Foucault News

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

Call for Papers

Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault: A Comparison of their Historical Methodologies
The Journal of the Philosophy of History

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The Journal of the Philosophy of History plans a special issue to explore Arendt and Foucault’s approaches to historical method (broadly conceived) and intellectual history, and, relatedly, their approaches to modernity and ‘critique’ in general.

The status of Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault as theorists have never been higher, to the extent that both thinkers now have journals dedicated solely to their thought. Furthermore, scholars have to some extent begun to explore the potential common ground between them, in particular focusing on the different ways in which Arendt and Foucault conceptualize power, subjectivity, and the self. Much less, however, has been said about the possible comparison of Arendt and Foucault’s thoughts on the nature of tradition, modernity, history, politics, and the Enlightenment, or their common intellectual influences – notably Kant and Nietzsche. But drawing the two together makes considerable sense, both for contemporary reasons, and, relatedly, for more scholarly ones.

In contemporary terms, Arendt and Foucault both addressed questions that are of considerable current relevance, notably the impact of technology on the possibility for creating a common ‘world’ for humans to inhabit and make authentic individual choices, and on the conditions that enable there to be a flourishing public space for dialogue. On a more scholarly level, this raises questions which both tackled about how much ‘emancipation’ is possible in modernity and its aftermath – to what degree is ‘authentic’ (political) action still a worthy and plausible goal? This in turn suggests enquiries, undertaken by both theorists, about how to investigate a Western ‘tradition’ that they see as much defined by discontinuity as by continuity – not least to see the degree to which its concepts (such as ‘liberty’ and ‘authority’) can still be fruitfully used, and the extent to which they retain their original meanings. More specifically, this also raises questions about how both theorists conceptualize the Enlightenment: to what extent can it be said that both Arendt and Foucault seek to retain aspects of its modernizing program, while jettisoning its metaphysical commitments and its more naïve progressive assumptions? The following questions may help to sharpen these points:

How far can Arendt and Foucault’s stress on historical discontinuity bring them fruitfully into dialogue? To what extent can Arendt’s emphasis on the ‘breakdown’ of the Western tradition and its implications for history be usefully compared to Foucault’s conception of genealogy? How far can Arendt and Foucault’s approaches to intellectual history be tied to their common interest in Kant and/or Nietzsche? To what extent do Arendt and Foucault try to uphold aspects of the Enlightenment while rejecting its metaphysical foundations? Do the turn of both Arendt and Foucault to ancient Greece reveal commonalities or differences in the way that they view Western history?

Papers (c.8,000 words) are to be submitted by 1st February 2024. Papers will be reviewed by the editor of the special issue and at least one external reviewer. The final revised papers are due 1st June 2024. Guidelines can be found on the journal’s webpage. The special issue will be edited by Dr Edmund Neill (Associate Professor of Modern History, Northeastern University, London).

Potential participants are invited to send abstracts of up to 500 words emailed as an attachment by 1st May 2023. Authors will be notified of decisions within one month of this deadline. Please email your abstract and direct enquiries to Dr. Edmund Neill

Suggestions for papers might include (but are not limited to):

Arendt and Foucault on Modernity and Post-Modernity
Arendt and Foucault on the Enlightenment
Arendt and Foucault – Intellectual History and Critique
Arendt and Foucault – Debts to Marx and/or Nietzsche
Arendt and Foucault and the ancient Greeks
Arendt and Foucault on Tradition and Critique
Arendt and Foucault as ‘Conservatives’
Arendt and Foucault on the relationship of History, Social Sciences and other Discourses
Arendt and Foucault on the History of Resistance
Arendt and Foucault on the history of power relations

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