Foucault and Left Conservatism

  • Jeremy Moss University of Melbourne


The consequences of Foucault's work for political theory have been subject to much reinterpretation. This article examines the reception of Foucault's work by the left of politics and argues that the use made of his work is overly negative and lacks a positive political dimension. Through a discussion of the work of Judith Butler and other interpreters of Foucault I argue that the problem facing the poststructuralist left is formulated in a confusing and unhelpful manner, what I will call the 'dilemma of the left libertarian'. Once we get around this formulation of the problem a more progressive political response becomes possible. I end by discussing the political possibilities of Foucault's work in terms of an account of autonomy derived from Foucault's later work on the Enlightenment. KEY WORDS: Foucault, Butler, Autonomy, Politics, Ethics, Critique, Left, Conservative, Rorty, Habermas

Author Biography

Jeremy Moss, University of Melbourne
Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Department of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne, Australia