This paper situates Lynne Huffer’s recent queer-feminist Foucaultian critique of reason within the context of earlier feminist debates about reason and critically assesses Huffer’s work from the point of view of its faithfulness to Foucault’s work and its implications for feminism. I argue that Huffer’s characterization of Enlightenment reason as despotic not only departs from Foucault’s account of the relationship between power and reason, it also leaves her stuck in the same double binds that plagued earlier feminist critiques of reason. (...) An appreciation of the profoundly ambivalent nature of Foucault’s critique of reason offers feminists some insights into how to navigate those double binds. What feminists should learn from the early Foucault is precisely his commitment to engage in a rational critique of reason that highlights reason’s dangerous entanglements with power while resisting the temptation to reject or refuse reason altogether. (shrink)
This volume of essays brings together some of the highlights from the fifty-first annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP). The Rochester Institute of Technology and Nazareth College hosted our conference on November 1-3, 2012. Although Hurricane Sandy disrupted the travel plans of some of our presenters and forced us to reschedule some sessions, the conference went on as planned. Our local host, Brian Schroeder of the Rochester Institute of Technology, SPEP secretary-treasurer Shannon Mussett, and graduate (...) assistant Christopher Paone worked tirelessly to deal with the disruptions caused by the storm and to keep members and conference participants updated through the SPEP .. (shrink)
Exploring the apparent tension between Foucault’s analyses of technologies of domination – the ways in which the subject is constituted by power–knowledge relations – and of technologies of the self – the ways in which individuals constitute themselves through practices of freedom – this article endeavors to makes two points: first, the interpretive claim that Foucault’s own attempts to analyse both aspects of the politics of our selves are neither contradictory nor incoherent; and, second, the constructive claim that Foucault’s analysis (...) of the politics of our selves, though not entirely satisfactory as it stands, provides important resources for the project of critical social theory. (shrink)
This paper examines Young’s conception of power, arguing that it is incomplete, in at least two ways. First, Young tends to equate the term power with the narrower notions of ‘oppression’ and ‘domination’. Thus, Young lacks a satisfactory analysis of individual and collective empowerment. Second, as Young herself admits, it is not obvious that her analysis of power can be useful in the context of thinking about transnational justice. Allen concludes by considering one way in which Young’s analysis of power (...) needs to be extended or perhaps modified in order to do justice to questions of transnational justice. (shrink)
Introduction : the politics of our selves -- Foucault, subjectivity, and the enlightenment : a critical reappraisal -- The impurity of practical reason : power and autonomy in Foucault -- Dependency, subordination, and recognition : Butler on subjection -- Empowering the lifeworld? autonomy and power in Habermas -- Contextualizing critical theory -- Engendering critical theory.
Judith Butler's recent work expands the Foucaultian notion of subjection to encompass an analysis of the ways in which subordinated individuals becomes passionately attached to, and thus come to be psychically invested in, their own subordination. I argue that Butler's psychoanalytically grounded account of subjection offers a compelling diagnosis of how and why an attachment to oppressive norms – of femininity, for example – can persist in the face of rational critique of those norms. However, I also argue that her (...) account of individual and collective resistance to subjection is plagued by familiar problems concerning the normative criteria and motivation for resistance that emerge in her recent work in new and arguably more intractable forms, and by new concerns about her conceptions of dependency, subordination and recognition. (shrink)
In a late discussion of Kant’s essay, “Was ist Aufklärung?,” Foucault credits Kant with posing “the question of his own present” and positions himself as an inheritor of this Kantian legacy.1 Foucault has high praise for the critical tradition that emerges from Kant’s historical-political reflections on the Enlightenment and the French Revolution; Kant’s concern in these writings with “an ontology of the present, an ontology of ourselves” is, he says, characteristic of “a form of philosophy, from Hegel, through Nietzsche and (...) Max Weber, to the Frankfurt School,” a form of philosophy in which Foucault, perhaps surprisingly, situates his own work. (shrink)
The author argues for bringing the work of Michel Foucault and Hannah Arendt into dialogue with respect to the links between power, subjectivity, and agency.Although one might assume that Foucault and Arendt come from such radically different philosophical starting points that such a dialogue would be impossible, the author argues that there is actually a good deal of common ground to be found between these two thinkers. Moreover, the author suggests that Foucault's and Arendt's divergent views about the role that (...) power plays in the constitution of subjectivity and agency should be seen as complementary rather than opposed. (shrink)
