Overcoming metaphysics: Elias and Foucault on power and freedom

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 23 (1):50-72 (1993)
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In their respective analyses of Western civilizations, both Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault were concerned to overcome metaphysical notions of power and freedom, seeing them as relations rather than as properties possessed by some groups and individuals but not others. This essay explores the similarities between their understanding of power and freedom as relations. However, there are many differences between these two theorists, most important of which is the Nietzschean philosophy that is the foundation of Foucault's analysis. Central to the Foucauldian and Nietzschean understanding of power and freedom is the concept of "agonism," the eternal contest between humans. The author argues that this concept reintroduces metaphysics to the analysis of power and freedom in the form of a metaphysics of conflict. Elias's work offers a better way out of metaphysics because it is based on a sociological ontology from which truly relational concepts of power and freedom can be devised.



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Citations of this work

The shifting concept of the self.Ian Burkitt - 1994 - History of the Human Sciences 7 (2):7-28.

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References found in this work

Twilight of the Idols ;.Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - 1976 - Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. Edited by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.
Twilight of the idols.Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - 1888 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by R. J. Hollingdale & Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.
Foucault on Freedom and Truth.Charles Taylor - 1984 - Political Theory 12 (2):152-183.
What is Sociology?Norbert Elias - 1978 - University College Dublin Press.
Existentialism and Humanism.Jean-Paul Sartre - 1949 - Philosophy 24 (89):182-183.

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