Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (5):563-580 (2003)
|Abstract||In this article I consider Foucault's credentials as a postmodern `champion' of the `politics of difference'. First, however, I note that the familiar expression `the postmodern politics of difference' is in fact self-contradictory, or at least it is a contradiction in terms (1) if we concede that the ongoing ethical/normative task confronting politics is the unifying or synthesizing of differences and (2) if we accept, with pleasure or dismay, that postmodernism exhibits a profoundly suspicious attitude towards this ethical task and towards moral principles and normative positions generally. I then ask whether or not Foucault adopted a normative position that could provide the necessary ethical support for a `politics of difference'. I argue that it is possible to find an element of genuine normativity in Foucault's work (of the kind required for a `politics of difference') by considering his views on the role of the intellectual, on the font of legitimacy, on grand theory and on essence. I also consider the work of some well-known recent commentators on Foucault (Judith Butler, William Connolly and John Ransom) who discuss this normative/political dimension of his work. Key Words: essentialism • feminism • Foucault • legitimacy • norms.|
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