Michel Foucault (1926-84) Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason(1961). Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception(1963). The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences(1966). The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison(1975). The History of Sexuality, vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge(1976) The History of Sexuality, vol. 2: The Use of Pleasureand vol. 3: The Care of the Self, 1984). - lots of shorter works, articles and interviews collected in Dits et écrits, in English many can be found in the three volumes Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, Power and Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology. - Foucault’s lecture series at Collège de France 1970-84
Foucault: political philosophy • what kind of political philosophy can be found in Foucault? - not a straightforward focus on normative conceptions the focus on power • not: questions of the justification of legitimate political power (political authority) - Foucault avoids the whole problem of legitimate or good power • a study of how power works - and what it does to us => a diagnostic framework: to discern, decipher and unmask what actually is going on and how it effects us - with a primary focus on potentially negative effects - power as such, good or bad?, Foucault: at least dangerous specific focus on dividing practices of power • divides persons along lines of good or bad: mad-sane, healthy-sick, criminal-good guy • splits the subject into traits along lines of good or bad: normal-abnormal, productive-non-productive etc. => inclusive-exclusive effects on persons and on personality traits specific focus on forms of resistance to power • sometimes the situation of power is one of strategic aims that encounters forms of resistance - the possibility of resistance is inherent to power as such => to understand better the forms of resistance through a deep-going analysis of how power works => possible goal (normative aim): to develop better forms of resistance out of this analysis
Foucault: political philosophy as a critical ontology of the present a diagnostic, not a normative framework: to discern, decipher and unmask what actually is going on and how it effects us • emphasis on the empirical and the historical - the impossibility of external frameworks - hermeneutical element: interpretation is only the interpretation of an interpretation => no socio-political reality exist that would be free of the human, interpretative, linguistic element => socio-political reality is humanly construed and any such construction involves a self-interpretation: for example the basic norms of the society in question, the institutions needed, the modes of behaviour necessary, a specific discourse etc. • the task of the diagnostician - compare the medical doctor: the aim is to understand what is going on, what the illness is and what causes it - critical ontology: to understand what/who we are, the effects of power over us and the processes that lies behind these effects - recipe? - remove the illness or more - Foucault: to show the limits imposed on us and our possibilities to transgress these limits • why not a normative theory of the good society? - not possible to justify such a theory externally, in a way free from error and acceptable to all - normative political philosophy ≈ transformation from one form of power to another - Foucault sceptical towards any idea of good power - task of philosophy is different: keep watch over the excesses of reason and of political rationality => philosophy is fundamentally a critical activity
Foucault: political philosophy • Self-descriptions in “What is Enlightenment?”, 1984 “a philosophical ethos consisting in a critique of what we are saying, thinking and doing, through a historical ontology of ourselves”, p. 315 “What is at stake, then, is this: how can the growth of capabilities be disconnected from the intensification of power relations?” (p. 317) “lead to the study of what could be called practical systems … the forms of rationality that organize [persons] ways of doing things and the freedom with which they act within these practical systems” (p. 317 “… three broad areas: relations of control over things, relations of action upon others, relations with oneself … three axes whose specificity and whose interconnections have to be analyzed: the axis of knowledge, the axis of power, the axis of ethics” (p. 317-18) “a body of determined practices and discourses … they have their generality, in the sense that they have continued to recur up to our time” (p. 318) “The critical ontology of ourselves … must be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them” (p. 319)
Foucault: political philosophy “The critical ontology of ourselves … must be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them” (p. 319) methodological coherence: • archaeological and genealogical study of practices as simultaneously - a technological type of rationality - strategic games of liberties practical coherence: • care brought to the process of putting historico-critical reflection to the test of concrete practices theoretical coherence: • definition of the historically unique forms - in which our relations to things, to others, to ourselves have been problematized
Foucault: critical ontology of the present certain general ontological theses: concerning human being and social reality - general assumptions - point towards a historical perspective • freedom - freedom is lack of content, not a content => historical forms of practices of freedom • social reality as human construction and interpretation => historical forms of society ontology of the present • the mode of being of the present • as a historical form: - it has a history: it has emerged from out of a different form - contingency: no necessity involved - changing, transforming power? • “power is everywhere” (History of Sexualityvol 1, p. 93) - ontological in a general sense? No! - “power exists only when it is put into action” (“The Subject and Power, p. 788) • the power is everywhere-thesis refers to the mode of power in the present • partly: power is the name to certain human modes of action through which an epoch (the present) is kept together as a whole
Foucault: critical ontology of the present ontology of the present • the mode of being of the present • as a historical form: - it has a history: it has emerged from out of a different form - contingency: no necessity involved - changing, transforming => methodological orientation archaeology - the study of archives - a descriptive-interpretative account of historical societal forms understood as organized, structured wholes - archives of knowledge, scientific systems - archives of power, forms of power - archives of techniques of selfhood (ethics) etc. genealogy - the study of the emergence of a historical form - the historical moment of transformation - and their inner, historical logic - specifically from the point of view of the present: how did we became what we are? - genealogy of forms of power - genealogy of the modern subject (, l’âme, soul) - genealogy of techniques of selfhood (ethics) etc.
