Posted on October 31, 2007 by Jeremy
Agency and Change: Re-evaluating Foucault’s Legacy
Raymond Caldwell, Birbeck College, University of London, London, UK
Michel Foucault’s work marks an important break with conventional ontological dualism, epistemological realism and rationalist and intentional notions of individual action and human agency. In these respects his ideas have had an enormous influence on postmodern organization theory and analysis, as well as related forms of social constructionism. In particular, Foucault’s ideas have led to a rejection of agency-structure dichotomies and a move towards process-based ontologies of `organizing/changing’, that create new problematics of agency as discourse, talk, text or conversation. While this ontological shift toward nominalism has often provoked a counter-reaction against the `death of the subject’ and the corrosive influence of postmodernism, there have been few attempts to explore how Foucault’s decentring of agency is related to new, more positive and potentially emancipatory discourses that redefine the relationship between agency and change, resistance and power in organizations and society. Here it will be argued that Foucault’s legacy can be re-conceptualized as a theorization of the decentring of agency consisting of four key components: discourse, power/ knowledge, embodiment and self-reflexivity. Redefined within Foucauldian organizational discourses, decentred agency can lead to new possibilities for the exploration of agency as discourse and the broader dispersal of agency in organizations. It will be concluded, however, that Foucault’s concept of agency fails as a theorization of change: it breaks the link between the voluntary choice or desire to `act otherwise’ and the moral, political and practical possibilities of `making a difference’.
Key Words: autonomy • de-centred agency • discourse • embodiment • identity • reflexitivity
Organization, Vol. 14, No. 6, 769-791 (2007)
Filed under: Foucault | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 29, 2007 by Jeremy
“Madness and Historicity: Foucault and Derrida, Artauld and Descartes.”
Wendy Cealey Harrison, History of the Human Sciences, Vol. 20, No. 4, 79-105 (2007).
Wendy Cealey Harrison
University of Greenwich at Medway, Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, UK, W.P.A.CealeyHarrison@gre.ac.uk
The article examines the inter-implication between Foucault’s and Derrida’s representations of one another’s work in the debate over Histoire de la folie and discovers a chiasmic structure between them, an inverted mirroring of each in the other, in which philosophy and historicity alternately encompass and exceed one another. At the heart of this is a problem of language (and the reason that accompanies it), which defines the limitations of the historian’s work.
Key Words: Jacques Derrida • Michel Foucault • historicity • language • philosophy
Filed under: Historiography, Madness | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 27, 2007 by Jeremy
As the author of a popular Foucault blog can I just say that I found the following to be totally offensive. Does this author really think that Britney Spears is talking about Foucault’s Discipline and Punish? I mean there is simply no comparison at all. Well, OK they did both shave their heads but that’s it!!
I also do not recommend rushing out to buy Leila Johnston’s book (if that is really her name) as a stocking stuffer for Christmas or watching any of the wickedly funny videos on her site.
Britney and Foucault
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and it’s made me really wish I knew more about Foucault. I know enough about Britney, I think. Please feel free to add elaborating comments, we can build a great theory together! Maybe.
I need time (time)
I need space
I need me
Say hello to the girl that I am!
You’re gonna have to see through my perspective
Could be interpreted in the light of Foucault’s work on surveillance in Discipline and Punish, and his ideas about the panoptic society in particular.
If it wasn’t for the useful pull-out color chart for sorting tea there would be no point to this book at all. (con’t pg. 94)
Filed under: Humor | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 25, 2007 by Jeremy
My new article The Biopolitical Justification for Geosurveillance is about to come out in the Geographical Review.
Here’s the abstract and an image of the first page:
Abstract. Biopolitical use of geosurveillance can create and sustain a politics of fear. Although the majority of surveillance literature focuses on individuals, in this article I focus on groups and populations, drawing on Michel Foucault’s analysis of biopolitics. After discussing the forms and history of geosurveillance I argue that three particularly important factors contribute to this politics: divisions, geospatial technologies, and the risk-based society. In order to combat the negative unintended consequences of these factors I suggest that more attention be paid to the mutual relationships between geospatial technology and politics, rather than on assessments of the value of individual surveillant technologies.
