What's wrong with liberalism?

A: re time wasting
This thread has been frustrating by the amount of completly general
waffle about post-structuralism and post modernism. One of the
lessons from Foucault is the disdain he showed for the easy use of
such sweeping intellectual categories. Attempts to diagnose the state
of modern times are in sharp contrast to the careful and subtle
analysis of particualr social apparatuses, which would seem to be F's
legacy. Minor cultural conservatives like Keith Windschuttle, referrred to
by Bryan Palmer, are some of the worst culprits in this regard as
they huff and puff about no respect for truth these days, little
realising they are simple repeating the time-worn refrain of all such
conservatives, creating their mythical golden age when truth and
beauty ruled, academic salaries were higher, everyone had tenure, and
students showed you a bit of respect, goddamit!

B: What's wrong with liberalism?

A more substantial sub-thread (and one a litle more acquainted with
F) regards liberalism. There is a very strong impuls to retrieve from
F. a general theory of resistance (or call it alterity if you want)
which can be pressed into service for opositional academics to
critique "the system".

However, later Foucaldian work, especially on governmentality,
suggests a much more complex relationship with liberal and reformist
goals. If it is true that even supposedly revoutionary critiques of
current social structures (e.g. in rleation to prisons or gay
liberation) are themselves implicated in the problematic they seek to
overthrow, what room is left for change?

My answer is that is in incremental, reformist and liberal - what
are jettisoned are the grand claims to emancipation. Every piecemeal
step for reform has to be judged on its merits and, depending on its
context, can shift form one day representing a small step for freedom
to the next day being co-opted in a strategy of domination.
'Everthing is dangerous' as F reminds us.

We should therefore take the projects of government seriously, and
not be global in our assessments. As it is in the nature of
government for its project always to be incomplete, there will always
be a lot of raw material around with which to assess how and to what
ends gthe government of subjectivity is changing.

It seems to me this is the trajectory being pursued by the
'governmentality' school of Foucaldian work (c.f. for example 'The
Foucualt Effect', ed, C Gordon et al).

Michael Bartos


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