Foucault's politicization of ontology

Continental Philosophy Review 43 (4):445-466 (2010)
The paper explicates a politicized conception of reality with the help of Michel Foucault’s critical project. I contend that Foucault’s genealogies of power problematize the relationship between ontology and politics. His idea of productive power incorporates a radical, ontological claim about the nature of reality: Reality as we know it is the result of social practices and struggles over truth and objectivity. Rather than translating the true ontology into the right politics, he reverses the argument. The radicality of his method lies in showing how the ontological order of things is in itself the outcome of a political struggle: Ontology is politics that has forgotten itself. I argue that Foucault’s thought accomplishes the politicization of ontology with two key theoretical moves. The first is the contestation and provocation of all given and necessary ontological foundations. He affirms the ontological view that there is a discontinuity between reality and all ontological schemas that order it, and a subsequent indeterminacy of reason in establishing ultimate truths or foundations. After this initial step whereby ontology is denaturalized—made arbitrary or at least historically contingent—the way is open for explanations that treat the alternative and competing ontological frameworks as resulting from historical, linguistic and social practices of power. The second key move is thus the exposure of power relations and their constitutive role in our conception of reality. I conclude by considering the implications of Foucault’s politicization of ontology for our understanding of politics
Keywords Foucault  Political ontology  The political  Politics  Power
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-010-9153-6
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