'fabricate,' something which does not yet exist, thus to fiction something. One 'fictions' history starting from a political reality that renders it true, one 'fictions' a politics that does not yet exist starting from a historical truth" (Foucault 1980a, 193). Even if one shares Foucault's desire for a new vision of the future, one may entertain deep reservations about fictionalizing history as the means to achieve it.

In his major works of the seventies, Discipline and Punish (1975;


English translation, 1979) and The History of Sexuality (1976; English translation, 1980), Foucault focuses on "disciplinary technologies" (normalizing techniques, forms of domination), which he holds to be both more representative of modern industrial societies and more broadly diffused throughout social practices than the economically derived domination emphasized in Marxist analyses. Indeed, Foucault likes to accuse Marxists of missing the actual "mechanics of power" or the "general functioning" of power by focusing on only one of its forms, economic domination: "Psychiatric internment, the mental normalization of individuals, and penal institutions have no doubt a fairly limited importance if one is only looking for their economic significance. On the other hand, they are undoubtedly essential to the general functioning of the wheels of power. So long as the posing of the question of power was kept subordinate to the economic instance and the system of interests which this served, there was a tendency to regard these problems as of small importance" (Foucault 1980a, 116). Again, I have no quarrel with the rational kernel of Foucault's critique (despite the straw-man tactics that serve to give it more force than it would otherwise carry), nor do I deny the important corrective function Foucault's works have performed. Foucault's seminal studies of prisons and sexuality, and his concepts of disciplinary technology, bio-power, and so forth have justifiably called attention to the subtle mechanisms and pervasive presence of normalizing technologies within social institutions and discursive practices.

Nevertheless, as several critics have pointed out, Foucault's Nietzschean problematic, heavily indebted to Deleuze, works at cross-purposes to a materialist understanding of power. It seems to me that the merits of Foucault's historical analyses derive from their reactive tension with (and underlying dependence on) Althusserian concepts. Foucault's Nietzschean turn, far from advancing beyond Structural Marxism, in fact represents a regression, inferior by the very criteria that Althusser and Foucault share. Foucault is ineluctably driven away from the materiality of power (the starting point of his analyses) toward a mythologized, ahistorical, and ultimately essentialist concept: Power. From the perspective of Power, Foucault is unable to distinguish between different forms or relations of power (any more than between different forms of discourse), nor can he formulate any coherent concept of political resistance to power. However, if we strip away Foucault's Nietzschean veneer, his essentialist ontology of Power, and his rather vulgar anti-Marxism, we discover an imaginative practitioner of


differential history whose insights may be reconciled with Althusser's Structural Marxist problematic. This outcome is surprising only at first glance; on reflection it is a logical terminus to the common project—the anti-historicist, anti-humanist, anti-empiricist reformulation of historical methodology—begun by Althusser and Foucault in the sixties.

On the Subject of Power

The human sciences, long the object of Foucault's interest and animosity, are the paradigmatic examples of knowledge/power. Taking up, in a more sophisticated and direct way, themes of Madness and Civilization and Birth of the Clinic , Foucault dramatically asserts the dominating character of discourses pertaining to human beings, their social nature, and organization in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality . For Foucault, expanding our scientific knowledge of human beings is only the ideological exterior of a process whose invisible core, masked by scientific and humanitarian rhetoric, is actually a complex and relentless conquest of human beings. In Discipline and Punish , a brilliant survey of prisons and their rationale, Foucault argues that the transition from physical punishment to modern methods of imprisonment and rehabilitation—the whole legal, psychiatric, carceral apparatus—is not the result of a "humanization" of the social handling of deviant behavior based on an increase in knowledge. Instead, it is one instance of a general process involving the creation and expansion of what Foucault calls "discipline," the internal subdivision and subjugation (dressage ) of the body, as opposed to "punishment," the external command and control over an otherwise whole and independent body.

