Sunday , June 26 2022
Home / Lars P. Syll / Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critique

Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critique

Summary:
Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critique I always found Foucault’s work frustrating to read. His empirical accounts are interesting and some of his concepts fruitful – disciplinary power, capillary power, surveillance, technologies of the self, the entrepreneur of the self, for example – and he was prescient about neoliberalism, but his theoretical reasoning is often confused. His attempts to define power, and his unacknowledged slippage between different concepts of truth in The History of Sexuality Part I are examples … Foucault’s accounts of the social world have a generally ominous tone, but they fail to identify what is bad and why, so one is left wanting to write ‘so what?’ in the margin. Thus, sociologists of health sciences inspired by

Topics:
Lars Pålsson Syll considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Lars Pålsson Syll writes Hegel in 60 minuten

Lars Pålsson Syll writes Abduction — beyond deduction and induction

Lars Pålsson Syll writes Causal mediation

Lars Pålsson Syll writes Theory-ladenness

Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critique

I always found Foucault’s work frustrating to read. His empirical accounts are interesting and some of his concepts fruitful – disciplinary power, capillary power, surveillance, technologies of the self, the entrepreneur of the self, for example – and he was prescient about neoliberalism, but his theoretical reasoning is often confused. His attempts to define power, and his unacknowledged slippage between different concepts of truth in The History of Sexuality Part I are examples …

Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critiqueFoucault’s accounts of the social world have a generally ominous tone, but they fail to identify what is bad and why, so one is left wanting to write ‘so what?’ in the margin. Thus, sociologists of health sciences inspired by him would often describe certain practices as involving the ‘medicalization’ of certain conditions without saying whether this was appropriate or inappropriate, or good or bad, and why. If we don’t know whether people are harmed or benefitted by a practice, then we don’t know much about it; cryptonormative accounts of social life are also deficient as descriptions.

Actually, the problem goes beyond Foucault: self-styled critical social science has often failed to explore in any depth the normative issues concerning what is bad about the objects of its critiques, as if it could rely on readers reading between the lines in the desired way. This was an effect of the unhappy divorce of positive and normative thought in social science. Tellingly, Foucault invoked the is-ought framework to defend his refusal of normativity, saying that it was not his job to tell people what to do, as if normativity were primarily about instructions rather than evaluations. While post-structuralism did provide novel insights, the combination of its resistance to normativity (as reducible to the limitation of possibilities through ‘normalizing’) and its anti-humanism (‘humanist’ became another sneer term) also made social science less critical.

Andrew Sayer (interviewed by Jamie Morgan)

Lars Pålsson Syll
Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *