One of the key concepts in autonomist Marxism is the ‘general intellect’. As capitalism develops, labour and its products become increasingly ‘immaterial’, inasmuch as the physical side of production is taken over by automated systems. The result is that all aspects of the collective worker's affective, desiring and cognitive capabilities are now brought to bear on production itself. This problematises capitalistic notions of proprietary control, because it raises the possibility that the mass ‘cognitive worker’, and the inherently co-operative principles it (...) embodies, can detach itself from neoliberal mechanisms of subsumption and valorisation and lay the foundation for a new communalistic ethos. What is intriguing is that several autonomists evoke the work of Mikhail Bakhtin vis-à-vis the ‘general intellect’. Bakhtin did maintain that dialogism is an irreducibly collective phenomenon, and that we all contribute to the continuous making and remaking of language. We do not ‘own’ the words we use; as such, meaning is necessarily plural and heterogeneous, the product of the interaction of many texts and voices that can only be pragmatically and contingently unified. The present article seeks to explore the connection between Bakhtin and autonomism, focusing on the insight that communication is always ‘more than myself’, and hence integral to the ‘social brain’ that is a shared legacy, our ‘commonwealth’. It also raises the possibility of a more ‘troublesome’ Bakhtin than is generally countenanced by the liberal academy, and a concomitantly ‘dangerous’ dialogism that haunts a digitalised and networked world marked in equal measure by tremendous emancipatory promise and catastrophic threat. (shrink)
Feminist theory needs both explanatory-diagnostic and anticipatory-utopian moments in order to be truly critical and truly feminist. However, the explanatory-diagnostic task of analyzing the workings of gendered power relations in all of their depth and complexity seems to undercut the very possibility of emancipation on which the anticipatory-utopian task relies. In this paper, I take this looming paradox as an invitation to rethink our understanding of emancipation and its relation to the anticipatory-utopian dimensions of critique, asking what conception of emancipation (...) is compatible with a complex explanatory-diagnostic analysis of contemporary gender domination as it is intertwined and entangled with race, class, sexuality, and empire. I explore this question through an analysis of two specific debates in which the paradoxical relationship between power and emancipation emerges in particularly salient and seemingly intractable forms: debates over subjection and modernity. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, I argue that a negativistic conception of emancipation offers the best way for feminist critical theory to transform the paradox of power and emancipation into a productive tension that can fuel critique. (shrink)
Bioethics influences public policy, scientific research, and clinical practice. Thinkers in Continental traditions have increasingly contributed scholarship to this field, and their approaches allow new insights and alternative normative guidance. In this essay, examples of the following Continental approaches in bioethics are presented and considered: phenomenology and existentialism; deconstruction; Foucauldian methodologies; and biopolitical analyses. Also highlighted are Continental feminisms and the philosophy of disability. Continental approaches are importantly diverse, but those I focus upon here reveal embedded models of individualized autonomy (...) in medical discourses and encourage awareness of medicine's normalizing edges, thereby drawing attention to lacunae in traditional bioethical frameworks. (shrink)
More than two decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act , people with disabilities continue to live at the margins of American democracy and capitalist society. This persistent exclusion poses a conundrum to political theorists committed to disability rights, multiculturalism, and social justice. Drawing from feminist insights, specifically the work of Nancy Fraser, among others, I examine the necessary conditions for meaningful inclusion to be realized within a deliberative democracy. Using Fraser's concept of “participatory parity” as a (...) proxy for inclusion, I strategize how to overcome informal barriers—economic inequality and misrecognition—that persist even after disabled people are granted the legal right to participate. The analysis concludes that a truly inclusionary and multicultural democracy requires the redistribution of wealth and a more expansive model of political deliberation, one that can recognize unconventional modes of communication through practices of translation. (shrink)
