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Unruly Practices

Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory

Nancy Fraser
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Unruly Practices
    Book Description:

    Fraser breaks new ground methodologically by integrating the heretofore divergent insights of poststructuralism, critical social theory, feminist theory, and pragmatism to form a new critical theory of late-capitalist political culture. “A wonderfully rich and insightful collection of well-integrated essays on important current thinkers and social movements.”

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8316-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction Apologia for Academic Radicals
    (pp. 1-14)

    It is fashionable nowadays to decry efforts to combine activism and academia. Neoconservatives tell us that to practice critique while employed by an educational institution is a betrayal of professional standards. Conversely, some independent left-wing intellectuals insist that to join the professorial is to betray the imperative of critique. Finally, many activists outside the academy doubt the commitment and reliability of academics who claim to be their allies and comrades in struggle.

    No one who has tried to be a politically critical academic in the United States can simply dismiss such complaints without residue. The distortions of bad faith notwithstanding,...

  5. Part 1 Powers, Norms, and Vocabularies of Contestation

    • Chapter 1 Foucault on Modern Power: Emprical Insights and Normative Confusions
      (pp. 17-34)

      Until his untimely death in 1984, Michel Foucault had been theorizing about and practicing a new form of politically engaged reflection on the emergence and nature of modern societies. This reflection, which Foucault called “genealogy,” has produced some extremely valuable results. It has opened up new areas of inquiry and problematized new dimensions of modernity; as a result, it has made it possible to broach political problems in fruitful new ways. But Foucault’s work is also beset by difficulties. It raises a number of important philosophical questions that it is not, in itself, equipped to answer. This paper aims to...

    • Chapter 2 Michel Foucault: A “Young Conservative”?
      (pp. 35-54)

      In a recent discussion of postmodernism, Jürgen Habermas referred to Michel Foucault as a “Young Conservative.”¹ This epithet was an allusion to the “conservative revolutionaries” of interwar Weimar Germany, a group of radical, antimodernist intellectuals whose numbers included Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jiinger, Carl Schmitt, and Hans Freyer. To call Foucault a “Young Conservative,” then, was to accuse him of elaborating what Habermas calls a “total critique of modernity.” Such a critique, according to Habermas, is both theoretically paradoxical and politically suspect. It is theoretically paradoxical because it cannot help but surreptitiously presuppose some of the very modern categories and attitudes...

    • Chapter 3 Foucault’s Body Language: A Posthumanist Political Rhetoric?
      (pp. 55-66)

      A long and distinguished tradition of modern, normative social criticism and historical interpretation has developed around the humanist notions of autonomy, reciprocity, mutual recognition, dignity and human rights. These in turn depend, usually, upon a metaphysics of subjectivity. Clearly, the social thought of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Husserl, Sartre, and Habermas derives its normative force from such notions and (with the possible exceptions of Marx and Habermas) from such a metaphysics. Recently, however, Michel Foucault has offered a different sort of social criticism and historical interpretation, a “posthumanist” one, which explicitly rejects the metaphysics of subjectivity. For Foucault, the subject is...

  6. Part 2 On the Political and the Symbolic

    • Chapter 4 The French Derrideans: Politicizing Deconstruction or Deconstructing the Political?
      (pp. 69-92)

      In the summer of 1980 a conference entitled “The Ends of Man: Spin-offs of the Work of Jacques Derrida” (“Les fins de I’homme: A partir du travail de Jacques Derrida”) was held at Cérisy, France. Participants included many French philosophers in and around the Derridean circle as well as a number of American literary critics. Readers of the proceedings of this event are likely to find that the most interesting—and, as it subsequently turned out, the most fruitful—portion of the meeting was the “Political Seminar.”¹ Here, at last, were raised explicitly all the questions that have long been...

    • Chapter 5 Solidarity or Singularity? Richard Rorty between Romanticism and Technocracy
      (pp. 93-110)

      Consider a somewhat cartoonish characterization of the Romantic impulse. Think of this impulse as the valorization of individual invention understood as self-fashioning. A Romantic impulse of this sort would lionize the figure of the extraordinary individual who does not simply play out but, rather, rewrites the cultural script his sociohistorical milieu has prepared for him. It would represent this individual as a “genius” or “strong poet,” irrespective of the field of his inventiveness. Science, politics, whatever—from the standpoint of the Romantic impulse, every arena of invention would be a branch of literature in an extended sense, just as every...

  7. Part 3 Gender and the Politics of Need Interpretation

    • Chapter 6 What’s Critical about Critical Theory? The Case of Habermas and Gender
      (pp. 113-143)

      To my mind, no one has yet improved on Marx’s 1843 definition of critical theory as “the self-clarification of the struggles and wishes of the age.”¹ What is so appealing about this definition is its straightforwardly political character. It makes no claim to any special epistemological status but, rather, supposes that with respect to justification there is no philosophically interesting difference between a critical theory of society and an uncritical one. However, there is, according to this definition, an important political difference. A critical social theory frames its research program and its conceptual framework with an eye to the aims...

    • Chapter 7 Women, Welfare, and the Politics of Need Interpretation
      (pp. 144-160)

      What some writers are calling “the coming welfare wars” will be largely wars about, even against, women. Because women constitute the overwhelming maority of social-welfare program recipients and employees, women and women’s needs will be the principal stakes in the battles over social spending likely to dominate national politics in the coming period. Moreover, the welfare wars will not be limited to the tenure of Reagan or even of Reaganism. On the contrary, they will be protracted, both in time and in space. What James O’Connor theoized over fifteen years ago as “the fiscal crisis of the state” is a...

    • Chapter 8 Struggle over Needs: Outline of a Socialist-Feminist Critical Theory of Late Captialist Political Culture
      (pp. 161-188)

      In late capitalist welfare state societies, talk about people’s needs is an important species of political discourse. We argue, in the United States, for example, about whether the government should provide for citizens’ needs. Thus, feminists claim there should be state provision of parents’ day-care needs, while social conservatives insists onchildren’sneeds for their mothers’ care, and economic conservatives claim that the market, not the government, is the best institution for meeting needs. Likewise, Americans also argue about whether existing social - welfare programs really do meet the needs they purport to satisfy or whether, instead, they misconstrue those...

  8. Index
    (pp. 191-201)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 202-202)