Mark Olssen, Constructing Foucault’s Ethics: A Poststructuralist Moral Theory for the Twenty-First Century – Manchester University Press, June 2021
updated 28 May 2021 with new description and table of contents
In popularizing the term ‘speaking truth to power’, now widely used throughout the world, Michel Foucault established the basis upon which a new ethics can be constructed. This is the thesis that Mark Olssen advances in Constructing Foucault’s ethics. Olssen not only ‘speaks truth’ to existing moral and ethical theories that have dominated western philosophy since Plato, but also shows how, by using Foucault’s insights, an alternative ethical and moral theory can be established that both avoids the pitfalls of postmodern relativism and simultaneously grounds ethical, moral, and political discourse for the present age.
Taking the late ‘ethical turn’ in the philosopher’s thought as its starting point, this ambitious study seeks to construct an ethics beyond anything Foucault ever attempted while remaining consistent with his core postulates. In doing so it advances the concept of ‘life continuance’, which expresses a normative orientation to the future in terms of the quest for survival and well-being, giving rise to irreducible normative values as part of the discursive order of events. This approach is explored in contrast with a range of other, established systems, from the Kantian to the Marxist to contract ethics and utilitarianism.
1 Foucault and normativity
2 Life and error: Foucault, Canguilhem, Jacob
3 Nietzsche’s life philosophy: naturalism, will to power, normativity
4 Continuance ethics, objectivity, Kant
5 Foucault, Hegel, Marx
6 Hobbes, God, and modern social contract theory
7 A politics of pluralism
8 Democracy, education, global ethics
9 Ethical Comportment
A Normative Foucauldian: Selected Papers of Mark Olssen is also forthcoming from Brill.
Mark Olssen is one of the leading social scientists writing in the world today. Inspired by the writings of Michel Foucault, Olssen’s writings traverse philosophy, politics, education, and epistemology. This book comprises a selection of his papers published in academic journals and books over twenty-five years. Taken as a whole, the papers represent a redirection of the core axioms and directions of western ontology and philosophy in relation to how history, the subject, and education are theorised within the western philosophical tradition. Olssen’s writings not only contain a powerful critique and revision of western liberalism from a poststructuralist perspective, they both explicate and extend Michel Foucault’s challenge to the core axioms and assumptions underpinning western thought. As Stephen Ball suggests in his Foreword to this volume, “Olssen uses Foucault to explore issues… Olssen’s Foucault is not a lonely nihilist but a troubled provocateur who encourages in us toward the political project of self-formation – our relation to ourselves and always, to others.”