Ideology and the Social Sciences

By Graham C. Kinloch; Raj P. Mohan | Go to book overview

II
Shifting Discourses: Postgraduates' Reflections on Their Theoretical Choices

Patricia Harris

Each society has its own regime of truth, its "general politics" of truth that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true.

Foucault 1980: 131

The ways in which particular bodies of knowledge come to occupy "ruling" positions, exclude other truths and reproduce positions of authority along intellectual, economic, professional, cultural, and/or gendered lines has historically been a major issue for social and political theorists. Kuhn ( 1970, 1977) historical discussion of scientific paradigms has been widely utilized, with interest centering on the constitutive part played by language and rhetoric, and on the power of any particular paradigm to shape consciousness ( Leggett 1995: 12). In this context, the terms deployed may have changed-- ideology, paradigm, discipline, and so forth--but the main themes remain similar.

The constitutive and authoritative part played by various intellectual discourses is reproduced within our own disciplinary structures. In many universities Foucault's own work has become the very "regime of truth" he wished to avoid. More generally, his statement, quoted above, could equally well start "each academic discipline has its own regime of truth."

-159-

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