Deleuze and Foucault Discuss Theory, Practice and Power in 1972

foucault and deleuze

In this 1972 conversation between Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, the two philosophers discuss the importance of theory and practice. They also touch on the role of intellectuals in resistance and the plight of prisoners, immigrants, the LGBTQ community in French society.

The transcript is from the book Language, Counter-Memory, Practice by Donald Bouchard. The book is a series of essays and interviews from Michel Foucault.

You can read the whole transcript at Libcom, but here are some highlights:

Deleuze on the transition of theory into practice:

Deleuze: Moreover, from the moment a theory moves into its proper domain, it begins to encounter obstacles, walls, and blockages which require its relay by another type of discourse (it is through this other discourse that it eventually passes to a different domain). Practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall.

Foucault on the role of the intellectual:

Foucault: In the most recent upheaval (3) the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need him to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are certainly capable of expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks, prohibits, and invalidates this discourse and this knowledge, a power not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one that profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire societal network. Intellectuals are themselves agents of this system of power-the idea of their responsibility for “consciousness” and discourse forms part of the system…In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional, as you said, and not totalising.

Deleuze on prisons:

Deleuze: Yes, and the reverse is equally true. Not only are prisoners treated like children, but children are treated like prisoners. Children are submitted to an infantilisation which is alien to them. On this basis, it is undeniable that schools resemble prisons and that factories are its closest approximation. Look at the entrance to a Renault plant, or anywhere else for that matter: three tickets to get into the washroom during the day. You found an eighteenth-century text by Jeremy Bentham proposing prison reforms; in the name of this exalted reform, be establishes a circular system where the renovated prison serves as a model and where the individual passes imperceptibly from school to the factory, from the factory to prison and vice versa. This is the essence of the reforming impulse, of reformed representation. On the contrary, when people begin to speak and act on their own behalf, they do not oppose their representation (even as its reversal) to another; they do not oppose a new representativity to the false representativity of power. For example, I remember your saying that there is no popular justice against justice; the reckoning takes place at another level.

Read the full transcript at Libcom.