Bookmarked Book Summary: The Order of Things: The Archaeology of the Human Sciences / Michel Foucault by Huzeyfe Kıran (Thinking Prismatically)

“One thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge. Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area — European culture since the sixteenth century — one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledges prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things and their order, the knowledge of identities differences, characters, equivalences, words — in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same — only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. And that appearance was not the liberation of an old anxiety, the transition into luminous consciousness of an age-old concern, the entry into objectivity of something that had long remained trapped within beliefs and philosophies: it was the effect of a change in the fundamental arrangements of knowledge. As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility — without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises — were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea” (The Order of Things p.386-387).

I remember reading Michel Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge during university, but never got around to The Order of Things. Wondering about the crux of the book I stumbled upon this lengthy summary from Huzeyfe Kıran. I was left thinking about archeology in relation to my Honours thesis on psychoanalysis and the way in which what we talk about when we talk about psychoanalysis.

📓 Ideology

Ideology is often used as a criticism, however, as Greg Thompson explains, saying something is ‘ideological’ misses the point:

I read it, everything we believe is already ideological because we are necessarily social (for example, through language). Saying this, however, does not imply that any position held is necessarily right or wrong, rather that within the ontological and epistemological assumptions of any belief system ideology invariable precedes consciousness. For this reason, I don’t mind being called ideological (of course I am) or suggesting that others are ideological (of course they are).source

Bernard Bull adds his own take on ideology:

I’ve come across this countless times in education, with any number of stakeholders declaring that the problem with education is ideology. If only we focused on scientific and evidence-based practice, then education would be in great shape. Only that statement represents an ideologysource

French Marxist Louis Althusser argued in his paper Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses that there is no beyond or outside within which we can exist. Instead, we are always already interpellated, called into existence.

Thus ideology hails or interpellates individuals as subjects. As ideology is eternal, I must now suppress the temporal form in which I have presented the functioning of ideology, and say: ideology has always-already interpellated individuals as subjects, which amounts to making it clear that individuals are always-already interpellated by ideology as subjects, which necessarily leads us to one last proposition: individuals are always-already subjects. Hence individuals are ‘abstract’ with respect to the subjects which they always already are. This proposition might seem paradoxical. source

Adding to this, Althusser highlights that there is no point outside of ideology:

What thus seems to take place outside ideology (to be precise, in the street), in reality takes place in ideology. What really takes place in ideology seems therefore to take place outside it. That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical
denial of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, “I am ideological.” Source

Coming from a different perspective, Michael Foucault discusses the challenges of identity in Archaeology of Knowledge where he states:

Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.