B. Genealogy

(1) The death of the subject and the role of history

"What Is an Author?" (1969). Trans. in LCM. "It is absolutely insufficient to repeat empty slogans: the author has disappeared; God and man dies a common death. Rather, we should reexamine the empty space left by the author's disappearance; we should attentively observe, along its gaps and fault lines, its new demarcations, and the reapportionment of this void; we should await the fluid functions released by this disappearance," (121).

"Theatrum Philosophicum" (1970). Trans. in LCM.

Review of Differénce et répétition and Logique du sens by Gilles Deleuze. "perhaps one day, this century will be known as Deleuzian," (165). Contains useful information distinguishing the LSD trip from the opium dream, (190-1).

"Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," (1971). Trans. in LCM. (in French in Hommage à Jean Hyppolite.)

"Genealogy is gray, meticulous and patiently documentary." This announces Foucault's treatment of history as text. Genealogy is gray because it is not black or white; it is not random or haphazard but a careful consideration of texts that have been written and rewritten from multiple perspectives. It is opposed to "metahistory," which presupposes a grand teleology and search for origins. Truth as such is really a proliferation of errors (See Nietzsche, "On Truth & Lie") -- it is "the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it was hardened into an unalterable form in the long baking process of history" (144)

Of course, genealogy is not simply a matter of writing new histories to reflect the historian's stake in political struggles. One could easily object to such a project that even if truth is power, there is a real world "out there," however inaccessible through language, to which the exercise of the power of truth must relate. Thus the genealogist is dealing with materials present in traditional histories, but s/he is specifically cognizant of h/er work as an interpretation, and attempts to uncover what the discourses of historical knowledge hide from themselves. The genealogist works with what is available, and "re-reads the surface of cultural activity to find a meaning in it different from that which it seems, itself, to offer and approve. Realignment of cultural phenomena available publicly discloses the lines of force in a culture organized towards certain ends and proceeding through certain transformations. And genealogical redistribution of surface fragments, not only demystifies the veiling, legitimating ideologies of a system, but produces a new reading which is a more convincing asymptotic approximation of the truth of the matter."[1] Foucault specifically begins NGH, a very carefully constructed essay, with the sentence "Genealogy is gray, meticulous, and patiently documentary," (139). It does not magically invoke events that never were and connect them into a dispositif; it patiently, meticulously, gathers archives and arranges them into narratives based on a different set of assumptions than the customary one. The goal of the history, then, is not to narrate the story; to tell what "really" happened, or to explain events accurately. Rather, the goal is to produce an effect -- a change, a mutation in present ways of conceiving things by explaining the past in new ways.

The genealogist sees not the beginning but "numberless beginnings" (145). The attempt is not to find a unified story in history but a multiplicity of stories. 3 possible historical metaphors for the relationship between past and present are causal, consequential, and organic -- Foucault chooses the organic metaphor, seeing the present as "birthed by" the past.

Rather than seeing the present as the culmination of events that occurred in the past, Foucault sees the present as one of many events in a process that continues into the future. The present "emerged" from the past, but not in a fixed, frozen form. The metaphysician freezes the present and the past while the genealogist attempts to leave t/he forces of history in motion. Those forces at the origin are "the endlessly repeated play of dominations" (150) Note the Hegelianism/Koj¸vianism of the metaphor -- conflict between the master and the slave as the motor of history. Descombes has called this a "terrorist conception of history" because it sees all concepts, rules, laws, discourses, and practices as developing from the conflict between the weak and the strong, but from the genealogical perspective the point is to discover how that struggle manifests itself in the texts of history. It is recorded in those texts because "Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law finally replaces warfare; humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination." (151) The "successes of history" (151), i.e. the winners of those struggles, are those who have used the rules against the rulers while disguised by those rules. Genealogy, then, is the recording of those moments in history at which rules were inverted against the rulers to begin a different domination. Genealogy sees the development of humanity as a series of interpretations.

Difference between Nietzsche & Hegel: Where Hegel posits an "end of history" as the suprahistorical perspective from which history must be judged, Foucault argues that since history is never really over, the metaphysician can bend history to suit his/her purposes with such a suprahistorical perspective. Genealogy thus refuses any absolutes or constants -- another recognition of history as a material practice rather than a disinterested record of events. "Events" for Foucault consist of "the reversal of a relationship of forces, the usurpation of power, the appropriation of a vocabulary turned against those who once used it" (154). Effective history should become differential knowledge of these ruptures in discourse. Lastly, effective history must acknowledge its own perspectives -- the "affirmation of knowledge as perspectives" (156)



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