Skip to main content Skip to navigation

We Need Education – Not Just Thought Control: Kant, Foucault and Tempered Thoughts

Katherine Ann Fender[1], Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick



This paper offers a comparative analysis of Kant and Foucault's notions of critical thinking, investigating the extent to which critique is dependent upon, and/or hindered by, an institutional context for both theorists. The paper explores conceptions of enlightenment, the individual and the public/private sphere before turning to the instance of the modern, British, public university in order to ascertain whether or not it is, as an institution, a viable source of autonomous intellectual enquiry. The objective of the piece is to demonstrate that, although institutions are necessarily restrictive for the maintenance of social order and to regulate critique, critical thinking in the academic sphere is in fact compromised by economic, rather than solely ethical, motives.

Keywords: Kant, Foucault, critical thinking, modern university, academic freedom.



[… ] to forge an ascetic ethic of scientific and political responsibility [is] the highest duty of the mature intellectual (Rabinow, 1991: 27).

The university: the pre-eminent (or, arguably, the only) institution to promote and facilitate 'a form of intellectual freedom that […] serve[s] as a vehicle for the progressive transformation of society' (Fuller, 2009: 1). It does, after all, ostensibly epitomise and formalise the very conditions that Kant asserts as being necessary to the critical thinking which he believes will eventually liberate man from 'immaturity' (Kant, 1784: 1); the democratisation of education, evident in contemporary 'widening access' schemes and aided by burgeoning literacy levels, seems to validate Kant's conviction that we will eventually experience 'an entire public enlightening itself' (1784, 1). Indeed, with British universities now emancipated from the religious dogmas that once dominated study at Oxford and Cambridge, the modern, mostly secular Western world of liberal democracy ought to be the most tolerant – if not actively encouraging – of free thinking.

And yet, the palpably political agenda to empower the masses intellectually, together with the government's demand that academics justify their vocation by outlining the 'demonstrable benefits to the wider economy and society' (Collini, 2009: para. 4) of their research, is indicative of a new threat to critique. It signals the dangers of a capitalist age where worth is all too often measured in merely economic, tangible, visible use-value; where intellectual merit is gauged empirically in essay marks and book sales; where thought is driven by assessment objectives, rather than by wholly individual reasoning processes. Is it, then, possible for scholars to 'resist economic and political curbs' (Fuller, 2009: 1) inculcated by institutions which endanger the spirit of free inquiry? Typically understood as complex social forms comprising 'positions, roles, norms and values lodged in […] social structures' responsible for 'reproducing individuals, and […] sustaining viable societal structures' (Turner, 1997: 6), can institutions, models for reproduction, really be reconciled with truly exploratory critical enquiry? Do institutions really inform critical thinking in educating us, restrain it in indoctrinating us, or is there a sense in which these limitations are in themselves liberating? What is the nature of the truths we seek, anyway?


Relative Truth Versus Universal Enlightenment

According to Foucault, there are no universal 'truths'; critique can, at best, produce truths relative to contemporary society. 'Produce' is the key notion, here. For Foucault, perpetual critique is necessary – what he terms 'a permanent critique of our historical era' (Foucault, 1984a: 42) – as the truths constructed are only applicable to the society from which they were forged, for we ourselves are 'historically determined' beings (1984a: 43). There are no great human truths waiting to be 'discovered' by the enlightened; critique is, rather:

a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest […] to show that things are not as self-evident as one believed, to see that what is accepted as self-evident will no longer be accepted as such. Practicing criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult (Foucault, 1988: 154-55).

Critique is, then, necessarily genealogical: it is the process by which we come to understand how our society, our institutions, and our very conception of our 'selves' were formed. We must probe our past to understand our present, but we cannot be definitively 'enlightened' for the future when the immediate present is incessantly metamorphosing; we cannot be endowed with truths that transcend the epochal, hence the necessity for present, constant critique. Foucault's sentiments do, in this way, echo Marx' s famous demand: for the 'Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing' (Marx, 1844), what Foucault refers to as 'the problematisation of present-ness [...] which bears on what we are in our present-ness' (1986: 11-17).


