Michel Foucault
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Michel Foucault. Foucault vs. Marx. Like Marx, Foucault interested in inequality, in the exercise of power – but he departs from Marxist approaches in fundamental ways Foucault criticizes presumption of historical progress Foucault criticizes attempt to create “metatheory”

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Foucault vs. Marx

  • Like Marx, Foucault interested in inequality, in the exercise of power – but he departs from Marxist approaches in fundamental ways

    • Foucault criticizes presumption of historical progress

    • Foucault criticizes attempt to create “metatheory”

    • Foucault criticizes notion that theorists can chart path to alternative future

    • For Foucault, “there is no escaping the house of power”

  • Foucault focuses on way in which individual is forged by society, way modern institutions exercise power on individuals in subtle ways

    Marx:

  • capitalism is structure of domination: individuals are exploited (and exploitative) when inside this structure

  • only answer is to break system, create new one

    Foucault:

  • the individual is created by society such that power is internalized; we perpetuate our own domination


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Criticism of “progress”

  • Transition from extraordinarily brutal to more “civilized” forms of punishment

    • May appear more humane, but Foucault questions these assumptions

    • Progression from scaffold  prison is same as:

      • spectacular brutality/repression  microregulation

      • passionate punishment  discipline

      • imposing pain on body  reworking soul

  • Modern punishment intended to “cure” rather than kill

  • Sites of punishment expand beyond scaffold to schools, hospitals, family, churches

  • punishment becomes “rehabilitation”:

    • intended not to punish offense but to neutralize person’s dangerous side, restore individual so s/he can function in society

    • punishment is, in a sense, treatment (p 22)


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Power/knowledge

  • Hallmark of contemporary society is melding of knowledge and power and its use for social control

  • Means more than simply “knowledge is power” => by knowing, we control

  • In contemporary societies, power is exercised through discipline rather than repression


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Discipline

  • Definition of discipline:

    “‘Discipline’ may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a ‘physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology.” (p. 215)

  • Power is a “network of relations, constantly in tension, in activity, rather than a privilege that one might possess; one should take as its model a perpetual battle… this power is exercised rather than possessed; it is not the ‘privilege’ of the dominant class, but the overall effect of its strategic positions – an effect that is manifested and sometimes extended by the position of those who are dominated.” (p. 26)


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Huh?

  • We live in a world crisscrossed with instruments of power/knowledge; no one possesses these, but they shape all of us in ways that induce conformity

  • We are produced by this system; we replicate it; it is not external to us

    • “Discipline ‘makes’ individuals; it is the specific technique of power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise.” (p 170)


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Hierarchical observation Normalizing judgments, Examination

  • Watching people provides a great way to control them

  • Perfect disciplinary apparatus = single gaze sees everything constantly (p 173)

  • “By means of such surveillance, disciplinary power became an ‘integrated’ system, linked from the inside to the economy and to the aims of the mechanism in which it was practiced. It was also organized as a multiple, automatic, and anonymous power; for although surveillance rests on individuals, its functioning is that of a network of relations from top to bottom, but also to a certain extent, from bottom to top and laterally. The power in the hierarchized surveillance of the disciplines is not possessed as a thing, or transferred as a property; it functions like a piece of machinery. And, although it is true that its pyramidal organization gives it a head, it is the apparatus as a whole that produces ‘power’ and distributes individuals in this permanent and continuous field.” (pp 176-77)


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Hierarchical observation Normalizing judgments, Examination

  • Disciplinary power is indiscreet (everywhere and always alert, affecting everyone) and discreet (functions permanently, largely in silence) (p 177)

  • “Discipline makes possible the operation of a relational power that sustains itself by its own mechanism and which, for the spectacle of public events, substitutes the uninterrupted play of calculated gazes.” (p. 177)


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Normalizing judgment Normalizing judgments, Examination

5 points:

1. “At heart of all disciplinary systems functions a small penal mechanism.” (p. 177)

  • workshop, school etc. subject to micro-penality of time, speech, activity, and the body

  • whole series of subtle procedures used – everything might serve to punish and every departure from correct behavior might be punished


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Normalizing judgment Normalizing judgments, Examination

2. offenses are not only infractions but inabilities to measure up to required level

  • enforced order is artificial (laid down by explicit law) and also natural (defined by natural and observable processes relating to one’s ability to conform, i.e. can’t require students to read at a level beyond their development) =>punishment has a doublejuridico-natural reference(p. 179)


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Normalizing judgment Normalizing judgments, Examination

