Re: Foucault a postmodernist?

As another newcomer and non-academic, I have to raise a question.

What's been described here recently as "post-modernism" sounds more to me
like "post-structuralism". The former is, or at least was, a term from
aesthetics (originally architecture), not epistomology. The "modernism" in
question would not be represented by Kant but rather by Joyce, or the
Bauhaus, or, in some versions, The Beatles. Post-modernism would then be
the self-consciously eclectic, allusive, light-weight, ironic style that
characterized some forms of art in the second half of the 20th century,
everything from Philip Johnson's buildings to New Wave music. Foucault
wouldn't seem to have much to do with this one way or the other.

Post-structuralism is something else -- as its name suggests, a form of
culture-criticism that was derived from, but at the same time a reaction
against, structuralism. Foucault was definitely grouped with the
structuralists in the 60s, along with Levi-Strauss, Lacan, and Althusser,
among others. As one might suspect from the diversity of names, it was
hardly a coherent movement, or in fact a movement of any kind; and it was
never clear (to me, anyway) what there was in common among them (aside from
nationality). In any case, Foucault always rejected the "structuralist"
label, which may be why his later work is sometimes called
"post-structuralist". This seems to mean that he was anti-essentialist,
anti-humanist, and generally anti-subjectivist; and that he was
consequently highly dubious, if not downright contemptuous, of the
epistomological claims of various kinds of rationalism. Possibly the
distinction between structuralism and post-structuralism could be
characterized as the difference between a formalism which studies the
structures of what it imagines to be timeless, pre-existing forms and a
formalism which studies the social construction and the genealogy of what
it considers to be historically specific, randomly evolving forms. Or

Both of these expressions, post-modernism and post-structuralism, are
applied so indiscriminately these days that they don't seem to have much
practical use left in them, although I think reasonably coherent and even
useful descriptions could probably be devised with a little effort (if
anyone wanted to bother).

Now I may have gotten this all wrong, I don't know. But that's what the
words have always meant to me. Comments?



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