Was Foucault a closet Habermasian?

by Henry Farrell on July 17, 2006

Jim Johnson “summarizes the argument”:http://politicstheoryphotography.blogspot.com/2006/07/architecture-of-authority.html of one of his more provocative papers on the way to making some points about photography, architecture and Guantanamo.

bq. I always have found it curious how academic political theorists in the U.S. have taken up “postmodern” thinkers to try to argue for a more or less relentlessly skeptical stance, one that presumes we have no more or less stable normative criteria for assessing politics. Nearly a decade ago (1997) I published a paper in Political Theory entitled “Communication, Criticism and the Postmodern Consensus.” There I suggested that far from being systematically skeptical about the grounds of normative criticism, postmodern thinkers actually are committed to a standard of equal and reciprocal communication. … Foucault … goes on to explain that disciplinary institutions — not just prisons, but schools, the military, factories, hospitals, mental health clinics — “have the precise role of introducing insuperable asymmetries and excluding reciprocities” … [In] Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon … “Each individual, in his place, is securely confined to a cell from which he is seen from the front by the supervisor; but the side walls prevent him from coming into contact with his companions. He is seen but he does not see; _he is the object of information, never a subject of communication_” (Foucault 1979, 200 stress added).

bq. As I wrote then and still think: “What Foucault seems to argue here — and what the postmodern consensus obscures — is that disciplinary power is normatively objectionable precisely because it imposes unequal, asymmetrical, non-reciprocal relations and because, in so doing, it obliterates the sorts of extant communicative relations that, potentially at least, could promote social relations characterized by equality, symmetry and reciprocity.” Foucault does not think we actually all inhabit a “disciplinary society” – at least he didn’t think so in the mid-1970s. He (like Hobbes writing about a different modality of power in The Leviathan) was warning us about the dangerous tendencies of modern societies.

One of the reasons that I enjoy Jim’s papers is that he’s a bit of a shit-stirrer. But I also really like this reading on its own merits; it seems to me to extract much of what’s valuable and important about Foucault’s work. To me, Foucault is a little like Bourdieu – his theory of power is less valuable as an abstraction than as a method; an intellectual tool for critiquing social practices that we would otherwise take for granted. But for a critique to really work, it should hint (at the very least) at a vision of how things might be better if they were organized differently. The Foucault of _Discipline and Punish_ isn’t entirely the Foucault who wrote _The Order of Things_ and is more attractive for it (just as the Marx of the _Eighteenth Brumaire_ is more attractive and complicated than the Marx of the _Grundrisse_).

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Neil 07.17.06 at 9:15 pm

The Foucault of Discipline and Punish isn’t entirely the Foucault who wrote The Order of Things and is more attractive for it

The earlier Foucault has about as much in common with the later as, say, Tractatus Wittgenstein with PI Wittgenstein. DP is (implicitly) a critique of pretty much all the fundamental assumptions of OT, including the thoroughgoing relativism of the early work. Foucault obscured this by never ackknowledging it.


vivian 07.17.06 at 9:19 pm

Y’know, I got slammed, repeatedly, brutally and wittily when, as a 1st year grad student, I asserted that Foucault wasn’t normatively a relativist, merely deeply pessimistic about positive changes. (Prof was genius + perpetually jetlagged + going through divorce.) Had someone else in the class brought up photography as well, we could have tag-teamed him.

F recognized that the problem with giving advice (esp for revolutions) is that both sides read it and learn from it – good advice is self-obsolescing. If he’s right, and I think he is, then how much hint can he give of alternative arrangements? How realistic do those arrangements have to be – we can imagine almost anything as variously pleasant and awful.


fifi 07.17.06 at 10:17 pm

Wasn’t he also a closet Islamist? It was a big closet.


mcd 07.17.06 at 11:37 pm

Is something that’s normatively objectionable more objectionable than something that’s merely objectionable? Or, is there any other way for something to be objectionable than normatively so?

