of Philosophical Anthropology: Critical- Realism, Non-Humanism and
Social Historical Analysis.
paper endeavours to address the reductive analytical closure engendered
by the specters of philosophical anthropology which haunt
social-historical discourse through making a non-humanist,
critical-realist reading of the Archaeology of Knowledge.
In this reading both the discursive and the non-discursive dimensions of
Foucault's theory of discursive formation are elaborated. Knowledge of
social reality is therefore understood as a series of discourses
generated by historically specific discursive formations each with their
own formative rules. Social formations are, nevertheless, conceived as
real social entities which can only be known as objects of discourse.
of Philosophical Anthropology: Critical Social Realism and
"... a ghost never dies, it remains always to come and to
come-back" (Derrida 1994:99).[I]
Specters haunt social historical
- specters of philosophical anthropology. The ontological framework of
many social-historical discourses remains that of an implicit humanism
which positions human beings "as the axis and the source of all
social relations" and which essentialises those relations as human
"expressive or purposive activity" (Jones 1982:52).
Despite Althusserian and Foucaultian exorcisms this ghost did not die.
Indeed, it remained and has, disappointing-ly, made something of a
come-back. This paper is an endeavour to "reckon" (Derrida
1994:xx) with the reductive analytical closure I
As Derrida observes, a ghost can never be finally exorcised but always
remains. Thus, social-historical analysis must continually attempt to
engage and reckon with philosophical anthropology even if it is not
currently fashionable to do so.
It is my intention, therefore, re-animate the reckoning with the ghosts of
philosophical anthropology through a Critical Realist (henceforward CR)
re-reading of an early much overlooked text of Michel Foucault - The
Archaeology of Knowledge [III]
I have re-read this text in an explicitly non-humanist manner that
synthetically combines post-structuralist and Marxian theory. Such a
reading enables the analytical closures induced by the specters of
philosophical anthropology to be re-addressed.
In this paper I will begin by outlining the meta-theoretical framework of
CR and its epistemological consequences. Secondly, I will provide a
description of the substantive theoretical framework of CR that is
derived from the Archaeology, including a detailed explanation of
Foucault's poststructuralist theory of discursive formation. Finally, I
will briefly address the relationship between the Archaeology and
some of Foucault's genealogical texts describing how Foucault's
archaeological/genealogical method is consistent with the realist method
delineated by Marx which underpins CR.
My aim in this paper is to indicate how an explicitly theoretical
social-historical discourse goes some way to address the analytical
closure of humanist modes of thought which do not adequately address the
methodological effects of the ontological assumptions upon which they
are premised. I argue that it is only when assumptions as to the nature
of social reality are made explicit that the possibilities of what can
be established about that reality, the most fruitful methods for its
investigation, and the type of knowledge produced can be ascertained.
META-THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF CR
A CR ontology assumes that social reality is constituted by the operation
of relatively enduring or intransitive, structures which can only be
elucidated through the use of corrigible, or transitive concepts [IV]
Concepts are deployed in order to obtain knowledge of the intransitive
things (real objects) which constitute social reality.
Such objects are not "human constructs" but are
relatively enduring "real structures" (Bhaskar 1975:25) which
exist and function independently of human knowledge, experience and the
conditions which make them accessible.
In CR meta-theory then, things/objects are visualised as complex social
entities, possessing an ensemble of powers and tendencies, which
generate the phenomena and events in social reality. Generational
relations are, therefore, conceptualized as tendencies rooted in the
interaction of "real" social
structures and mechanisms. Such structures and mechanisms are
"distinct from the patterns of events that they generate":
similarly, events are "distinct from the experiences in which they
are apprehended" (Bhaskar 1975:56).
Social reality can, therefore, be seen as stratified into three
overlapping domains - the
real, composed of structures and mechanisms, the social entities
which generate the actual, constituted by events; and the
empirical, in which events are discursively mediated in experience (Outhwaite
1987:22, Marsden 1993:94).