Such disciplinary technologies, forms of political anatomy that Foucault calls "bio-power," extend far beyond the phenomenon of the prison system. They form discrete parts of a general pattern, originating in the eighteenth century, that progressively embraced the entire spectrum of the human sciences. In Foucault's view, the exercise of power over the population and the accumulation of knowledge about it are really the same process. Science functions within social formations to increase the leverage of power over the body, which in turn advances objectification: not power and knowledge but knowledge/power.

I am not saying that the human sciences emerged from the prison. But if they have been able to be formed and to produce so many it is because they have been conveyed by a specific and new modality of power: a certain policy of the body, a certain way of rendering the accumulation of men docile and


useful. This policy required the involvement of definite relations of knowledge in relations of power; it called for a technique of overlapping subjection and objectification; it brought with it new procedures of individualization. The carceral network constituted one of the armatures of this power-knowledge that has made the human sciences historically possible. (Foucault 1979, 305)

In The History of Sexuality , Foucault argues that discourse about sexuality is also a dispositif , yet another example of bio-power serving to bring the body under calculation, observation, and normative control. Foucault attacks the commonly held view that sex was "hushed up" by Victorian morality in the nineteenth century. In fact, he notes, discourses about sexuality proliferated at an unprecedented rate after 1800. However, as discourses about sexuality proliferated, the actual libidinal life of individuals became more restrictive. Sexuality was posited as the most powerful of drives, so powerful (and so irrational) that new forms of collective and individual discipline were necessary to control it. Through various strategies (redefining women as hysterical, attacking adolescent masturbation, the socializing of procreation of couples, and the psychiatrization of sexual "abnormality"), bio-power was extended during the nineteenth century through the "scientific" understanding of sexuality. Moreover, sexuality became an integral part of what Foucault calls "confessional technology," the idea that one could, with the help of experts, of course, know and cure one's self by telling the truth. "Western man," Foucault insists, "has become a confessing animal." What we are accustomed to view as a therapeutic process becomes in Foucault's eyes merely "one of the West's most highly valued techniques for producing the truth" (Foucault 1980, 59).

Bio-power is obviously, if negatively, related to the Althusserian concepts of interpellation and ideological apparatuses; the underlying anti-Althusserian animus of Foucault's thinking is readily discernible. Points of demarcation, however, must be clearly noted. Whereas Structural Marxism is able to situate the interpellation of human beings within a conceptual framework that accounts for both the positive as well as the negative aspects of the process, for both the internal complexity of subjectivity as well as the external forces that overdetermine it, Foucault presents us with a homogeneous field of power couched in exclusively negative, oppressive terms on which a mysterious and monolithic strategy of domination is being impersonally enacted. This is, of course, not an original strategy. Foucault's understanding of power and domination is infused with the rhetoric of libertarian-libertine aesthetic revolt (a


tradition that runs from Sade to Bataille) and neo-anarchist, irrationalist populism (from Michelet through Bakunin and Sorel to the soixantehuitards ). Whatever persuasive character this tradition possesses turns on a strategy of avoiding distinctions between different types, degrees, and relations of power—and invoking instead a primal opposition between an ahistorical essence of liberty (existing prior to society) and society itself (the essentialized antithesis of liberty, which is becoming ever more successful in limiting, regulating, and dominating liberty). It is the achievement of Nietzsche, of course, to have given this essence a name, "will to power," but it is his French admirers who have extended the domain of heroic striving for liberty to include the toiling masses (for whom Nietzsche had only contempt).

