The Iranian revolution in its singularity
November 30, 2010 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Foucault in Iran: Revolution, Entropy and Equality By way of introduction to the Wu Ming Foundation's (previously) re-vamped blog, one of their more substantive essays re-assessing Foucault's notorious enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution.
posted by Abiezer (11 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
There is a sea of writings on Foucault's view on Iran, but few provide a well thought out in-depth analysis. Faved and faved.
posted by mooselini at 10:41 AM on November 30, 2010

Seconded. I've only read the first link so far, but I thought it did a great job of trying to understand where Foucault was coming from on Iran, taking his position seriously but not uncritically. The entropy metaphor is a bit of a stretch, but the point -- about how revolutions represent a break from the existing order in the name of liberty, but tend to fall back towards that order instead of sustaining movement in the direction of the ideal -- is a good one that responds to Foucault on his own terms, extending and correcting his analysis, rather than simply dismissing his ideas altogether because the revolution ended badly.

And the authors actually understand the concepts they're borrowing from Foucault and Badiou! They're not just spouting empty buzzwords! How refreshing.
posted by twirlip at 4:43 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I thought the phrase "as revolutions lose energy, they also lose specificity" was an especially striking way of describing why, as the progress, revolutionary events tend to turn in on themselves and eat at the freedoms they originally fought for.
posted by Tiresias at 4:56 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know, people should really think more about the idea of making a point when they are making a point than they do...

That being ubiquitously stated, I totally understand how difficult that is to do with Foucault and I appreciate any emphasis on deconstruction.

I only gripe because of the times I was reading through this and had to reread a section only to find what was being described so painstakingly was rather simple. Its a pet-peeve of mine.
posted by flyinghamster at 4:58 PM on November 30, 2010

Not a bad article, but it seems to lose track of its own argument at the end. Why drag Badiou and the women in at all? Foucault's point (and, more importantly, Foucault's point as presented in the article) wasn't that the Iranian revolution was good or progressive in any traditional leftist sense, it was that it was new and interesting in ways leftists couldn't make sense of. The idea that spirituality is all well and good until it turns into sharia seems like one of those PC pieties that would've been best avoided in this context.
posted by nasreddin at 9:09 PM on November 30, 2010

I took the point there to be where the author talks about the 'return of the invariant' - that while there were those new and different things there was also the same old same old and that for reasons to do with Badiou's universal - even as it was occurring as a singular event it was following a dynamic that all along was also shaped at least in part by that universal. The implication would then seem to be that casts the apparent specificities in a slightly different light, and "will not really address the real if it doesn’t confront the problem of universality". Though maybe it's just to do with the general intent of Wu Ming writing, which is political in a more orthodox sense (and I bet they'd chuckle to see themselves described as PC or pious).
I mostly check out their site to find out if the English version of their recent novel Manituana is available for free download in English yet, cos I'm a cheapskate.
posted by Abiezer at 9:42 PM on November 30, 2010

I dunno, I'm not too familiar with the debate on MF-in-Iran, but it doesn't seem obvious to me that Foucault is investing the Iranian revolution with the significance the Badiou reference seems to imply. The problem with Badiou is that he's like a giant Bingo card with "May '68" written in every square. Yes, the oppression of women would demonstrate the failure of the revolution in its confrontation with its founding myth of equality--if it was the kind of '68-style revolution that looks like it's about smokin' pot and gettin' freaky and so on but is actually about ultimate-Marxist-liberation-something-something. It's pretty clear that MF is operating on a pretty different idea of what a singular revolutionary rupture would be.
posted by nasreddin at 10:06 PM on November 30, 2010

Also, as far as the thermodynamic metaphor is concerned, I don't think the point is very effective. At the very least, a historian of the Russian Revolution would object that there was a lot more successful and broad-based revolutionary mobilization going on in 1928-'32 than there was in the previous five or ten years. The French-Revolution-as-paradigm paradigm is pretty antique at this point.
posted by nasreddin at 10:13 PM on November 30, 2010

Oh yes, I think you're right about MF's interest in the Iranian revolution (and where you pointed out that's Wu Ming's take in the earlier part of their piece); I was wondering if the bit where Wu Ming go on about what they see as the limits of MF's approach it wasn't just that they want to do something MF didn't, but that also they think it's a missing piece that somewhat undermines MF even on his own terms (not that I would pretend to know exactly what those might be, I'm not massively up on him beyond the usual and am just blabbering here based on the piece we have before us).
posted by Abiezer at 10:32 PM on November 30, 2010

This afternoon, in Rome, students confronted the cops while carrying shields with book titles on them.

I like this blog. Nice post.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:40 AM on December 1, 2010

I mostly check out their site to find out if the English version of their recent novel Manituana is available for free download in English yet, cos I'm a cheapskate.
And as if by magic...!
posted by Abiezer at 5:36 PM on December 2, 2010

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