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Conclusion: freedom as an operational concept

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2009

Johanna Oksala
Affiliation:
University of Helsinki
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Summary

For Foucault, freedom refers to the indeterminateness of the constitutive matrix and to the contingency of all structures. It is the virtual fractures that appear in the invisible walls of our world, the opening up of possibilities for seeing how that which is might no longer be what it is. Freedom does not mean that everything is possible, but neither is the present a necessity. Foucault writes:

I would like to say something about the function of any diagnosis concerning the nature of the present. It does not consist in a simple characterization of what we are but, instead – by following lines of fragility in the present – in managing to grasp why and how that-which-is might no longer be that-which-is.

(CT/IH, 36)

Even though freedom for Foucault is thus not an attribute of the subject, this does not commit us to political apathy and cynicism. Freedom is anarchic in the sense that it disturbs and even breaks every totality, but it must nevertheless not be understood as some absolute and mystical outside. The virtual fractures for thinking and being otherwise will not just appear in the invisible walls of our world, they can only emerge from our practices. We must try to open up possibilities for seeing to what extent that which is might no longer be what it is.

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Chapter
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Foucault on Freedom , pp. 208 - 210
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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