Ian Bapty
Nietzsche, Derida and and Foucault: Re-excavating the Meaning of Archaeology



How could anything originate out of its opposite? for example, truth out of error? or the will to truth out of the will to deception? .... such origins are impossible; whoever dreams of them is a fool, indeed worse; the things of the highest value must have another peculiar origin.... Rather from the lap of being, the intransitory, the hidden god, the 'thing-in-itself - there must be their basis and nowhere else.

This way of judging constitutes the typical prejudgment and prejudice which give away the metaphysicians of all ages; ... it is on account of this 'faith' that they trouble themselves about 'knowledge', about something that is finally baptised solemnly as 'the truth'. The fundamental faith of the metaphysicians is the faith in opposite values...

... one may doubt, first, whether there are any opposites at all, and secondly whether these popular variations and opposite values . . . are not perhaps merely foreground estimates, only provisional perspectives, perhaps from some nook, perhaps from below. ... It might even be possible that what constitutes the value of these good and revered things is precisely that they are insidiously related, tied to and involved with these wicked seemingly opposite things -maybe even one with them in essence. Maybe!

(Nietzsche 1966,10)

What is the nature of the project Nietzsche is undertaking as a philosopher 'of the dangerous maybe in every sense' (ibid., 11)? To state the question more fundamentally: on what ground even does this maybe stand? If the extension of 'maybe in every sense' is exactly to dispose of 'solemnly baptised' truth together even more famously with the God sitting imperiously on the 'lap of being', then where in the first place can that maybe come from to call itself dangerous? How does this maybe come to occupy a real identity, or, to phrase the question at a more Nietzschean level, through what force, and in relation to what value does it operate? Indeed, suppose Nietzsche's maybe has, in his terms, succeeded silently and unnoticed to slip on the guise of being untainted by truth, untouched by the hand of God, has managed covertly to lodge itself in the affirming memory of what is. Would that really be a 'dangerous', new, unknown achievement? Are we really dealing with some possibility, which, as Nietzsche frequently assures us, has never previously reared its head in all of time, has emerged 'for the first time in history' (Nietzsche 1956, 9)? Do we not already know this maybe by some other name - a name perhaps which after all embodies the age-old 'prejudice' of metaphysics?

Nietzsche might well expect a rather more positive response to his suggestion, something more than the suspicion of unsubstantiated aspersion and insinuation, the mere reaction (to anticipate Nietzsche once more) of ressentiment. What, he wishes to know, are these already familiar names for a philosophy of 'maybe in every sense'? What other perspectives consider the interrelation, the tied togetherness of opposites, in the exact terms of his maybe?

The immediate and obvious answer which western philosophy provides in a tradition reaching through Marx, Hegel, 'old' Kant, even back to Socrates - is that of dialectics. The process of dialectical synthesis (at least as typically represented) where an absolute state of identity (at the level of sublation) is only reached paradoxically in the contradiction raised as the positive posits its negative (within obj edification) could perhaps be taken to describe the kind of mutual relationship of opposites that Nietzsche intimates. To the degree that the dialectical unity is only produced through a malaise of continuous, necessary, painful altercation, a unity fraught with the irony of unintended outcome, then the relation of opposites which it embodies might well be seen as 'insidious'. Yet it is soon clear that Nietzsche's proposition does not fit comfortably in this dialectical bracket. His opposites are not only related to and involved with one another (and perhaps indeed not even 'opposites at all'), they are also bound in that final clause problematically stating that they are '-maybe even one ... in essence'. 'In essence'? That surely then is to site the relation of opposites before the point of any contradiction, before the moment of objectification can create an antimony, before the dialectical space can exist. It would seem to be exactly the sense in which Nietzsche is implying a founding interaction of opposites in a radically different way to a dialectical perspective - where the metaphysical emphasis on 'peculiar' origins is still retained as an ultimate point of reference - which prompts him to call that possibility 'dangerous' and 'insidious'. For Nietzsche, opposites are 'one ... in essence', not, as in dialectics divided by essence; they are together in metaphorical, simultaneous displacement, not united across the labour of metonymic distance and connection.

If not dialectics, then another immediate possiblity springs to mind which might accommodate Nietzsche's still homeless maybe, a name which has only (comparatively) recently become familiar. Perhaps we are here observing the residual record of an event in the prehistory, the bottomless origin, of what we now call 'post-structuralism'? Surely Derrida would understand the possibility 'that what constitutes the value of these good and revered things is precisely that they are insidiously related, tied to and involved with these wicked, seemingly opposite things'? But stop. That same phrase, that same 'maybe' intervenes: '-maybe even one with them in essence'. 'In essence' is the stumbling block again, now in a rather different way. Derrida's 'insidious relation' of opposites rests in emphasising the denning space between such polarities, until it becomes the dominant, all-embracing force; difference becomes (literally) differance, a force of absence marked rather parenthetically than in itself, promoting the obstruction, the deferral, the delay of identity, opening signification as a continuous movement exactly always just stopping short of, and just starting after, the position Nietzsche's 'in essence' occupies. 'Differance produces what it forbids, making possible the very thing it makes impossible' (Derrida 1976, 143). Essence for Derrida is necessary lie, the guilty face of meaning, the shame-faced admission of origin covering up, concealing, its endless non-origin, not some place where opposites can really and freely meet, collude, cohabit.

Nietzsche then still seems to be offering something different again, his maybe still remains with no name other than its own. But surely this apparent escape is nonetheless revealing itself as an increasing sham, in a sense embroiling Nietzsche as another unwitting victim of the inevitable Derridean conspiracy? After all, how is it 'in essence' can repeatedly come to the rescue of the uniqueness of Nietzsche's maybe without simply and in direct contradiction pointing back straight to the beginning, straight to the 'prejudice which gives away the metaphysicians of all ages'?

Let us hedge that leading question again for a moment, or at least begin by rephrasing it in a different way. Supposing Nietzsche is interpreted at a level which ultimately throws him back - however unwillingly on his part - into the arms of metaphysics, where then? What happens if we do view him as a basically essentialist thinker? We can see one expression of such an interpretation in existentialist attempts to read Nietzsche as arguing for the eventual fulfilment of an enduring and innate human presence and 'good' over and above the interloping, secondary relational consciousness associated with 'evil'. Very different (and that should be emphasised) is to translate this division not so much in terms of the constitution of the individual subject, as in the relative roles of different racial groupings, valorising the fundamental ascendancy of master over slave, of purity and strength over 'weakness' and 'sickness' in an entirely distorted projection of Nietzsche's ideas to support racist and Fascist ideologies. This last misappropriation in any sense is really out of place in assessing a wider platform to analyse Nietzsche, but the main point here is that Nietzsche cannot really be approached through any simple rationalisation of the apparently paradoxical, conflicting, unreasonable formulation he gives us; that is an unstable relational philosophy of opposites, surrounding a regulated controlled philosophy of identity and vice versa. Only by examining how this unlikely 'maybe' can work - or rather perhaps how Nietzsche claims it works - can his key concepts, the reactive/active relation, the wills to power and nihilism, the idea of the 'eternal return', and the 'overcoming' of man in 'overman', be properly focused on and evaluated.

The plan of this paper is to use Nietzsche to frame a discussion of rather more recent trends in 'structuralism' and 'post-structuralism', and to do that specifically in relation to the thought of Foucault and his transition in the late 1960s/early 1970s to a position explicitly and implicitly claiming links with Nietzsche (and then, in a final skew of direction to interpose from this debate into the topic of this book -archaeology after structuralism). The point is not to conduct an analysis ultimately justifying Nietzsche against Foucault or Derrida, or vice versa, and then to impose this new 'truth' as yet another new epistemological underpinning for archaeology - which would be exactly to fall prey to the seductive wiles of what Nietzsche calls the 'will to truth' once more 'tempting us to many a venture' (Nietzsche 1966,9) - instead the aim is to consider the value that binds together such opposing positions in their mutual activity and reactivity. Nietzsche's stated aim as the overall object of his philosophy was to 'attempt ... a revaluation of all values', to question the implicit belief in a necessary moral interpretation of opposites as represented, for example, in Darwinist theory -

the well being of the majority and the well being of the few are opposite views - points of value: to consider the former a priori of higher value may be left to the naivety of English biologists - All the sciences have from now on to prepare for the future tasks of the philosophers: this task understood as the solution of the problem of value.

(Nietzsche 1969a, 56)

It is this spirit of enquiry this paper aims first to explain (necessarily in some detail) and then develop in relation to current debates in post-structuralism and 'post-processual' archaeology.



'Am I understood? . . . Have I been understood? "Not at all, my dear sir." Then let us start again from the beginning' (Nietzsche 1969a, 97-8).

On The Genealogy of Morals is usually seen as Nietzsche's most orthodox, systematic book.2 In that sense - but not without misgivings -this book is an apt template with which to form a provisional understanding of Nietzsche's philosophy. The misgivings arise in the need to be wary of that apparent accessibility, to see that On The Genealogy of Morals is only Nietzsche's most systematic book from the point of view of what it attacks - at root the 'will to truth' - and from Nietzsche's point of view should rather be regarded as his most 'unsystematic' work. Although to many readers it seems entirely incomprehensible, Thus Spoke Zarathustra - 'The greatest present that has ever been made to mankind' (Nietzsche 1969b, 219) - is Nietzsche nearest to his own project and its epistemological, or rather ontological, justification. Indeed Nietzsche's pretext for On the Genealogy of Morals was precisely to provide a guide on how then to go back to such books as Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Beyond Good and Evil, with their poetic and aphoristic structure, and begin to understand his philosophy properly - that understanding was not meant to be directly conveyed in On the Genealogy of Morals itself.