These domains of social reality are distinct, but they often become
conflated in social-historical analysis. It is this conflation which
reduces the complex being of social reality and serves to effect
This conflation occurs because social structures do not exist
independently of their effects (Bhaskar
as an object of enquiry, is necessarily `theoretical' in the sense that,
like a magnetic field, it is necessarily unperceivable; so that it
cannot be empirically identified independently of its effects. It can
only be known, not shown to exist (Bhaskar 1989:82).
The tripartite division of social reality into the distinct domains of the
real, the actual and the empirical is crucial to a non-humanist CR mode
of analysis. CR obviates this conflation by deploying the metaphysical
assumption that the realities it seeks to investigate are ontologically
independent, yet nonetheless knowable.
In modes of analysis haunted by the specters of philosophical anthropology
these domains are conflated and accompanied by a reversal of the
movement from philosophical to empirical analysis which leads to
empiricism (see below). Moreover, in such modes of analysis there is the
assumption that the mechanisms, events and experiences of social reality
are unilinearly and naturalistically linked to one another through the
expressive or purposive activity of the human subject. The operation of
these mechanisms, the effects of which are social events, can only be
known through human experience. Experience is the foundation upon which
knowledge of social reality is constructed. Furthermore, thought
dominated by an analytic of philosophical anthropology presents an
effect of the operation of generative mechanisms, human agency, with a
cause. The ontologically humanist and epistemologically empiricist
assumptions of such thought therefore limit what aspects of, and the way
in which, social reality can be apprehended.
Central to CR is the exorcism of such assumptions. The aim of CR is not
the production of knowledge of social reality with an axis and source in
the human subject. Rather it is to theorize a sui generis social
reality in order that corrigible knowledges can be produced so that
particular theoretically defined problems can be elucidated. The
analytical distinction between the knowledge generated by CR and social
reality is however rigorously respected. For as Woodiwiss (1990: 7-8
emphasis added) argues, there is a necessary distinction:
Social-historical discourse does not therefore spontaneously refer to its
objects but is rather "made to refer" through the complex
interaction of discursive and non-discursive processes.
The analytical distinction between social-historical and extra
social-historical objects is precluded by any commitment to the
self-evidence of the empirical world. Such a commitment conflates and
reduces the independent ontological domain of real social entities and
mechanisms to the empirical domain; that is, to the human experience of
social-historical events. This conflation/reduction is a consequence of
deploying a representationalist concept of language and the maintenance
of a distinctly parsimonious attitude to theoretical abstraction. In
other words, it represents a failure to see that all language-borne
phenomena, including theory is semiological and hence
"non-representational" (Woodiwiss 1990).
Within CR discourse, then, language, is conceived as non-representational.
That is, words and concepts etc. do not simply represent non-linguistic
phenomena in a natural, transparent or unmediated way: the connections
between signifiers and signifieds are "arbitrary" or
"unmotivated" (Saussure (1960: 67, 69)). Words are ultimately
made to refer or are accepted as referring to concepts and things by the
society to which the language belongs. Because the relationship between
language and reality is arbitrary and social it is able to change over
time. It is the property of a "community of speakers" through
whose relations it is aligned with the extra-linguistic world. The
alignment and re-alignments of language in relation to extra-linguistic
reality are thus the result of "social forces" (Saussure
Similarly social-historical discourse is aligned with reality by the
forces operating in the societal, institutional and situational
formations of which it is a dimension. Concepts within this discourse do
not, therefore, represent the world but are the property of a community
of "theorists". The relationship between concepts and
social-historical reality ought not to be taken for granted, therefore,
but rather ought to be one of "conscious and controlled
reference" (Woodiwiss 1990:9).
Controlled reference can be achieved through the explicit deployment of a
CR ontology, which assumes that social reality does not depend for its
existence on human consciousness of it, and a CR epistemology that
privileges theoretical construction of the object of knowledge over
empirical observation. Observation is used "to control abstraction
rather than initiate, verify or falsify it" (Woodiwiss 1990:9).
