Problems of Style

Michel Foucault's Epistemology

By Walter Privitera
Translated by Jean Keller

Subjects: Critical Theory
Series: SUNY series in Social and Political Thought
Paperback : 9780791423349, 168 pages, January 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423332, 168 pages, January 1995

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Table of contents


Preface to the American Edition


1. Bachelard's Historical Epistemology

Scientific Progress and Traditional Epistemology


Interregional Rationalism and Discontinuity

The Epistemological Obstacle

Bachelard's Philosophy

2. Foucault: The Early Writings and the Structuralist Period

Dream Analysis

The Dream, Madness, and the Critique of Psychology

The Critique of the Human Sciences


3. The Archaeology

The Disintegration of Immediacy

Statement, Discourse, Rules of Formation

The Semiologization of the Imaginary

The Neutralization of the Validity Problematic

4. The Theory of Power

The Dualism within Power

Descent and Emergence: The Dualism within Genealogy

The Will to Knowledge and Traditional Epistemology

Power and Life-Practice

The Creative A Priori

5. An Overview

The Struggle for Objectification

New Subjects of Struggles

Hidden Normativity

Foucault's "Applied Rationalism"

A Technology of Liberation?

The Aesthetics of Existence

6. Concluding Remarks





This is a unification of Michel Foucault's thought as a systematic epistemological project. Privitera shows that the method and unity of Foucault's writings can only be seen by examining their origins in the work of Bachelard and Canguilhem.

Walter Privitera is Professor of Sociology at the University of Calabria, Italy.


In this original reading, Privitera argues for a continuity in Foucault's work best seen when various themes and methodological strategies in his writings are traced back to the influence of Gaston Bachelard. The distinct stages in Foucault's development--from archaeology to genealogy and, finally, to the themes of subjectivization and normalization--can be viewed as different attempts to work out within the context of the human sciences insights and problems contained in Bachelard's constructivist philosophy of science. Moreover, by relating them to Bachelard's notions of philosophy and the creative spirit, Privitera is able to place in a new perspective the charge that Foucault's "anti-science" and "anti-humanism" undermine the possibility of critique. The result is a systematic, but not uncritical, interpretation of Foucault's entire corpus--including his treatment of power--in which both theory construction and emancipatory critique are primarily perceived as "problems of style."

"This is an insightful work; more important though is the author's sympathy for Foucault's project(s). The author is a subtle thinker but never loses sight of the larger epistemological issues in question. I think he has done a very commendable job of explaining the details and nuances within Foucault's work without losing himself in the process." -- Thomas Huhn, Wabash College