Wednesday 19 August 2009

Coming Attractions: Marx Meets Foucault

Have you ever found yourself craving a systematic comparison of the political theory of Karl Marx and Michel Foucault? Seven years ago I did but there being few about (this tendentious critique of Marx from a Foucauldian position was the only one I knew about), I decided to write one for my Master's dissertation. What I attempted to do was see if it was possible to combine the two in a common framework in a naive attempt to create a grand sociological theory of everything. Obviously I fell short of that but the dissertation did examine ways of how Foucault's genealogical concepts could be disentangled from his anti-statist political theory and employed usefully by Marxists.

For months on end I cobbled 16,000 words together on the back of till receipts at work and on my dinner hour. Many a summer's day was spent in the kitchen pouring over the writings of Marx, Lenin, Althusser, Foucault and plenty of others. And the total audience of my efforts up until now have been three people. But not for much longer. As blogging is slow thanks to the final push with the
PhD I've decided to slice and dice my dissertation into what will be a series of blog posts. The first post will be the lengthy introduction followed by blog-friendly sized cuts of the chapters. I apologise in advance if some of the arguments seem to go nowhere but a total re-write with the benefit of seven years academic and political experience is going to have to wait. The only editing will be welcome concessions to readability. When I was a 25 year old Althusserian tailoring language to a lay audience was an unforgivable bourgeois deviation.

Each piece will have a link back to here for ease of use.

Apart from 'Toward a Marxian/Foucauldian Encounter' I have a few long term posting projects in mind. When things have settled down a bit Gramsci's
Selections from the Prison Notebooks are going to get the AVPS Lukacs/JS Mill treatment. And beyond that I can see Eduard Bernstein and Edmund Burke bobbing about on the horizon.

Toward a Marxian/Foucauldian Encounter


Introduction: Marxism and Post-Marxism

Marx, Engels, Lenin and the State
Gramsci, Althusser and Hegemonic Struggle
Foucault and Political Theory

Foucault and History
Dialectics and Abstraction
Foucault vs Marx
Marx vs Foucault
Althusser and Social Complexity

Marx and Foucault: Some Conclusions


Alderson Warm-Fork said...

Look forward to it - Burke and Gramsci especially.

Andrew Coates said...

I hope you looked at Poulantzas, Deleuze and Gauttari as well: I reread a lot of this stuff while writing the Master work (not a mere Master's), The Spirit of Factions and Sects.

Phil said...

I wanted to but decided to keep it to just Marx and Foucault. I was also handicapped by not being able to get hold of the short Semiotext(e) book of Foucault's 'Remarks on Marx'.

I still haven't been able to give Poulantzas a good look, despite having his State, Power, Socialism under the bed. Maybe I'll break it out for an extended look in the future.

HarpyMarx said...

Anti-Oedipus by Deleuze and Gauttari...that brings back memories also gathering dust on the book shelf as well.

Have to say Phil, will you be reading any feminist texts just seems male dominated?

I was never really into Foucault until I read Madness and Civilisation. He makes good observations about institutions.

Phil said...

I've never done Deleuze myself - I find the language incredibly off-putting. Someday perhaps.

As for feminist texts I fancy giving Judith Butler a try seeing as I'm bound to end up teaching her at some point!

PakPunk said...

Foucault's - Remarks on Marx in ebook form can be found at-


Anonymous said...

I'd recommend Eugene Holland's book on Deleuze & Guattari as a place to start.

Besides State, Power, Socialism also check out the recent Poulantzas Reader from Verso. Geoff Goshgarian's introduction to Althusser's Philosophy of the Encounter - and Althusser's Marx in his limits in the same volume - are important correctives to Poulantzas's eurocommunist tendency