Michel Foucault is the intellectual godfather of the modern Left. I have always found this fact strange, as his theories, to the extent they are intelligible, are obviously wrong. But they formed the basis for such leftist staples as identity politics and sexual confusion, and so, coherent or not, they were welcomed enthusiastically by liberals.
Foucault has long been known to have been, personally, a sinister figure. At the Epoch Times, Roger Simon writes about recent revelations of Foucault’s history. Roger starts with the scandal of Major League Baseball weighing in on behalf of voter fraud, one of endless instances of virtue signaling and moral narcissism. Then, on to Foucault:
[J]ust who is this godfather of “woke”?
Well, there’s a lot of convoluted graduate school rhetoric, but it turns out the reality of the man may not be very flattering. Rumors of a certain amount of perversion have surrounded Foucault for some time but now testimony has surfaced that is distinctly “unwoke.”
I am not sure I agree with Roger here. Are the “woke” actually opposed to perversion? I doubt it.
What follows is a quote from the London Times:
French-American professor Guy Sorman accused French philosopher Michel Foucault of being a ‘pedophile rapist’ in an interview with The Sunday Times. Sorman, a friend of Foucault, said that the philosopher sexually abused Arab children while living in Tunisia in the late 1960s.
Stating that he learned of the situation when he visited Foucault, Sorman said: ‘The young children were running after Foucault to say, what about me? Take me, take me. They were 8, 9, 10 years old. Foucault was throwing money at them and would say, ‘let’s meet at 10 p.m. at the usual place.’ He would make love there on the gravestones with young boys. The question of consent wasn’t even raised.’
Roger asks: can a moral degenerate nevertheless be a source of sound philosophy?
Now, admittedly, just because the godfather of “woke” was allegedly a very sick and deeply evil man, a monster, really, doesn’t necessarily mean all its precepts are wrong, but this should give one pause.
Roger goes on to urge that the entire sick culture of “wokism” should be smashed, a conclusion with which few who read this post will disagree.
The London Times, to which I happen to subscribe, has more:
Sorman claimed that “Foucault would not have dared to do it in France”, comparing him to Paul Gauguin, the impressionist said to have had sex with young girls he painted in Tahiti, and Andre Gide, the novelist who preyed on boys in Africa. “There is a colonial dimension to this. A white imperialism.”
Oh, please. Homosexual rape of young boys has nothing to do with “white imperialism,” it has to do with opportunity seized on by the evil. In fact, Foucault’s predations were well known:
But, he added, the French media already knew about Foucault’s behaviour. “There were journalists present on that trip, there were many witnesses, but nobody did stories like that in those days. Foucault was the philosopher king. He’s like our god in France.”
With his trademark polo necks, a bald head and spectacles, Foucault, the son of a surgeon, was one of the first celebrity intellectuals of the 20th century remembered not only for his controversial analyses of prisons, madness and sexuality but for signing a petition in 1977 to legalise sex with children aged 13.
He wasn’t exactly hiding his predilections.
Foucault’s influence has been great. I used to complain that more American college students studied Karl Marx than John Locke, but the situation today is even worse than that:
Foucault is the most cited scholar in the world, often associated with the rise of identity politics in America, where MC Hammer, the rapper, is one of his fans. “It is almost invariably Foucault to whom contemporary activist studies departments trace their intellectual foundations,” wrote Daniel Miller in The Critic magazine. “At the most basic level, Foucault the famous French professor supplies a signature of seriousness for disciplines without clear academic standards or traditions.”
In 1980s America, the “Foucauldians”, as the philosopher’s academic admirers are known, “enshrined Foucault as a kind of patron saint . . . whose authority they routinely invoked in order to legitimate in properly academic terms, their own brand of progressive politics,” Miller wrote in his biography.
The fact that Foucault’s obscurantism is taken seriously in academia is testament to the pitiful quality of intellectual life in the West. But there is more to it than that:
For Sorman, Foucault’s behaviour was symptomatic of a distinctly French malaise dating back to Voltaire. “He believed there were two morals, one for the elite, which was immoral, and one for the people, which should be restrictive.”
He continued: “France is still not a democracy, we had the revolution, proclaimed a republic but there’s still an aristocracy, it’s the intelligentsia, and it has had a special status. Anything goes.” Now, though, “the world is suddenly changing,” Sorman added.
Here in America, too, there have been two sets of standards: one for the elite, like Jeffrey Epstein, Roman Polanski, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Harvey Weinstein, and many more. Another standard for the rest of us. Is the world “suddenly changing?” We certainly haven’t seen that recently.
The interesting question, to me, is whether a man who is a moral monster can nevertheless produce sound philosophy. I think the answer is No. On the Left, it is fashionable to nit-pick great men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. But the men and women who founded what we now know as conservatism were good, if inevitably imperfect, people.
Conversely, the icons of the Left–Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Michel Foucault and many more–were hideously deformed and evil. I think a flawed man or woman–which is to say, a normal person–can produce sound political and social philosophy. But I think it is impossible for a moral leper like Michel Foucault to produce anything good or useful. Which helps to explain, perhaps, why today’s Left is irredeemably corrupt.
UPDATE: Roger Kimball, who is much more a Foucault scholar than I–happily, my education predated the Foucault fad–has an in-depth consideration of the man and his work at The New Criterion.