The Post-Marxist Immateriality
One of the moves I have noticed in American disciplinary uses of Foucault and Delueze that I am find suspect, but do not know if I actually think is something I should reject: the move from material social relations to ideas about discourse communities. Now the Foucault/Delueze and company critique of the subject: the place of power in the person or the institution solely is not particularly innovative. It’s implied in Marx and the notion of classes, so the “death of the author” and the “birth of the discourse” seems implied in thinking about the the commodity fetish and ideological apparatuses as well as Hegelian Marxist notions of reification.
The self is a product of means of production: i.e. it is limited by social relationships in the same movement as it is created in reflection to those events. Consciousness may be separate, but one can almost see it as a feedback loop. This is still in an intersection of the material with the idea, which itself emerges from purely material history. The idea of the discourse as a the primary locus of power which one sees in a many of the Nietzsche-influenced post-Marxist thinker seems to keep this critique of the subject but more away from the material limitations. In other words, in one sense it clarifies the problem of classical subjectivity assumed in Kant, but in another sense it moves away from the material by either bracketing that concern out of the question or mystifying relations. One can see this in the synchronic approach used even by most structuralist thinkers after Althusser: Foucault has epistemes and then has the power/knowledge that causes this to emerge but does not address the material issue.
While not idealist in the “spiritual” sense of Hegel, but it does seem to take Heidegger’s notion that ideas drive history and move this into the discourse which keeps that immaterial property.
Is it any surprise that this kind of thinking has become dominant in an age where symbolic equality may be increased but real material disparity in wealth has become huge even by the standards of modernity? Is this merely a consequence of the discourse? Or is there some more material problem at hand?