Insurrectionary Foucault: Tiqqun, The Coming Insurrection, and Beyond

  • Posted on: 5 August 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href=" - by Andrew Culp

The notoriety of <em>The Coming Insurrection</em> has risen to almost epic proportions since the arrest of its alleged authors in November, 2008 for acts of terrorism in the sabotage of the French TGV high-speed trains lines as part of an anti-nuke direct action. The government repression of the authors has only stoked a burgeoning resentment, and, as the support committees for the arrested so eloquently put it, “understanding the logic at work doesn’t appease us. It only makes us angrier … public meetings will be held so that the question of knowing how to react to the situation that is made for us can be posed everywhere. There aren’t nine people to save, but an order to bring down.” In North America, the excessive reaction of the French State piqued early interest in anarchists and academics, then the book garnered mass appeal after the conservative talking head Glenn Beck gave an emotional review.

Some might want to dismiss <em>The Coming Insurrection</em> as a vulgar or extreme interpretation of Foucault, warped for highly politicized purposes. This paper challenges that position. In particular, through clarifying the theoretical influences of <em>The Coming Insurrection</em>, I challenge the current reception of Foucault’s recently published College de France lectures. It is my contention that Foucault has been tamed by many academics, especially by governmentality scholarship’s uncritical rehearsal of state histories that intentionally omit insurrection. Texts like <em>The Coming Insurrection</em> are therefore, not only the extension of a hidden side of Foucault’s own work, but also provide a productive challenge to the all-too-safe reading of Foucault found in the American academy.1</td><td><img title="Discuss identity politics" src=""></td><...
<strong>Resurrecting Foucault’s Forgotten Social War</strong>

The prologue to the argument I put forth in this paper begins with the untimely death of Foucault. His unfortunate passing left a lot of questions, especially given the uncertain trajectory of his later work. One site of increased interest has been the concept of biopower, despite only taking up a few scant pages in the <em>History of Sexuality Volume 1</em>. When it became clear that the lectures Foucault gave at the College de France were an exception to his injunction against posthumous publications, since public and bootleg copies have been floating around for years, scholars excitedly took up the material from the long eight years between the first and second volumes of the history of sexuality.

The first of the lecture publications to have a major impact was the series from 1975-76 entitled <em>Society Must Be Defended</em>, for there had already been considerable scholarship using two lectures from <em>SMBD</em> that had been translated and released in the 1980 anthology <em>Power/Knowledge</em>. <em>SMBD</em> marks a shift away from modern subjects of power, deviants, and psychiatric patients, to a focus on the power relations found more generally throughout society.2 Scholars were most excited by two aspects of the lectures: first, the expanded demonstration of the genealogy that <em>Power/Knowledge</em> had only provided a glimpse of more than 20 years before; and second, an increased level of detail describing the rise and function of biopower, specifically in relation to disciplinary power. Both of these points are mere asides to the explicit focus of this lectures, however, which was to test the proposition ‘does war provided a useful grid of intelligibility for understanding social analysis and power relations?’ The general silence on the radical implications of war as a grid of intelligibility serves as a foundation for the argument of this paper.

One way to describe <em>SMBD</em>’s contribution to genealogical study is that it demonstrates a specific example of genealogy in use: the re-mobilization of previously marginalized knowledges in order to disrupt the present. Genealogy dredges up knowledges, picking up discarded weapons and uses them for attack on the power-effects of institutions and scientific discourse. Rather than trying to dispel authority with a counter-power, they use already delegitimized knowledges to bring the established order ‘down to the same level.’ As Foucault notes,

<blockquote>genealogies are therefore not positivistic returns to a form of science that is more attentive or more accurate. Genealogies are, quite specifically, antisciences. It is not that they demand the lyrical right to be ignorant, and not that they reject knowledge, or invoke or celebrate some immediate experience that has yet to be captured by knowledge … They are about the insurrection of knowledges. (9)</blockquote>

Most practitioners of genealogy focus on the <em>SMBD</em> lectures because they provide added detail to what Foucault would consider subjugated knowledge (buried and disqualified knowledges). What gets ignored is the limited and literal sense in which he is describing the genealogy of <em>SMBD</em> as <em>insurrectionary genealogy</em>. And while the phrase “insurrection of subjugated knowledges” has proliferated since its initial appearance in the 1980 translation of the first two lectures, it has lost its relation to social war because it was originally read out of context.