People find difficulty with the aphoristic form. . . . An aphorism has not been deciphered when it has simply been read; rather one has to begin its exegesis, for which is required an art of exegesis. . . . One thing is necessary above all ... before my writings are 'readable', something for which one has to be a cow, and at any rate not a 'modern' man: Rumination.

(Nietzsche 1969a, 23)

What does this process of rumination, this 'art of exegesis' involve? One way of understanding Nietzsche's statement is to consider it as a part of the sense in which Nietzsche sees himself as engaged in writing a hitherto and (for him) significantly absent mythical explanation of and for the modern age. 'Man today, stripped of myth, stands banished among all his pasts and must dig frantically for roots, be it among the most remote antiquities' (Nietzsche 1966, 137). Nietszche's mythology is a 'history' continually displacing an active value structure, at the same time questioning the search for historical truth, and rejecting it as ultimately meaningless. One might almost say then that Levi-Strauss is Nietzsche's ideal reader, a reader going outside the visible logic of metonymic reference and story content to the metaphoric displacements acting through the whole 'mythical' oeuvre, a reader regurgitating, ruminating on and reconstituting into a new form the apparently discrete elements of the text before him - 'almost' because Levi-Strauss still tries to close the myth out, to make material once more a new truth behind it. Nietzsche's aim is rather to leave the constitution of the ultimate meaning of his dislocated aphorisms and poems to the free movement of the 'Dionysian' imagination, displacing the aphoristic parts into a whole which has no translation and remains elusive at the level of 'truth', 'overcomes' such meaning, and in that overcoming has an existence entirely its own.

There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective 'knowing': and the more effects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our concept of this thing, our 'objectivity' be.

(Nietzsche 1969a, 119)

Nietzsche sees 'true' meaning in an aesthetic consciousness, rather than one delimited by metaphysical reason; he can imagine 'a historiography which had in it not a drop of empirical truth and yet could claim to the highest degree of objectivity!' (Nietzsche 1983, 91). To this end, Nietzsche's intention in such works as Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil is therefore to counter any territorialisation of sense, and instead to release the 'objectivity' and meaning which becomes in the endless juxtaposition, the endless aesthetic inter-examination of parts, a meaning which has a moment of absolute presence on its own active terms, through its own imputed value, but not in the words or writing of any material, originary vocabulary. Nietzsche's books are literally to be understood, to exist in becoming, not simply be read, to be passively consumed. Meaning is generated in the 'art of exegesis', not in what is nominally said. Genealogy is 'History for life', history which has real value at this aesthetic level, and does not rest its significance in truth and the 'disinterested' struggle for knowledge.

Thus, if Nietzsche has sought to partly exemplify, embody and make this process easy to 'spot' in the rhetorical relationship of the three essays in On the Genealogy of Morals - on ' "Good and EviI"/"Good and Bad" ', ' "Bad Conscience" and the Like', and 'What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals?' - that has only been done at the cost of a partial seduction to 'the will to truth', a tendency to localise and claim meaning in the divorced logic of any one of these parts or still smaller subdivisions within them. The part appears elevated to a whole in itself, in a way that exposes some of Nietzsche's statements all the more easily to misinterpretation exactly because of the seemingly 'straightforward', 'transparent' format in which they are contained. To understand Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morals as elsewhere, one always has to bear in mind his advice to readers of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (and almost already know what the advice means before it is given): 'One must hear aright the tone that comes from this mouth, the halcyon tone, lest one should do wretched injustice to the reasoning of its wisdom' (Nietzsche 1969b, 219).

The question Nietzsche poses as the basis for On the Genealogy of Morals is: How 'have good and evil originated' (Nietzsche 1969a, 16)? -which is to say, at the level of Nietzsche's enquiry, that 'the value of morality' is 'at stake' (ibid., 19). He is dismissive of accepted arguments, where it is suggested 'good' first appears as a quality ascribed to unegoistic acts perceived as useful by those gaining benefit from them, that this usefulness has then been forgotten, and thus unegoistic acts are now seen as naturally good in themselves. According to Nietzsche, such an explanation is the invention of a subsequent development through which the supporting antithesis egoistic/unegoistic is itself produced. In fact

the judgement good did not originate with those to whom 'goodness' was shown. . . . Rather it was invented by 'The Good' themselves, that is to say the noble, powerful, high stationed and high minded, who felt and established themselves and their actions as good, that is of the first rank, in contradistinction to all the low, low minded, common and plebeian. It was out of this pathos of distance that they first seized the right to proclaim values.

(ibid., 25-6)

Those who advance moral opposition as a natural origin of things in itself are merely evidencing their fall at the hands of 'the ressentiment of natures that are denied the true reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with imaginary revenge' (ibid., 37). So, whereas the good, 'the noble mode of valuation . . . acts and grows spontaneously, seeks its opposite only so as to affirm itself ... its negative concept 'bad' . . . only a contrasting image in relation to its positive basic concept' (ibid., 37), the slave morality produced by ressentiment

from the outset says No to what is 'outside', what is 'different', what is 'not itself: and this is its creative deed. This inversion of the value positing eye - this need to direct outward instead of back to oneself - is the essence of ressentiment: in order to exist, slave morality always first needs a hostile external world; it needs external stimuli to act at all - its action is fundamentally reaction.

(ibid., 36-7)

Nietzsche emphasises the point in relation to the delineation of the concept 'evil', and the difference between 'evil' and 'bad'. For the 'man of ressentiment "the evil enemy", "the evil one" is the basic concept, from which he then evolves as an afterthought ... a "good one" - himself!' (ibid., 39). Thus, where, in 'master morality', 'bad' is merely an 'after production ... a contrasting shade' (ibid., 40), a belated recognition of some vague other which is not its active self, recognition of 'evil' is the primary impulse driving 'slave morality', it is a spontaneously reactive reference to 'the "good" man of the other morality . . . seen in another way by the venomous eye of ressentiment' (ibid., 40). The master does not know evil, only subsequently sees bad, the slave does not know bad, because he first of all sees evil. Good in master morality is the primary, spontaneous adjunct of action, good in slave morality is the derived product of a prior reaction to master morality as evil, and therefore the subsequent referencing of itself as good. Nietzsche goes on to identify the beginnings of ressentiment with Judaism -

the two opposing values 'good and bad', 'good and evil' have been engaged in a fearful struggle on earth for thousands of years . . . the symbol of this struggle inscribed in letters legible across all human history is 'Rome against Judaea, Judaea against Rome.

(ibid., 52)

(and it is most important at this point and throughout to recall Nietzsche's advice to readers of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and not to take such statements at immediate face meaning and insinuation). Moreover, he argues that slave morality, as transmitted through Judaism, to more refined form in Christianity, and finally to its most modern embodiment in science has triumphed and continues to triumph over master morality in the overall control of western society; the 'ascetic ideal' is insidiously dominant everywhere in these different forms.

The more detailed elaboration of this process and of what Nietzsche means by the 'ascetic ideal' is first prefaced in the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morals by a discussion of 'conscience' running directly parallel to that of 'good' and 'evil', and it is here that the concept of the 'will to power' is also more explicitly introduced. Again Nietzsche is quick to dispose of claims that the restraint of 'conscience' and 'responsibility' is a symptom of a natural and fundamental morality. On the contrary, such ideas have only emerged at the end of a struggle where man first had to gain the capacity to make promises, which is to say once man had succeeded in displacing the primary, active tendency to forget, with the secondary reactive tendency to remember.

Forgetting is no mere vis inertiae as the superficial imagine; it is rather an active and in the strictest sense positive faculty of repression ... a little quietness, a little tabula rasa of the consciousness, to make room for new things . . . above all for regulation, foresight, premeditation ... - that is the purpose of active forgetfulness.

(ibid., 57-8)

The 'robust health' of this forgetfulness has nonetheless 'bred in itself an opposing faculty, a memory, with the aid of which forgetfulness is abrogated ... in the cases where promises are made . . . this involves no mere passive ability to rid oneself of an impression . . . but an active desire not to rid oneself, a real memory of the will' (ibid., 58). Only when man had 'become calculable, regular, necessary' (ibid., 58) in this way, only when he had imposed a system of 'mneumotechnics' most basically linked to the application of punishment and pain, could he begin to promise, to 'stand security for his own future' (ibid., 58), and accordingly lay himself open to qualms of conscience about the need to honour that security.

One way of framing this development is in the distinction between 'good' and 'bad' conscience (where 'good' conscience is not really 'conscience' at all, in the same way that 'good' in master morality is not really a moral judgement). Nietzsche examines this question by considering the meaning of punishment as analysed at the level of a creditor/debtor relationship. The basic form of punishment then does not devolve from the desire to correct the criminal (the debtor) 'because he could have acted differently' (ibid., 63), rather it relates to the sense in which the debt owed to the creditor (the person against whom the criminal act was committed) must be reimbursed, at the level of pain and suffering. Whether or not the true wrongdoer is punished hardly matters, as long as the action of punishment, the collection of debt is carried out on someone. In so far as there is conscience at this level, it is on the part of the creditor to fulfil the impulse to punish for his own sake, not in relation to any sense of moral transgression felt by the punished, or indeed in any desire in those who punish even to produce that sense of moral transgression in the criminal.

If we consider those millennia before the history of-man we may unhesitatingly assert that it was precisely through punishment that the development of the feeling of guilt was most powerfully hindered - at least in the victims upon whom punitive force was exacted.

(ibid., 82)

'Good' conscience is purely active, representing the simple impulse to act, to exercise will for no more purpose than that of exercising will, of pointing completely to, demonstrating dominance over, something that is external. Law, too, accordingly begins not to enshrine 'justice' but to institutionalise a context for operating this active impulse, 'that of making suffer' (ibid., 76) - thus, '. . . during the greater part of the past the judges . . . themselves were not at all conscious of dealing with a "guilty" person' (ibid., 82). Concepts such as 'just' and 'unjust' appear only after the law is instigated, they are created by the law as its superficial justification.