While ideological interpellation is always a matter of power, Althusser, in contrast to Foucault, does not conclude that it is therefore necessarily oppressive. Ideological interpellations—including knowledge/power and bio-power—are assigned a place and a function by the matrix effect of a mode of production. However, they also possess their own relative autonomy, distinct effectivity, and internal contradictions. For Althusser, because of substantive differences and an irreducible degree of contradiction or incompatibility among the various interpellations, they cannot be reduced to a monolithic, undifferentiated whole. More fundamentally, Althusser acknowledges no "essence of human liberty" waiting to be set free from the process of interpellation. In actuality, it is interpellation that gives the human subject its "essence," the capacity to act in society, and without interpellation society is simply unthinkable. Foucault knows this, of course, but his description of the process of interpellation is necessarily negative given his dogmatic rejection of any Marxist (or even any historical) problematic that might explain power in terms of society (rather than society in terms of Power). Foucault can explain knowledge/power and bio-power only by hypostatizing them, that is, by making Power, in true Nietzschean fashion, the primal stuff, the ontological precondition of historical processes. This reification of power—a subtle move from the explanation of power to an explanation by Power—pushes Foucault toward the idealist and voluntarist camp of Deleuze despite the strong materialist element in his own best work. The material world is never left out of Foucault's analyses—the materiality of power is the source of Foucault's undeniable superiority vis-à-vis the other French Nietzscheans—but it is, in the last instance, the effect of Power, which is always anterior to any particular configuration of power.


The consequence of hypostatizing Power is an inability to specify relationships between bio-power and other forms of social power. For example, Foucault frequently acknowledges some more or less strong historical relationship between bio-power and capitalism. He notes that it becomes historically possible to make people work efficiently and productively only after they have been "caught up in a system of subjection (in which need is also a political instrument meticulously prepared, calculated and used); the body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body" (Foucault 1979, 26). Even more directly, "If the economic take-off of the West began with the techniques that made possible the accumulation of capital, it might perhaps be said that the methods for administering the accumulation of men made possible a political take-off. . . . In fact, the two processes—the accumulation of men and the accumulation of capital—cannot be separated" (Foucault 1979, 220-21).

Foucault cannot, however, flesh out the relations of determination between economic power, its reproduction, and other relations of power such as bio-power. Bio-power is linked to the development of capitalism, but because it precedes and exceeds this and every other historical transformation, the entire picture loses any recognizable shape.

This bio-power was without question an indispensable element in the development of capitalism; the latter would not have been possible without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of population to economic processes. But this was not all it required; it also needed the growth of both of these factors, their reinforcement as well as their availability and docility; it had to have methods of power capable of optimizing forces, aptitudes, and life in general without at the same time making them more difficult to govern. If the development of the great instruments of the state, as institutions of power, ensured the maintenance of production relations, the rudiments of anatomo- and bio-politics . . . operated in the sphere of economic processes, their development, and the forces working to sustain them. They also acted as factors of segregation and social hierarchization, exerting their influence on the respective forces of both these movements, guaranteeing relations of domination and effects of hegemony. (Foucault 1980, 140-41)

Foucault's analysis loses its focus at precisely the point where the reciprocal determinations of power must be conceptually disentangled, given a hierarchy of dominance and subordination, and set into coherent theoretical form. From a certain point of view, Foucault's problem-


atic appears to take into account the "real" complexity of history, the absence of any causal nexus, the excess of historical signifieds over theoretical signifiers, and so on. If this were the case, we would still be entitled to ask why the analysis pulls up just here and not at a higher or a lower level of abstraction. The answer, I think, has less to do with empirical "complexity" than with ontological simplicity—a metahistoricization of Power. Differences in power and the hierarchical relationships between different forms of power do not really matter for Foucault, because in the end such distinctions are epiphenomena of Power. Power serves as an escape mechanism for Foucault, an escape from the responsibility of proceeding from description to explanation. "Power must be understood in the first instance as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization. . . . Power's condition of possibility . . . must not be sought in the primary existence of a central point, in a unique source of sovereignty from which secondary and descendent forms could emanate. . . . Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere" (Foucault 1980, 92-93).

