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August 2016
An encounter between Gramsci,
Marx, Foucault, and Bergson
David Kreps
Henri Bergson
1859-1941
French philosopher / metaphysician.
Time and Free Will (1889), Matter and Memory (1896), Creative Evolution
(1907).
Chair of Modern Philosophy at the Collège de France, Grand-Croix de la
Legion d'honneur, Nobel Prize for Literature, first President of the League of
Nations’ International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC – the
forerunner of today’s UNESCO) . Forgotten after the War.
Lauded and rediscovered in 1966 by Gilles Deleuze. Now increasingly popular
Bergson’s ideas
✤ Many and varied: the reality of Free Will and the possibility of novelty -
counter to determinism in both science and culture. Specifically a challenge to
‘scientism’ at the time of the inception of logical positivism – a difficult climate
in which to make such a challenge!
✤ Intuition philosophique – not the intuition of Schelling or Schopenhauer: more
a gestalt awareness, an empiricism of personal experience; not irrationalism.
He also expressly critiqued vitalism but was nonetheless accused of it
✤ Durée réelle – a reconception of time on a personal level – as it is
experienced: durations rather than the spatial juxtaposition of moments along
a line
✤ Multiplicity, fluidity, movement – for Bergson there is no fixity, no ‘things’, only
change and flow. Louis de Broglie (quantum physicist who showed decades
later that not just photons but ALL particles are also waves) liked Bergson.
Not anti-scientific, but insisting on the both/and of scientific reality and the
reality of subjective experience
Bergson’s influence
✤ “Levi-Strauss and Lacan, Canguilhem and Hyppolite, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty
[all] began their intellectual careers by criticizing Bergson…even though these
young, angry people … were affirming their own intellectual projects … they were,
willy-nilly, influenced by the author of Creative Evolution ” – Bianco
✤ Foucault’s critique of the Enlightenment project follows Bergson’s own critique of
scientism, of the backwards view of intellection
✤ In his Foucault, Deleuze describes Michel Foucault's The Archaeology of
Knowledge (1969), as "the most decisive step yet taken in the theory-practice of
multiplicities"
✤ The processual flow of ‘taking care of the self’, can only occur in a durée réelle
where subjective consciousness – for all its decentred, contingent, and
disciplinated context – nonetheless apprehends the real intuitively, and makes
choices. It can only occur in a world where novelty and creativity are possible.
Gramsci Marx
Foucault
Bergson
Renewal of Marxism
Governmentalising
Gramsci
e.g. how questions
Marxianising
Foucault
e.g. why questions
Temporalising
Marx
e.g. when questions
Subjectivising
Gramsci
e.g. who questions
Underpinning
multiplicity
An encounter
Encountering the subject
✤ “Actors have some freedom of manoeuvre more or less skillfully and reflexively to
choose a path of action. Second, actors not only engage in action within a given
institutional matrix but, in certain circumstances, can reflexively reconstitute
institutions and their resulting matrix. Their capacity to do so depends both on the
changing selectivities of given institutions and on their own changing opportunities
to engage in strategic action.” (Sum and Jessop p50)
✤ “For the SRA, this ‘freedom’ exists only in relation to a given structure. It does not
mean that actors have free will – their choices within the range of freedom
permitted by a given structure are typically constrained by other factors, which we
explore through other types of selectivity” (Sum and Jessop note p70)
✤ With Bergson, the suggestion is that this freedom IS free will, but a contingent and
situated free will, and that one agent alone may not have the power to break from
the cultural constraints. Resistance structures, nonetheless, are possible, and it is
free will that seeks to create and enter such structures
Subjectivising Gramsci
e.g. who questions
• NOT the enlightenment Individual Subject, nor entirely the
discursively determined identity
• “While his consciousness, delving downwards, reveals to him, the
deeper he goes, an ever more original personality,
incommensurable with the others and indeed undefinable in
words, on the surface of life we are in continuous contact with
other men whom we resemble, and united to them by a discipline
which creates between them and us a relation of
interdependence” (Bergson 2006:14).
