It seems foolish to try to deny that Foucault is a western thinker. Does that mean he is automatically a colonizing thinker or that his work lacks utility outside of its immediate context? It seems that we should take the analogy of the tool more literally. A tool is only a good one if if you can take it different places and use it for different tasks. It must transcend the context of its invention or it is no tool, just like a sign that cannot be detached from its immediate referent is no sign.
The question then is not what was the tool made of (iron, wood, Kant, Nietzsche, the Stoics), but is it useful. The better the tool the more uses to which it can be put. You obviously find Foucault useful.
Arguing that Foucault is a western thinker is obvious and pointless. Arguing that he is therefore necessarily a) a colonizing thinker, and b) therefore of no use to anyone outside the west are two very different things. Even if Foucault does announce himself to be a member of the "boys club" of Enlightenment thinkers, which I think is a pretty tendentious reading, that fact wouldn't necessarily lead to the consequences you are drawing.
Paul Allen Miller
Carolina Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature
Director of Comparative Literature
Editor, Transactions of the American Philological Association
Languages, Literatures and Cultures
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
>>> tsuru@xxxxxxxxxx 05/03/07 11:44 AM >>>
Well, as I said, I don't have my resources here with me so I find it plausible that I got my dates wrong.
As for the reading that I give to 'What is Enlightenment?', I'm not willing to completely deny your view but then, neither am I willing to accede so willingly. In my defense, I would like to say that this was the interpretation I presented in my PhD, which was supervised by Nikolas Rose and examined by Anthony Woodiwiss and Paul Gilroy. There also is literature available which also makes similar readings. I don't have my thesis with me so I can't give you the exact titles, but one that crops to mind is David Owen's book whose title as I recall it begins with 'Maturity and Modernity'. I think it was published in 1994. It's a book where he traces the historical lineage of western modern thought from Kant, Nietzsche, Weber to Foucault.
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><Wasn?t the height
>of the Habermas-Foucault debate in the 70?s, during the so-called ?structuralist?
>phase of Foucault?s thinking?
>There was a lot of general debate around Habermas and the Frankfurt School
>starting in the late 70s which remained highly topical into the 1980s. Foucault
>started to dissociate himself from what the media termed 'structuralism' in
>?What is Enlightenment?? was written, well, I don?t
>known when it was written, but it was printed for the first time in 1984, so I had
>always seen it as Foucault?s last say in situating his own work within the
>I don't agree that this article is about Foucault situating his work within the
>'academic field' or that it forms some kind of definitive intellectual positioning
>of himself as a European enlightenment thinker. I don't think he was particularly
>interested in defining himself in this kind of way. As he says elsewhere it is not
>a question of being 'for' or 'against' the Enlightenment - it is a question of a
>historical analysis of a given set of ideas.
>I think the bottom line is that Foucault was interested in demonstrating that
>nothing in our culture, society or experience is fixed or self evident and he used
>methods of intellectual argumentation and tools from his own cultural heritage
>to put forward this position. He said on a few occasions that he expected his
>own work to be superseded as well.
>The methods of intellectual argumentation he used are not the sole property of
>European Enlightenment thinkers - as those Enlightenment thinkers would like
>us to believe incidentally - a convenient way of condemning everybody else to
>silence and incoherence.
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