New Publication: The Christian Roots of Critique. How Foucault’s Confessions of the Flesh Sheds New Light on the Concept of Freedom and the Genealogy of the Modern Critical Attitude
In Le foucaldien my new article on Foucault’s Confessions of the Flesh has been published. I show that Christian practices of penance and confession are not only an origin of contemporary juridical governmentality. Rather, I argue that the self-critical reflective practices of Christianity are also the root of contemporary social criticism. This contemporary critical attitude is about freedom as self-critical hermeneutics that aims at identifying a foreign power within the subject. It can be found for the first time in early Christianity, and not in the ancient practices such as care of the self or parrhesia, which are mostly understood by Foucault and his interpreters as practices of freedom. This interpretation offers a new perspective on the genealogy of critique that takes into account both the repressive and emancipative effects of truth-telling and juridification.
Finally published 34 years after his death, Foucault’s book Confessions of the Flesh sheds new light on the debate about freedom and power that shaped the reception of his works. Many contributors to this debate argue that Foucault’s theory of power did not allow for freedom in the ‘genealogical phase,’ but that he corrected himself and presented a solution to the problem of freedom in his later works, especially through his reflection on ancient ethics and technologies of the self in volumes two and three of History of Sexuality, as well as the concept of parrhesia. In contrast to this view, I argue that Confessions of the Flesh shows that a concept of freedom as self-critical hermeneutics that aims at identifying a foreign power within the subject was only developed in Foucault’s analysis of Christian practices of penance and confession. This interpretation of Confessions of the Flesh opens a new field of inquiry into the genealogy of critique and both the repressive and emancipative effects of truth-telling and juridification.
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Schubert, Karsten (2021): The Christian Roots of Critique. How Foucault’s Confessions of the Flesh Sheds New Light on the Concept of Freedom and the Genealogy of the Modern Critical Attitude. In Le foucaldien 7 (2), 1–11. http://doi.org/10.16995/lefou.98
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