Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Foucault’s Obscurantism: He Admitted it Himself

I am currently having a read through some of Michel Foucault’s major works, and criticisms of his theories, but before I get to detailed criticism, I will just open my critique with my first charge against Foucault: obscurantist writing. How do we know this?

He admitted it himself to the analytic philosopher John Searle, as anyone can hear in the video below!

According to Foucault, you needed to have 10% incomprehensible gibberish in your writing to be taken seriously in French Poststructuralist philosophical pretension! (Even worse, Bourdieu put it at 20%.) Clear writing was not a virtue. Frankly, this already raises alarm bells. If you cannot write clearly and 10% of what you write is gibberish, then questions must be asked about the intellectual merit of your work. Maybe the remaining 90% has some merit, but our suspicions are already raised.

And gibberish was not only a fault of Foucault’s work, but also of French Poststructuralist and general Postmodernist writing.

1 comment:

  1. Frankly, I read Bourdieu several times, especially "La raison pratique" (which is quoted) and it's very clear. The fact is that its style of writing is quite heavy (very long sentences with a lot of subordinates), but it's plainly french. There's of course a problem of translation, because sentences in english are very smaller than they can be in french. And as french, we love making very long sentences. I know it was a critic of its ennemies and he made a lot of jokes and irony about that when he was alive, but I never have any problem to understand what he was saying. But I'm French... Moreover, the bourdieusian model is very powerful and at the same time quite simple to understand social world, and this is the most important thing.
    One thing I would add : for Bourdieu, there's an objective reality. One important part of its works is to understand what are the social conditions to produce an objective truth and he clearly said that you have to differentiate between "the things of logic and the logic of things", i.e reality does not function necessarly as the theoretician would think, because models are simply tools to "look" phenomenons, so you have to be careful. That's why he used so much empirical data (statistics, interview, PCA...), contrasting with the method of Foucault, much more based on archives. Therefore, I hardly understand why people are including Bourdieu with Foucault (moreover, Bourdieu's view of social world is very different from Foucault and very often he disagreed with the foucaldian method) as "poststructuralist". His approach is called "constructivist structuralism" or "genetic structuralism". I think that "poststructuralism" is a bad name to include very different thinkers.