Now that the whole <em>SMBD</em> lecture series has been translated, Foucault’s use of ‘insurrectionary genealogy’ is clear. He does not mean a metaphorization of insurrection (as in simply resisting hegemony or domination) or even insurrection as a general heuristic, but insurrection as a specific set of material practices for which social war is the best available model. The context specific to this set of lectures retains this exclusive focus – insurrectionary genealogies of knowledges that produced upheavals that resulted in bloody wars, violent counter-revolutions, and the brutal machinations of the Nazi state.

Situated in the larger arc of Foucault’s career, the turn to social warfare as a model for power isn’t replaced, but is supplemented by governmentality. It is first in <em>Discipline and Punish</em> that Foucault suggests studying power as the micro-physics of a “perpetual battle” between enclosure institutions and the people they hold captive, a perspective that looks to “points of confrontation, focuses of instability, each of which has its own risk of conflict, of struggles, of an at least temporary inversion of the power relations” (26-7). To demonstrate this point, he inverts Clausewitz’s popular maxim “war is the continuation of politics by other means” by arguing that the order of society and politics owe more to military institutions and military science than to the social contract or rights (168-9). Next, in <em>History of Sexuality Volume 1</em> Foucault notes that using war as a model is not the only way to look at power but rather should be chosen for its ability to produce a certain type of strategic intervention:

<blockquote>Should we turn the expression around, then, and say that politics is war pursued by other means? If we still wish to maintain a separation between war and politics, perhaps we should postulate that this multiplicity of force relations can be coded—in part but never totally—either in the form of ‘war,’ or in the form of ‘politics’; this would imply two different strategies (but the one always liable to switch into the other) for integrating these unbalanced, heterogeneous, unstable, and tense force relations (93). </blockquote>

In other words, coding as war is the model of social war from <em>SMBD</em> and coding as politics is the study of governmentality. Note that Foucault is explicit that these two codings are complementary not mutually exclusive.

Foucault’s following year of lectures, <em>Security, Territory, Population</em>, is an exposition on governmentality. Rather than following the model of social war, Foucault replaces it completely with the model of governmentality. Taking ‘the point of view of power’ as the starting point of analysis, Foucault describes the production of the dispositif of governmentality through it’s winding path from the ‘conduct of conduct’ art of governing, through the ‘police state’, all the way to the ‘frugal form of government’ that establishes the four characteristics of the modern <em>raison d’etat</em>: naturalness, an internal logic, population as its aim, and the concept of freedom.

Placing the analysis of social warfare side by side with governmentality, we see that Foucault’s analysis of each side of the war-politics couplet produces completely different effects. In addition, each grid of intelligibility has its own form of genealogy. The model of social warfare makes visible a set of politico-historical tools that could be remobilized as weapons to upset power-effects. And according to Foucault in <em>SMBD</em>, it provides at least four different sets of techniques for fighting domination: one, it challenges the link between truth and peace/neutrality; two, it values explaining from the perspective of the defeated below not the victor above; three, it is a radically historical project driven to “rediscover the blood that has dried in the codes”; and four, it is the first discourse in which truth functions exclusively as a weapon (52-9). Alternatively, genealogies of governmentality reveal the fragile, temporary, and contingent nature of governance, but is less clear about a positive project. And while this genealogy provides the basis for understanding the historical transformations and shifts in logic necessary for the emergence of modern liberalism and governmentality, it does not provide any insurrectionary tools. If anything, it suggests how governmental politics as a model of power papers over and buries the history of struggles made visible by the model of social warfare. Given that current scholarship has focused so heavily on governmentality, it seems evident that social warfare deserves greater consideration.

