The Return of the Subject in Michel Foucault

American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 76 (2):255-280 (2002)
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Abstract

Foucault rejects the subject as a center, that is to say, as a transparent self-conscious being who gives meaning to his actions. However, ideas about subjects that are thinking and willing autonomously are still functioning within modern culture. Discourses on subjectivity thus call for an archeological and genealogical explanation. This compels Foucault to view subjectivity increasingly not only as a product and a target of power, but also as a source of resistance and as an agent; for Foucault defines power as “actions about actions.” In his latest writings, Foucault starts to define the teleology of his philosophical ethos as the production of new forms of subjectivity, in terms of freedom and autonomy. I argue that Foucault was always particularly concerned with circling (around) transgression, apprehending subjectivity as an aimless self-negation, rather than with a “return of the subject.”

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