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Foucault, Politics, and Violence

Johnanna Oksala

Publication Year: 2012

In her book, Oksala shows that the arguments for the ineliminability of violence from the political are often based on excessively broad, ontological conceptions of violence distinct from its concrete and physical meaning and, on the other hand, on a restrictively narrow and empirical understanding of politics as the realm of conventional political institutions.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: NUP

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book turned out to be a lot more difficult an endeavor than I imagined. The support and help I received was invaluable. Acknowledgments are due to the three institutions I was affiliated with while working on it: the New School for Social Research, the University of Dundee, and most recently, the University of Helsinki. ...

Abbreviations for Works by Foucault

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 3-14

Multiculturalism and terrorism are arguably the most hotly debated political issues today, provoking misunderstanding, fear, and anxiety across a wide spectrum of society. The Enlightenment has not delivered its promise of a universal and rational political order. Instead it has irrevocably placed us in an agonistic society ...

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1. The Politicization of Ontology

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pp. 15-35

I begin by making two claims about political ontology that at the outset seem to contradict each other. First, I argue for the importance of ontological inquiry in political philosophy. Many prominent thinkers agree that current political events indicate that we urgently need new ways of thinking about politics, ...

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2. Foundational Violence

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pp. 36-50

The hackneyed expression “violence of language” usually refers to the idea that language by necessity imposes a partial order: it simplifies experience by dividing it into manageable units through categories and common nouns, and artificially objectifies the referent by cutting it loose from its context. ...

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3. Dangerous Animals

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pp. 51-65

Agonism is generally understood as a conception of politics that places dissent, rather than the search for consensus, at its heart. It is often defined in opposition to deliberative democratic theories. William Connolly, Bonnie Honig, and Chantal Mouffe, most notably, have argued for an agonistic account ...

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4. The Politics of Gendered Violence

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pp. 66-79

While the present study attempts to demonstrate that violence is only contingently, not necessarily and inevitably, connected to political power, there are violent dimensions to almost every historical, particular example of political struggle. Violence and power are often tightly coupled, and there are cases in which violence ...

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5. Political Life

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pp. 80-102

A. S. Byatt’s intriguing novella Morpho Eugenia tells the story of a young Victorian naturalist, William Adamson, whose objects of study are social insects and their highly specialized behavior patterns. The story follows his inner turmoil as he observes the ferocious violence of ant life and the disconcerting parallels ...

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6. The Management of State Violence

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pp. 103-116

Some of the most disturbing images of violence haunting contemporary political thought have been instances of state violence, be it the irrevocable memory of the Holocaust or more recent pictures from Abu Ghraib prison. State violence has always presented a challenge for critiques of violence because it is by definition legitimate violence: ...

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7. The Political Ontology of Neoliberalism

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pp. 117-133

The factual, empirical account of the rise of neoliberal hegemony is fairly uncontested. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 meant that in a floating currency system it was no longer possible to control capital flows or financial markets. The years 1978– 80 represented a further turning point: ...

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8. Violence and Neoliberal Governmentality

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pp. 134-146

The relationship between neoliberalism and political violence has been commonly understood in two diametrically opposite ways by its supporters on the one hand and its critics on the other. Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom—one of the most influential books of the twentieth century ...

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9. Terror and Political Spirituality

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pp. 147-156

In 1976 the British government started to phase out the “Special Category Status” of all paramilitary prisoners in Northern Ireland. This meant that their status as political prisoners was withdrawn and they were treated as ordinary convicts. Margaret Thatcher famously claimed that there was no such thing as political violence, ...


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pp. 157-176


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pp. 177-184


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pp. 185-190

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About the Author

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Johanna Oksala is a senior research fellow in the department of philosophy, history, culture, and art studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

E-ISBN-13: 9780810165755
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810128033

Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: NUP

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Foucault, Michel, 1926-1984 -- Political and social views.
  • Political science -- Philosophy
  • Violence -- Political aspects.
  • Political violence -- Philosophy.
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