"Power is everywhere." Located at every point in the social structure, or rather in every "relation of force" between points, Power constitutes and traverses individuals, invades and informs the gestures of the body, circulates within regimes of discourse, and produces effects of knowledge and pleasure. Power is diffused through the finest channels of the social body by what Foucault calls "micro-powers." Here Foucault reverses the traditional conception of power as invested in a central organizing instance—most notably the state. "Micro-powers" may be "crystallized" so as to produce certain global effects of domination—for example, class domination—but there is no intrinsic relation between these "micro-powers" and the larger structures of domination that are supported by them. The various forms of exploitation cannot be predicted because Power precedes structure and therefore cannot be deduced from it. Power is thus some kind of undifferentiated force or energy that circulates through social formations and is basic to them. It is ultimately unimportant (as well as impossible) to distinguish ideological, political, economic, or theoretical practices, for such distinctions don't really matter: they are all merely forms of power. It is never, with Foucault, a question of what power and for what purpose, since power is always already there, obeying its own laws, and its only purpose is its own expansion.


Foucault's problem, of course, is how to formulate a radical, democratic political practice from such a Nietzschean metaphysics. In the absence of concrete relations of determination, power is effectively emptied of any real political content. Foucault attempts to avoid this outcome by introducing Deleuze's concept of "resistance" into his problematic. The shortcomings of the whole Nietzschean methodology are nowhere more evident than in Foucault's tortuous attempt first to generate resistance out of power and second to demonstrate how such resistances might actually succeed in subverting power without simply becoming new forms of domination in their turn. The passage is lengthy but it must be quoted in full:

Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power. Should it be said that one is always "inside" power, there is no "escaping" it, there is no absolute outside where it is concerned, because one is subject to the law in any case? Or that, history being the ruse of reason, power is the ruse of history, always emerging the winner? This would be to misunderstand the strictly relational character of power relationships. Their existence depends on a multiplicity of points of resistance: these play the role of adversary, target, support or handle in power relations. These points of resistance are present everywhere in the power network. Hence there is no single locus of great Refusal, no soul of revolt, source of all rebellion, or pure law of the revolutionary. Instead there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case: resistances that are possible, necessary, improbable; others that are spontaneous, savage, solitary, concerted, rampant, or violent; still others that are quick to compromise, interested, or sacrificial; by definition, they can only exist in the strategic field of power relations. But this does not derive from a few heterogeneous principles; but neither are they a lure or a promise that is of necessity betrayed. They are the odd term in relations of power; they are inscribed in the latter as an irreducible opposite. Hence they too are distributed in an irregular fashion: the points, knots, or focuses of resistance are spread over time and space at varying densities, at times mobilizing groups or individuals in a definitive way, inflaming certain points of the body, certain moments in life, certain types of behavior. Are there no great radical ruptures, massive binary divisions, then? Occasionally, yes. But more often one is dealing with mobile and transitory points of resistance, producing cleavages in a society that shift about, fracturing unities and effecting regroupings, furrowing across individuals themselves, cutting them up and remolding them, marking off irreducible regions in them, in their bodies and minds. Just as the network of power relations ends by forming a dense web that passes through apparatuses and institutions, without being exactly localized in them, so too the swarm of points of resistance traverses social stratifications and individual unities. (Foucault 1980, 95-96)

Despite ritualistic assurances of the existence and efficacy of resistances, what comes through most clearly in this passage is Foucault's


inability to conceptually distinguish resistance from power and thus specify the conditions of possibility of resistance. Resistance has what Poulantzas refers to as an "impossibly natural" character in Foucault's thinking. If power is the source of resistance, that is, if power alone is positive and productive, how can resistance be anything other than a form of power? If, assuming its existence as given, resistance is always resistance to power, what happens if resistance succeeds? Once power is "defeated," is not resistance itself transformed into a new form of power generating in turn a new form of resistance? Resistances ceaselessly merge into the power from which Foucault tries to distinguish them, and the ultimate consequences are pessimism and passivity. Since power is everywhere, everything is contestable; at the same time, because it is everywhere, eternal and omnipresent, the outcome of the contest, the inevitable victory of power, is pre-ordained.

