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02/05/2019

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Aaron Lercher

Foucault's preface to Anti-Oedipus is a great text to revisit what I said here one year ago about Foucault's "cryptonormativity" as a way of shifting the risk of making normative claims to the reader.

Foucault in 1977 seems to be addressing those who just lived through the late 1960s and early 1970s. Foucault says, basically, that he won't tell you how to think about what you lived through, but here's a book just nutty enough to measure up to the craziness of those days.

In the United States the early 1970s strike wave ended abruptly with mid-1970s inflation and President Carter pulling back from Democratic commitments to labor unions. (I’m going to guess that something similar happened in France at that time.) The new social movements and identities of the 1970s and 1980s were often exclusionary as well as liberatory, even as an active participant myself. Even when I was a teenage Marxist in the late 1970s in New York City, the slightly older crowd who had believed in 1972 that revolution was imminent seemed self-deceiving. That already seemed nostalgic in 1980.

So in retrospect it seems silly for Foucault to shift the entire normative burden to readers by saying, "It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force." Good judgment is for squares! If you desire intensely enough, then it will be so.

On the other hand, my conservative students, now that I live in one of the most conservative parts of the US, are not going to listen to a liberal professor tell them how to think about any controversial issue. And leftist young people in the liberal parts of the US do not want to hear about old defeats (although they might be curious).

So shifting normative risks may be the only way to talk in a somewhat egalitarian way about norms regarding the difficult questions. That’s not my entire pedagogy, but it’s a key part of it.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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