New Directions in Educational Research
Michael A. Peters
University of Glasgow
Introduction: Why Read
Foucault is dead and we have killed him.
What relevance does his work have now?
(He died in 1984).
Reading (like interpretation) is a political
and ethical process.
Foucault is read differently by different
audiences and generations.
The Reception of
Foucault in America – Irvine, Berkeley &
Vermont; received as a „poststructuralist‟ by
Dreyfus & Rabinow.
Foucault in Britain – Nik Rose, Colin Gordon
„reception … difficult and uncertain‟.
German reception dominated by Habermas‟
Who, What and Why
“structuralist, idealist, neoconservative, post-
structuralist, antihumanist, irrationalist, radical
relativist, theorist of power, missionary of
transgression, aestheticist, dying man, saint, or, if
nothing else „post-modern‟?” (Faubion)
Foucault rejected labeling: “I have never been a
Freudian, I have never been a Marxist, and I
have never been a structuralist” (Foucault)
The ‘death’ of the author
“The coming into being of the „author‟
constitutes the privileged moment of
individualization in the history of ideas,
knowledge, literature, philosophy and the
Nietzschean idea of an „aesthetics of existence‟
Remaking ourselves through literature and
Dreyfus and Rabinow (1982)
1. A Heideggerian Foucault - typified by his
study of madness and reason.
2. An archaeological or quasi-structuralist
Foucault - characterised by The Archaeology
of Knowledge and The Order of Things.
3. A genealogical Foucault motivated by
Nietzsche‟s A Genealogy of Morals.
4. An „ethical‟ Foucault influenced by Kant (and
description (alias ‘Maurice Florence’)
“To the extent that Foucault fits into the
philosophical tradition, it is the critical tradition
of Kant, and his project could be called A
Critical History of Thought”
“What are the processes of subjectivation and
objectivation that make it possible for the
subject qua subject to become an object of
knowledge [connaissance], as a subject?”
“My objective has been to create a history of the different
modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made
subjects. My work has dealt with three modes of
objectification which transform human beings into
subjects…The first is the modes of inquiry which try to
give themselves the status of the sciences…In the second
part of my work, I have studied the objectivizating of the
subject in what I shall call „dividing practices‟ …Finally, I
have sought to study – it is my current work -- the way a
human being turns him- or herself into a subject.”
A Critical Ontology of
„critical thought that would take the form of an
ontology of ourselves, of an ontology of the
„the form of reflection that extends from Hegel
to the Frankfurt School via Nietzsche and Max
strongly influenced by his readings of both
Nietzsche and Heidegger
Nietzsche‟s work, in particular, provided Foucault
with novel ways to re-theorize and conceive anew
the operation of power and desire in the
constitution and self-overcoming of human
It enabled him to analyse the modes by which
human beings become subjects without according
either power or desire conceptual priority over the
other, as had been the case in the discourses of
Marxism (with its accent on power) and of
Freudianism (with its accent on desire).
Foucault in Educational
Foucault as naturalised Kantian: J. D.
Foucault as critical ethno-sociologist:
Foucault as Nietzschean genealogist: Tina
Foucault as historian of systems of
thought: Bernadette Baker
Foucault in Educational
Foucault as historical materialist (and
democrat): Mark Olssen
Foucault as social epistemologist: Tom
Popkewitz & Marie Brennan
Foucault as crypto-feminist: Sue Middleton
Foucault as poststructuralist: Michael A.