When it was at its height, the feminist pornography debate tended to generate more heat than light. Only now that there has been a cease fire in the sex war does it seem possible to reflect on the debate in a more productive way and to address some of the questions that were left unresolved by it. In this paper, I shall argue that one of the major unresolved questions is that of how feminists should conceptualize power. The antipornography feminists (...) and the feminist sex radicals presuppose radically different conceptions of power, and this fact helps to explain why they come to such different conclusions about what, if anything, should be done about pornography. The feminist pornography debate remains unresolved precisely because it is unresolvable in the terms in which it has been posed. I shall contend that the conceptions of power presupposed on both sides of the debate are incomplete, and, therefore, inadequate.4 My hope is that once we recognize this, we might be able to improve not only the way that feminists analyze pornography but also the way we conceptualize power. (shrink)
I argue that Johanna Meehan's call to examine the extra-linguistic psychic, affective and biological dimensions of gender identity is extremely important both for feminist theory in particular and for contemporary Continental philosophy in general. However, I suspect that such an examination might necessitate more than a mere expansion or reconstruction of Habermas' views; on the contrary, I suggest that Meehan's line of argument might lead instead toward a radical deconstruction of Habermasian critical theory. Key Words: feminism Habermas identity (...) moral vs ethical. (shrink)
The centerpiece of the first volume of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality is the analysis of what Foucault terms the “repressive hypothesis,” the nearly universal assumption on the part of twentieth-century Westerners that we are the heirs to a Victorian legacy of sexual repression. The supreme irony of this belief, according to Foucault, is that the whole time that we have been announcing and denouncing our repressed, Victorian sexuality, discourses about sexuality have actually proliferated. Paradoxically, as Victorian as we allegedly (...) are, we cannot stop talking about sex. Much of the analysis of the first volume of the History of Sexuality consists in an unmasking and debunking of the repressive hypothesis. This unmasking does not take the simple form of a counter-claim that we are not, in fact, repressed; rather, Foucault contends that understanding sexuality solely or even primarily in terms of repression is inaccurate and misleading. As he said in an interview published in 1983, “it is not a question of denying the existence of repression. It’s one of showing that repression is always a part of a much more complex political strategy regarding sexuality. Things are not merely repressed.”1 Foucault makes this extremely clear in the introduction to the History of Sexuality, Volume 1, when he writes. (shrink)
This paper argues that Hannah Arendt's political theory offers key insights into the power that binds together the feminist movement - the power of solidarity. Second-wave feminist notions of solidarity were grounded in notions of shared identity; in recent years, as such conceptions of shared identity have come under attack for being exclusionary and repressive, feminists have been urged to give up the idea of solidarity altogether. However, the choice between (repressive) identity and (fragmented) non-identity is a false opposition, and (...) the Arendtian account of solidarity developed here allows us to move beyond this opposition. Thus, Arendt provides us with a model of solidarity that can stand a post-identity politics feminist theory in good stead. Key Words: Hannah Arendt feminist theory identity politics power solidarity. (shrink)
Power is clearly a crucial concept for feminist theory. Insofar as feminists are interested in analyzing power, it is because they have an interest in understanding, critiquing, and ultimately challenging the multiple array of unjust power relations affecting women in contemporary Western societies, including sexism, racism, heterosexism, and class oppression.In The Power of Feminist Theory, Amy Allen diagnoses the inadequacies of previous feminist conceptions of power, and draws on the work of a diverse group of theorists of power, including Michel (...) Foucault, Judith Butler, and Hannah Arendt, in order to construct a new feminist conception of power. The conception of power developed in this book enables readers to theorize domination, resistance, and solidarity, and, perhaps more importantly, to do so in a way that illuminates the interrelatedness of these three modalities of power. (shrink)
Although Judith Butler’s theory of the performativity of gender has been highly influential in feminist theory, queer theory, cultural studies, and some areas of philosophy, it has yet to receive its due from critical social theorists.1 This oversight is especially problematic given the crucial insights into the study of power – a central concept for critical social theory – that can be gleaned from Butler’s work. Her analysis is somewhat unique among discussions of power in its attempt to theorize simultaneously (...) both the features of cultural domination in contemporary societies and the possibilities of resistance to and subversion of such domination. Although I will maintain here that this attempt is not entirely successful, I nevertheless argue that Butler’s account makes crucial contributions to a feminist critical theory of power; as a result, it merits much more serious attention from critical theorists. (shrink)
This paper argues that feminists have yet to develop a satisfactory account of power. Existing feminist accounts of power tend to have a one-sided emphasis either on power as domination or on power as empowerment. This conceptual one-sided-ness must be overcome if feminists are to develop an account complex enough to illuminate women's diverse experiences with power. Such an account is sketched here.