I totally blame The Pickup Artist. And my bizarre brain.
So yesterday our tutor was having a go at Foucault, claiming that he refused to read him because he'd plagiarised his ideas from Gramsci and because while he had lots of criticisms to make, he didn't present any ideas about what we can do, say, about things like governmentality.
This guy is a self-confessed raving Marxist, by the way.
I was a bit taken aback by this because I figure that chaps like Chomsky with their examination of discourse to expose the messages we are being sent (which IMO support the hegemony) are doing something. It's just not REVOLUTION! I think that being aware that you can't believe everything you read in the media is actually kind of valuable in encouraging critical thinking, and that critical thinking is kind of valuable in changing attitudes and thus, culture. And I said so (except for the bit about REVOLUTION!).
He reckons that the guy who invented the idea of discourse analysis (not Chomsky, someone I've never heard of) specifically said that we shouldn't use it for sociology. I did ask why he said that but it was lost in the thunderous refutation of my statement and I didn't find out. Maybe one of the boffins here can enlighten me? He went on to say that we have been buggering about with language approaches to social problems since the 1970s and it hasn't changed anything. To which I replied that we've been buggering about with penal populism since the 1970s and that hasn't fixed anything either, in fact it's made it worse.
(Aside: My staircase wit here says that the main thing I've learned from this course so far is that while all theories have some relevance, none of them is singularly and completely relevant. There is no such thing as a Grand Theory of Crime, and this includes Marxism which hasn't fixed anything either and only offers a solution that involves dismantling and rebuilding society - which is far-fetched enough as to be essentially useless. Saying that would have been handy, I reckon - although it might have led to more thundering because of the raving Marxist* thing).
He then started talking about how feminism has gone from working towards concrete goals of equality (such as voting, financial independence, equal pay etc) to working towards recognition of women's identity in discourse, and how right now things are getting worse for women. Unfortunately that thread didn't go anywhere because I'm not sure whether he was trying to say it was pointless or .. something else.
One useful thing that came out of it though, is that he thinks all this talk of the power dynamics that create discourse sits right alongside Marx's theories of capitalist power dynamics which create, well.. everything. He thinks that radical criminology and critical criminology fit neatly within Marxism and part of the reason he's disparaging of them on their own is that they ignore the rest of what Marx thought (and IMO, probably because they don't end with REVOLUTION!), which he seems to think is important in order to truly understand and thus create policy. And he's delivering a lecture on this next week.
I will probably actually go. Yes, my tutor yelled at me and yes, I needled him into it. But remember, this is the course in which the actual lecturer is a droning bore who appears to be simply waiting for retirement. The tutor and I might not agree, but he's passionate about theory and I'm learning it through arguing with him. Frankly, he could wipe the floor with me in terms of knowledge of theory and theorists, and he does - regularly - but the fact that I can get him to raise his voice suggests that my arguments aren't completely without merit and every time it happens I learn some more.
I also got congratulations for a good troll from one of my fellow students. O.o
And I think he actually enjoys it - the rest of the classes must be like pulling teeth for him, since usually it's trying to extract any response at all from a roomful of people who are staring at him like stunned mullets expecting him to impart wisdom while they do nothing. I'm at least a lively diversion, I guess.
tl;dr I can't help myself, I am incorrigible. I got into a lot of trouble for doing that at school (my physics teacher hated me) but fuckit, someone has to make tutorials entertaining, right?
Also he said some stuff about post-structuralism and post-modernism and how he holds little truck with these because really, Durkheim nicked a bunch of his ideas from Aristotle and there's really nothing new under the sun (or so it seemed he was saying). I have problems with all these post- type labels because a) I don't really understand what they mean in real terms and b) it all seems a bit wanky. I understand the value of labels in categorisation, but if the ideas aren't new, why not group them according to their commonalities rather than some arbitrary timescale? I've got no issue with Foucault and Marx being in the same group, or Aristotle and Durkheim either.\
Meanwhile, I'll be over here, by myself in the naughty seat. I am a bad bad girl. *evil grin*
* I think claiming Marxism as a Grand Theory isn't fair, because Marx was kind of all "But my theory covers everything ever!" and that's too broad and complicated to make a Grand Theory. But I think maybe that's why this guy is so into him - he really does have a go at the entire universe.