One thing Foucault & Habermas have in common (with lots of recent theorists) is to turn everything into “communications”. And to me that doesn’t illuminate anything at all. Would the prison become better, or less of a prison, if the prisoner became an subject of communication? (“stone walls do not a prison make”)


Doctor Slack 07.18.06 at 12:32 am

I don’t know that it’s that uncommon to read Foucault’s descriptions of disciplinary power as “warnings” — I’ve certainly encountered such readings before — but as a comment about what MF himself was driving at I think it’s questionable. MF himself went out of his way to resist characterizations of his work as being moralistic, and not infrequently spoke of his writing about power specifically as a way out of the dynamic of competing political camps who denounced power “in a polemical and global fashion as it existed among the ‘others,’ in the adversary camp.”*

Of course, MF was hardly an ethical “relativist” in all his incarnations — he also at times talked about subscribing to a specific morality of open inquiry and the search for truth, which would seem to indicate that he’d favour a disposition of power that in turn favoured such a morality — but it’s a bit of a stretch from acknowledging this to making a convincing case for the latent Habermasianism (Habermasity?) of Discipline & Punish.

However, that’s not to say that one couldn’t press some aspects of D&P into service of the morality Johnson is discussing regardless of what MF himself might have been driving at. And while I’m not sure he gets MF particularly “right” from what I can see, Johnson seems correct in saying that the “postmodern consensus” gets him wrong (like many of the continental thinkers regularly invoked on its behalf, MF visibly had little time for the whole “postmodernism” donnybrook).

[* Quote yoinked in this case from his interview with Fontana/Pasquino in Power/Knowledge.]


Scott 07.18.06 at 12:38 am

“Would the prison become better, or less of a prison, if the prisoner became an subject of communication?”

Well, I don’t know if it would constitute “less of a prison”, but it would certainly be more humane.


blah 07.18.06 at 1:17 am

Foucault was simply Charles Dickens reborn as a 20th Century French sociologist.


Daniel 07.18.06 at 2:26 am

I think Johnson’s all over the place here. In particular “normatively objectionable” is not a phrase that it makes a hell of a lot of sense to use when the context is Foucault. Normatively objectionable on the basis of what standard, constructed how, by whom?

If you’re going to embark on the project of translating Foucault into Anglo-Saxon, you need to remember that “ought” implies “can”, and Foucault did not actually believe it was possible to organise society on any basis other than that of a “disiplinary society”. He is pretending to criticise from the standpoint of something like a Habermasian ideal environment, but his whole point is that no such place exists and there is no way to make one (I think the statement that Foucault doesn’t believe we live in a disciplinary society is just wrong, btw).

I also disagree with Henry’s point:

But for a critique to really work, it should hint (at the very least) at a vision of how things might be better if they were organized differently.

I don’t think so at all. It might be that, as I think Foucault believed, they couldn’t be organised differently at any fundamental level; just with a greater or lesser degree of violence supporting them. This would still be a valuable critique because it would show that we needed to give up on the idea that they could. I think this is very relevant to the entire “Enlightenment Values” debate, where the project of reducing the amount of violence in the world gets subordinated to some absolutist critique of the way that other people are allowed to live.


Joshua S. Rubenstein 07.18.06 at 5:20 am

Foucault as Dickens? It would be better to see him as Jack the Ripper reborn in a San Francisco bathhouse.

And what is the other’s ignorance of the fatal consequences of an encounter with Foucault but a different version of those stone walls separating one prisoner from another — with the exception that Foucault sits in the center, armed with the knowledge of the consequences of his actions, and profoundly indifferent to them?


josh 07.18.06 at 6:00 am

I agree with much of what daniel says above. There’s also at least one further problem with the passage from Johnson’s (fascinating and enjoyable, to be sure) piece quoted here, where he writes ‘What Foucault seems to argue here—and what the postmodern consensus obscures—is that disciplinary power is normatively objectionable precisely because it imposes unequal, asymmetrical, non-reciprocal relations…’ The problem with this is that Foucault doesn’t *argue* this at all in the passage quoted. He describes the unequal, non-reciprocal relations, to be sure, and argues that they are characteristic of the discipline he’s describing; and he certainly seems not to like this very much. But I don’t see, here at least (and Johnson is characterising this passage, I take it) any *argument* for why this is ‘normatively objectionable’ (and as daniel suggests, arguing that something is normatively objectionable poses difficulties for Foucault).
I think that the suggestion that Foucault did object to the inequality and non-reciprocity of discipline, and saw this as opposed to reciprocal communication, is an astute and valid one; but Foucault did not, and given his approach I’m not sure how he could have, provide a (philosophical) argument for why reciprocity, equality, etc. are, shall we say, normatively desirable. That, surely, sets him significantly apart from Habermas.