<strong>Enter, The Coming Insurrection</strong>

So what is one example of insurrectionist genealogy inspired by Foucault’s work? <em>The Coming Insurrection</em>. The first part of the text critiques disparate centers of power characteristic of contemporary society.3 Two of the problematics addressed in this section are strongly Foucauldian in inflection, subjectivization and the disciplinary effects of work. The last sections provide explicit instructions for a coming insurrection; clearly taking the model of social warfare as its base of analysis.

It’s unfair to let <em>The Coming Insurrection</em> take all the credit, however. <em>The Coming Insurrection</em> is one among a number of texts penned by the Invisible Committee, a splinter group from a French journal <em>Tiqqun</em>.4 <em>Tiqqun</em> was a project that grew out of autonomist-inspired political activism in France in the Winter 1997-8 movement of the unemployed [<em>le mouvement des chômeurs</em>] and was initiated to produce theoretical works for an imaginary formation they call the Invisible Party. One of the central problematics of <em>Tiqqun</em> is the crisis of singularities, illustrated by, among other things, their Agamben-inspired focus on ‘whatever singularities’ as a crucial component of the contemporary condition. The <em>Tiqqun</em> experiment led to a number of texts and two full-length issues of the journal that were published in 1999 and 2001. By the end of 2001 <em>Tiqqun</em> exploded under the pressure of conflict and its parts flew off in different directions. The thought of <em>Tiqqun</em> spread: it found homes in the rural community of Tarnac and the cold heart of the metropolis; it appeared in the Bernadette Corporations movie “Get Rid of Yourself” and the works of the ready-made artist Claire Fontaine; and it become imperceptible in zones of opacity and black holes.

<em>The Coming Insurrection</em> is meant to be more a provocation and less a densely theoretical contribution to the study of insurrection. It may be best understand as a specific articulation of the concept of <em>civil war</em> developed in <em>Tiqqun</em> 2. There is substantial overlap between <em>Tiqqun</em>’s ‘civil war’ and Foucault’s ‘social warfare.’ Both are tied up with mythical-religious impulses, <em>Tiqqun</em> connects to <em>SMBD</em>’s genealogy of biblical insurrection with a Benjaminian messianism. Both historicize their disputes, challenging the modern State as a contingent form. Both explain war from below, with peace as the perpetuation of pacification. And both challenge the truth of peace, posing speaking subjects as locked into a winner-take-all war over mutually exclusive visions of the social.

There are important points of differentiation between <em>Tiqqun</em>’s civil war and Foucault’s social war. No doubt some of <em>Tiqqun</em>’s formulations are Foucauldian, but it also includes a wider network of references that they share with Giorgio Agamben.5 Most importantly, <em>Tiqqun</em>’s concept of civil war is deeply ontological in character, drawing from Spinoza, Lucretius and Wittgenstein, which is altogether different than Foucault’s epistemology-driven system that maintains a bare-bones ontology. A key reference for <em>Tiqqun</em> that isn’t shared with Foucault is Debord’s virtual civil war, developed in his “Comments on the Society of the Spectacle”. In this essay Debord considers both standard examples of revolutionary civil wars: Spain, the French Revolution, Soviet Russia, and May 68; and also less noted ones: the unactualized revolution in Italy and the state of terror and economic domination that accompanies the war economy. Another reference is Schmitt’s political theology, which provides the composition and strategy that results from bodies in encounter in terms of friend, enemy, and partisan.

A number of tendencies share the model of civil war to diagnose the current moment. Capitalism is crisis, governance is the management of crises, the social is a desert, and politics is founded on a mall-like universalism. But there is a disagreement over the proper response – a problem that influenced the <em>Tiqqun</em> split in 2001. The risk is that it only actualizes new forms of being together through a siege mentality. So the ultimate question may be: what is the form of conflict that should arise from the condition of civil war? Claire Fontaine turned to art as a form of human strike that de-familiarizes the everyday. The Invisible Committee moved to the French countryside in a return to the land and self-sufficient autonomy against the metropolis. And at a greater remove, in America so-called Insurrectionist Anarchists and Left-Communists advocate the working out of social war, an intensification of a growing sense of ungovernability through petty crime and attack.

