Re: [Foucault-L] Genealogy Archaeology Divide

Can I just add a passage from my own book Michel Foucault. Sage, 2005
pp. 68-69 to this discussion. Foucault also uses a whole range of
other terms which do the same work as archaeology and genealogy - eg
history of thought, regimes of truth, the history of the present.

If one is considering practicalities, the reality is that there is not
really a great deal of difference between the tools Foucault uses to
engage in either archaeology or genealogy. The distinction is to be
found rather, in how Foucault characterizes that level where the
historical orders of knowledge and culture emerge, and where objects
of knowledge are formed. Or as Foucault puts it succinctly in `The
order of discourse': 'The difference between the critical and the
genealogical enterprise is not so much a difference of object or
domain, but of point of attack, perspective and delimitation' (OD:
72). If archaeology addresses a level at which differences and
similarities are determined, a level where things are simply organized
to produce manageable forms of knowledge, the stakes are much higher
for genealogy.
Genealogy deals with precisely the same substrata of knowledge and
culture, but Foucault now describes it as a level where the grounds of
the true and the false come to be distinguished via mechanisms of
power. In the case of archaeology, patterns of differences and
similarities form in close relation to something Foucault describes as
`ideology' or more generally as `non-discursive practices'. But the
latter were not primary. As for genealogy, the historical division
between the true and the false is more directly the result of power.
Further, in the early 1970s, Foucault argues that power is prior to
and produces knowledge. The differences between the two approaches in
Foucault's work can be seen in comparing two statements about the
level underlying knowledge. In 1967, he says:

Beneath what science knows about itself is something that it doesn't
know; and its history, its becoming, its periods and accidents obey a
certain number of laws and determinations. These laws and
determinations are what I have tried to bring to light. I have tried
to unearth an autonomous domain that would be the unconscious of
knowledge, which would have its own rules, just as the individual
human unconscious has its own rules and determinations. (1968d: 54

These 'rules and determinations' underlie the historical organization
of similarities and differences in knowledge and culture. By 1971,
Foucault had shifted his way of describing this `unconscious' and it
had become a matter of the division between the true and the false,
between inclusion and exclusion; it was more clearly an exercise of
power, rather than simple organization. He explains: `My problem is
essentially the definition of the implicit systems in which we find
ourselves prisoners; what I would like to grasp is the system of
limits and exclusion which we practice without realising it; I would
like to make the cultural unconscious apparent' (1971g: 73). In short,
archaeology is about the `conditions of possibility' which give rise
to knowledge whereas genealogy is about the `constraints' that limit
the orders of knowledge. In both instances, Foucault is dealing with
the same level, he has simply changed his emphasis and way of viewing

Clare O'Farrell

  • Re: [Foucault-L] Genealogy Archaeology Divide
    • From: Kevin Turner
  • Replies
    [Foucault-L] Genealogy Archaeology Divide, Jared Kennard
    Re: [Foucault-L] Genealogy Archaeology Divide, John narayan
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