Introduction: Voir venir
It has been more than twenty-five years since the death of Michel Foucault, one of the last century’s most crucial philosophers, as well as just as many years since the publication of the final two volumes of The History of Sexuality. Since then, an extraordinary body of interdisciplinary scholarship has emerged around the work of Foucault, with much attention focused on his writings on ethics, neoliberalism, governmentality, biopolitics, and war. The introduction considers notions of futurity, openness, and risk in Foucault’s thought and how such notions intersect with his various projects of relationality.
A Sense of the Common
Throughout all of Michel Foucault’s work there is an uncompromising, albeit tacit, refusal to posit "society" as an object of knowledge and control. Rather, there emerges in various texts a thought of the common as the object of sense rather than of cognition. This essay attempts to elaborate that sense of the common, to note some of the more obvious consequences for the epistemological claims of the social sciences, and to suggest something of the consequences for political thought and practice.
The Will to Be Otherwise/The Effort of Endurance
Povinelli, E. A.
This essay examines Michel Foucault’s reflections on self-formation in the shadow of the insurrection of subjugated knowledges. If, as Foucault argues in The Government of Self and Others, the conditions of the otherwise lie in the radically potential spaces of a kind of truth speaking (dire vrai, parrhesia), what political and theoretical weight will be given to the exhausting conditions of these spaces? The goal of this essay is not to solve this paradox ontologically, but to face it sociologically, not to develop an ontology of potentiality but to understand the dwelling of potentiality. The essay begins by examining will, risk, and exhaustion in Foucault’s late works, then turns Giorgio Agamben’s reflections on potentiality and thoughts on will, effort, and mental habit from the American pragmatists William James and Charles Sanders Peirce.
The Biopolitics of Pleasure
This essay reconsiders biopolitical theory in relation to Michel Foucault’s pursuit of the problematic of pleasure during the final decade of his work. The question of pleasure straddles the temporal and methodological gulf that separates the first volume of his History of Sexuality from the second and third volumes eight years later. In seeking to retrieve the full complexity of Foucault’s account of pleasure, my essay offers a critique of Giorgio Agamben’s elision of pleasure from biopolitical theory, on one hand, and queer theoretical reductions of pleasure to sexual pleasure, on the other. Arguing that the category of pleasure is recruited to heterogeneous positions in Foucault’s work, I trace the various purposes that it is enlisted to serve in his thinking, as well as the topological structure he evokes to conceptualize pleasure—that of the spiral. His famous "spirals of power and pleasure" provide an image of the inseparability of power not only from knowledge but also from pleasure. By way of Georges Canguilhem’s reading of James Watson and Francis Crick, I contend that Foucault borrowed the model of those spirals from the double helix of DNA—and that the iconography of the life sciences thus provided the philosopher of biopower with a model for conceptualizing how power takes hold of life even at the "subindividual" level. The double helix gave Foucault not only a model for the imbricat