Howard richards. Following Foucault: The Trail of the Fox. Cape Town: Sun Press, 2018. ISBN 978-1-928357-62-9, 978-1-928357-63-6 (e-book). Pages: 267. Cost is not mentioned.
The book is the printed form of a collection of lectures given by Howard Richards in Pretoria, South Africa, back in 2013, under the auspices of the South African Research Chair in Development Education organized at the University of South Africa. His lectures were based on the French philosopher Paul-Michel Foucault (1926-1984). It tries to offer an analysis of Foucault’s thought from a pragmatic (Neo-Deweyan), economic-cultural (New-Keynesian) and, above all, a critical realist point of view. Through these lectures, he strives to reevaluate and highlight the key themes that Foucault addresses throughout his active philosophical career, and to highlight the relevance of his ideas and conclusions to today’s world. Richards, offers a novel and interesting reading of Foucault, one that has garnered praise (see back cover) unfazed by its limitations and risks.
There are fifteen lectures, each followed by a discussion between the professor and two renowned scholars, Evelin Lindner and Catherine Odora Hoppers, with the exception of the last two lectures which only have a short commentary written by Lindner. The initial discussions, although brief (in terms of volume), appear on the tangent, since they arise from the vested interests of the participants. Later, as one gets into the mode of introductions, one can better position the discussions that follow. Although, it must be said that the discussions, although they have something relevant to offer, especially in terms of practical application, hide their wealth like needles in a haystack. One must sift through a multitude of words to find those few slivers of gold that are quietly among them. The epilogue is provided by Hoppers, who brilliantly and succinctly summarizes Foucault’s key ideas, not all of which were made explicit over the course of the lectures, points out his positive and constructive contributions, and finally offers some pointers of areas of expertise. ongoing investigation. , development and implementation of Foucault’s thought. The lectures are untitled and simply dated, which is negative in my book, as a title would help to position the lecture while highlighting the key focus. The lack of a title leaves one searching for exactly what the crux of the conference is. Considering Howards’s style, the fact that these are lectures, and the nature of the discussions that followed each lecture, providing a title would certainly have helped.
Richards is well aware of both his own biases against Foucault and the limitations of his presentations. Regarding the points in dispute, he lists: “Foucault is against authority. I am in favor of authority. Foucault blatantly favors dedicating one’s life to the pursuit of pleasure … I am in favor of social norms. Foucault takes the side of the sophists; I am with Plato. He is on the side of Nietzsche; I am on the side of religion … I believe that there is an objective basis for ethics in physical reality; he believes that the discourse defines its objects. I believe in truth. Foucault … no. social reality to some extent in terms of rules. He explains it in terms of power. I have many proposals to solve the main problems of humanity. Foucault does not has none ”(p. 20).
Crain Soudien’s foreword provides a good introduction and introduction to what follows (considering that the book does not have an introduction of its own). He chooses the key concepts, terms, and ideas from the lectures, as well as from the discussions, and presents them to the reader at a glance. Magnus Haavelsrud, who gives the prologue, seems to be walking a slightly different path than Richards will take later. It attempts to show how Foucault’s concepts of “power” and “knowledge” have influenced worldviews and formed the basis of “multi-paradigmatic science.” Haavelsrud’s prologue, although not perfectly synchronized with the rest of the work, has something interesting to say. His ‘hermeneutically suspicious’ reading of Foucault leads him to ask relevant questions, questions that have deep meaning and vital relevance to our time.
The title of the book is interesting. Almost no explanation is offered until about halfway through the book. While the title is relatively easy to follow, the subtitle is not that revealing. Perhaps, that can be explained by personal ignorance. I was wondering why Foucault was referred to as a fox and I found the answer on page 173, where Richards points out that his nickname is “the Fuchs“(the fox) probably because, as his close friend (from Foucault), Georges Dumézil, commented, ‘he always wore a mask’ and ‘always changed his mask.’
The cover is imaginative but rather bland; however, it pictorially describes the title quite well. There are quite a few grammatical and typographical errors scattered throughout the book. Richards, for the most part, has used the verbatim words of the authors he cites. So in Foucault’s case, there are a lot of French words. Although sometimes a translation is offered, other times it is not. This is likely to annoy a modest reader who is not well versed in the authors’ thinking or their mother tongue.
The book offers an interesting perspective on Foucault’s mind and times. Richards constantly compares, contrasts, and strengthens Foucault’s ideas with quotes from a variety of authors, mostly social thinkers and economists, as well as contemporaries of his time and those from whom he was inspired. Thus, a good number of references will be found to the works of Heidegger and Nietzsche, both individuals whom Foucault idolized at different times in his life and from whom he drank deeply. A brief glance at the 15-page list of reference material is enough to give an idea of the type of material one can expect to find inside. The last chapters deal specifically with individual books by Foucault: his most famous works, Discipline and punish (1975) and History of sexuality, vol. I: The will to know (1976). The final chapter is a review of Foucault’s fundamental concept: power. Richards not only traces the emergence of the concept, but also verifies its relevance both in Foucault’s time and in the present.