A not so old debate

video_button_white_dred.gifThe following two videoclips are an extract of a debate held in Holland in 1974, between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky. What is interesting for us is that they capture a quite current contraposition between two approaches to politics, that of a politics of immanence (Foucault) and of transcendence (Chomsky). For Foucault concepts such as justice and human nature are socially constructed within our civilisation, class society and form of knowledge, hence we cannot appeal to “these notions to describe or justify a fight which should — and shall in principle — overthrow the very fundamentals of our society.” To Chomsky instead, there is a fundamental absolute basis, “ultimately residing in fundamental human qualities” in term of which the “real notion of justice is grounded”. The current class based system of justice also ambody a “kind of a groping towards the true humanly valuable concept of justice, and decency, and love and kindness and love” that Chomsky believes are real.

If we take constituent struggles as our starting point — as struggles constituting the outside of capital in the here and now — both perspectives are useful, and limited. From Chomsky’s critique of Foucault we derive the need to create an outside to capital’s civilisation. From Foucault’s critique of Chomsky we derive the need to recognise this outside within. From the perspective of struggles that posit values outside capital (hence other senses of justice, human nature, etc.), struggles constitute frontlines, hence posit absolutes in the here and now at the same time.

Part 1

Part 2

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