MichelFoucault and NMD
When proposing to analyse the discursive articulations of foreign policy
threats, two notions stand out as significant. First, discursive practices
are constitutive of that which determines the meaning of foreign policy
phenomena to begin with. These practices are sites, or platforms, where
the politics of identity performs in its reconstruction of boundaries –
along the lines of foreign and domestic, inside and outside, self and other.
Second, the foreign policy
[ discours ]?
MichelFoucault: It’s a very important
question. Western philosophy has rarely shown any interest in
theatre since its condemnation by Plato. We had to wait until
Nietzsche for the question of the relation between philosophy and
theatre to be asked again of Western philosophy in all its acuity. I
feel there’s a connection between
Why adopt a poststructural perspective when reading about the military strategy of national missile defence (NMD)? Certainly, when considering how best to defend the United States against attack by intercontinental ballistic missiles, the value of critical international relations theory may be easy to overlook. So, how might the insight of scholars such as Michel Foucault contribute to our understanding of the decision-making processes behind NMD policy? The deployment of NMD is a sensitive political issue. Official justification for the significance of the NMD system is based upon strategic feasibility studies and conventional threat predictions guided by worst-case scenarios. However, this approach fails to address three key issues: the ambiguous and uncertain nature of the threat to which NMD responds; controversy over technological feasibility; and concern about cost. So, in light of these issues, why does NMD continue to stimulate such considerable interest and secure ongoing investment? Presented as an analysis of discourses on threats to national security – around which the need for NMD deployment is predominately framed – this book argues that the preferences underlying NMD deployment are driven by considerations beyond the scope of strategic approaches and issues. The conventional wisdom supporting NMD is contested using interpretive modes of inquiry provided by critical social theory and poststructuralism, and it is suggested that NMD strategy should be viewed in the context of US national identity. The book seeks to establish a dialogue between the fields of critical international relations theory and US foreign policy.
This book examines the importance of rules for many of the world’s great moral traditions. Ethical systems characterised by detailed rules – Islamic sharia and Christian casuistry are notable examples – have often been dismissed as empty formalism or as the instrument of social control. This book demonstrates, on the contrary, that rules often enable, rather than hinder, personal ethical life. Here anthropologists and historians explore cases of rule-oriented ethics and their dynamics across a wide range of historical and contemporary moral traditions. Examples of pre-modern Hindu ethics, codes of civility from early modern England and medieval Christian casuistry demonstrate how rules can form an essential element of what Michel Foucault called ‘the care of the self’. Studies of Roman exemplary ethics, early modern Christian theology and the calculation of sin and merit in contemporary Muslim Palestine highlight the challenges posed by the coexistence of moral rules with other moral forms, not least those of virtue ethics. Finally, explorations of medieval and modern Islamic sharia, Christian moral theology and Jewish halakhah all highlight how such traditions develop complex meta-rules – rules about rules – for managing the tensions and dilemmas that the use of rules can entail. Together, these case studies and the theoretical framework proposed in the book’s Introduction offer a more nuanced, cross-cultural appreciation of the role of rules in moral life than those currently prevalent in both the anthropology of ethics and the history of morality.
This edited collection is the first to engage directly with Foucault’s thought on
theatre and with the theatricality of his thought. Michel Foucault was not only
one of the most controversial and provocative thinkers of the twentieth century,
he was also one of its most inventive and penetrating researchers. Notoriously
hard to pin down, his work evades easy categorisation – philosopher, historian
of ‘systems of thought’, ‘radical journalist’ ‒ Foucault was all of these
things, and so much more. In what some see as a post-critical landscape, the
book forcefully argues for the urgency and currency of Foucauldian critique, a
method that lends itself to theatrical ways of thinking: how do we understand
the scenes and dramaturgies of knowledge and truth? How can theatre help
understand the critical shifts that characterised Foucault’s preoccupation with
the gaze and the scenographies of power? Above all, what makes Foucault’s work
compelling comes down to the question he repeatedly asked: ‘What are we at the
present time?’ The book offers a range of provocative essays that think about
this question in two ways: first, in terms of Foucault’s self-fashioning – the
way he plays the role of public intellectual through journalism and his many
public interviews, the dramaturgy of his thinking, and the appeal to theatrical
tropes in his work; and, second, to think about theatre and performance
scholarship through Foucault’s critical approaches to truth, power, knowledge,
history, governmentality, economy, and space, among others, as these continue to
shape contemporary political, ethical, and aesthetic concerns.
