Religion and Philosophy

Michel Foucault and the Politics of Language Today


In today’s episode of the Telos Press Podcast, Camelia Raghinaru talks with Mark G. E. Kelly about his article “Foucault and the Politics of Language Today,” from Telos 191 (Summer 2020). An excerpt of the article appears below.

By Mark G. E. Kelly

We find ourselves today in a conjuncture where the use of language has become an object of political concern to a perhaps unprecedented extent, or at least in unprecedented ways. In particular, the words used to refer to individuals and to groups, down to the use of pronouns, have come into intense question, as have the ways in which groups are represented in the media and in positions of power. In light of this situation, I want to bring the analytical tools of a thinker peculiarly concerned with the nexus of language and politics, Michel Foucault, to bear in order critically to analyze recent developments. This recent mutation of the politics of language has occurred mostly in the four decades since Foucault’s main writings on power and knowledge appeared, during a period in which Foucault’s name has become ubiquitous in academic discourse. Yet for all the ubiquity of references to Foucault, it seems to me that there has been precious little real thinking through of the implications of his analytic of power relations, and that there has been a failure to do this in relation to the use of language in politics in particular.


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