Foucault, encore

Our present age of austerity requires of us resilience as a psychological characteristic. University counseling centers now have resilience training, and psychology professors receive major grants to study resilience. But “resilience” studies are not science. We have here, then, one of the examples of commercial activity replacing research in the entrepreneurial university. Foucault appears to have something to say about this.

We also inherit a secular tradition which respects external law as the basis for morality. How then can respect for the self be the basis for morality? We are the inheritors of a social morality which seeks the rules for acceptable behavior in relations with others. Since the sixteenth century, criticism of established morality has been undertaken in the name of the importance of recognizing and knowing the self. Therefore, it is difficult to see concern with oneself as compatible with morality. “Know thyself” has obscured “Take care of yourself” because our morality, a morality of asceticism, insists that the self is that which one can reject.

That is from Technologies of the Self. Here are a few sentences from the introduction.

The association of prohibition and strong incitations to speak is a constant feature of our culture.

How have certain kinds of interdictions required the price of certain kinds of knowledge about oneself? What must one know about oneself in order to be willing to renounce anything?

I conceived of a rather odd project: not the evolution of sexual behavior but the projection of a history of the link between the obligation to tell the truth and the prohibitions against sexuality. I asked: How had the subject been compelled to decipher himself in regard to what was forbidden? It is a question of the relation between asceticism and truth.

The hermeneutics of the self has been confused with theologies of the soul–concupiscence, sin, and the fall from grace.

A hermeneutics of the self has been diffused across Western culture through numerous channels and integrated with various types of attitudes and experience so that it is difficult to isolate and separate it from our own spontaneous experiences.

(This book is brilliant and I must get it in a paper edition so I can read it for relaxation.)

Axé.

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4 Comments

Filed under Banes, News

4 responses to “Foucault, encore

  1. Hattie

    Difficult for me to understand but I get the drift.

  2. Jonathan Mayhew

    Resilience, meaning: we will abuse you and then give you training on how to toughen up so you can get over it.

  3. Z

    And I really, really need to read this book by Foucault.

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