Search Results for Foucault
Hegemony is a political science term with ancient roots.
In the Greco–Roman world of 5th century European Classical antiquity, the city-state of Sparta was the hegemon of the Peloponnesian League (6th – 4th centuries BC); King Philip II of Macedon was the hegemon of the League of Corinth, in 337 BC, (a kingship he willed to his son, Alexander the Great).¹
In the 19th century historians used the term to describe one nation’s power over another, and by implication, the whole notion of Imperialism.
The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937) was the first to use hegemony to describe the idea of a ruling class socially and economically dominating others within a given society.
The contemporary sociological meaning of the term hegemony points to an entire system of cultural values and practices existing within interconnected and (apparently) legitimate social institutions (e.g. markets, legal system, government, education, religion and media) which the powerful allegedly use to oppress the powerless.
Along these lines, the French social thinker Bourdieu, Pierre (1930-2002) introduced the idea of “cultural capital” to try to explain the complex relations contributing to societal inequity, discrimination and domination.
For all its flaws, the recent “Occupy movement” (where protestors are sweeping the globe in protest of being “have-nots” apparently marginalized by a few wealthy “haves”)² raises the question of institutional legitimacy, which just a few decades ago, was certainly not a mainstream issue and hardly questioned by most people in the G8.
- US Hegemony and Global Power Relations: Now What? (atthefootnote.com)
- Can America function without a dominant culture? (demolishingdisparity.wordpress.com)
- Behold the Awesome Power of Demographic Hegemony (chariotofreaction.blogspot.com)
- Eleventh Circuit Dismisses Alien Tort Statute Claim (volokh.com)
- Gramsci and Foucault: A Reassessment. Call for chapters (2011) (foucaultnews.wordpress.com)
- The Meanings of Space (scienceray.com)
- The Salad Days: Hegemony Rome (rockpapershotgun.com)
- What was the result of Peloponnesian war for Athens and Greece (wiki.answers.com)
- Why I don’t write (chariotofreaction.blogspot.com)
- WHY DO JOURNALISTS love Twitter and hate blogging? “Blogging was a direct attack on MSM hegemony at… (pajamasmedia.com)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was a German philosopher often associated with idealism.
Hegel is arguably misunderstood by many, especially by those who suggest that he advances an elaborate metaphysical system without providing any real empirical support for it.
This kind of critique of Hegel’s “grand theory” isn’t necessarily fair. If one takes the time to go to his actual works, we find that Hegel takes great pains to support his theories with actual historical examples.
His influential theory of history, for example, could be taken as a scientific attempt to develop theory from observation. Here Hegel sees pure Spirit manifesting itself within a teleological human history.
Any given moment in history is a necessary but imperfect manifestation of Infinite Spirit. Historical events observed in the material world are progressively transformed through an ongoing dynamic known as the dialectic.
Although Hegel never used the words “thesis,” “antithesis” and “synthesis” to describe his own theory, they’re often used by academics and writers when trying to explain his idea of dialectical becoming. This kind of usage has been roundly criticized. Walter Kaufman, for example, argues that Hegel’s system is far more complicated than a simple triad moving towards perfection.¹
Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis.²
Hegel himself spoke of “overcoming” (Aufhebung) the negative in the march of human history. This overcoming of resistance to the good has also been translated as “sublation,” both terms trying to express the idea that the essential, positive core of something is retained while its limiting factors are left behind.³
While critical of generalizing triadic thinking to all of Hegel’s thought, Kaufman does, however, concede that Hegel shows a marked tendency toward it.4
So a Christian theological application of the Hegelian dialectic could go as follows: Jesus Christ enters the world as the perfect Son but meets opposition from less than perfect people living during the Roman occupation of Israel under the Emperor Tiberius.
The “thesis” of the perfect, human Christ is physically destroyed by the “antithesis” of the evil actions of the people around him. But Christ’s bodily resurrection and ascension signifies an overcoming, and the conflict between thesis and antithesis is surpassed.
This example is not too far fetched. Hegel was a baptized Christian and has been roundly critiqued as a theologian posing as a philosopher, a critique that arguably exhibits the narrow and reductive thinking of some but certainly not all philosophers.