• So - the Foucauldian radically contingent self – but one that is also
being shaped by the ‘I’ that – albeit a product of that kaleidoscope
of social influence from which it emerges – expresses AGENCY :
FREE WILL ; contained and limited, but free nonetheless – the
possibility, therefore, of engaging in hegemonic struggle, of
attempting and expressing leadership
• Techniques of the self : ‘taking care of the self’ - education
• This is ‘who’ Bergson brings to the party: me and you
Temporalising Marx
e.g. when questions
• Bergson’s durée réelle : real duration, is simply the world as we
experience it – from the ‘I’ that experiences
• Scientific time does not endure - the universe could go by in a
split second and it wouldn’t change the physics of it all
• A complete ‘science’ of the world must include the reality of
subjective consciousness – that which experiences duration
• Comte’s positivist science expressly discounts the subjective
because it is unverifiable, inner, unobservable from the outside:
only the experiencing ‘I’ knows that it is aware
• Yet it is a simple matter of eye contact and discussion to be
relatively certain that the person in front of one is also an
experiencing ‘I’
Encounter
• Radically contingent selves mostly determined by social context
but struggling to shape themselves… can join forces…
• Historical materialist inevitability completely dropped : agency and
free will as part of the metaphysical foundation limit determinism –
promote the possibility of novelty – add hope - one may swim
against the current
• Why? – Gramscianised Foucault
• How? – Governmentalised Marx
• When? – Now! Bergsonised possibilities of novelty
• Who? – Me! – and You! – and Us! – Bergsonised subjectivities
http://www.creativeemergence.info
Bergson,
Complexity, and
Creative Emergence
by David Kreps
Palgrave MacMillan August 2015

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An Encounter Between Gramsci, Marx, Foucault and Bergson

  • 1. August 2016 An encounter between Gramsci, Marx, Foucault, and Bergson David Kreps
  • 2. Henri Bergson 1859-1941 French philosopher / metaphysician. Time and Free Will (1889), Matter and Memory (1896), Creative Evolution (1907). Chair of Modern Philosophy at the Collège de France, Grand-Croix de la Legion d'honneur, Nobel Prize for Literature, first President of the League of Nations’ International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC – the forerunner of today’s UNESCO) . Forgotten after the War. Lauded and rediscovered in 1966 by Gilles Deleuze. Now increasingly popular
  • 3. Bergson’s ideas ✤ Many and varied: the reality of Free Will and the possibility of novelty - counter to determinism in both science and culture. Specifically a challenge to ‘scientism’ at the time of the inception of logical positivism – a difficult climate in which to make such a challenge! ✤ Intuition philosophique – not the intuition of Schelling or Schopenhauer: more a gestalt awareness, an empiricism of personal experience; not irrationalism. He also expressly critiqued vitalism but was nonetheless accused of it ✤ Durée réelle – a reconception of time on a personal level – as it is experienced: durations rather than the spatial juxtaposition of moments along a line ✤ Multiplicity, fluidity, movement – for Bergson there is no fixity, no ‘things’, only change and flow. Louis de Broglie (quantum physicist who showed decades later that not just photons but ALL particles are also waves) liked Bergson. Not anti-scientific, but insisting on the both/and of scientific reality and the reality of subjective experience
  • 4. Bergson’s influence ✤ “Levi-Strauss and Lacan, Canguilhem and Hyppolite, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty [all] began their intellectual careers by criticizing Bergson…even though these young, angry people … were affirming their own intellectual projects … they were, willy-nilly, influenced by the author of Creative Evolution ” – Bianco ✤ Foucault’s critique of the Enlightenment project follows Bergson’s own critique of scientism, of the backwards view of intellection ✤ In his Foucault, Deleuze describes Michel Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), as "the most decisive step yet taken in the theory-practice of multiplicities" ✤ The processual flow of ‘taking care of the self’, can only occur in a durée réelle where subjective consciousness – for all its decentred, contingent, and disciplinated context – nonetheless apprehends the real intuitively, and makes choices. It can only occur in a world where novelty and creativity are possible.
  • 5. Gramsci Marx Foucault Bergson Renewal of Marxism Governmentalising Gramsci e.g. how questions Marxianising Foucault e.g. why questions Temporalising Marx e.g. when questions Subjectivising Gramsci e.g. who questions Underpinning multiplicity An encounter
  • 6. Encountering the subject ✤ “Actors have some freedom of manoeuvre more or less skillfully and reflexively to choose a path of action. Second, actors not only engage in action within a given institutional matrix but, in certain circumstances, can reflexively reconstitute institutions and their resulting matrix. Their capacity to do so depends both on the changing selectivities of given institutions and on their own changing opportunities to engage in strategic action.” (Sum and Jessop p50) ✤ “For the SRA, this ‘freedom’ exists only in relation to a given structure. It does not mean that actors have free will – their choices within the range of freedom permitted by a given structure are typically constrained by other factors, which we explore through other types of selectivity” (Sum and Jessop note p70) ✤ With Bergson, the suggestion is that this freedom IS free will, but a contingent and situated free will, and that one agent alone may not have the power to break from the cultural constraints. Resistance structures, nonetheless, are possible, and it is free will that seeks to create and enter such structures
  • 7. Subjectivising Gramsci e.g. who questions • NOT the enlightenment Individual Subject, nor entirely the discursively determined identity • “While his consciousness, delving downwards, reveals to him, the deeper he goes, an ever more original personality, incommensurable with the others and indeed undefinable in words, on the surface of life we are in continuous contact with other men whom we resemble, and united to them by a discipline which creates between them and us a relation of interdependence” (Bergson 2006:14). • So - the Foucauldian radically contingent self – but one that is also being shaped by the ‘I’ that – albeit a product of that kaleidoscope of social influence from which it emerges – expresses AGENCY : FREE WILL ; contained and limited, but free nonetheless – the possibility, therefore, of engaging in hegemonic struggle, of attempting and expressing leadership • Techniques of the self : ‘taking care of the self’ - education • This is ‘who’ Bergson brings to the party: me and you
  • 8. Temporalising Marx e.g. when questions • Bergson’s durée réelle : real duration, is simply the world as we experience it – from the ‘I’ that experiences • Scientific time does not endure - the universe could go by in a split second and it wouldn’t change the physics of it all • A complete ‘science’ of the world must include the reality of subjective consciousness – that which experiences duration • Comte’s positivist science expressly discounts the subjective because it is unverifiable, inner, unobservable from the outside: only the experiencing ‘I’ knows that it is aware • Yet it is a simple matter of eye contact and discussion to be relatively certain that the person in front of one is also an experiencing ‘I’
  • 9. Encounter • Radically contingent selves mostly determined by social context but struggling to shape themselves… can join forces… • Historical materialist inevitability completely dropped : agency and free will as part of the metaphysical foundation limit determinism – promote the possibility of novelty – add hope - one may swim against the current • Why? – Gramscianised Foucault • How? – Governmentalised Marx • When? – Now! Bergsonised possibilities of novelty • Who? – Me! – and You! – and Us! – Bergsonised subjectivities