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Individual Paper: The Ethics of Degrowth as an Actual Parrhesia

Hints from Michel Foucault's reflections for a revolutionary singular/plural ethos against the consumption society.

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During the Seventies Michel Foucault was considered one of the most influential intellectuals of political movements; today he is no more so famous among the activists, although he is the most cited author in the humanities. In this paper the focus will be on the concept of "parrhesia", developed in his last contribution (he died in 1984), particularly in the lectures at the Collège de France ("The government of Self and Others"; "The Courage of the Truth") and at the University of California, Berkeley ("Fearless Speech", aka "Discourse and Truth"). There it was analysed by the philosopher in all his evolution inside ancient Greek culture, from tragedy and historiography to Cynicism, Scepticism, and Stoicism through Socrates and Plato.

I think, this concept is extremely relevant for the degrowth theories and praxis, since the same explanation was given by Foucault: «The one who uses parrhesia, the "parrhesiastes", is someone who says everything he has in mind: he does not hide anything, but opens his heart and mind completely to other people through his discourse». Not of minor importance: «In parrhesia the speaker emphasizes the fact that he is both the subject of the enunciation and the subject of the "enunciandum"», which means that the activist’s lifestyle is a practical, direct example and concretization of the political opinion and philosophical vision.

In Foucault’s mind this may constitute relevant timeless countervailing strategies, as a consequence to his conception of the “pastoral” character assumed by modern power (an idea clearly coming from Friedrich Nietzsche and resumed by Judith Butler).

These ideas are compared in the paper by Hannah Arendt, whose opposition between "vita activa" and "vita contemplativa" is a significant precedent of the Foucaultian one between "parrhesia" and "apatheia" (quiet obedience); and with the “reversibility” of power in Simone Weil. They are considered by the Italian philosopher Simona Forti the most persuasive remedy against the contemporary gap between ethics and politics: she retains, following Foucault, that revolution will be ethical or will never be.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF (206)
Track: Critical Social Theories




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