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Revising Foucault: The History and Critique of Modernity

Colin Koopman

University of Oregon

October 30, 2008


I propose a major reassessment of Foucault's philosophico-historical account of the basic problems of modernity. I revise our understanding of Foucault by countering the misinterpretations proffered by influential European critics such as Habermas and Derrida. Central to Foucault's account of modern was his work on two crucial concept pairs: freedom/power and reason/madness. I argue against the view of Habermas and Derrida that Foucault understood modern power and reason as straightforwardly opposed to modern freedom and madness. I show that Foucault held a much more complex view of these pairs, a view encapsulated in his term "reciprocal incompatibility." By revising our interpretation of Foucault's work on modernity in this way, we open the way to much more effective deployments of his critical apparatus.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 29

Keywords: Foucault, Habermas, Derrida, Modernity, Discipline

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Date posted: November 1, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Koopman, Colin, Revising Foucault: The History and Critique of Modernity (October 30, 2008). PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIAL CRITICISM, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1292583

Contact Information

Colin Koopman (Contact Author)
University of Oregon ( email )
1280 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
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