The Distinction of Michel Foucault’s Concept of Power
The Distinction of Michel Foucault’s Concept of Power
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“The most defenseless tenderness and the bloodiest of powers have a similar need of confession - The Distinction of Michel Foucault’s Concept of Power introduction. Western man has become a confessing animal.”
-Michel Foucault, (1978) History of Sexuality:
Probably the well-conceived reality in our current social structure is the concept of power. Particularly, Michel Foucault presented his own version for the concept of power and defied the conventional views on it that has long been accepted by society. His views on power particularly talks about his own ideas of discourse. Foucault mainly revolves on the concept that power is a product of discourse. His concept can be utilized in order for us to understand the relations that involve power that is evident in society. Power, as it was presented by Foucault, is proven to be evident all throughout the current prevailing social structure and at the same time not being assured of power constantly present in all situations.
The Powerful Truth
Such principles that were discussed by Foucault become hegemonic primarily because of the reason that the discourses presented by Foucault are being supported, and in turn accepted as a fact. This generally accepted truth in turn is taken from the obtained knowledge that an individual has and was influenced by society. What Foucault particularly suggested, is that knowledge and power are openly connected to each other. According to Foucault, “power produces knowledge, that power and knowledge directly imply one another”, the statement implies the relationship of interdependence of the concept of power with that of knowledge and that not one of the two will exist without the other. Under this principle, an individual acquires knowledge which in turn obtains power. Truth then in this case, is a form of power in itself. As Foucault wrote it, “We are subjected to the production of truth through power and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth”. As the statement suggests, power is viewed as an offshoot of the truth which in turn was derived from the knowledge obtained from society. As it is, the particular components of society that influence the knowledge that is being obtained by individuals, the manner of its utilization, will then be a major concern as to what the truth really is. This will then be a platform for the certain groups to grab hold on a specific type of power within the limits of society.
Power and the Structure of a Static Society
Foucault indicated in his works that power is not confined to certain groups within society but is scattered all throughout the components that compose our society. He furthered that the concept of power is constantly changing and predicting it would be a near impossible feat. This also created the idea of a temporary power structure in our society whose direction could not be determined. Under Foucault’s structure, power is not by any means static but somewhat exact to the specific society in a given timeframe. Such a concept could also only be comprehended under this circumstance. In order to be able to appreciate how the power structure works in a society under a specific timeframe, it is important that one must appreciate first the methods of applying power within a certain society. Though there are various structures of power, each with own unique aspects, such forms under certain institutions utilize similar processes of practicing power in itself. An example of this is gender and the gender roles that go well with it. One of which is the use of the principle of observation to replace the concept of brutality in controlling society. The utilization of power in this case may be viewed as standard procedure of initiating a procedure. In the end, power will be considered as a form of control. Foucault particularly emphasized that power is with the people and not with just a group through the social capabilities of individuals. This particular theory defies the conventional view on the role of the state in society. He further disagrees that a central power or authority put forth from centralized control structures is not the actual influence within a society. It could then be safe to assume that power is interdependent with one another and that the functions of an individual precede the first one who acted on it.
Resistance and Power Conflicts
Michel Foucault’s idea that power is scattered and temporary occurs between temporary groups over impermanent issues. These results to a situation wherein everytime power or authority is exercised, resistance is likely to occur. In the creation of a significant knowledge about a hegemonic discussion, a new definition of truth can be obtained once resistance takes place. This confrontation in turn would be efficient when done alongside with an application of power than attacking the general will in order for it to be successful. Once acknowledged, this particularly fresh set of facts might then become the norms that could by then draw a new resistance. This way, discourse, power, and truth will be considered as flexible ideas wherein they were never static yet constantly open for resistance. Albeit, Foucault focuses little on Marx’s concept of classes whereas he sees that power is distributed as compared to Marxism’s central party. This specific theory calls for unrestricted and sudden effects to power struggles basically because Michel Foucault does not restrict his views to a small group of interests that dictates conflict. His views which are based on years of observations, permits clash to take place on anything. This may even the thought of broad group interests appears to be neglected. We as individuals then are left with a bit of power slightly than authority as components in fixed groups.
