Re: Foucault and Normativity

On Wed, 12 Apr 1995 AH7301R@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> Kristin wrote:
> "I think that Gabriel Ash has hit upon a very interesting idea in her
> statements about political action and pragmatism. She talks about
> Foucault's attempt to de-center and how this is different from
> pragmatism, which takes its impetus/strength from being at the center of
> a discourse, or being that around which a discourse functions.
> Does this mean that de-centered political actions are necessarily
> marginal, in the Foucauldian-Derridean sense of the term? Is this why
> revolution (in the grand sense) is impossible? Is this also Lyotard's
> idea of "glissement" and Joanna Crosby's idea of "opening up spaces" in
> which to operate"
> I was wondering Kristen (or anybody else) if there are some readings you
> would reccommend that deal with this difference between Foucault and
> pragmatism.
> Andrew Herman

Though it is clear in advance which side he comes down on, Richard Rorty
has written several essays (or "sections") on Foucault. See
PRAGMATISM, chapter 11, and an essay in PHILOSOPHICAL PAPERS, volume II.
All are interesting in my view, but I also know that from a Foucauldian
perspective Rorty will sometime be problematic.

Thinking more about pragamatism, I wonder, Kristin, why you equate
pragmatism with the center. While I think this is (in some ways--whose
center after all?) true, in fact, is it true in principle? I think that
pragmatists, both in response to Foucault and Derrida, would say that the
world, or at least the one that they are concerned with, is "always
already" decentered. They would argue, further, that the center is
something that is imaginatively constructed by someone who is about to
make a (so-called) radical move of decentering.

Thus Fish would argue that to maintain the status quo involves changing
it. That the idea of "maintenance" is a fiction. In my experience, the
degree to which people take pragmatists such as Fish, Rorty, or Barbara
Hernnstein Smith to be right on target or to be outrageously naive,
depends on the context that they are interested in. But to equate
pragmatism with the middle, it seems to me, involves an initial decision
that there is a center. Tentatively, I would suggest that one of the
differences between Foucauldians and pragmatists involves an
interpretation, an empirical one, even, on whether we are indeed trapped
in a discursive power structures, or are already in flux.

What do others think? Also, how would others respond to the postulation
that Foucault became increasingly close to pragmatism throughout his
career? "What is Enlightenment" arguably contains many beliefs that are
shared by pragmatists.

Erik D. Lindberg
Dept. of English and Comparative Lit.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI 53211
email: edl@xxxxxxxxxxx


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