Jason Read on Malabou/Butler

Reviewing Sois mon corps: une lecture contemporaine de la domination et servitude chez Hegel, he writes:

This is one reason why Judith Butler and Catherine Malabou’s exchange on “Domination and Servitude” published in French as Sois mon corps: une lecture contemporaine de la domination et servitude chez Hegel is engaging. It is a reading of this all too well known section of Hegel’s text, but one that dispenses with the preoccupations of a previous generation in order to reread Hegel. Butler and Malabou each address Hegel from their particular philosophical commitments and engagements: Butler’s intervention is framed by her reading of Hegel in The Psychic Life of Power and Malabou continues her development of plasticity in her reading of Hegel. Which is not to say that the concerns of Kojeve are entirely absent. He is mentioned not just in name, but also in general orientation. His reading, which influenced Lacan, Bataille, etc., made this particular passage not just the genesis of self-consciousness, but an anthropogenesis, the constitution of the human as such.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Malabou and Butler’s confrontation is the way in which it pits their particular conceptual innovations, plasticity in the case of Malabou and subjection/attachment in the case of Butler, in relation to Hegel’s text. In each case the concept in question is developed in relation to Hegel’s thought, albeit differently. To start with Malabou’s reading of Butler, Malabou poses the question as to what extent Foucault’s problematic of subjectivity/subjection, especially once understood as an attachment and detachment to a particular kind of power differs from a dialectic, countering Butler’s Foucauldian reading of Hegel with a Hegelian reading of Foucault. The slave’s subjection is nothing other than a kind of attachment, the attachment to simply living, to the body as given, and mastery is a kind of detachment, an active constitution of the self as something other than this particular life, this body.What makes this possible is her concept of plasticity, the capacity to give and receive form, which cuts through dialects and subjection/subjectivity, to think the interconnection of passivity and activity.