<em>Tiqqun</em> produced a short text that succinctly explored their strategy of ontological re-articulation by taking on Lenin’s “what is to be done?”, leaving behind what they considered to be a voluntaristic nihilism. For them, the real question is the ethical and subjectivist “how is it to be done?” What follows are two co-productive lines of attack: compositional process of communisation and the de-subjectivizing human strike. The <em>Tiqqun</em> text “Living and Struggling” defines the empirical basis for this problematic, warning against the dangers of giving up and forming a ghetto or submitting to the suicidal impulse of becoming an army like the RAF or the Red Brigades. But nowhere is it captured so eloquently as in the Invisible Committee text, The Call: “On the one hand, we want to live communism; and on the other, to spread anarchy” (61).

Communisation is a form of lived communism is founded on the imperative “communism now or never”. Instead of being a social form that has to be prepared for, communism is thought of a contingent possibility at every moment. On one side there is communism, a being-together of bodies; and on the other, there is the social, a desert of alienated proletarianized subjectivities that through de-socialization have lost the ability to connect to each other. Communisation formed as a post-68 rethinking of the classical Marxian categories of the subject and revolution reflected in the texts of Gilles Dauvé and Theorie Communiste. The Invisible Committee wants to make an explicit break from the Marxism of other theories of communisation, however. In <em>The Call</em>, they argue that “Communism is not a political or economic system. Communism has no need of Marx. Communism does not give a damn about the USSR” (62). Rather, communisation works to build affinities and construct shared worlds through attack. One such form of attack is the human strike.

Human strike is the turning away that jams subjectivization machines. It is similar in formulation to the autonomist <em>refusal to work</em>. The refusal to work is not meant as a literal refusal to work, but the refusal of the work relationship and the values it implies. In its refusal, it rejects both aspects of the work relations: first, how the body and time of the worker are abstracted in the form of labor-power; and secondly, the theft of the body and power of the worker in terms of surplus value. The human strike is similar to refusal to work but is a refusal of the subjectivizing process of the social. In addition to the category of the human strike being more capacious than the workerist refusal to work, it also implies a third move, the mobilization of affect. A recent presentation by Claire Fontaine resurrected Michelle Perrot’s research on the 19th century strike. Perrot commented on the birth of ‘sentimental strike’ in the year 1890 that follows the trajectory of the refusal to work, “the strikers didn’t give any reason for their interruption of the work… just that they want to do the same thing as the others”. What Claire Fontaine wants to emphasize is the circulation of affect that emerges from this form of strike, something uniquely captured by the concept human strike. Perrot describes the transformation of Amandine Vernet, “she never made herself noticeable before May the 14th when she started to read a written speech in a meeting of 5000 people in the Robiac wood. The day after she had started to speak, and the following days, made more self-confident by her success, she pronounced violent and moving speeches. She had the talent of making part of her audience cry.”6 So while they pose a negative anthropology, whereby the human is slowly removed from the clutches of subjectivization, what is left is the collective form of power: affect.

In summary, insurrection is not a dead end but the way forward. The challenge today is to pose fruitful avenues of inquiry that ward off the state through insurrection rather than cultivating expertise in the daily affairs of statecraft.

1 An early version of the paper was presented at the Rethinking Marxism conference in November 2009 at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.

Then again, I don’t think Foucault’s radical politics should be a surprise for anybody who has looked into his biography. He sustained a broken bones from engaging in street battles with cops, something he continued into his 50s. See Halperin, David. Saint Foucault. Oxford University Press, 1997: 23 and Eribon’s biography more generally.

