Critique is a thing of this world: Towards a genealogy of critique

History of the Human Sciences 27 (1):108-123 (2014)
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Abstract

Although Foucault was clearly a critical thinker, his approach also provides for the possibility of a genealogy of critique. Such an approach problematizes critique, and I trace the emergent problematization of critique in Foucault’s later works, and briefly in Latour and Boltanski. From this I move on to the ‘critical problematic’, that is, how critique operates as a form of power/knowledge, as a discourse that creates subjects through a critical regime of truth and critical truth-games. Specifically, I argue that critique is a discourse which transforms and unmasks other ‘truth-claims’, replacing them with a starker vision of reality, which in the end is also a specific cultural vision. To elaborate this view, I return to Foucault’s discussion of Kant, his late lectures on Cynicism and also on ordo-liberalism. The wider circulation of critical discourses is demonstrated through an analysis of ‘cool’ or critical consumerism. In conclusion, the relationship between critique, crisis and modernity is considered

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