Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Foucault on Socialist Governmentality

With communism making Elle and Teen Vogue thanks to Ash Sarkar, and a fun chat between her and Owen Jones on communism "vs" socialism, here's something of what Michel Foucault had to say about socialism and stuff.
I do not think there is an autonomous socialist governmentality. There is no governmental rationality of socialism. In actual fact, and history has shown this, socialism can only be implemented connected up to diverse types of governmentality. It has been connected up to liberal governmentality, and then socialism and its forms of rationality function as counterweights, as a corrective, and a palliative to internal dangers ... We have seen it function, and still see it function, within governmentalities that would no doubt fall more under what last year we called the police state, that is to say, a hyper-administrative state in which there is, so to speak, a fusion, a continuity, the constitution of a massive block between governmentality and administration.
The Birth of Biopolitics 2008, pp 92-3.


Dennis Smith said...

Could you please quote the original French. I hope that will make more sense.

Dialectician1 said...

An interesting quote from Foucault but I'm not sure what it has to do with Ash Sarkar? Foucault gave up on Marxism/communism, actually. As one of the Godfathers of postmodernism, most of his work is orientated towards 'power' rather than the 'concrete' realities of here-and-now capitalism.

Speedy said...

The socialism described in George Orwell's Lion and the Unicorn was far more radical than the form commonly imagined today - it was one that acknowledged the forces that would seek to overwhelm it and line some of them up against the wall, if required.

Arguably, the rise of consumerism killed the old conception of socialism - when Orwell wrote, during the war, it was a time of necessity, but in the decades that followed, capitalism developed consumerism in order to feed the behemoth, and it was this, I suspect, as much as "freedom" that the Eastern European states embraced in 1989 - the jeans, and TVs and other sparkling things.

Freedom is a fluid concept - did people want to be free to say what they thought, or free to buy what they wanted? On balance, I suspect it was to buy what they wanted that won the day - certainly the older generations - who can remember it - look back with some nostalgia on the old days now they have been satiated on consumer electronics (and the bills that come with them).

But freedom is also fundamental - Spartacus and the many other slave revolts of Rome demonstrate that (although, interestingly, Spartacus and his band seemed more interested in their own freedom to rob and enslave than escape).

So real socialism needs to balance "real" freedom with the "fake" freedom flogged by the forces of capital. Whether it is strong enough to achieve this against human evolutionary desires is the big question.

Phil said...

It was an occasion to just trot the quote out as I didn't feel like writing anything last night.

Yes, Foucault's criticisms of Marxism are well known, but there are places where his project, that of Marxism, and of historical materialism (in a broad sense) intersect and build on one another.

I hope to write more on socialist governmentality down the road.

CCAAC said...

Freedom to buy is not freedom but a brainwashed state of mind. A product of a particular system. The committee would argue it is actually a reflection of lack of freedom. Real freedom would be to impose on oneself what they shouldn’t buy. So freedom not to buy, freedom not to produce. Also in a capitalist system freedom to buy is restricted by ability to pay. Capitalism and its assorted apologists and servants always presents its concept in terms of freedom while always ignoring the restrictions.

Capitalism needs to sell products, needs products to be continually tested in the market, consumerism is a fundamental part of capitalism. Capitalism not only needs to find something in the market which can produce more value than it itself possesses but must also find in the market a passive unthinking consumer, one that has been reduced to an infantile state. This why we often find puppets and cartoon characters in adverts, because that is the level that people are reduced to under this system. It is a bit like how humans keep dogs in a permanent infantile state.

This is why the committee accepted the proposals to ban puppets and cartoons in adverts, except for adverts selling puppets. Of course some of our more impatient comrades asked why not just ban adverts, but the reasons for that are not for now.

A socialist society is one where freedom to buy is recognised as a brainwashed state of mind, in such a society socialist forms of government will naturally develop.

That state of mind can only come via a thorough critique of what are commonly called Western values. In the current climate the West, including almost the entire left, is incapable of self criticism and can only lecture others on the correct way of life.

The committee notes that the West lecturing others on the desired way of life is like Hannibal Lecter lecturing people on their food choices or Marie Antoinette saying let them eat cake. Spreading Western values around the world is like spreading a disease throughout the entire body.

American values dominate Western values and are the most immediate direct concern of the movement, which is why the Campaign Against American Culture is such an important part of the transition to socialism. We say transition because we believe capitalism is entering a period of neo Feudalism, a sort of hybrid between capitalism and Feudalism, again not the time to expand here. So we are entering the transition period, do we take the path to Neo Feudalism or the path to communism, as Cilla would have said the choice is yours.

CCAAC said...

Further thing to note:

We will sometimes refer to Neo Feudalism as Planned Hierarchy, again not the time to expand here.