Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Lance Wheatley (2019) Foucault’s concepts of structure … and agency?: A critical realist critique, Journal of Critical Realism, 18:1, 18-30, DOI: 10.1080/14767430.2019.1572941

What is the relationship between structure and agency? French philosopher Michel Foucault weighed in on this question, and I argue that some of his writings indicate that he held views that were strongly structuralist. If I am correct in my interpretation of Foucault in these works, was he right to think this? Is there evidence in his work that perhaps agents do have more influence than his concept of structuralism can account for? I suggest that this is the case and will argue that Foucault’s structuralist views are incomplete and result in an incoherence. I then offer a critical realist account of structure and agency which seems to be able to resolve the incoherence and thus offers a better explanation of the evidence that Foucault provides.

KEYWORDS: Foucault, structure, agency, critical realism

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