Category Archives: Critical Theory

My response to Michael Fordham’s excellent post, “Is traditionalism [in education] right-wing?”

Here is my response to Michael Fordham’s excellent post, “Is traditionalism right-wing?“ ______________ Thank you, Michael, for a thoughtful and well-reasoned piece. Your point about conservatism as conservation is an important one: it is not connected to political beliefs or policies, just as pedagogy and political beliefs are not equivalent. Gramsci teaches us that, clearly. […]

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Notes and commentary on Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation (Part 1)

We all have those books – the ones we know are good for us but have remained on the bookshelf for years (or decades). Thankfully, Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation is now one of those books that I can return to my bookshelf with the satisfaction that I’ve finally read one of the masterpieces  of economic […]

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Examining Paul Veyne’s Foucault: Chp. 7

After equivocating over the necessity of an Objective stance, Veyne returns to a more consistently skeptical position in “The Physical and Human Sciences: Foucault’s Programme”, the seventh chapter of Foucault: His Thought, His Character. The central question of this chapter is the degree to which Foucault is epistemologically confident in his analysis of discourse, an […]

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Albert O. Hirschman’s The Passions and the Interests

Albert O. Hirschman’s The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism Before Its Triumph is an essay as insightful and thought-provoking as it is elegant.  Hirschman’s Passions is a timeless classic that gracefully explores the intersection of economic, social and political thought, and provides a perceptive understanding of the Western world’s intellectual accommodation and […]

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Examining Paul Veyne’s Foucault: Chp. 6

I’ll be honest – I am no expert on Heidegger. So I’ll have to take Veyne’s account of Heidegger, entitled “Notwithstanding Heidegger, Man Is An Intelligent Animal” at relatively face value.  Veyne’s central aim in this chapter is to distinguish Foucault from Heidegger. Though Veyne won’t admit this, many have lumped Foucault in with the […]

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Examining Paul Veyne’s Foucault: Chp. 5

Chp. 5 of Paul Veyne’s Foucault, entitled “Universalism, Universals, Epigenesis”, is another short chapter, and a partial detour away from his analysis of Foucault. The main purpose of the chapter is to demonstrate that Christianity, despite its universalist aspirations and pretensions, is a discursive formation riven with scattered intentionalities, unpredictable origins, and unintended alterations. This chapter […]

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Examining Paul Veyne’s Foucault: Chp. 4

  Chp. 4 of Paul Veyne’s Foucault, entitled “Archaeology”, is a curious part of the book. This short section extends Veyne’s epistemological discussion of the previous chapter, but does not really examine “archaeology” as a method. Also, Foucault’s somewhat vague differentiation between “archaeology” and “genealogy” is mirrored by Veyne’s implicit conflation of the two concepts, […]

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Examining Paul Veyne’s Foucault: Chp. 3

Foucault’s epistemological perspective is one of the more intriguing aspects of his oeuvre. Foucault never really examined his theory of knowledge in any consistent and thorough-going manner, but he offered many (sometimes cryptic) observations and remarks that have encouraged others to piece together his understanding of how we know and understand the world. Paul Veyne […]

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Examining Paul Veyne’s Foucault: Chp. 2

One of the strongest objections to Foucault’s philosophy is that his theory of discourse appears to resemble an old sociological perspective: structural functionalism. Structural functionalism is a sort of biological approach to understanding society: all parts of society work together to allow that society to function. The emphasis is on equilibrium, harmony and interdependence (though […]

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Examining Paul Veyne’s Foucault: Chp. 1

One of the most celebrated philosophers of the 20th century is Michel Foucault. At once both vilified and lauded, Foucault is a fascinating and demanding thinker. He certainly proved to be a challenge when his conception of the Self became the centerpiece of my Master’s thesis. Yet I’ve always maintained that his philosophy (or should […]

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