File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_1998/foucault.9806, message 60

Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 20:28:07 +0100
Subject: Re: Is French Philosopy a load of old tosh?

At 11:48 AM 6/30/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Not that I disagree with you Peter, but did you join the Foucault line just
>to make that point. Will we be hearing from you again?
Cheers, Donna Jones

Donna Jones
22 McCosh Hall
Department of English
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544
(609) 258-4066

Well that cries out for deconstruction! I certainly felt the slight (?)
admonishment that permeates your two sentences. I no doubt could go deeper
and look into my intentions and the subsequent internalisation of guilt and
control. But I guess that is not what you would be interested in.

1) you have heard from me before. it was me that began the discussion on
Foucault, Bourdieu and ideology.
2) I was interested in hearing what others had to say on that quote since
it seems to me that it raised very central issues for people interested in
Foucault.. It did seem to me to be  a little amusing. Actualy the "tosh"
was lifted in the letter from Easthope's original contribution as a quote
from someone else - something to do with Alan Sokal. 

It does seem to me that there are some really important issues around
current debates some of which take place on this list, and do not get me
wrong, I get a great deal from being a member of the list. Yet I am not
sure how much the fundamental issues have been clarified or sorted or
fought out. My own interest is situated within the sphere of education -
actually I am, amongst other things, a mathematics educator. so I might be
described as a bit of an imposter amongst all you sociologists and social

But I will offer a Michel Foucault 'quote' partly to attempt lay some
foundations to support the view that postmodernism offers us nothing.

"I quote Marx without saying so, without quotation marks, and because
people are incapable of recognising Marx's texts, I am thought to be
someone who doesn't quote Marx. When a physicist writes a work of physics,
does he feel it necessary to quote Newton and Einstein? He uses them but he
doesn't need the quotation marks, the footnote and the eulogistic comment
to prove how completely faithful he is being to his master's thought. And
because other physicists know what Einstein did, what he discovered and
proved, they can recognise him in what the physicist writes. It is
impossible at the present time to write history without using a whole range
of concepts directly or indirectly linked to Marx's thought and situating
oneself within a horizon of thought which has been defined and described by
Marx. One might even wonder what difference there could ultimately be
between being a historian and being a Marxist." (Power/knowledge p 52-3)

Of course any quote is only a cough in the process of time. It seems to me
that many arguments around - some through this list - seem to be supporting
a position  that somehow capitalist class relations are not paramount in
objectifying subjectivity. Foucault has much to offer educationalists like
myself in helping to situate current debates and discourses which apprear
to liberate the child, yet do no more than constrain through more subtle
means. However it seems to me that Leont'ev, Vygotsky and others have
demonstrated the significance of the social context in cognition, which
along with the use of the habitus is helping us to identify the mechanisms
by which class relaotns are embodied in current educaiotnal practice. 

so I guess my question is, as someone with hope for the future, how do we
argue for the continuing significance of marxism at a time when capitalism
is beocmeing ever more subtle in its attacks on human freedom.

Remember ... i am not a sociologist, so go easy on me!

How's that Donna?

Best wishes,
Peter Gates
Centre for the Study of Mathematics Education
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD
Great Britain
Tel: +44 115 951 4432
Fax: +44 115 979 1506
The Centre for the Study of Mathematics Education
 incorporates the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education
The web site for the First International Mathematics Education
 and Society Conference can be found at:


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