A Dialectic of Enlightenment: Kant And Foucault

As the first philosopher to display this 'attitude of modernity' (Foucault, 1984a: 39), characterised by a 'reflective relation to the present' (Foucault, 1984a: 44), it is unsurprising that Foucault should respond directly to the claims of Kant. Kant's theory is, as Foucault advocates, developed from the institutional templates of his own time, 'self-consciously created for an age of enlightenment' (Wood, 2005: 14) – what Kant considers to be his immediate 'present' (Kant, 1784: 3). For Kant, critique is

the metaphorical court before which the traditional claims of metaphysics are being brought to test their validity [ … ] drawn from the Enlightenment political idea that the traditional claims of monarchs and religious authorities must be brought before the bar of reason and nature, and henceforth the legitimacy of both should rest only on what reason freely recognises (Wood, 2005: 14).

As Foucault later corroborates in his own essay, Kant affirms that critique is man's means of challenging the traditional and the habitual, that which has been asserted as just, fair and right simply on the premise of its conventionalism, established by long-standing usage. Critique is thus, for Kant, the process by which mankind may reach the 'enlightened age' where 'men as a whole can be in a position [...] of using their own understanding confidently and well in religious matters, without outside guidance' (1784: 3).

But this is where one of the greatest disparities between the thinkers' theories lies. Kant's conception of critique has a goal, an end-product in mind: to 'achieve enlightenment', albeit 'slowly' (1784: 1). Though Kant states that 'one age cannot [...] put the next age in a position where it would be impossible for it to extend and correct its knowledge' (1784: 2), thereby endorsing perpetual critique like Foucault, he nonetheless envisions an eventual quasi-republican state in which all, able to think and speak for themselves, are permanently liberated from their state of Unmündigkeit (immaturity) which had been 'second nature' to them (1784: 1). His essay outlines how – through and because of critique – a state of collective enlightenment is not only desirable, but 'inevitable' (1784: 1). True enlightenment is defined as the state of being in which 'all men [are] free to use their own reason in all matters of conscience' (1784: 3); wherein all men have the capacity, freedom and confidence to trust 'one's own understanding without the guidance of another' (1784: 1), and can perceive that to remain in a state of immaturity is 'a crime against human nature' (1784: 2).


A Question of Ontology

It is perhaps here, concerning the concepts of human nature and the individual, that the differences between Kant and Foucault's theories are rooted. For Kant to assert that immaturity is man's unfortunate second nature is, of course, to presuppose that there is an innate, first, organic human nature. Foucault denies this; the individual is, for him, but a confluence of discourses, and thus all critique circumnavigates the problematic and fundamentally historical issue of how we came to be, 'a historical ontology of ourselves' (Foucault, 1984a: 45), the 'constitution of ourselves as autonomous subjects' (Foucault, 1984a: 43). To clarify this 'philosophical ethos' (Foucault, 1984a: 42), entrenched in the Enlightenment, Foucault cites Baudelaire:

Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not "liberate man in his own being"; it compels him to face the task of producing himself (Foucault, 1984a: 42).

And so a crucial problem with Kant's theory of critique is exposed. Kant himself asserts that, to be enlightened, the individual needs to have the courage to trust his or her own reason, morals, conscience, and rationalising faculties (categorised by Kant as 'natural endowments'); one must be able to discard all external influences, 'Dogmas and formulas [...] mechanical instruments' (Kant, 1784: 1) and institutional influence, if one is to realise one's own 'inclination and vocation to think freely' (Kant, 1784: 3). He counter-intuitively adds, though, that enlightenment is more likely to be achieved collectively, possibly when 'a man of learning address[es] the entire reading public' (Kant, 1784: 1). Yet in accordance with Foucault's claim that man is but a product of socio-historical discourses, events and institutions – that man is subjectified by his relation with some 'other', whether other people or institutional forces – man surely does not have the ability to truly think for himself as his thoughts are, like his sense of self, forged by the external: 'ideas are not things we use, but things that use us' (Fuller, 2009: 92).


Social Institutions: Help or Hindrance to Intellectual Enquiry?