Bro. Bartleby 07.18.06 at 7:44 am

The truth of our age, the death of horror?

Conrad had Marlow had Kurtz (or should I revise that to Coppola had Brando?) gasp, “The horror, the horror” when the horror was really in the imagination of the reader. The artist’s (and media) attempts to blindfold the imagination with brutal images does two things, shock and then desensitize. Repeated exposure furthers the desensitizing process, so much so that an ER physician can greet the carnage atop a bloody gurney with calmness and purpose. So I would think that one must weigh the purpose of ‘shock’ and ‘disturbing’ and what is lost when one becomes desensitized to what formerly horified us. With the overload of horror images, Hollywood and the real, I can only pity our children who equate horror with a good laugh.


Rob 07.18.06 at 8:54 am

Habermas certainly thought that Foucault, and a number of other ‘postmodernist’ – much of the Frankfurt School, for example – writers were closet Habermasians. He thought, as Johnson clearly does, that their critiques could not disavow all sets of normative ideals without thereby depriving themselves of the basis with which to set up a disjunction between the real and the ideal, and thus fail to be critique, rather than quasi-positivist description. The best response, it seems to me, rather than going round casting aspersions about the validity of any normative standards on the basis of their construction – a skepticism a postmodernist can certainly ill-afford, given their reflexivity about the way in which their own theories are constructed – and pretending that because all societies contain some violence, any normative question about the extent and targets of that violence is inherently flawed, is to admit that Foucauldian accounts of practices are partial, and seek to subvert existing standards by making those practices problematic, without seeking to disrupt the whole set of normative institutions those critiques inhabit at any one time.


Adam Kotsko 07.18.06 at 9:10 am

Again and again, it appears that there is a tribe of people on the Internet who are incapable of using the word “argument” in a matter-of-fact way — it always has to be emphasize (though normally in italics rather than bold). Can’t we just accept the usage of the word “argument” as “an attempt to convince someone of something,” rather than this apparently highly specific and fetishized version of argument that is only ever declared to be absent? After all, I can read Foucault (or whomever) and be convinced or not, and give reasons for why that is — even though he’s not giving an argument.


Backword Dave 07.18.06 at 9:55 am

Conrad had Marlow had Kurtz (or should I revise that to Coppola had Brando?) gasp, “The horror, the horror”

How about Larry David and Mr Peterman?

Rob: …and thus fail to be critique, rather than quasi-positivist description. But I think that Foucault’s work isn’t critiques, but description of some kind (I’ll have to come back to you on ‘quasi-positivist’). I’m with Daniel here, and he reminded me why I approve of Foucault so much. I’ve not read Habermas, but if he went about thinking that everyone secretly agreed with him, I’ll know not to bother.


Rob 07.18.06 at 10:23 am


why should we care about that description, then? I’m indifferent to whether or not I am the subject of totalising power relations. Foucault has nothing to say to any more, and further, he ahs nothing to say to himself either, once the challenge of why this matters has been raised.

Actually, having read both Foucault and Habermas, I think Habermas is clearly right about this. Or at least, in a way. Foucault’s not really engaged in the kind of investigation Habermas thinks he is. Habermas supposes that Foucault wants to promulgate some kind of theory of society which claims that we are all unfree in deeply troubling and deeply rooted ways. But I don’t think that’s what Foucault’s really doing. He attacks particular practices – the asulym, the prison, and so on – with the aim of having us look at them afresh. He’d have to be mad to think that the whole of social life was based on the principles of the asulym, and would also be troubled by the fact that the asulym is supposed to be an exemplar, rather than a typical case. The relativist stuff though, is a busted flush.


Jon Mandle 07.18.06 at 10:27 am

As Rob says, Habermas argues that Foucault is implicitly relying on evaluative norms. He calls him a “cryptonormativist”. The closest Foucault comes to Habermas has got to be this remark from a 1984 interview: “In the serious play of questions and answers, in the work of reciprocal elucidation, the rights of each person are in some sense immanent in the discussion. They depend only on the dialogue situation.” (The Foucault Reader, pp.381-382.)

But at the same time, while Habermas is all about making these norms explicit and reflecting on them, Foucault steadfastly rejects this project. In another late interview, when asked by Dreyfus and Rabinow whether he takes the aesthetic practices of the Greeks to be “an attractive and plausible alternative,” he replies: “No! I am not looking for an alternative…. My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism.” (Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, pp.231-232.) The problem – as Henry suggests – is that in order to steer this activism in a productive direction, we need to figure out how to assess the various dangers we must choose among.


