By Richard A. Lynch

The vital thesis of Foucault's severe Ethics is that Foucault's account of strength doesn't foreclose the potential for ethics; to the contrary, it offers a framework in which ethics turns into attainable. Tracing the evolution of Foucault's research of strength from his early articulations of disciplinary energy to his theorizations of biopower and governmentality, Richard A. Lynch exhibits how Foucault's moral undertaking emerged via interwoven trajectories: research of classical practices of the care of the self, and engaged perform in and mirrored image upon the bounds of sexuality and the improvement of friendship in homosexual groups. those strands of expertise and inquiry allowed Foucault to advance contrasting but interwoven features of his ethics; in addition they underscored how moral perform emerges inside and from contexts of energy kinfolk. The homosexual community's reaction to AIDS and its parallels with the feminist ethics of care serve to demonstrate the assets of a Foucauldian ethic-a essentially severe angle, with major (but revisable) values and norms grounded in a convention of freedom.

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In his 1976 course at the Collège de France, for example, Foucault uses a study of “war” as the principal or guiding metaphor for power relations as an occasion to reflect upon his own methodological presuppositions as well as to trace further the limits of disciplinary power. In this period, he also came to recognize that relations among macro-level phenomena—in particular, “populations”—are not adequately described by disciplinary power, and so his catalog of the modes of power must be broadened and supplemented.

On the contrary, he continued to reconsider and revise his understanding of power (the central theme of his 1970s work) throughout the 1980s, and his approach to ethics (his principal preoccupation of the 1980s) is grounded in work that he did in the 1970s. In fact, while one or the other may be in the foreground, his thinking about both of these themes is tightly interwoven at each stage of his thought. The two central themes in Foucault’s critical theory—power and ethics—can be understood as two sides of a Foucauldian response to the problems we have inherited from Hobbes.

It is, I think, an awareness of this ethical realm that underlies a sense of hope that one can hear through Foucault’s writings. So what does Foucault mean by “ethics”? Perhaps Rousseau’s answer to Hobbes, what he calls “pity,” can begin to point us in the right direction. Foucault used a constellation of perhaps equivocal or overlapping terms—pleasure, care, friendship—and his use of these terms evolved with his approaches to ethical thinking. Feminists have been articulating some of the ethical dimensions of the second term here—care—for the past decades, although initially (though this has changed)14 without reference to politics.

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