Essays on foucault and power

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Essays on foucault and power

Support Aeon Donate now Imagine you are asked to compose an ultra-short history of philosophy. You could do worse than to search for the single word that best captures the ideas of every Essays on foucault and power philosopher.

Foucault remains one of the most cited 20th-century thinkers and is, according to some lists, the single most cited figure across the humanities and social sciences. His two most referenced works, Discipline and Punish: Interestingly enough, however, Foucault was not always known for his signature word.

He first gained his massive influence in with the publication of The Order of Things. The original French title gives a better sense of the intellectual milieu in which it was written: This was not just a French fashion. In Richard Rorty, surely the most infamous American philosopher of his generation, summed up the new spirit in the title of his anthology of essays, The Linguistic Turn.

Anglo-American philosophy followed the same line, and so too did most French philosophers except they tended toward the linguistic nature of irrationality instead. For his part, however, Foucault moved on, somewhat singularly among his generation.

Rather than staying in the world of words, in the s he shifted his philosophical attention to power, an idea that promises to help explain how words, or anything else for that matter, come to give things the order that they have.

Power, in Foucault, is not another philosophical godhead. Foucault did not attempt to construct a philosophical fortress around his signature concept. He had witnessed first-hand how the arguments of the linguistic-turn philosophers grew brittle once they were deployed to analyse more and more by way of words.

So Foucault himself expressly refused to develop an overarching theory of power.

Essays on foucault and power

Interviewers would sometimes press him to give them a unified theory, but he always demurred. Such a theory, he said, was simply not the goal of his work. Yet he did not himself offer a philosophy of power. How could this be possible?

His is a philosophical approach to power characterised by innovative, painstaking, sometimes frustrating, and often dazzling attempts to politicise power itself. He wanted to free philosophy to track the movements of power, the heat and the fury of it working to define the order of things.

Before Foucault, political philosophers had presumed that power had an essence: Thomas Hobbesthe English philosopher and original theorist of state power, saw the essence of power as state sovereignty.

Hobbes thought that at its best and purest power would be exercised from the singular position of sovereignty. Foucault never denied the reality of state power in the Hobbesian sense. But his political philosophy emanates from his skepticism about the assumption and it was a mere assumption until Foucault called it into question that the only real power is sovereign power.

Foucault accepted that there were real forces of violence in the world, and not only state violence. There is also corporate violence due to enormous condensations of capital, gender violence in the form of patriarchy, and the violences both overt and subtle of white supremacy in such forms as chattel slavery, real-estate redlining, and now mass incarceration.

Power is all the more cunning because its basic forms can change in response to our efforts to free ourselves from its grip In seeing through the imaginary singularity of power, Foucault was able to also envision it set against itself.

He was able to hypothesise, and therefore to study, the possibility that power does not always assume just one form and that, in virtue of this, a given form of power can coexist alongside, or even come into conflict with, other forms of power.

Such coexistences and conflicts, of course, are not mere speculative conundrums, but are the sort of stuff that one would need to empirically analyse in order to understand. What these studies reveal is that power, which easily frightens us, turns out to be all the more cunning because its basic forms of operation can change in response to our ongoing efforts to free ourselves from its grip.

To take just one example, Foucault wrote about the way in which a classically sovereign space such as the judicial court came to accept into its proceedings the testimony of medical and psychiatric experts whose authority and power were exercised without recourse to sovereign violence.

Foucault showed how the sovereign power of Leviathan think crowns, congresses and capital has over the past years come to confront two new forms of power: More than any other book, it is Discipline and Punish in which Foucault constructs his signature, meticulous style of enquiry into the actual mechanisms of power.

While Foucault worked on this book, he was deeply engaged in its material, leading research seminars and giving huge public lectures that are now being published under such titles as The Punitive Society and Psychiatric Power.

When he eventually organised his archival materials into a book, the result was the consolidated and efficient argumentation of Discipline and Punish.Foucault’s theorisation of the power/knowledge relationship Foucault in theorizing the relationship between power and knowledge basically focused on how .

Foucault's notion of power is a difficult notion to grasp principally because it is never entirely clear on who has the power in the first place, once the idea is removed that power must be vested in someone at the top of the ladder e.g.

the company director, it becomes much more difficult to identify what power is or where and whom it lies with. Foucault’s theorisation of the power/knowledge relationship Foucault in theorizing the relationship between power and knowledge basically focused on how .

Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault Essay Words 8 Pages Stability in terms of society can be defined as the state in which power is clear and defined, and the constituents abide to those in power. Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality, demonstrates that the tools of disciplinarity (which emerged in the confluence of critical, historical upheavals immediately preceding the modern age, such as geometric demographic expansion, reconfiguring global financial and.

For Foucault, 'knowledge ceases to be about liberation and becomes a mode of surveillance, regulation and discipline'.

Examine this statement in relation to Foucault's analysis of power.

Essays on foucault and power
Why Foucault's work on power is more important than ever | Aeon Essays