The seductions of determinism in development theory: Foucault’s functionalism

In 1985 David Booth wrote a seminal article in which he argued that development theory, mostly Marxist but also modernisation theory, was out of touch with reality, incapable of generating viable policy, and riven with meta-theoretical errors. He recommended a return to empirical case studies, the comparative method, and an awareness of the problems of functionalist and essentialist argument. In the ensuing decade a further range of solutions was offered to bail development theory out of trouble: micro-theory, participatory action research, postmodernism, post-development theory, postcolonialism. Twenty years later the dominance of Marxist and neo-Marxist theories has been replaced by an equally pervasive hegemony of Foucauldian discourse. In signaling the presence of a new impasse, there is much talk of ‘the poverty of post-development’. The intriguing question to ask is: what can development theorists and Third World intellectuals learn about themselves in this constant refrain? [1]

Phenomenal experience and functionalism

this essay is about consciousness as phenomenal experience / its contention is that reference to consciousness in psychological science is demanded, legitimate, and necessary / it is demanded since consciousness is a central (if not the central) aspect of mental life / it is legitimate since there are as reasonable grounds for identifying consciousness as there are for identifying other psychological constructs / it is necessary since it has explanatory value, and since there are grounds for positing that it has causal status

however, the relationship of certain aspects of consciousness to the functionalist approach, which currently dominates and unites natural science, is problematic / those aspects discussed here are phenomenal experience and content / their functionalism will be able to deal with the problems posed, or a purely functionalist psychology will be inadequate / psychology without consciousness, without phenomenal experience or the personal level, may be biology or cybernetics, but it is not psychology (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved) [2]

Aesthetic functionalism

I shall be concerned with the metaphysical issues that Aesthetic Functionalism raises, and I shall here leave aside questions about whether the theory is extensionally adequate. Aesthetic Functionalism applies to a great many works of art (for example, it applies to most paintings and most music). It may or may not apply to all works of art. If it does not, then I can be taken to be providing a theory of those works that have aesthetic aspirations. To have given an account of their nature would be success enough. [3]

How is Block’s Central Argument against Functionalism?

Block argued against functionalism. The argument was metaphorized by building a normal body but with the brain of a homunculus. A review of the metaphorization exposes that the argument is inadequate to avoid the weakness of the functionalist doctrine. [4]


[1] Graaff, J., 2006. The seductions of determinism in development theory: Foucault’s functionalism. Third World Quarterly, 27(8), pp.1387-1400.

[2] Marcel, A.J., 1988. Phenomenal experience and functionalism.

[3] Zangwill, N., 2001. Aesthetic functionalism.

[4] G. Ma, Z. (2018) “How is Block’s Central Argument against Functionalism?”, Asian Research Journal of Arts & Social Sciences, 5(1), pp. 1-4. doi: 10.9734/ARJASS/2018/38093.

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