Monday, November 12, 2007

An Unusual Manual for Everyday Life

Not what you might expect of Gilles Deleuze's and Félix Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1983), but i was surprised in re-reading the introduction by Michel Foucault to find the list below that he coyly offers as a list of principles to guide everyday life that he suggests can be found in the book.

As some of you know, i'm a bit of a theory geek and i've been munching my way through french poststructuralism (as well as a variety of other theoretical lands) for some time. I've long had a suspicion that Foucault and others provide indispensable theory for the practice (or praxis) of popular education. Now, this may seem a bit far-fetched to some, but i would suggest that the forces that gave rise to the practice and theory of popular education are the same as those that gave rise to much of twentieth century critical theory (postcolonialism is one name for these forces). And while popular education has been developing in the contexts of grassroots struggles, critical theory has been pretty much the exclusive domain of the academy. I'm determined to bring the worlds of popular education and the worlds of critical theory into closer dialogue with each other. Something tells me this is both an important and an urgent task. One name i give to this relationship (or encounter) is trickster pedagogy, something i've been working on for some time and about which i plan to write more soon. Meanwhile, i continue to work on understanding Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari and many others. (Incidentally, here's an interesting explanation of a D&G concept, lines of flight, from Josh Lerner who used it as inspiration to name his website.)

It is unusual to find in Foucault's work something as concrete as this list of principles i refer to. And they may not seem what you are used to as concrete. But I suggest they are and as a popular educator i feel they provide challenging advice about how to act as well as be in the work. (It helps to understand what Foucault means by "Truth" with a capital "T", but i think you can get the gist of it regardless). Here's what Foucault writes:

This art of living counter to all forms of fascism [which is what Foucault is saying Anti-Oedipus is all about -c], whether already present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential principles which I would summarize as follows if I were to make this great book into a manual or guide to everyday life:

  • Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia
  • Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization
  • Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.
  • Do not think hat one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.
  • Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth, nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.
  • Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond united hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.
  • Do not become enamored of power.
And just in case you're disappointed with this list here's another - the four rules of Dinotopia:
  1. give more, take less
  2. do one thing at a time
  3. dance every day
  4. exercise imagination

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