Albert 07.18.06 at 11:53 am

I haven’t read Foucault firsthand, but the impression I’ve always got was that he was quite explicitly anti-normative. Certainly he is painted in this way by own words in his debate with Chomsky back in the 70’s. See this:

When the proletariat takes power, it may be quite possible that the proletariat will exert towards the classes over which it has just triumphed, a violent, dictatorial and even bloody power. I can’t see what objection one could make to this.


If you like, I will be a little bit Nietzschean about this; in other words, it seems to me that the idea of justice in itself is an idea which in effect has been invented and put to work in different types of societies as an instrument of a certain political and economic power or as a weapon against that power. But it seems to me that, in any case, the notion of justice itself functions within a society of classes as a claim made by the oppressed class and as justification for it.

Taken from here: http://www.chomsky.info/debates/1971xxxx.htm


Jim Johnson 07.18.06 at 12:33 pm

Well, I suppose I should thank Henry for throwing me into this! A couple of things seem relevant. The claim that Foucault is a closet Habermasian is his not mine. One can value symmetry and equality in communicaiton and not, like Habermas, claim that such criteria (“validity claims”) constitute the very presuppositions of communication.

In the paper on Foucault I simply show that there is a tacit set of normative criteria in his work (starting roughly with Discipline & Punish and the essays/interviews in Power/Knowledge and running through his later work on The History of Sexuality and “Governmentality”). Those criteria revolve around the value he (again, without explicit argument – sorry Adam!) ascribes to relations of equal and symmetrical communication. The central mechanisms by which disciplinary power operates on Foucault’s account all have to do with subverting just such relations.

Daniel & Josh (at least) are convinced I must be nutty. They (like many of Foucault’s defenders and detractors in the US) seemingly subscribe to the postmodern consensus. I invite them to read the essay to which I refer -“Communication, Criticism and the Postmodern Consensus” Political Theory 25(4) August 1997 pp. 559-83 – before making a final decision on my nuttiness. Thanks.


Henry 07.18.06 at 3:11 pm

Yeah – I should have made clear that the title of the post was a flip overstatement rather than an accurate summary of Jim’s actual argument.


josh 07.18.06 at 5:35 pm

I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I think Jim Johnson is ‘nutty’; I wasn’t aware that ‘astute and valid’ are now codewords for ‘stark barking mad’.
Anyway, I agree that Foucault’s writings often seem to imply certain ideals that are the opposite of the disciplinary phenomena he explicitly discusses; and I do think that Jim Johnson does a convincing job of identifying what these are, and I found his characterisation of them illuminating, and I’m sorry if my comment suggested otherwise. I merely wanted to question whether Foucault was deliberately, explicitly or systematically advancing these ideals of reciprocity, etc., as an authoritative normative standard in his work. (The apparent disagreement here may just hinge on how I understand and use certain terms, such as ‘argument’ and ‘committed’; or there may be a substantive, but I think minor, disagreement in interpretation. I think that debate over points of usage and interpretation can be constructive, if respectful, and am a bit puzzled by the irritation this seems to have caused Adam Kotsko, and perhaps Jim Johnson.)


Tim 07.18.06 at 6:20 pm

Johnson’s paper is wrong in two ways. First, identifying some supposed “postmodern consensus” that Foucault isn’t normative gets things the wrong way round – the problem with most US Foucauldians is that, because they’re nice liberals who think that power is bad, they assume that when Foucault identifies some relationship as a power relationship, he is thereby providing a normative critique.

Johnson then goes on to himself make this mistake; he’s right to say (as he does in a comment to his post) that “in Foucault’s account of disciplinary power the central mechanisms through which discipline operates in fact revolve around disrupting relations of symetrical communication.” Unless I’m radically misremembering his paper, what he doesn’t do, is give us any reason (beyond a tacit appeal to the normative valence equality, reciprocity, etc, might have _for us_) to think that Foucault puts this forward as normative rather than descriptive.


Jim Johnson 07.18.06 at 9:17 pm

Josh, I’m not irritated – really. Sorry if I gave the wrong impression. It seemed to me that you found the views I espouse “nutty” in the sense of counterintuitive or implausible.

