The CIA Reads French Theory
On the Intellectual Labor of Dismantling the Cultural Left
Date Written: 28/02/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20444
A recently unclassifed CIA documents reveals that in the 1980s, the agency had its analysts devote substantial time and resources to studying trends in French theory, and specifically, the work that writers like Michel Foucault, Jacques, and Roland Barthes were doing in undermining the Marxist left. The CIA saw this trend as beneficial to the maintenance of American power, and capitalism generally, because it undermind the idea that there could or should be fundamental revolutionary change.
It is in this context that the masked mandarins commend and support the relentless critique that a new generation of anti-Marxist thinkers ... Given the leftwing leanings of these anti-Marxists in their youth, they provide the perfect model for constructing deceptive narratives that amalgamate purported personal political growth with the progressive march of time, as if both individual life and history were simply a matter of "growing up" and recognizing that profound egalitarian social transformation is a thing of the -- personal and historicalpast. This patronizing, omniscient defeatism not only serves to discredit new movements, particularly those driven by the youth, but it also mischaracterizes the relative successes of counter-revolutionary repression as the natural progress of history.
Even theoreticians who were not as opposed to Marxism as these intellectual reactionaries have made a significant contribution to an environment of disillusionment with transformative egalitarianism, detachment from social mobilization and "critical inquiry" devoid of radical politics. This is extremely important for understanding the CIA's overall strategy in its broad and profound attempts to dismantle the cultural left in Europe and elsewhere. In recognizing it was unlikely that it could abolish it entirely, the world's most powerful spy organization has sought to move leftist culture away from resolute anti-capitalist and transformative politics toward center-left reformist positions that are less overtly critical of US foreign and domestic policies. In fact, as Saunders has demonstrated in detail, the Agency went behind the back of the McCarthy-driven Congress in the postwar era in order to directly support and promote leftist projects that steered cultural producers and consumers away from the resolutely egalitarian left. In severing and discrediting the latter, it also aspired to fragment the left in general...
Foucault, who is referred to as :France's most profound and influential thinker," is specifically applauded for his praise of the New Right intellectuals for reminding philosophers that "bloody consequences" have flowed from the rationalist social theory of the 18th-century Enlightenment and the Revolutionary era. Although it would be a mistake to collapse anyones politics or political effect into a single position or result, Foucault's anti-revolutionary leftism and his perpetuation of the blackmail of the Gulagi.e. the claim that expansive radical movements aiming at profound social and cultural transformation only resuscitate the most dangerous of traditions -- are perfectly in line with the espionage agency's overall strategies of psychological warfare.