Institutions do, in view of this, provide some kind of uniformity of truth (or, at least, some basis of normative knowledge and asserted truth) that affords one with a sense of perspective/perception; to some extent, it enables the individual to gauge whether his or her critique is objective or innovative in any way, or is instead merely a reverberation or reiteration of 'contingencies' (Foucault, 1984a: 47): a term used in reference to 'our captivity to the decisions taken by our predecessors' (Fuller, 2009: 92) and consequent societal, political and cultural conventions. The purpose of institutions is, after all, to authorise and facilitate 'social regulation' (Foucault, 1984a: 48), an aspect of the two essential conditions Kant claims will permit mankind to break the shackles of immaturity: 'these conditions are at once spiritual and institutional, ethical and political' (Foucault, 1984a: 35).

Knowledge, for Foucault, is inextricably linked with 'the axis of power [and] the axis of ethics' (Foucault, 1984a: 48); institutions outline and enforce these necessary 'limitations' – political, ethical, and otherwise – thus, critique amounts to a 'critical ontology of ourselves as a historico-practical test of the limits that we may go beyond' (Foucault, 1984a: 47). Limitations are, as Kant too acknowledges, not just conducive to but in fact a crucial component of critique; Kant is eager to identify 'which sort of restriction prevents enlightenment, and which, instead of hindering it, can actually promote it' (Kant, 1784: 1).

Foucault, who is 'highly suspicious of claims to universal truths' (Rabinow, 1991: 4), takes Kant's theory a stage further. While Kant, in equating enlightenment with the discovery of truth, acknowledges that institutional limitations have a didactic capacity, Foucault poses the unsettling question that institutional law and power – ostensibly legitimised by universal truths and the needs of the polis – are in fact justified by 'rational' critique, rather than 'truth' (in line with his insistent assertion that truths cannot be 'discovered'). Critique is, in his view, shackled to institutional authority: the latter has the capacity to be both oppressive and liberating, dependent not only on the institution itself, but more so upon the individual's 'mode of thought' (Foucault, 1988: 155). One must 'give up hope of ever acceding to a point of view that could give us access to any complete and definitive knowledge' (Foucault, 1984a: 47), accepting, too, that one must conform to institutional reality whilst critiquing it: 'One may work with it and yet be resistive [...] the two things go together' (Foucault, 1988: 154). In other words:

this work [criticism] done at the limits of ourselves must [...] put itself to the test of [...] contemporary reality, both to grasp the points where change is possible and desirable, and to determine the precise form this change should take [...] the historical ontology of ourselves must turn away from all projects that claim to be global and radical. In fact we know from experience that the claim to escape from the system of contemporary reality so as to produce the overall programs of another society, of another way of thinking, another culture, another vision of the world, has led only to the return of the most dangerous traditions (Foucault, 1984a: 46).

Displaying what initially seems to be an almost Hobbesian mentality, Foucault urgently advocates critique while nonetheless asserting a necessity to adhere to law: 'authority, not truth, makes law' (Thomas Hobbes, as cited in Schmitt, 200: 43). Perhaps, though, it is possible that Foucault is noting, not urging, our obedience to institutional authority; this Hobbesian echo ought to be read as descriptive rather than prescriptive, given Foucault's propensity, as critic Mark Bevir notes, for asserting that 'a rejection of autonomy need not entail a rejection of agency' (Bevir, 1999: 68). So why do we acquiesce to the demands of the state? Are we, in any way, afraid of being enlightened, of becoming completely autonomous, entirely culpable for our own mistakes and hardships?


Public Versus Private

Kant's distinctions between the public and private uses of reason certainly seem to suggest as much, condoning a cognitive double life of sorts. Similar to Foucault's subsequent declarations that all must 'adapt the use they make of their reason to these determined circumstances' and that 'reason must then be subjected to the particular ends in view' (Foucault, 1984a: 36), Kant (1784) suggests that one can effectively and contentedly divorce one's own, personal critique from that necessitated by an institutional, vocational, corporate context, represented by the seemingly simplistic terms 'public' and 'private' respectively:

The public use of man's reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men [...] What I term the private use of reason is that which a person may make of it in a particular civil post or office with which he is entrusted (Kant, 1784: 1).