This recognition of the constitutive role of theory and the prioritizing
of theory over empirical observation in social-historical discourse does
not mean that epistemology
is devalued and the endeavour to make social reality intelligible is
relinquished. It is instead to acknowledge, firstly, that epistemologies
emerge from particular discursive formations which have particular
conditions of existence which limit what is or is not considered valid
knowledge (see below). And secondly,
that observation of the empirical dimension of reality is a
consequence of a heterogeneous network of discursive, socio-cultural and
technological relations. There can be no observation, or indeed
observer, anterior to this network. Empirical evidence, therefore,
supports the abstractions of theoretical practice but does not initiate
them (Smith 1982, Banks 1989). Privileging theory is an acknowledgement
not only of the limits of what can be known about social reality, but
also of theory's constitutive role in the production of such knowledge.
In sum, CR is an ontological position which has definite epistemological
consequences. It is a position which attempts to overcome the reductive
ontology of humanism.
Human subjects, as individuals or as corporate groups, are considered by
CR to be neither the axis or origin of social reality nor necessarily
the most important source of its transformation. Hence, sociality is not
conceived of as simply the result of individual or collective action,
but rather as the result of the operation of sui generis social
entities and generative mechanisms. CR discourse is not, therefore
organised in terms of a pre-critical humanist essentialism or
under-theorized analytic categories such as "experience" [V]
Central to thought animated by the analytic of philosophical anthropology
is the deployment of the under-theorized
category of experience, common to universal human subjects. Thus,
the reality of human experience is represented as immediate and the
necessity of the category of experience as self evident. The result is
conceptual ambiguity and analytical closure.
In CR experience is conceived of as problematic, contingent, and dispersed
in a whole range of social practices which form the conditions of
existence of experience. Experience is formed in "the correlation
between fields of knowledge, types of normativity, and forms of
subjectivity in a particular culture" (Foucault 1992:4). This
exorcism of the humanist category of experience does not result in the
annihilation of the subject (Woodiwiss 1991). Rather, it means that
social entities are objects of analysis in their own right independent
of human subjects. This said, the recognition of the independence of
these entities does not mean that their operations are external to human
As Benton (1988: 213-4) argues there are three methodological principles
of explanation which addresses the potential problem of externality.
Firstly, as psychoanalysis emphasizes, experience, action and
subjectivity have an internal unconscious determination. Secondly, the
structural conditions of existence of experience, action and
subjectivity are not simply constraints but are the conditions of their
Thirdly, relatively enduring structural relationships between
social agents - individual human subjects or collectivities thereof -
and between social agents and objects, can bestow powers on such agents.
Social agents are conduits of power, power which both enables and
constrains social action. Thus, the humanist category of experience is
not conceived of as emerging spontaneously but rather as a correlate of
the socio-cultural conditions which make experience possible.
In short, human experience is no longer considered to be the ontological
foundation of social reality (Hirst & Woolley 1982): experience is
no longer a self evident explanatory concept, but part and parcel of the
problems which analysis seeks to render intelligible. In CR the analysis
of discursive and non-discursive processes displaces the analysis of
Visualising human experience as the result of positioning and
interpellation by discursive and non-discursive processes is not,
however, a reductionist move in which the subject becomes merely the
bearer of social structures. Rather, it is an attempt to liberate the
analysis of social formations from the limiting ontology of humanism.
For it is through regarding the social subject in this way that a
different light can be shed on social formations as structured by social
relations which are conceived of as non-human "entities and
relations which may only be `seen' thanks to the beneficence of
theory..." Woodiwiss (1990:5).
In sum, knowledge of social reality is appropriated through an explicit
theoretical practice which displaces under-theorized notions of the
subject and experience in order that the uniquely social dimensions of
reality may be understood. As social reality is independent of any
knowledge of it, however, it is important to respect the boundary
between the transitive concepts, models etc., and the intransitive real
social entities and relations to which they are made to refer or are
accepted as referring.
A framework for an explicitly theoretical form of practice is contained in
the Archaeology of Knowledge.
This text can be fruitfully read as a development of Foucault's attempt in
The Order of Things to awaken social-historical discourse from
the "anthropological sleep" (Foucault 1970:340).
ARCHAEOLOGY AND CR.