The development of the now dominant 'bad conscience' is sited by Nietzsche at the point when man 'became finally enclosed within the walls of society' (ibid., 84), when the action of good conscience finally became constrained by the appearance of the state, a happening that good conscience itself partly induced by the invention of such restrictive social conventions as law. The result was, according to Nietzsche, the 'internalisation of man' (ibid., 84), which is to say that former outward reaching drives could now only be turned inward on oneself. 'Hostility, cruelty, joy in persecuting, in attacking ... all this turned against the possessors of such instincts' (ibid., 85) '. . . the instinct for freedom forcibly made latent . . . pushed back and repressed . . . able ... to vent itself only on itself . . . that is what the bad conscience is in its beginnings' (ibid., 87). This 'instinct for freedom' - '. . . in my language the will to power' (ibid., 87) is on the one hand then the primary dimension through which 'good' conscience acts, but it also forms the basic raison d'etre of the process of internalisation via the construct of 'bad conscience'; the will to power is at another level what produces ressentiment. It is as an extension of the will to power that the self-denial and self-sacrifice associated with bad conscience are made to appear the source of 'freedom', a source of justification for life. Thus, it is at this juncture that conventional ideas of morality, guilt, the origins of religious behaviour, and the invention of God as the Redeemer, belong. What bad conscience perpetuates 'is the will of man to find himself guilty and reprehensible to a degree that can never be atoned for ... his will to erect an ideal... of the Holy God - and in the face of it to feel the palpable certainty of his own absolute unworthiness' (ibid., 93).

Bad conscience as the 'positive' correlate of ressentiment - the specific mechanism whereby slave morality legitimates itself as 'good' - gives an advance clue to the answer to Nietzsche's next question, forming the basis for the final essay of On the Genealogy of Morals: 'What is the meaning of Ascetic ideals?' (ibid., 97). The key to the problem, can, for Nietzsche, be seen in the simple fact 'That the ascetic ideal has meant so many things to man' (ibid., 97) which itself implies 'a basic fact of the human will . . . it needs a goal, and it will rather will nothingness than not will' (ibid., 97). It is precisely this 'will to nihilism' which Nietzsche takes to define the ascetic ideal, a will in the first place originated out of the necessity imposed by internalisation. On the surface then

the ascetic life is a self contradiction: here rules a ressentiment without equal, that of an insatiable . . . power - will that wants to become master not over something in life, but over life itself; here an attempt is made to use force to block up the wells of force . . . pleasure is felt and sought in ill constitutedness, decay, pain, mischance ... we stand before a discord that wants to be discordant, that enjoys . . . suffering.

(ibid., 118)

Thus the ultimate discovery of philosophy itself perhaps - as a procedure which 'would not have been possible . . . without an ascetic misunderstanding' (ibid., 116) - would be to declare 'with ascetic self-contempt and self-mockery of reason . . . "there is a realm of truth and being, but reason is excluded from it!" ' (ibid., 116).

Superficially, then, this process of setting 'life against life' seems 'physiologically . . . and psychologically ... a simple absurdity' (ibid., 120). Yet that impression is a perverse mask, concealing exactly the fact that the ascetic ideal is all along 'an artifice for the preservation of life', and moreover could not operate did it not implicitly believe itself to be so, were the will to power not behind it. 'The meaningless of suffering, not suffering itself was the curse that lay over mankind . . . and the ascetic ideal offered man meaning!' (ibid., 163). Moreover, because at his deepest level the ascetic idealist must therefore always dislike himself, want 'to be different, to be in a different place' (ibid., 120) then paradoxically he possesses a dynamism which makes 'this apparent enemy of life . . . among the greatest conserving, and yes-creating forces of life' (ibid., 121). Out of continually threatening life the ascetic ideal claims to display the 'freedom' of life, and the paradoxical way it argues for this redemption is precisely what is at the the root of its appeal and triumph in western society.

Nietzsche outlines this success in detail, with, as ever, his most vociferous polemic aimed at Christianity. But nor does he accept that even those places where atheism and anti-asceticism might seem to have emerged - notably the rise of post-Darwinian science - in any way corresponds to the overthrow of the ascetic ideal; quite the reverse indeed. For Nietzsche science 'is rather the latest and most refined form of it' (ibid., 147). Thus 'Science first requires in every respect an ideal value in the service of which it could believe in itself ... it never creates values' (ibid., 153). In classic ascetic fashion 'all science . . . has at present the object of dissuading man from his former respect of himself . . . [aims to sustain] the self-contempt of man as his ultimate and most serious claim to self-respect' (ibid., 153).


We are left then with three nominally historical and obviously overlapping stories concerning the emergence of good and evil, bad conscience, and the ascetic ideal respectively. What is now required is to attempt the 'art of exegesis', the process of 'rumination', seeking at least to provide the conditions for the release of a meaning beyond such surface appearances.

The basic structure which forms the grounding reference of Nietzsche's thought is the division between active and reactive forces.3 It is immediately clear that it is not sufficient merely to say that active force is 'primary' (with the insinuation 'better'), and reactive force 'secondary' (with the insinuation 'worse'), even if that is superficially the linear relationship embodied in the sequence of Nietzsche's historical dramatisation. Indeed, it is possible to argue that, on the contrary, it is reactive force which is in some ways more 'primary' than active force. Thus, while the condition of ressentiment as a basic expression of reaction is simultaneously defined by the act of recognising the other it automatically calls 'evil', active force only really becomes fully 'active' in the secondary process of acting; good in master morality only comes to exist as it progressively exerts its goodness in relation to something - 'bad' ('Good was invented by the good themselves . . . who established their actions as good in contradistinction to all the low, common, and plebeian' (ibid., 25-6, emphasis added)) . To put the point another way: The will to power is present in ressentiment from the very moment of its founding presence (as contained within the justification of bad conscience), whereas the will to power relates to good in master morality as the drive making it act, making it only then realise its activity and goodness. Reactive force is fundamentally conscious, where active force only has consciousness in so far as that consciousness is produced through action (i.e. as prescribed in the rather limited sense of 'good' conscience) - and that indeed is the basic reason, that, within Nietzsche's historical scenario, active force has become dominated by reactive force. If then in the first instance reaction seems secondary to action, that is precisely an implicit reference to the sense in which reactive force has a more basically 'active' identity than active force (so, for example, the ascetic idealist of slave morality 'is among the greatest conserving, yes-creating forces of life' (ibid., 121)). It is reaction that naturally 'acts', action that acts 'in relation to', the man of ressentiment needs nowhere to direct his drives but on himself, the man of action needs an external other to direct his drives at - which is what makes him, in Nietzsche's sense, 'active'. So paradoxically, the active needs the reactive as much as (if not more than) the reactive needs the active; moreover neither has an innate being without the other, both exist through different kinds of co-relation to the other.

Yet it is equally important to Nietzsche's argument to see that the fact that active force and reactive force are in one way sustained at a relational level does not compromise the absolute separation of those forces; for Nietzsche (unlike Hegel) there is no part of the slave in the master, no part of the master in the slave. In one sense, action may need reaction to see, to be active, but it can never see as far as reaction, can never designate evil, only recognise the 'contrasting shade' of 'bad'. Likewise, reactive force necessarily sees active force as 'evil', which is to say it never appreciates any part of what active force is to itself. The quality of force therefore derives from relational value, but value does not impinge on or break down the absolute distinction of forces. Active force and reactive force at one level continually become together, but never get to the point where they can in any sense join together, reach a moment of synthesis; it is this necessary state of becoming which Nietzsche refers to as 'the eternal return' (and this is also the sense in which opposites are 'insidiously related' and 'one in essence' - i.e. one in constant becoming). The condition of force as a differential condition bound to the will to power is to justify itself against the perceived contrary force (i.e. to survive and live), but precisely because force is thus prescribed as an expression of opposition, the same basic stasis of active/reactive relationship must always be reproduced; the other at one level eternally returns the same at another.

This is the basic insight of Nietzsche's position and it is from here that his 'revaluation of all values' is legitimated. What might properly be termed 'meaning', 'true' life, is specified in the overall becoming value of the eternal return (i.e. the ultimate sublimation of the will to power), not the claim to absolute values producing the eternal return. Nietzsche's Zarathustra lives in the shadow of his avenging demon, and it is that admission of a relationship to something which nonetheless remains completely other (i.e. of an identity which must always be becoming) which constitutes the value of Zarathustra's life and teaching, not what he is in himself (or what the demon is in itself). Thus when Nietzsche talks of 'overcoming' what he means is a going beyond the eventual justification of either reactive or active force, he means precisely the realisation of a value (at the level of becoming) which opposes values. While the active/reactive opposition is what makes the eternal return, ultimately that opposition has no more meaning than as a structure of opposition, it has no 'natural' meaning, for example, in terms of 'good' versus 'evil'. It is only by seeing this that a real value can be grasped which can, in a sense, distinguish between 'good' and 'evil' beyond a level where both with equal right will necessarily reduplicate themselves as 'good' in their own estimation. Nietzsche's philosophy, his notion of 'overcoming' man through an aesthetic (as opposed to metaphysical) consciousness is thus absolutely not a philosophy of 'anything goes', on the contrary it is exactly to demonstrate that anything will go only as long as things falsely take their founding legitimation from a system of moral relationships (as Deleuze (1983) puts it, Nietzsche emphasises the 'negativity of the positive'). 'Truth' belongs to those who claim it (i.e. the 'good' of master morality, or the 'good' of slave morality), it is not produced via the arbitration of any final, 'natural', truth. For Nietzsche, where the natural arbitration of things comes from (or rather becomes) is at a different level. 'Only as an aesthetic phenomenon is the world and the existence of man eternally justified' (Nietzsche 1956, 42).

