MICHEL FOUCAULT AND BRUNO LATOUR

Introduction

Structuralism is one of the literary movement mainly concerned with gathering knowledge so as to develop better understanding the use of language and related mechanisms enabling a production process. This implies that, structuralism raises questions with regard to the functioning of language, since it has always emerged as a meaningful machine. In an attempt to answer the question, some of the scholars in the field of post-structuralism, like Michael Foucault, has focused their attention on the how the literary work is structured and the adoption of language[1]. Constructivism, on the other hand, has emerged as philosophy, cutting across a number of disciplines, though other scholars argue that it is a learning theory as well as a model of learning. The use of constructivism in literature is guided by the notion that learning takes place when practitioners indulge themselves in the construction of meaning and knowledge rather than the passive act of receiving information[2]. On that note, this paper provides an essay comparing Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour by making an argument as to whose school of thought is mostly applied to today’s literary studies as well as more convincing.

Foucault and Latour

Foucault, a post-structuralist, believes that meaning exists within the text, and characterized by high levels of contingency and unstable. He believes that poststructuralism emerges in the context of recognizing the absence of fixed and inherent meaning and further acknowledgement that language should acquire meaning. According to Foucault, there will be no time when literature will have a singular meaning[3]. Basing on the current literature, two readers will never be alike since from different scholarly works, each person will have different life experiences, therefore differing interpretation of the meaning derived from words and themes. This leads to the bigger question as to the extent by which the current literary studies adopt post-structuralism and how convincing it is.

Foucault stipulates on the need for learners in the contemporary society to apply what they know throughout their academic lives as well as their encounters. According to this school of literary criticisms, after a detailed and careful consideration, learners need to point out at the major themes emerging in the novel[4]. This should be followed by illustrating the different places in the text where the individual themes emerge relevant. The major concern arising from this is finding out how this idea is convincing and the extent by which academic institutions have adopted the same in their literary classes.

In his work, The History of Sexuality, Foucault argues that for a longer period, the right to make decisions on life and death has emerged to be a major characteristic or rather element of the privileges that come with sovereign power [5]. Moreover, the rights that come with making decision on death was applied in specific occasions such as when defending sovereign. According to Foucault, this should be viewed as the right given to individuals to take life or rather let one live, therefore it was basically a right of seizure; specifically meant for things, time and bodies and life itself.

During the industrial age, when individuals started to receive enlightenment, a completely different form of power took over. It is this power that Foucault describes as a power that has been defined to generate force, to increase the pressure exerted by these forces. With this error of enlightenment, the forces have to be ordered rather than expectation for society members to impede them, therefore they must submit to the forces rather than destroying them. He gives an example of the state which has always have power over death, though through the different public institutions, the state is seen as a counterpart subjecting the power into comprehensive regulations. He referred to this as ‘bio-power’, to mean that the state undertakes a detailed scope with regard to what it’s meant to control.

In the contemporary society, scholars can explore the different kinds of ‘bio-power’, among them, including the set government policies with regard to family size, laws on taxation and welfare policies which may impact on the same. Others may include medical care, the defined rights on birth control, recommendations for a better nutrition, genetically modified food and cloning among others[6]. Foucault believes that in the process of expanding knowledge, individuals expand the forces exerted on human life and body, that is, the various ways through which operation and regulation of power comes into a reality. Further analysis on his work reveals that the advancement of knowledge-power over life provides a completely different scope for power; increased sensitivity to human life rather than death.

In his work, one can argue that Foucault is not concerned with the bodily pleasures and impulses as well as other biological drives and related necessities that are part of what individuals associate with ‘sex’. Instead, he is talking about the process and extent through which human beings experience these aspects in a more complex way; in a discourse of social and familial structures. That is to mean that there are various ways through which sexuality can be deployed at different time frames[7]. Therefore, in the contemporary society, sexuality is deployed or rather constructed in a completely different manner as compared to how it was done in previous centuries, when adultery was a major crime. Also, during this error, there were no birth control, hence the different approaches followed in constructing and deploying sexuality.

