The Solitary Voice of Dissent

Using Foucault and Giddens to Understand an Existential Moment

by Martin Kay

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This book urges respect for solitary dissent rather than censure. It equips a wide audience to understand what previously seemed unimaginable, much less comprehensible. It shows the reader how to reach beyond those first conclusions and into the heart of the matter.

The lone voice explains that something has been hidden away, something which the individual now dissenting can no longer acquiesce in. It raises the possibility that more may be seriously wrong. Those who need to understand range from academics, to researchers, to managers, to elected representatives, to journalists. We all have an interest in knowing not just what has gone wrong but also why this person, and no other, decided they could take no more. If we are to correct a bad situation, rather than just patch it up, we need clarity at every level of the individual’s deepening unease.

The book uses four case studies (two in Ireland, one in UK, all on the record, and one authoritative biography of a well-known Italian personality), to demonstrate an approach to analyzing solitary dissent. The methods used are academic but, in the way they are presented, certainly intelligible to the lay-reader. Indeed, the author (who is one of the case studies) writes with a degree of affection for his two authorities, Michel Foucault and Anthony Giddens, which is engaging, anything but formal, but no less authoritative for that. Another persuasive output of the book is the resonance of solitary dissent with Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism which is also analysed.

The Solitary Voice of Dissent is limited by the extent to which the author has been able to delve into the personal privacy of the case studies offered. With commendable detachment, he is able to examine his own experience; and the biography he has selected allows a similarly deep investigation into the fourth case study. While each personality investigated was male, the author also identifies certain contemporary female dissenters. This is an area increasingly impacting upon the public’s awareness but which no-one has written about before. If we are to mend our society, we need to start a conversation. A wide audience will wish to follow it.

Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Exploring Dissent
Chapter 3 Foucault and Giddens
Chapter 4 Case Study 1 - Martin Kay
Chapter 5 Case Study 2 - Fr Tony Flannery
Chapter 6 Case Study 3 - Peter Oborne
Chapter 7 Case Study 4 - Ignazio Silone
Chapter 8 Discussion
Chapter 9 Thoughts for the future

Martin Kay was born in Ceylon and educated in Scotland, England and Ireland. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Limerick and his home is in Munster, Ireland. His first career was at sea in the British Royal Navy where he specialized as a maritime helicopter pilot. In his second career, he has specialized in coastal and rural regeneration and taken a particular interest in communities in turmoil at the interface with the State.

Between 2012 and 2014, Martin became increasingly involved with the Estuary and lower reaches of the River Shannon, particularly with Riverbank communities and their culture. In February 2014, the area known as King’s Island, Limerick, a depressed part of the City, was severely flooded – and he remained closely in contact with the affected residents and the events that followed. Within the year, he published a narrative entitled The Limerick Flood of 2014: Climate Change and a Case of Unpreparedness which was described as “the missing link between the ‘real-life’ experience of people affected by climate change and the ‘deskbound’ reality in which plans and administrative considerations are formulated” (Prof John Sweeney, NUI Maynooth). Martin’s conclusions are consistent with the findings of a Comptroller & Auditor General official investigation.

Expressly declaring his dissent from the official version of events, Martin cast around for other topical examples and obtained the agreement of Fr Tony Flannery (Galway) and Peter Oborne (London) to his drawing upon their quite different experiences of confronting greater power. Professor Pugliesi’s biography of Ignazio Silone provided the fourth case study to be analysed in The Solitary Voice of Dissent. Martin has written three other books on unrelated subjects.

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Solitary Voice of Dissent

Book Subtitle

Using Foucault and Giddens to Understand an Existential Moment





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Publication date

August 2016