This article considers the recent debate over the nature of Buddhist ethics largely conducted by scholars who have argued in different ways that Buddhist ethics may be assimilated to or may correspond with different forms of western ethical theory.I argue that the interpretation of Buddhist texts, and in particular the Vinaya, in light of western ethical theory creates misunderstanding. I argue that in each case of a supposed ethical dilemma, Buddhist ethics should be seen as empirical, since the ultimate point (...) of reference for the choices involved in a proposed action lies in the purity and wholesomeness of each individual action.My approach follows Foucault's argument for scepticism with regard to the notions of a universal nature or of a universal rationality. I argue that it is not instructive to read Buddhist texts against generalized standards. Rather, it is more productive to regard ethics as creating a space for the ethical, not in a normative sense but one arising from personal practice as related to individual circumstances.At the same time, this article outlines the role of beauty and its role in ethical formation. I suggest that one interpretation of Theravada Buddhism has regarded beauty as a form of sensuous pleasure, which is seen as a danger for someone on the spiritual path. However, an alternative reading of such texts is more sympathetic to the educative role of beauty. (shrink)
North American writer Joan Didion’s eloquent testimonial speaks to the significance of storytelling in our lives. Personal storiesmake our lives meaningful. Part of this is because our stories, wittingly or not, become the means through which we fashion our identities for listeners. Or, as scholars from many disciplines have argued, identity and selfhoodare narrative accomplishments. In this formulation, an individual constructs a sense of self by telling stories or “personal narratives,” which describe “the evolution of an individual life over time (...) and in social context” (Maynes et al. in Telling stories: the use of personal narratives in the social sciences and in history. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2008, 2). While personal narratives contain unique autobiographical elements, the logics of storytelling and the values and beliefs of a particular time and place also influence the kinds of stories people tell. As feminist historian Mary Jo Maynes and her coauthors argue: “The stories that people tell about their lives are never simply individual, but are told in historically specific times and settings and draw on the rules and models in circulation that govern how story elements link together in narrative logics” (2008, 2). Put another way, even the most idiosyncratic story is always in some way social: what narrators decide to tell is often guided by the expectations of audiences (real or imagined); the conventions of various genres (such as life history or autobiography); as well as the broader cultural narratives located in particular historical times and places. In this light, personal narratives at once provide evidence of a storyteller’s viewpoint and experiences as well as the social and cultural milieu in which they live. (shrink)
En las últimas décadas, dos líneas de pensamiento han querido hacerse cargo de la necesidad de pensar “lo común” desde coordenadas ontológicas. Una, representada principalmente por Jean-Luc Nancy y Alain Badiou, retoma los análisis de Heidegger sobre el Mitsein; la otra parte de los análisis que Toni Negri hace de la noción de “multitud” de Spinoza. Estas dos “ontologías de lo común” han dado pie a sendas estéticas que persiguen una finalidad política. Este trabajo estudia estas tendencias con el fin (...) de determinar qué tipo de noción de “lo común” manejan. La tesis esgrimida es la de que la interpretación que hacen de aquellas ontologías es errónea y que la “comunidad” presente en ellas está más próxima al sensus communis kantiano. (shrink)
This article explores the implications of cross-border migration for social work's normative commitment to social justice. Specifically, it interrogates Nancy Fraser's conceptualisation of social justice in guiding social work practice with refugees. The paper is grounded in an ethnographic study conducted from 2008 to 2009 in a South African church which had provided shelter to a group of refugees following their displacement by an outbreak of xenophobic violence. The study's findings reveal that various kinds of misframing created multiple forms of (...) voicelessness amongst its foreign participants. These filtered out to justify, perpetuate and deepen other types of injustice, particularly misrecognition and maldistribution. There was some evidence of resistance, solidarity, recognition and small acts of redistribution. However, such positive practices proved difficult to sustain. The paper confirms the central importance of the notion of misframing for conceptualising and responding to social injustice in the absence of citizenship?as required of practitioners in the field of social work with refugees and indeed other groups rendered vulnerable within current economic, social, political and cultural constellations. In this regard, Fraser's contribution looks set to enrich social work's commitment to social justice both in normative and practical terms. (shrink)