As if to finally emphasise the point that the active/reactive juxtaposition was only ever a relation of opposites, not a relation where the active was intrinsically 'better' than the reactive, it is exactly from within the reactive that Nietzsche sees the disjuncture out of which 'overcoming' is precipitated. One reason then why it is 'in the interests of life that such a self-contradictory type [as the ascetic ideal] does not die out' (Nietzsche 1969a, 117), is because in so far as 'truth' for the ascetic ideal is claimed in the 'freedom' of self-sacrifice and self-questioning, then the ultimate 'truth' it can reach is precisely to question the value of the will to truth itself. 'After Christian truthfulness has drawn one inference after another, it must end by drawing its most striking inference, its inference against itself: this will happen . . . when it poses the question "what is the meaning of all will to truth" ' (ibid., 161). The ascetic ideal necessarily leads to a point where its fundamental justification - that the will to nihilism is better than no will at all - is fatally undermined, where the will to nihilism and the will to power are no longer pulling in the same direction, and thus the 'act of self-overcoming' is generated. 'From the moment faith in the ascetic ideal is denied, a new problem arises: that of the value of truth' (ibid., 153).


We are now in a position to review in more detail Nietzsche's relationship to 'post-structuralism'. At first sight, Nietzsche's argument might seem ripe for Derridean deconstruction. How can he really claim that active and reactive force maintain their integrity, while freely admitting the relational constitution of forces by difference? Can we not see here Nietzsche falling for the fatal attraction of the supplement, entering in to the age-old adulterous relationship with identity; perhaps we could even place ressentiment alongside hymen or pharmakon etc. as the place of emergence of this guilty secret?

Yet it is equally clear, of course, that Nietzsche knows Derrida as well as, if not better than, Derrida knows Nietzsche. What is this talk of guilty secrets? Does not post-structuralism exactly restrict the process of meaning within a moral judgement? Can we not see the archetypal weakness of reaction, of ressentiment at work here, infused into the very density of language itself? Does not Derrida push ever further the effects of that moment when man 'found himself first enclosed by the walls of society' (Nietzsche 1969a, 84) (Which is to say the moment when ressentiment first became institutionalised)? Is the judgemental role of differance not precisely to prevent the signifier reaching out, fulfilling itself, enjoying the pleasure of its will to power and freedom in the action of pointing completely to an external other, the signified? Instead the signifier suddenly finds itself implicitly reproached at any outward movement, is given nowhere to vent the will to power but towards itself, its only inspiration the false comfort which differance teaches that this self-sacrifice is necessary to allow existence, to allow any will (if only the 'will to nihilism'), any pretence of presence, at all. In short, does Derrida not leave the signifier gripped with 'bad conscience', but seeing in that not so much a sign of weakness, as a virtuous, meretricious admission, the ascetic ideal par excellence^ 'This is precisely what the ascetic ideal means: that something was lacking [my emphasis], that man was surrounded by a fearful void ... he suffered from the problem of his meaning' (ibid., 162). Post-structuralism almost marks the point of the 'last man', the ultimate realisation of 'intemalisation', the final refuge (where refuge is not so much a desperate last hide-out, as a space of ever 'more elusive, more spiritual, more captious' (ibid., 155), occupation) of the ascetic ideal, of Christianity itself! 'Man is slipping faster and faster away from the centre . . . into a "penetrating sense of nothingness" . . . hasn't this been the straightest route to the old [ascetic] ideal!' (ibid., 155)

The post-structuralist 'freedom' of the signifier thus emerges as the same (for Nietzsche) pernicious and disingenuous 'freedom' offered in the Christian idea of Redemption. Differance is another Christ nailed to the cross, accepting self-destruction, violation of body, dissolution of earthly presence and identity, the end of the signified, with the understated, paradoxically disarming justification that this sacrifice is for us, for the sake of, not against meaning! The key is when we see that deconstruction does not, nor was intended (as is sometimes implied) finally to disperse and end meaning -

The trace is not only the disappearance of origin - within the discourse that we sustain and according to the path we follow it means that the origin did not even disappear, that it was never constituted except reciprocally by the non origin, which thus becomes the origin of the origin.

(Derrida 1976, 61, emphasis added)

We must then also see that, perversely, and in a covert, far more damaging way deconstruction's silent raison d'etre must be exactly and self-righteously to save meaning, to redeem it, to give it new sense of life, to allow it thankfully and contritely to see itself in its eternal sin before it is too late! The signifier is left overwhelmed and penitent, thankful for that little, fleeting and finally flawed identity it has, bound by the humility demanded to preserve this slight gift - therefore also perceiving itself as strong and residually active exactly at the point where it is weak and reactive, unable to see that it has really been robbed, prevented from ever actually understanding the suffering it so much covets, and wrongly interprets, as evidence of its 'good' health and 'freedom'. The Derridean signifier is forever reassuring itself that 'the will to nihilism is better than no will at all', affirming that view as a positive because it cannot - must not for its own salvation - see the negative element.

Of course, given that the Nietzschean overcoming of man emerges exactly from the final stages of the ascetic ideal, then rhetorical posture aside, such a Nietzschean 'critique' of deconstruction could rather be taken to point to the common project which both Nietzsche and Derrida share. Derrida does seem to be involved in the same basic problematic as Nietzsche - the questioning of the will to truth, and the realisation that there is a valid zone of meaning beyond that prescribed by metaphysics (or in Derrida's terminology that prescribed by 'logocentrism'). It is not necessarily surprising then that Derrida (1981) has been one of a clutch of 'post-structuralist' critics - also including Deleuze and Foucault - to affirm their relationship to Nietzsche in positive terms.

Yet that said, it would still clearly be inappropriate and simplistic to directly conflate Nietzschean genealogy with Derridean post-structuralism or vice-versa. Nietzsche's 'overcoming' overcomes in order to reach a non-material aesthetic consciousness, where Derridean 'overcoming' (i.e. deconstruction) is precipitated by extending the text to every corner of consciousness, so precisely shutting out the possibility of the final escape of identity to refuge outside the material realm of textuality. According to Derrida 'There has never been anything but writing [i.e. difference]' (Derrida 1976, 159, emphasis added), where for Nietzsche 'the fact that everyone can learn to read will ruin in the long run not only writing, but thinking too' (Nietzsche 1969c, 67). Nietzsche sees a danger that meaning will become trapped in the unnatural material restriction of writing -exactly the distinction between an inferior material (textual) representation of identity and a higher, more immediate embodiment of presence located in the spontaneity of thought and speech, which deconstruction sets out to destabilise. Thus Derrida's 'eternal return' (i.e. the endless dispersal of 'substitutional significations') works completely at the level of the other, where the Nietzschean eternal return is motivated by the other, but still means the return of the same (albeit the same as becoming). From a Derridean point of view Nietzsche's argument is still necessarily flawed if with the 'right' intent, while for Nietzsche Derrida remains at best only on the edges of self-overcoming, still clinging at metaphysical meaning in the paradox of revealing its falsity, rather than displacing such meaning completely.

Foucault's somewhat ambivalent relationship to Derridean post-structuralism (as he incorporates an emphasis on textuality and difference within the theory of discourse, and yet sites such a project in the seemingly contradictory terms of some form of historical analysis) in part reflects this distinction via the sense in which the 'later' Foucault is exactly attempting to realise a 'post-structuralism' around a Nietzschean framework (and let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is a logical pattern of development behind Foucault's oeuvre).

In so far as the Foucault of Madness and Civilisation (1973), The Order of Things (1974), and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972) was writing a structuralist 'history', then he might well seem to invoke the Nietzschean criticism that his project is little more than 'anti-history' (Nietzsche 1983). According to Nietzsche, 'anti-history' involves the characterisation of the past in terms of periods of discrete individual identity, where the lack of attempt to link those periods in any overall context of historical development is not so much an attempt to find a new level of meaning for history, as it is a reflection of the endemic historical disinterest of a self-satisfied present. Foucault would, of course, have rejected any such suggestion. On the contrary, his claim was that the 'structuralism' embodied in his earlier works was at the level of methodology rather than epistemological intent, an analytical strategy to recover the logic and reason of past discursive formations, and thereby exactly to demonstrate the falsity of any prevailing claim to reason, to emphasise the present as an accident of the contingent eruption of the event. Foucault's 'archaeological' investigations were consciously conceived as the opposite of any attempt to fix the past within the stable unity of an underlying structure; that, for Foucault, was rather the aim of traditional historical analysis. Archaeology is focused on the 'constant verticality' of history so as 'to discover on what basis theory and knowledge becomes possible, within what space of order knowledge was constituted' (Foucault 1974, 21-2).

Thus Histoire de la Folie (translated into English with the title Madness and Civilization) is much more about the 'madness of history', the unreason of a reason which seeks to prescribe the understanding of madness as a unitary, progressive development, than it is a 'history of madness'. The book (and Foucault's subsequent The Birth of the Clinic, 1975) stresses how the emergence of those discourses seeming to speak for and understand madness, in reality involved a speaking over and through madness to the emergent problem of the modern 'episteme' - the ambiguous identity of man as both subject and object of representation arid discourse. The 'enlightened' treatment of madness therefore took its cue from the need to rationalise and distance the unreason at the basis of modernity itself, and in fact inaugurated a far more rigorous exclusion of the discourse of madness than had operated in the pre-classical age. Likewise, The Order of Things (in the original French version entitled Les Mots et Les Choses, though Foucault stated a preference for the English alternative) is better seen as an analysis of the 'disorder' of things, a study of the absence of a natural, guiding logic behind the appearance and consolidation of the discourses of biology, language, and economics.

