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Nietzsche, Freud, Marx by Michel Foucault

Nietzsche, Freud, Marx

by Michel Foucault

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It was David Bowie that first introduced me to Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx as a triad, the Holy Trinity of the 20th century--he was briefly enamoured of the idea around the time of his 2002 album Heathen that they created the our world of uncertainty by blowing away positivist ideas of God, the self, and human society, respectively. It's an idea I've since encountered other places (sometimes with Einstein included as blowerawayer of the stable physical laws of the Newtonian universe).

The idea isn't Bowie's, of course--it appears on superficial investigation to have originated in this 1964 essay of Foucault's. He's arguing something a bit different and more sophisticated, though--that the precise way in which NFM (as following and apropos of this essay they've sometimes been acronymized!) unsettle the post-Enlightenent isn't just by blowing up certainties--it's by revealing that underlying the superficial taxonomic structures of empiricism, where we understand what things are based on their differences from other things, there's a deeper and more radical interpretative (as opposed to explanatory) framework based on resemblance--a return to the hermeneutic fundamentals of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, perhaps in the fullness of time a new Great Chain of Being. It's a precis of his argument in The Order of Things a few years later, in other words, and he trots out all the similarities--convenience and sympathy and analogy--that he gets into in greater depth there (and, being Foucault, with just as little citing of sources). It reads like a quiet declaration of intent--he is yare to start systematizing his world. It's not really about NFM; he is more using them to construct a break and complete the cleaning of the slate. He does have a gift for the pithy and yet endlessly unpackable observation that reminds me more of Zizek than any of his cotemporaries--Marx destroyed bourgeois pieties by exposing them as "platitudes"; he sees Nietzsche as a radical philologist, who moves beyond positivism by an exquisite combination of "pure language and madness".

Definitely, though, Foucault represents himself here as a strident, absolutist organizer--the very opposite of a poststructuralist--even to the point of reclaiming the great unsettlers as absolute systematizers themselves. He doesn't really make the argument here so much as refer to it, and if this interests you you'd do better to read The Order of Things or, I dunno, a history of the 19th century. But it makes me feel more confident about exactly where and how F. sits in the ol' intellectual topography. In Nietzsche, cahiers du Rouyaumont. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Feb 2, 2011 |
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