Foucault illustrates the different ways through which sex is spoken, thereby expressing his views on the discourse of sex as well as how it impacts on the regulation of sex experience. With ‘bio-power’, the mode of power from the enlightenment error, there have been explosions of discourse with regard to sex and the development of knowledge in the same line, leading to ‘science of sexuality’[8]. He therefore believes that the era of industrial advancement was meant for sexual proliferation with respect to discourse, leading to different forms of pervasion.

A lot can be drawn from Foucault’s work, by considering the various influences on literary theory, arising from the same. Scholars have adopted Foucault’ argumentations regarding discourse and power-knowledge in analyzing some of the existing relationships between society and its members, as well as literary texts and their respective historical moments. This implies that his work has been useful in linking as well as understanding literary texts in their defined history of thought[9]. As a result of this, it has emerged to be a major influential trend in literary studies since the 19th century, though this has to be compared to how influential constructivism has been.

A detailed analysis on the works by Bruno Latour reveals that he doesn’t play the game of literary criticism but instead is a relevant revelation of the dynamisms in theory from post-structuralism during the 21st Century. He reveals that the theory has moved back by adopting the older ideas raised by humanists regarding to how universal human nature is as well as self through a detailed analysis on the process of constructing self and meaning. In his early work in the social constructivism school of thought, he illustrates the various ways through which sciences have failed to portray truth with clear objectivity. He instead looks at how the various actors and networks come into play in the process of constructing facts; establishing the ‘actor-network’ theory. He explores the various ways through which individuals conduct scientific experiments, thereby illustrating how they involve ‘actors’, both human and non-human, indulging in complex relations. With the ‘network’ concept, Latour places agency in the entire or rather broader mechanism instead of a single framework of human scientist.

The works, such as Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From
Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern
, by Latour clearly illustrate that he doesn’t criticize post-structuralism, though he is dismissing part of the postulates raised by the constructivists by giving complex ideas of facts. Over time, he further modifies the instances making him to disagree with some of the arguments raised in the post-structuralism school of thought by scholars like Michel Foucault. As a constructivist, he argues that meaning is artificial or man-made, implying that human language together with systems of institutions are responsible for creating meaning[10]. In addition to analyzing the process through which meaning is constructed, he goes further and explore the various ways through which this ‘construction’ can be in forming valuable networks. The essence of the valuable networks is to link human beings with each other as well as with the material world.

Since the 1980s, the adoption of constructivism in the literary work has received a lot of acceptance not only by researchers but also educators. Despite the wide acceptance, constructivism has failed to convince scholars on how effective it is, thereby remaining less widely accepted. The same is seen in the contemporary society where less than 50% of educators have adopted the postulates of constructivism in their pedagogical approaches[11]. According to Glyn Williams, previous searchers have reported quite a number of teachers believing that they enact the different constructivist methods have failed to use them in line with the constructivist theories. They therefore argue that, educators should not only be aware of the strategies to be applied in giving instructions but also the entire theoretical reasons behind each strategy and how they can be adopted various ways.

A detailed analysis on the works by Bruno Latour reveals why constructivist approaches are still under implemented as well as underutilized. To a greater extent, the constructivist teaching practices appear to be foreign or rather unfamiliar, both to teachers and students, with high levels of difficulty in applying them. Most of the individuals in the general public find themselves suspicious when they are subjected to different teaching methods which are not compatible with the forms of instruction they went through while in school.

High-stakes testing has been another obstacle during the process of implementing constructivistic instructions in the academic world. Though the education standards defined by the state take care of the constructivist goals, these particular standards have always failed to align with a good percentage of the high-stakes test and the process of preparing these tests. A review by other scholars have indicated that implementation of constructivistic approaches and strategies at a wider framework will demand changes in both attitudes and beliefs of the teachers together with academic reform[12].

