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Author: Thomas Osborne

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.

From compassion to coercion
Author: David McGrogan

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.

Abstract only
Thomas Osborne

Ethics and educationality – Disciplinarity – Principles of reading – Theory and detachment – Problematics – Reconstructing modern cultural theory – Adorno, Foucault, Bourdieu This book is concerned with the scope of cultural theory in its modern – it might even be said in its modernist – form. This introductory chapter considers what this concern might mean, and why it might be of interest. Ethics and educationality The three thinkers under most consideration in the pages that follow – Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault and Pierre

in The structure of modern cultural theory
Anastasia Marinopoulou

, 1991), 48. 2 Cited in Jeremy Waldron, ‘Kant’s Theory of the State’, in Immanuel Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 191. 3 Cited in Paul Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (London:  Penguin Books, 1991), 50. 4 Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 2011), 199. 5 Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader, 63. 6 Cited in Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader, 22. 7 Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault. Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (New York: Harvester, Wheatsheaf, 1982

in Critical theory and epistemology
Abstract only
Thomas Osborne

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book claims that there is, or was, such a thing as modern cultural theory and argued that there is, or was, something ultimately ethical about it. It also claims that cultural theory, at least in its modern form, is characterised by what, for want of better terminology, can be described as a knowledge-constitutive interest that is ultimately ethical in character. This absolutely does not mean that modern cultural theory provides yet another view of what it is to have or be a self in the contemporary era. The book describes Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu as modern cultural theorists to claim that they can be understood, according to a common thread, an agenda, or a 'genre of inquiry'.

in The structure of modern cultural theory
Thomas Osborne

Culture and subjectivation – Interpretations – Power – Creative singularity – Aesthetics of existence – Relevance – Truthfulness and ressentiment – Art and creativity – Pastoralism, bio-power and the artistic life – Asceticism – Creative ethics – Political ethos – Resistance – Liberalism as critique – Culture – Critical virtue – Educationality and style Michel Foucault wrote next to nothing specifically about the concept of culture, did not publish too much about art and barely addressed in a direct way the specific issue of creativity. He is

in The structure of modern cultural theory
Open Access (free)
Mads Qvortrup

extraordinary: composer, musicologist, playwright, drama critic, novelist, botanist, pedagogue, political philosopher, psychologist’ (Shklar 1970: 5). Being primarily a work of political philosophy the question is: how much of this is relevant for the political theorist? Indeed which texts, published or unpublished, paint a true picture of what he really meant? Ought we to include everything that Rousseau ever wrote? And, if not, where do we draw the line? What qualifies as Rousseau’s political writings? This is far from being a trivial question. As Michel Foucault observed

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Thomas Osborne

odds from someone such as Adorno (not to mention Bourdieu who was, in any case, all too obviously a die-hard enemy of postmodern discourse), but also from a writer such as Michel Foucault, who after all, not unlike the post-modernists, did seek to extend the notion of the aesthetic beyond the artistic sphere itself and on to the terrain of subjectivity and the self. As is well known, Foucault, however, clearly and obviously retains a strong ethical dimension to his aesthetic thinking. In our chapter on his work, we found ourselves invoking matters of government and

in The structure of modern cultural theory
Abstract only
David McGrogan

State in the Making,” 15 (1), European Journal of International Law (2004) 1, esp. pp. 11–12. 15 R. Nigro, “From Reason of State to Liberalism: The Coup d’État as a Form of Government,” in V. Lemm and M. Vatter (eds), The Government of Life: Foucault, Biopolitics and Neoliberalism (Fordham University Press, 2014), 127. 16 P. Chevallier, “Michel Foucault and the Question of Right,” in B. Golder (ed.), Re-Reading Foucault: On Law, Power and Rights (Routledge, 2013), 171, pp. 181–183. 17 M. Mutua, “The Complexity of Universalism in Human Rights,” in A

in Critical theory and human rights
Thomas Osborne

autonomy. In that sense, it is, of course, an obviously ethico-critical exercise. The key theme is the character of Bourdieu’s self-perceived heterodoxy – his self-vaunted outsider status. Bourdieu’s personal intellectual position, his origins being in the provincial peasantry, appeared to demand, so far as he was concerned, that he should actually cultivate a certain outsiderness. But such cultivation was difficult owing to a paucity of resources. His comparison of his own experience with that of Michel Foucault – admired, certainly, for his intellectual scholarship and

in The structure of modern cultural theory