Yet the iconoclasm of Foucault's interpretations cannot conceal a basic epistemological contradiction in 'archaeology'; however much Foucault tries to maintain a position contra-history, the ultimate legitimation of his argument has to be an extension of orthodox historical consciousness/ metaphysical reason. Derrida was quick to raise the point in criticism of Madness and Civilisation, noting the necessary impossibility of writing a history of madness without, in the final analysis, the support of reason, without indeed reproducing the appropriation of the discourse of madness Foucault nominally criticises - 'We might have the right to ask what, in the last resort, supports this language without recourse or support . . .? Who wrote and who is to understand, in what language and from what historical situation of logos . . . this history of madness?' (Derrida 1978, 38). Where this difficulty is most explicit is in the paradoxical status of Foucault's concept of the episteme -

the total set of relations that, unite at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalised systems . . . [the episteme} is the totality of relations that can be discovered, for a given period, between the sciences when one analyses them at the level of discursive regularities.

(Foucault 1972, 191)

The obvious question becomes, how does Foucault escape the historical a priori of the contemporary episteme - is his analysis not similarly situated according to a pre-determined set of 'discursive regularities' ultimately bringing it back, however unwillingly, to the level of a kind of Nietzschean anti-history? Foucault poses the problem for himself in the conclusion to The Archaeology of Knowledge: 'You give yourself the whole field of a free space. . . . But are you forgetting the care with which you enclosed the discourse of others within systems of rules? . . . You make revolution very easy for yourself, but very difficult for others' (Foucault 1972, 208). The reply to his own query hedges the issue behind statements which if plausible in themselves must nonetheless rebound on the ultimate heuristic legitimation of archaeology:

the positivities I have tried to establish must not be understood as a set of determinations imposed from the outside on the thought of individuals . . . [they are more] the field in which the initiative [of subjects] is articulated. ... I have not denied - far from it - the possibility of changing discourse.

(Foucault 1972, 208-9)

It is this problem and the search for a better answer to it - an answer that at the same time does not not fall into what Foucault sees as the Derridean trap of reducing 'discursive practices to textual traces; the elision of the marks therein and the retention only of marks for a reading' (Foucault 1979, 26-7) - which prompts Foucault's consideration of an alternative to archaeological knowledge based in the 'overcoming' of Nietzschean genealogy. In some ways this does not seem a very significant departure; Foucault's first major 'genealogical' study Discipline and Punish (Foucault 1977) retains much the same periodisation, subject matter and direction of argument as his earlier works. One response might be to regard Nietzschean terminology as a new legitimation for a mode of analysis which is still essentially archaeology and beset by the problems of archaeology; a kinder appraisal is perhaps to note that archaeology had always shared close affinities with a basically Nietzschean posture. Foucault's laughter at the Chinese classification of animals taken from a passage from Borges which opens The Order of Things - with categories such as 'Belonging to the Emperor', 'Innumerable', 'That from a long way off look like flies' - is prompted as he sees here a reason collapsing 'our age old distinction between the same and the other' (Foucault 1974, 15), in short a reason precisely embodying the active Nietzschean process of 'forgetting', rather than complying with the endless metaphysical struggle for memory. Foucault's own classifications of discursive modalities characterising The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge can be closely identified with a similar attempt to institute a logic of 'forgetting', to disperse a meaning in the 'illogical' displacement of overlapping categories of analysis rather than to try and tie meaning down deterministically through the external imposition of those categories (which helps to elucidate the grounds of Foucault's defence of 'archaeology' at the end of The Archaeology of Knowledge}. Another covert genealogical emphasis in archaeology had been the implicit concern with the issue of power, and the role of the institution (however understood) in constituting patterns of action and discursive production. As the genealogical Foucault was to reminisce 'When I think about it now, I ask myself what could I have been talking about in Histoire de la Folie for example, or Naissance de la Clinique if not power?' (cited in Sheridan 1980, 115). The breakthrough for Foucault was not only explicitly to see the issue of power, but to see that issue at a Nietzschean level where the will to power is fundamentally an impulse of begetting rather than of repression, where power is linked in the first place to the preservation of life, and only secondarily takes the form of disciplinary regulation and control. Here was a principle which offered a new way of questioning the operation of discursive formations, and also, as there could be nothing from the start which was not involved in the will to power, gave Foucault justification for a 'historical' analysis outflanking the residual historicism entombed in the epistemic structure of archaeology.

So whereas 'archaeology' had fallen at the hurdle of being itself a new totalising system of knowledge which could only have the same legitimation in 'truth' as orthodox history, Foucauldian genealogy, on the model of Nietzsche, claimed consistently to oppose the production of truth at a 'normal' metaphysical level.

How can we define the relationship between genealogy . . . and history in the traditional sense . . . Nietzsche's criticism always questioned the form of history that reintroduces a suprahistorical perspective: a history whose function is to compose the finally reduced diversity of time into a totality fully enclosed upon itself. . . . Once the historical sense is mastered by a suprahistorical perspective metaphysics can bend it to its own purpose . . . the historical sense [must] evade metaphysics and become a privileged instrument of genealogy [refusing] . . . the certainty of absolutes. (Foucault 1984, 87)

The way this happens is when power is admitted as object and source of Foucault's discourse, so precipitating an acknowledgement of 'becoming' which carries with it a 'true' 'historical' sense, not a collapse into relativism; relativism is what those who submit to the will to knowledge participate in (i.e. in the sense of Nietzsche's 'will to nihilism'). Thus in Discipline and Punish the basis of the analysis is to 'make the technology of power the very principle both of the humanisation of the penal system and of the knowledge of man' (Foucault 1977, 23), indeed to examine the 'way in which the body itself is invested by power relations' (ibid., 24);

Foucault is writing Nietzschean 'history for life', history which in one way can be regarded as 'mythical', but in exactly that sense has a 'real' relationship to the present. Foucault is not writing the 'history of the past in terms of the present', he is writing 'the history of the present' (ibid., 31). As the notion of punishment as fundamentally repressive is overthrown in Discipline and Punish (cf. Nietzsche's consideration of the nature of punishment), and the fallacy of the repressive hypothesis in relation to the control of discourse on sex is exposed in the first volume of The History of Sexuality (Foucault 1980), Foucault also overthrows any similarly repressive absolute network of historical meaning, and opens the moment of Nietzschean becoming. Foucauldian genealogy is written through and is a writing of the sublimation of the will to power in western society.

Foucault, then, is best described as a 'superstructuralist' (in the sense of Nietzsche's 'superhistory' or 'super[over]man', not, of course, at the more general level of Hariand's (1987) use of the term), rather than a 'post-structuralist' in the deconstructive mould. His achievement is in a sense to extend the Nietzschean insight to a treatment of the past which is far more 'substantive' than Nietzsche's own schematic and sometimes seemingly offensive historical outline. One might still argue - and doubtless Derrida still would - that this is at best a clever piece of theoretical justification which cannot evade the metaphysical grip of any level of historical analysis, however nominal that history claims itself to be. The technologies of truth are strongly inculcated in the historical statement whatever the surrounding theoretical network which seeks to resist that implication - and to a point that is a valid criticism. When Foucault describes the operation of Panopticism in Discipline and Punish for example, it is hard not to see this as an interpretation of the past as the past, and that that is where it derives its meaning and impact.

Perhaps, indeed, one might then do better to look at a domain of study of the past where technologies of truth are even now very much in their infancy, where overcoming has always been an incipient possibility. . . . What of the potential of archaeology itself as the object of a genealogy, a potential Foucault ironically overlooked in his continual use of the term?


Let us ask a rather strange question, although one logical in the present context: Is archaeology good or evil? Or more pertinently: should archaeology be good or evil? What is the value of archaeology?

The question will be examined here from three different directions: the historical context of archaeology, the opposition in contemporary debate between processual and post-processual archaeology, and a consideration of the technologies through which the archaeological body is controlled (or rather willingly controls itself) in terms of the will to truth. These categories are not absolute, but are schematic, overlapping, contradictory and self-displacing. They are categories of genealogical enquiry.

The Historical Context

The history of archaeology has never been seen as particularly problematic. In the conventional scenario the emergence of archaeology is tied to a breakdown of the ahistorical mode of thought dominant in the eighteenth century (which had been marked by strict adherence to the biblical canon and also at a different level by the interests of Cartesian/Newtonian science) induced by the 'truth' which the evolutionary movement in its different forms from Lamarck and Buffon through to Spencer and Darwin, gradually began to reveal. The transition from antiquarianism to archaeology naturally occurs as a component of this emergent historical consciousness (Daniel 1962). The problem has been one of the detail of this development (for example the exact origin of the word 'prehistory' (Chippindale 1988)), not a more fundamental critique of how 'natural' and ultimately necessary the constitution of archaeology really was, how real the identity of archaeology itself - as the explicit study of origins and identities - has ever been. Where 'critical' evaluation of the history of archaeology has been raised is more at the level of 'filtering' out historically transmitted biases in the current way we approach the past - for example Rowlands' discussions situating the genre of explanation typically applied to later European prehistory through the historical context of archaeology within the capitalist mode of production (Rowlands 1986; 1987) - rather than to put that desire to get to the truth itself in its 'historical' context.

It is clear at the very least that in so far as the genesis of 'archaeology' does indeed connect to the evolutionary debate as orthodox accounts suggest - for example as directly represented in the work of Lewis Henry Morgan or General Pitt-Rivers - then that is only one of a much more complex web of origins. For example, the description of archaeological sequences in terms of an early, middle, late or archaic, classic, post-classic periodisation might be seen to reflect, and in some degree derive from, the tripartite division of the post-Hegelian dialectic (as distinct from a wider tradition of cyclical descriptions of human development from Montesquieu to Vico and beyond), and this can be seen particularly as such a structure was influential on the analysis of material culture at an art historical level (e.g. Westropp 1856; Gardner 1883). Indeed one stimulus to the formation of an 'archaeology' might exactly be at this level where material culture became an interesting and intrinsically significant aspect of discourse in relation to the problematic the Hegelian process of objectification posed. In the context of human identity conceived as a dialectical problem, the material object becomes the literal embodiment of the externalisation of the subject (i.e. man), and the field of tension between idea and object, between the productive action of man and the form of material culture, is promoted as a 'natural' focus of study.

