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In Foucault's Discipline, John S. Ransom extracts a distinctive vision of the political world—and oppositional possibilities within it—from the welter of disparate.
Table of contents

London: Alen Lane. Security Territory Population. The Birth of Biopolitics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Wrong-Doing Truth-Telling: the function of avowal in justice.

Chicago: University Chicago Press. Frazer Nancy. Rereading Foucault in the shadow of globalization. Gamez Patrick. Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy. Jessop Bob.

The State: Past present future. Hansen Magnus. Karlsen Mads and Kaspar Villadsen. Kelly Mark. Foucault and politics: A critical introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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Kipnis Andrew. Lorenzini Danielle. Senellart Michel. New York: Palgrave Macmillan pp.

Power and Subjectivity in Foucault

Trianfillou Peter. New forms of governing: a Foucauldian inspired analysis. It is Michel Foucault who, during the s, turns away from the more narrowly methodological concerns which preoccupied him during the late s, and begins to develop the theory of power which disillusionment with the political inadequacy of structuralism required. It is true that Foucault often appears to be producing theoretical generalizations about the nature of power.

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Indeed, it can be argued that it is the persistence with which Foucault has held to and elaborated his understanding of the historical foundations of the modern West, and the strikingness of the image and allegory through which he has expressed his stance towards the process of modernization, which have been central to his force and his appeal, rather than his modishly fluctuating, and often inconsistent, theoretical and philosophical pronouncements.

Foucault does not deny the economic dimension of the process of confinement, as a measure intended to reduce social pressures during a period of inflation and unemployment, but is far more concerned with the effects and implications of what he considers to be a new conception of the state as preserver and augmenter of the general welfare, and with the manner in which this conception intersects with a project of homogenization and moralization of the populace.

Modern forms of public provision and welfare, Foucault implies, are inseparable from ever tighter forms of social and psychological control. Foucault's first biographer, Didier Eribon , described the philosopher as "a complex, many-sided character", and that "under one mask there is always another". Foucault was an atheist. Foucault's colleague Pierre Bourdieu summarised the philosopher's thought as "a long exploration of transgression, of going beyond social limits, always inseparably linked to knowledge and power.

Philosopher Philip Stokes of the University of Reading noted that overall, Foucault's work was "dark and pessimistic", but that it did leave some room for optimism, in that it illustrates how the discipline of philosophy can be used to highlight areas of domination. In doing so, Stokes claimed, we are able to understand how we are being dominated and strive to build social structures that minimise this risk of domination.

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Later in his life, Foucault explained that his work was less about analysing power as a phenomenon than about trying to characterise the different ways in which contemporary society has expressed the use of power to "objectivise subjects. A second, and related form, has been to categorise and 'normalise' human subjects by identifying madness, illness, physical features, and so on. The third relates to the manner in which the impulse to fashion sexual identities and train one's own body to engage in routines and practices ends up reproducing certain patterns within a given society.

Politically, Foucault was a leftist through much of his life, but his particular stance within the left often changed. In the early s he had been a member of the French Communist Party , although he never adopted an orthodox Marxist viewpoint and left the party after three years, disgusted by the prejudice against Jews and homosexuals within its ranks. After spending some time working in Poland, then governed as a socialist state by the Polish United Workers' Party , he became further disillusioned with communist ideology.

As a result, in the early s he was considered to be "violently anticommunist" by some of his detractors, [] even though he was involved in leftist campaigns along with most of his students and colleagues. Foucault was among a number of intellectuals who signed a petition to the French parliament calling for the decriminalization of all consensual sexual relations between adults and minors below the age of fifteen the age of consent in France.

In addition to his philosophical work, Foucault also wrote on literature. It is Foucault's only book-length work on literature. Foucault described it as "by far the book I wrote most easily, with the greatest pleasure, and most rapidly. Foucault's works have exercised a powerful influence over numerous humanistic and social scientific disciplines as one of the most influential and controversial scholars of the post-World War II period. According to Gary Gutting , Foucault's "detailed historical remarks on the emergence of disciplinary and regulatory biopower have been widely influential.

