Re: Foucault and pragmatism

What kind of normative presuppositions are needed to make a claim about
usefulness? That is: "useful for what?" "useful for whom?" I can't hear
utility evoked in a discussion about Foucault without thinking of his
critique of Bentham's panopticon, the notion that 'utility' was the
driving force behind the techniques of disciplinary modernization he
relates in Discipline and Punish. The question remains, however, does
poststructuralism as a method have an ethical content or is it value
neutral? This seems to be the critique leveled from folks on the left,
that poststructuralism/ postmodernism has betrayed the Marxist/liberal
cause by severing knowledge from praxis (think of Nussbaum's article
where she says that Judith Butler is 'in league with the forces of
evil!'). I think Foucault's work certainly suggests that he has certain
political commitments (the plight of prisoners, workers, the mentally
ill, and sexual minorities) but can these commitments be derived from his
theories or are they a kind of Marxist/liberal residue? Butler at one
point (I can get the citation) suggests that postmodernism has no
normative base, that it is merely a set of methodological tools that
could presumably be put in the service of good or bad causes, that the
political/ethical content has to come from somewhere else. Any thoughts?

On Wed, 25 Apr 2001, Andrew Brokos wrote:

> The question is not whether thinking differently is political, but whether it is politically useful. It is all well and good for academics to proclaim that our new thinking has great political implications, but how exactly has thinking in a new way about, to take a particularly relevant example to Foucault, prisons, actually contributing to any kind of change/improvement (or is Foucault even useful for determining what would constitute an improvement?). For the pragmatist, the final question is one of utility- thinking differently does nothing to help the mental patients whom even Foucault admits are treated badly. Foucault was involved in political action surrounding prisons, perhaps someone can enlighten us on what exactly his involvement was? It may not have been the liberal politics that Rorty recommends, but then Rorty is not really the best representative of "American pragmatism". He paints Dewey, for example, as much more of a conventional liberal than he actually was!
. !
> !
> I wonder if anyone has an opinion about Dewey, as opposed to Rorty. Dewey seems at some basic level to converge with Foucault. Dewey is critical of science's truth claims and of the division between the humanities and the social sciences. Dewey and Foucault both have a much more radical conception of democracy than what either saw in America or France. My question, then, is what exactly are the politics of thinking differently, and how do they relate to the goals of Deweyan, rather than Rortyan, pragmatism?
> foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:
> >
> > Yes, to think different is poltical position in the
> > age of mass thinking; its the philosophy in the
> > policy.In this sense foucault is polticaly usefull.But
> > an american pragmatist can not understand that.
> > -
> > Zhivko
> > >
> >
> >
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