This is the point where perceptive critics are quick to point out the underlying unity of Foucault's "micro-powers," the "active schizophrenia" of Deleuze and Guattari, and the Moloch-power of the state posited by the New Philosophers. Not only do they commonly reject any "grand strategy or power" or any "grand refusal" as being inherently an increase rather than a diminution in power, but they also share a common view of power as homogeneous and monstrous. Because they posit power as the essence of society, they cannot see power as differentiated, delimited, or determined. The impossibility of Foucault's resistances, an unpleasant corollary of Deleuze's ontology of Power, is the obverse of the New Philosophy's conception of the state as the perennial expression of Original Evil opposed to the Original Good of individualism. In this respect, Poulantzas observes correctly, "The New Philosophy can legitimately call Foucault to their support: more than the last consequences of his thought, they are its ultimate truth" (Poulantzas 1978, 149).

Foucault's assertion of resistances also directly promotes the illusion of radicalism that allows the New Philosophy to mask and surreptitiously defend capitalist exploitation. While rallying to the defense of certain radical causes, the New Philosophy studiously avoids the class struggle, the economic taproot of power, and instead revives all the old themes of totalitarianism. Foucault and Deleuze, despite their active participation in a number of progressive political causes, from prison and mental health reform to the emancipation of homosexuals, ultimately espouse an egoistic individualism that degenerates all too easily from postmodern dissidence to neo-liberal conformity. Dissidence and anti-Marxism become, in the hands of the New Philosophers, a thinly


veiled defense of the status quo. Deleuze, Foucault, and the Nietzschean Left are enlisted, inevitably if not entirely by choice, into the ranks of petty bourgeois populism, a tradition Dominique Lecourt has perceptively described as the "Occidental ideology of dissidence" (Lecourt 1978, 24). As Lecourt points out, this tradition characteristically combines a "radical" critique of Marxist theory (which exploits every "crisis" within that theory for anti-Marxist purposes) with an anarchist or libertarian politics in order to undercut, neutralize, or deflect any potentially egalitarian development in political and ideological practice. For every Camus or Foucault there is an Aron or a Glucksmann ready to draw the appropriate conservative conclusions from the dissident critique. Never far beneath the choppy waves of Dionysian dissidence and Promethean rebellion flow the disempowering currents of Apollonian accommodation and Sisyphean despair.

In his final, posthumously published works, The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self (French editions, 1984; English translations, 1985 and 1986), Foucault abruptly abandons his dissident postmodern position and, under the growing influence of American academics, refashions himself into, of all things, a neo-liberal humanist—albeit of a peculiar postmodernist persuasion. Typically, Foucault reacts to criticisms of his essentialist view of Power not by fundamentally rethinking his position but by blithely striking out in a different direction altogether, abandoning genealogies of knowledge/power for a new project, a genealogy of ethics. Using Greek and Roman culture as historical foils, Foucault embarks on a subject-centered meditation on "practices of the self" organized around the social structures of sexuality. Sexuality remains a structured phenomenon composed of three elements (acts, pleasures, and desires) and organized in terms of four ethical categories (an ethical substance, the human attributes to be acted on; a mode of subjection, the way people are "socially encouraged" to recognize moral obligations; an ascetic, the practices of the self by which morality is attained; and a telos, the ideal or model being sought), but its structure no longer constitutes a dominating, oppressive form of bio-power or knowledge/power. Power has become rather cuddly, a field of "problematization" that is no more than the social background for the personal choices of a self-realizing subject. Ethics is enabling rather than oppressive: "the elaboration of a form of relation to self that enables an individual to fashion himself into a subject of ethical conduct" (Foucault 1986, 251).

