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The Discourse Of Power. Michael Foucault: History Of Sexuality & Crime And Punishment

1844 words - 8 pages

To Foucault, everything is about powerrelationships. Entwined with power is knowledge sothat in every power relationship there is knowledgeand vice-versa. Foucault takes the cliché "Knowledgeis power" and revises it: the knowledge of humansintegrated with the power that acts on humans equalspower/knowledge. Consequently, power/knowledge (not abinary opposition but an integrated construction) isalways a discursive formation and works throughlanguage. To understand how power/knowledge works,it's important to understand "epistemes" anddiscourse.Epistemes are whole systems of relations or historicalgroupings of knowledge. Foucault looks for truth andknowledge in historical contexts rather ...view middle of the document...

For Foucault, truth is a human constructbased on power. This construct is chosen within theepisteme. There is already desire and power within thehuman quest for truth, and this is what Foucault isinterested in uncovering in examining power relations.He says truth and experience make-up the socialconsciousness of an episteme; truth is the desire forpower/knowledge, and experience is the desire forfreedom. The use of discipline and punishment as asocial force to control bodies requires agreementbetween the empowered and the submissive. Both aresubjects who agree to the power relationshipestablished. The goal of discipline and punishment isself-regulated behavior. Also known as the "physics ofpower." You stop at stoplights because you areself-regulating. You are a compliant subject. Theimplied discipline and punishment for non-compliancecontrols you so that the power/knowledge 'holder' doesnot need to exert physical control over you.Foucault begins Discipline and Punish with a graphicsense of public execution in mid-17th century France.A prisoner accused of murder is tortured, dies, andhis body is burned in the public square before acrowd. Power/knowledge is in the hands of theexecutioner. The crowd actively complies and gives uppower willingly to the one exercising power/knowledge.They comply because they agree (implicitly) with thepower relation set up. They forfeit power so that theywill not be the next one executed. The execution isdisplayed publicly to demonstrate the reaches of powerthat the executioner holds. The idea being, "if Icontrol your soul, then you will comply and beproductive while I retain the source of power." Howcan you best ensure a productive, compliant body?Foucault says surveillance is the key to control.Along with ordering things, we order bodies throughpunishment (or the threat of). There is always apossibility that you are being watched. Prisoners, forexample, can't always see the guard to verify whetherthey are present or not. But their presence is alwaysimplied. Foucault believes that this form ofsurveillance is carried into society. There aresurveillance cameras everywhere. Everyone is watchingor nobody is- who knows?Foucault's book, History of Sexuality, looks at howpower and pleasure reveal the truth about our selves.Power and pleasure are mutually implied; they spiralperpetually with neither one dominating the construct.The discourse of sexuality changes with each episteme.Foucault was interested in how homosexuality turnedinto an "abnormal" behavior and what was the purposeto regulate sexual behavior as normal. The idea thatsex is a product of control, surveillance, andself-expression, therefore those with power/knowledgemust control and regulate sexuality. To ensure aproductive labor pool through procreation,heterosexual sex is deemed normal. Organizations suchas, church, civil, and other sovereign power considerhomosexuals to be abnormal. To Foucault, morality isalways determined by the episteme. There is...

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