Hegel’s thoughts on the person of Jesus Christ stood out from the theologies of the Enlightenment. In his posthumous book, The Christian Religion: Lectures on Philosophy of Religion Part 3, he espouses that, “God is not an abstraction but a concrete God…God, considered in terms of his eternal Idea, has to generate the Son, has to distinguish himself from himself; he is the process of differentiating, namely, love and Spirit”. This means that Jesus as the Son of God is posited by God over against himself as other. Hegel sees both a relational unity and a metaphysical unity between Jesus and God the Father. To Hegel, Jesus is both divine and Human. Hegel further attests that God (as Jesus) not only died, but “…rather, a reversal takes place: God, that is to say, maintains himself in the process, and the latter is only the death of death. God rises again to life, and thus things are reversed.” Hegel therefore maintains not only the deity of Jesus, but the resurrection as a reality.5
Many commentators today say that the triadic dynamic in Hegel’s work had a profound influence on Karl Marx, who adapted it to his own, entirely materialistic theory of history.
Also, Hegel’s dialectic arguably had an indirect effect on Michel Foucault. For Foucault, the idea of dialectical tension could be improved upon by explaining history through a more open-ended, discontinuous outlook, one characterized by struggle.
3 “Roughly, the term indicates preserving the useful portion of an idea, thing, society, etc., while moving beyond its limitations.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic#Hegelian_dialectic
- The Same Tolstoy and Hegel (slog.thestranger.com)
- More on Hegel (nplusonemag.com)
- Nature in Whitehead, Hegel, and Schelling (footnotes2plato.com)
- After Hegel: An Interview with Robert Pippin (readysteadybook.com)
- Types of Explanation in Whitehead and Hegel (footnotes2plato.com)
- Zizek’s Hegel in The Parallax View (teresawinter.wordpress.com)
- talking hegel (3quarksdaily.com)
- Notes on the Dialectic of Lordship and Bondage in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (teresawinter.wordpress.com)
- The End of American Conservatism (rogueoperator.wordpress.com)
- On Zizek and the London Riots (nplusonemag.com)
In her book Illness as Metaphor (1978), Susan Sontag argued, not unlike Michel Foucault, that contemporary ways of approaching and understanding illness are intricately linked to societal norms. Huston Smith, in Beyond the Postmodern Mind (1982), also contends that current views about illness are culture-bound.
Other cultures, particularly those located in different historical periods, would probably regard as abnormal some contemporary beliefs, ideas and practices which many today see as normal.
This kind of argument is often used in relation to mental illness (and an inverse argument is often used with regard to homosexuality and polygamy¹), but Sontag (and Foucault) point out that it also applies to physical illness.
As with mental illness, bias with physical illness is evident in the way the issue is construed—i.e. the apparent causes, the best course of treatment, and what an illness supposedly signifies about a sick person’s moral character.
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¹ That is, other cultures, particularly those located in different historical periods, would probably regard as normal some contemporary beliefs, ideas and practices which many today see as abnormal. For instance, many in the ancient world believed that illness was caused by spiritual attack. Today, this belief would probably be uncritically dismissed by medical science.
- 38% Of Europeans Are Mentally Ill [Research Study] (inquisitr.com)
- Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- Study: 60% of Europeans Have Mental Disorders (weeklyworldnews.com)
- U.S. Adult Mental Illness Surveillance Report (cdc.gov)
- Mental Illness Affects Half Of All Americans During Their Lifetime (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness – Yahoo! News (underpaidgenius.com)
- Foucault, Oxford bibliographies online (2011) (foucaultnews.wordpress.com)
- Half of Americans Have Mental Health Problems, But Why? (blisstree.com)
- 40% of Europeans Are Mentally Ill (newser.com)
- 40% of Europeans Are Mentally Ill. (reuters.com)
The word ideology is fairly well known today but not too long ago its mention, except among sociologists and historians, would probably have been met with a blank stare.
Ideology refers to a body of social, economic or political ideas and beliefs informing a person, a group or a nation. At least, this is the standard dictionary view. Social thinkers – who tend to question dictionary definitions – argue that ideology is an often deceptive set of beliefs willingly or possibly unwittingly advanced by those with the social power to do so.
According to Karl Marx, Roland Barthes and, to some extent, Michel Foucault, the unwitting masses tend to reproduce ideologies until the point where they become aware of the shallow and deceptive character of a given ideology.
At this time the so-called ordinary person, and not just the so-called intellectuals, may try to change or even revolutionize ideologies.
It’s been argued that all religions contain an ideological component. And this may be true. But to reduce the spiritual aspect of religious experience to mere ideology is probably a mistake or, at least, incomplete.
Academic treatments of the idea of ideology are often complicated and extensive. And, one could say, that although they may appear radical and progressive to naive young students, in reality the academic treatment of ideology is still, for the most part “safe,” and thus ironically reproduces the very social structures and attendant issues which are outlined in class (along with those issues that are overlooked).
