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Michel Foucault: Power And Identity Essay

2453 words - 10 pages

Michel Foucault and Erving Goffman’s work was centralised around there two different concepts of how your identity is formed through the process of power and expert knowledge. This Essay will discuss the ideas of Michel Foucault who was a French Social Theorist. His theories addressed the relationship between power and knowledge and how both of these are used as a form of social control through society. The essay will look at Foucault’s work in The Body and Sexuality, Madness and Civilisation and Discipline and Punish which displays how he conceptualised Power and identity on a Marxist and macro basis of study. The Essay will also address the Ideas of Erving Goffman who was A Canadian Born Sociologist who’s key study was what he termed as interactional order, that is how the functions of ritual and order of every individual member of society, in everyday life, interact to form social order. He suggested the metaphor of the stage, where people play roles in specific everyday situations using trust and tact, the control of bodily gestures, face and gaze and the use of language to set the parameters of their social interactions. People individually participate in these rules of conduct to produce social order Looking at Goffmans work of the Presentation of One Self in Everyday life, Stigma and Asylums t Goffman argues that it is these interactions, or the interactional order that constructs society. This Essay looks to give an Insight of how Foucault and Goffman Compare and contrast in their theories to give an understanding of how the exertion of power and expert knowledge constructs individuals Identities.
Michel Foucault’s Theory:
Michel Foucault argues a number of points in relation to power and offers definitions that are directly opposed to more traditional liberal and Marxist theories of power. Foucault believed that power is never in any one person's hands, it does not show itself in any obvious manner but rather as something that works its way into our imaginations and serves to constrain how we act. For example in the setting of a workplace the power does not pass from the top down; instead it circulates through their organizational practices. Such practices act like a grid, provoking and inciting certain courses of action and denying others. Foucault considers this as no straightforward matter and believes that it rests on how far individuals interpret what is being laid down as "obvious" or "self evident", institutional power works best when all parties accept it willingly. Foucault's notion of power is a difficult notion to grasp principally because it is never entirely clear on who has the power in the first place, once the idea is removed that power must be vested in someone at the top of the ladder, it becomes much more difficult to identify what power is or where and whom it lies with. Foucault believes that we are used to thinking about power as an identifiable and overt force and that this view is simply not the...

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