The Queer Politics of Michel Foucault

FILL IN THE blank. X is to contemporary AIDS activists as Norman O. Brown or Herbert Marcuse was to student radicals of the New Left. Alternatively, if American labor organizers of the 1930s might all be imagined to have carried about with them in their back pockets a copy of The Communist Manifesto, and if antiwar demonstrators and campus protesters of the late 1960smight all be imagined to have carried about with them in their jeans a copy of Life Against Death or Love’s Body, Eros and Civilization or One-Dimensional Man, what book do we imagine the more reflective members of ACT UP to carry about with them in their leather jackets? What is the single most important intellectual source of political inspiration for contemporary AIDS activists-at least for the more theoretically- [16] minded or better-outfitted among them? When I conducted an admittedly unsystematic survey in 1990 of various people I happened to know who had been active in ACT UP/New York during its explosive early phase in the late 1980s, and when I put those questions to them, I received, without the slightest hesitation or a single exception, the following answer: Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume I.

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epistemology of the closet

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HOMOPHOBIC discourses contain no fixed propositional content. They are composed of a potentially infinite number of different but functionally interchangeable assertions, such that whenever any one assertion is falsified or disqualified another one-even one with a content exactly contrary to the original one-can be neatly and effectively substituted for it. A good example of the opportunistic and propositionally indeterminate nature of homophobic discourses is provided by the history of legal disputes over whether homosexuality constitutes an “immutable characteristic.” The story begins in the nineteenth century, Continue reading “epistemology of the closet”

Truth and Verediction: How to Construct a Speaking Subject (even if that subject is ‘money’ or ‘the market’)

When I spoke of the coupling carried out in the eighteenth century between a regime of truth and a new governmental reason, and the connection of this with political economy, in no way did I mean that there was the formation of a scientific and theoretical discourse of political economy on one side, and then, on the other, those who governed who were either seduced by this political economy, or forced to take it into account by the pressure of this or that social group. What I meant was that the market-which had been the privileged object of governmental practice for a very long time and continued to be in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries under the regime of raison d’etat and a mercantilism which precisely made commerce one of the major instruments of the state’s power-was now constituted as a site of veridiction. And this is not simply or so much because we have entered the age of a market economy-this is at once true, and. says nothing exactly-and it is not because people wanted to produce the rational theory of the marlcet-which is what they did, but it was not sufficient. In fact, in order to reach an understanding of how the market, in its reality, became a site of veridiction for governmental practice, we would have to establish what I would call a polygonal or polyhedral relationship between: the particular monetary situation ofthe eighteenth century, with a new influx of gold on the one hand, and a relative consistency of currencies on the other; a continuous economic and demographic growth in the same period; intensification of agricultural production;the access to governmental practice of a number of technicians who brought with them both methods and instruments of reflection; and finally a number of economic problems being given a theoretical form.

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Theater // Lost to Inflation

Müller: In our country [of East Germany circa 81], theater allows you to have five or eight hundred people together in one room reacting at the same time, in a the same space, to what is going on onstage. The impact of the theater here is based on the absence of other ways of getting messages across to people. Films are not as important because there’s so much control. They also require much more money than the theater. As a result, theater here has taken over the function of the other media in the West. I don’t believe theater has such a great in West German for instance. You can do anything onstage there, but it doesn’t mean anything to the society. Here the slogan of the Napoleonist era still applies: theater is the revolution on the march.

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Capitalism: The Age of Sad Passions?

Is the era where ‘power produces more than it represses’ the Age of Sad Passions?

And, in an era that ‘produces more than it represses,’ why haven’t the large decentralized networks that expand at an exponential rate forced older more centralized systems of power into exile? Continue reading “Capitalism: The Age of Sad Passions?”

affect = power

In a recent movie that glorifies the criminal struggles of car culture, the protagonists have to “pull one last job to gain their freedom.” But this thrilling depiction of libertine struggle has not created a radical culture of popular resistance; it is the latest Hollywood blockbuster and has grossed over $169.7 million. Continue reading “affect = power”