Foucault vs. Chomsky: PO MO? PO STRUC?

On Sun, Oct 6, 1996 12:55:03 PM, Omar Nasim wrote:

>--Thankyou very much for all the responses, however I was suprised at
>this one the most. I was always under the impression that Foucault was a

>post-structuralist and a post-modern, not because he said he was, but
>because his works labled him as such. He did not believe in the
>categorization of though and ideas into little names and stuff, that is
>probably why he never called himself anything. But from the way he
>presents his ideas, his very thoughts, his genre is post-modern and
>post-structuralist. His work "What is the Englightment" is a very clear
>work that classifies him as a post-modern. I might be seperating the
>author from the work, but i think thats what Foucault whats....
>I could very wrong about this, so i neeed your input...
>Omar Nasim
>Department of Philosophy

These are very important questions which people often pass over too
carelessly. What precisely is the difference between structuralism, post
structuralism and post modernism? And where does F belong in this scheme?

Well I think it's fair to say that structuralism represents a distinct
shift in anthropological writings after the second World war in France
which used Saussure's reformulations of linguistic theory. Saussure
understood the construction of linguistic meaning not as the singular
effect of an intending speaker but as the function of signs and symbols
within a meaning system - or structure. Levi Strauss developed this into a
"structuralist" theory of subjects and social practices which broke with
the phenomenological/existential emphasis on the original subject (Sartre,
merleau ponty....) and instead considered structures of social meaning and

Post structuralists (Derrida, Kristeva, deleuze, though strictly speaking
not Foucault) thought Levi strauss had merely dispensed with a static and
idealistic notion of the subject in order to replace it with a static and
idealist notion of structure. Do structures have a history? How does power
shape structures? What do structures conceal or repress?

Foucault resembles this tradition, but develops from a different
intellectual lineage: first a history and philosophy of science and then
philosophical historical application of Nietzsche and Bataille. This is
somewhat different from Levi Strauss's anthropology, but from our
perspective as North American readers (if that's what we are) in the mid
90's, the difference is merely a scholastic question.

As for post modernism: it depends entirely on what you mean by post
modern, and there is no clear concensus. taking the term in the strictly
literal sense as the theory of a period after modernity, Foucault could not
be a post modernist since his analyses rarely extend even as far as the
20th century, let alone to an analysis "after" modernity, in the manner of,
say Frederic Jameson. If by post modern you mean theorists who express a
general scepticism towards the project of modern progress itself, sure, he
could be a post modernist, but then so could a lot of people. In fact, the
19th century is full of post modernists which is odd considering how much
modern thinking was yet to be done.

Personally I don't think the term post modern is very useful except in the
strictly periodizing sense in which jameson and Lyotard use it (coupled
with terms like post industrial, late capitalist and so on).

Okay, enough!


  • Re: Foucault vs. Chomsky: PO MO? PO STRUC?
    • From: Richard House
  • Re: Foucault vs. Chomsky: PO MO? PO STRUC?
    • From: Nicholas Dronen
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