Review Essay: Knowledge, Subjectivity and Politics

Thomas Pfister


The main interest of the study reviewed in this essay is in manifestations of subjectivity in the knowledge society. The first part demonstrates how the discourse on a knowledge society also constructs the dominant notion of an autonomous, self-reliant and intellectually capable subject. Then, the book traces how individuals act and constitute themselves in response to the discursive call for specific forms of subjectivity, focusing on a set of citizen conferences on biomedical issues. It thus, especially in its latter part, provides original and surprising insights, but this part is given too little space compared to the first part, leaving the reader wanting more.
The essay then engages in a broader debate, discussing two further points in addition to the insights of the review. First, it scrutinises the function of science, which plays a key role in those negotiations where the knowledge society is constituted and shaped. Secondly, it seeks to refine the notion of politics, which should be comprehensive yet not too general. It therefore suggests understanding politics as a gradual phenomenon, which might be omnipresent but becomes particularly manifest in certain situations. In order to analyze politics in the context of pluralizing knowledges, it especially recommends focusing on situations where agency and agonistic contestations become visible.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1003207


biomedicine; citizen conferences; Foucault; governmentality; neoliberalism; participation; self-governance; subject; subjectification; science; knowledge society; civil society


Copyright (c) 2010 Thomas Pfister

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