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Genealogy, Phenomenology, Critical Theory

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image of Journal of the Philosophy of History

This paper explains the genealogical method as it is understood and employed in contemporary Continental philosophy. Using a pair of terms from Bernard Williams, genealogy is contrasted with phenomenology as an ‘unmasking’ as opposed to a ‘vindicatory’ method. The genealogical method is also compared with the method of Ideologiekritik and recent critical theory. Although genealogy is usually thought to be allergic to universals, in fact Foucault, Derrida, and Bourdieu do not shun universals, even if they approach them with caution. The conclusion is that genealogy is a viable and productive approach to social criticism and self-transformation.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA;, Email:


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