Many authors have described the ethical issues associated with international adoption for all members of the adoption triad, including adoptive parents, birth parents and the adopted child, and for both sending and receiving countries. This paper explores how political variants of care ethics, combined with a narrative approach to practice, can be used as a conceptual framework for ethically informed practice with families formed via international adoption. Political variants of care ethics foreground the particularized needs of the individual, but also (...) take into account the broader social, political, economic and cultural dynamics in which the experience of individuals occurs. This framework is particularly applicable to collaborative work with individuals or groups, such as families formed via international adoption, whose experience is both highly individualized and shaped by broader contexts and issues of social justice. This paper describes how changes in the social construction of international adoption have meaning for applied ethics and practice. Political variants of care ethics are then explored as a framework for ethical decision making. Finally, the relevance of a narrative, approach to practice is considered. This approach focuses on understanding the needs and experiences of families from their own points of view and within the social, economic, cultural and political contexts in which they have lived; linking a relationship-based, narrative approach to practice to important assumptions in many models of care ethics. (shrink)
This paper explicates Foucault's conception of experience and defends it as an important theoretical resource for feminist theory. It analyzes Linda Alcoff's devastating critique of Foucault's account of sexuality and her reasons for advocating phenomenology as a more viable alternative. I agree with her that a philosophically sophisticated understanding of experience must remain central for feminist theory, but I demonstrate that her critique of Foucault is based on a mistaken view of his philosophical position as well as on a problematic (...) understanding of phenomenology. (shrink)
Recent scholarship has critiqued the tendency for separated mothers in custody disputes to be defined as hostile and alienating. Through the presentation of three case studies, drawn from an interview-based study with 21 women, we show how such pejorative constructions only arise when the conflicting gendered moral accountabilities of contemporary motherhood are overlooked. We found that mothers tend to believe that contact with non-resident fathers is generally in a child’s best interests. However, as a result of balancing complex moral obligations (...) for the care of their children, they may raise questions about particular kinds of arrangements for contact with particular fathers. We argue, therefore, that family law practice will lead to better outcomes for children when professionals listen to the history of, and reasons for, mothers’ positions. To enable family law professionals to undertake this task, we offer an alternative interpretive framework for making sense of women’s stories. Should family law professionals make use of this framework, it is likely that they will understand that the positions mothers adopt are often the outcome of the difficult moral dilemmas they encounter in caring for their children, and that the reductive rubric of the ‘hostile mother’ needs to be treated with scepticism. (shrink)
How do we know which institutions provide good care? Some scholars argue that the best way to think about care institutions is to model them upon the family or the market. This paper argues, on the contrary, that when we make explicit some background conditions of good family care, we can apply what we know to better institutionalized caring. After considering elements of bad and good care, from an institutional perspective, the paper argues that good care in an institutional context (...) has three central foci: the purpose of care, a recognition of power relations, and the need for pluralistic, particular tailoring of care to meet individuals? needs. These elements further require political space within institutions to address such concerns. (shrink)
In what ways might we best, and justly, allow for cohabitation between individuals and groups with plural conceptions of the good? Confronting this question, students of political philosophy in the past two decades have encountered a routine contrast between liberal universalism, with a focus on equal individual rights and uniform application of the law, and on the other hand various versions of a 'politics of difference'(...).
This article makes a case for the capacity of "social practice" accounts of agency and freedom to criticize, resist, and transform systemic forms of power and domination from within the context of religious and political practices and institutions. I first examine criticisms that Michel Foucault's analysis of systemic power results in normative aimlessness, and then I contrast that account with the description of agency and innovative practice that pragmatist philosopher Robert Brandom identifies as "expressive freedom." I argue that Brandom can (...) provide a normative trajectory for Foucault's diagnoses of power and domination, helping to resolve its apparent lack of ethical direction. I demonstrate that Foucault, in turn, presents Brandom with insights that might overcome the charges of abstraction and conservatism that his pragmatic inferentialism frequently encounters. The result is a vindication of social practice as an analytical lens for social criticism that is at once both immanent and radical. (shrink)
This piece comprises short presentations given by contributors to a symposium organized by the journal Ethics & Social Welfare on the theme of global ethics for social work. The contributors offer their reflections on the extent to which universally accepted international statements of ethical principles in social work are possible or useful, engaging with debates about cultural diversity, relativism and the relevance of human rights in non-Western countries.
