And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Multitude; for we are many."
I am guessing most of you have already heard of this debate, but in case you haven’t seen it, and for those who haven’t heard of it, I thought it would be nice to do just a short post about it.
Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky had a public debate in 1971. The debate was aired on Dutch television and focused on the politics of justice, power, scientific knowledge and human nature. More interesting than the sectioned topics, however, is to see the debate of the two radical left wing thinkers as a clash between the titans of new structuralism and poststructuralism. Of course these tags are anachronistic, and probably neither of them would recognize themselves in them. But while Chomsky constructed a new linguistic perspective that left intact the notion of reality, we can see the disagreements with Foucault emerging precisely where the later thought in and conceived a completely different idea of what language and reality mean – questioning in fact to which extent reality can exist without language or, inversely, to what extent reality must be conceived as a language or part of one.
There is much to say about the debate, but I just wanted to leave it here because I think it’s a nice intro to Foucault’s thought.
You can also read the transcript of the full debate HERE.
Anyway, I thought of doing this post because I friend sent me this quote yesterday, and I had to share it:
It clearly didn’t work. The Dutch audience was sober, Chomsky was the usual bore, and Foucault kicked ass even without being high. (well, he was high in the usual arrogant intellectual humiliation, but no trace of hash as far as i can see). Also, anarchist or not that was probably one of the most wasting moderation I’ve ever seen.
But this quote just comes as reason #453 why I love petit Michel.