File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_1998/foucault.9812, message 64


Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 19:44:33 +0100
Subject: truth and genealogy


I'm a quite new Foucault student and I've found this debate on truth (or
effects of truth) very interesting. I'm currently working on a project
concerning what with a reference to Mitchel Dean might be called 'the
actice society'. Our initial concern was that an active society in which
employment, skills, responsibility and personal growth are some of the
dominant values has as one of its effects that people who can't find
themselves within this rationale risk getting marginalised, that understood
as ' wrong people ' who needs intervention from the state to become like
the rest of us. The techniques used for that purpose are designed to
promote an active and responsible individual. We are trying to do an
genealogy of these techniques to understand what kinds of truths and
rationales they are part of.

It seems to me that Foucault explicitly writes that the goal of
genealogical work is to denaturalize what we understand as selfevident and
essential, for example sexuality, in order to build up something different.
Two examples of this are given at the very last page of 'history of
sexuality I' (I have the danish translation and I won't get into any
translation here) and in 'the subject and power', afterword in Beyond
Structuralism and Hermeneutics,
Dreyfuss and Rabinow, 1982, page 216:

' Maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are but to refuse
what we are....We have to promote new forms of subjectivity through the
refusal of this kind of individuality whichhas been imposed on us for
centuries [by the state]. '

Well I certainly agree. But Isn't it rather problematic to break something
down in order to build up something new? Won't new understandings and
categorizations allways imply new inclusions and exclusions?
We are faced with the same problem in our project. Because of our initial
concern with the exclusions inherent in an active society, we in a way
presuppose a certain kind of truth: that we are all equal and should have
equal rights and possibilities. Personally I have no problem with such an
attitude, but isn't there an academic problem when we are trying to do a
genealogy?

To sum up: 
First of all what is the role of genealogy today? Just to map 'the history
of our present' or to do this map in order to build up a new conception of
our present? And what does that imply for the role of academic work?
And then truth: What is the role of ones own presuppositions in doing
genealogical work? How should one understand the truth he brings with him
in his research?

More general, I think what I'm trying to do is to start a discussion of the
role of social science today.

Best wishes,

Anders Schmidt, Denmark.


   

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