The Archaeology can be read as a sustained attempt to exorcise the
specters of philosophical anthropology. This text deliberately
transgresses the categories deployed in humanist modes of
social-historical analysis through the construction of a distinction
between "total history" - traditional
social-historical discourses in both their idealist and empiricist
forms, and "general history" - a non-humanist,
open textured analysis of the social-historical.
Foucault (1991:9) defines the project of total history as the
reconstitution of the material or mental principle that is embodied in
particular societies and the law of their cohesion. This mode of
analysis involves three untenable assumptions. Firstly, all
social-historical events and phenomena found within a particular spatio-temporal
domain are linked by a homogenous system of causal relations which have
a central core; secondly, the same type of historicity and historical
transformations work upon all the dimensions of sociality - economic,
political and ideological; and thirdly, history can be divided into
distinct periods with their own unitary laws. Thus, total history
"draws all phenomena around a single centre - a principle, a
meaning, a spirit, a world view, an overall shape;..." (Foucault
The single centre to which all phenomena are drawn in social-historical
discourses dominated by an analytic of philosophical anthropology is of
course the universal human subject.
All forms of totalizing history, with their stress upon continuity and
their correlative focus upon the sovereignty of the human subject and
teleological development, are rejected as they induce analytic closure.
Indeed, Foucault endeavoured to open up space for analysis through
deploying what he called "general history".
General history is a way of producing historically contingent knowledge
characterised by a space of "dispersion" in which
social-historical events and phenomena are separated and systematised,
divided into series, related to one another not by virtue of some
essential principle but through theoretical practice which produces
heterogeneous and complex social-historical configurations.
The use of the term "general" is perhaps unfortunate for it may
lead to the misconception that one form of generality - total history -
has merely been replaced with another which merely substitutes
continuity with dispersion. Indeed, the term reinforces the tendency to
homogenize and essentialize history and historical knowledge (Wickham
1983, 1990: 44-5). I intend to show, however, that despite the
shortcomings of the term "general history" Foucault's text is
an effort to rethink the process of social-historical enquiry,
liberating it from the ahistorical closure inherent in the discourse of
The Archaeology, then, can be fruitfully read as a
non-humanist, non-representationalist, critical theory of
social-historical discourse analysis. Its focus is upon discourse as
institutionalised social practice, the ways in which social institutions
form discursive practice, and the constitutive effects of that practice.
Social-historical reality, therefore, is analysed through the examination
of institutionally formed language use rather than the subjects
enunciating such language. Thus, the analytical focus of the Archaeology
is the social usage and normative power of discourse, not the presence
of discourse in the experience or thought of individual or collective
subjects. The subject, therefore, is regarded as an
"inter-discourse" the site of an ensemble of subject positions
given through discourse and by which the subject is interpellated. The
fragmented and often contradictory ensemble of subject positions, which
result from the open-textured nature of the discursive formations which
create their conditions of existence also makes possible the
interpellation of the subject through counter-discourses, which make
social conflict possible.
The Archaeology seeks to elucidate the rules of formation of
discourses by elucidating the discursive and non-discursive social
conditions that make their emergence possible. The particular
configuration of discursive and non-discursive conditions of existence
of discourse Foucault called discursive formations.
Formations and their Rules of Formation.
Foucault deploys the theory of discursive formation to analyse the
relationship between knowledge and the non-discursive institutions and
social practices which are necessary conditions of their existence. He
conceives discursive formations as having four domains, that of objects,
enunciative modes, concepts and themes, each of which have their own
rules of formation.
In order to understand what makes it possible for an object to emerge as
an important and become known within social-historical discourse the
rules that make the existence of such an object possible and which
distinguish it from other objects of concern must be described. These
rules consist in the elucidation of the:
(i) "surfaces of emergence" (Foucault
1991:41), the "social and cultural spaces in which a particular
discursive formation appears" (Sheridan 1990:97). Such spaces are
defined by economic political and ideological processes.
(ii) "authorities of delimitation"
(Foucault 1991:41-2), the social positions and identities
occupied by those who have the right to delimit/pronounce upon objects
(iii) "grids of specification" (Foucault 1991:42), the beliefs
and conceptual models used to differentiate objects from each other.
