Volume 11, 2007
Foucault's Kantian Legacy
Foucault argued in his retrospective writings that it is possible to give an overall interpretation of his work around the question of subjectivity and that his individual books are historical analyses of the constitution of certain subjective experiences that he finds characteristic of modernity. Furthermore, he called this history of the emergence, development and transformation of subjective experiences a 'history of thought.' Hence understanding the sense in which Foucault uses the notion of thought seems to be crucial for an interpretation of his writings within the framework he provided in his retrospective accounts. In this paper I will argue that the Foucaultian notion of thought is Kantian in fundamental ways, and that this Kantian framework is present throughout his entire work. This argument will provide the background for a rejection of the claim that Foucault's individual writings are specific and marginal. Finally, I will claim that the standard periodizations of Foucault's work under the headings of archaeology, genealogy and ethics have to be reconsidered and revised.