In complete antithesis to Hobbes, Kant advocates a republic in which all are free to reason for reason's sake (that is, in the public sphere) while order and socio-economic stability are upheld by the collective acceptance of private roles and the private uses and representations of reason that this entails:

Kant [...] proposes [...] a sort of contract – what might be called the contract of rational despotism with free reason: the public and free use of autonomous reason will be the best guarantee of obedience, on condition, however, that the political principle that must be obeyed itself be in conformity with universal reason (Foucault, 1984a: 37).

Critique for Kant is, in this way, a linear process steadily maintained for and by all so long as the delicate balance between institutional obligation and internal reflection is upheld in the quest for 'enlightenment'; but it is solely public reason, consciousness free from political, religious or socio-economic influence, which remains the key to 'enlightenment'.


The 'I' Lie: the Foucauldian Subject

As Foucault and his contemporary Habermas contend, however, the underlying weakness of Kant's theory is that he asserts a definitive distinction between public and private where, in fact, none can be drawn: 'Even the use of one's own reason [...] [is] subjected to regulation' (Habermas, 1993: 25), as 'a public use of [...] reason [cannot] be assured [...] while individuals are obeying as scrupulously as possible' (Foucault, 1984a: 37). In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault explicitly identifies the subject as an historically and ultimately socially constructed phenomenon: 'the "formalization" of the individual [takes place] within power relations' (Foucault, 1977a:190). Consciousness of the self, subjectivity, is in Foucault's view reliant upon an awareness of the power/knowledge balance implicit in institutions; without this, the notion of subjectivity would be inherently void.

Foucault illustrates this notion with Jeremy Bentham's conception of the Panopticon, in which physical and psychological discipline is driven by a power/knowledge relation which manifests itself in spatial terms, 'a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form' (Foucault, 1977a: 205). Aware that he could be highly visible to others, but unsure as to when or if he is being watched at any given time, the prisoner regulates his own behaviour; intersubjectivity, the awareness of the power/knowledge of some other, is integral to Foucault's theories. But in such a structure, it is also clear that the subject, the individual, is at once objectified and subjectified: the body is 'object and target of power', for a body is docile in that it may be 'subjected, used, transformed and improved' (Foucault, 1977a: 136). The subject is, for Foucault, thus presented as a product of the state: subjection (and thus, hierarchy) is a prerequisite of coming into subjectivity, as it is for Habermas in terms of entering the public sphere.

In conflict with Foucault, Habermas initially seems to resist the idea that subjection must be reconciled with subjectivity. Essential to Habermas's conception of the public sphere is the notion that it must be premised upon the 'free interiority' of the intimate sphere (Habermas, 1993: 28); specifically, the 'subjectivity of the conjugal family's intimate domain (Intimsphäre)', afforded by the fact that their intersubjectivity is based upon the 'autonomy of private people' whose marital/familial relations have been 'established voluntarily [...] [and] maintained without coercion' (Habermas, 1993: 46). The conjugal family is one in which privatised individuals may assert themselves as:

[...] independent even from the private sphere of their economic activity – as persons capable of entering into 'purely human' relations with one another (Habermas, 1993: 48).

For Habermas, this in turn facilitates what critic Jessica Benjamin terms 'an entry into subjectivity' (1998: 93) in the public sphere, comprised of mainly 'propertied and educated' men (Habermas, 1993: 37) who have historically treated it as a forum for debate and for 'put[ting] the state in touch with the needs of society' (Habermas, 1993: 31).

The phrase 'patriarchal conjugal family' (Habermas, 1993: 46) does, however, signal the fundamental problem of Habermas's conception of familial autonomy and marital equality. The notion of equality that allegedly underpins the conjugal family is, as Habermas himself admits, but a fiction, signalled by the domination implicit in 'patriarchal'. This is reinforced by the fact that the exclusivity of the private sphere (premised upon property ownership and a bourgeois class status) actually extends to the intimate sphere, thereby destabilising Habermas's claim that the public sphere can be accessible to all when it is drawn from the private sphere of which the intimate one is a core component. Women are, according to Habermas's model, unable to contribute to the criticality of the public sphere, for – as the wives of bourgeois gentlemen – societal expectations render them secondary to their husbands: they must accept that their subjectivity only exists via representation on their behalf through their husbands, in accordance with the burgeoning capitalist climate of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in which Habermas's model must be contextualised.