That’s a cynical view, of course. And like any opinion, it’s biased and incomplete. Another view is that it’s better to talk about some things than entirely ignore or deny their existence. And social change need not be revolutionary but can, in fact, be gradual or subtle. So, university is not necessarily just “finishing school” but can help to spark young minds into positive action.
Another thing to consider about ideology – or, more properly, academic views about ideology – is that it need not be an evil or sinister process. Ideologies can be good or, at least, better than competing ones. This point is often overlooked by derisive professors who seem to be lopsidedly critical and unfairly trash the very system that gives them their bread and butter.
In the arts, Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn had this to say in the 1980′s song, “Call it Democracy.” I’m not sure what his stance would be today.
Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament –
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called “developed” nations’
Idolatry of ideology.¹
¹ Full lyrics and subsequent author comments (up to 2005) here: http://cockburnproject.net/songs&music/atcid.html
- My Political Ideology (palakmathur.wordpress.com)
- The Tea Party continues to show its intellectual,ideological and moral bankruptcy (thekeyview.com)
- Modernizing and liberalizing the Communism – releasing socialist activists linked to communists. (eekaa.wordpress.com)
- How do we take control of the agenda from the GOP? (americablog.com)
- The Ideology of the London Riots (forbes.com)
- Ideological Inebriation on Capitol Hill (nader.org)
- The Willful Ignorance of Positive Thinking Ideology (scotteriology.wordpress.com)
- Ideologies 101 (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Yet the Left Wonders Why the President Spurns Them?: (brothersjuddblog.com)
- Ideology Serves No One (albw51.wordpress.com)
In the academic world it’s often assumed that the acquisition of different languages makes for a better, more valuable scholar. While this often may be the case, it’s not always.
For Bourdieu and other sociologists like Max Weber, social institutions – like universities – tend to legitimize themselves. Western universities, for example, are compelled to justify high tuition fees coupled with boring, run of the mill professors exhibiting mediocre analytical skills and a limited ability to think creatively.
As socially recognized and highly competitive organs of knowledge dissemination, universities strive to produce a certain quota of publications. Meanwhile, many scholars and the reading public tend to uncritically associate the knowledge of original languages with rational, coherent thought and scholarly legitimacy.
This is a book for people, not for scholars. Real scholars will read the Sanskrit; would-be scholars, or scholars from other fields, will fight their way through the translations of Geldner (German), Renou (French), Elizarenkova (Russian) and others; they will search the journals for articles on each verse, and on each word; they will pore over the dictionaries and concordances (Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, The Rig Veda, London: Penguin, 1981, p. 11).
And in footnote:
See appendix 3 for a bibliography of translations into European languages (Ibid).
While O’Flaherty lists noteworthy Asian commentators and Asian translators who render the Veda into European languages, interestingly enough, no mention is made of translations into contemporary Asian languages like Japanese, Korean or Mandarin.
She says the European translations are intended to encourage the “would-be scholar to make a better guess” than her own “educated guess on several problematic points” arrived at “by using the available scholarship” (Ibid., p. 12).
Does O’Flaherty contradict herself by elevating the ability of so-called “real scholars” while conceding that knowledge of an original language does not guarantee “correct” understanding?
If knowledge of original languages did guarantee correct understanding, the meanings of specific words and phrases in most ancient texts would not be continually debated and re-translated. By way of example, there’s no need to try to figure out what Sir Isaac Newton was trying to say with his three laws of motion, because we all get it. Ancient words and phrases, however, are continually being reinterpreted by self-proclaimed experts on the basis of new archeological findings, shifting academic approaches and societal changes.
With the exception of O’Flaherty and a handful of others, most translators go to great lengths to try to justify their particular rendering of problematic terms. They attempt to convince the reader that their ability to discern original meanings is as strong or stronger than all the other ‘specialists.’
And not only that. Many scholars push narrow-minded or far-fetched claims to make their translation of certain terms conform to their own point of view. In short, linguists and translators can disagree quite dramatically. These conflicted meanings arguably arise partly from incompetence, ignorance, ambition, and opinionated or wishful thinking.
Translation is clearly subject to human bias. Even with concerted and informed attempts to offer accurate translations, it’s doubtful that these biases may be eradicated. And even if translators could go through a time machine and be present when the ancient texts were actually written, the central obstacle to a precise and exact understanding of certain terms would persist: The translators themselves did not write the original text.
It seems safe to say that one can, in most instances, never fully understand another person’s mode of thinking and intent. To complicate things, consider contemporary English literature about which English-speaking scholars produce seemingly endless commentaries about the actual or “intended” meanings of certain English words and symbols. These intense debates occur within the very same language as that of the original texts.
