Foucault and the Theories of Power and Identity Essay
1366 WordsMar 21st, 20056 Pages
Foucault believed that power is never in any one person's hands, it does not show itself in any obvious manner but rather as something that works its way into our imaginations and serves to constrain how we act. For example in the setting of a workplace the power does not pass from the top down; instead it circulates through their organizational practices. Such practices act like a grid, provoking and inciting certain courses of action and denying others. Foucault considers this as no straightforward matter and believes that it rests on how far individuals interpret what is being laid down as "obvious" or "self evident", institutional power works best when all parties accept it willingly. Foucault's notion of power is a difficult notion to…show more content…
In that sense power acts as a positive force as oppose to a negative one; it enables people to control their own lives. Although power is seen as an unrestricted issue it is still viewed by Foucault as a stabilising force that leaves little room for manoeuvre, the way in which this is done is by, for example, a workplace closing down possibilities, inciting or inducing a certain course of action as oppose to proliferating them, this is the way in which they keep a hold on peoples lives, ordering them in a particular direction. It is at this point, Foucault argues, where the workforce feels as if they are being monitored, that they "bring themselves into line and assume the role that has been indirectly carved out for them."2 In other terms "power works on and through agents in ways which structurally limit what they otherwise might have done."3 "This method of domination is that it is through people working on their own conduct that they bring themselves to order. At the level of the ongoing running of institutions on a day-to-day basis, individuals internalise what is expected of them because it seems the right and proper thing to do. If this sounds less than total domination, that is
Michel Foucault Essay
Foucault, Michel (1926-1984), French philosopher, who attempted to show that the basic ideas which people normally take to be permanent truths about human nature and society change in the course of history. His studies challenged the influence of German political philosopher Karl Marx and Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Foucault offered new concepts that challenged people's assumptions about prisons, the police, insurance, care of the mentally ill, gay rights, and welfare.
He sees himself as a transdiscursive author: this term identifies an author (like Foucault) as not just the author of a book, but the author of a theory, tradition, or discipline.
Foucault has influenced various fields like the study of subjectivity, power, knowledge, discourse, history, sexuality, madness, and the penal system. He is considered as a great influence in new historicism because its not just literature being studied, but the discourse of power, knowledge, sexuality, discipline, different social, political, and cultural practices.
Foucault looks at various topics as discourses: ways of constituting knowledge, together with social practices, forms of subjectivity and the power relations which inhere in such knowledges, and the relations between them.
Example: the discourse of language is not looked at as the linguistic codes that generate a set of statements , rather it deals with rules that govern the practice of language, who is entitled to speak , and how language prohibits some and marginalize others . These rules are not mysteriously imbedded deep in the discourse , but are to be found by looking at the contexts and institutions in which discourse is spoken , such as hospitals and asylums or professions and disciplines. " (Foucault As An Author , p10)
Language can be used to classify people (sometimes permanently) with some socially charged labels: criminals, terrorists, communists, gays, insane, etc. This is how power is practiced in this discourse. Therefore language is an exchange of power between a label and the labeled (like signifier and signified).
However, unlike Saussure's structuralism, there is no universal "truth" or model for language; in Foucault's point of view, the power relation in these different discourses are always in a state of changing history, a temporary thing with no final truth/knowledge to be discovered.
Example: Foucault shows how the discourse of language on homosexuality shifted from describing a practice to describing a person or...
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