Qu’est-ce qu’il a dit?
A little from Foucault himself, since it’s available. Some wisdom and insight from M. Discipline and Punish.
One thing must be clear. By “Islamic government,” nobody in Iran means a political regime in which the clerics would have a role of supervision or control.
Shrewd, ain’t it! Noooo, nobody meant that! Clerics? A role? A role of supervision or control? Oh, hell no! That’s not what anybody meant.
He did go to Iran, right? He wasn’t confused? He didn’t, like, get off the plane a stop or two early? In Marseille or someplace? He didn’t accidentally say ‘Stockholm’ to the ticket clerk when he meant to say ‘Tehran’?
To me, the phrase “Islamic government” seemed to point to two orders of things. “A utopia,” some told me without any pejorative implication. “An ideal,” most of them said to me. At any rate, it is something very old and also very far into the future, a notion of coming back to what Islam was at the time of the Prophet, but also of advancing toward a luminous and distant point where it would be possible to renew fidelity rather than maintain obedience. In pursuit of this ideal, the distrust of legalism seemed to me to be essential, along with a faith in the creativity of Islam.
Very old and also very far into the future – so far that it comes back around and meets itself? Or what. Because that business of coming back to what Islam was at the time of the Prophet – well, let me put it this way, I’ve never learned anything about the 7th century in any part of the world that made me want to live then. Really not. So I have to wonder why Foucault thought that sounded ‘luminous’. And then that crap about fidelity rather than obedience. Oh yeah? Tell that to the women who got beaten up for not concealing themselves thoroughly enough. And then to top it all off, like the rotting fish head on top of the ice cream sundae – ‘faith in the creativity of Islam.’ Right. Three hooray-words, three sexual-arousal words, three mental-shutdown words – faith, creativity, and Islam. Bad idea, Foukers – faith not a good way to go, creativity really beside the point here, and Islam – well, not quite what you seem to have thought.
But one dreams also of another movement, which is the inverse and the converse of the first. This is one that would allow the introduction of a spiritual dimension into political life, in order that it would not be, as always, the obstacle to spirituality, but rather its receptacle, its opportunity, and its ferment…I do not feel comfortable speaking of Islamic government as an “idea” or even as an “ideal.” Rather, it impressed me as a form of “political will.” It impressed me in its effort to politicize structures that are inseparably social and religious in response to current problems. It also impressed me in its attempt to open a spiritual dimension in politics.
One person’s dream is another person’s nightmare.