• Munya Kabba asked a question:
    Can the books, "The Invention of Africa" and the "Idea of Africa" provide insight that enable African overcome its crisis-ridden conditions?

    The Invention of Africa, and the Idea of Africa are books by Mudimbe, an African scholar that is becoming popular.  On learning that his work takes the postmodern perspective of Michel Foucault, a great French scholar, I have felt the need to ask if a work inform by such perspective can provide the much needed insights to resolve Africa's crisis conditions in the realm of political, social and economic development.

  • Ronald Moule added an answer:
    How can Foucault's notion of 'Heterotopia' be connected to the idea of 'Margins'?

    Foucault defined heterotopia as "places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted" (1986, 3). I am working about the theatrical space as an heterotopia in which narratives of identity (and contestation of identity) can be performed and I would like to now the connections with the notion of 'margins' as I understand that an heterotopia is also a 'place for Otherness' (Hetherington 1997)

    Ronald Moule · University of Sunderland

    Foucault's distinction could be one that pre-locates certain spaces as prior to socialisation, thus relatively immune to contestation. In terms of theatre space, in cinema theory much has been done regarding spectatorship using freudian notions of fetishism, feminist analysis of gender; similarly in theatre, women have re-theoriosed space, but mainly in working practice. You might look at Kristeva's idea of chora, together with other psychoanalytic, and largely lacanian notions, but reading Jakobson could be inspiring. Certainly I have used that in working with actors. Early examples from psychoanalysis such as Ferenczi and Freud himself of course worked on Aphasia and "Speaking in tongues": Happy to talk this over with you. Good luck

  • Flemming Bjerke added an answer:
    Did Foucault identify all the body technologies of power/knowledge?
    In his earlier works Foucault described two disciplinary technologies of the body that associated power and knowledge (within institutions such as the school, prison and hospital). The ‘gaze’ produced power by observing subjects, while the ‘archive’ created a repository of these observations, organised in terms of constructed categories (for instance, of diseases, bodies, genders, crimes etc) that allowed power to be exercised strategically and differentially. These together also provide the foundation of modernist research and science.

    His later works turned to technologies of the self, and is replete with examples such as the confessional or codes of sexual behaviour, along with the broader process of ‘responsibilism’ (making subjects responsible for their actions) that is a feature of (neo) liberal society.

    The secondary Foucauldian literature on disciplinary body technologies seems simply to offer further examples of the gaze and/or archive. My question is, are there other (as yet) unidentified technologies of bodies (as opposed to the self)?
  • Zoe Alford added an answer:
    What does the French word "discible" mean?
    Are there any Foucault scholars out there? I'm hoping someone can explain what the word "discible" means. Foucault uses this word in the following sentence: "The Visible was neither Dicible nor Discible"(Birth of the Clinic, p. 60). The original French reads: "Le Visible n'etait pas Dicible, ni Discible". Dicible seems to mean "speakable" or perhaps "able to be put into words". There is a nuance here I suspect, but can anyone help with the translation of "discible"?
    Thank you for making this clearer Nick. Yes, I think we can justifiably conclude that discible = discourse-able, using Foucault's conception of the word "discourse". This makes sense. This question is now solved to my satisfaction.

    I'm so grateful to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. It's amazing to think that we are on different sides of the world, but that we can have such a conversation.

    Nick, thanks for your p.s. I just know I'll be calling on your clear thinking again! :D
  • Nick J Fox added an answer:
    Why are automating technologies "liberating" when classical sociologists speak of doom?
    I'm currently researching technological automation in British agriculture and I am failing to see why the theories of "mechanisms of power" or an "iron cage" don't correlate with the high amounts of techno-optimism expressed by farmers? Is it false consciousness or false sociology?
    Nick J Fox · The University of Sheffield
    Dear James

    This is an interesting question. I am guessing from your summary that you have conducted empirical research and found that farmers regard automation as liberating and offering promise for the future?

    Before I try to address this, just worth noting that when Weber talked about an ‘iron cage’ it was in relation to the social relations and economics of capitalism, that forces people to work for a living (Protestant Ethic, page 181). Yes he was talking about industrialisation, but it was the rationalisation of working life and bureaucracy rather than technology that created this iron cage.

