The works of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault discussed here explore relationships of power in Western language and social structures. These relationships can be difficult to detect and are thus often overlooked, even when one searches rigorously. We will find that such relationships are relationships of presumed order, of hierarchy, and that such hierarchies are neither always justifiable nor always desirable.
In Foucault and Derrida: The Other Side of Reason, author Roy Boyne explores the points at which the ideas of these two philosophers converge and the points at which they depart. Boyne writes that in general, for Derrida, Foucault's approach to thinking would always lead to the idea of a false utopia, and for Foucault, Derrida's approach to thinking would always lead to the false god of Reason (4). The problem in their misunderstanding, this knocking of heads, is a problem of difference and powerthe power of reason has supplanted god, and the power of utopia has supplanted reason. Similar problems of difference and power appear in varying forms in Lydie Salvayre's The Company of Ghosts and Michel Houellebecq's Platform. With the help of ideas presented by Foucault and Derrida, I will examine the roles of power and difference in these two novelshow each novel narratively resembles the philosophical issues that Derrida and Foucault present, and what, if any, conclusions we might take from such power relationships.
[...] I.e., is it accurate to say that Michel pre-Valérie exhibited a certain Rousseauistic nostalgia and guilt for absence of center of which Derrida writes? I don't think so. Perhaps more disturbingly, Michel's outlook is Derridian and Nietzschean after all. Perhaps Michel has already affirmed the noncenter and innocence of becoming, the affirmation of a world of signs without fault, without truth, and without origin” yet this affirmation is still not joyous for him. Michel does admit that was nothing more than an attachment. [...]
[...] Valérie is introduced in such a manner because figuratively and quite literally the story of Valérie takes over Michel's narrative and the narrative that is Platform. Love, we can say, or whatever we may choose to call it (maybe we should call it Valérie), has supplanted the beginning narrative of a misanthropic man. And we can deduce that the misanthropic narrative and the misanthropic man are still there, underneath. And indeed, we see his apathetic observations popping up here and there throughout the narrative. [...]
[...] And such an analysis is exactly what Foucault challenged, not because he disagreed with Derrida that there are “presumed privileges” but because to Foucault reason itself is a presumed privilege—a presumed privilege over what it calls madness. Notice how the language Derrida uses to show his trust in reason resembles the Process-Server's rationality: The unsurpassable, unique and imperial grandeur of the order of reason, that which makes it not just another actual order or structure [ is that one cannot speak out against it except by being for it, that one can protest it only from within; and within its domain. [...]
[...] It certainly seems to be a somewhat modified communism, and it might be argued that his goal is a righteous one despite what Derrida would consider its faulty foundations. Yet Michel seems to ignore the negative aspects of his Eros civilization. I write ignore for Michel does realize that societal problems exist in his Eros conception, but he chooses to look the other way, so to speak. First, Michel does not take pleasure in the sight of middle-aged, overweight men and women taking pleasure in young prostitutes. [...]
[...] Foucault writes that such an examination combines the techniques of an observing hierarchy and those of a normalizing judgement [sic]. It is a normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish. [ At the heart of the procedures of discipline, it manifests the subjection of those who are perceived as objects and the objectification of those who are subjected. Indeed, as an agent of State—the pinnacle of the hierarchy of reason and judgment—the Process-Server catalogues the Mélies' possessions and, finding such possessions to be worthless, the Mélies are judged and punished accordingly. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee