Genealogies of law and violence

A day or two ago I tried to show why I think it important to recover the history of bombing in order to stage an effective critique of its contemporary use.  But Dan Clayton has written to provide a compelling and more general reason to recover the historical arc of contemporary military violence, with this quotation from Michel Foucault‘s (1971) essay on ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’:

“Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law finally replaces warfare; humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination.”

This essay can now be read in conjunction with Foucault’s recently published lectures on La volonté de savoir.  As Stuart Elden explains:

‘Despite Foucault’s oft-cited interest in Nietzsche, only a couple of pieces on him were ever published. The most sustained is the ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’ piece published in 1971. Here [in the Lectures] Foucault develops different themes, especially concerning the history of truth, though there are moments where related issues emerge. Foucault uses Nietzsche to trace the invention of knowledge, and the later invention of truth, suggesting that for Nietzsche truth relates to the will “under the form of constraint and domination… not liberty but violence” (p. 206). He suggests that, following Nietzsche, and “against the warm softness of a phenomenon, we must develop the murderous tenacity of knowledge” (p. 198). His reading is influenced by works across Nietzsche’s career, especially early manuscripts on truth and The Birth of Tragedy, rather than just On the Genealogy of Morality.’

There’s a really helpful long review essay on the lectures by Michael Berhrent in Foucault Studies 13 (2012) 157-178 here (scroll down).

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