Butler Framework

The value criterion is...including people in our frames of reference.

Here are some of the best justifications for a Butler framework.

Foucault explains how what we think of as “truth” is actually determined by power structures that erect a regime of “truth” to legitimate the existence of such structures. It is the structures, which we must overturn in order to make ethical decisions.

Michel Foucault. Power And Knowledge. 1980.

It seems to me that what must now be taken into account in the intellectual is not the ‘bearer of universal values’. Rather, it’s the person occupying a specific position- but whose specificity is linked, in a society like ours, to the general functioning of an apparatus of truth. In other words, the intellectual has a three-fold specificity: that of his class position (whether as petty-bourgeois in the service of capitalism or “organic” intellectual of the proletariat); that of is conditions of life and work, linked to his condition as an intellectual (his field of research, his place in a laboratory, the political and economic demands to which he submits or against which he rebels, in the university, the hospital, etc.); lastly, the specificity of the politics of truth in our societies. And its with this last factor that his position can take on a general significance and that his local, specific struggle can have effects and implications which are not simply professional or sectoral. The intellectual can operate and struggle at the general level of that regime of truth which is so essential to the structure and functioning of our society. There is a battle ‘for truth’, or at least ‘around truth’- it being understood once again that by truth I do not mean ‘the ensemble of truths which are to be discovered and accepted’, but rather ‘the ensemble of rules according to which the true and false are separated and specific effects of power attached to the true’, it being understood also that it’s not a matter of a battle ‘on behalf’ of the truth, but of a battle about the status of truth and the economic and political role it plays. It is necessary to think of the political problems of intellectuals not in terms of ‘’science’ and ‘ideology’, but in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘power’. And thus the question of the professionalisation of intellectuals and the divisions between intellectual and manual labour can be envisaged in a new way. All this must seem very confused and uncertain. Uncertain indeed, and what I am saying here is above all to be taken as a hypothesis. In order for it to be a little less confused, however, I would like to put forward a few ‘propositions’- not firm assertions, but simply suggestions to be further tested and evaluated. ‘Truth’ is linked in a circular relation with systems of power, which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it. A ‘regime’ of truth. This regime is not merely ideological or superstructural; it was condition of the formulation and development of capitalism. And it’s this same regime which, subject to certain modifications, operates in the socialist countries ( I leave open here the question of China, about which I know little). The essential political problem for the intellectual is not to criticize the ideological contents supposedly linked to science, or to ensure that his own scientific practice is accompanied by a correct ideology, but that of ascertaining the possibility of constituting a new politics of truth. The problem is not changing people’s consciousnesses- or what’s in their heads- but the political economic, institutional regime of the production of truth. It’s not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already power) but of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic, and cultural, within which it operates at the present time. The political question, to sum up, is not error, illusion, alienated consciousness or ideology; it is the truth itself. Hence the importance of Nietzsche.

Moreover, we can never understand the nature of morality unless we first know who we have obligations to. This means that interrogating power structures must come first because it is the power structures that frame whose lives count. Butler explains:

Butler, Judith. Frames of War (2009), 138 

We ask such normative questions as if we know what we mean by the subjects even as we do not always know how best to represent or recognize various subjects. Indeed, the “we” who asks such questions for the most part assumes that the problem is a normative one, namely, how best to arrange political life so that recognition and representation can take place. And though surely this is a crucial, if not the most crucial, normative question to ask, we cannot possibility approach an answer if we do not consider the ontology of the subject whose recognition and representation is at issue. Moreover, any inquiry into that ontology requires that we consider another level at which the normative operates, namely, through norms that produce the idea of the human who is worthy of recognition and representation at all. That is to say, we cannot ask and answer the most commonly understood normative questions, regarding how best to represent or recognize such subjects, if we fail to understand the differential of power at work that distinguishes between those subjects who will be eligible for recognition and those who will not.


Thus the standard is including people in our frames of reference.

[This framework originally and generously contributed by Harvard-Westlake.]