Foucault, Power, and Education

Foucault, Power, and Education invites internationally renowned scholar Stephen J. Ball to reflect on the importance and influence of Foucault on his work in educational policy. By focusing on some of the ways Foucault has been placed in relation to educational questions or questions about education, Ball highlights the relationships between Foucault’s concepts and methods, and educational research and analysis. An introductory chapter offers a brief explanation of some of Foucault’s key concerns, while additional chapters explore ways in which Ball himself has sought to apply Foucault’s ideas in addressing contemporary educational issues.  In this intensely personal and reflective text, Ball offers an interpretation of his Foucault–That is, his own particular reading of the Foucauldian toolbox. Ideal for courses in education policy and education studies, this valuable teaching resource is essential reading for any education scholar looking for a starting point into the literature and ideas of Foucault.

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Foucault’s Last Decade

On 26 August 1974, Michel Foucault completed work on Discipline and Punish, and on that very same day began writing the first volume of The History of Sexuality. A little under ten years later, on 25 June 1984, shortly after the second and third volumes were published, he was dead. This decade is one of the most fascinating of his career. It begins with the initiation of the sexuality project, and ends with its enforced and premature closure. Yet in 1974 he had something very different in mind for The History of Sexuality than the way things were left in 1984. Foucault originally planned a thematically organised series of six volumes, but wrote little of what he promised and published none of them. Instead over the course of the next decade he took his work in very different directions, studying, lecturing and writing about historical periods stretching back to antiquity. This book offers a detailed intellectual history of both the abandoned thematic project and the more properly historical version left incomplete at his death. It draws on all Foucault’s writings in this period, his courses at the Collège de France and lectures elsewhere, as well as material archived in France and California to provide a comprehensive overview and synthetic account of Foucault’s last decade.

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Ineffability and its Metaphysics: The Unspeakable in Art, Religion, and Philosophy

This is a very ambitious book. Silvia Jonas sets out to articulate ‘a common ground for any account of the metaphysics of ineffability’. She defines the ineffable as a nonlinguistic item which it is in principle impossible to express in conceptual terms or to communicate to others by the use of language. She is particularly interested in the uses of the term ‘ineffable’ in religious, aesthetic, and philosophical contexts, where it seems to mark something of special importance or significance, and she aims to provide a basic account that will illuminate both these and many other sorts of talk about ineffability in literature.

The book is difficult, because it deals with many technical issues in recent analytical philosophy. But it is worth-while for the same reason, and it offers a bold substantive thesis that is well worth pondering. Jonas begins by arguing that there are four types of entity which might be called ineffable. First, there are ineffable objects or properties, like ‘the Absolute’ or ‘the One’ (as in Hegel and Plotinus). Second, there are ineffable propositions — truths which cannot be linguistically uttered or communicated. Third, there are ineffable contents, mental states that cannot be linguistically expressed. And fourth, there is ineffable knowledge, epistemic states that are not linguistically communicable. There is clearly overlap between these, since knowledge is a mental state which seeks to express some sort of objective reality, but Jonas uses the division to allow her to consider — and largely reject – a number of different moves in contemporary philosophy which might be thought to support claims to ineffability.

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The Quest for the Good Life: Ancient Philosophers on Happiness

This volume, containing fourteen papers, focuses on happiness in ancient Greek philosophy. There has been growing interest in happiness and its history within various disciplines like psychology, social sciences, literary studies, as well as in popular culture. Indeed, this shift of interest has been characterized as a “eudaimonic turn”, where “eudaimonic” comes from the Greek eudaimonia, standardly translated as “happiness”. Thus, the focus of this volume is very much in line with our contemporary interests, but above all it contributes to the scholarship on ancient Greek ethics.

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Althusser, Spinoza and Revolution in Philosophy

Warren Montag: My political and intellectual formation was governed, fittingly I suppose, by a logic of the encounter: that is, I was extraordinarily lucky. If I had not been in the right place at the right time and in proximity to the right people, I would not have thought or written as I have. In the mid to late seventies in Los Angeles (to which I returned after receiving my B.A. from UC Berkeley), I met both Geoff Goshgarian and Mike Davis and we soon formed a kind of collective with a few others (in particular I remember Samira Haj, now a historian at CUNY, I believe). We also organized a study group in which we read the three volumes of Capital, as well as Mandel’s Late Capitalism and other works.

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Kafka: The Early Years

How did Kafka become Kafka? This eagerly anticipated third and final volume of Reiner Stach’s definitive biography of the writer answers that question with more facts and insight than ever before, describing the complex personal, political, and cultural circumstances that shaped the young Franz Kafka (1883–1924). It tells the story of the years from his birth in Prague to the beginning of his professional and literary career in 1910, taking the reader up to just before the breakthrough that resulted in his first masterpieces, including “The Metamorphosis.” Brimming with vivid and often startling details, Stach’s narrative invites readers deep inside this neglected period of Kafka’s life. The book’s richly atmospheric portrait of his German Jewish merchant family and his education, psychological development, and sexual maturation draws on numerous sources, some still unpublished, including family letters, schoolmates’ memoirs, and early diaries of his close friend Max Brod.