    Beyond Weber there is a broader sociological tradition that has seen technology as de-skilling work (the ‘proletarianisation of everyone’). Taylorism and Fordism in factory work are the prime examples here. In Taylorism, a skilled job is split into a series of components, with one worker responsible for each: these sub-tasks are repetitive and offer little opportunity for creativity. In Fordism, work is mechanised to the extent that workers have to work at the speed of the production line, again leading to workers being alienated from their work. Of course, for Marx, this alienation derived from the social relations of capitalism, which meant that workers had to sell their labour power in order to survive.

    Now I suspect that for farmers, these social relations are different. Many will be self-employed, and will be seeking to maximise their income. Technology represents a means to do just this: think how much grain can be gathered by a combine harvester as opposed to a scythe! Technology also reduces the costs of employing a workforce; where one machine can do the work of ten people, the wage bill is slashed. Offset against that of course is the capital outlay and the cost of diesel!

    So I wonder if this is why your respondents are optimistic. I live next to a farm, and they just love their tractors and automated gadgets to do all the tasks that would take ages to do without technology. When I am cutting my lawns, I envy them their huge mowers that could do my lawns in about ten minutes.

    Does this throw any light on the issue?

  • Alfonso Ballesteros added an answer:
    What is the link between Arendt's and Foucault's appeal to Kant in order to discuss concepts inherited from XIX th.century ?
    Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault appealed to Kant's latest writings in order to ground their idea of modernity as an attitude as well as the human possibility of thinking without universal patterns that ordered judgments about human events. The Aufklarung is meant to be at Kant's writings" What is Auflarung" and "Crirtique of Judgement" the beginning of a particular political thought which was discontinued during XiX th. and half of XX th century
  • Flemming Bjerke added an answer:
    It is possible to cross the hermeneutic Ricoeur selfhood and self-care in Foucault?
    In the final stages of the thought of both authors, the ethical is evident. However, it is possible to cross hermeneutical around as different thoughts, but they are in their concern for the subject?
  • Jeffrey Tallane added an answer:
    Is it possible to establish connections between Ricoeur hermeneutics and Foucault?
    I'm worried about hermeneutic relations of these thinkers in relation to language, metaphor and discourse.
    Jeffrey Tallane · Université Libre de Bruxelles
    1. Kant noticed in his Critique of Pure Reason that the "world" is not a simple object as its concept can't be related to a possible experience, contrary to your exemple of "something behind the wall" where experience is a priori possible as it happens within a world as its condition... It's important as the two objects - world and something behind the wall - work on completely different levels. I know it was just a metaphor, but it could miss something important in the problem if it isn't developed. It is interesting that int the Critique of Judgement, Kant shows the interesting process of "symbolic hypotyposis" (analogy) for metaphysical objects that are necessary presupposed as conditions of experience (world, liberty, god...) but for which there are no possible intuition. Hence, those objects can only be determined, hence thought, through the schematic process that occur with mundane objects (something behind the wall).
    But then you get a new problem : how can we determine which analogy fits best? For Kant, following what is said in his first critique, and a clear division of faculties, such a concept is only correct for a negative use as a simple word to let us say our ignorance. More to say, a kantian answear would be something like : " according to the theoric use of our reason such a question is impossible to aswer, unless you deal with a problem of practical reason". You may not know anything about those metaphysical objects unless you want to justify the way you act in the world...

    This point was precisely hardly criticised by thinkers like Nietzsche as those analogies, the manner of discriminating good or bad uses of analogies and the way a thinker makes them work in moral or political affairs, have positive effect on lives at different times of history. For Nietzsche, it means that Kant's philosophy is far from being neutral. Not to mention that Kant confesses in the very begining of the Critique of Pure Reason that his aim is to make morality possible. Precisely the idea of a necessary transcendantal a priori, which seemed obvious for a whole group of german philosophers during the XIXth, became very suspicious for thinkers like Nietzsche or Karl Marx because it induces the idea that a "world behind our construction" could play the role of a stumbling block for our imperfect and finite construction. But who will be the truth teller about this backworld? As Marx said about Hegel's philosophy : such a story walks "upside-down". In the same way, Nietzsche criticised philosophers who committed metalepsis errors by inverting causes and effects (for instance: considering the subject as the origin of action,...).

