[OPE-L:3241] Foucault on authorship

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Wed May 17 2000 - 07:42:48 EDT

[ show plain text ]

Re Ajit's [OPE-L:3239]:

Foucault may be on to something here. Indeed, it seems to me that
traditional understandings of authorship have been changing in at
least two areas:

1) within large organizations which have research departments.
   Within this context, the product of individual and/or collective
   research becomes the property of the institution (wether it
   be state, corporate, or non-profit) and the question of
   authorship becomes more obscure. Indeed, it is not uncommon
   for the speaker or "author" listed to have had her/his
   talks or papers ghost-written for her/him by others. In
   some ways, though, this gives these writers *more* power
   and influence than they previously had since they can now
   write words not in their name but in the name of some larger
   and more influential individual or institution.

2) how many of the users of computer programs know the authors
   of the programs we use? how many of us care? I.e. we tend
   to view computer programs as a "tool" and are relatively
   unconcerned about who or why the programs were developed.
   I think this attitude towards computer software is real
   enough, but it is also potentially dangerous since the
   individual programs (just like technology in general) were
   developed in the context of a class society for a purpose
   (often connected to the firm goal of increasing the profit
   margin). On the other hand, perhaps there are some ways in
   which these programs originally designed for one purpose
   can be turned around when used by activists fighting for
   social change. Thus, the Internet was designed for one
   purpose for the military but has been usurped by (for good
   and bad) by others.

Despite the above, I don'y think that questions associated with
authorship or going to go away any time soon within economics
or any of the other social sciences (perhaps with the exception
of psychology?). And, indeed, there are real *dangers* to viewing
economic theory as if it were one authorless mass. Moreover, I
think that if it became commonplace it would tend to fit into
the agenda of mainstream (neo-neo-classical) economic thought.
So, I think there are very good practical (and theoretical)
reasons for why we should continue to be concerned with
authorship and related questions such as the purpose or aim
of the authors.

Thanks for the thought-provoking excerpt.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: a discussion on Wittgenstein would be interesting as well
    since it would raise for discussion the role (and limits?)
    of formal logic within economic theory and the influence of
    this methodology on other heterodox (e.g. PK) streams of

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed May 31 2000 - 00:00:10 EDT