This article challenges the widespread and influential claim ? made by many liberals and non?liberals ? that cultural membership is a prerequisite of individual autonomy. It argues that liberals like Joseph Raz and Will Kymlicka, who ground autonomy in culture, underestimate the complex and internally diverse nature of the self, and the extent to which individual agents will often be shaped by many different attachments and memberships at once. In ?selectively elevating? one of these memberships (culture) as the most important (...) to one?s autonomy or identity, culturalist liberals present a skewed and simplistic account of individual autonomy and, hence, of liberalism. Instead, autonomy should be seen as arising not out of any particular membership or attachment, but out of the interaction between those different memberships which shape the individual?s understanding of themselves and the world in which they live. This alternative account holds important implications for liberal theory, particularly the tensions between ?political? and ?comprehensive? liberals about the scope of liberal principles and the nature of public reasoning about justice. (shrink)
In recent years a growing body of literature on the ethics of care has made significant contributions to understanding the multiple dimensions of care. Feminist theories provide the resource for this interdisciplinary research in which there has been scant attention given to black women's approaches to moral deliberations and understandings of care. Although there are differing interests and diversity among black women, this article seeks to disrupt current frameworks surrounding the ethics of care and discusses a more relevant conceptual framework (...) to bring diverse perspectives to bear in the current wave of interest in caring. By applying black feminist thought to the complexities of black womanhood in the broader society, this paper considers cultural antecedents and lived experiences as a starting point for ethical concerns in reclaiming the everyday world as self-defined by black women themselves to open up new insights into care and its multiple dimensions. (shrink)
The development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has caused worldwide debate and has required us to reevaluate theories of social responsibility. This article, first, briefly discusses the progressive stages of social responsibility that scholars have outlined as they examine the history of businesses. Next an overview of the development of the DuPont corporation in the United States is presented, tracing DuPont’s transformation from an explosives and chemicals company into a life-science corporation and demonstrating how outside factors influenced this change. The (...) article then turns to the activities of the DuPont corporation in Brazil, a country with one of the world’s largest agricultural economies – and examines how the debate on GMOs is unfolding within the Brazilian context. It discusses how differing interest groups have taken part in this debate, the limits of their arguments, and the need to develop means for providing open collaborative efforts in evaluating new technologies. (shrink)
Despite the importance of mass media to deliberative democratic processes, few scholars have focused on how market forces, occupational norms, and competition among outlets affect the quality of media discourse in mainstream and political outlets. Here, I argue that field theory, as outlined by new institutionalism and Pierre Bourdieu, provides a useful theoretical framework for assessing the quality of media discourse in different kinds of media outlets. The value of field theory is that it simultaneously highlights the importance of homogeneity (...) and heterogeneity within a field of action, which provides a framework for discussing the roles different kinds of outlets play in deliberate democratic processes and evaluating the quality of discourse in mainstream and political venues. I illustrate the utility of this conceptualization through an analysis of 1,424 stories on abortion in nine U.S. media outlets and interviews with journalists, editors, and producers in these venues. I find that political media outlets provide higher-quality discourse than that of mainstream venues. Additionally, I find that while market pressures may heighten a focus on conflict in the abortion debate, this emphasis is exacerbated by mainstream journalists themselves, who assume that the general public is familiar with, and has taken a firm position on, abortion. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for deliberative democratic processes. (shrink)
In 2004, the Department for Education and Skills in England published its Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners (DfES, 2004). It was preceded by Excellence and Enjoyment: a strategy for primary schools (DfES, 2003). 'Excellence and enjoyment' seems to constitute an ambiguity, even a contradiction. The government's view is otherwise. It states that enjoyment (for pupils) is a consequence of excellent teaching. In turn, excellent teaching is said to be more assured if it is personalised and creative. This official (...) logic is questionable. A different interpretation is offered. Global capitalism is placing fiscal pressures on the public expenditure of the nation-state, and new accommodations and justifications have to be made by government as it continues to re-focus the education system towards an economic purpose. In this endeavour it must gain public and professional assent. Informed by critical theorists, it is argued here that 'excellence' associates with a producer ethic; 'enjoyment' with a consumer ethic. The former enables the capital accumulation process within a social-democratic welfare state; the latter justifies the policies of accumulation. (shrink)
