Re: [Foucault-L] A recent question that I asked of my lecturer

On Thu, Sep 06, 2007 at 04:12:52PM +1000, Scott Nicholas wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> I'm just wondering if anyone would care to give me their perspective
> on this question that I recently and I think legimately posed?:
> "the question that I meant to follow up with you is: if social
> practices, power relations and technologies of the self in creating
> docile bodies are constitutive of the contemporary individual
> according to Foucault (this is what I believe him to be saying?) then
> how can the individual decide to or take the initiative to resist
> said relations, practices and technologies? Of course Foucault might
> respond by saying well we can invariably reconstitute ourselves by
> actively changing or acting on our environment but that seems to
> presuppose an active body; a knowing self certain individual(not the
> Cartesian variety of course); who has the wherewithall to understand
> their predicament accurately; and, moreover, who has the means to
> influence said practices, relations and technologies. This seems
> to imply that we are more than just docile bodies.I recall you
> saying in the lecture that Foucault did not account sufficiently
> for the psychological effects of power but this may have prove! d
> self defeating in terms of his efforts to remove the subject from
> politicaly motivated discourses."
> Is my construal accurate?

Foucault addresses this in the second half of "What is Enlightenment?"
and in the interview "The ethics of the concern of the self as a
practice of freedom" as well as commenting several times (I will not
look for them!) in Essential Works 3 (Power) on the always-present
possibility of revolt. There was a cute little sentence in Empire: "The
first question of political philosophy today is not if or even why there
will be resistance and rebellion, but rather how to determine the enemy
against which to rebel." Certainly this was Foucault's approach to

Here are the final paragraphs of the paper on Kant:

I do not know whether we will ever reach mature adulthood. Many things
in our experience convince us that the historical event of the
Enlightenment did not make us mature adults, and we have not reached
that stage yet. However, it seems to me that a meaning can be attributed
to that critical interrogation on the present and on ourselves which
Kant formulated by reflecting on the Enlightenment. It seems to me that
Kant's reflection is even a way of philosophizing that has not been
without its importance or effectiveness during the last two centuries.
The critical ontology of ourselves has to be considered not, certainly,
as a theory, a doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that
is accumulating; it has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a
philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and
the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on
us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.

This philosophical attitude has to be translated into the labor of
diverse inquiries. These inquiries have their methodological coherence
in the at once archaeological and genealogical study of practices
envisaged simultaneously as a technological type of rationality and as
strategic games of liberties; they have their theoretical coherence in
the definition of the historically unique forms in which the
generalities of our relations to things, to others, to ourselves, have
been problematized. They have their practical coherence in the care
brought to the process of putting historico-critical reflection to the
test of concrete practices. I do not know whether it must be said today
that the critical task still entails faith in Enlightenment; I continue
to think that this task requires work on our limits, that is, a patient
labor giving form to our impatience for liberty.

That is--we can hope to transcend the docility which would be imposed
upon us, and to become capable of doing our own thinking, through the
care of the self.

[Foucault-L] A recent question that I asked of my lecturer, Scott Nicholas
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