Doctoral Theory Seminar November 3

Foucault Bilge Yesil

Poststructuralism: (see AK Intro 1, 2, 4, Deleuze, 14, 116)

Foucault does not deny the importance of economy but denies its centrality.

He refuses general, overarching narratives and final definitions. Instead he asserts that ruptures, breaks, thresholds, limits, discontinuity… are more important than continuity or stable structures. Foucault questions teleologies and totalizations. The mode of doing philosophy and history that seeks grand explanatory systems is suspect. Emphasis should be placed on historicity, specificity, locality, multiplicities He argues that there is no infinite continuity of discourse. Discourse shouldn’t be referred to as the distance presences of the origin but should be treated as and when it occurs. Discourse itself is a practice.

History and genealogy: (see AK Intro 2, 3)

History has the form of a war; consists of power relations, not relations of meaning. Genealogy (by way of Nietzsche) is a form of history which can account for the constitution of knowledges, discourses, domains of objects without having to make a reference to a subject which is transcendental in relation to the field of events or is same throughout the course of history.  

Power: ( see Deleuze, 24, 25, 29, 36, 70, 71)

Foucault decentralizes power and argues that it does not operate through class but through mechanisms and strategies. Foucault argues that power should be understood in terms of its operations, techniques, tools (“What does power do?”) rather than in terms of simply what it is. Power is not owned by the state, nor is it specific to any particular organization. It is a machinery that no one owns. Its application points are multiple, dispersed throughout all social institutions. Power, according to Foucault

must be analyzed as something which circulates, or rather as something which only functions in the form of a chain. It is never localized here or there, never in anybody’s hands, never appropriated as a commodity or piece of wealth. Power is employed and exercised through a net-like organization… [Individuals] are not only its inert or consenting target; they are always also the elements of its articulation. …Individuals are the vehicles of power, not its points of application (Power/Knowledge, 98).

Therefore, when analyzing power, one should examine the diversity of the points of applications of power rather than a deep structure. Foucault insists that power is typically present throughout the institutions of modernity, in all kinds of administrative contexts (Discipline and Punish, 227-8). Techniques and strategies of power are always present. They originally develop within institutions like armies, prisons, factories but their influence seeps into the texture of social life.

However, Foucault has been criticized for disarticulating power from social institutions,  overemphasizing its total independence from any class, and for overlooking the ideological dimensions (Hall argues Foucault  has “abandoned the ideological effect”).

“Regime of truth”: (see Deleuze, 51, 52)

For  Foucault, the relationship between knowledge and power is not simply “Knowledge is power.” He is more concerned with the production of “truth.” Foucault argues that “truth” is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and notes that the problem is not changing people’s consciousness but the political, economic, institutional regime of the production of truth.