In one sense then the emergence of archaeology might be sited alongside Foucault's description of the shift to a more 'humanitarian' treatment of madness, that is as a construct of the underlying foundation of late eighteenth/nineteenth century 'reason' at a point where man has become the problem which discourse surrounds and is generated by, rather than simply one of the objects which discourse illuminates, describes and differentiates. The constitution of archaeology as the study of the deepest and remotest origins of man correlates with the need to resolve the contradiction of an emergent world view where that identity and absolute origin of man is both its basic problem, and its basic point of becoming. So, in Nietzschean terms, one might say that archaeology arises and is legitimated precisely out of the process of internalisation, where the will to power is turned further inward on man himself, and life and knowledge come to rest in continually and paradoxically questioning the provenance of 'man'. The appearance of archaeology represents the progressive realisation of a necessary truth, only in so far as that truth is prescribed by a wider shift in the mode of sublimation of the will to power.

From another perspective it is interesting to consider the related degree to which the new procedures forming the incipient archaeology can be understood in Foucauldian terms as comprising an elaborate disciplinary technology. The rationale of systematic excavation, classification, and codification which characterises and is closely connected with the realisation of a discrete archaeological identity in the nineteenth century (the classifications of Thomson, Worsaae, and Montelius, Petrie's seriation procedure etc.), at one level associated with the transition from an antiquarian discourse of resemblances to an archaeological discourse of absolute correspondences, can also be seen to embody a more rigorous set of implicit restrictions through which patterns of action and the operations of the body are specifically and carefully regimented and controlled. It is no coincidence that the principal innovators in excavation technique, notably Pitt-Rivers in the late nineteenth century and Mortimer Wheeler in the early twentieth century had strong military connections, and indeed the analogy between the process of excavation and the organisation of a military campaign has often been stressed (Wheeler 1954). One interpretation at this level might, then, be to relate the appearance of archaeology to a series of technologies of discipline and order (of which the foundation of the modern prison system and the laying down of penal codes would be the most explicit example) produced through and reinforcing the particular structure and conditions of nineteenth-century western capitalist society. Pitt-Rivers openly advanced the model and practice of archaeological procedure as a means of reproducing the wider hierarchical social structure of contemporary Britain (Thompson 1977). Yet it is clear too that this disciplinary technology cannot be purely understood as a repressive mechanism, whether openly manipulated or operating as part of a more dispersed and unconscious network of social discourse and order. The sense in which the emergent and literal discipline of archaeology was perceived from the start as a process of necessary labour required to produce 'truth', and 'correct' meaning (e.g. Lubbock 1865, see introduction) is itself important as a reflection of the origins of archaeology within a kind of Nietzschean ascetic ideal. One might say in those terms that what the methodological format of the new archaeology of the nineteenth century represents is not so much a structure of simple disciplinary domination, as one incorporating in another form the emergent and underlying problem of human identity. Self-regulation and self-discipline in the minutiae of archaeological procedure is a context for establishing a 'natural' logic of human action and presence exactly called into question at the root of post-Enlightenment ontology, and indeed called into question very much more explicitly and directly in the rapidly changing political and social conditions of contemporary Europe.

There is a great deal more surrounding the appearance of archaeology than any simple cause of abstract 'truth'. The discipline did not only emerge in the modern age, it emerged because of the modern age. That is no new realisation, but it is perhaps one whose implications have not been properly considered. As Nietzsche might have seen it, it could be said that from its inception archaeology has been bound up in the ascetic ideal; and thus, on a face value reading of Nietzsche, archaeology in its historical context would therefore also have to be considered more 'evil' than 'good'.


Easily forgotten, particularly as it has become fashionable to associate processual archaeology with the reproduction of a basically conservative ideology (e.g. Shanks and Tilley 1987, chapter 2), is the extent to which the 'new' archaeology was conceived as a radical, path-breaking, and in the general context of the 1960s, even a politically motivated departure (cf. Binford 1972). The 'newness' was the extension into archaeology of a perceived wider liberation from habitually and non-critically accepted structures of meaning and living. This explicit incorporation of a self-conscious memory into archaeological methodology and epistemology is a significant watershed (notwithstanding the fact that archaeologists such as Childe and Collingwood had always been 'critically aware') beyond which both the 'mature' processual archaeology, and the subsequently realised structuralist/post-processual archaeology, equally belong. Thus, the contemporary era of theoretical awareness, however that awareness is differently formulated and characterised, fundamentally involves (in terms, at least, of the dominant perception of how archaeology had operated previously) 'the transition of archaeology from noble innocence to self-consciousness and critical consciousness' (Clarke 1973, 8). Almost in Nietzschean terms, that is to embody a transition from 'master morality' to 'slave morality', in another way a re-purification of the reactive context which had spawned archaeology in the nineteenth century. One might nevertheless say that processual archaeology seeks to constrain this reaction in an active posture, where post-processualism aims to emphasise the reactive quality itself, and indeed the main thrust of the anti-processual critique is exactly to 'expose' the similarly reactive nature of processual archaeology.

The stance taken by processual archaeology - or at least that 'first generation' processual archaeology associated with the early work of such as Binford, Clarke, Renfrew and Flannery - is first explicitly to acknowledge that the interpretation of the past is inherently problematic, and to argue accordingly that such interpretation (the truth of the past) can only be reasonably pursued at certain limited levels of abstraction. Those levels of abstraction are located in the realm where general laws (such as rules of functionalist prediction (e.g. Binford 1962; Schiffer 1976) or at least some component of cross-cultural generalisation - for example as represented by systems theory (e.g Clarke 1968; Renfrew 1972)) can be formulated and then linked to archaeological data through 'middle range' theory (Binford 1983). In a sense then, processual archaeology is self-conscious only to the degree that such consciousness does not compromise the possibility of an absolute, 'true', interpretation of the past; indeed the explicit object of processual critical awareness (where it is implicit in post-processual approaches) is to make that interpretation more true, more exactly representative of some past reality. The way it does that is precisely in the supposed merit attached to the admission that the whole truth of the past cannot be known, that the historical uniqueness of particular contexts and the meanings of symbolic representations are necessarily inaccessible and lost to the archaeologist.

So, to the extent that processual archaeology does embody an explicit component of self-criticism, involves an equation of truth with the rigorousness of its testing procedures, with constant evaluation of the quality and representative integrity of the data, that should not be taken to imply directly that behind all this the reactive element is uppermost. Rather it is the case that this nominal reactive tendency is viewed as part of the middle range question of how best to apply and localise interpretive force, maximise interpretive efficiency (cf. Binford and Sabloff 1982). Critical consciousness does not connect to a more fundamental self-regulation at the level of compromising the basic desire to dominate and completely reach out to a past divorced from the present. Thus what is not questioned (in the first instance at least) is the situated context of archaeology itself in a particular set of social structures, historically constitued meanings, and arbitrary discursive regularities; the past/present relationship is de-emphasised (or rather left silent), and the stress is all on producing the most reasonable understanding of the past in itself (though that may involve considering the contemporary context in so far as distorting biases can therefore be isolated and removed). The admission of one absence at the level of the constraint of possible interpretation to only certain kinds of analysis, conceals a second covert absence, that of the present, in the processually produced past. That is indeed also the sense in which processual archaeology might, from a Nietzschean perspective, be considered basically active, and from its own point of view primarily 'good'. In metaphorical displacement, one might draw an analogy with Foucault's description of the technologies of punishment operated under the aegis of the European ancien regime (Foucault 1977). The penal system underpinning the ancien regime is restricted to the process of trying and executing the criminal within a formalised and deliberate procedure justified against the generalisations embodied in the law, these generalisations formed on the basis of widely established principles of what is 'just'. No pretence is made actually to cure, reform or treat the criminal, or even to listen to and understand his words, his reasons for committing the crime, except in so far as they go towards identifying the generally defined condition of guilt or innocence (the presence or absence of a general pattern). The strength of the system is its explicit claim to operate only in the terms of those variables which can reasonably be known and controlled. Indeed it is not necessarily annoying that the criminal on the scaffold (or the particular aspects of the archaeological data which cannot be reduced by generalisation) might cry out to the watching crowd and renounce the system that sentenced him, talk of the particular circumstances which make his conviction through the level of generality offered by the law unjust. Rather it is almost hoped that the condemned will cry out in this way, will demonstrate the impossibility of any pluralistic system of justice based beyond that area of discourse definable as the source of secure knowledge, beyond an arbitrating force applied equally and generally to all (data), reaching out without reserve from the point of sovereign authority (science).

The place of departure for post-processual archaeology, and its justification as a more sophisticated approach to the study of the past (which ultimately does mean a 'truer' interpretation), is precisely to begin to listen to the voice of the madman, or the criminal - to emphasise the particularity of contextual meanings. The analogy might now be drawn with Foucault's analysis of the humanitarian and liberal reform movement of the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century. Where post-processual archaeology is fundamentally based is in the claim to free the madman, to get to the real complexity of the data, really to begin for the first time to study 'process', to join Pinel or Tuke in cutting away the restraining shackles (of generalisation), to interpret the words of the oppressed, the specific meanings and symbolism of the past. In a sense the 'truth' offered by processual archaeology is not questioned; what is questioned is how far that truth really tells us anything at all at the level it is derived. How can it be just to ignore the madman or condemn the criminal without even trying to understand (difficult and perhaps even impossible as that may be) and to cure madness and criminality, without even trying to make the deviant (elements of the past) see reason? Is it really secure knowledge simply to make certain kinds of complexity an inaccessible category without attempting first to examine the nature of that complexity - perhaps this excluded zone, the words of the madman, or the symbolic contexts of the past, or the context of the past in the present, is exactly where 'meaning' lies all along. Thus one aspect of the post-processual critique has been to argue that processual archaeology was necessarily involved with the symbolic and contingent meanings it claimed to isolate itself from (e.g. Hodder 1982a). So, even at the most simple level, a basic unit of archaeological description such as the term 'potsherd' necessarily embodies a particular and contingent meaning. Within post-processual archaeology the madman is uncovered as a facet of the very reason which had previously loftily and without conscience automatically distinguished itself from madness.