The biography also provides a colorful panorama of Kafka’s wider world, especially the convoluted politics and culture of Prague. Before World War I, Kafka lived in a society at the threshold of modernity but torn by conflict, and Stach provides poignant details of how the adolescent Kafka witnessed violent outbreaks of anti-Semitism and nationalism. The reader also learns how he developed a passionate interest in new technologies, particularly movies and airplanes, and why another interest—his predilection for the back-to-nature movement—stemmed from his “nervous” surroundings rather than personal eccentricity.

The crowning volume to a masterly biography, this is an unmatched account of how a boy who grew up in an old Central European monarchy became a writer who helped create modern literature.

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Read also: Review

Kafka: The Decisive Years

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Islamic Philosophers to Know

If challenged to name ten philosophers in ten seconds, some of us might make it to ten. Most of us could possibly hit seven. Of those, the majority are likely to be ancient Greek figures with the remainder more modern, western ones. If a non-western name is to be offered it is likely to be one of the extremely famous thinkers of Asia, such as Confucius, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, or Sun Tzu. How many of us would produce a thinker from the Islamic world as an example?

This is a shame, as the Islamic Golden Age produced some of the most important thought in human history. It is through Islamic thinkers that the west was able to regain access to the thought of Aristotle and Plato. Of the stars that have proper names in common usage, most of them have the names given to them by Arabic astronomers. We use the numeral system they devised, including the zero. They set the standard for the scientific method for hundreds of years. It is impossible to fully understand western thought without understanding the ideas of Islamic thinkers.

Here are ten of the most underrated and under-appreciated philosophers from the Islamic world, ordered by date.

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La religion de l’ère moderne

Une approche marxiste du phénomène religieux implique un bilan critique du sécularisme libéral. Contre les prétentions de ce dernier, il s’agit d’abord d’envisager le moment théocratique de la religion comme une incapacité de la politique à s’autonomiser. Dans ce texte, Bolivar Echeverria constate que la religion du monde moderne (le fétichisme marchand), bien que sécularisée, reproduit des aspects notables de la religiosité archaïque : elle consacre une impuissance collective, elle empêche la prise en charge commune des affaires publiques. À l’inverse, l’auteur montre en quoi certaines formes de religiosité encouragent l’autonomie politique, citant le jésuitisme catholique et sa tentative de produire une modernité alternative. « Il est indispensable, malgré l’impasse dans laquelle nous a conduit la modernité capitaliste, de revenir au projet profond de la modernité – une modernité qui permet l’abondance et l’émancipation –, et de s’aventurer dans la construction d’une modernité alternative. »

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Why Philosophy Needs Literature

Why do you think that philosophy (in general) needs literature, the humanities, and other arts?

The answer to that question goes to the heart of my recent book Inside Ethics which is—this is one way of putting it—an argument for placing greater importance on the humanities, including literature and the other arts, within moral philosophy in particular. I bring out how we need these disciplines’ non-neutral methods to arrive at the kinds of empirical images of human beings, and also to animals, that we seek in ethics. One of my core claims is that, absent humanistic methods, we can’t bring clearly into view certain egregious wrongs to human beings and to animals.

There is a moral here that extends beyond ethics. I set out to challenge ingrained ideas about how we get the world to view in a manner pertinent to ethics, showing that humanistic and literary contributions are immediately relevant. Along the way, I contest received beliefs about what objectivity and rationality are like. What emerges is a lesson that has application in every part of philosophy—a lesson about needing to widen our understanding of the objective world, and of the types of thinking capable of revealing it. In the book, I bring these ideas to bear, for instance, on a philosophy of mind, arguing that our thinking has to reflect this new framework if we are to do justice to mental phenomena.

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Read also:  Inside Ethics: On the Demands of Moral Thought

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The Conquest of Happiness

Bertrand Russell in The Conquest of Happiness attempted to diagnose the myriad causes of unhappiness in modern life and chart a path out of the seemingly inescapable malaise so prevalent even in safe and prosperous Western societies. More than eighty years later, Russell’s wisdom remains as true as it was on its initial release. Eschewing guilt-based morality, Russell lays out a rationalist prescription for living a happy life, including the importance of cultivating interests outside oneself and the dangers of passive pleasure. In this new edition, best-selling philosopher Daniel C. Dennett reintroduces Russell to a new generation, stating that Conquest is both “a fascinating time capsule” and “a prototype of the flood of self-help books that have more recently been published, few of them as well worth reading today as Russell’s little book.”

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