Putting Foucault to Work: Analytic and Concept in Foucaultian Inquiry

Critical Inquiry 39 (4):817-840 (2013)
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The forceful impact of Michel Foucault’s work in the humanities and social sciences is apparent from the sheer abundance of its uses, appropriations, and refigurations. This article calls for greater self-conscious reflexivity about the relationship between our uses of Foucault and the opportunities afforded by his work. We argue for a clearer distinction between analytics and concepts in Foucault-inspired work. In so doing we draw on key moments of methodological self-reflection in Foucault’s Collège de France lectures and elsewhere. This distinction helps identify different ways that Foucault might be put to productive use today as well as what can go wrong therein, a concern we develop with reference to Giorgio Agamben’s post-Foucaultian contributions to political theory. We are eager to open up a possibility that has been infrequently explored despite Foucault’s contemporary influence—-the idea that critique in and through Foucault is empirical critique. This idea can help facilitate a gain in reflexivity in the broader landscapes of contemporary theory, inquiry, and critique.
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Archival date: 2013-10-22
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