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

No. of comments: 28

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

No. of comments: 47

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?

No. of comments: 131

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

No. of comments: 37

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

No. of comments: 16

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

No. of comments: 8

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. of comments: 15

“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

No. of comments: 33

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

No. of comments: 19

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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Can one be autonomous in Foucault’s ‘carceral’ society?

No. of comments: 43

Is it possible for individuals to be autonomous today, when evidence suggests that the vast majority simply fall in step, like goose-stepping stormtroopers, with the latest techno-fashions which, in turn, function like sugar-coated pills to lull people into passive, Matrix-like, politically impotent behaviour in front of their PCs or with their iPhones in hand? But […]

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The importance of teaching Foucault in a time of conformism

No. of comments: 55

Every time I teach a course on that inimitable “archaeological” and simultaneously “genealogical” thinker Michel Foucault I realise how important it is for students to be exposed to, and engage with, his unique mode of transformative thinking and praxis, or perhaps, thinking AS praxis. For make no mistake, to discover Foucault as a philosopher is […]