Re: Foucault and pragmatism

foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:
> 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.

This was a different conception of utility premised on the utilitarian notion of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. When I inquire as to the usefulness of Foucault's analysis/political "strategies", I mean can they achieve their goals (if they have any).

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?  

Setting aside the question of origins for the moment, how, if at all, can Foucault's work "help" the people above, if that is his intention.

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?

How useful are the tools of postmodernism, or more specifically of Foucault, who never liked such a broad category anyway, for any political/ethical ideal. For Dewey, the tools used to achieve an end are to be evaluated by considering their ultimate utility in achieving that end (as opposed to some a priori morality of means as per Kant). So how and how well can the work of Foucault be used to achieve a particular end? Is it a useful political tool? This is the question Rorty asks (it is also the question he asks of liberalism).

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