More originally than any other contemporary thinker, he has attempted to define the historical constraints under which we live, at the same time that he has been anxious to account for -- if possible, even to locate -- the points at which we might resist those constraints and counter some of the moves of power. In the present climate of cynical disgust with the exercise of political power, Foucault's importance can hardly be exaggerated. They claim that through discourse analysis , hierarchies may be uncovered and questioned by way of analyzing the corresponding fields of knowledge through which they are legitimated.

This is one of the ways that Foucault's work is linked to critical theory. Foucault's discussions of the relationship between power and knowledge has influenced postcolonial critiques in explaining the discursive formation of colonialism, particularly in Edward Said's work Orientalism. A prominent critique of Foucault's thought concerns his refusal to propose positive solutions to the social and political issues that he critiques.


Since no human relation is devoid of power, freedom becomes elusive—even as an ideal. The theory undercuts its own claims. The philosopher Richard Rorty has argued that Foucault's "archaeology of knowledge" is fundamentally negative, and thus fails to adequately establish any "new" theory of knowledge per se. Rather, Foucault simply provides a few valuable maxims regarding the reading of history. Rorty writes:. As far as I can see, all he has to offer are brilliant redescriptions of the past, supplemented by helpful hints on how to avoid being trapped by old historiographical assumptions.

These hints consist largely of saying: "do not look for progress or meaning in history; do not see the history of a given activity, of any segment of culture, as the development of rationality or of freedom; do not use any philosophical vocabulary to characterize the essence of such activity or the goal it serves; do not assume that the way this activity is presently conducted gives any clue to the goals it served in the past".

Foucault has frequently been criticized by historians for what they consider to be a lack of rigor in his analyses. According to Wehler, Foucault's works are not only insufficient in their empiric historical aspects, but also often contradictory and lacking in clarity. For example, Foucault's concept of power is "desperatingly undifferentiated", and Foucault's thesis of a "disciplinary society" is, according to Wehler, only possible because Foucault does not properly differentiate between authority, force, power, violence and legitimacy.

Also, Wehler criticizes Foucault's "francocentrism" because he did not take into consideration major German-speaking theorists of social sciences like Max Weber and Norbert Elias. In all, Wehler concludes that Foucault is "because of the endless series of flaws in his so-called empirical studies Though American feminists have built on Foucault's critiques of the historical construction of gender roles and sexuality, some feminists note the limitations of the masculinist subjectivity and ethical orientation that he describes.

The philosopher Roger Scruton argues in Sexual Desire that Foucault was incorrect to claim, in The History of Sexuality , that sexual morality is culturally relative.

follow He criticizes Foucault for assuming that there could be societies in which a "problematisation" of the sexual did not occur, concluding that, "No history of thought could show the 'problematisation' of sexual experience to be peculiar to certain specific social formations: it is characteristic of personal experience generally, and therefore of every genuine social order.

Foucault's approach to sexuality, which he sees as socially constructed, has become influential in queer theory. Foucault's resistance to identity politics, and his rejection of the psychoanalytic concept of "object choice", stands at odds with some theories of queer identity. Foucault is sometimes criticized for his prominent formulation of principles of social constructionism , which some see as an affront to the concept of truth.

In Foucault's televised debate with Noam Chomsky , Foucault argued against the possibility of any fixed human nature, as posited by Chomsky's concept of innate human faculties. Chomsky argued that concepts of justice were rooted in human reason, whereas Foucault rejected the universal basis for a concept of justice. It's as if he was from a different species, or something.

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa , while acknowledging that Foucault contributed to give a right of citizenship in cultural life to certain marginal and eccentric experiences of sexuality, of cultural repression, of madness , asserts that his radical critique of authority was detrimental to education. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. French philosopher. Poitiers , France. Paris , France. Further information: Michel Foucault bibliography. Main article: Foucault—Habermas debate. Alan Bass Chicago, , p. Human Studies. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary 3rd ed.

SAGE Publications. The Birth Of The Clinic. Tavistock Publications Limited. Open Culture.

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Retrieved 15 March Michel Foucault. Reaktion Books, p. Waggoner Bibliobs in French. Retrieved 21 February Marshall 30 June Michel Foucault: Personal Autonomy and Education. Retrieved 6 December The Subject and Power. University of Chicago Press. Retrieved 25 November