While the majority of the authentic pedagogical approaches of the constructivism school of thought remains to be relatively uncommon in the academic world, a lot of studies have come forward to support the underlying potential efficacy of these particular approaches. Quite a number of scholars have come out and proved that there exists a significant correlation between the authentic pedagogical approaches from the constructivism school of thought and higher academic achievement. However, there are various constructivistic approaches that have emerged to be varying in their respective levels of efficacy. According to Clark, Richard, Paul Kirschner, and John Sweller, researchers in the subfield of guided discovery learning have demonstrated that learners who are subjected to guided discovery learning have the potential of outdoing those subjected to pure discovery curricula. This is to mean that, authentic pedagogical approaches from the constructivism school of thought have great potentials though demand authentic implementation for achievement of the gained potential.

From the works of Michel Foucault, it emerges clearly as to why post-structuralism is more applicable in the current literary work. Post-structuralism has emerged relevant in assisting teachers, administrators as well as policy makers among other stakeholders in the academic world, in making highly informed decisions with regard to classroom practice. In all cases, language has appeared to be a social practice creating a room for organizing experiences and negotiating identities. Among the scenarios may include when administrators are tabling matters relating to the relevance of accent in the language used at the classroom level and educators discussing the different meanings emerging from a text. Other instances may include when students are failing to adhere to essentialization of pedagogical practices.

In the literary world, language is one of the most essential elements since it plays a relevant role during the teaching process. Scholars have argued that the best way to realize high levels of effectiveness in language teaching is for the course instructors to take note of the multiple identities of the learners in the class. This should be followed by development of authentic pedagogical approaches which will ensure that students invest in the language practices at the classroom context. For this reason, post-structuralism has been widely adopted, since it provides a better framework for educators and administrators as well as policy makers to understand the language practices in the classroom context.

 

Conclusion

From the above detailed discussion of the two schools of thought; post-structuralism and constructivism, the aspects of language, identity and investment have emerged to be relevant in the adoption of authentic pedagogical approaches. Analysis of the different works by the two scholars; Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour, illustrates that post-structuralism and constructivism can be adopted at different rates with the former emerging to be more applicable and convincing. This is based on the fact that authentic post-structuralism pedagogical approaches enhance the investment by learners in the language practices, including English at the classroom levels as compared to constructivism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Alfieri, Louis, Patricia J. Brooks, Naomi J. Aldrich, and Harriet R. Tenenbaum. “Does discovery-based instruction enhance learning?.” Journal of Educational Psychology 103, no. 1 (2011): 1.

Clark, Richard, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller. “Putting students on the path to learning: The case for fully guided instruction.” (2012).

Foucault, Michel. “The history of sexuality: An introduction, volume I.” Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage (1990).

Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality, vol. 2: The use of pleasure. Vintage, 2012.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality:“Vol. 3. 1988.

Latour, Bruno. “Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern.” Critical inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004): 225-248.

Williams, Glyn. French discourse analysis: The method of post-structuralism. Routledge, 2014.

[1] Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality:“Vol. 3. 1988.

[2] Latour, Bruno. “Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern.” Critical inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004): 225-248.

 

[3] Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality, vol. 2: The use of pleasure. Vintage, 2012.

[4] Alfieri, Louis, Patricia J. Brooks, Naomi J. Aldrich, and Harriet R. Tenenbaum. “Does discovery-based instruction enhance learning?.” Journal of Educational Psychology 103, no. 1 (2011): 1.

 

[5] Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality, vol. 2: The use of pleasure. Vintage, 2012.

[6] Clark, Richard, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller. “Putting students on the path to learning: The case for fully guided instruction.” (2012).

 

[7] Foucault, Michel. “The history of sexuality: An introduction, volume I.” Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage (1990).

 

[8] Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality, vol. 2: The use of pleasure. Vintage, 2012.

[9] Latour, Bruno. “Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern.” Critical inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004): 225-248.

 

[10] Williams, Glyn. French discourse analysis: The method of post-structuralism. Routledge, 2014.

 

[11] Alfieri, Louis, Patricia J. Brooks, Naomi J. Aldrich, and Harriet R. Tenenbaum. “Does discovery-based instruction enhance learning?.” Journal of Educational Psychology 103, no. 1 (2011): 1.

 

[12] Williams, Glyn. French discourse analysis: The method of post-structuralism. Routledge, 2014.

 

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