Foucault returned to the text of Sophocles’s Oedipus Tyrannos at various critical junctures in his thought. This article homes in on the place of that tragedy in the passage from the analytic of knowledge-power to the problematization of government by truth that took place around 1980, namely in Foucault’s Collège de France lectures. Particular attention is placed on the delineation of the political meaning of “alethurgy,” a neologism through which Foucault sought to thematize the significance of practices concerned with the manifestation of truth for the exercise of political power. By drawing on historical and anthropological studies of Greek “pre-law,” Foucault was able to explore the juridical dimensions of the liturgy of truth, especially in the transition from the Homeric centrality of the agon to the emergence of the forensic inquiry with its reliance on the extraction of (slave) testimony. The reading of tragedy here doubles as a nuanced critique of the juridical production of truth, one with important connections to Foucault’s contemporaneous political efforts to support practices of legal defense that rejected the demand that the crimi nalized subject reveal himself in an “auto-alethurgy.”
Tragedy and Juridical Forms
Alberto Toscano teaches at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University and is the co-director of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (2017, 2nd edn) and co-author of Cartographies of the Absolute (2015, with Jeff Kinkle). He recently co-edited The SAGE Handbook of Marxism (2022). He edits The Italian List for Seagull Books and sits on the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism.
Alberto Toscano; Tragedy and Juridical Forms. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2022; 121 (4): 777–794. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-10066467
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