    When I question such a "world behind the world", the responses you get are always related to a specific constructions. So the suspicion rose up that such a presupposition of a world behind ou constrruction served to impose a form of life, behaviours, new instincts... Why should one specific construction be the real one? Not to say that Foucault's last courses on Le Courage de la Vérité and the differents modes of saying the truth as a manner for a "critical ontology of the present" were directly linked to this problem! Why should we still continue to practice philosophy as if such suspicions didn't exist? That's why, instead of searching for truth that could resolve a problem, Nietzsche required the courage of facing the problems. And in the same way, Foucault made a "history of problematizations", meaning how problems rose and how they were repressed under problematic solutions that then became obvious. A genealogist has to give importance to the problems, the conflictual ground on which a solution, hence a power relation, arose... Its discourse is necessary partial, it can hardly reclaim a universal validity! The struggle is local, particular, related to your own practices.

    That's why concerning the link between a necessity of "world beyond our construction" and the subject-object metaphysics, I only ask : what's the status of this world behind the construction? how does it work? who does this construction belongs to? how do you link this world, the construction and the "our" to which this construction is referred? who pretends that such a backworld is necessary? how are you sur this necessity isn't a particulary weakness due to a misstated problem that is generalised?

    Not to say again that in my opinion there is also an interesting problem to develop with the complex notion of "world" as it doesn't mean the same if you refer to the homogenous world of physical laws (Welt), the qualitative world of a living being (Umwelt) or the direct environment you live in (Umgebung), only to take the three classical distinctions from von Uexkull's ethological practice.

    2. As I mentioned, Foucault was only concerned with practices that didn"t reach the "seuil de formalisation" (mathematics, physics, etc). And Les Mots et les Choses makes a deep critique of such a pretention in human sciences, a bit like what Georges Canguilhem did with biology and medical sciences (who was also Foucault's Ph.D director for "Folie et déraison, histoire de la folie à l'âge classique" and who inspired his early work). That's why it seems very strange to me when people induce a vulgar relativistic stand inf Foucault : if there are no universals, then everythings has the same value. I think Foucault would more say that there are no universals without universalisations, hence without discursive practaces making a world with a set of particular experiences. Within these experiences some reach this "seuil de formalisation", which doesn't imply that it won't change because of a new discovery (as you can see in the history of sciences). The problem is that there are also other forms of discursive practices that reclaim the same authority but whose modes of truthtelling don't rest on the ability to resist to new problematic experiments but on repression of any possible problematic element. But the mode of testing is specific to a practice of knowledge. Foucault's genealogic practice doesn't consist in giving readmy-made or fast thinking solutions but in reintroducing problems ("l'histoire des problématisations") where people tend to consider somr solutions as obvious or necessary. As Foucault once said: "du possible, sinon j'étouffe!" I think there is no foucaldian solution to metaphysical problems but manners of problematizing their importance in the way we think some practical problems! "Se déprendre de soi-même", as Foucault often said, becoming different!

    For instance I personally think it is stupid to pretend to understand a living being like a cat if you only consider the atomic interactions that constitute this living being, because then you only negated the singularity of it as a cat. The existence of a mouse or the height of my desk has no importance for an atom but it has a lot for a cat. The problem is that we made a worldview (Welt) out of some particular experiences that reached the "seuil de formalisation". But from this result, we thought such a way of thinking could be generalised to all modes of existence, hence it became a way of lowering the importance of a knowledges. If we look at other sciences like biology, ethology our chemistry, why didn't they impose themselve as such a worldiew? Even economy is now ruled with such a physicist mode of thinking inducing the presupposition of a sort of social atomism. But those discourses on truth also have concrete effects on our lives as it induce representations of ourself, manners of describing our situation. But it also serves to discriminate between discourses, saying what is important and what is not in decision making. So, the seriousness given to a form of discourse rises the influence and the importance given to some experts who get the ability to tell the truth in the place of citizens and some of their representatives who are supposed to be concerned with the decisions that are made about them but whose form of discourse don't fit the new normalized standards! Not to talk about the suspicious division made between political, economic and social phenomenons, and the new govrnmentality Foucault saw rising very early during his course on ordoliberalism and neoliberalism in 1978-1979...
  • Dirk Albrecht added an answer:
    Foucault's subjectivity
    My thesis is on Foucault's subjectivity. Does anyone know how I can apply it in a novel? Do you know of any useful literary theory books on the topic?
    Dirk Albrecht · Universität Bremen
    @ Nasrin Babaee: Sorry, I don't know anything about theater, so I can't say what the quality of the relation is.
  • Jeffrey Tallane added an answer:
    I am working on Foucault and the notion of critique. Has any work been done (except Beatrice Han's) in this area?
    To understand this notion better, I am trying to show that while there are shifts in his career, one still can find a continuity. This continuity for me is the relation between four elements Visibility, Articulation, Subject, History. In archaeological period the convergence of relations is Articulation, in Genealogical period Visible and in Ethical period Subject. I would be very grateful to hear about any ideas you have about this relation.
    Jeffrey Tallane · Université Libre de Bruxelles
    Michel Foucault, « Qu’est-ce que la critique ? Critique et Aufklärung », in Bulletin de la société française de philosophie, 84ème année, n°2, Avril-Juin 1990. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/56577710/Foucault-Qu-est-Ce-Que-La-Critique)
  • Flemming Bjerke added an answer:
    what does Foucault say about power , is it power over or power to ?
  • Flemming Bjerke added an answer:
    philosophy of science
    why should philosophy consider Foucault seriously?
  • Jeffrey Tallane added an answer:
    Dits et Èscrits AND creating new topics
    1st: Is here someone, who has currently access to the French edition of Foucaults "Dits et Écrits" (Tome IV, Gallimard: Paris, 1994 or Tome II from the 2001 paperback edition)
    and could tell me please, what is the French title and the first and last page of the interview, which is published in German as:

