Archive for the ‘PhD theses’ Category

Självskapelseetik bortom Foucault: En rättviseteori för ett mångkulturellt, liberalt och demokratiskt samhälle

The English title:

An Ethics of Self-creation Beyond Foucault: A Theory of Justice for a Multicultural, Liberal and Democratic Society.

This recently submitted thesis is written in Swedish but includes an extensive English summary at the end and can be downloaded from this University of Gothenburg link

This thesis develops a normative theory of justice centered on the concept of subjectivation. The concept originates from (late) Foucault and is connected to his writing on ethics. Foucault did not himself elaborate on the subject in any great detail. This thesis, however, does, creating a theory of justice for a multicultural, liberal, democratic, society on the basis of subjectivation.

The basic principle of the theory is that a just society is one in which everyone has equal opportunity to engage in active subjectivation. This is related, but not synonymous, to Foucault’s ethics, which is sometimes summarized in a clichéd manner by referring to his statement that we should turn our life into “a piece of art”. I argue that the opportunity to engage in active subjectivation is what ought to be equally distributed in society. Active subjectivation is best understood in relation to its opposite, passive subjectivation. The latter refers to an identity that is molded, subjugated and constituted by power relations external to the subject; the former to an identity-formation attained by the subject’s conscious and active work on itself.

The thesis is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the foucaultian ethic and how it is related to its archaic predecessors. This part also develops a critique of Foucault’s version of the ethic of self-creation. In the second part I surpass the foucaultian ethics, creating my own version of the ethic of self-creation. The third and last part is devoted to the questions of group-based rights and organization of education, and tries to explicate how these issues could be handled by a state that affirms the ethic of self-creation.

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Wouter Mensink ‘Subject of innovation, or: how to redevelop the patient with technology’. PhD thesis, University of Leiden, The Netherlands, 2012.

Pdf of thesis on University of Leiden library site

Author’s blog


People are shaped in many ways: as subject of scientific inquiry, as part of a political category or in relations with others. Alternatively, they shape themselves. Michel Foucault examined such ways of ‘subjectivation’: the manner in which the human ‘subject’ is formed. He is most famous for his work on the role of surveillance in society. Contemporary critics argue that the surveillance he describes was only possible in the industrial era, in which people were often confined to closed spaces: schools, factories or hospitals. With the coming of the information era, however, the surveillance model is said to be defunct. People are much more distributed, to name just one distinction.

One way of assessing the value of Foucault’s work for present-day questions is to examine how ‘subjectivation’ relates to technology. His work on neoliberalism provides a starting-point. We do need to look further though, for example at Bruno Latour’s work. He claims that technologies are to people what ‘plug-ins’ are to the internet. The web is personalised by installing different plug-ins, add-ons or apps. Similarly, our subjectivity is shape by the technologies with which we engage. Question is how this turns out in practice.

In order to take such a practical angle at these philosophical questions, this study examines the case of healthcare innovation. It articulates how patients are shaped in relation to technology. Technology is placed in a particular context when it is drawn into a discussion about innovation. The Dutch Electronic Health Record and the Personal Healthcare Budget are political designs that aim to foster innovation. Both policies started mid-1990s and were nearly abolished in 2011. What happened over the course of these one and a half decades?

Apart from these two policies, the study also covers other innovation-related developments in Dutch healthcare: the so-called Diagnosis Treatment Combinations, functional description techniques for health insurances, the Quality-Adjusted Life Years calculation and medical chat rooms.

It ends by examining the possibilities of democratising healthcare innovation, by investigating the example of ‘Living Labs’. These are local or regional platforms in which people are in some way involved in innovation processes. Just like for the different policies, the crucial question is: which role is attributed to the patient?

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Arun Anantheeswaran Iyer, Knowledge and Thought in Heidegger and Foucault: Towards an Epistemology of Ruptures, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA PhD, Summer 2011

Download here

This dissertation shows how Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault, by questioning the very understanding of the subject-object relationship on which all epistemology is grounded, challenge two of its most cherished beliefs: 1. Thought and knowledge are essentially activities on the part of the subject understood anthropologically or transcendentally. 2. The history of knowledge exhibits teleological progress towards a better and more comprehensive account of its objects. In contrast to traditional epistemology, both Heidegger and Foucault show how thought and knowledge are not just acts, which can be attributed to the subject but also events which elude any such subjective characterization. They also show us how the history of knowledge exhibits ruptures when the very character of knowledge undergoes drastic transformation in the course of history. The dissertation concludes by hinting at how these new accounts of thought and knowledge have the potential to shake the very foundations of epistemology and lead us to a new framework for discussing the most basic questions of epistemology, towards an epistemology of ruptures.

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Picard, E. Kezia (2010) A radical relational agency: Foucault, complexity theory and environmental resistances. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
Page with link to pdf of thesis

The aim of this thesis is to examine a radical relational agency, applied to contemporary environmental resistances, that incorporates both the thought of Michel Foucault and complexity theory. While Foucault’s thought, following from his argument that power is a relation, implies a relational agency, it does not, however, account for the agency of nonhumans and environments. Because power is a relation and not a possession, it can no longer be viewed as an attribute of individual subjects. Similarly, a relational agency is defined as an aspect of power relations. Complexity theory, on the other hand, acknowledges that humans interact with nonhumans and environments, but does not acknowledge that all relations are relations of power. In addition to Foucault’s explanation of power relations, complexity theory explicitly describes the processes of self-organization through which individual and diverse agents interact and change can emerge. Thus, a radical relational agency is defined as an aspect of the power relationships between many diverse agents. Change, according to both Foucault and complexity theory, happens nonlinearly. As a result, it often occurs unpredictably. However, change within complex systems is also limited by previous historical emergences. In this sense, both possibility and risk are inherent in the relationships between humans, nonhumans and environments. Indeed, I argue that a radical relational agency occurs because there are both possibilities and risks generated within ecological relations and relations of power. Therefore, I argue that any environmental action must account for the unpredictability inherent to the complex interactions between humans, nonhumans and environments.

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