Habermas himself goes as far as to acknowledge the Freudian view that the intimate sphere, the conjugal family, essentially represents 'the internalization of [...] authority' (Habermas, 1993: 47). Counter to Habermas's initial suggestion that marriage in the intimate sphere is a human representation of genuine emotion, free from 'societally necessary requirements' (Habermas, 1993: 47), Freud purports that 'today's "civilized" sexual morality [permits] only legitimate reproduction [...] as a sexual aim' (Freud, 2002: 92): that is, the pursuit of sexual relations solely in the institution of marriage for the socio-economic purposes of reproduction. This does, of course, necessitate the repression of one's own desires, expression of the self, for civilisation 'demands of the individual, whether man or woman [...] premarital abstinence, and life-long abstinence for all who do not enter into a lawful marriage' (2002: 95).

We are, according to Freud, objectified/desubjectified by the fact that Modernity necessitates the repression of the pleasure principle for the sake of fulfilling the reality principle: the work that needs to be done. Such sexual morality goes against human instinct, for 'the human sex drive does not originally serve the purposes of reproduction at all [but rather aims] to obtain particular kinds of pleasure' (Freud, 1905). For Freud, 'inverts' – homosexuals – have 'a special aptitude [...] for cultural sublimation' (Freud, 2002: 92), for in accordance with such social ethics, they are always necessarily repressed. For Freud, the notion of subjectivity, of selfhood (the 'ego'), counter-intuitively, only finds expression here via self-orchestrated internal repression (suppression of the instinctual 'id' by the moralising 'super-ego'). A dialectic with the self, leading to the curbing of an 'extraordinarily high degree of narcissistic enjoyment' (Freud, 2002: xv), exposes the fact that one's ego, one's death drive, is in conflict with some 'other' – civilisation and society – and it is from here that a distinct sense of self arises.

Foucault corroborates Freud's conception of the 'invert' in the sense that – as the "anomaly", the delinquent, the pervert' – the invert serves to foreground the antecedent: 'normative rationality' (Rabinow, 1991: 21). To subjectify the peripheral invert is, for Foucault, to simultaneously reinforce the dominance of the state:

This new persecution of the peripheral sexualities entailed an incorporation of perversions and a new specification of individuals [...] The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage, a past, a case history [...] Nothing that went into his total composition was unaffected by his sexuality [...] We must not forget that the psychological, psychiatric, medical category of homosexuality was constituted from the moment it was characterized [...] less by a type of sexual relations than by a certain quality of sexual sensibility, a certain way of inverting the masculine and feminine in oneself (Foucault, 1984b: 42-43, italics in original).

Power 'necessarily plays a role in the formation of identity and autonomy', for Habermas, Freud, and Foucault (Allen, 2007: 644). As critic Thomas S. Popkewitz notes, it is Foucault in particular who explicates the notion that specifically institutional power has determined these 'new principles of regulation [...] [the] new relation between state governing practices and individual behaviours and dispositions' (Popkewitz, 2010: 141). Indeed, Popkewitz affiliates himself with Foucault's theories, claiming that pedagogy was historically constructed in order to inculcate 'forms of knowledge whose functions are to regulate and discipline the individual' (2010: 140).

No institution epitomises these problematic delineations quite like the university; that which ought to (or, at least, aspires to) constitute the sole site of truly free, public reasoning, able to 'speak and act in its own name' (Foucault, 1984a: 83), without fear of or obligation to the private sphere, but is in reality increasingly dominated by the latter.


The Modern University

Heralded as 'the seat of "academic freedom"' in the nineteenth century (Foucault, 1984a: 1), it is now very difficult to see how the modern (that is, contemporary) university constitutes an arena for truly autonomous enquiry when it has become one of the most schematised institutions of our time, permeated increasingly by political, social and economic agendas.

Lamenting 'an unholy alliance between academia's classical ethic of autonomous inquiry and the increased disciplinisation of the scaled-up modem university' (Fuller, 1999: 586), academic Stefan Collini (2009: para. 21) condemns the fact that the integrity of academia as a 'valuable human activity' has been compromised merely for the sake of 'transferable skills', university rankings and overt economic use. Responsible for consumerising the institution in this power discourse are, one may argue, private businesses: those on whom universities are becoming increasingly reliant due to the fact that government investment in education is ever decreasing.

