Power, discourse and post modernism are key to cultural studies due to the fact that they create and construct cultural and social realities, as well as they construct and produce the identities of the subjects within these realities. Power and discourse dictate what is possible and what is not as well as they endeavour to restrict the movement of individual agents by making them adhere to norms and standards this directly contradicts discourses pertaining to freedom. When regarding this as a certain truth within reality one must question whether individuals are merely subjects of power and discourse, or whether they are agents of it, as well as whether individuals can empower themselves within such a system. This essay will attempt to answer these questions, by utilizing the terms of power, discourse and postmodernism.
The concept of power from the standpoint of cultural studies and in particular this course
is annexed from its conventionally assumed meaning, which pertains to the top down power model whereby, one or a very small set of individuals set out to seize power and exercise it as a singular force over the masses from a position of exteriority. However in the context of cultural studies power is re-contextualised through a number of postmodern discourses which seek to resist the dominant discourses, which claim that power is in fact mediated from above (Enthler N, 2013, week 3). Power from a postmodernist standpoint is exercised from innumerable points within society and acts more like a network which heralds multifaceted interdependencies between individuals, than a structure which exerts power over the powerless (Focault M, 1989).
Power is posited by cultural studies to be both productive and reproductive rather than simply restrictive and sterile. This in and of itself asserts that power is able to restrict and indeed create and shape behaviour, in the way in which it utilises discourse to naturalise and normalise the certain forms of behaviour it deems necessary to perpetuate capitalist systems and ideologies. This is often seen in the realm of bio politics whereby institutions, such as the state utilise discourses in order emphasise the importance of having healthy bodies, as well as they attempt to de-naturalize and de-normalize bodies that do not adhere to a certain criteria. This in effect leads agents with DE-normalized bodies to seek to alter their bodies in order to reap the rewards and benefits of adhering to society's standards of beauty, as well as to avoid being steeped in negative discourses and being labelled with the associated stereotypes those discourses engender upon those who do not adhere to societal norms. This of course is divisive in the way in which it targets undesirable social subjects and attempts to subjugate their bodies; in order to create healthy, productive and yet docile bodies that adhere to the norms and standards set forth by institutions in which dominant power structures are situated...