On PoMo Contradiction
Friday Ephemera

Foucault and the Ayatollah

In light of recent posts, and various responses to them, I thought I’d highlight this article, The Philosopher and the Ayatollah, by Wesley Yang. Yang documents Michel Foucault’s dalliance with Islamist fanaticism and his enthusiasm for a “perfectly unified collective will.”

“Foucault never considers the rights of women in Islam until his very last disillusioned missive, in May 1979. When an Iranian woman living in exile in Paris wrote a letter… castigating Foucault for his uncritical support of [the Khomeini revolution], he airily dismissed her claims as anti-Muslim hate-mongering.”

The piece was published a couple of years ago, but it seems relevant and fairly symbolic of what’s been discussed here in the last couple of days. Not least because it conveys Foucault’s contrarian posturing, his bizarre lack of realism, and, above all, his stunted moral sense – attributes shared by many of his PoMo peers at the time and, currently, by much of the political left. As, for instance, when the Socialist Worker published a piece by Loretta Napoleoni, claiming jihadist terrorism is “the new anti-imperialist ideology” and fawning over Musab al-Zarqawi’s “kindness” and “determination.” For other examples of practised unrealism, see here, here, here and here.

Yang's article is worth reading in full. I’m pretty sure one or two modern parallels can be drawn.