An old reply to Taylor is William E. Connolly’s “Taylor, Foucault and Otherness,” Political Theory, 13.3 (1985).


Best wishes,




Prof. Nathan Widder

Professor of Political Theory

Department of Politics and International Relations

Royal Holloway, University of London

Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX

United Kingdom
Staff webpage<>
Genealogies of Difference<>
Reflections on Time and Politics<>
Political Theory after Deleuze<>



-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Mark Kelly
Sent: 27 January 2015 10:35
To: Mailing-list; Nathaniel Roberts
Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] Taylor/Habermas vs. Foucault


Dear Nate,


I'm not sure if it's the source you're thinking of, but I do run an argument of this type in Chapter 6 of *The Political Philosophy of Michel Foucault*.





Dr Mark Kelly


Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow


School of Humanities and Communication Arts University of Western Sydney


On 27 January 2015 at 21:14, Nathaniel Roberts <<>> wrote:


Dear List,

Both Charles Taylor and J. Habermas have criticized Foucault. They

allege that F's critical analyses of modern forms of power are flawed

because he does not provide a positive alternative, or a normative

foundation, in relation to which these forms of power are found

wanting. Charles Taylor (if I am recalling his argument correctly)

makes the further claim that Foucault *does* in fact have an

unacknowledged normative framework, but that he does not make it

explicit, and that if he did he'd find that F's critical analyses are

contradictory, because they depend as premises on the very set-up he is criticizing.

I have always seen these criticisms of Foucault as misplaced. One does

not need to specify a positive alternative to say one finds something

"intolerable," as F says of popular initiatives by prisoner and others

who resist power (in Language, Counter-memory, Practice, p. 216). F

claims his own analyses are guided, in part, by actually existing

instances of resistance, but it would be equally coherent, I argue,

for him simply to say that "I find this intolerable." (I believe he

actually speaks in the first person like this somewhere, but I can't

find the quote---I thought it was in D&P.)

Anyway, coming to my question: does anyone know of a secondary work

that discusses this issue, and contests Taylor's/Habermas' claim that

criticism must be premised on some normative framework or positive

conception of the good? I feel sure I've seen such an argument

developed somewhere, but I can't recall where.

The closest thing I've found is Raymond Geuss' essay "Must Criticism

Be Constructive?" (in "A World without Why"). But this does not

specifically mention the Foucault or the Taylor/Habermas criticism.




Dr. Nathaniel Roberts



Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Herman-Föge-Weg 11

37073 Göttingen


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