Foucault and the contemporary scene

Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (3):81-91 (1999)
What relevance does Foucault have, more than a decade after his death? Foucault was a sort of philosophical journalist - continually concerned with what is happening in the present. And it is here that we find one of the guiding threads of Foucault's ethics: we must be constantly vigilant in ensuring that the present does not become a mere repetition of the past. Philosophy must produce events that can act to disrupt this repetition. This is the task of judgment, confronted by the question of power. We can recognize four points on which Foucault has continuing relevance. First, Foucault diagnosed the end of revolution, the consequences of which we are now living. Further, Foucault's work on truth-telling and norms and measures, the heart of the question of justice, is still significant. Foucault's work on medicine, and in particular ancient Greek medicine, will also play a critical role if we are to successfully navigate the myriad problems posed by a new form of medicine, genetic medicine - a medicine of predispositions rather than therapy, similar to the medicine practiced by the Greeks. Fourth and finally, Foucault has a continuing relevance for problems of decision-making, responsibility and care. We can think about responsibility, for Foucault, through the question of care - and thus will avoid reducing responsibility to a merely juridical notion. Key Words: care • Foucault • medicine • norms • present • repetition • responsibility • revolution.
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DOI 10.1177/019145379902500304
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