hated the politicians who sent themnthere, marveled at advances in modernntechnology, such as steamship refrigerationnthat, as an editorial in the NewnOrieans Picayune put it, yielded “cattlenturned into gold,” and looked forwardnto a future of limitless prosperity andnwealth. All in all, they were rather likenus: living, eating, drinking, and marrying,neven on the day that God sent thenwinds that reminded them their citynwas not eternal.nCarl C. Curtis lives in east Texas.nIntellectualnOperatornby Thomas MolnarnPolitics, Philosophy,nCulture — Interviews and OthernWritingsnby Michel Foucault, edited bynLawrence D. KritzmannNew York: Routledge, Chapman &nHall; 330 pp., $25.00nIt is a distinct possibility that we leavento posterity writers and works fromnwhich the future curious will concludenthat this century was the stupidest, mostnverbose and obscene, altogether thenworst in the historical record. What elsencan you say of a century that electednMichel Foucault as one of its maitres anpenser, together with an assortment ofnSartrian and Marcusian monsters,nstructuralists, deconstructionists, decoders,nand other homosexuals? Homosexualitynoccupies about half of thisnvolume (with incest too getting somenattention as, of course, a morally neutralnpractice). The rest is taken up withnquestions and answers (almost all 330npages are interviews and debates), mostnof it exasperating trivialities wrapped innjargon.nWith a kind of coquettishness Foucaultndenies he is a structuralist, thoughnhis analyses belie him. On the othernhand, he does not deny that he is anhomosexual, and delves into that matternwith a stomach-turning psychosocio-philosophicalnseriousness. Butneven when he wears the mask of anprofessor at the College de France, hisnstyle, approach, and analyses are thosenof a purely (structurally?) subversivenmind for which “structuralism” is anmere pretext. Were he an idealist withnPlato, a logician with Aristotle, annorator with Demosthenes, his mannernof arguing would still create the impressionnof an intellectual operator.nStructuralism for such a man isnmerely the most convenient tool withnwhich to deconstruct and fraudulentlyndecode every human achievement. It isnwith a certain taste for the morbid thatnhe focuses on such questions as, whyndoes “what we call literature” occupy anprivileged position, why not just anynassemblage of words? (Shall we proposena train schedule?) Or, why is follyn(or pederasty) not regarded as merely anpart of things as they are — why isnsociety preoccupied with it as somethingnnegative? Playing this game,nFoucault is by no means pursuing thenSocratic objective of revealing essencesnand their ultimate substratum; Foucaultnregards words, concepts, explanations,nand judgments, or simply justnnouns, as springboards toward verbalndissolution. It is Nietzsche, without thengenius.nThe overall purpose, if any, is tondemonstrate that man is merely annartificial focus (any other would do)nput together for no reason, but dissolvablenin structure: the structure of grammar,nof the prevailing sexual code, ornof intratribal relationships. The readernfeels he is caught in some kind ofnenigma and wants to find out what arenthe last motives of his being and actions,nbeyond what the other masters ofnsuspicion propose: Freud, Marx,nNietzsche, Sartre. Or is he, our inquiringnman, merely his language habits,ncooking methods, wedding ceremonial,nsexuality, kinship within the clan?nLevi-Strauss is at least honest. Henconcluded long ago that man is nothingnbut the temporary locus of interactingnstructures. Foucault has simply nonconclusions to offer. He modestly invitesnunsuspecting students and aberrantnintellectuals to endless talkfestsnwhere anything may be said—or nothing.nHe relates to one interviewer thatnhe experienced happiness twice in life:nonce when he casually met for the firstntime a German film producer, tooknhim home, “smoked some hash,” andnboth remained silent for ten hours; thensecond time when he was hit by a car,nwas not hurt badly, and burst intonnnlaughter. (One wonders if the thirdntime he knew happiness was when henwas dying from AIDS.)nHow much philosophical credit doesnone give a man whose happiness takesnsuch morbid forms, who speaks about itnas “events,” then goes to class andnteaches? Is this a late residue of Marxismn(no, he was never a Communist),nwhich teaches that man is his classconsciousness;nor is it something beyondnMarxism when only destructivenessnremains, and only as a gratuitousnexercise? If we carry Foucaultism to itsnlogical consequence, Foucault himselfnevaporates in some final structure of allnstructures. Put otherwise, can we havena real face, if all we see of ourselves arenendless mirror images of what wenthought was our face? We can, ofncourse, count them and explore thentechnique of mirror reflection; but wencan also declare, resigned, that indeednwe never had a face.nThe system of which Foucault is anprominent proponent holds, togethernwith much of modern speculation, thatnman is not the subject of his beliefs,nthoughts, judgments, opinions, and actions,nhe is their object. Structures actnon him, or rather act him (pardon thengrammar); he is their random meetingnpoint. But both the meeting point andnthe converging structures could bensomething else, in which case the alreadynfragile, vaporous self would notnbe. Astrophysicists have accepted thenhypothesis that nothing in the universenis (certainly not the way it is observednand visualized) and that mathematicalnformulas make sense only in the lightnof other mathematical formulas. Whynnot assume that Foucault’s ambition isna similarly evanescent equation? Hisnstructuralist colleague (incidentally,nboth deny that they are structuralists)nLevi-Strauss has admitted that much.nThe objective is to reduce man toninterlocking formulas, to objects ofnendlessly explorable and shifting nonmeanings—nuntil such time, says Levi-nStrauss, that one. can prove that nothingnexists besides chemical, then subatomic,nagitation. If long stretches ofnhashish-induced stupor and car accidentsncan cause happiness, why wouldnmeaninglessness not be the supremenbeatitude?nYet there can be no beatitude, notneven happiness, only transient sensationsnof good feeling while smokingnFEBRUARY 1989/29n