That, of course, does pose a difficulty. Where is any ultimate meaning whatsoever to come from, where is the humanitarian to take his stand and nonetheless preserve order within the freedom of liberal understanding? For post-processual archaeology, whether implicitly or explicitly, the answer is to erect the constraint of 'context' (Hodder 1982b; 1986; 1987b; Barrett 1988), mediated on the one hand between the emphasis on material culture as meaningfully constituted (as demonstrated through structural analysis of the historically specific form of particular archaeological contexts, e.g. Hodder 1984), and on the other by the realisation that that meaning takes its sense not from any abstraction of the past in itself, but from the production and situatedness of the past in the present (as analysed in a hermeneutic/dialectical framework (Shanks and Tilley 1987, chapter 5)). The generalisations that inform interpretation within this duality are justified as the product of critical reflection, that is in one sense they actively incorporate a contemporary critique at the level, for example, of questioning the dominant portrayal of gender relationships (Gibbs 1987), or current norms of social relations and power structures (Shanks and Tilley 1982), and yet in another sense the process of interpreting the past is held to act back on these generalisations, so constituting an eventual interpretation which while reflecting and acknowledging the past/present relationship is not completely subsumed by the interests of the present. One common interest of post-processual archaeology, for example, has been the attempt to locate the active individual in the past (much as Pinel and Tuke sought to find the individual behind the category of the madman), drawing on (an at times somewhat basic reading of) the structuration theory of Giddens (e.g. Giddens 1979) and Bourdieu's theory of practice (Bourdieu 1977). The limitation of context is defined neither simply in the structure enabling action (such as symbolic meanings), nor in the general process of action itself, but in the recursive relationship of the two together supporting and reforming one another (e.g. Leone 1984; Barrett 1988). Thus contextual/ post-processual archaeology claims to inaugurate a more mature approach to developing the understanding of the particular (the structure and the specific historical trajectory of change) within the process of the general (such as patterns of human action etc.). In this way a 'critically' formed meaning is closed (e.g. Hodder 1986, chapter 7).

To return to the metaphor of Foucault's discussion of the eighteenth/ nineteenth century humanitarian reformers - they too sought to limit the interpretation of criminality or madness within context, and the place where that context emerged was called the asylum or the 'modern' prison. The asylum was a place where the deviant could be observed, studied and heard, the nature of unreason understood at one level, and accordingly and in mutual interaction the appropriate treatment to recover the mad to the side of reason devised and administered. Eor Foucault, these new institutions were a space where both the reformers and the reformed became locked in a new geometry of power, a new procedure of self-regulation and self-constraint on both sides. The symbol of this shift is Bentham's Panopticon, the material embodiment of the humanitarian system of disciplinary control. In relation to the Panoptic structure, on the one hand the deviant must constantly police himself in terms of, and feel aware of, the prescribed norms of behaviour and reason, even though he can never see the observer or actually know whether he is ever observed. And on the other the observer in the central Panoptic tower is also constrained by the specific procedure of observation, and by the paradox that to see one prisoner is effectively to see all. The process of observation becomes one of non-observation (absence), and yet to observe (to maintain the illusion of presence) remains a requirement, more so for the sake and identity of the observer than for the control of the observed. So, indeed, it might be argued, does the concept of context locate itself within the Panoptic structure of post-processual/contextual archaeology. Contextual archaeology produces the past through the ironic mode of a sustained double entendre. The archaeologist in the present becomes locked in the procedure of still having to observe the past while admitting that the past in itself, or any part of its original unity, is not completely observable (is observed only in absence), and meanwhile the contextual meaning of the past is accordingly closed in obedience to the continuous threat of a never actually present watching presence. This is both the founding and the legitimating paradox of 'critical reflexivity', where context must be both within and without the 'text' simultaneously, the point which post-processual/contextual archaeology prides itself upon, finds perverse 'truth' in terms of.

Within a Nietzschean framework, then, post-processual archaeology might be seen as fundamentally reactive, basically tied to the ascetic ideal, promoting a truth of the past by its rigour in questioning the ground upon which any such truth might be constructed. One could almost say too that post-processualism is essentially a posture of ressentiment; it defines itself as 'good', and realises bad conscience in the form of context, in relation to the 'evil' of the archetypal processual approach, not in any necessary good attached to post-processual archaeology in itself - indeed it positively refutes any such suggestion of such self-good, as, for example, one more symptom of the bourgeouis ideology lying behind archaeology (e.g. Shanks and Tilley 1987). Furthermore, it is exactly because of this fundamentally reactive nature that post-processual archaeology has such a disparate identity, and has been effective because of rather than despite that in breaking down the processual position; once processual archaeology begins to lose the fundamental innocence on which it rests it must become fatally flawed, where for post-processualism ever more vigorous criticism and self-criticism is exactly how it sustains the validity of the interpretations it offers of the past.


How is it possible to make the statement 'the past does not exist', without making a particularly contentious or philosophically abstract point, and yet at the same time also without undermining the basic justification of archaeology, processual or post-processual alike, which is to argue that at some level the past in a part of itself does exist?

To clarify the point: Stonehenge exists, the British later Bronze Age exists, and so on. Yet as has been emphasised many times in recent debate (as one example the emic/etic discussion), these things exist as they are constructed through meanings in the present, not as they naturally represent and necessarily embody some part of the past which is not the present. Thus, most archaeologists would only ever claim to offer interpretations, even if they might claim that some interpretations can be demonstrated to be more 'true' representations of the 'real' past than others. The disjuncture of processual and post-processual archaeology is then at one level on the question of how far towards the original meaning of the past it is possible to get, not a question of whether there is or ever will be a fixed, finally correct archaeological meaning (or at the very least that such a finally deciphered past, and presumably with it the end of any need for archaeologists, is a long way off); both accept in that sense that the past does not exist. One might say indeed that archaeology must as its starting point embody a basic ability to ignore the fact that it will always ultimately fail in its stated aim. Moreover it must learn to accept that the extent of its failure in the cause of an absolute 'truth' will be consistently more obvious than the equivalent 'failure' of any other of the social (or other) sciences which archaeology has assiduously sought to emulate and claim equal academic status with. Thus the standard throwaway line about a 'mature' archaeology actively contributing to wider interdisciplinary debate is largely written for the benefit of other archaeologists, not because anyone outside archaeology takes such a statement as a serious possibility. What needs to be questioned is how, then, does archaeology continue to maintain its identity, continue to operate within the guise of science and truth when it would be difficult to argue that any final truth about the past has ever been discovered - certainly more difficult than it would be (even if with no more ultimate validity) than in the domains of study occupied by anthropology or history, for example?

What will be considered here, more as an observational than a primarily critical exercise, is what might be viewed as the 'technological' devices through which the 'body' of archaeology - the material forms through which the discourse of archaeology is produced - controls itself in terms of the will to truth. We need to try and 'see' the machinery which regulates and masks - not as false consciousness or ideological mystification, but simply as an apparatus of practical legitimation - the evident fact that the will to truth can never, even fleetingly, be consummated in the pasts we write. Below, merely as one rationalisation, one fictionalisation perhaps, of this essentially non-discursive process, three such technological systems operating in contemporary archaeology will be outlined.

Archaeological Description as Archaeological Truth

The first technology we might observe is one which acts to induce a particular kind of forgetting, tacitly to make 'truth' out of aspects of archaeological enquiry which are not 'truth' nor indeed at the explicit discursive level are even perceived to be so. One form of this process is where strategies of analysis are made synonymous with the 'truth', rather than viewed as means of obtaining a 'truth' which can only ever be provisional and unstable.

Thus, as one example, the whole elaboration of excavation techniques, and the involved and minutely regulated discipline of recording, observing and preserving the material record of the past connects to the assumption that this process through its very complexity and apparent scientific abstraction must necessarily be producing a more 'true' past. One might say that the correct emphasis is that it is a very specific level of truth which has been produced through this development, an identity of the past made manifest through scrupulous attention to the carefully dissected form, size, postition, and relationship of entities such as 'contexts' and 'features', a truth which is real in itself - in terms of the discipline to which it belongs - but reveals no necessary knowledge about the past where 'features' and 'contexts' nominally originate. The art of a particular discourse of identification and representation, providing a picture of the past formed only in the image of a regularising procedure entirely external to the past, is nonetheless necessarily taken to indicate a greater knowledge of the past.

What is interesting is the way this technology has in fact generated and been partly sustained through a range of counter discourses demonstrating that greater knowledge of the past per se has not really been obtained through it. Two examples would be the site formation processes debate (e.g. Schiffer 1976), and the debate on the appropriate and best form for excavation publication (e.g. Frere 1975; Cunliffe 1982). As the site formation question implies, complex patterns of artefact and feature relationship recovered by sophisticated excavation are in the first instance no more than that, no more than a pattern of complex relationships; they do not directly translate to a more correct interpretation of the past. And similarly, the site report controversy underlines the point that the excavation archive does not translate itself into a natural body of meaning and a truer account of the archaeological record. It may indeed be that we now have less actual truth about the past than at any time previously in the history of archaeology, exactly in the sense that we have more evidence of it.

