The Power Not to Be (What We Are): The Politics and Ethics of Self-creation in Foucault

The Power Not to Be (What We Are): The Politics and Ethics of Self-creation in Foucault The Power Not to Be (What We Are): The Politics and Ethics of Self-creation in Foucault B ENDA H OFMEYR * Radboud University Nijmegen Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht The Netherlands b.hofmeyr@maw.ru.nl To some extent, Foucault’s later works on ethics provides an opportunity to go beyond some of the controversies generated by his work of the 1970s. It was thought, for example, that Foucault had overstated the extent to which individuals could be ‘subjected’ to the influence of power, leaving them little room to resist. This paper will consider the ‘politics’ of self-creation. We shall attempt to establish to what extent Foucault’s later notion of self- formation does in fact succeed in countering an overdetermination by power. In the end, though, it would appear as if Foucault’s turn to ethics amounts to a substitution of ethics, understood as an individualized task, for the political task of collective social transformation. What is at stake is whether or not Foucault’s insistence on individual acts of resistance amounts to more than an empty claim that ethics still somehow has politi- cal implications whilst having in fact effectively given up on politics. It will be argued that the subject of the later http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Moral Philosophy Brill

The Power Not to Be (What We Are): The Politics and Ethics of Self-creation in Foucault

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Publisher
BRILL
Copyright
© 2006 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1740-4681
eISSN
1745-5243
D.O.I.
10.1177/1740468106065493
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The Power Not to Be (What We Are): The Politics and Ethics of Self-creation in Foucault B ENDA H OFMEYR * Radboud University Nijmegen Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht The Netherlands b.hofmeyr@maw.ru.nl To some extent, Foucault’s later works on ethics provides an opportunity to go beyond some of the controversies generated by his work of the 1970s. It was thought, for example, that Foucault had overstated the extent to which individuals could be ‘subjected’ to the influence of power, leaving them little room to resist. This paper will consider the ‘politics’ of self-creation. We shall attempt to establish to what extent Foucault’s later notion of self- formation does in fact succeed in countering an overdetermination by power. In the end, though, it would appear as if Foucault’s turn to ethics amounts to a substitution of ethics, understood as an individualized task, for the political task of collective social transformation. What is at stake is whether or not Foucault’s insistence on individual acts of resistance amounts to more than an empty claim that ethics still somehow has politi- cal implications whilst having in fact effectively given up on politics. It will be argued that the subject of the later

Journal

Journal of Moral PhilosophyBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2006

Keywords: power; politics; care of the self; ethics; power/knowledge

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