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The Apparatus Of Power And Sexuality In Foucault’S Philosophy

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Autor:   •  November 15, 2010  •  5,683 Words (23 Pages)  •  2,319 Views

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A political theorist once claimed that one should be most critical of ideas that have been deemed normal or scientific. For the most part, these notions that have been branded as “facts of life” carry with them several nuisances and drawbacks that people often ignore or fail to see since they are primarily held by many as irreplaceable truths. Unfortunately, such non-examined concepts are normalized in the level of human consciousness and in effect, rendering the individual a myopic perspective of reality. This has been the context by which Michel Foucault built his overall frameworks of thought. As a philosopher and cultural historian, Foucault underscored in his writings that the fundamental ideas that people commonly consider as the permanent truths of their being have changed throughout the course of history. Without a doubt, with his unorthodox contemplations on the disciplinary society and the distortions of human sexuality, Michel Foucault’s influence to the postmodernist movement and contemporary philosophical thought is undeniably significant and of great magnitude.

The concept of power is the overriding principle of Foucault’s philosophy. Foucault’s philosophical equation has power as the “principle of development and integration within our society.” Power is often defined as the relation between two people or parties wherein one influences the other’s set of behaviors and actions. In essence, it entails the restraint, obstruction or modification of one’s personal will by subjecting his individual faculties. But Foucault, for the most part, is not adhering to such strict definitions. He once asserted that “the only thing that could be said about power in general is that it is an open-ended, more or less coordinated вЂ?cluster of relations.’ For him, there is no evident meaning or particular description that can capture the extent of such concept. Nevertheless, the fact remains that power is an omnipresent element in both micro-level relationships, as well as, in the macro plane of societies. Without a doubt, in Foucault’s analysis, power is exercised in various forms, settings and circumstances.

“Instead of portraying power as the property of any particular group or institution, Foucault preferred to describe it as a heterogeneous ensemble of strategies and techniques. He was thus skeptical of any approach, which mapped power onto an abstract model of class relations..

..Rather than confining his analysis to key institutions such as the state, he emphasized that power took many forms, often at its most effective where is was least visible. He remarked that “we must escape from the limited field of juridical sovereignty and state institutions, and instead base our analysis of power on the study of the techniques and tactics of domination.”

Moreover, there is a prevalent understanding that power is a subtractive force that only deal with dirty politics and endless enmities and struggles. However, Foucault declares the contrary. He highlights the fact that power is more than the negativity it is commonly associated with. In more ways than one, power could operate as a positive force that can form the entirety of subjects. By the same token, in a January 1976 lecture, Foucault echoes the same sentiment by saying that “power [should be considered], if properly speaking, as the way in which relations of forces are deployed and given concrete expression rather than analyzing it in terms of cession, contract, alienation, struggle, conflict or war.” In the end, although Foucault is admitting that power has an inclination towards dispute and strife, he “underscores its distinctness from domination, in which the вЂ?free play’ of plurality of agents has given way to the вЂ?stable mechanisms’ of a single dominant agent.” In effect, the target of power is never forced, victimized or rendered useless.

In Discipline and Punish, Foucault created a blueprint for the evolution of power relationships in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries characterized primarily by a theoretical shift from a mere concentration on the body towards focusing more on the soul. He explores the changing frameworks of power in the course of history through a social analysis of the developing techniques of penalizing offenses and circumscribed his interpretations in a particular genealogy of power. In spite of the fact that Foucault only includes in his philosophical equation the modifications of corrective measures in the judicial system, his ideas also transcend into the social realm. For the most part, his genealogy is also relevant to the power mechanisms existing within modern societies.

Portraying the common power relationships characteristic of the pre-modern world, one of Foucault’s “regimes” of power involves the mere expulsion or elimination of the individual from the community. This exclusionary measure can take various forms вЂ" from physically executing the criminal like what happened during the inquisition of witches or the execution of Damiens in front of the French church to less crude arrangements such as exile or seclusion of the convict in the outskirts of society. But more importantly, exclusion also pertains to the basic confinement or isolation as seen through the measures taken by a plague-stricken town in Discipline and Punish. Foucault describes such situation in vivid detail.

“First, a spatial partitioning: the closing of the town and its outlying districts, a prohibition to leave the town on pain of death, the killing of all stray animals; the division of the town into distinct quarters, each governed by an intendant. Each street is placed under the authority of a syndic, who keeps it under surveillance; on the appointed day, everyone is ordered to stay indoors: it is forbidden to leave on pain of death.”

In essence, the town is isolated, cautiously guarded and sequestered by and large. Such implementation of power is the “most effective power of organization for the exercise of absolutistic punitive measures; since the model of the plague city help to acquire a varied and discriminating knowledge of control and organization methods, it was even more efficient as a power model of internment.” But despite the effectiveness of such method, Foucault did not endorse such set-up and for him, it is a far cry from the potency of disciplinary societies. The plague-stricken, for the most part, still employs physical force to achieve its objectives

From the regime of


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