Re: Value and Reform

> I'd like to respond to Bryan Palmer's concept of reform in relation
>to a theorized dichotomy of theory and practice. According to Bryan, a
>theortetical approach is tangential to his position as a policy maker,
>because it is in the actual application of a political practice with which
>he is concerned, as opposed to wider, "formal" philosophical speculation.

Pretty close to the mark.

>(I introduced the term "nihilism" into this debate not from a belief in any
>"value relativism," but in response to Bryan's questions of "why not rape?"
>and "why not murder?": it's always surprising to see a lack of morality
>proposed precisely in terms of what the moral code forbids -- the
>intensification of the moral domain that is theorized as absent).

It's called a cheap shot. I suspose the real question is one of
governmenatlity. What role should intentional or purposeful activity play
in government? Why?

> Since Bryan would, by defintion, like to see a reform in the field
>of his political practice, his determination of Foucault's work as books of
>reform is commensurate with his beliefs and his practice.

I will accept the deconstruction. I also want to avoid the so-what response.

>I would hold,
>however, that this contention is false: a theoretical ideology underlying a
>political practice. _D&P_ is not about penal reform: it is about the way
>penal reform has led to the entrenchment and dissemination of penal
>technologies throught our society;

It is penal history of which Foucault implies criticism. He asserts.that
the new penal code enables a greater oppression (or a greater use of power
to control) than the old code. He asks if our "modern" "humane" approach is
in practice less humane.

I also understand that Foucault started a group to investigate and protest
prision conditions. In 1971 and 72, following a series of prision riots,
Foucault helped prisioners published details about their harsh conditions.
In many ways, this activity lead to D&P.

> _BoC_ is hardly about medical reform, but
>innovations in clinical theory.

My knowledge of BoC is less thorough, but again it appears to desire change.
It does not attempt to be an objective, value free history, as history has
been traditionally understood. (And no, I don't want to go off on this debate).

> Since my background is in the life sciences, and my avocation is the
>history of the life sciences, I'll constrain myself to the medical field.
>(It's disquieting that in a forum devoted to Foucault, we see so much
>commentary on Foucault -- the unsaid said more profoundly then what is said
>in the texts -- and a wide application of "Foucauldian" theories that were
>developped in very narrow fields, rather than a practice of geneaology and a
>reading of archives.) Reform is itself a historical category: in 1793,
>Phillipe Pinel suggested, in _The Clinical Training of Doctors_, a less
>famous reform of hospital practice, involving the treatment and care of
>patients, based upon nosological principles. X. Bichat's response is famous:
>"How weak appears the reasoning of many great physicians, when we examine
>it, not in their works, but on the dead body....What is observation worth,
>if we are ignorant of the seat of the disease? Your may take notes, for
>twenty years, from morning to night at the bedside of the sick...which, not
>being united in one point, will necessarily present only a train of
>incoherent phenomena. Open a few bodies, this obscurity will soon
>disappear, which observation alone would never have been able to have
>dissipated." (Introduction, _General Anatomy_).
> By contrast, it is enlightening to read Pinel's _Treatise on
>Insanity_ in comparison with the DSM IIIr or IV: between the two, there is
>not a change in knowledge, only an intensification -- here, at least, Pinel
>is our contemporary. The DSM or psychiatric _Diagnostic and Statistical
>Manual_ , for those who might not have read it, is a fascninating document:
>the clinical specification of psychiatric illness without prescrptive
>intention, though the necessary basis of all pharmacological prescription
>because a clinical diagnosis, though only nosological, is necessarily
>anterior to any action. A description of clinical depression must be made
>before a tricyclic or MAO inhibitor can be given.
> _The Birth of the Clinic_ describes mutations in knowledge leading,
>from Bichat, to the positive definition and treatment of disease -- who
>would deny the frayed glory of antibiotics? Conversely, _Madness and
>Civilization_ , for example, discusses the role of humanism and reform in
>the determination of the inhumane.

There had to be a reform theme there somewhere :-)

Bryan Palmer
Canberra - Australia's National Capital


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