Clive Barnett on Foucault and Problematisation

On his blog Pop Theory my colleague Clive Barnett highlights a new paper he has out with nonsite.org entitled On Problematization: Elaborations on a theme in “late Foucault”. It’s worth (of course!) taking a look – A funny coincidence is that this appears at the same time as I am revisiting Rabinow’s Anthropos Today which is one of the sources through which Clive reflects on Foucault’s conceptualisation of ‘problematisation’ (not least in The Order of Things [Les Mots et les Choses])…

Clive suggests his article is ‘an experiment in seeing how much mileage along the path of developing useable social science concepts you can get out of a few passing remarks from a master-thinker’. In this case, Foucault’s suggestion of problematisation as ‘an interruption of the normal, naturalized, settled flow of events’, which Clive argues, by putting Foucault in conversation with Dewey (as does Rabinow, but to different ends), that:

The notion of problematization might, in short, point towards a mode of descriptive analysis that helps to draw into view the significance of the difficulties and concerns that already animate people’s actions. Rather than underwriting a model of critique in which it is presumed that people’s subjectivities are readily available for re-making under the force of the revelatory exposure of contingency, elaborations of Foucault’s notion of problematization invite us to give more credence to how aspects of people’s subjectivity come to matter so strongly to them, and in turn to ask what price would have to be paid in the pursuit of transformation.

An interesting paper, well worth exploring (for free!), on nonsite.org.

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