The limitations of dispersive freedom : Michel Foucault and historiography
In this thesis I argue that Foucault's dispersive historiography is a deepening rather than a purifying of historical existence. This emphasis upon dispersion as a critical principle is contrasted with, and delimited by the possibility of the narrative comprehension of historical existence exemplified by the hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur. Insofar as the responsibility to act is an important field where tfphis deepening takes place it cannot be subordinated to the responsibility to otherness which aims at dismantling the action orientated frameworks of traditional ethics and politics. Ricoeur's promotion of narrative refiguration as a response to the aporias of time is thus, a timely rejoinder to dispersive genealogy. I argue further that Foucault's historiography exhibits the productive tension of history as both difference and meaning and that the ethical thrust of such writing is to address the concerns of the present in a way that metamorphosizes rather than challenges the narrative function. Insofar as it connects with the struggles of disenfranchised and marginalized groups, and discourses, it also echoes a powerful element In traditional emancipatory historiography which attempts to fully embrace the slaughtered possibilities of the past The emancipatory potential of dispersive historiography is examined further by comparison with the aims and values of traditional critical theory. Two positions are delineated: (1) Complementarity, in which genealogy produces valuable insights into hitherto unacknowledged power structures; (2) Delimitation, in which Foucault's work is seen to be an important limitation on the epistemological and ontological interventions of critical theory. This JOIns the philosophical hermeneutical critique of critical theory In its delimitation of the finite horizon of all emancipatory discourse. Finally I argue that Foucault's work is itself limited by its refusal to countenance the utopian dimension of social reproduction in which the social imaginary is to be considered not as a delusory projection of desire, but as a driving force behind the projection of freedom. Dispersive freedom sees the formation of political, cultural, and social identities as always constraints upon the real practice of freedom. It is this marginalisation of liberation as a process with ends that I seek to dispute. I conclude that Foucault's dispersive principles are belied by the important contribution his work has made to the necessarily ceaseless task of the refiguration of the concepts of history, freedom, power and truth.