Tim. Foucault can use words any way he likes I guess. But in D&P (and elsewhere) he uses equality and symmetry and reciprocity and so forth in the same sraightfowwardly “positive” way we all do. And, in fact, you may not be radicaly misrememering the paper, but there is lots of textual evidence there to suggest that he does in fact use “our” normative vocabulary in familiar ways. He differentiates power from domination in just those terms (actually referring to contractual relations, for instance). So I guess I don’t quite get your objection. I am saying your distinction between Foucault and “us” is misguided; he is one of “us” on these matters.


Albert 07.19.06 at 12:28 am

The problem with “symmetry” and “reciprocity” as applied by Foucault is that it seems to apply to cultural norms as a whole. For him, this includes the very idea of rationality or justice. If rationality should allow irrationality equal time, and justice injustice, then I don’t see how this normative stance can even get off the ground. This is just cultural relativism in another guise. The problem arises, I think, from taking culture as the basic unit in which rights inhere rather than individuals.


Daniel 07.19.06 at 4:57 am

Jim, do you have a link to that paper for those of us who can’t get easy access to academic journals?

I wouldn’t say I was part of the “postmodern consensus” – I’ve always regarded Foucault as basically a Humean about normative statements. What he does in D&P (and in Madness & Civilisation, which I think it much more difficult to put into anything like a Habermasian perspective) is describe the facts of the matter; that in fact, the social institutions of law and order operates on a disciplinary basis, whereas everyone involved in that society claim that it operates on some other basis. However, this is just a factual assessment because that is all that’s possible.

There is an implicit normative assessment that you identify, but it’s not that it just happens to be the case that it’s implicit; it couldn’t be explicit because that’s not what Foucault believes. If he were to take the step into saying that disciplinary societies are bad, then the whole point, IMO, of his philosophy is that this is not a straightforwardly meaningful statement.

Or in other words, Habermas thinks that the statement “this is a bad prison and this is a good prison” means something like what it appears to mean. Foucault thinks that the form of the language is utterly misleading here, and that the statement can only be interpreted as a very complicated one about power relationships in society. That’s true whether the statement is being made by David Blunkett or by Foucault himself. Because of the way the English and French languages are constructed, there is always a temptation to pick up something like the Habermasian meaning when Foucault is describing power relations, but IMO the point of Foucault is that the power-relations are all there is. Hume would say that there is no intrinsic reason to be more concerned about the extinction of the continent of Asia than about the pricking of one’s thumb, and Foucault would … well he would probably reject that sort of argument, but in the context of prisons he is saying something like the same thing.

Surely if there was a straightfoward normative/polemic interpretation of D&P, it would be easier to work out from M&C whether Foucault thinks that a modern rehab clinic is a better place than Bedlam?


Doctor Slack 07.19.06 at 1:52 pm

24 gets it exactly right, I think.


Jim Johnson 07.19.06 at 3:26 pm

Daniel: I can send you a pdf of the paper if you e-mail me.

As to Foucault offering a “just the facts ma’am” account, I am dubious for a couple fo reasons. First, that presumes it is possible to provide such an account. he may presentt his genaologies in hopes of doing so, but, well, he doesn’t succeed. It may not be a coerent project. Second, he himself offers reasons to think your interpretaiton is not right. At least hihs self-presentaiton makes things seem considerably more complicated. So here is a comment of his:

“As to the problem of fiction, it seems to me to be a very important one; I am well aware that I have never written anything but fictions. I do not mean to say, however, that truth is therefore absent. It seems to me that the possibility exists for fiction to function in truth, for a fictional discourse to induce effects of truth . . .”

On my view he is intentionally and systematically overstating things – hence MIS-representing them – as a way of warning us about dangers he discerns. Then of course, we must ask what criteria one uses to define something as “dangerous” – and there the normative concerns are simply unavoidable.


Seth Edenbaum 07.19.06 at 3:38 pm

Some people like to tie people up and fuck them in the ass, while others like to be tied up and fucked. F. thinks this is a valid form of interpersonal communication, Habermas would not agree.
F. criticizes H’s notion of freedom and responsibility as simplistic and criticizes it (and by some extension democracy itself) as bourgeois, but does not defend the alternative (reaction).

