Chomsky & Foucault sitting in a tree
July 6, 2006 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Cool. Anyone know what year this was done? It must be pre-1975.
posted by bardic at 3:28 PM on July 6, 2006

Rumor has it that Foucault was stoned when they did this.
posted by anglophiliated at 3:32 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

And according to it was 1971...three cheers for Dutch television.
posted by anglophiliated at 3:33 PM on July 6, 2006

Thank you for this post. Does anyone know the background behind this conversation?
posted by mariokrat at 3:45 PM on July 6, 2006

Transcripts here.
posted by bigmusic at 3:51 PM on July 6, 2006

The link here.
posted by shownomercy at 3:52 PM on July 6, 2006

I'd like to see the whole thing. Anyone know where I can get it?
posted by hellomynameisphil at 4:20 PM on July 6, 2006


Try a .pdf (which supposedly distills the common thread, the raison d'etre if you will, of the debate). As is common with philosophy, it seems to boil down to an "epistemological problem".

As far as background, I have nothing good to link you to, but it is my understanding that the College de France had enjoyed a rather good reputation in the field of linguistics, and Chomsky certainly made an impact here (both his hierarchy for formal langs and his generative grammar spring to mind). The lecture took place the first year Foucault enjoyed his position and perhaps he wanted to start his series off with a bang.
posted by shownomercy at 4:24 PM on July 6, 2006

Our Noam thought most continental philosophers were time wasters, Derrida, for example with "scholarship appalling, based on pathetic misreading; and the argument, such as it was, failed to come close to the kinds of standards I've been familiar with since virtually childhood." Foucault is the only postmodernist-source that Chomsky has any time for. As far as I know he never actually conceded any of Foucault's argument, just recognised that there might be something to it.

I really liked this post, but found it frustrating -- Foucault was only given two minutes to flesh out the crux of his argument, which is a pain because it's one I'd like to try to get my head round.
posted by verisimilitude at 4:41 PM on July 6, 2006

It's been a while since I read him, but Foucault's position here sounds like straight-up Althusser (Repressive vs. Ideological State Apparatuses in particular). Which isn't that surprising.
posted by bardic at 4:44 PM on July 6, 2006


...three cheers for Dutch television.

hear hear!

The abundance of televised imbecilities is probably one of the reasons for the American working class’s inability to develop any political consciousness.

~Guy DeBord, 1957


ps., I suspect Debord was refering to Merican television...
posted by Unregistered User at 4:49 PM on July 6, 2006

I swear, I really don't understand why people react so violently to Derrida. Take his 30 or 40 books and look for a common message and it goes like this: 1) there is no meaning without context, 2) there is no context without politics and/or philosophy, 3) these politics and philosophies manifest in the text and not outside of it, and 4) reading is a more difficult and complicated process than we usually assume it to be.
posted by hank_14 at 4:55 PM on July 6, 2006

I know that these types of arguments debates are the life blood of academics...However (presumably based on my pathetic misreading and appalling scholarship) it seems as if it would be much more productive if they chose a simple message, realizing that there is plenty of room for both of them to be right: oppression is bad and must be fought.

Sort of like the war on terror.

If these left-wing nut-jobs could focus like the Republicans, we might get something done!
posted by BillJenkins at 4:56 PM on July 6, 2006

Re hank_14: I think you boil down Derrida's notions to what we would like to derive from his texts, rather than what he espouses. Derrida, instead, espouses a radicalized notion that the very existence of concrete, kernel knowledge is not an immutable law, but rather the workings of interpretation and thus some sort of pseudo-nihlistic limbo.

I agree with your main points and that's what I derive from his works, but I don't think it's fair to critics nor to Derrida to condense his thought into percieved notions of rationality :)

p.s. great post, good find!
posted by stratastar at 5:10 PM on July 6, 2006

If these left-wing nut-jobs could focus like the Republicans, we might get something done!

oddly enough, I concur...

