Foucault`S Intellectual Theory Essay

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Huang Yiyang

Intellectuals in history

Michel Foucault was questioned in an interview by 1982: “Many people look at you as someone who is able to tell them the deep truth about the world and about themselves. How do you experience this responsibility? As an intellectual, do you feel responsible toward this function of seer, of shaper of mentalities? ” To answer the question above, Foucault said:” I am sure I am not able to provide these people with what they expect. I never behave like a prophet. My books don’t tell people what to do.” In fact, Foucault`s response to that question, was an exactly reference to his views of the function of the intellectuals: In Foucault`s opinion, the intellectuals, at least “the intellectuals today” , should change their minds of “the right of speaking”. The intellectuals should stop to “play the role of prophets”.

Intellectuals in the past

Just as what Foucault demonstrated: “For a long period…intellectual spoke and was acknowledged the right of speaking in the capacity of master of truth and justice. He was heard, or purported to make himself heard, as the spokesman of the universal. . . . Some years have now passed since the intellectual was called upon to play this role.” In fact, as long as we are looking back to the history, “intellectuals” has played the role of “prophets” in a long period. For instance, the Ancient Greek philosophers, Buddha, and Laozi , they were seemed as prophets and “universal” intellectuals simultaneously. Undeniably, it is difficult to assess the profound impact of their theories. However, their theories have brought not only positive, but also negative effects. Become an “universal intellectual”, at the same time ,made them become an authoritativeness. And people`s blind faith in authority, could be the womb for political dictatorship. Their opaque rhetoric, have indeed brought opportunities for people with ulterior motives. Misinterpreting the works of the “universal intellectuals”, has been the common means of careerists. Even if there is not a so-called “universal intellectual” for them, the careerists could create one for themselves. For example, Karl Marx was supposed to be a kind of the “man-made universal intellectual”, who was deified by communists. Those fanatical communists deem Marx as someone has talked about something “in the modality of the ‘universal’, the ‘exemplary’, the ‘just-and-true-for-all’.” But Marx`s Truly outstanding achievement in the field of economics, was selective ignored.

Foucauldian Intellectual According to Foucault`s most famous discussion “the political function of the intellectual”, he claimed that, “intellectuals have become accustomed to working not in the character of the 'universal', the 'exemplary', the 'just-and-true for all', but in specific sectors, at precise points where they are situated either by their professional conditions of work or their conditions of life.” It could be seemed as an ideal mode of Foucauldian intellectual, though Foucault himself would absolutely refuse to admit that. Actually, in his article “the political function of the intellectual”, he described the intellectual “has a three-fold specificity: specificity of his class position; the specificity of his conditions of life and work, linked to his condition as an intellectual; lastly, the specificity of the politics of truth in our societies.” In one word, Foucault reputed that intellectual should be specific, rather than universal they had ever been. Nevertheless, it seems the ideal mode of Foucauldian intellectual could never become the mainstream in a short term. Because, there is still a “call to prophetism” among common people. The term “Prophetism” is which Foucault used to describe the behavior of a prophet or prophets. There are complex and profound causes for the “call to prophetism”, such as the psychological, historical and political reasons.