- Series: Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Semiotext(e); 2nd edition (May 11, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1584350415
- ISBN-13: 978-1584350415
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,518,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Forget Foucault (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents) 2nd Edition
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About the Author
Jean Baudrillard (1929--2007) was a philosopher, sociologist, cultural critic, and theorist of postmodernity who challenged all existing theories of contemporary society with humor and precision. An outsider in the French intellectual establishment, he was internationally renowned as a twenty-first century visionary, reporter, and provocateur.
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This short book contains Baudrillard’s title essay (1977), as well as a 1984/5 interview of Baudrillard by Sylvere Lotringer.
He begins the title essay with the statement, “Foucault’s writing is perfect in that the very movement of the text gives an admirable account of what it proposes on one hand… but on the other hand, an interstitial flowing of power that seeps through the whole porous network of the social, the mental, and of bodies, infinitesimally modulating the technologies of power… Foucault’s discourse is a mirror of the powers it describes. It is there that its strength and its seduction lie, and not at all in its ‘truth index’… these procedures of truth are of no importance for Foucault’s discourse is no truer than any other. No, its strength and its seduction are in the analysis which unwinds the subtle meanderings of its object… Foucault’s is not therefore a discourse of truth but a mythic discourse … and I secretly believe that it has no illusions about the effect of truth it produces.” (Pg. 9-10)
He argues, “Foucault unmasks all the final or causal illusions concerning power, but he does not tell us anything concerning the simulacrum of power itself… power returns to its own identity again as a final principle: it is the last term, the irreducible web, the last tale that can be told: it is what structures the indeterminate equation of the word. According to Foucault, this is the come-on that power offers, and it is not simply a discursive trap. What Foucault does not see is that power is never there and that its institution, like the institution of spatial perspective versus ‘real’ space in the Renaissance, is only a simulation of perspective---it is no more reality than economic accumulation---and what a tremendous trap that is… Any attempt at accumulation is ruined in advance by the void. Something in us disaccumulates unto death, undoes, destroys, liquidates, and disconnects so that we can resist the pressure of the real, and live. Something at the bottom of the whole system of production resists the infinite expansion of production---otherwise, we would all be already buried.” (Pg. 40-41)
In the interview, he says, “We’re condemned to effects of giddiness---in all the electronic games as well. There’s no more pleasure, no more interest, but a kind of dizziness induced by the connections, the switching operations in which the subject gets lost. You manipulate all you want, without any objective, with the effect of aleatory giddiness of the potential systems where anything can happen.” (Pg. 77-78)
He admits, “For a long time I was very ‘cool’ about producing theories. Of course there had to be an obsession behind it, but I didn’t think it had very much to do with anything. It was a kind of game. I could write about death without it having any influence whatsoever on my life. When someone asked me, ‘What can we do with this? What are you really analyzing?’ I took it very lightly, with great calm.” (Pg. 81)
He recalls, “If I ever dabbled in anything in my theoretical infancy, it was philosophy more than sociology. I don’t think at all in those terms. My point of view is completely metaphysical. If anything, I’m a metaphysician, perhaps a moralist, but certainly not a sociologist. The only ‘sociological’ work I can claim is my effort to put an end to the social, to the concept of the social.” (Pg. 84)
He notes, “This is how Georges Bataille saw sociology: as a challenge to the very nature of the social and to society. History also existed in that sense. But then, that’s not really existence, because when history begins to exist, very quickly there’s nothing left but to treat it as an instance of jurisdiction and meaning. I have never resolved that ambiguity between being and existence; I believe it’s insoluble.” (Pg. 122)
Despite the book’s title, it really isn’t particularly critical of Michel Foucault. But the interview itself is nearly worth the price of the book.
Baudrillard had difficulty understanding the motivation of the French campus radicals who in May of 1968 tore apart their colleges and universities in a month-long orgy of violence. In their wrath, even as they were chanting "Burn Baby Burn" slogans, they nevertheless evinced a rather quaint attraction for the nostalgic semblance of cultural order, a "metaphysics of presence" that once was thought to undergird the locus of the Enlightenment. Baudrillard asserted that these radicals were not as radical as they claimed. The reality of then contemporary Western society, he concluded, was that the apparent order simmering beneath the burning buildings masked a tectonic autarchic social-quake that was the real reason for the chaos. Baudrillard included noted philosopher George Bataille as yet another misguided intellectual who persisted in seeking a pre-Derridean non-existent "center" for all Western discourse.
Included in Forget Foucault is an interview of Baudrillard conducted by Sylvére Lotringer, who asks Baudrillard to defend himself against accusations that his early theories of mythic discourse were still relevant. This section of Forget Foucault is called engagingly enough Forget Baudrillard. This riposte is a light-hearted give and take in which each uses the terminology of the other to register salient points. Lotringer accuses Baudrillard of being little more than an out-of-date and irrelevant Marxist. Baudrillard responds by noting that the comments of hyper-reality from his Simulacra and Simulation which greatly bothered Deleuze and Guattari had yet to be disproved.
What emerges from Forget Foucault is an alternating light-hearted then serious examination of the reasons why the power assertions of Foucault were no longer relevant in any society that is replete with consumers who seek and find power within their hyper-real universe rather than locate that power in the hands and minds of a cabal of capitalist power-hungry plutocrats.