David Owen, Clare Woodford

Foucault, Cavell and the Government of Self and Others. On Truth-telling, Friendship and an Ethics of Democracy

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Ethics of Care of the Self, Parrhesia, Moral Perfectionism, Friendship, Democracy

This essay addresses the ethical and political significance of Foucault's late work on the ethics of care of the self and «parrhesia». We argue, first, that understanding this significance requires seeing Foucault's investigation of these classical practices against the backdrop of his identification of, and attempt to make perspicu- ous, the problem of biopolitical governance - specifically the paradox of relations of power and capacity. On this basis we go on, second, to consider how this turn may inform an ethics of democratic governance. In constructing this case, we demonstrate the relationship between the ethics of care of the self as a practice of freedom and the tradition of moral perfectionism identified by Stanley Cavell. This allows us to show how Cavell and Foucault mutually complement each other in the articulation of an approach to an ethics of democracy and we outline the fundamental features of such an approach.

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