Foucault has many interesting and original things to say about


Greek, Roman, and Christian sexuality. However, his genealogical method remains essentially unchanged. History for Foucault remains a disconnected series of phenomena whose only interest is to reveal past forms of behavior that might be "reactivated" for political purposes in the present. Since Greek sexuality, with its "aesthetics of experience," is not grounded in or determined by specific social conditions, there is no reason, for postmodern "New Historicism" at any rate, why it cannot be simply recreated in contemporary capitalist societies. The new self-fashioning subject of history does correspond more consistently to the unchanged voluntarism of Foucault's postmodern politics, but this new theoretical move begs rather than resolves the question of power raised by Foucault in the seventies. Power, as an oppressive force, simply disappears from the field of ethics altogether as the impossible dissidence of "resist everything" is transformed into its conformist obverse, "anything goes." Foucault's new attention to the subject, coupled with his fragmentation of social structures into autonomous spheres, does provide a coherent defense of neo-liberal micro-politics, but it offers no analysis of the complexity of political problems or the obstacles standing in the way of their resolution. Partial changes can be achieved, Foucault maintains, because changes in one domain, for example, sexuality, do not imply disruptions and confrontations in other domains. "We have to get rid of this idea of an analytically necessary link between ethics and other social or economic or political structures," Foucault insists emphatically in an interview on his new genealogy of ethics (Foucault 1983, 236). Far from signaling an advance in social theory, a "New Historicism" as it is now called, Foucault's new methodology signifies nothing more than the capitulation of postmodern dissidence to the liberal capitalist status quo.

Poulantzas: Power, Class Struggle, and the State

Whatever their faults, Foucault's historical analyses of various ideological apparatuses are of great significance, and they have always been taken seriously by the Structural Marxists. Pierre Macherey has gone so far as to refer to Foucault as "our Hegel," an apt if ironic characterization that reflects both the felt need to absorb Foucault's insights into the problematic of historical materialism as well as an equally pressing need to divest his work of its irrationalist and voluntarist character. The most significant questions in this regard are, of course, those pertaining


to power. What is power? Where does it come from? How does it function? The problems we have pointed out with respect to Foucault's answers to these questions are called into being by his attempt, at least until his final works, where power simply disappears, to make power the primordial constituent of social formations and then try to figure out some way of subverting it. Because Foucault links his otherwise compelling historical analyses of ideological apparatuses to a Deleuzean ontology of Power, he can conceive of power only as a vitalist essence prior to its concrete social forms. Foucault cannot distinguish the necessary existence of ideological apparatuses from their historically determinate place and function because he situates Power somehow beyond any structured whole within which its mechanisms and effects might be causally explained.

A Structural Marxist problematic must therefore be able to differentiate and contextualize power within social structures without, as Foucault's very limited view of Marxism suggests it must, eliminating the internal and relational character of power or reducing all power to class power centered in the state. Conversely, a Structural Marxist account of power, in asserting the relational nature of power and criticizing the identification of all domination with state power, may not have recourse to a conception of power that extends beyond the pale of social determination, nor may it go so far as to discount the central significance of the state as a condensation of power determined in the last instance by the mode of production and class struggle. In the end, Foucault's final devaluation of power and his valorization of an individualistic dialectic of adaptation and transcendence must be rejected as simplistic and ultimately conformist. Within the Structural Marxist camp, the works of Nicos Poulantzas, published between 1968 and 1978, constitute the most sustained analysis of the source and circulation of power, analyses that anticipate, from a Marxist perspective, many of Foucault's criticisms of orthodox Marxist interpretations. Although a full discussion of Poulantzas must be reserved for later, this is the place to discuss his specific objections to Foucault's notion of Power and the alternative view that Poulantzas would substitute for it.

In State, Power, Socialism (1978), Poulantzas acknowledges a similarity between his own relational view of power and attempt to differentiate political and economic power and certain of Foucault's formulations. Nevertheless, Poulantzas rejects any move to separate power from the forces and relations of production or to mystify the nature and functioning of power, traits that Poulantzas sees as the common


ground uniting Foucault's concept of bio-power and the New Philosophers' one-dimensional view of state power. For Poulantzas, power always has a precise material basis in social struggles, and its materiality is not exhausted in any specific apparatus of power or in any "essence" defined as Power. As against the New Philosophers on the one hand and Foucault on the other, Poulantzas insists that neither the state nor Power is the first cause of struggle. Struggle always emerges out of social contradictions—economic contradictions between the forces and relations of production, political contradictions between domination and execution, and ideological contradictions between subjection and qualification. As a result, Poulantzas views state power as neither ahistorical nor unlimited. "Power is a relation between struggles and practices . . . and the state is above all a condensation of a relationship of forces defined precisely by struggle," Poulantzas explains. "No more than other power mechanisms does the state encounter limits in an original outside: it is not that the State is an omnipotent entity beyond which lies emptiness; but already inscribed in its materiality are internal limits imposed by the struggles of the dominated. Such struggles are always present in the State (and, more generally, in power mechanisms); for even though the State is already there, neither the state nor power is the First Cause of struggle" (Poulantzas 1978, 151).

