Genealogy, Virtuality, War (1651/1976)

  • R.d. Crano The Ohio State University


This article recounts Foucault’s critical reevaluation of Thomas Hobbes in his 1975-76 lecture course, published as Society Must Be Defended (2003). In probing Hobbes’ pivotal role in the foundation of the modern nation-state, Foucault delineates the ”philosophico-juridical” discourse of Leviathan from the ”historico-political” discourses of the English insurrectionists whose uncompromising demands were ultimately paved over by the more conventional seventeenth century debate between royalists and parliamentarians. In his most sustained engagement with political philosophy proper, Foucault effectively severs the two co-constitutive terms, enumerating the damning consequences of thinking politics apart from history and philosophy apart from the laws and codes that had been “born in the mud and blood of battles.” Displacing himself in the archive, Foucault doubles the Levellers and Diggers’ efforts to restage the violent conquests that undergird our seemingly calm governmental regimes. This doubling, I argue, evinces the profound influence of Deleuze’s innovative ontology of time on Foucault’s genealogical method. Foucault’s research strategy takes a fundamental turn towards specific techniques of cultural memory in the wake of his colleague’s radical reconceptualization of virtuality, difference, and repetition. To this end, I take up Foucault’s review essay ”Theatrum Philosophicum” and his comments on method in ”Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” in order to draw an analogy between what he does in 1976 and what the Levellers and Diggers were doing in 1651. In the final analysis, genealogy means war, and, in this war, it is the very being of the virtual itself that is at stake.

Author Biography

R.d. Crano, The Ohio State University