the subject and psychotherapy

Dear Reader,

The following is an indirect response to Steve Kogan's posting, "the subject
and privileging lived experience" of 2/3/96.

Steven Kogan writes:
" ... Foucault and others have declared the 'death' of the authorial
centered subject of
western epistemology in favor of a subject whose identity is emergent in
discourse. So why priviledge meaning construction of individuals? ..."

My reading of Foucault is that he was suspicious of all efforts by the human
sciences to define the
subject. His approach in the History of Sexuality, vol.1 seemed to be to
question over and over
again why, during the 19th century, sexuality was both the most obvious and
troublesome subject
in need of discourse. I find myself thinking that for our contemporary
culture the problematic
issue that needs to be suspiciously regarded, in terms of underlying
power/knowledge dynamics, is
not so much sexuality but the problematic nature of the self. Why are we so
concerned with
uncovering the self or narrating the self? Are these efforts parallel to the
previous imperatives to
bring everything to do with sexuality into discourse? (cf. Philip Cushman's
"Why the Self is
Empty" in American Psychologist, May, 1990).

Foucault's critique of psychotherapy as a product of "confessional
technology" has been
troublesome one for me, as a psychotherapist. While his critique was
illustrated mostly by
problems with psychoanalysis, the issue is a much more general one. How is
psychotherapy, or any form of talking therapy, to not be a manifestation of a
subjectifying themselves? Insofar as the client is now the "expert", how is
this not an insidious
process of subjectification, parallel to the penitent's need to examine their
own conscience,
regardless of whether they are in the presence of their confessor?

My own thoughts about this are that the work of the psychotherapist can be
justified on the same
ground that Foucault's interpretive analysis of history can considered
beneficial. In both cases,
however, there seems to be an ill-defined line between something enlightening
(dare I add
liberating) and something that is just another part of the totalizing
processes that constitute
progress for the human sciences. I would appreciate the thoughts of others
on this, as well.

John Sproule
Knoxville, TN

email: jbcycle9@xxxxxxx


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