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Michel Foucault and Social Theory

Foucault's critique, then, involves the study of the past insofar as that study will reveal alternatives for present attitudes and actions. At the same time, however, Foucault's critique is not prescriptive. The reader who comes to Foucault hoping to find solutions to social problems will be deeply disappointed. He does not tell the reader what his freedom will look like once he achieves, or even how he might go about achieving it. His purpose, to the contrary, seems to be to critique culture, past and present, in a way which will help the individual and the culture realize the nature of his and its imprisonment in illusions which are accepted by all as the most dependable realities.

Rajchman encapsulates the elements of Foucault's critique, which Rajchman defines as "the usual term applied to analytic philosophy" which "names the exposure of unrecognized operations of power in people's lives." The elements include

struggles which . . . share a number of common features: they are concerned with direct or concrete effects of power on people's lives and bodies; they involve unrecognized or unanalyzed operations of domination; they are not subordinated to long-range social solutions typical of an older left outlook; they involve not simple disinformation and mystification but the very forms and privileges of knowledge; their central issu


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Michel Foucault and Social Theory. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 03:45, October 24, 2014, from
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