Although objects which emerge from discursive formations are identified
through theoretical practice they are not simply part of an
"architecture of concepts" (Foucault 1991:35). They are events
whose conditions of existence lie in the imbrication of the discursive
with the non-discursive and which have real effects in the
non-discursive. Furthermore the determinants of the rules of formation
of discursive formation are broadly speaking social, that is,
non-discursive. As Woodiwiss (1990:63-4) argues in his development of
The Domain of "Enunciative Modalities".
The discourses which are made possible by discursive formations are not
simply constituted as conceptual architectures, but also as practices.
Integral to these practices are the "enunciative modalities"
which exist at the interface between the discursive and the
non-discursive. That is, discourses are constituted through their modes
of enunciation. Different modes or styles of making statements give
shape to discursively produced knowledge. The rules governing the
formation of these modes are those of:
(i) "who is speaking?";
that is the social position and status of the speaker sanctioned by law,
(ii) "the institutional site";
that is the institution from which a discourse is legitimated and
(iii) "(t)he positions of the subject";
the possible positions a person can take up within discourse such as
questioner, observer or teacher (Foucault 1991: 50-3).
It is important to emphasise that enunciative modes are not regulated by
the transcendental human subject of philosophical anthropology but by
the anonymous functioning of the ensemble of their rules of formation.
This anonymous function is broadly speaking social in nature.
3. The Domain of "The Formation Of Concepts".
The analysis of concept formation involves the description the
"organization of the field of statements where they appeared and
circulated" (Foucault 1991:56), that is a description of the
interaction of the rules governing:
(i) the "succession" or sequence in which particular
concepts appear within a discourse;
(ii) the "coexistence" of different concepts present in a
discourse and belonging concomitantly to other discourses, and how these
concepts become obsolete.
(iii) " procedures of intervention"; procedures governing how
concepts are rewritten, translated and transcribed from one register to
another such as from an informal into a formalized language or
As Foucault (1991:63) suggests these rules of conceptual formation:
The anonymous operation of these rules has therefore both discursive and
4. The Domain of "The Formation of Strategies".
Discursive formations make possible specific organizations of concepts and
objects, specific types of enunciation which form discursive strategies
or themes. These strategies are dispersed within discourse according to
the rules governing their:
(i) "points of diffraction of discourse"
(Foucault 1991:65). A single theme may be taken up in more than one type
of discourse. For example, a series of economic concepts which concern
value may become inserted into a discourse which deploys a strategy
based on exchange or on a discourse which deploys a strategy based on
remuneration (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982:71). These different strategies
are related to:
(ii) "the economy of the discursive constellation"
(Foucault 1991:66). Themes in a discourse have determinate relationships
to themes in other discourses to which they are related.
The formation of discursive strategies enables social transformation to
take place as a discursive formation does not fill all the possible
space opened up by the configuration formed by its objects,
enunciations, and concepts: a discursive formation is therefore
"essentially incomplete owing to the system of formation of its
strategic choices" (Foucault 1991:67). The incomplete condition of
a discursive formation means it can be "taken up again, placed and
interpreted in a new constellation" which reveals "new
possibilities" (Foucault 1991:67).
Only certain objects, concepts etc., emerge from discursive formations and
become inserted in particular discourses which are themselves open,
loose ensembles of statements. The constellations of statements which
form themes and structure discourse when inserted into other discourses
and articulated with other discursive and non-discursive structures
function in different ways depending on:
(iii) "the function the discourse under study must carry out in a field
of non-discursive practices"(Foucault 1991:68). Discourse has a
constitutive function in the economic, political and ideological
dimensions of sociality. This general function also includes particular
rules concerning the "process of appropriation of discourse",
which people have the right to authorize the institutionalization of
strategies; the "possible positions of desire in relation to
discourse" (Foucault 1991:68), which is not marginal to discourse,
but rather is a "formative element" of the way in which a
discourse functions in non-discursive practices.
