February 14, 2020

Milan Urošević Foucault’s engaged epistemology – one attempt at solving sociological binaries

This lecture will discuss the contribution epistemological and theoretical standpoints of Michel Foucault can have in solving some contradictions that exist in sociological theory and epistemology. We will claim that those contradictions take a form of binary oppositions and that they can be seen as dimensions of an epistemological problem of the relation between the subject and the object of knowledge. The first of those contradictions occurs in sociological epistemology and consists in the split between positivism and interpretivism. On this basis a second contradiction appears in the sphere of social ontology and consists in the conflict between the view of society based on agency and that based on structure. In the first part of the lecture we will present some basic theoretical and epistemological postulates of Foucault’s work through three periods: archeological, genealogical and the period of the studying subjectivity. In the second part we will deal with the contradiction between structure and agency through reading Durkheim’s notion of the “social fact” and consider the contribution Foucault’s theoretical standpoints can have in solving the contradiction between an agent and a social fact that Durkheim fails to solve. In the last part of the lecture we will deal with the problem of the relation between a researcher and his research object in sociology and positivist and interpretivist solutions to this problem. We will consider the contribution Foucault’s epistemological position can have in solving this problem through his idea of an engaged research that he understands as a form of an intervention of the researcher into the researched object.

Milan Urošević is a research trainee at the Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory and a phd student of sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy of Belgrade University. At the same faculty he got his bachelor’s degree with a graduate theses named „Culture as an instrument of the middle class in classification struggles in Serbia today” and his masters degree with a master theses named „Ideology and construction of the past in television series in Serbia today”. He has published articles in Serbian scientific journals like “Sociology” and “Culture”. His interests are oriented towards studying culture, the postmodern society, the ways subjectivity is formed and the instrumentalization of desire in contemporary capitalism.

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