Foucault and Normativity

On Tue, 11 Apr 1995 CROSBYJL@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> It is very interesting to me how Foucault's discriptions of diciplinary
> practices and 'regulatory fuctions' are interpreted as attacks on them,
> and calls for their elimination. To my knowledge, this is not
> Foucault's goal. An understanding of the ways in which we opperate
> within power relations and institutions does not call for the
> elimination of those relations and institutions, but allows us to
> locate sites from which we can resist. Foucault is not an anarchist.
> He does not call for the elimination of normative practices, but
> shows us methods by which they can be evaluated, illuminated, and
> undercut where we see fit. All of this requires a prior awareness of
> exactly what one's commitments and positions are, and a recognition
> that when one calls for change, one may be complicit with another
> oppressive power structure.
> And aren't the flames as much of a regulating of discussion on this list
> as the posts to which they are replying?
> Just a few thoughts,
> Joanna Crosby
> crosbyjl@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I think Joanna Crosby is correct in her assessment of Foucault's stance
towards normative practices and institutions. He is trying to be as
anti-Hegelian as possible -- meaning that he is trying not to offer a
program for future behavior. Only the suggestion, as you point out, that
within these power matrices there are spaces in which one could operate.
I read Lyotard as saying the same thing, with his idea of "glissement."
The question, then, is what types of operations could be possible
(or are possible) within various power grids (institutions -- including
the Internet). Do you think Foucault says much about this? I do not,
but I could be incorrect. This is where I find the French feminists,
particularly Irigaray, so appropriate. I think that she offers
suggestions of ways women can operate within institutional power
structures. However, she has been accused of being too "pragmatic" (and
some even criticize Foucault as being pragmatic, which I think is
problematic) in her suggestions for possible political actions. Is
taking political action equivalent to being pragmatic?

Kristin Switala

Email: kswitala@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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