Sunday, June 19, 2011

a blank space

I just finished reading The Archaeology of Knowledge, as part of a reading group project. It's funny because there are ways in which I imagine my whole project to be a kind of anti-Foucauldian dreamworld... yet Foucault really does derive great critical purchase from being able to levy a certain antagonism against himself, from being able to both pin himself into a certain position and then wrest himself from it. There's no easy being, there, and yet the forms of disappearing to which he subjects the subject are not yet fluid or convincing, as perhaps with Deleuze or Lacan. I ended up liking this far more than I had thought, and with an allowance for the imperfections of this kind of work. This kind of writing is currently impossible: the only writing worth reading today strives for a clarity and an argument that is here absent. The suggestion that his discourse on discourse takes place solely within the mind is compelling. A philosophical or historical explanation for the contradiction between what he says he wants to do and what he actually does is insufficient. Far more, it's a symptom of the "blank space" he desires to be at the beginning. In some ways, the argument for "rupture" and "disassociation" is moral, even as it seems epistemological, which calls to mind Kant's idea about how a "pathologically enforced social union is transformed into a moral whole" ("Ideas for a Universal History" 44-45). Such a state of conflict as he describes--between not being able to "bear" and not being able to "bear to leave" others--is pathological, or instinctual, or barbaric, in origin, but it too takes its steps towards culture. The idea indicates the problem is not with the subject, with the dispensing of the subject, but with culture. Culture for Foucault...

No comments: