Friday, May 13, 2005

On Revolt & Singularity

"There is no right to say: 'Revolt for me, there is a final liberation coming for every man.' But I am not in agreement with someone who would say: 'It is useless to revolt; it will always be the same thing.' One does not make the law for the person who risks his life before power. Is there or is there not a reason to revolt? Let's leave that question open. There are revolts and that is a fact. It is through revolt that subjectivity (not that of great men but that of whomever)introduces itself into history and gives it a breath of life....

"If someone asked me how I conceive what I am doing, I would respond with a contrast. The strategist is the man who says: 'What is the matter? Such death, such a cry, such a revolt in the context of the great necessity of the whole? Or, on the other hand, what difference does such a general principle make for the particular situation in which we find ourselves?' I am totally indifferent to whether the strategist is a politician, an historian, a revoutionary, a partisan of the Shah or of the Ayatullah. My ethic is the inverse of the one suggested by these questions. It is 'anti-strategic': to be respectful when something singular arises, to be intransigent when power offends against the universal. A simple choice, but a difficult work. It is always necessary to watch out for something, a little beneath history, that breaks with it, that agitates it; it is necessary to look, a little behind politics, for that which ought to limit it, unconditionally. After all, it is my work. I am neither the first not the only one to be doing it. But I have chosen to do it."

--Michel Foucault
"Is it Useless to Revolt?" (translated in Philosophy & Social Criticism, vol 8/1, 1981).


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