Keywords: biopolitics, fear, geosurveillance, 9/11.
Filed under: Governmentality, Surveillance | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 25, 2007 by Jeremy
Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) was an influential journalist who founded the New Republic and was heavily involved with the American government during World War I. He wrote of journalism as a system for “manufacturing consent,” a phrase famously picked up by Noam Chomsky in his book Manufacturing Consent.
Sidney Blumenthal writes in an afterword to a recently reissued volume of Lippmann’s that:
Lippmann had ferried from the offices of The New Republic, located in New York, to the White House, where he helped work on speeches for Woodrow Wilson. After the entry of the United States in the world war in 1917, Lippmann enthusiastically accepted an appointment as the U.S. representative on the Inter-Allied Propaganda Board, with the rank of captain. But Captain Lippmann soon crossed swords with George Creel, chief of the Committee on Public Information, an official federal government agency that whipped up war support through jingoism. When Lippmann submitted a blistering report in 1918 on how the committee manipulated news to foster national hysteria, Creel sought his dismissal — and Lippmann quit his post to assist the U.S. delegation at the Versailles peace conference. The year following the war, 1919, began with Wilson greeted as a messiah and ended with him politically broken and physically paralyzed. His collapse personified the wreckage of Progressive idealism. Lippmann focused his attention on the part played by the press.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: Walter Lippmann, WWI | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 25, 2007 by Jeremy
Call for Papers:
(NB this overlaps with the AAG conference in Boston so AAG attendees may want to also submit to this or to pop in to see some of the papers.)
The Fifth Annual SOCIAL THEORY FORUM
April 16 and 17, 2008
University of Massachusetts Boston
A Foucault for the 21st Century: Governmentality, Biopolitics and Discipline in the New Millennium
Keynote speakers include:
James Bernauer (Boston College)
Charles Lemert (Wesleyan University)
How relevant is Foucault’s social thought to the world we inhabit today?
Foucault is best remembered for his historical inquiries into the origins of “disciplinary” society in a period extending from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
Today, however, under the conditions of global modernity, the relevance of his contribution is often called into question.
With the increasing ubiquity of markets, the break up of centralized states and the dissolution of national boundaries, the world today seems far removed from the bounded, disciplinary
societies Foucault described in his most famous books.
Far from disciplinary, society today is “post panoptic,” as Nancy Fraser has argued — in a move which seems to confirm Jean Baudrillard’s demand that we “forget Foucault.”
Yet in recent years, it has become apparent that Foucault’s thoughts on modern society have not been exhausted, and, indeed, that much remains to be explored.
Filed under: Conference | Tagged: Boston, Call for papers, Foucault | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 22, 2007 by Jeremy
In this month’s AAG Newsletter [sorry no link as it is behind a membership wall!], Executive Director Doug Richardson announced that the AAG journals would be switching from Blackwell to Routledge, a division of Taylor and Francis.
If you have been following the absolute furore over the way the AAA (American Association of Anthropologists) handled a recent contractual arrangement with Wiley-Blackwell, you might wonder if the same will happen in geography. Many of the same criticisms could be leveled: lack of transparency, accountability for the finances, etc.
And why does one organization think Blackwell is just great, while the AAG does not? For example:
Members of the Executive Board saw Wiley-Blackwell’s stellar reputation for creative partnerships with learned societies, its substantial investment in innovative technology and its world-wide network of offices as providing AAA with the greatest potential to propel AnthroSouce to the cutting edge of digital publishing and expand the readership of AAA’s publications and the dissemination of anthropological research to critical new international audiences.
