Re: Foucault vs. Chomsky

> --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...
> thanks
> Omar Nasim
> Department of Philosophy
> .

No doubt, Foucault is not an enlightenment or modernist thinker believing in the
Cartesian cogito or even the Kantian transcendental synthesis; it's clear that
he rejects the autonomous and sovereign subject as well as any sort of
non-discursive unified conception of reason (probably with a capital "R." Yet,
I don't think that this means that we can so easily say that there is anything
clear about *classifying* him as a *post* moderniist. The probably with this is
that it too easily throws Foucault into a box underneath a simple label. Well,
in some ways that label fits, but what do we really know about the label in the
first place? If *post* modernity is some period that begins after the eclipse
of modernity, then Foucault isn't one--since this sort of classification
presupposes a the sort of linear conception of history (or worse, Hegelian
philosophy of history) which is utterly at odds with Nietzschean or Foucaultian
genealogy. I feel we must take Foucault somewhat seriously when he suggests in
later interviews that he feels much affinity with the Frankfurt school, but at
the same time we cannot simply throw onto Foucault precisely the label that his
critics want to use in order to dismiss him. Much of Habermas' polemic in the
"Philosophical Discourses of Modernity" is driven by his easy assumption that
Foucault (along with Derrida, Bataille, and others) simple follows Nietzsche in
completely rejecting any form of rationality and turning to the other of
reason--THIS, for Habermas and many others, is what makes Foucault a
post-modernist and this is why he must be rejected as well.

I do not mean to suggest that everyone who calls Foucault post-modern agrees
with Habermas. My point is that the label does not fit easily, and I am not
sure what positive critical purchase it retains. The very idea that one must
choose one side of the modernity/postmodernity dichotomoy seems thoroughly
"modern" to me, so that in throwing Foucualt in with the lot of people who we
think lie on that side of the divide we engage ourselves in a sort of
performative contradiction. I think this is also why trying not to easily label
Foucault is more than an issue of semantics.

Just a start...

Sam Chambers
Saint Olaf College

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