Foucault on parrhesia: The Autonomy of Politics and Democracy

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Foucault’s discussions of parrhesia provide fertile ground for raising a number of classical and pertinent issues in political theory related to critique, citizenship, and political authority. Foucault situates parrhesia in his analytical grid of power/knowledge/ethics, which maps political participation and experience, and he looks at how those who pursue or contest political power articulate and integrate these three facets of politics, which might well pull in opposite directions. Power concerns the ability and the audacity to face up to important political tasks and to take action at the right time authoritatively and with resolve. Knowledge is vital for telling the truth from a partisan viewpoint and for making informed and balanced decisions. Ethics concerns the trustworthiness of those who either exercise or criticize political power and touches upon their dedication, sense of judgement, and personal integrity. The personal integrity of the citizen acting politically as well as his or her responsibility to the political community are among the main issues to be raised in relation to these themes. The same goes for the issues related to the nature of the political community, its institutional set-up and its culture, and whether it is authoritarian and marked by hierarchy and obedience or democratic and egalitarian. Thus, parrhesia captures some of the most vital dimensions of political life of how to exercise the political power of authority in a way that is both truthful and trustworthy.
TidsskriftPolitical Theory
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)265-288
Antal sider24
StatusUdgivet - 7 mar. 2016


  • Foucault, parrhesia , autonomy of politics, power/knowledge/ethics, democracy, public reason

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