Deleuze on Foucault

“His thought underwent a crisis in all sorts of ways, but it was a creative crisis, not a recantation. What Foucault felt more and more, after the first volume of The History of Sexuality, was that he was getting locked in power relations. And it was all very well to invoke points of resistance as “counterparts” of foci of power, but where was such resistance to come from? Foucault wonders how he can cross the line, go beyond the play of forces in its turn. Or are we condemned to conversing with Power, irrespective of whether we’re wielding it or being subjected to it? He confronts the question in one of his most violent texts, one of the funniest too, on “infamous men”. And it takes him a long time to come up with an answer. Crossing the line of force, going beyond power involves as it were bending force, making it impinge on itself rather than on other forces: a “fold”, in Foucault’s terms, force playing on itself. It’s a question of “doubling” the play of forces, of a self-relation that allows us to resist, to elude power, to turn life or death against power. This, according to Foucault, is something the Greeks invented. It’s no longer a matter of determinate forms, as with knowledge, or of containing rules, as with power: it’s a matter of optional rules that make existence a work of art, rules at once ethical and aesthetic that constitute ways of existing or styles of life (including even suicide). It’s what Nietzsche discovered as the will to power operating artistically, inventing new “possibilities of life”.”

– Gilles Deleuze on Michel Foucault in the interview Life as a Work of Art


Deleuze, Gilles. Negotiations, 1972-1990. New York: Columbia UP, 1995. Print.

Foucault’s text “Lives of Infamous Men” can be accessed here:

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  1. Pingback: An analysis of Coming of Age in Mississippi and Herculine Barbin | Write on the World

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