Theses Doctoral

Freedom From Domination: A Foucauldian Account of Power, Subject Formation, and the Need for Recognition

McIntyre, Katharine Mangano

This dissertation seeks a concept of freedom that is compatible with Michel Foucault’s descriptions of power and its role in the constitution of the subject. Discovering the concept of freedom that properly opposes the Foucauldian concept of domination reveals the possibilities and limitations of the usefulness of Foucault’s account of power for social criticism. The first step in this endeavor is therefore to distinguish between Foucault's own use of the terms 'power' and 'domination' – the conflation of which is a source of criticism of his social theory. With this distinction in hand, I argue that Foucault’s genealogical period with its diagnosis of subjection is wholly compatible with, and indeed inseparable from, his ethical period with its emphasis on self-transformation. Read as two sides of a coin, these periods of Foucault’s work establish the terms in which we must understand the ethico-political struggle in which we constantly find ourselves as subjects of self-transformation embedded in identity-constituting relations of power. I then explore Foucault’s criticism of the modern concept of autonomy, which he believes to be inherited from the Enlightenment and, more specifically, Kant. In spite of these criticisms, Foucault does not dispense with the concept of freedom as autonomy altogether, but instead must embrace a concept of social freedom, similar to that which is found in contemporary recognition theory. Therefore, we should characterize Foucault’s normative stance as that of a coupling of a general concept of social freedom with what I call a "metaethico-political openness principle" committing us to acts of resistance that would attempt to push the boundaries of recognition so that we may affirm previously unimagined ways of life.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Carman, Taylor
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 4, 2016