Poulantzas also maintains that the mode of production and class power structure all power relationships, even those that originate elsewhere:

The relational field of class-specific power therefore refers to a material system of place-allocation throughout the social division of labor: it is fundamentally, though not exclusively determined by exploitation. This explains the existence of class division and thus of class struggles. We may even conclude that in a society in which the State utilizes all power (e.g., phallocracy or the family) for purposes of relaying class power, every struggle, be it heterogeneous to class struggles properly so-called (e.g., the struggle between men and women) acquires its characteristic meaning only to the extent that class struggles exist and allow other struggles to unfold. (Poulantzas 1978, 148)

Poulantzas is making three important points here: first, power relationships are always social relationships; second, social relationships, even those of a manifestly non-economic nature, have a "class-specific" element attached to them; and third, the state, while not the source or foundation of power, is nonetheless grounded in power and functions as the central apparatus through which power is deployed. As against


both Foucault and the New Philosophers, Poulantzas posits the following propositions regarding the state and power:

(a) Class power is the cornerstone of power in class-divided social formations, whose motive force is class struggle;

(b) Although grounded in economic power and the relations of production, political power is primordial in that it changes in its character condition every essential transformation in other fields of power; . . .

(c) In the capitalist mode of production political power occupies a field and a place that are distinct from other fields or power, however much they may intersect on another;

(d) This power is pre-eminently concentrated and materialized by the State [which, while not a source of power] is the central site of the exercise of power. (Poulantzas 1978, 44)

Leaving aside for the moment the important question of precisely how economic relations overdetermine political and ideological relations and how the state apparatus actually works, it is clear that Poulantzas's approach to power avoids the problems that plague Foucault's account. Power, for Poulantzas, has a pattern and a limit in social struggles; power is not simply a particular expression of a pre-existing, inexplicable essence (as in Foucault's works of the seventies), nor is it reducible to the nullity of a "problematization" (as in Foucault's last works). In contrast to Foucault, Poulantzas is able to differentiate power theoretically, to posit links from economic relations to the state and to the production of knowledge without reducing political and ideological apparatuses to simple reflections of economic power or collapsing them into an undifferentiated, tendentially monolithic, network of power relations. Poulantzas's assertion of concrete relations between power, social struggles, and the state opens up these areas to further research and refinement. By contrast, Foucault's refusal to link knowledge/power and bio-power to the social formation as a complex whole (and thus to the mode of production and the state) stuffs these relations into the black box of "pluralism" and preempts further investigation into the materiality of power.

Finally, Foucault's scattering of micro-powers, his homogenizing of the mechanisms of power, and his stubborn insistence that the state is simply one form of power among others (albeit an inexplicably dangerous one) has profound and pessimistic political implications. Contrary to Foucault's own belief, power cannot be effectively resisted if it cannot be identified in relation to a structured totality and a hierarchy of relations of dominance and subordination. When power is diluted and scat-


tered resistance is localized. When resistance is localized, it will be either co-opted or repressed. When power is conceptualized as homogeneous, resistance is effectively de-politicized. The anti-state rhetoric of the New Philosophers, for example, opposes the state not for any particular political purpose, most certainly not as a result of any understanding of its central role in the class struggle, but simply because the state is the quintessential form of Power. What is missing from the New Philosophers, as from Deleuze and Foucault, is a reason for political activity, a theoretical explanation as to how anything might possibly be different. Foucault's final retreat from the entire question of power testifies most eloquently to the theoretical bankruptcy of postmodern dissidence.


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