Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Foucault Wins!!!

After looking like Gilles Deleuze was going to cruise the poll, Michel Foucault ends up the winner with 40% of the vote. Thanks for everyone who took part. While these polls mean nothing they are none the less interesting.

As may not come a surprise my vote went to Deleuze. However, rather than try to legitimate my vote I’ll try to explain why I put each thinker in the poll.

Jean Paul-Sartre: I think the biggest compliment you can pay to Sartre is he not only attempted to think, but he also attempted to live his thinking. While I have never felt a close affinity to Sartre, and the existential ‘movement’, I do admire his (latter) effort to work against the facticity of the world in order to change it through forging a group (particularly in ‘search for a method’). This coming from a guy who said hell is other people!

Michel Foucault
: From my perspective Foucault has helped me to understand complex technologies of power. His work serves as a helpful tool for analysing the present, especially liberal democracies. It may seem a bit of a tautology, but I think Foucault was correct to say that where you find knowledge you will find power. There is also the added advantage that Foucault was able to define power not only negatively, but also as empowering.

Jacques Lacan: Unfortunately most of my knowledge of Lacan comes from secondary reading (Zizek & Deleuze/Guattari). Yet, this seems to some the benefit of Lacan. From Zizek’s reading Lacan continues the Freudian tradition, while the other (in Anti-Oedipus) views Lacan as moving away from a Freudian understanding of the unconscious. While not a fan of psychoanalysis Lacan’s triad of the symbolic, imaginary, and real do provide useful tools for analysing the ‘social’.

Jacques Derrida: Probably the most controversial philosopher of 20th century France. (In) Famously associated with the idea of deconstruction, which caused so much outrage. I think his type of thought was almost necessary to demonstrate the slippery nature of language, and also to provide a compelling case against Habermas’ notion of ‘ideal speech’, which would only work if communication were possible.

Louis Althusser: Simply included for the reason of being the greatest 20th Century Marxist thinker to come from France. Maybe only Henri Lefebvre could challenge Louis for this position.

Gilles Deleuze: Maybe more of a 21st century philosophy for the English speaking among us. It was probably Paul Patton’s translation of Difference and Repetition, in 1994, that helped Deleuze get the justified recognition he deserved. Without a doubt his metaphysics will propel him into the canon of greats: Plato, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Heiddeger…even if this was a canon he didn’t much like. I also feel Manuel DeLanda’s interpretation of Deleuze as a realist will help to move beyond defining Deleuze as a poststructuralist/postmodernist.

Luce Irigaray: I simple admire her attempt to merge Derrida and Lacan to construct her feminist thought.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Foucault is the so called 'winner' in a popularity contest!

For me, Foucault is such an intellectual inspirational and his ideas centering around power-knowledge which later develop into a full blossom becoming 'governmentality' is for me a fruitful way to understand most phenomena in the social world in terms of the power relations in society (I hate the phrase power structures, and its all about relationships, such as doctor-patient, prisoner-warden, etc.. that become 'experts') and the 'technologies of power'.

Nicolas Rose's - Powers of Freedom, an amazing Foucauldian analysis, which twists and turns with Deleuze's work.

Using his historical methods (genealogical and archaeological) to get to the essence of things, before starting any empirical research is so important. Where the 'history of the present' is of timely importance to our contemporary society. By looking at the limitations on thought and action, and in the Order of Things how different epistemes had generally different ways of articulating, thinking, signifying, representing, theorising. That need to be taken into account when looking at how ideas are limited by there time, such as Darwin and Curvier.

His ideas on subjectivity and ethics are also so amazing, however, most of it remains misunderstood. Such as academics repeated use of the panopticon to claim the same points about an idealised realm whereby individuals are controlled by the maximum economic force.

His ideas about being the 'critical intellectual' as opposed to the 'specific' or 'universal' also inspire my own thought into new directions.

A true philosopher.

a very public sociologist said...

If I had to choose from this list, it would probably be Althusser - simply because I know his work best and I'm convinced there's still a lot of useful stuff in there. As more and more are returning to Marx (again), I wouldn't be surprised if a return engagement with his work is in the offing.

My dead French dude of the moment has to be Pierre Bourdieu, but I'm a sociologist so I'm biased.