If it’s so stellar why has AAG dropped them? The AAG announcement says that there were four companies who submitted proposals–was Blackwell one of them? How many were sent out? The AAA sent out nine and got back six.
I am confused! Personally I like and deal with both Blackwell and Routledge but see them as roughly the same.
PS to AAG: you’ll never increase membership if the Newsletter and jobs are members only.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: AAG, Blackwell, Routledge | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 22, 2007 by Jeremy
If you’re in the London area tonight check out this documentary. The director Shrenik Rao writes:
“Once upon a time, in Africa, in a land called Rhodesia, there was a man. He was a humble teacher. He seemed to be full of ideas and ideals. He seemed to have dedicated to his life for a cause – a cause larger than his own – that of liberation, freedom and Independence from an oppressive regime which denied them their denied them their basic dignity, freedom and rights. And so, he was respected and revered by one and many as an able, honest leader who would liberate them from oppression, and restore their dignity and rights. The man was none other than Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
Twenty-seven years after independence, we hear a similar story. But, this time, the stories of oppression and humiliation are about the same person –Robert Mugabe. Perceptions had changed considerably. Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, was once the darling of the world is now being considered a despot. A man who was once called a ‘Liberator’ is now being called a ‘Dictator’. A man who is the ‘President’ of a country is being called a ‘Tyrant’. He who claims to be the ’sovereign’ is being called a ’surrogate’ and has emerged to be one of the most controversial African leaders in the world.
The enigmatic French philosopher Michel Foucault once famously articulated that ‘Power produces resistance to itself’. In Robert Mugabe’s case, has Power produced resistance to itself? I wondered.
Filed under: Politics, Power | Tagged: Mugabe, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 21, 2007 by Jeremy
What it’s like to be a student in Arnold Davidson’s course:
I’m reading Davidson’s book for his course on Foucault and the history of sexuality. The course is really superb so far. What Davidson is doing in The Emergence of Sexuality is sketching how one engages in “historical epistemology”. Davidson’s position is complementary — very much so, they cite each other’s texts and we had to read Hacking’s “Making up People” contained in his Historical Ontology — to the idea Ian Hacking dubs “dynamic nominalism”. I find the idea attractive and Davidson and Hacking provide evidence and argumentation so that what initially seemed odd now seems extremely plausible (and probably right) to me.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: Arnold Davidson, Chicago | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 17, 2007 by Jeremy
This is great:
Anyways, the other day on “The View” I nearly fell off the couch when I heard Ms. Elisabeth Hasselbeck start talking about Michel Foucault. Now, I loves me some Hasselbeck like I love no other crazy bottle-blonde right-winger, but girlfriend made some serious mistakes talking about the guy.
I’m borrowing a fellow blogger’s paraphrase of Hasselbeck’s words: “I think it’s enough just for people to have a sense that they’re being watched in order for them to behave. I mean, it’s like how back in the 17th or 18th century these guys Bentham and Foucault– they were these philosophers– they built this prison and they put up these high towers… they told the prisoners that there were guards up in the towers, even though there weren’t, and they, like, behaved much better.”
Ok, not to be all grad-schooly, but Michel Foucault was a 20th Century theorist. He died in the 1980s, not in the 17th or, “like,” 18th century. Foucault wrote about Jeremy Bentham in one of his books, Discipline and Punish. They didn’t hang out together, nor did they build a prison together. Their lives didn’t exactly overlap, you see. Bentham lived from 1748 to 1832. In his book, however, Foucault did reference a prison that Bentham built, and Foucault used this as a way to explore his ideas about knowledge and power. So, the Bentham prison served as a symbol for Foucault’s theories, not something he actually helped build.
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Even funnier if you know what the hell The View is or who Elisabeth Hasselback might be (should I look her up? naaaah. CBA as they say in England).
Hey isn’t that the TV show where they believe in the earth is flat?
Filed under: Humor, Panopticon | 3 Comments »