Foucault's subject: An ontological reading

Neve Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


From the mid-1970s until his death, Michel Foucault sought to develop an account of the subject that would avoid both regarding the subject as merely the passive product of power relations and regarding it as entirely self-creating. Following Foucault's final cues focused on his discussion of the ethics of the self and rooted in a conception of freedom as an ontological condition of possibility rather than as human will drawn mainly from Heidegger, I argue that Foucault sought to develop an account of humans as beings-in-the-world situated within an existing web of relations occurring within a context of background practices, all the while possessing an ontological freedom that is not molded by power relations but is instead the condition of possibility of power itself. In this way, Foucault sought to achieve a balance between activity and passivity, agency and structure in his account of the subject.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-414
Number of pages20
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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