In the light of the current economic recession, universities are now typically commended as sites of 'Knowledge Transfer…[with] businesses […] expected to generate innovation and stimulate the economy' (Valade-DeMelo, 2009: 6), rather than as sites of independent enquiry free from ideological influence: that for which they were traditionally revered. The academic's predicament is disillusioning for students and lecturers alike; demoted to the roles of consumers and producers of 'knowledge' in what should, surely, be a 'protected space for the autonomous pursuit of fundamental inquiry' (Fuller, 1999: 584), the case of the modern university constitutes the most incontrovertible evidence that Kant's dichotomic ideal of reason is simply impracticable.

The legacy of a capitalist age is emerging: a business mentality thrives among and drives competitive young students, perhaps understandably so. All too aware that the experience is one afforded by great financial expense, a knowledge/money exchange, it is unsurprising that most are eager to ascertain the criteria by which their essays and exams are marked so that they may obtain the highest class of degree possible and, thus, win the best (highest-paying) job that they can. This is not, clearly, academic meritocracy: a Kantian belief that, in a just world, [academic] reputation is 'proportioned to merit' (Wolff, 1973: 118), esteem established because of the intrinsic value of one's thoughts in themselves. Instead, it is not the quality of one's argument, but one's ability to demonstrate transferable skills (those useful in the corporate sector), that is rewarded. That is not to say that academic ability is crassly disregarded; it is, rather, that the value of critique is equally attributed to technique; one's ability to jump through prescribed, institutional hoops (like using 'buzzwords' and historical dates, adhering to restrictive word counts and taught formulaic structures specific to the task); that which is conventional, mechanical and thus not an authentic expression of public reason.



The fact that one must dare to know – 'sapere aude', as Kant urges (1784: 1) – reinforces the importance of what is at stake in the act of critique. Social order, civic peace, national constitutions, governmental sovereignty: all are based on the idea that there are definitive, universal truths, correlative with a belief in an innate human code of ethics, with the 'second nature' of Unmündigkeit described by Kant exemplifying this ideal. If the intellectual upholds this notion, colluding with the idea that law is premised on universal ethics and is therefore authoritative, he or she fulfils the vocation of a civil servant, rather than an academic; in challenging it – producing new notions of truth or, even, exposing the fraudulence of 'truth' – one destabilises and fundamentally undermines the legitimacy of the legislative, with concepts of 'integrity', 'reason', 'law' similarly invalidated via the post-positivistic deconstruction and perpetual revision of moral codes.

Critique is thus always a 'political choice' (Foucault, 1977b: 135): 'To say that one can never be "outside" power does not mean that one is trapped and condemned to defeat no matter what' (Foucault, 1977b: 141-142). Some consolation can be found in the fact that, as for Foucault, writing in the context of 'worldwide student revolts against "the establishment"' in the 1960s (Wolff, 1973: 118), all within the academic field are aware of this commodification of intellectual 'property'; in accordance with Foucault's theory, Collini's article in itself represents a means by which the academic may adhere to institutional obligation while pursuing public reason: via the printing press. Collini abides by the requirements of his private position as teacher in respecting these limitations yet, as Foucault advocates, he offers a critique of his institution to democratically:

see how far the liberation of thought can make [...] transformations urgent enough for people to want to carry them out and difficult enough to carry out for them to be profoundly rooted in reality (Foucault, 1988: 155).

Rather than jeopardising one's vocational role within the institution, such reform is instead propagated through the private sector represented by newspapers and the internet.

Progress has, then, been made. In Kant's time, scholars were required to submit 'special note[s]' to newspaper editors, in accessible, cogent writing, 'to inform the public of useful truths', and so their critique was effectively 'at the behest of the territorial ruler' (Habermas, 1993: 25). Now, the printing press serves as the protected space, the democratic vehicle for critique of institutions and society. It is conjectural as to whether or not the university as an institution inculcates dependence or independence of thought, nor is it certain whether the free expression afforded by the printing press amounts to public reason, yet what is clear is that institutions like the university have provided the scaffolding conducive to the constructive critique which both Kant and Foucault deem crucial. Without the mediatory and socially regulative role of institutions, there would be no way in which critique could be ethically safeguarded. The structural limitations of institutions are our defence: there is always the possibility of transgressing institutional limits, yet the limitations they impose ultimately prevent the arbitrary assertion of human truths that would else threaten to destroy social order.



