Foucault And Law Essay

1634 words - 7 pages

Foucault also discusses these themes in ‘Society Must Be Defended’. He talks about the way power functions through the formation and organization of knowledge apparatus. This knowledge is accumulated through “the observational methods, the recording techniques, the investigative research procedures”. Intelligence and national security does exactly that, using those methods to collect knowledge and in turn gain power. National security measures could also be described as a “tight grid of disciplinary coercions”, which Foucault states guarantee cohesion of the population. From the constant surveillance of our communications, to simple rules like what we can bring on an airplane, government ...view middle of the document...

Foucault talks about these normalizing procedures, and how this mix of power exercised through rights and the disciplines imposed creates a normalized society. This can definitely be said of intelligence and national security. Through these ideas of “good guys” and “bad guys” we have created a framework where society is controlled and made to behave in a certain way in order to be considered “normal” by the “powers that be”. That’s not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing; perhaps these are necessary mechanisms to maintain an orderly and peaceful society.
Another area of Foucault’s writing that is relevant to these topics is his discussion of war and politics. As he states, “[p]olitics is the continuation of war by other means”. He also discusses society and the law, and how they do not “put an end to wars”, nor are they the product of victories. Instead, he claims war is “the motor behind institutions and order”. Peace, according to Foucault is war in itself, a fight that is being continually waged throughout society. He again brings up the notion of binary structure, believing that this constant war puts us all on one side or another. This is quite easily translated to intelligence and national security. The war waged by intelligence capabilities and national security laws is indeed one that continues beneath the surface, often in secret and during times of “peace”. When one thinks of the battle between countries for increasing intelligence and surveillance capabilities, for example China, the United States, Israel to name a few , it is clear that these countries are continuing war through these mechanisms. They are using intelligence and national security to promote order and in doing so, countries and groups are inevitably pitted against each other, just as Foucault suggests.
The “War on Terror”
Although somewhat tangential to this topic, I think it’s relevant to discuss the war on terror briefly here. This so-called war (which is apparently being waged against an emotion or tactic rather than any one entity) seems to also bring about some of Foucault’s ideas. It is also related to this topic, given that intelligence is a key weapon used in this war . Foucault talks about the changing dynamics of war from the Middle Ages to modern day. “The practices and institutions of war were initially concentrated in the hand of a central power; it gradually transpired that in both de facto and de jure terms, only State powers could wage wars and manipulate the instruments of war”. That changed, however, and war started moving to the “outer limits” of States. This is especially true of the current notions of the war on terror. Although it could be said that on one side this war is being fought by state entities, on the other side it definitely is not. It is being fought against a doctrine, a belief system and against groups of people that traverse borders. Even when wars, often using intelligence apparatus, target state actors,...

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