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Foucault - Essay Example

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This evolution of his theory can be traced from 1960's to 1980's and reveal a pattern of study of how power influences decision-making. In 1960's he uses terms like 'contestation' and 'transgression' and uses them interchangeably. In 1970's Foucault moved to 'struggle' and 'resistance' which are again synonymous. And finally in 1980's he used the term 'agonism'. All these terms used through a period of time defining his core focus on the play of resistance, and Foucault's conceptualization of power rather than strict references made to limits. (AMOUDI)
Foucault's power-resistance relation is a dynamic analysis of the modern day world. The groundwork of the role of power being laid in the previous theories which evolved between 1960's and 1970's, the economics of power has been more rigorously presented in these theories. Michel Foucault goes further to give a definition of power relations in an essay published in 1982: 'The exercise of power is not simply a relationship between partners, individual or collective; it is a way in which certain actions modify others' Although the exercise of power may need violence or consent, these are not inherent to a
power relation. Moreover, one of the consequences of this limit to power is that resistance is the sine qua non condition for power. Indeed, a power relation, is not an action which determines another action, but an action which influences an other action by determining a field of possibility for it. In this field of possibility, ways of resisting are by definition present. The second limit set to power relations, therefore, is fight. According to Foucault, the goal of a fight is either to force the opponent to abandon the game (hence a victory which dissolves the power relation) or to set up a new relation of power. In other words, there is circularity between power relations open to fight and a fight aiming at power relations. Therefore there is a constant instability in a power relationship which excludes by definition any form of determinism. By stressing the ontological link between power and resistance, Foucault invites us to understand his reading of the mechanisms of power he highlights. Power is to be understood then as a form of power, which is perpetually confronted with potential (and some time actual) resistance. (AMOUDI)
In his book Order of Things and Foucault Reader, he addresses the power of observation and the impact of it on the observed. He emphasizes that observing people and judging them requires a degree of conformity, which is less obvious and subsequently, according to Foucault more powerful because of its restrained state. This same impact is seen in Panopticism where Foucault shows a transition in prison systems from physical manipulation to implicit manipulation. This new form of control is implemented through a physical construction that creates the illusion of continual surveillance. This surveillance creates the impetus for self-control. It is the power of being observed which places the role of control on the subjects. People control themselves out of a desire not to be looked down upon - to control their own public reputations. Panopticism works in a similar way - by continual observation or the illusion of continual observation, people are expected to continually discipline themselves so as to avoid being disciplined by an external source (Foucault & Rabinow)
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If there is one statement which really defines Foucault it his own words describing him when he openly states 'Do not ask me who I am and do not ask me to remain the same' (Foucault)(Smart). Foucault was one of the most controversial and influential European intellectuals in the second half of the 20th century…
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Foucault essay example
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