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Foucault's Critical Ethics$
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Richard A. Lynch

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823271252

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823271252.001.0001

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Michel Foucault as Critical Theorist

Michel Foucault as Critical Theorist

(p.1) Introduction Michel Foucault as Critical Theorist
Foucault's Critical Ethics

Richard A. Lynch

Fordham University Press

This book explores two central themes of Michel Foucault’s critical theory: power and ethics. It considers the ways that Foucault raises challenges and questions for his readers, questions that simultaneously cut in two directions—outward toward social structures and inward toward one’s own beliefs. This double-edged critique—both disconcerting and inspiring, of the social and individual, aimed outward and inward—is expressed in Foucault’s adage that “everything is dangerous.” Thus, Foucault gives us—or at least demands of us—a critical theory and, in particular, a critical ethics. This introduction argues that Foucault is a critical theorist and that his work is relevant for critical theory. It discusses Seyla Benhabib’s definition of critical theory, and particularly her characterization of critical-theoretical self-reflexivity and her assertion that the development of critical theory is “juxtaposed to instrumental reason.” It also describes three approaches for conceptualizing the relation between power and ethics in Foucault’s work. Finally, it provides an overview of the chapters in the book containing Foucault’s accounts of disciplinary power, biopower, and governmentality.

Keywords:   power, Michel Foucault, critical theory, ethics, critical ethics, Seyla Benhabib, self-reflexivity, disciplinary power, biopower, governmentality

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