re: Foucault

A brief and belated thought on Ross Douthat’s column on Foucault and conservatism: It’s worth noting that Jürgen Habermas called Foucault a “young conservative” back in 1981, a claim explicated and expanded brilliantly by Nancy Fraser in this essay from 1985. Fraser’s essay, combined with my own experience teaching Foucault to evangelical Christian undergraduates, led me to make this comment twenty-one years ago, in which I said that my students’ 

sympathetic openness means that they learn a lot from theory that makes them better, more acute readers and critics. And some theoretical approaches enable them to find sophisticated modes of interpretation that complement, develop, and add nuance to their Christian faith without emptying it of its power. (I have found them to be particularly engaged by Gadamer, Bakhtin, and Levinas, and by the rabbinical scrupulosity of much of Derrida’s work. They also get a sinister pleasure from reading Foucault, who is after all a kind of Calvinist, only without God — Michael Warner is right to say that if you think Foucault is suspicious of the human order, try reading Jonathan Edwards. So Foucault is in a weird way one of us.)

June 2, 2021

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