Foucault: political philosophy • study of power - in what sense do these form a political philosophy? - not a straightforward normative theory normative implications in Foucault - Foucault avoids straightforward normative claims - task of philosophy: to warn us about the dangers of power: “philosophy is that which calls into question domination at every level and in every form in which it exists, whether political, economic, sexual, institutional, or what have you” (interview “The Ethics of the Concern of Self as a Practice of Freedom, 1984)” - not: to develop a conception of good power - a set of implied goods: freedom as avoiding power effects (domination), transgressing the limits imposed on us, promote new forms of subjectivity new interpretation of how power works - against the focus on sovereign power “What we need … is a political philosophy that isn’t erected around the problem of sovereignty” (TP, p. 121) - historical-empirical studies of forms of power to understand how power works => connected with a conception of society - and political reason => an understanding of what power does to us • this task of reaching a better understanding may be viewed as normatively neutral? • may have different normative implications (tasks): - what should we aim for: an increase in power vs. a better form of power vs. minimising power vs. avoiding power effects?
Foucault: political philosophy • power not a theory of power - “a theory assumes a prior objectification” SP p. 778 => to have clear conception of what power is - but: what is power is exactly what is in question, what needs to be studied - partly empirical (may exist in numerous different forms), partly conceptual • conceptual needs - need to say something about what roughly is meant by power - in distinction to what? - motivation: why call something power? • type of reality - ontology: where does it exist, how does power work, what does it do? - in what different forms may power be exercised? • ontology of the present (du présent), historical ontology of ourselves (de nous-mêmes) - forms of power that characterises the present, our present - that dominates in the present - restricted to a certain empirical domain: our present
Foucault: political philosophy What is power and how does it work? • an action upon an action (the action of someone else) - power includes an internal relation to freedom, the possibility for the object of power to do otherwise and not to obey, resistance vs. violence as forcing someone to do something - power is a relationship between persons vs. over things • power not located in the will of a sovereign or a subject - located in networks of practices, in relations of power - often at least partly institutionalised - also in customs - e.g.: the subject enters a field involving possibilities and exercises power in terms of the given rules, practices, authorities, norms etc. - “intentional and nonsubjective” (HS vol 1, p. 94): has a direction but anchored in practices, not in the subjects will to power • power exists when it works (has efficacy) => to study the practical systems that embody forms of power
Foucault: political philosophy What is power and how does it work? • to have power is to govern, to conduct the behaviour of others • power (in the present) is productive, not primarily prohibitive - to produce forms of behaviour - perhaps new, more productive forms • (in the present) oriented in two directions at the same time: - totalizing: to govern the whole, a focus on the population as a whole - individualizing: a strong focus on the individual, on moulding the subject • “economy of power” - an economy: to produce maximum (best) effects with a minimal input - essential the more complex society becomes • key issue in the modern economy of power: to make the subjects voluntarily and of their own free will behave in accordance with the aims • disciplinary power - to make subjects act in accordance with certain rules - a key ‘ideal’: a subjects that steers him/herself in accordance with expectations • bio-power - a focus on life, of the subject and of the population as a whole - productivity