The OF Blog: A call for more discourse

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A call for more discourse

Started a re-read of Michel Foucault's collection of 1976 lectures, Society Must Be Defended, this morning and in the introduction, Arnold I. Davidson, notes the following about discourse and Foucault's comments upon it:

Here discourse is characterized as a battle, a struggle, a place and an instrument of confrontation, "a weapon of power, of control, of subjection, of qualification and of disqualification." Discourse does not simply express or reproduce already constituted social relations:

Discourse battle and not discourse reflection...Discourse - the mere fact of
speaking, of employing words, of using the words of others (even if it means
returning them), words that the others understand and accept (and, possibly,
return from their side) - this fact is in itself a force. Discourse is, with respect
to
the relation of forces, not merely a surface of inscription, but something that
brings about effects.


Discourse is not a static exchange, nor is it precisely dynamic. If anything, it is transformative, with the clash (sometimes physically violent, but violence of some sort is always involved) creating new tensions, ripping apart old ideas, leading to different developments. It is, as Foucault says, a "force," one that perhaps ought to be valued and feared for being such.

In reading this, I thought about many things - my undergraduate seminars, my graduate school papers and the resulting debates, of more recent matters - and perhaps what I have found myself missing lately hasn't been a debate or argument (those are often a dime a dozen and worth less), but rather the failure to have a real discourse about matters. It is easy to have Person A take stance X and Person B argue for stance Y, but where is the creation of stance Z, which might incorporate elements of X and Y, but perhaps in an altered state that challenges both stances? Where is the change that often occurs with people who are formulating ideas meet and exchange their views in a fashion that doesn't insulate either from the person confronting those views?

Perhaps a great devotion to discourse among those who read each other's blogs might be in order. Perhaps...

2 comments:

billy said...

Like a synthesis of the two? A syllogism?

It's more fun to see ideas clashing. Blood pressure rises, the face contorts, rioting ensues. Beautiful.

Larry said...

It's like idea mating. Porn for the idealists who fetishize idea courtship rituals.

 
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