Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The gift of power: Foucault, Derrida, and normalization
by Trussell, P. Taylor, Ph.D., Villanova University, 2009, 222; 3352258
Abstract (Summary)

The goal of this dissertation is to show the concerns Derrida and Foucault share about normalization. Reading Foucault and Derrida together and against each other provides us with a more complete understanding of the dynamics of normalization: Derrida calls our attention to the inexorability of my normalizing the other; Foucault details the subtle normalizing impact of the other on me.

To show these similarities, I draw out the parallels in the philosophical projects of Foucault and Derrida that illustrate the different ways each man approaches the limited emancipatory possibilities found within normalizing frameworks. This leads to a comparison of Derrida’s phenomenology of the gift with Foucault’s analytics of power. I argue that the criteria of the gift articulated in Derrida’s analysis in Given Time and the continuous structural giving he locates in The Gift of Death reflect the fundamental characteristics of normalizing power.

Reading Foucault’s analytics of power against Derrida’s analysis of the gift, and vice versa, provides a more comprehensive awareness of the nature of normalization. Together, these two philosophical projects make us more attentive to how we are simultaneously shaped by and shaping those around us. Such awareness instills a sense of responsibility not dictated by obedience to a universal law or adherence to a rational principle but a responsibility that arises out of seeing the other and ourselves differently. It is an awareness in which we pay greater attention to ourselves as sources of creativity and to the other as an impetus to that creativity. Conversely, there is greater attention paid to letting the other be and to ourselves as the inhibitors of the other.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Carvalho, John M.
Commitee: Caputo, John D., McWhorter, Ladelle
School: Villanova University
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 70/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Derrida, Jacques, Foucault, Michel, Gift, Normalization, Power
Publication Number: 3352258
ISBN: 9781109087314
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