Foucault, Michel

  ---- by John Marks
  Michel Foucault and Deleuze enjoyed an intense philosophical friendship, and much of Deleuze's writing on Foucault might be located within the tradition of the 'laudatory essay' that characterised a certain strand of intellectual activity in post-war France. Such an essay is not a work of criticism, but rather a gesture of affective intensity. Talking about his writing on Foucault, Deleuze emphasises that it is not necessary to demonstrate a great fidelity to the work of a thinker, nor is it necessary to look for contradictions and blind alleys in a thinker's work: to say that one part works, but another part does not. Approaching a writer's work in the spirit of 'friendship' is the same as a personal friendship. It is about being willing to be carried along by the entirety of the work, accompanying the thinker on a journey. Sometimes, it is about following the work, as one might a person, to the point that the work becomes a little 'crazy', where it breaks down or comes up against apparently insurmountable problems. Friendship in this sense does not mean that one necessarily has the same ideas or opinions as somebody else, but rather that one shares a mode of perception with them. Deleuze explains that it is a matter of perceiving something about somebody and his way of thinking almost before his thought is formulated at the level of signification. It is for this reason that Deleuze talks of remembering something 'metallic', 'strident' and 'dry' in the gestures of Foucault. Deleuze perceives Foucault as an individuation, a singularity, rather than a subject. It is almost as if Deleuze responds to Foucault's thinking at the level of his bodily materiality as much as a set of philosophical propositions. Above all, Deleuze sees Foucault as a writer of great 'passion', and he is particularly struck by the distinction that Foucault draws between love and passion. Love is a relationship between individuals, whereas passion is a state in which the individuals dissolve into an impersonal field of intensities. For these reasons, Deleuze regards his own book on Foucault as an act of 'doubling', a way of bringing out and working with minor differences between himself and Foucault. Both Deleuze and Foucault had a similar conception of the art of 'surfaces', of making visible rather than interpreting, and this is what Deleuze seeks to do with Foucault's work.
  As with his other readings of other writers, Deleuze extracts a dynamic logic - as opposed to a rational system - from Foucault's work. One of his main aims in Foucault is to clear up some of the misunderstandings surrounding the transitions in Foucault's work. For example, Deleuze rejects the notion that Foucault's late work constitutes some sort of return to the subject. Instead he sees this later work as adding the dimension of subjectification to the analyses of power and knowledge that Foucault had previously carried out. The subject that Foucault talks about in his final work is not a retreat or a shelter, but rather one that is produced by a folding of the outside. Deleuze also rejects the simplistic notion that Foucault's formulation of the 'death of man' might preclude political action. The figure of 'man' is simply one historically distinct form of the human. Human forces confront various other forces at different times in history, and it is in this way that a composite human form is constructed.
  In a double sense, Deleuze perceives that which is 'vital' in Foucault's work. That is to say, he concentrates on what Foucault thought out of absolute necessity, as well as the ways in which Foucault's work expresses a commitment to life. Foucault may appear to be preoccupied with death, imprisonment and torture, but this is because he is concerned with the ways in which life might be freed from imprisonment. That is not to say that Deleuze and Foucault did not feel there were points of real tension between their approaches. Foucault, for his part, found Deleuze's use of the term 'desire' problematic, since for him desire would always entail some notion of 'lack' or repression. He preferred the term 'pleasure', which was equally problematic for Deleuze, because pleasure seems to be a transcendent category that interrupts the immanence of desire. However, rather than these differences being the basis for a critical interpretation of Foucault's work, they are actually constitutive of the 'tranversal', diagonal line that Deleuze attempts to trace between himself and Foucault. It is in this way that he hopes to bring out what Foucault was striving to do in his work, and it is in this spirit that Deleuze occasionally focuses on one of Foucault's apparently minor concepts, such as that of the 'infamous man'. Deleuze finds this concept particularly resonant and responds to its urgency, since Foucault uses it to attempt to think through difficult problems relating to his own understanding of power.
   § desire

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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