This paper has arisen from a concern that much recent policy-related research on markets displays misogynistic tendencies. In both the media and academic accounts it would appear as though the blame for social and educational inequalities can now be laid at the door of women - particularly middle-class mothers. Through examining competing perspectives on how we might understand this attribution of blame, this paper argues that their guilt is best explained not through changes in behaviour but through the conjuncture of (...) shifts in education policy and related research. These shifts have turned the attention of research away from the public domain of the state and the organisational and cultural attributes of schools to focus on the private domain of domestic decision-making. But the representations of these public and private domains are underpinned by unexamined gendered and ideological subtexts which have limited our powers of description and explanation. The paper concludes by suggesting strategies through which we might both address the tacit misogyny in research on markets and develop more sophisticated accounts of contemporary changes. (shrink)
The work of psychiatrist R. D. Laing deserves recognition as a key contribution to sociological theory, in dialogue with the interactionist and interpretivist sociological traditions. Laing encourages us to identify meaningful social action in what would otherwise appear to be nonsocial phenomena. His interpretation of schizophrenia as a rational strategy of withdrawal reminds us of the threat that others can pose to the self and how social relations are implicated in even the most "private" and "internal" of experiences. He developed (...) a far-reaching critical theory of the self in modern society, which challenges the medicalization and biochemical reduction of human problems. Using the case of shyness as an example, the article seeks to demonstrate the importance of Laing's theories for examining the fragility of the self in relation to contemporary social order. (shrink)
Contemporary sociology conceptualizes religion along two dimensions: the institutional and the individual. Lost in this dichotomy is religion's noninstitutional, but collective and public, cultural dimension. As a result, theories of religious modernity, including both sides of the secularization debate, are unable to recognize or evaluate the social power of noninstitutionalized religious communication. This article offers a reconceptualization of religion that highlights its cultural, communicative dimension. Original research on religious talk provides an empirical ground for a theoretical discussion that highlights: (1) (...) the "invisible" nature of religion in modern societies, as theorized by Thomas Luckmann and (2) the social power attributed to communication by contemporary cultural sociologists and cultural theorists. I argue that conceptualizing religion as an evolving societal conversation about transcendent meaning broadens the empirical and theoretical grasp of the religion concept. (shrink)
Theorists analyzing the concepts of race and gender disagree over whether the terms refer to natural kinds, social kinds, or nothing at all. The question arises: what do we mean by the terms? It is usually assumed that ordinary intuitions of native speakers are definitive. However, I argue that contemporary semantic externalism can usefully combine with insights from Foucauldian genealogy to challenge mainstream methods of analysis and lend credibility to social constructionist projects.
This paper offers a detailed account of Foucaults ethical and political notion of individuality as presented in his late work, and discusses its relationship to the feminist project of the theory of sexual difference. I argue that Foucaults elaboration of the classical ethos of care for the self opens the way for regarding the I-woman as an ethical, political and aesthetic self-creation. However, it has significant limitations that cannot be ignored. I elaborate on two aspects of Foucaults avoidance of sexual (...) difference as a relevant category for an account of political and ethical individuality, which thus implicitly associates individual agency with men. I argue that Foucault implicitly assumes the existence of an ontological desire to become engaged in political self-creation. However, the ethical position of self-knowledge and desire should be understood as a contingent option that depends on material and historical conditions for its realization. Hence, I argue that a feminist reworking of Foucaults notion of political individuality should add a substantial ethical condition to the imperative of self-knowledge and self-creation – making possible the desiring woman subject. (shrink)
What does social justice require in contemporary societies? What are the requirements of social democracy? Who and where are the individuals and groups that can carry forward agendas for progressive social transformation? What are we to make of the so-called new social movements of the last thirty years? Is identity politics compatible with egalitarianism? Can cultural misrecognition and economic maldistribution be fought simultaneously? What of the heritage of Western Marxism is alive and dead? And how is current critical social theory (...) to approach these and other questions? Much of the most productive work done in recent social theory has revolved around such issues, in particular, around those concerning the relationship between the politics of recognition and the politics of distribution. After the intense theoretical focus over the last fifteen years or so on the issues of recognition politics—multiculturalism, multi-nationalism, identity politics, group-differentiated rights, the accommodation of difference, and so on—some social theorists have worried that attention has been diverted from important issues of distributive equality—systematic impoverishment, increasing material inequality, ‘structural’ unemployment, the growth of oligarchic power, global economic segmentation, and so on. While some critics seem to have adopted a blunt ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ line of criticism,1 others have attempted to develop an overarching, integrative theoretical framework adequate to the diverse issues concerning both economic and cultural justice. For example, Axel Honneth proposes that a suitably developed and normatively robust theory of intersubjective recognition can adequately integrate an analysis of apparently diverse contemporary struggles: those for a just division of labor and hence, a fair distribution of resources and opportunities, as well as those for a culture free of identity-deforming disrespect and denigration. (shrink)
