Foucault, Normativity, and Freedom: A Reappraisal
AbstractThe aim of this article is to contribute to the recently revived debate over the normativity of Foucault’s genealogical method. More specifically, I shall respond to Fraser’s charge that Foucault’s rejection of humanism is unjustified because he cannot state why a totally panopticized, autonomous society would be objectionable. After dismissing a non-normative defence strategy of Foucault’s work, I shall proceed as follows: firstly, I shall clarify Fou-cault’s model of critique as a practice of problematization geared to free his addressees from their captivation to the system of truths sustaining the power mechanisms of modern biopolitics. Secondly, I shall argue that Fraser’s society should be resisted because it would reproduce this regime of captivity, thereby obstructing the exercise of freedom as self-transformation. Thirdly, I shall contend that Foucault’s normative orientation to a post-humanist conception of freedom as self-transformation finds a contextual, explanatory account in his attempt to revitalize the emancipatory project of Enlightenment modernity through a transformative problematization of our normative commitments. Moreover, I shall show that the standard of validity of this effort is represented by Foucault’s exemplary embodiment of the critical ethos of the Enlightenment in both his style of existence and theoretical activity. Finally, the article terminates by illustrating three shortcomings of Foucault’s normative approach.
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