2 The sequence of lectures goes: Psychiatric Power 1973–1974, Abnormal 1974–1975, Society Must Be Defended 1975–1976, Security, Territory, Population 1977–1978, The Birth of Biopolitics 1978-1979, Du gouvernment des vivants 1979-1980, Subjectivite et verite 1980-1981, The Hermeneutics of the Subject 1981–1982, Le gouvernment de soi et des autres 1982-1983, Le gouvernment de soi et des autre: le courage de la verite 1983-1984.

3 Which works according to the logic of “rigid segmentarity” in D&G’s ATP, look to Plateau 9, “Micropolitics and Segmentarity”.

4 It’s hard to call it the title of the journal, it’s more the name for the experiment. See the dissensus between Agamben, Hazan and Carnevale in “Tiqqun Apocrypha”.

5 It appears that while Agamben has some scattered references to civil war in the essays published in Means Without End, it isn’t until he has an encounter with Tiqqun that he is prompted to write his extended consideration, State of Exception.

<em>Works Cited:</em>
Collective Statement of the Delegates from Nearly 30 “Tarnac 9″ Support Committees Who Met in Limoges, Belgium, "An Order to Bring Down", March 2009,
Agamben, Giorgio
State of Exception, trans Kevin Attell, University of Chicago Press: 2005
Means Without End, trans Vincento Binetti and Cesare Casarino, University of Minnesota Press: 2000
Cunningham, John
“Invisible Politics: An Introduction to Contemporary Communisation”, Mute Mag, September 2009,
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari
A Thousand Plateaus, trans Brian Massumi, University of Minnesota Press: 1987
Eribon, Didier
Michel Foucault, trans. Betsy Wing, Harvard University Press: 1992
Fontaine, Claire
Ready-Made Artist and Human Strike: A few Clarifications,
“Human Strike and the Rise of Visual Fascism”, Presentation at the Descent to Revolution Exhibition curated by James Voorhies and the Institute of Public Culture, Columbus OH, October 28, 2009.
Foucault, Michel
Society Must Be Defended, trans. David Macey, Picardor: 2003
<em>Security, Territory, Population</em>, trans. Graham Burchell, Picardor: 2007
Birth of Biopolitics, trans. Graham Burchell, Picador: 2008
<em>Discipline and Punish</em>, trans. Alan Sheridan, Vintage: 1977
History of Sexuality, Volume 1, trans. Robert Hurley, Vintage: 1990 (English original 1978)
Power/Knowledge, trans. Colin Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, Kate Soper, Pantheon: 1980
Halperin, David
Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, Oxford University Press: 1997
Institute for Experimental Freedom
“Social Justice or Social War?”, presented by Liam Sionnach at The Ohio State University, November 2009
Invisible Committee
<em>The Call</em>, trans. anonymous, US Committee to Support the Tarnac 9: 2004
<em>The Coming Insurrection</em>, trans. anonymous, Semiotext(e): 2009
Perrot, Michelle
Les ouvriers en grève, France 1871-1890, Mouton: 1974, p.99-100, trans. Fulvia Carnevale, presented by Claire Fontaine at the Descent to Revolution exhibition curated by James Voorhies and the Bureau for Public Culture, Columbus OH, October 2009
“How is it to be done?” in Introduction to Civil War, trans. Alexander Galloway and Jason E. Smith, Semiotext(e): 2010
Introduction to Civil War, trans. Alexander Galloway and Jason E. Smith, Semiotext(e): 2010
“Living-and-wrestling”, in <em>Tiqqun</em> 2, trans. anonymous,
<em>Tiqqun</em>, independent: 1999.
<em>Tiqqun</em> Revue Nø2, La Fabrique: 2001
“<em>Tiqqun</em> Apocrypha”,<em>Tiqqun</em>-...


... dare i ask why this is tagged hostile media?

True. Andrew Culp considers himself an anarchist. I've spoken with him many times, though we've ran in separate circles for the most part, connecting on occasion. It also has been years since I've seen him. Hope he's doing well.

yeah, that's weird. i know he's actually DONE plenty of stuff that even most @news commenters would approve of, regardless of post something whatever.

