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Foucault pp 113-130 | Cite as

The Return of the Limits

  • Clare O’Farrell

Abstract

At a conference held in California in 1981, followers of Foucault’s work were more than a little surprised to learn that Foucault’s real intention was not to analyse ‘power’ but ‘to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, the human being is made “subject”’.1 What was more, he repeated these claims the following January in his course at the College de France, a course uncharacteristically titled The Hermeneutic of the Subject. Admittedly, Foucault did concede rather grudgingly that he had been ‘quite involved with the question of power,2 but it looked suspiciously likely that this involvement was drawing to an end. For those (particularly in America) who had invested so much time and interest in the notion of power, this sudden change of tack on Foucault’s part was somewhat alarming. Indeed, by the time the second and third volumes of Histoire de la Sexualité appeared, it had become apparent that Foucault’s work had undergone yet another of its famous mutations, even if as before, not all critics could agree on its importance.

Keywords

Moral Action Ethical System Moral Subject Incurable Tendency Free Subject 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    A Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power’, 1982, p.209.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    A Foucault, ‘Le Retour de la morale’, 1984, p.37.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    A Foucault, ‘Space, Knowledge, Power’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.247; cf. p.250 where he remarks that he does not share Habermas’ problem, which is ‘after all, to make a transcendental mode of thought spring forth against any historicism’. See also ‘The Subject and Power, 1982, p.218 where Foucault remarks ‘When Habermas distinguishes between domination, communication, and finalised activity, I do not think that he sees in them three separate domains, but rather three “transcendentals”.’Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    A Habermas, ‘The Entwinement’, 1982, p.29; cf. pp.22, 28.Google Scholar
  5. Habermas 1985, pp.78, 80, 84; cf. ‘The Entwinement 1982 p.30; ‘A Reply’ 1982, pp.226–7. It is not our intention here to embark on yet another comparison of the ideas of Foucault and Habermas, an exercise which has become a minor industry in itself in recent years. One of the best and most detailed treatments to date of Habermas’ criticisms of Foucault was presented by Dominique Janicaud at the Paris conference in 1988. In his paper he looks closely at Chapters 10 and 11 of Habermas’ book Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1985). See also Rochlitz 1988, Wuthnow 1984, A Rajchman, Michel Foucault: The Freedom of Philosophy, 1985, Dreyfus and Rabinow 1986.Google Scholar
  6. 19.
    A Foucault ‘Structuralism and Post-Structuralism’, 1983, pp.207–8; cf. ‘The Subject and Power’, pp.208–9.Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    A Foucault, ‘Polemics, Politics and Problemizations’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.387; ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’, in Rabinow 1984, p.351; ‘Le retour de la morale’, 1984, p.38; UP:10.Google Scholar
  8. 21.
    A Foucault ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.352. For variations on this analysis see ‘Polemics, Politics and Problemizations’, in Rabinow 1984, pp.387–8; ‘What is Enlightenment?’, in Rabinow 1984, pp.48–9. And for somewhat less enlightening if not obscure discussions see ‘The Subject and Power’, 1982, p.208 and an early version of the Preface to L’Usage des plaisirs in Rabinow 1984, pp.336–8.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    A Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power’, 1982, p.212.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    A Foucault, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’, in A Rabinow 1984, pp.340–41; cf. UP:44, 55, 166. For a similar point see Auzias 1986, p.234.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    A Foucault, ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.247.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    A Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power’, 1982, p.219.Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    A Foucault, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.353; cf. UP:33.Google Scholar
  14. 38.
    A Foucault, ‘What is Enlightenment?’, in A Rabinow 1984, pp.45–6.Google Scholar
  15. 39.
    A Foucault, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.371.Google Scholar
  16. 42.
    A Ariès, ‘L’Histoire des mentalités, 1978, p.412.Google Scholar
  17. 44.
    A Foucault, ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.246.Google Scholar
  18. 46.
    A Foucault, ‘Structuralism and Post-Structuralism’, 1983, p.202. Foucault makes this remark in the context of a discussion about Max Weber, the Frankfurt School and Habermas.Google Scholar
  19. 47.
    A Foucault, ‘What is Enlightenment?’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.43.Google Scholar
  20. 48.
    A Foucault, ‘Structuralism and Post-Structuralism’, 1983, pp.201, 208; cf. ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’, in Rabinow 1984, p.249; ‘What is Enlightenment?’, in Rabinow 1984, pp.43–5.Google Scholar
  21. 49.
    A Foucault, ‘Structuralism and Post-Structuralism’, 1983, p.206; cf. ‘What is Enlightenment?’, in Rabinow 1984, pp.33–4.Google Scholar
  22. 50.
    A Foucault, ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.250.Google Scholar
  23. 55.
    A Foucault, ‘Le retour de la morale’, 1984, p.41.Google Scholar
  24. 58.
    For a discussion on Nietzsche’s views on aesthetics in these terms, see A Habermas, ‘The Entwinement’, 1982, pp.25–6.Google Scholar
  25. 66.
    A Foucault, ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.362.Google Scholar
  26. 67.
    A Foucault, ‘Politics and Ethics’, in A Rabinow 1984, p.377.Google Scholar
  27. 68.
    Foucault remarks: ‘Every time I have attempted to do theoretical work, it has been on the basis of elements from my experience — always in relation to processes that I saw taking place around me. It is in fact because I thought I recognised something cracked, dully jarring, or disfunctioning in things I saw, in the institutions with which I dealt, in my relations with others, that I undertook a particular piece of work, several fragments of an autobiography.’ Foucault, ‘Est-il important donc de penser?’, Libération 30 May 1981, cited in A Rajchman, The Freedom of Philosophy, 1985, pp.35–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Clare O’Farrell 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clare O’Farrell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Education StudiesBrisbane College of Advanced EducationAustralia

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