Document Type


Publication Date



Communication Studies


This paper argues that Foucault’s proposed positive program of practical critique in his later work, which he calls ‘critical ontology,’ provides a response to his critics. The goal of critical ontology is to “separate out, from the contingency that has made us what we are, the possibility of no longer being, doing or thinking what we are, do, or think.” However, it may be objected that, since Foucault emphasizes going beyond contingencies, it appears that he is guilty of committing a kind of genetic fallacy. I will defend Foucault against such a charge by using concepts and practices in child development as an illustration. The example of child development is fitting for political theorizing because the development model of childhood is now central to the practices and policies of healthcare providers, social workers and educators. Such practices and policies aim to enhance the abilities of individuals to be both citizens and autonomous agents. Yet the effects of these policies on individuals are not always positive. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of critical ontology for practices grounded in the model of child development.


This article was originally published in Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique, 37(4): 863-882 . © 2004 Cambridge University Press.

Included in

Communication Commons