Thursday, 25 June 2009

Unnamed individualities

This won't be a long note. I just read a few pages in Eric Paras' book Foucault 2:0: Beyond Power and Knowledge. Interesting presentation of the turn to the subject in Foucault's later writings and lectures. Fascinating quotes, some with an existentialist ring. For instance, in 1981 he describes "the art of living" as the "art of killing psychoanalysis, of creating with oneself and with others unnamed individualities, beings, relations, qualitites. If one can't manage to do that in one's life, that life is not worth living" (quoted in Paras, p129). Stunning, isn't it? This (admittedly somewhat hackneyed) imperative takes on a seductive quality when one considers the sea-change in thought Foucault must have gone through in order to arrive at it.

Here's another seductive sentence: a task for study, he writes, is "research into styles of existence as different from one another as possible" in order to help us rethink how we might live (p131). Not bad as a task for sociology. The general relevance, combined with a focus on the singular way of living of people, on their ways of reaching their "unnamed individualities"?

Paras' book is well written. Lucid. It makes Foucault easily understandable, especially how his endorsement of the tradition of the Enlightenment, his enthusiastic support of the Iranian revolution, the advocacy of rights and other concerns, themes and interventions in his later years hang together with his new ideas of the subject and the care of the self. For me personally, it's been a wonderful read during moments when I've felt tired and in need of some relaxation. So, that's it for today.

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