    ++ Freiheit und Selbstsorge. Gespräch mit Michel Foucault am 20. Januar 1984, in: idem, Freiheit und Selbstsorge. Interview 1984 und Vorlesung 1982 ed. by Helmut Becker / Lothar Wolfstetter / Alfred Gomez-Muller / Raúl Fornet-Betancourt, Materialis: Frankfurt am Main, 1993: 2nd ed. [1985: 1st ed.], 7 - 28


    ++ idem, Schriften. Bd. 4, Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, 2005, 875 - 902.

    In the French edition from 1994 the pages 723 - 726 are part of that interview.

    2nd: I would appreciate, if the admins would a allow to all members of the group to start new topics within the discussion board.


    Jeffrey Tallane · Université Libre de Bruxelles
    For "Freiheit und Selbstsorge. Gespräch mit Michel Foucault..."
    I think the original French title is "L'éthique du souci de soi comme pratique de la liberté" and the article n° is 356.

    Sorry I only have the french 2vol. version:
    "L'éthique du couci de soi comme pratique de la liberté", in Dits et écrits II, 1976-1988, Paris : Quarto/Gallimard, 2001, pp.1527-1548
  • Detlef Georgia Schulze asked a question:
    Foucault and the truth
    Perhaps my paper on "Foucault and the truth" is interesting for you: http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~dgsch/?page_id=525. (Unfortunately it is in German.)

    PS.: Information English, Castilian and French you find there on my homepage: http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~dgsch/?page_id=554
  • David Hirst added an answer:
    Foucault & Kuhn
    « Ce sont tous ces phénomènes de rapport entre les sciences ou entre les différents discours dans les divers secteurs scientifiques qui constituent ce que j’appelle épistémè d’une époque »

    Am I the only one to be forcibly reminded of Kuhn? Were Kuhn and Foucault seperated at birth? WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW!!!!

    His general account seems acceptable to that general position both Haris and I would accept. Nonetheless, Foucault betrays a very nineteenth century vision of Science (even more than Kuhn, who seems blocked in the early 20th century).

    To my eyes, Foucault's error is his "engagement", which is made manifest in his thinking in a most unlovely tendency towards prescription rather than description... "améliorisme", as we say in France (or as we SHOULD say).

    So, my first comment - is social engagement a reprehensible trait in a philosopher?

    My answer is rather a case of crying off... there's no point in re-opening the analytic/continental debate here....

    I'd suggest deleting the initial messages and relaunching the discussion.
  • Flemming Bjerke added an answer:
    Is, therefore, prison the body of the soul?
    Or is it rather the soul of the body?

    Please write you answer on a postcard and leave it behind the cistern of the toilets at L'Escritoire café on the Place de la Sorbonne before midnight on New Year's Eve.

About Foucault

Discussing Foucault's analyses, methods and philosophy

Topic Followers (1033) See all