Here, the student of religion may argue that religious texts differ from fiction because the former refer to fixed, unalterable truths. But this claim is complicated by the fact that the meaning of some religious terms change over time-such as angel and asura.
Moreover, the religious believer could say they have an advantage over regimented scholars because they possess higher forms of perception-that is, the alleged true meaning of a term is revealed or infused by God, even when reading that term in translation.
The scholar of religion cannot really prove or disprove such a claim. But scholars do point out that many apparently ‘revealed truths’ among believers often seem to contradict one another.
Meanwhile, several postmodern writers intentionally write texts with open-ended, ambiguous meanings. This creates, they say, a living dialogue between writer and reader instead of a dead monologue from writer to reader. The result, they seem to believe, is a ‘literary novel’ of higher value than say, ‘trashy pulp fiction.’ But arbitrary distinctions like this can become ingrained among literary circles, and are often loaded with unsavory, elitist connotations.
Another point to consider is that some believe that writers, themselves, may not be fully aware of their own intended meanings. And this is the underlying basis to a psychoanalytic approach to literature.
Clearly, scholars can and do produce insightful works without much knowledge of original languages. A good example would be John Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein (1993). Kerr openly admits to drawing upon the work of several translators. And perhaps this is a stronger method than merely relying on one’s own particular and possibly idiosyncratic translation of original texts.
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- The Relevance of Sanskrit Language in The Modern World (socyberty.com)
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- The Last Lingua Franca by Nicholas Ostler – review (guardian.co.uk)
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R. D. Laing (1927-1989) was a Scottish existential psychiatrist whose views about the psychiatric classification and treatment of mental illnesses like schizophrenia remain influential within anti-psychiatry groups and among some humanities students.
In the The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise (1967), Laing makes a case for the ‘inner adventurer,’ saying that Western culture tends to exalt outer-worldly adventurers (such as Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong) while denigrating inner-worldly ones.
Outer adventurers are usually high risk takers and may die from their dangerous pursuits (e.g. Apollo I, Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles). But as a culture we don’t say the deceased were ‘crazy’ for taking such high risks. Rather, we regard them as heroes.
Laing says this is not the case with most inner adventurers (Vincent Van Gogh comes to mind as a possible exception to Laing’s claim, although his genius was not fully recognized until years after his death). When most inner adventurers fail to achieve worldly recognition we tend to categorize them with unpleasant sounding labels that effectively rob them of their intrinsic human dignity.
While Laing says this is a cultural process, it gets it start in the family dynamic. Not unlike the sociologist Erving Goffman, Laing believes there’s often a tacit, largely subconscious dynamic within families to characterize a certain family member as “ill,” thus marginalizing them. According to this perspective, much undealt with complexes, tensions and dysfunctional family dynamics are thrust upon the individual seen as “sick,” who unfortunately bears the brunt of the whole family mess.
From a religious or spiritual perspective, this view possibly relates to the Hindu idea of karma transfer, along with the Catholic ideas of ‘victim souls’ and ‘taking sins.’ Historically speaking, the dynamic is also reminiscent of the ancient practice of community scapegoating.
In his years of work as a psychiatrist, Laing tried to discern and reassemble allegedly encrypted patterns of meaning within the seemingly ‘nonsense’ utterances of schizophrenic speech.
In short, Laing suggests that ideas about madness rest on biased interpretations of largely misunderstood experiences and behaviors. By the same token, as a doctor he tries to cure patients, as if to imply that his own way of seeing things is more authentic than theirs.
Like him or lump him, on the whole, Laing’s work raises worthwhile questions about social power, conformity, the status quo, deviance and the idea of mental illness. Laing’s opponents tend to accept the idea of mental illness, saying that it’s a serious, difficult and potentially life-threatening issue. They also say that Laing and other anti-psychiatry groups advance a romantic, one-sided scenario and make untenable claims that don’t fit with the vast majority of cases.
