The Michel Foucault and Jurgen Habermas Debate: What is really at stake?
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Critics of Foucault's notion of power, as it is developed in Discipline and Punish (1975) and History of Sexuality:Volume 1 (1976), center their critique on Foucault's questioning of modernity's normative values. Many of Foucault's leading critics ask how his obviously politically engaged writing can claim no normative values of it's own. Does Foucault aspire to normative neutrality when describing a power system he clearly opposes and assumes needs drastic transformation? How can Foucault expect his own discourse and self to escape the seemingly all-inclusive grasp of this modern power network that he argues 'is everywhere' and actually produces individuals? Questions of Foucault's 'normative neutrality' or his inability to formulate a convincing reason to resist modern power must be torn, through singularization, from the illusionary plane of philosophical idealism and scrutinized as they function in the reality of power relations. Once this movement has taken place, Jurgen Habermas and Nancy Fraser's critiques appear as passionate efforts to blanket the historical construction of our society's network of subjection with lofty, beautiful discourse on the transcendental and universal justification for the 'humane' domination exercised by disciplinary power.