Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Foucault Quote

I came across this nice quote from Foucault in a interview entitled 'Question of Method' in volume 3 of the essential work - Power:

'I wouldn't want what I may have said or written to be seen as laying claims to totality. I don't try to universalize what I say; conversely, what I don't say isn't meant to be thereby disqualified as being of no importance...I like to open up a space of research, try it out, and then if it doesn't work, try again somewhere else...My book aren't treatise in philosophy or studies of history; at most, they are philosophical fragments put to work in a historical field of problems.' (p224)

The attraction of work not either being totalising or neither unimportant becomes an appealing trait for social science research. Three particular reasons stood out. One, there appears a lot of modesty in this method and perspective, claiming research is not the final and complete word on the subject matter, but rather arguing particular research has significance and relevance. Second, and related to the first, the fragmentary nature of the research hints at the perspectivism a particularly piece of research inherently contains. I tend to think of this as the place of discourse analysis and deconstruction, which don't claim to totality, but rather pose relevant issues and concerns about language, especially when other thinkers basically put a lot of their faith in the possibility of communication as a route to emancipation. Third, the emphasis on experimentation and possible failure, where the researcher actually experiments with a particular theory or method, for example, in order to produce research, but also crucially to transform themselves and society.

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