In sum, the aggregated rules of formation regulate one another and
determine what a discourse signifies. Nonetheless, "the
determinants of these rules are social in the general sense" (Woodiwiss
1990:63). That is, in CR the rules are seen as formed through their
relationship with the structures of non-discursive social reality which
determine what a particular discourse refers to.
Unfortunately, due to Foucault's somewhat oblique, prolix, and tortuous
style and his habit of introducing a bewildering array of concepts which
are never fully elaborated, the analysis of the relationship between
discursive and non-discursive practice, which is central to the
Archaeology, has often been misunderstood. Foucault's exhaustive
catalogue of what discourse is not and his continual emphasis upon the
specificity of discourse, often obscures the crucial role of the
positive relation of discourse to the non-discursive. CR maintains that
the imbrication of the discursive and non-discursive is an integral part
of the rules of formation of discursive formation. For example, the
formation of objects of discourse requires a non-discursive surface of
emergence, that is, a social and/or an institutional site. Similarly an
enunciative mode requires not only subjects to speak in particular
styles but institutional sites from which speech can be spoken.
The relationship between the discursive and non-discursive in the Archaeology
has been criticised by Dreyfus and Rabinow (1982). Whilst acknowledging
that the text possesses "a concrete and social notion of the
non-discursive background" (Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982:77), they
argue that this background has a nominal status, it is a passive domain
determined by discourse. They interpret Foucault's attempts to specify
the effectivity of discursive practice as merely a version of
structuralist theory in which there is "the strange notion of
regularities which regulate themselves" and "a strange
alliance between rules as descriptive regularities and as
prescriptive operative forces" (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982: 84, 81).
Dreyfus and Rabinow, however, fail to fully acknowledge that the rules of
formation of discursive formation have, as indicated above, integral
non-discursive as well as discursive conditions of existence.
Regularities in discourse do not therefore regulate themselves but are
rather the product of the interaction both discursive and non-discursive
relations. Foucault, it is true, did not establish a
"hierarchy" of effectivity in the relations between objects,
subject positions concepts and strategies, or between the discursive and
the non-discursive. This, however, can be seen as a deliberate
theoretical move made in order to open up the space of analysis rather
than close it down through a preordained causal hierarchy. The precise
articulation of the relations within a discursive formation and of the
discursive to the non-discursive can only be established through
substantive analysis, as exemplified in the genealogies Discipline
and Punish and The History of Sexuality Volume 1
From a CR perspective Dreyfus and Rabinow's second failure consists of the
underestimation of the constitutive effect of theory and the privileged
role it has within Foucaultian analysis (Foucault 1991:26). Through
theoretical practice Foucault attempts to de-familiarize knowledge
production so that the specters of philosophical anthropology can be
exorcized from this process. The explicitly theoretical construction of
the rules of formation of objects, enunciative modes, concepts and
strategies shows that these rules actively constitute the discourses
through which the world is known. Knowledge, therefore, is the result of
the relatively autonomous discursive dimension interacting with and
through the non-discursive dimensions of social formations. The rules of
formation do not, therefore, prescribe a reality which is independent of
discourse, but describe the way in which that reality becomes known
through discursive practice.
Tranquilized by the anthropological sleep Dreyfus and Rabinow are unable
to "see" what Foucault tried to accomplish. Their humanist
theoretical framework impels them to interpret the strange exorcism of
the ghost of philosophical anthropology from the Archaeology as a
failure, whereas this is its success. The theoretical framework of the Archaeology
would not, as Dreyfus and Rabinow argue, be abandoned in future texts,
but would be developed through Foucault's use of the idea of genealogy.
Indeed, CR maintains that the critical theoretical programme of the
Archaeology continued to inform the less abstract register of the
genealogical histories and that archaeology/genealogy is consistent with
the realist methodology delineated by Marx.
