Book Review: Johanna Oksala, Foucault, Politics, and Violence (Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press, 2012)

08 September 2014

In Foucault, Politics and Violence, Johanna Oksala provides a sophisticated intervention into feminist, political, and Foucauldian literatures addressing the relationship between the politi‐ cal and violence. Oksala lays out a post‐structuralist inquiry into the relationship between violence and political ontology. Adopting Foucault’s approach of “ontology of the present”, Oksala aims to reveal that ontologies are not foundational of the political, but are themselves politicized realities contingent on historical and political struggles. Foucault’s pow‐ er/knowledge is used to “question the ontological necessity” of violence and critically re‐ think the ontological commitments of political theories that regard violence as essential or in‐ strumental to the political. Oksala troubles these commitments in contending that political reality cannot be assumed as given, but is constituted through interpretive struggles and his‐ torical practices of violence. It is therefore necessary to critically examine the ontological un‐ derstanding of the nature of politics in order to critique practices of violence and the rationali‐ ties enabling them. The primary object of Oksala’s critique is political theories that hold violence and poli‐ tics as irreducible. Her main claim “is to show that the connection between violence and the political is not internal or essential, but contingent: violence is not an ineliminable part of politics”