- Would You Want A Psychiatric Patient Living Next Door? (psychologytoday.com)
- New Research Shows Psychiatrists Believe More Than Half Of Their Patients With Schizophrenia Are Non- Or Only Partially Adherent (medicalnewstoday.com)
- China’s Psychiatric Mistreatment of Political Dissidents (psychologytoday.com)
- Letter: China’s Mentally Ill (nytimes.com)
- San Francisco’s Homeless Mentally Ill: Still Neglected (psychologytoday.com)
- Erving Goffman archives (stat.columbia.edu)
- A new level of chutzpah in psychiatric ghostwriting (mindhacks.com)
- Mental Illness (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- It’s Not Always All In Your Head (prweb.com)
- Mind: A Fate That Narcissists Will Hate: Being Ignored (nytimes.com)
- Doctor, Is My Mood Disorder Due to a Chemical Imbalance? (psychcentral.com)
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- Psychiatric Misadventures by Paul R. McHugh, M.D. (jeanettebartha.wordpress.com)
- The Illusions of Psychiatry (nybooks.com)
- The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why? Because (wheretheclientis.com)
- How do a psychology and psychiatry consultation differ? (zocdoc.com)
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- Where is its mind? What the battle over the ‘bible’ says about psychiatry (recoverynetworktoronto.wordpress.com)
- Mainstream psychiatry is failing – but there is another way (guardian.co.uk)
- Antidepressants Given More Widely (online.wsj.com)
The word myth is derived from the Greek mythos, meaning anything passed on orally.
Homer used mythos to signify stories and conversation based on fact instead of fiction. Later, Plato used mythos to refer to discourses containing shades of truth but which, for the most part, are fiction.
Among its contemporary meanings, myth often points back to a quasi-historical epoch or heroic character.
The term mythology may be used synonymously with myth or, more commonly, with a body of myths. ‘Mythology’ also involves a somewhat analytical (as in scholarly or philosophical) view of myths. A mythologist is someone who studies myths in this way, whereas a mythographer is more a compiler of myths.
Some mythologists trace historical conditions and archeological findings under the assumption that myths are just stories loosely based on historical events (as with the Hindu Ramayana).
In The Greek Myths Robert Graves says this about all myths—i.e. myth is something like a political cartoon.
Some rationalists contend that myth is an early protoscience that attempts to explain natural mysteries, not unlike contemporary science.
The functionalist theory sees myth as serving a positive social purpose. Emile Durkheim, for instance, argued that so-called primitive religion bonded community members and defined precise social classes and roles. The notion that social roles are defined and legitimized by mythology and sacred scripture seems to be partially supported by the Hindu caste system, by Greek and Nordic social stratification and by the Bible and the Koran.
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory views myth as a folk tale that reveals more about psychological than historical truths. Freud sees myth mostly in terms of wish-fulfillment, denial and sublimation.
Despite Robert Graves’ attack on C. G. Jung for being too metaphysical, Jung himself says myths are “psychological truths” that are historical because they reveal the attitudes of a group at a particular juncture in history. Interestingly, Jung admits to creating his own modern myth through his psychological theories. He also admits to using scientific language to convince otherwise skeptical readers as to the relevance of his ideas.
In a sense, then, Jung’s approach to myth-making could be seen as somewhat postmodern in that he knows full well he’s creating a social truth, if not a permanent truth. While some third-rate thinkers may see this as some kind of moral threat, it’s not that at all. Jung’s goal in myth-making is to create a sense of meaning and purpose appropriate to his times.
Joseph Campbell notes that myth, in combination with rites and ceremonies, serves a pedagogical function. Campbell says myth provides a thread of sensibility running through various stages of life, teaching us how to belong and contribute to society, from birth to childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age and eventually to the grave.
In the Tibetan Book of The Dead, the importance of myth extends beyond the grave.
The structuralist theory of Claude Levi-Strauss looks at myth as something arising out of pre-set, universal linguistic structures. For Levi-Strauss, meaning is not separate but explicit to the structure of myths, which apparently pose a series of binary oppositions (e.g. good-evil, male-female, hot-cold, helpful-harmful) that demonstrate how the human mind thinks.
Levi-Strauss’ views have been challenged by Sir Evans Pritchard who says not all mythic systems are constructed in simple binary oppositions. Other opponents say that meaning may exist on top of structure. The statement “the yellow laugh looked wet” for example, is grammatically correct but most would see it as meaningless.
The poststructuralist Michel Foucault sees practically all statements and related practices in terms of myth or ‘fictions.’ For Foucault, societal morals, scientific truths as well as economic, ideological and political imperatives are myths which, when invested with social power, exhibit tangible effects. Sometimes these very real effects of myth are pleasurable and other times not.
- Into the Mythic: A fresh look at some old ideas (earthpages.org)
- E2.0: Enabling Digital Realities, Embracing Myths (fastforwardblog.com)
- DVD Review: Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (blogcritics.org)
- Review: A Short History Of Myth (runesoup.com)
- Vamsee Juluri: Writing Mythology in an Age of Reality Crisis (huffingtonpost.com)
- Mistletoe (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- DVD Review: Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (writer.fitzhome.com)
- Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth from Greyhawk Grognard (greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com)
- Beyond belief: why Egyptian art outlives its myths | Jonathan Jones (guardian.co.uk)