Another example of this general technology is the use of radio-carbon dating, and the related idea that through the 'radio-carbon revolution' an 'absolute' archaeological chronology has become available. Certainly, radio-carbon dating has had a very great and useful impact in archaeology, but is it right to suppose that this necessarily connects to a 'truer' knowledge of the past? As a hypothetical example, consider the statement 'An AOC beaker was associated with a radio-carbon date of 1950 50 bc', which would appear to be a solid statement of archaeological knowledge. Yet, in a sense, all that sentence really means is 'a radio-carbon date of 1950 50 bc, having nothing whatsoever in itself to do with the archaeological past, happened to be associated with an AOC beaker'. The point is not to cast aspersions on the general validity of radio-carbon dating, or to say that radio-carbon dating has not indeed been an important breakthrough for archaeology, but rather to question the notion that because we have radio-carbon dates the past becomes more true, and therefore that radio-carbon dates reveal a truth about the past. All radio-carbon dates reveal is an abstract structure relating to radio-carbon dates. The implication of archaeological truth is only derived in relation to and after that.

If this seems to make a great deal of stating the obvious, that is the point. It is precisely by habitual acceptance of what is too obvious and embedded to criticise explicitly that this group of technologies is effective in sustaining an apparently real level of archaeological truth.

Archaeology as Other than Archaeology

A second technology closely related to the first is the process of constituting the truth and identity of archaeology in relation to anything but the identity of archaeology itself. The meaning of the past is established at a level which constantly defers and leaves absent an actual 'archaeological' meaning, covertly and implicitly conceals the fact that no such meaning or even a true disciplinary identity of archaeology as such exists.

This procedure is manifest in many ways (for example at another level in relation to excavation technique or radio-carbon dating) but the most obvious example has been in the context of the post-1960s theoretical debate. Behind the mask of repeated calls for and announcements of a pending development of a truly 'archaeological' theory a whole industry and labour of discourse has developed explicitly sustaining archaeology in terms of meanings developed within other disciplinary positions. As one example, one of the leading 'archaeological' theorists, lan Hodder, has so far drawn that 'theory' from human geography (Hodder and Orton 1976), statistical analysis (Hodder 1978), Chomskian structuralism (Hodder 1982b), Marxist ideology analysis (Hodder 1982c), Collingwoodian hermeneutics (Hodder 1986), Braudelian history (Hodder 1987a), Weberian historical materialism (Hodder 1986), post-structuralist linguistic theory (Hodder 1988), etc.

This, of course, might seem an almost inevitable process, and this paper is located in the same technology, the same maintenance of an archaeology by consistently reaching outside it. One might indeed say that any disciplinary position is defined in the same way; but it is still worth considering, why, were this a paper in philosophy or social theory for example, it would be very unlikely to be drawing its argument from the latest discussion in the archaeological literature.

The 'Loss of Innocence'

The recent theoretical 'awakening' has also in a more explicit way marked what might be seen as a major technological innovation in supporting the archaeological will to truth. This might be termed, in Clarke's much used phrase, the technology of 'loss of innocence'. In effect, this has been to produce an accepted and naturalised context and mode for discourse on the impossibility of actually achieving archaeological truth exactly as a means of sustaining that aim; the very proliferation of discourses on the fact that the past is ultimately inaccessible to the archaeologist has deferred the impact such a realisation might seem to carry with it, and enabled archaeology to believe itself to be more truthful than ever. Shanks and Tilley give one statement of what 'loss of innocence' in its post-processual phase means: 'What is important is that archaeology recognises its temporality and fragility, recognises itself as a contemporary practice . . . [where] established positions . . . need to be criticised and transcended' (Shanks and Tilley 1987, 246). In this process of continual criticism, of one theoretical posture transcending the next, the 'real' past itself is allowed to disappear, exactly, it would usually seem, as a means of talking about that past as if it had not disappeared -or at least still talking in terms which persist in locating some kind of truth, some kind of original unity, within the past (the truth of ideology analysis for example).

In more specific terms, this effect is maintained by a careful procedure of apparently logical argument. One archetypal argument of the 'loss of innocence' technology is as follows: the notion of a once existent past in itself is posited, yet qualified by arguing that that past is no longer recoverable by the archaeologist. Nonetheless, it is thus possible to claim that the archaeological past is still some transformation and reflection of this original unity, and not, therefore, a complete fabrication that did not in any actual sense exist until the point of archaeological analysis. So the past which is denied in the 'maturity' of critical awareness, is almost immediately reconstituted barely disguised by a stress on the 'mediated' and 'situated' nature of archaeology; the capacity of the past to evade the structure of its manufacture in the present (however much that may seemed to be 'reflexively' emphasised) is implicitly constructed.

To talk of these three technologies - and doubtless this rhetorical framework could be elaborated and extended - is not to imply archaeology (grasping once more the Nietzschean metaphor) to be necessarily 'evil', to suggest that modern excavation techniques, or recent heightened theoretical awareness has not marked an improvement, has not greatly extended the potential to generate a valid archaeological knowledge. What it is to imply is that that knowledge is not necessarily in itself 'good' either, that it has only been formed round that value through a specific process of discipline which needs itself to become the site of, in Foucauldian terms, an archaeological and then a genealogical investigation.


'Of course our interpretations may be incorrect, but our misreading of the language does not imply that the objects must remain mute' (Hodder 1987b, 2). But what does it imply? What does it mean for archaeology to cling on to a realm of meaning, to perpetuate the will to truth in the continual and admitted face of the fact, as in Hodder's statement, that truth in itself is not attainable? What is the implication of archaeology's explicit connection, most clearly in the recent post-processual movement, with what might in Nietzsche's terms might be seen as as a tradition of ascetic self-criticism? This paper has suggested that archaeology should exactly turn to the possibility of exploiting that long association to its advantage, finally to see the implication that where archaeology can be most effective and meaningful is not in relation to 'truth' at all, but outside it, reaching out to the potential of what Nietzsche calls 'overcoming'.

Indeed, to write a conclusion at this point, to pull together the strands of the argument into an overall unity, seems to run contrary to that notion of 'overcoming', to the Nietzschean and Foucauldian framework which has been elaborated here. It would be better perhaps to avoid the overtones of a 'conclusion', and the process of weaving together this text into the unity of a final, dominant meaning, and instead to do no more than indicate the intent of what has been written, leaving the text free to write its own endless conclusion. Much as Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morals sought to set up shifting and intersecting planes of meaning and understanding in the overlap of the three essays which make up that book, so, here, the attempt was made to open a similarly structured discussion of the relevance of some of Nietzsche's and Foucault's ideas to archaeology, not just to talk about, but also actively to construct a discussion of archaeology seeking to stretch the conventional parameters of archaeological discourse and meaning. That discussion was still very much of theoretical possibilities, very much in the mould of much post-processual debate. Yet, in a sense the real potential this paper aimed to uncover - the conclusion it might have had - is that the real place where this 'overcoming' can happen is in the process of archaeology itself, the interpretation of material culture, in the multitude of possible connections and abstractions which the very apparent inaccessibility of the archaeological past allows it to provide. It is exactly because archaeology is situated on the periphery of the social sciences, exactly because its data are disseminated, shattered, and broken across the millennia in a relationship to the 'real' past which must always seem difficult and elusive, that archaeology is precisely the place to locate a genealogy, to examine the possibility of going beyond good and evil.

This is not to say that archaeology should give itself over to some kind of relativist free for all. On the contrary, it is to point exactly to the relativism of the current state of archaeological knowledge based on endless oscillation between the 'goods' of such polarities as processual/ post-processual, or in a more implicit way data and theory, past and present, active and reactive. What is an archaeology bound up in the admission that the past it interprets will never be finally known or knowable if not relativist? What this paper is about, indeed, is exactly the attempt to find a meaning of the past which does have, on its own level, a final security, a security reached by probing beyond that metaphysical limit which archaeology, more than any other social science, only ever sustained by an immense effort of will and memory.

In so far as this is a polemical call, it is a call to regain innocence, to in one way relearn to forget, to comprehend that beyond the struggle for memory is perhaps a meaning nonetheless; a call to enable archaeology as the primary site of this excavation by the very virtue of all those problems, limitations and difficulties it has become so fond of talking of. The archaeological past is eternally a foreign country. There lies its potential not its loss. Archaeology should site its project as that of recovering a kind of myth rather than a kind of history. It should push the ascetic tendency of a post-processual, even more so a truly post-structuralist posture, to its logical conclusion, to the juncture where the will to truth is questioned. There too the past may lie. Maybe.


I would like to thank Grant Chambers for encouragement and discussion in the course of writing this paper, and also lan Hodder who read and commented on an earlier version.


1. The point here in placing Nietzsche in relation to a schematic division between dialectics and post-structuralism is simply a rhetorical device to show that his thought cannot be easily be placed either within an archetypally essentialist or non-essentialist bracket; it is not to imply, of course, that Nietzsche cannot equally be sited in relation to a wide variety of other theoretical postures. See, for example, papers in Wood and Krell (1988).

2. The discussion of Nietzsche here is largely based on a brief exegesis and discussion of On the Genealogy of Morals, so as, within the limited space of this essay, to convey at least some of the flavour of Nietzsche in his own words, and to provide a basic introduction to his thinking. Needless to say, such partial treatment can be no substitute for an understanding based across the full breadth and detail of Nietzsche's writing. For recent syntheses of his philosophy see Kaufman (1974), Deleuze (1983), Wood and Krell (1988).

3. The distinction between active and reactive forces has also been an important, if implicit, grounding reference in the development of the broader current in twentieth-century philosophy. Note particularly the Nietzschean influence here on Freud and the pyschoanalytic theorisation of the development of male (active) and female (reactive) identity (for related discussion on this point, see Nordbladh and Yates, this volume).


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