Foucault News

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

Villadsen, K.
Goodbye Foucault’s ‘missing human agent’? Self-formation, capability and the dispositifs (2022) European Journal of Social Theory

DOI: 10.1177/13684310221125350

A steady stream of commentary criticizes Foucault’s ‘agentless position’ for its inability to observe, much less theorize, the ways in which human actors manoeuvre, negotiate, transform or resist the structures within which they are situated. This article does not so much refute this critical consensus but seeks to reconstruct a framework from Foucault’s writings, which allows space for ‘human agency’, including individuals’ pursuit of tactics, attempts at solving problems, reactions to unexpected events and their reflexive work on their own subjectivities. The revised analytical framework, ‘dispositional analytics’, integrates the study of self-techniques with the analysis of dispositifs. Recognizing that Foucault’s work eschewed an adequate consideration of individuals’ capacity to affect the forces that bear upon them, the article discusses the sociopolitical conditions for self-formation. Finally, a case study of ‘voice-hearers’ who use self-techniques to reconstitute themselves in opposition to institutional psychiatry is reinterpreted through the framework of dispositional analysis. © The Author(s) 2022.

Author Keywords
Agency; capability; dispositif; Foucault; self-techniques

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