Yeah, like hang out at Ben Turk's rich kid "collective house" and gentrify Weinland Park. Real cool guy. Catch him on High Street on a flashy fixie, though he's only into insurrection "theoretically"; a true hipster!

calm down, harry. i promise to keep the boys from messing up your game of quidditch.

In his defense, the only insurrection that will ever happen will be a theoretical hipster one.

This tag relates to the source attribution, not the author. The source of the article is literally The options are MSM, Independent Media, Blogs, or Hostile Media.

So this anti-intellectual site of yours is "hostile" to all academic sources? not surprised.

the ivory tower takes offence at the mere suggestion of occasional fallibility.
... just one more reason to burn the fucker.

Dear would-be arsonist: I'm not part of the ivory tower, never have been, and what is at issue here isn't the "mere suggestion of occasional fallibility" (such a big word!) but the blanket characterization of all academic sources as hostile. Duh. Nice try though!

Yeah, and I was implying that you showed a bias by interpreting it as a "blanket characterization".
Pompous ass.

No interpretation on my part needed. Since you know lots of important sounding words, you might try to actually read what Worker wrote. He created only four categories and academic sources isn't one, therefore he put this particular article under the blanket characterization "Hostile." Oh BTW "pompous ass" is not a good insult, especially coming from a would-be arsonist. Try again?

I smell Tiqqunt, again

Fucking trite. Get an editor. You're writing is fucking horse shit grim the mouth of a wanna be revolutionary.

Spinoza, Lucretius and Wittgenstein... what about Petronius, Rabelais and Groucho Marx!

I found this in the works cited:

Institute for Experimental Freedom
“Social Justice or Social War?”, presented by Liam Sionnach at The Ohio State University, November 2009

Thanks for pointing that out, Liam.


miss you!

What about Foucault's turn at the end of his life, after his focus on governmentality, to self-care/hermeneutics of the subject? Does this signal a disavowal of the social war? Is this his inner Nietzsche fully realizing itself? His career mirrors Nietzsche's - his initial focus on discursive formations (Nz's on philology); his explosion of the basis of governance and inversion of Clausewitz could have come straight out of Beyond Good & Evil or the Genealogy of Morals; and then his turn at the end of his life to self-care could be his gesture towards Zarathustra. Why this turn? We can't understand his work on social warfare/governmentality without understanding his focus on self-care, just like we can't ignore his focus on discursive formations/epistemes from his earlier writings.

I just hope that turn towards "self care" wasn't quite so pathetic as fred's was.

fuck that, nietzsche is 5000000 time better after the collapse. to my maestro pietro. sing me a new song: the world is transfigured and all the heavens rejoice.

Yeah yeah, get off his dick. He was full of shit in his youth and then he was a gibbering lunatic in his old age.
Why the hell anyone is so moved by this guy continues to baffle me.

and yeah, I'm deliberately trying to piss off half the regulars here.

You are not a very good troll.

People change when they get older and the end is nigh.

This stuff again? I thought it was extinct like primitivism?

Can these fads finally go away and die?

Have you even considered the idea that these things you consider fads aren't in fact fads and that people are genuinely interested in these things? probably not, people like you basically view ideas you either don't get or don't like as fads and the things you are into as things that are not possibly fads. Also Primitivism and general anti-civ thought never went extinct so I have no idea what you are talking about.

its both. this is definitely a fad. sure, *some* people are genuinely interested in the ideas. other people are interested in the people that are interested in the ideas. and still other people are interested in the fashion of being interested in the ideas. thats because alot of the people in the first category are arrogant and pompous and they trick the other categories into being.

okay marilyn manson

I would let manson circa '95-'99 wreck me

Really? Ew. At least Trent Reznor wrote beautiful songs.

Anyway, *that's* what a real *fad* is - when you look back, *and not one beautiful song*. Just something goofy, cute, empty, and commercial.

I don't think Foucault or TIC meet these qualifications. Sorry!

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