In contrast to such diverse commentators as Dreyfus and Rabinow
(1982:102), and Smart (1983:74), I do not see Foucault's deployment of
the concept of genealogy as a reversal of the priority of theory over
practice. This dichotomization of theory and practice seems to me to be
a misunderstanding of the idea of theory as a form of discursive
practice. As Lemert & Gillan (1982:120) observe, "(f)or
Foucault, theory is practice, and practice is theoretical because
knowledge is in power and power in knowledge". Theory, then, is a
form of political practice. Furthermore, I do not endorse Dews'
(1979:150) and Dean's (1994:14) assertions that there is a break between
the Archaeology and later texts. The critical theoretical
programme of the Archaeology continues to inform the less
abstract register of the genealogical histories.
In CR genealogy is understood as an attempt to conceptualize the
singularity of social-historical events whilst recognizing that their
facticity is constituted, in part, by discourse and that any knowledge
of events is necessarily contingent [IX].
As Foucault (1977:157) argues, genealogy gives "equal weight to its
own sight and to its objects". This is an acknowledgement of the
constitutive effects of a theoretically informed gaze. It is neither a
claim for objectivity nor relativity. Rather, archaeology/genealogy
seeks to transgress such dichotomies and epistemological categories,
seeks to make possible multiple regimes of plausible but corrigible
knowledges of social reality.
Whilst denying there is any form of meta-theoretical break between
Foucaultian archaeology and genealogy I do, however endorse Smart's
(1983:79) assertion that there is a post-Archaeology shift in which the
focus upon relations of power, knowledge and the body becomes more
explicit. This does not, however, represent a "decentering of
discourse" (Fairclough 1992:49) in favour of the analysis of power.
For "it is in discourse that power and knowledge are joined
together" (Foucault 1990:100). The analysis of discourse as
specified in the Archaeology, therefore, remains of
crucial importance to genealogical analysis. Whereas archaeology
elucidates discursive practice, genealogy elucidates the imbrication of
those practices with non-human power/knowledge relations (Foucault
1987:27-8). Thus, genealogy does not displace archaeology but rather
constitutes a broadening of its analytical horizon (Davidson 1986:227).
Part of the broadening of the Archaeology's analytical horizon is
through a refusal to prejudge the causal effectivity of either
discursive or non-discursive practices. Indeed,
Foucault (1981:6) attempted to "lighten the weight of
by an increasing analytic polymorphism in which the complex imbrication
of discursive and non-discursive elements. Thus, in place of the
"uniform, simple notion of assigning a causality" Foucault
(1978:13) substitutes a "polymorphous cluster of
correlations". Correlations between intra, inter and non discursive
elements, relations and domains of reference, results in a
"plethora of intelligibilities" (Foucault 1981:7).
This Foucaultian theory/methodology is consistent with the realist method
delineated by Marx in the introduction to the Grundrisse and
developed in Capital (Callinicos 1982). Marx (1973:101)
privileged the analytical movement from "the abstract to the
concrete" as this is the way in which "thought appropriates
the concrete, reproduces it as the concrete in the mind". The
concrete therefore is the result not the point of departure of knowledge
production. That is not to say that thought creates the concrete for it
"retains its autonomous existence outside the head" (Marx
1973:101). This Marxian conceptualization of realism provides the
methodological framework for CR.
By contrast methodologies premised upon the humanist ontology of
philosophical anthropology, which are either epistemologically
empiricist or idealist and which deploy a representationalist concept of
language, act to conflate the "concrete" and the
"concrete in the mind", to conflate the real, the actual and
the empirical as discursively mediated in experience.
This results in the attribution of the "particular epistemological
concept" of experience with a "general ontological
function" and the tendency to ignore the social conditions in which
experience is "epistemically significant" (Bhaskar 1975:28).
The conflation of a condition of knowledge (ie. experience), with the
actual being of the real results in the analytical closure of the
"epistemic fallacy" (Bhaskar 1975:36): statements about social
being are reduced to experientially based statements concerning the
knowledge of that being (Bhaskar 1975: 36, 187, 198).
In sum, I have argued that the non-humanist theoretical/methodological
framework of CR, derived from a synthesis of Foucaultian and Marxian
texts enables the eradication of such conflation and closure from
This paper has attempted to reckon with the specters of philosophical
anthropology through the development of a CR ontology, which assumes
that the existence of social reality does not depend on human
consciousness of it, and a CR epistemology that privileges theoretical
construction of the objects of social-historical discourse over
I have argued that Foucaultian theory of discursive formation of the Archaeology
can be read as a non-humanist, non-representationalist form of CR which
attempts to elucidate both the discursive and the non-discursive
dimensions of social reality; and that the methodology of archaeology/geneaology
is consistent with the realist methodology advocated by Marx.
