Posts Tagged ‘foucault’
The French philosopher Michel Foucault spent his life engaging the present with a passion for epic change. Foucault was not a system-builder, but a philosopher of the present. No matter how abstract or erudite his topics of inquiry, he was fundamentally concerned with the changing world about him. Most philosophers start (if only implicitly) with a point of view on truth and the metaphysical nature of things. Foucault started with a situated vision on how things are changing today. Foucault would ask how he might contribute to these changes so that he too was changed by the experience. This was the point of doing philosophy, for Foucault: to learn to engage with change in such a way that one was transformed in the process.
Michel Foucault was an enormously influential French philosopher who wrote, among other things, historical analyses of psychiatry, medicine, the prison system, and the function of sexuality in social organizations. He spent some time during the last years of his life at UC Berkeley, delivering several lectures in English. And happily they were recorded for posterity:
Four Lectures on Truth and Subjectivity
Six Lectures on Discourse and Truth
Three Lectures on “The Culture of the Self”
This article critiques a number of recent attempts to outline a contemporary theory of panoptic surveillance. It argues that an updated Foucaultian thesis must take into consideration the decentered and networked aspects of information technologies in an attempt to explain how consumer ‘choice’ is shaped by both rewards and punishments. Drawing upon the work of Foucault, Varela, Deleuze and Guattari, a diagrammatic theory of surveillance is developed, one that questions the interconnection between consumer, sales, distribution, and production data.
It is perhaps true that every generation treats the revered thinkers of the previous generation as a “dead dog,” to quote Marx’s famous phrase. When I was in grad school I remember that Sartre in particular was dead to us, too tainted by humanism to be interesting. This was of course a shame. From a rather cursory observation of current conferences and publications it seems that a similar fate is befalling Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard. This may just be another example of a generational shift, but it also may have to do with the revival of interest in Marx and Marxist thought. Thus, focusing on one of these figures in particular, namely Foucault, I offer the following two paragraphs, paragraphs edited out of a published piece, as something of a provocation.
How can activists combat the political paralysis that characterises the anti-dialectical Marxism of Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze, without reverting to a dogmatic orthodoxy? This book explores solutions in the ‘negative dialectics‘ of Theodor Adorno.The poststructuralist shift from dialectics to ‘difference‘ has been so popular that it becomes difficult to create meaningful revolutionary responses to neoliberalism. The contributors to this volume come from within the anti-capitalist movement, and close to the concerns expressed in Negri and Hardt‘s Empire and Multitude. However, they argue forcefully and persuasively for a return to dialectics so a real-world, radical challenge to the current order can be constructed.This is a passionate call to arms for the anti-capitalist movement. It should be read by all engaged activists and students of political and critical theory.
The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Education is the first authoritative reference work to provide an international analysis of the relationship between power, knowledge, education, and schooling. Rather than focusing solely on questions of how we teach efficiently and effectively, contributors to this volume push further to also think critically about education’s relationship to economic, political, and cultural power. The various sections of this book integrate into their analyses the conceptual, political, pedagogic, and practical histories, tensions, and resources that have established critical education as one of the most vital and growing movements within the field of education, including topics such as: Social Movements and Pedagogic Work, Critical Research Methods for Critical Education, The Politics of Practice and the Recreation of Theory, The Freirian Legacy. With a comprehensive introduction by Michael W. Apple, Wayne Au, and Luis Armando Gandin, along with 35 newly-commissioned pieces by some of the most prestigious education scholars in the world, this handbook provides the definitive statement on the state of critical education and on its possibilities for the future.
One of the ethico-political choices of the later Foucault was to focus on the danger represented by psychoanalysis in our developing disciplinary society. Tendentially, such a society, for Foucault, would be “a regulated, anatomical, hierarchized society whose time is carefully distributed, its spaces partitioned, characterized by obedience and surveillance.” If we refer to a developing disciplinary society, it is because, for Foucault, these tendencies encounter resistance, not all the trends and practices of our society are disciplinary, and, therefore, the very powerful disciplinary tendencies which characterize modernity do not constitute a totalization. According to Foucault, “‘Discipline’ may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a ‘physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology.” That developing disciplinary society, in which we moderns find ourselves, has as one of its key feature a political technology of individuals in which the repression and domination of people through the violence, or direct threat of violence, by the monarch or ruler has been largely replaced by the control of people through disciplinary technologies and the disciplines, These latter, the human science, of which psychoanalysis is one, make it possible to discipline the human subjects to whose very creation they have been integral. As C. G. Prado has pointed out, central to Foucault’s account of modernity is:
… what he calls “disciplines” or what can be glossed as techniques for managing people. His point is that disciplinary or managerial techniques were initiated and developed into a technology for the control of individuals. The new techniques continued to operate on the body, as had monarchical torture, but they did so by imposing schedules, restrictions, obligatory comportment, and examinations. In contrast to their brutal predecessors, the new techniques did not inflict violence on the body. Instead of inflicting pain, the new techniques instilled controlling habits and value-sustaining self-images.
From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think that there is only practical consequence, we have to create ourselves as a work of art. The person who voluntarily starves uses her body to recreate herself. She recreates herself ‘as a work of art’ whose bodily form is so confronting that it cannot be, and is not, ignored. The message conveyed by the emaciated self-starver is: ‘Read my body!’
The self-starver is recreating a sense of self, but a self which is not based on a stylised notion of beauty. It is a self which is distant enough from our current culturally constructed notions of aesthetic beauty, ‘outside the dictates of style’, to not be merely a reflection of fashion. It appeals almost to the timeless image of the thirteenth-century Catholic saint or the Eastern ascetic rather than the twentieth-century fashion model. The self-starver challenges our sense of rationality and our twentieth-century Western sensibilities. Foucault’s notions of the relativity of truth and the possibilities of multiple constitution of the self allow us to engage with these apparent anomalies rather than dismiss them as signs of irrational deviance.
Poststructuralism and contemporary feminism have emerged as two of the most influential political and cultural movements of the late twentieth century. The recent alliance between them has been marked by an especially lively engagement with the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault. Although Foucault makes few references to women or to the issue of gender in his writings, his treatment of the relations between power, the body and sexuality has stimulated extensive feminist interest. Foucault’s idea that the body and sexuality are cultural constructs rather than natural phenomena has made a significant contribution to the feminist critique of essentialism. While feminists have found Foucault’s analysis of the relations between power and the body illuminating, they have also drawn attention to its limitations. From the perspective of a feminist politics that aims to promote women’s autonomy, the tendency of a Foucauldian account of power to reduce social agents to docile bodies seems problematic. Although many feminist theorists remain critical of Foucault’s questioning of the categories of the subject and agency on the grounds that such questioning undermines the emancipatory aims of feminism, others have argued that in his late work he develops a more robust account of subjectivity and resistance which, while not without its problems from a feminist perspective, nevertheless has a lot to offer a feminist politics. The affinities and tensions between Foucault’s thought and contemporary feminism are discussed below.