This article proposes an analysis of the social process of unsilencing in the specific context of heterosexual relationships. Unsilencing is the process in which an individual woman becomes empowered to the extent of voicing what is silenced by structural hierarchies that shape her experiences of the heterosexual relationships she is involved in. I connect the process of unsilencing to the sociological notion of “negotiated order” and a feminist notion of the self as fragmented and continually changing. Unsilencing is conceived as (...) a response to power operating on three levels: emotional connection that empowers a contesting meaning structure; a process of distancing that empowers the individual in overcoming positioning processes; and an increased sense of authenticity in relation to the set of emotional management, language and beliefs embedded in the contesting meaning structure. (shrink)
The present paper motivates one possible answer to Kant’s question, “What remains of the Enlightenment?” by reinterpreting the relation between Foucault and critical tradition from Kant to the Frankfurt School. The Enlightenment has left us with “normative superstition,” or a healthy form of skepticism about the justification of modern institutions and ideals. Along these lines, I adopt an interpretation of Foucault that diverges from the standard view. I argue that he shares with his detractors a common heritage of this “critical (...) attitude,” placing him squarely in line with Kant, Hegel, and critical theory generally. If it is possible to view this critical attitude as an expression of Enlightenment-oriented views, then there are reasons to believe that his so-called “postmodernism” is nothing more than hyper-modernism. The lines of this last argument have been made elsewhere, notably in Robert Pippin’s important work, but there is a need to situate Foucault in the unfolding narrative of modernity, rather than label him a hostile opponent to it. In my view, the “Foucault addiction” now so popular is consistent with the critical tradition and the aim of this paper is to develop this claim. (shrink)
: Are social movements responsible for their unfinished agendas? Feminist successes in opening the professions to women paved the way for the emergence of the upper middle-class two-career household. These households sometimes hire domestic servants to accomplish their child care work. If, as I shall argue, this practice is unjust and furthers social inequality, then it poses a moral problem for any feminist commitment to social justice.
Are social movements responsible for their unfinished agendas? Feminist successes in opening the professions to women paved the way for the emergence of the upper middle-class two-career household. These households sometimes hire domestic servants to accomplish their child care work. If, as I shall argue, this practice is unjust and furthers social inequality, then it poses a moral problem for any feminist commitment to social justice.
In the last few years, geographers have begun to develop a research interest in children's and young people's attitudes to and relationship with place and locality. While a range of different types of work has been undertaken, most studies are united by their concern for the ethical and practical issues that are raised when children and young people are the subjects of research. In a thought-provoking paper in this journal, Valentine suggested that five main areas of ethical concern might be (...) distinguished: consent; access and structures of compliance; privacy and confidentiality; methodologies and issues of power; and dissemination and advocacy. As she noted, many of these issues are not unique to research with children but are refracted in particular ways because of the particular legal position of children and the inequalities of power between children and adult research workers. In my own work with working class young men aged 15-17, who were no longer children but not yet adults, I found similarities to but also differences from the concerns identified by Valentine, especially as the research I undertook involved repeat interviews. Issues of access, power and dissemination took a different form. In Valentine's paper, the significance of the class, gender, ethnic, age and other social characteristics of both the interviewer(s) and the interviewees and the impact on their interaction were not considered, whereas I found that they were a significant part of the relationships that took place during the course of the research. I also discuss questions of access and of the location of interviewing, ethical issues that arise in representing the views of young people and in returning the research material to them and the problems of trying to undertake critical social research. (shrink)
: This paper aims to investigate whether and in what respects the conceptions of the body and of agency that Judith Butler develops in Bodies That Matter are useful contributions to feminist theory. The discussion focuses on the clarification and critical assessment of the arguments Butler presents to refute the charges of linguistic monism and determinism.