On an off note:


and another three cheers for Sloterdijk's kyniscism!
posted by Unregistered User at 5:14 PM on July 6, 2006

Stratastar, suffice it to say, I don't think I'm the only one of us reading into Derrida's texts a belief about what it is I think should be derived from them.

And incidentally, for obvious reasons, I can't see any disadvantage to flirting with pseudo-nihilism.
posted by hank_14 at 5:19 PM on July 6, 2006

thanks for the post.
posted by slow, man at 5:20 PM on July 6, 2006

Here's my pathetic misreading: In the blue corner you have Chomsky who is gunning for the ruling elite. He sees that the ruling class (which he identifies as the military/industrial complex) as irrevocably riddled with hypocrisy, specifically that the intellectual foundations of our society (democracy, free speech justice, etc) are constantly being disregarded in the interest of this elite.

Foucault, in the other corner, has managed to find an even bigger fish to fry. He seems to be gunning for these original intellectual foundations. It's an attack based on the fact that we cannot define human nature, which leaves the question: how can we build any sort of moral structure upon of something so nebulous? Justice, democracy and any sort of institution that purports to be acting on this social construction of human nature go out the window.

So while it could be said that both C and F are trying to pull down the same mountain, F is clearly counts C as part of that mountain.
posted by verisimilitude at 5:26 PM on July 6, 2006

Invitation to the British Academy Spring Lectures 2006

How and Why Does Fairness Matter?

Economists are commonly thought to believe that the operation of the free market should trump any considerations of social justice. This view is sustainable only if one subscribes to the naive view that real markets and other social systems only have one equilibrium. However, game theory shows that realistic social systems usually have many equilibria. It is therefore not enough to argue that people will strive to improve their individual welfare. Their behaviour needs to be coordinated so that they all end up playing the same equilibrium. I argue that fairness can be explained as one of nature's answers to such coordination problems. That is to say, fairness evolved as an equilibrium selection device. This hypothesis leads to a theory of the structure of the fairness norms that we use in solving the coordination problems of everyday life. The theory allows a new interpretation of John Rawls' famous Theory of Justice that reconciles the seemingly hostile approaches of egalitarians and utilitarians.
posted by Unregistered User at 5:39 PM on July 6, 2006

Well sd, verisimilitude ...
posted by Unregistered User at 6:02 PM on July 6, 2006

Huh, I thought (based on Chomsky and Foucault) that this would be about linguistics or physics. Suckered in again!

I'll get you one of these days, PoliFilter! One of these days!
posted by Eideteker at 6:43 PM on July 6, 2006

I second that well said verisimilitude.

I think I get stuck thinking about being able to express myself creatively (Chomsky's 'big vision' in the clip) as being inherently the position that Foulcault was addressing, i.e. systems of thought are oppressive and so are the institutions that are generated by them. I suppose it can be chalked up to the old saw many paths one mountain that so dominates my relative postmodern thought process

In my humble opinion you might as well have someone 'on the inside' as it were, like Chomsky because no one is going to adopt the ideas of even more radical Foucault any time soon, in terms of creating a 'better' (more functional for the good of everybody) type system.
posted by BillJenkins at 7:37 PM on July 6, 2006

I really love this debate/panel/session, i read it over and over.

Does anyone know if the first part of it, on the enlightenment, will ever be on YouTube?

I am finding the work of Michael Albert and Robert Hahnel on Participatory Economics, or ParEcon, is one that Chomsky lionizes as the 'most serious' vision, perhaps because it at once does the work of envisioning an industrial society without room for the major forms of class oppression, while fighting against all of those invisible institutions of oppression that scholarship has uncovered so far, as well as creating spaces for uncovering things we haven't thought of.

What I find amazing is that it is, in a very small way, partially inspired by theories put forth by people like Friedrich Hayek, theorists from the 40's who put us on this devil's path of "markets=democracy" that rules US culture.

It's the most coherent, current synthesis, in plain english, I can find to this unending conversation.
posted by eustatic at 2:38 PM on July 7, 2006

« Older When I say "Chicken", y'all say "Chicken wing!"...   |   Pack up, we're moving Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments