“Dismantling the master's house”: Freedom as ethical practice in Brandom and Foucault

Journal of Religious Ethics 37 (3):419-448 (2009)
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Abstract
This article makes a case for the capacity of "social practice" accounts of agency and freedom to criticize, resist, and transform systemic forms of power and domination from within the context of religious and political practices and institutions. I first examine criticisms that Michel Foucault's analysis of systemic power results in normative aimlessness, and then I contrast that account with the description of agency and innovative practice that pragmatist philosopher Robert Brandom identifies as "expressive freedom." I argue that Brandom can provide a normative trajectory for Foucault's diagnoses of power and domination, helping to resolve its apparent lack of ethical direction. I demonstrate that Foucault, in turn, presents Brandom with insights that might overcome the charges of abstraction and conservatism that his pragmatic inferentialism frequently encounters. The result is a vindication of social practice as an analytical lens for social criticism that is at once both immanent and radical
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