From: John Ransom <ransom@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 02:00:31 -0400 (EDT)
On Thu, 17 Jul 1997, Alan C. Hudson wrote:
> John writes:
> > Where by normative framework we mean the ability to distinguish good from
> > bad forms of power?
> Well, not necesarily. Perhaps, rather, the ability to distinguish the good
> and bad effects of power.
> This leads me to my general question re Foucault's desire to have his cake
> (to suspend judgements about legitimacy/power), whilst eating it (still
> wanting to say something about goodness/badness).
I'm not sure he's trying to say something about goodness/badness. For
instance, in _Discipline and Punish_, he's not saying that disciplines are
bad, is he? Instead, he's saying: "Look at this incredibly productive form
of power that has been effectively missed by an over-emphasis on more
familiar and more easily identified sovereign forms of power."
> So, THIS IS MY MAIN QUESTION, is there - does anyone know of attempts - a
> way of developing a normative framework that doesn't depend upon a
> hypothetical situation in which social relations aren't characterized by
> (asymmetries of) power?
> IS NORMATIVITY ALWAYS ABOUT POWER/NOT-POWER?
> More generally, do normative frameworks necessarily work with hypothetical
> utopias (ideal speech situations for example)?
I don't think a normative framework must be accompanied by a hypothetical
utopia. Kant's account of morality includes but does not require a utopic
element. Or think of Locke's _Second Treatise_. The decision to form a
government is not taken under utopian conditions, nor does it lead to one.
> (Would anyone view Rawls (1972) and/or Brian Barry's "Justice as
> impartiality" in this light?)
> (Oh, my question to John re what he meant by "bad" hasn't receieved an
> answer - I'd quite like one!)
> > Let's say everything is power and nothing is not power. What does that
> > keep us from doing? We can still oppose forms and exercises of power
> > whenever we want! It's just that we can't appeal to or strive for some
> > sort of mythically powerless utopia. Let's say -- and this happens all the
> > time -- that a teacher uses his or her power position to torture students
> > with arbitrary demands instead of using it to actually teach them
> > something. (I do this on alternate semesters: one semester I teach, next
> > semester I torture. Keeps 'em on their toes and makes the job more
> > interesting.) Power is being exercised in *both* semesters. "Everything"
> > is power and nothing is not power. But it's not the case that that makes
> > us incapable of making distinctions!
> BUT, doesn't it then make it more difficult for the relatively powerless
> to produce persuasive arguments for change? The making of distinctions is
> a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for making arguments for
> change, isn't it?
I don't see how it makes it more difficult. You're right, "distinctions"
by themselves are informative merely and cannot by themselves persuade us
to act. But neither is it necessary for action that a set of distinctions
be accompanied by a fully worked out and universally applicable set of
norms. To move beyond mere distinctions the workers on an assembly line
need not ground their opposition to the way they're treated in a universal
ethic of treating others as ends not means. Instead, they can just say
"this may be helping you (the factory owner), but it's not helping us (the