Revolution and Social Change
Foucault further questions the function of revolution in providing the changes in society. Additionally, revolution in Foucault’s discourse is unimportant for making major social changes and is just considered as alternatives. Improvements for Foucault are the result of the variety of diminutive and chiefly domestic conflicts that sums up to the total changes to be done in society. Such a concept thereby changes society’s perception of revolutions. In other words, we then go back to his point that there is no static power in society, so there is a modest range for a revolution. Changes within society are the product of an endless array of undersized and separated differences within his scheme of flexible relations. Since a central power does not exist with Foucault’s theory, small clashes can add up to an effect similar to a revolution. The thing he seems to point out is the thought that the prerequisite for a revolution is associated to the idea of considering politics as a system of a centralized system of power relations. Without sovereign authority, revolutions will further be no longer seen to be an important component of the change that takes place in the world. Foucault’s theory provides the choice of whether revolution becomes one or just a tool for further social change instead of anything that society occasionally subjects itself to, at the same time being primarily outside of society’s limits.
Question on the Nation State
The state or government has particular significance to Foucault’s thoughts on power. Authority is then dispersed between the domestic and global levels, which in turn brings into difficulty the capability of the nation state. Power is thus disseminated, and the nation state might be considered to be either inappropriate, or a national coordinating arrangement for local influence relations, and a regional coordinating organization for the global economic system (“An Analysis and Comparison of Michel Foucault’s and Marx’s Theory of Power Relations.”).
Foucault’s thoughts are considered so as to analyze the purpose of the nation state. This particular thought that power could not be established in our society, such as a sovereign government, but is found at the domestic and international levels, implicates that from this viewpoint the nation state could be seen to be a managing structure for local and global supremacy, or overtly insignificant in certain power relations. Support power relations by then solely on economic relations are just to abridge the power relations within society, and bound power to the state mechanism that would act chiefly in the overall wellbeing of the economy.
In Foucault’s notion of power, there are no stationary or eternal power structures such as social classes. Foucault’s outlook on a barrage of apparently unassociated difference emerges to underestimate such a concept. If society then is composed of continually uneven political climate and power, then it is difficult to decipher how a society could sufficiently arrange for future growth. Furthermore, not only is state power dependent on local components to function, it also is exaggerated by variations of global power. Such thoughts straightforwardly affect the capability of the nation state, since the real power is at the domestic and international points, then the position of the nation state is efficiently underestimated. In this logic then, the nation state could be viewed to be a bit more than a managing entity for local and global authorities.
Additionally, political affairs and the use of power within the government is usually seen to be focused about the national political components. On the current structure, the people are often perceived as the sole provider of power in government structures, just like the case of Prime Ministers yet Foucault discards this outlook. He further disputes that, “power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away”. The rationale for this is because those who are seen to obtain authority are only viewed since others are arranged to proceed in behaviors that binds the person with authority. To Foucault, this leaves us with just the mere delusion of power (“An Analysis and Comparison of Michel Foucault’s and Marx’s Theory of Power Relations.”).
Foucault is saying that the structure which we use in deciphering the concept of power, as dispersed and seized throughout society, the particular structure of sovereign power is essentially defective. This thereby creates the delusion that authority is contained and implemented by the society and masses that represent the state. Foucault is right in this but the entire proclamation of the nation state is gravely doubtful. It could jeopardize the nation state as being at most a coordinating body, or at worst being made insignificant in power relations in an ever more globalized society and economy. If only an organizing entity, then its position could be to permit or help out in the regulating of replies of local control or organizations, which generates the manifestation of centralized government. This comes with a medium or manager of the global authorities within the nation state such that, if immaterial, then a culture could function without it, with authority being alienated between the local and international levels, with no need of a superseding or coordinating configuration. Maybe then, either of these potentials for the nation state becomes more evident when the rising globalization rate of the society today is taken into consideration.
“An Analysis and Comparison of Michel Foucault’s and Marx’s Theory of Power Relations.” 2006. December 20 2006. <http://members.ozemail.com.au/~johnthorpe64/Power.html>.