I say this as a man who has read a little Habermas and fucked a few Foucauldians. (call me biased)


dsquared 07.19.06 at 3:48 pm

thanks very much Jim – daniel@crookedtimber.org is the address.


Jim Johnson 07.19.06 at 4:18 pm

Seth: Ok, your biased!

Whether Foucault thought bondage and butt fucking amounted to a “valid form of communicaiton” or not and what Habermas thinks about such things (if he thinks about them at all) is hard to say. Both are Kantians so I suspect that Foucault and am certain that Habermas would think consent (implying symmetry, reciprocity and so forth) is a relevant criterion in sexuxal relations. Indeed, most bdsm activities presuppose such consent and the opportunity to refuse (safewords and so forth).


Seth Edenbaum 07.19.06 at 4:38 pm

I have to admit I’ve never heard Foucault described as anything other than making a critique however limited (and conflicted) of modern liberal democratic theory, politics and philosophy, as the bureaucritization of life and experience.
De Sade, Duchamp, and Paulene Réage against Fordism, money and democracy (though the critique of democracy was never explicit of course)
Times have changed since I was young.

I’m being glib, but I’m not joking: this whole thread surprises me.


Albert 07.19.06 at 4:51 pm

I’m being glib, but I’m not joking: this whole thread surprises me.

I’m going to post a paragraph from an essay from Ducts.org, which seems to capture the essence of what I’ve generally heard about Foucault:

Another notable postmodernist who, presumably, would be untroubled by the charge of nonsense is Michel Foucault–who invokes a “new metaphysical ellipse” (171). But what exactly is this new metaphysics? According to Foucault, it is the metaphysics of the “phantasm” behind which “it is useless to seek a more substantial truth” (ibid). Common sense is the enemy for Foucault because it carries “the tyranny of goodwill, the obligation to think ‘in common’ with others, the domination of a pedagogical model, and most importantly–the exclusion of stupidity” (181). Because a metaphysics based on common sense and goodwill–in other words, a humanist metaphysics–excludes stupidity, Foucault argues, “we must liberate ourselves from these constraints; and in perverting this morality, philosophy itself is disoriented” (ibid). How, then, do we get with the new metaphysical ellipse and thereby become fashionably stupid? According to Foucault, stupidity

requires thought without contradiction, without dialectics, without negation; thought that accepts divergence; affirmative thought whose instrument is disjunction . . . What is the answer to the question? The problem. How is the problem resolved? By displacing the question (185).

Now, this is not a scholarly essay, but it seems clear that unless the author is grossly distorting Foucault, he is no friend of rationality (ergo he is not a closet Habermasian).

From the above posts it seems that the argument is that Foucault’s writings betrayed a normative committment somewhat similar to Habermas’. Such a committment, if it is implicit in Foucault’s writings, though, seems to contradict his explicit positions. We are left, then, with either a Foucault who truly is as the usual picture of him is (a “postmodernist” for lack of a better word) or a Foucault who is a closet Habermasian but also contradicts himself. (Of course, from the quotes above, he would seem to have no problem with contradiction!)


Doctor Slack 07.19.06 at 6:28 pm

26: Seems more likely that what Foucault is getting at is not that he’s exaggerating in order to warn, but that he’s talking about the limitations of historical writing, averring that no genealogy can hope to present the total and definitive picture. This would hardly be incompatible with his driving, nevertheless, at a fundamentally descriptive account of (for instance) panoptic power in D&P.

Where is that quote from, BTW?

31: it seems clear that unless the author is grossly distorting Foucault. . .

That’s what my money is on, but I’m not sure what he’s quoting there. Care to provide a link to the full essay?


Daniel 07.20.06 at 1:06 am

Now, this is not a scholarly essay, but it seems clear that unless the author is grossly distorting Foucault, he is no friend of rationality

As far as I can see, the author is gorssly distorting Foucault. He was not an irrationalist at all; I think we’re all agreed that he was concerned with facts and reality (although Jim is correct to note that he had a tendency to invent historical facts in the service of a broader truth). What I think I and others are denying is that he was a foundationalist; that his description of the panopticon had a particular normative oomph that it would have had if it was Habermas writing.


Jim Johnson 07.20.06 at 9:44 am

Daniel: Nothing in my argument requires that Foucault is a foundationalist; having normative commitments does not entail foundaitonalism as any pragmatist from – Dewey to Putnam – will tell you.

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