The invocation of the work of Marx in this paper is deliberate. For as
Derrida (1994:13) argues the reading and rereading of Marx's work is
"more urgent today" than it has ever been. Indeed, CR
endorses Derrida's (1994:13) position that it is "a fault not to
read and reread and discuss Marx ... a failing of theoretical,
philosophical, and political responsibility".
It has been my contention that the "beneficence" (Woodiwiss
1990:5) of a CR theoretical framework makes it possible to see, situate
and identify (Derrida 1994: 132) the specters of philosophical
anthropology, to obviate the conflation and closure effected by these
ghosts and to re-engage in the perennial struggle to exorcise them from
[I] Although Derrida's text acted as a stimulus to the writing of this paper I do not mean to imply that this text can be assimilated within a CSR framework. This paper, like the work of Marx, is grounded in a "pre-deconstructive-ontology" (Derrida 1994: 170), that is, a realism, which acknowledges that the assumption of the real as present is a metaphysical but, nonetheless, fruitful meta-theoretical strategy. For Derrida, although not false, a realist strategy is not radical enough as it remains beguiled by the "metaphysics of presence".
[II] This paper aims to "elucidate the question of society and that of history, questions that can be understood only when they are taken as one and the same: the question of the social historical" (Castoriadis:1987: 167).
[III] As Dean (1994: 175, 195) observes even Foucault's later works on governmentality seek to avoid "relapsing into a humanist framework" and continue his "rejection of the founding or constitutive subject of philosophical humanism".
[IV] I understand ontology as defined by Arthur (1986:153) as "that set of fundamental categories through which the character of the social sphere is delimited and the general framework for theory construction established." As the author argues a priori arguments do not "establish the necessity of these categories", however, all research programmes presuppose "a commitment to some ontology."
[V] On the discursive character of experience and the politics of its construction see Scott (1991).
[VI] As Dean (1994:56) argues critical social-historical discourse is "concerned with the variation of forms of specification of human beings and their capacities under definite social, ethical, political and cultural conditions" and with the examination of: the way in which such forms of specification have particular discursive conditions presupposed by and necessary to various forms of social, legal, political and economic practices and techniques.
[VII] Compare Vattimo's (1992) Ch.1 passim compelling postmodern critique of unilinear, teleological forms of historical discourse.
[VIII] The theoretical and methodological position developed in this paper owes what Derrida (1994:92) would call an "unefaceable and insoluble debt" to the text inscribed under the proper name of Anthony Woodiwiss - Social Theory After Postmodernism. The procedure recommended for the production of discursive analyses of social-historical knowledge in Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge animates Social Theory After Postmodernism. The latter text, however, contains an explicitly sociological appropriation of the Archaeology which this paper endeavours to build upon.
Althusser thought his former student Foucault, an exceptional thinker
who destroyed the obviousness of facticity (1979: 44,45,). He thought
Foucault's texts were immense efforts "in abstraction"
which attempted to identify and construct the object of
social-historical enquiry. This effort Althusser (1979:103) applauded as
... antipodal to the empirically visible history in which the time of all histories is the simple time of continuity...Instead of these categories, continuity and discontinuity, which summarise the banal mystery of all history, we are dealing with infinitely more complex categories in which new logics come into play...
[X] Compare Vattimo's (1992:71) commitment to a "lightening of being". Vattimo's (1992:118) "ontology of reduction...carries to its natural conclusion the Heideggarian idea of being that can never be given as full presence...". Even the CSR concept of relatively enduring structures would be considered by Vattimo as a form of nostalgia. See note 1 above
See Outhwaite (1987:32), who observes that both idealism and
empiricism "reduce ontology to epistemology" whilst "retain(ing)
an implicit ontology of the empirical world".
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