3. disciplinary punishment has function of reducing gaps -> it’s corrective

  • favors punishments that are exercise-intensified, multiplied forms of training (allow means of advancing subject’s progress through correcting defects)

  • under discipline, not so much the vengeance of an outraged law as its repetition, insistence

  • expiation, repentance only incidental

  • to punish is to exercise (p. 180)


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Normalizing judgment Normalizing judgments, Examination

4. punishment (disciplinary power) is only one element of double system: gratification-punishment

  • this 2-element mechanism makes possible definition of behavior, performance on basis of 2 opposed values of good/evil

  • all behavior falls in field between good pole and bad pole, so it is possible to quantify field, obtain punitive balance-sheet of each individual  can hierarchize ‘good’ and ‘bad’ subjects in relation to one another  differentiation not of acts, but of individuals


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Normalizing judgment Normalizing judgments, Examination

5. distribution according to ranks: marks gaps and also punishes/rewards

  • rank in itself is a reward (or punishment)

  • double effect: distributes individuals according to aptitude or conduct; exercises pressure to conform to same model (p. 182)

  • traces the external frontier of the abnormal

  • “the perpetual penality that traverses all points and supervises every instant in the disciplinary institutions compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short it normalizes.” (p. 183)


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  • “The disciplinary mechanisms secreted a ‘ Normalizing judgments, Examinationpenality of the norm’, which is irreducible in its principles and functioning to the traditional penality of the law. The minor court that seems to sit permanently in the buildings of discipline, and which sometimes assumes the theatrical form of the great legal apparatus, must not mislead us: it does not bring, except for a few formal remnants, the mechanisms of criminal justice to the web of everyday existence… the disciplines created…a new functioning of punishment, and it was this that gradually invested the great external apparatus.” (p 183)


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The Examination Normalizing judgments, Examination

  • new mechanism that linked knowledge to power (p. 187)

    1.transformed the economy of visibility into the exercise of power

  • “disciplinary power… is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on those whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility.” (p 187)

  • “In discipline, it is the subjects who have to be seen; their visibility assures the hold of the power that is exercised over them.” (p 187)

  • “The examination is the technique by which power, instead of emitting the signs of its potency, instead of imposing its mark on its subjects, holds them in a mechanism of objectification.” (p 187)

  • inversion of visibility = in sovereign power, the sovereign was seen; in disciplinary power, subjects are seen


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The Examination Normalizing judgments, Examination

2. introduces individuality into field of examination

  • situates individuals in a network of writing; “it engages them in a whole mass of documents that capture and fix them” ( p 189)

  • intense registration, documentation

  • made possible to integrate individual data into cumulative systems in such a way that… an individual could be located in the general register (p 190)


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The Examination Normalizing judgments, Examination

3. makes each individual a ‘case’

  • each individual becomes object of descriptions and biographical accounts

  • “examination as the fixing, at once ritual and ‘scientific’, of individual differences, as the pinning down of each individual in his own particularity… clearly indicates the appearance of a new modality of power in which he is linked by his status to the features, the measurements, the gaps, the ‘marks’ that characterize him and make him a case.” (p 192)


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The Examination Normalizing judgments, Examination

  • examination is the center of procedures that constitute the individual as the effect and object of power/knowledge (p 192)

  • this is how individuals are ‘made’: what makes us an individual is what distinguishes us from others, and examination is process by which we observe and mark that distinction

  • under sovereign power, “ascending individualization” : individualization is greatest if powerful

  • under disciplinary power, “descending individualization”:less powerful individuals more subjected to disciplinary gaze


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The panopticon Normalizing judgments, Examination


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The panopticon Normalizing judgments, Examination

  • individual is seen, but does not see

  • the perfection of power renders its actual exercise (force) unnecessary

  • “the ceremonies, the rituals, the marks by which a sovereign’s surplus power was manifested are useless. There is a machinery that assures dissymmetry, disequilibrium, difference. Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power.” (p 202)

  • “he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.” (p 202-3)


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We all live in the panopticon! Normalizing judgments, Examination

  • panopticon therefore becomes “great and new instrument of government”, applicable to other institutions outside penitentiary (p 207)

  • “Panopticon… [is] intended to make [power] more economic and more effective, it does so not for power itself, nor for the immediate salvation of a threatened society: its aim is to strengthen the social forces – to increase production, to develop the economy, spread education, raise the level of public morality; to increase and multiply.” (p. 208)

  • two examples of panoptic discipline: in the prison (exceptional discipline) and in society as a whole (generalized surveillance) (p 209)

  • historically, moved from exceptional discipline to its extension across society


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