The Return of the Subject in Michel Foucault : A Relativist Sociology ?

Author(s) : Salvino A. Salvaggio

Bibliographic details : Internet Sociology Quarterly, (1)

Date of Publication : 1996

Executive summary : The theme of relativism in social sciences, aside from some rare exceptions (Paul Veyne or Claude Lévi-Strauss), has so far been tackled, mainly in the Anglo-American area, in the modes typical of that cultural and scientific tradition, that is essentially with the instruments of analytical philosophy. Little research on that argument has been devoted to 'continental' social sciences in spite of the plentiful material available. Therefore, in order to contribute to such work, I would propose to start from two supplementary premises:
(i) normative systems, networks of social action and structural constraints are not invariant;
(ii) the history of ideas comes into being when the idea of truth is historicized, that is when epistemology fractionates the reference of knowledge to totalizing and transcontextual frames of explanation-comprehension.

My first hypothesis is that a confirmation of those premises is to be found in Michel Foucault's work. Indeed, though he belongs to the structuralist movement, the French philosopher objects to any conception that be elaborated and set forth in terms of structured models of the dynamics of human history that would work transhistorically and assign a Telos to history.

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