chapter  2
19 Pages

The therapeutic disciplines: from Parsons to Foucault

Sociological discourse was fashioned in the midst of the upheavals and conflicts of an industrializing society in which it was imperative to rethink the grounds of social consensus. Under such conditions, the problem of order was subject to a variety of discursive treatments. Thus religionists, moralists, secularists, reformers, and Utopians all vied with one another to invoke past and future orders, to decry conflict and exploitation or to hail the creative and apocalyptic upheaval that could introduce the perfect society. Within this babel of tongues we can now distinguish the particular voices of Marx, Durkheim, and Freud-if not the sombre tones of Weber or the mad cries of Nietzsche. All of these writers were aware of the problem of finding a mode of discourse which would successfully reveal other modes of analysing and prescribing social conduct. Nietzsche aside, we think of Marx, Durkheim, and Freud as founding-fathers because each laid down a science of society. Moreover, they included in their respective sciences an account of ideological and irrational forces of self-interest which prevent the acceptance of the sciences they prescribed for the society they observed. In this Nietzsche has, of course, the final laugh. For he understood the will-to-knowledge as the power of powers which in the modern world can achieve no successful hegemony of virtue.