Subject formation

Two different posts on subject formation. Both claim certain things about Foucault and subject formation, from very different perspectives. One is “missional” and wishes to use postmodernity to reclaim the missionizing role of the church, and the other analyses the death of the subject from a Heideggerian perspective.

Reclaiming the Mission uses postmodernity to say:

There are three broad shifts in the culture that postmodernity accentuates:

THE SHIFT in how we know: From … we know through universal processes of reason to … we know through participating in a community and its stories. I go into Lyotard here.
THE SHIFT in the way language works: From language represents reality to language being reality. I go into Derrida here.
THE SHIFT in the way I understand my-self in the world. From radical individualism to relational selfhood. I go into Foucault here.

He quotes someone else explaining this as:

We are free from the attractional model of church – producing goods and services for people shopping for services – to embrace a missional paradigm – that we are participating in the mission of God.

It’s interesting that modern evangelicals deploy Foucault to promote the church–it makes an interesting contrast to Foucault’s work on the church. This isn’t just Foucault’s early church writings however, but a more general appropriation.

A House at Pooh Corner meanwhile says:

I make this observation in order to raise some concerns I have about a certain Self-sameness which can be found in post-structuralist theory. Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida, to name the big three, share in common, as a non-rational point of departure, a belief that the human subject/Self is dead.

Whatever evidence there is to the contrary, we ought to theorize as if they were, and our theory ought to direct ourselves towards an understanding that we are in fact dead. And in death, we find our liberation. For instance, Heidegger sees Dasein as Being-towards-death. Foucault eschews any question of the good life contained in the philosophical imperative, Know thyself, preferring to focus his analysis on a dead or dying Self. And Derrida sacrifices the Host (Self) of Humanity daily on the Altar of Deconstruction.

Most of the post is about Heidegger and Dasein, and no evidence is here produced to explain why Foucault thought the subject was dead. In fact toward the end of his life Foucault said “what else has my work been about: not power but about how human beings are made into subjects, subjectification, and the government of self and others” (paraphrasing).

So by dead we must take it that the subject is not free to choose and for Heidegger is oriented around death (“Dasein as Being-towards-death”).

This writer of this second blog is described as being by someone at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.

2 Responses

  1. Interesting you picked up on my passing commentary on Foucault as quickly as you did. Goes to show that one must be careful what one says online.

    In repsonse to the omnious reference to school I am currently enrolled at: my individual take on Foucault is not representative of the institution. It’s quite far from it, in fact. Foucault is well received.

    The post own post does convey well my individual take on Foucault either. I work with a Kierkegaardian definition of the self/subject, not Heideggerian. Foucault has one thing in common with Kierkegaard: the self/subject is free to to choose their selfhood/subjectivity. This is not something I find very readily in Heidegger or Derrida. Notably, for the later philosophy is treated as an “objective” science, in Heidegger’s case, ontology which is only possible as phenomenology, or in Derrida’s case, grammatology, the one science that recognizes the limitations of science.

    Foucault’s historical treatment of the development of the self/subject is very attractive to me. Unlike Foucault, however, I am still interested in the imperative, Know thyself.

  2. I am not sure one cannot take a position of the imperative, Know thyself. Foucault chooses not to. That choice, I would argue, is a position: that the self/subject is dead our dying.

    Obviously I/we have no interest in a transcendental self/subject like Foucault. Is there another option? That’s my question.

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