Tag Archives: Foucault

Is social equality an illusion?

Some people evidently thought that in my last post I was writing approvingly about Plato’s division of the community/society into three classes (philosopher-kings/queens — yes, he did allow for women in this category; protectors, and producers). Actually, I was not (as my response to Enough Said about classes indicated), although I admire Plato’s wisdom concerning…

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Marikana: From Foucault’s ‘bio-power’ to Agamben’s ‘Homo Sacer’

Readers of Michel Foucault will know that when he turned to Greek and (especially) Roman antiquity in his genealogical investigation of human sexuality, he found there admirable personal ethical practices, conducive to a high degree of autonomy under the rubric of “the care of the self”. In earlier genealogical studies, however, the picture that emerged…

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Walking in the city of Seoul

Walking the streets of Seoul – the “Soul of Asia” – whenever we have had the time, after giving a seminar at a Korean university at the invitation of a friend, has reminded me of Michel de Certeau’s now classic study, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984), part of which is entitled “Walking in the…

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What is enlightenment?

The question has sometimes been asked (and answered) in philosophy, whether the historical Enlightenment has been sustained. Adorno and Horkheimer, for instance – in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) – claimed that the historical Enlightenment had dialectically been transformed into the subjection to, if not enslavement by, technical rationality and an impersonal system of administration. Willi…

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The genius of Foucault

Few 20th century thinkers have provided as much food for thought on the humanities and the social sciences (that is, the “human sciences”) as Michel Foucault. And the way he does it rescues the human sciences from those uninformed people who contrast them with the so-called “hard (natural) sciences”, the object-field of which – as…

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What Lacan can teach us about capitalism

Jacques Lacan’s theory of discourse is every bit as heuristically powerful as Michel Foucault’s, and in some respects more sophisticated and subtle, although the two theories are compatible. Broadly speaking, Foucault thinks of discourse as language in so far as it bears the imprint of (conflicting) interests – which means that discourse is inseparable from…

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Foucault on the functioning of discourse in society

If Foucault and other poststructuralist thinkers are right (and I believe they are), one is never outside of countervailing power relations in society, which means that, ineluctably, one is always enmeshed in multilayered, overlapping grids of discourses that function in an ambivalent manner to enable, and simultaneously control, direct, disseminate and domesticate human action and…

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Enemies, enemies, everywhere

“No rubbernecking,” I was told by an official when I crossed into Zimbabwe from Botswana in the late 1990s. I immediately understood that as a journalist I am allowed entry as long as I don’t “snoop around”. Zanu-PF’s resistance to being held accountable, also by “outsiders”, had already by that early stage infiltrated the lower…

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The fundamental contradiction in society — conventional vs critical thinking

I wonder if it has always been the case that there is a fundamental tension in society, or societies, between a kind of conventional, mainstream opinion (what the ancient Greek philosophers derogatorily called “doxa”), on the one hand, and a countervailing, critical thread of thinking, on the other. Moreover, in addition to this tension, there…

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Power, Malema and the ANC

Could Foucault’s notion of discourse give one a purchase on South African politics? Indeed, it can, specifically by clarifying the relationship between ANCYL leader Julius Malema and the parent body of the ANC. For Foucault, after the student protests of 1968 one could no longer really believe in the kind of (Althusserian) structuralist Marxist science…

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