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Foucault History

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  • 8/18/2019 Foucault History



    Michel Foucault A Brief Overview

  • 8/18/2019 Foucault History



    His Work• His writings have had an enormous impact on

    other scholarly work: Foucaults influence e!tendsacross the humanities and social sciences" andacross many applied and professional areas ofstudy#

    • He$s well known for his criti%ues of various socialinstitutions" most nota&ly psychiatry" medicine andthe prison system" and also for his ideas on thehistory of se!uality#

    • His general theories concerning power and the

    relation &etween power and knowledge" as well ashis ideas concerning 'discourse' in relation to the

  • 8/18/2019 Foucault History



    Brief Overview• history of Western thought have &een widely

    discussed and applied#

    • Foucault was also opposed to all socialconstructs that implied an identity" which includedeverything from the identity of male(female andhomose!uality" to that of criminals and political


    • His work is often descri&ed as postmodernist orpost)structuralist &y contemporary commentators

    and critics#

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    Brief Overview•

    *uring the +,-.s" however" he was more oftenassociated with the structuralist movement#

    •  Although he was initially happy to go along with

    this description" he later emphasi/ed hisdistance from the structuralist approach" arguingthat unlike the structuralists he did not adopt aformalist approach#

    • 0either was he interested in having thepostmodern la&el applied to his own work"saying he preferred to discuss how modernity

    was defined#

  • 8/18/2019 Foucault History



    1riticisms• Many thinkers have critici/ed Foucault" ranging

    from 23rgen Ha&ermas" and 2ac%ues *errida to4lavo5 6i7ek# 

    • While each of them takes issue with different

    aspects of Foucaults work" all of these approachesshare the same &asic orientation:

    • Foucault seems to re5ect the li&eral values andphilosophy associated with the 8nlightenment while

    simultaneously secretly relying on them#

    • 9hey argue that this failure either makes himdangerously nihilistic" or that he cannot &e taken

    seriously in his disavowal of normative values andin fact his work ultimatel resu oses them#

  • 8/18/2019 Foucault History



    1riticisms• 4ome historians as well as others have also

    critici/ed Foucault for his use of historicalinformation" claiming that he fre%uentlymisrepresented things" got his facts wrong" orsimply made them up entirely#

    • erhaps the most nota&le of these was 2ac%ues*erridas e!tensive criti%ue of Foucaults readingof ;ene *escartes Meditations on Firsthilosophy#

    • *erridas criticism led to a &reak in their

    friendship and marked the &eginning of a fifteen)

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  • 8/18/2019 Foucault History


    The History of Sexuality • 9hree volumes of The History of Sexuality  were

    pu&lished &efore Foucaults death in +,=># 

    • 9he first and most referenced volume" The Willto Knowledge translated in +,??" focusingprimarily on the last two centuries" and thefunctioning of se!uality as a regime of powerand related to the emergence of &iopower#

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    The History of Sexuality 

    • 9he second two volumes" The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self  dealt with the role ofse! in @reek and ;oman anti%uity#

    • Both were pu&lished in +,=>" the year ofFoucaults death" with the second volume &eingtranslated in +,=" and the third in +,=-# A fourth

    volume" dealing with the 1hristian era" wasalmost complete at the time of Foucaults death"&ut there is as yet no indication that it will &epu&lished#

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    Basic 9enets of ower • 9he operation of power cannot &e separated from

    the treatment of knowledge and discourse#

    • Forms of domination are &uilt into the very

    understanding of the common activity or goodssought or whatever forms of the su&stance of arelationship#

    •  All individuals e!ercise" and are su&5ected topower through a net)like organi/ation#

    • ower re%uires the a&andonment of the legal

    view that defines power as the enforcement ofthe law#

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    How ower is 8nacted• 9he effectiveness of power increases as the

    visi&ility decreases#

    • Humans are unaware of the e!tent to whichpower affects lives#

    • Bio)power" a power over life" e!erts a positiveinfluence on life that drives to control it#

    • ower is productive and creative" not onlyrepressive or prohi&itive#

    • ower operates as a creative force that facilitates"

    produces and increases %ualities and conditions#

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    How ower is 8nacted

    • Opposition to e!isting order occurs throughthe specific intellectual rather than theuniversal intellectual#

    • 4pecific intellectuals are ordinary people whohave knowledge of their circumstances andare a&le to e!press themselves independentlyof the universal theori/ing intellectual#

    • niversal intellectuals is a defender of naturalrights" an advocate of humanity#

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    How ower is 8nacted

    • ;esistance is discourse that &oth createsand constrains#• 1riti%ue is a ma5or tool of resistance &y saying

    things are not 'right' as they are#

    • Only through resistance can reform &e foundin places where a particular &attle needs to &e

    fought and won#