I would like to thank Professor Neil Lazarus for his help in formulating the question, his guidance and support throughout the 'Literary and Cultural Theory' and 'Explorations in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies' modules, and his encouragement to submit the piece for publication. I also thank Professor Steve Fuller for his invaluable insights, together with Dr Emma Mason, Elizabeth Speller, Professor Benita Parry and Alexander Freer for sharing their thoughts and stylistic expertise. Acknowledgement and warm thanks are also due to John Elcock and Colin Lewis for early and consistent faith in my academic abilities, and to fellow student Tom Falle for many spirited debates on this subject. Finally, deepest thanks are owed to my parents and sisters for their constant support.



[1] Katherine is a third year undergraduate in English Literature at the University of Warwick. She will be commencing graduate studies in autumn 2011, and holds offers from the universities of Cambridge, Cardiff, Oxford, Swansea and Warwick.



Allen, A. (2007), 'Systematically distorted subjectivity?: Habermas and the critique of power', Philosophy and Social Criticism, 33 (5), 641-50, available online at, accessed on 21 December 2010

Benjamin, J. (1998), The Shadow of the Other, New York: Routledge

Bevir, M. (1999), 'Foucault and Critique: Deploying Agency Against Autonomy', Political Theory, 27 (1), 65-84, available online at, accessed on 20 December 2010

Collini, S. (2009), 'The humanities and the REF', available online at, accessed on 15 December 2009

Foucault, M. (1977a), Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan, London: Penguin Books Ltd

Foucault, M. (1977b), Power/Knowledge, ed. Colin Gordon, Hemel Hempstead: The Harvester Press

Foucault, M. (1984a), 'What Is Enlightenment?', The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, trans. Catherine Porter, New York: Pantheon Books

Foucault, M. (1984b), The History of Sexuality, volume 1, trans. Robert Hurley, London: Penguin Books Ltd, 3 vols

Foucault, M. (1986), 'Kant on Enlightenment and revolution', Economy and Society, 15 (1), 10-18, available online at, accessed on 19 December 2010

Foucault, M. (1988), as cited in Politics, philosophy, culture: interviews and other writings, 1977-1984, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman, trans. Alan Sheridan, London: Routledge

Freud, S. (2002), Civilization and Its Discontents, ed. Leo Bersani, trans. David McLintock, London: Penguin (originally published as Das Unbehagen in der Kultur by Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag in 1930)

Fuller, S. (1999), 'Making the University Fit for Critical Intellectuals: Recovering from the Ravages of the Postmodern Condition', British Educational Research Journal, 25 (5), 583-96

Fuller, S., (2009), The Sociology of Intellectual Life: The Career of the Mind in and around the Academy, London: SAGE Publications Ltd

Habermas, J. (1993), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger, Cambridge, MIT Press

Kant, I. (1784), 'What Is Enlightenment?', available online at, accessed on 16 December 2009

Marx, K. (1844), 'For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing', available online at, accessed on 20 December 2010

Miller, S. (2007), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available online at, accessed on 22 December 2009

Popkewitz, T. S. (2010), 'The production of reason and power: Curriculum history and intellectual traditions', Journal of Curriculum Studies, 29 (2), 131-64, available online at, accessed on 21 December 2010

Rabinow, P. (1991), The Foucault Reader, trans. Catherine Porter, New York: Pantheon Books

Schmitt, C. (2000), The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT Press

Turner, J. (1997), The Institutional Order, New York: Longman

Valade-DeMelo, L. (Ipsos MORI) (2009), 'Impact of the economic recession on university library and IT services', published by Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), available online at, accessed on 23 December 2009

Wolff, R. P. (1973), The Autonomy of Reason: A Commentary on Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, New York: Harper & Row

Wood, A. (2005), Kant, Oxford: Blackwell


To cite this paper please use the following details: Fender, K. (2011), 'We Need Education - Not Just Thought Control: Kant, Foucault and Tempered Thought', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 4, Issue 1, Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal at warwick dot ac dot uk.