This book investigates discursive structures intermittently recurring through Gothic writing, and provides intertextual readings, exemplifications of contemporaneously understood, discursively inflected, debate. By drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault to establish a genealogy, it brings Gothic writing in from the margins of 'popular fiction', resituating it at the centre of debate about Romanticism. The book stresses that the intertextual readings form the methodological lynchpin for interpreting Gothic writing as self-aware debate on the character of the subject. Foucault's theory of discourse enables readers to gain an historical purchase on Gothic writing. The book traces the genealogy of a particular strand, the 'Gothic aesthetic', where a chivalric past was idealized at the explicit expense of a classical present. It introduces the reader to the aspects of Gothic in the eighteenth century including its historical development and its placement within the period's concerns with discourse and gender.
This book is concerned with the scope of cultural theory in its modern, it might even be said in its modernist, form. The three thinkers under most consideration in the book are Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, who might hardly be seen as representatives of cultural theory per se if that enterprise is taken to be what it should often taken to be. The book starts with Adorno (1903-1969) not just because his work is an apt way to introduce further some very basic themes of the book: in particular those of critical autonomy and educationality. Adorno's reflections on art and culture are contributions to the ethical understanding of autonomy, emphasising the importance of the cultivation of critical reflection. The argument here is that he is, rather, an ethico-critical theorist of democracy and a philosopher of hope. The book then situates the work of Michel Foucault (1926-1984), in other ways so different from Adorno, in terms of a broadly, if minimally, parallel agenda in modern cultural theory. It outlines some of the importance of Foucault's notion of an 'aesthetics of existence' in relation to his work as a whole. It further invokes related themes in the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). Finally, it moves things in a different direction, towards postmodernism, invoking the increasing role of the cultural and aesthetic dimension in contemporary experience that is often taken as a central aspect of the postmodern turn.
The structure/agency debate has been among the central issues in discussions of social theory. It has been widely assumed that the key theoretical task is to find a link between social structures and acting human beings to reconcile the macro with the micro, society and the individual. This book considers a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. It argues that the contemporary sociological preoccupation with structure and agency has had disastrous effects on the understanding of Karl Marx's ideas. Through a critical evaluation of 'structuration theory' as a purported synthesis of 'structure and agency', the book also argues that the whole idea of a structure-and-agency 'problem' mythologises the fracture lines that do run through relatively recent sociological thought. Michel Foucault's ideas were used to both shore up existing positions in sociology and to instantiate (or solve) the 'new' structure-agency 'problem'. Foucault allowed sociologists to conduct 'business as usual' between the demise of structuralism and the contemporary consensus around Pierre Bourdieu-Anthony Giddens-Jurgen Habermas and the structure-agency dualisms. Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary social theory.
to Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1992 : 221), in modern societies, ‘the institutions of violence generally operate more covertly’ through experts in a number of fields, in speeches, imaginaries and sentiment. The violence exerted in a concealed manner is characterised by MichelFoucault (1991) through the concept of ‘security mechanisms’ and by Didier Fassin (2012) through ‘humanitarian government’. Scheper-Hughes (1992 : 221) speaks of the ‘“softer” forms of social control, the gloved hand of the state’.
Resilience and humanitarian language are techniques that
This book describes how human rights have given rise to a vision of benevolent governance that, if fully realised, would be antithetical to individual freedom. It shows that contemporary human rights practice is increasingly managerial in nature, interested above all in measuring and improving human rights performance. This has the effect of shifting the focus of human rights from the individual rights-holder to the activities of the duty-bearer: the state, international organisation, or business. The result is a preoccupation with achieving measured improvements within abstract groups such as the population or ‘stakeholders’, with the individual rights-holder being relevant only insofar as he or she is a datapoint in a larger grouping. The book then analyses this trend and its consequences. It describes human rights’ evolution into a grand but nebulous project, rooted in compassion, with the overarching aim of improving universal welfare by defining the conditions of human well-being and imposing obligations on the state and other actors to realise them. The ultimate result is the ‘governmentalisation’ of a pastoral form of global human rights governance, in which power is exercised for the general good, moulded by a complex regulatory sphere which shapes the field of action for the individual at every turn. The conclusion is that it is unsurprising that this alienating discourse has failed to capture the popular imagination – and that if the human rights movement is to succeed it may be necessary for it to do less rather than more.