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The Politics Of Truth An Essay By Michel Foucault

1158 words - 5 pages

In the essay “The Politics of Truth”, Michel Foucault examines what critique is. Foucault begins his explanation of critique by relating it to Immanuel Kant’s definition of enlightenment. In the essay “What is Enlightenment” Kant argues that society has developed an “immaturity” that relies on the direction of authority. Kant states “If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need to exert myself at all” (3). Kant believes that this “immaturity” leads to society being constrained. Kant believes that “the public’s use of one’s own reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about ...view middle of the document...

The first step to critique, or what Foucault describes as “the procedure of analysis” (58), is to define a level to examine. Rather than looking power and knowledge as true or false, Foucault isolates a system where a power and knowledge is designed. Foucault names this level “the archeological level” (61). The isolation of how power and knowledge is designed is important because it allows Foucault to analyze the power and knowledge relationship without actually defining the meaning of power and knowledge. Foucault seems to avoid the meaning of knowledge and power because it would complicate his analysis of power and knowledge. Instead Foucault focuses on the origin and connections of power and knowledge. An important part of Foucault’s archeological level is the relationship power and knowledge have between themselves. Foucault argues that “No one should ever think that there exists one knowledge or one power, or worse, knowledge or power which would operate in and of themselves. Knowledge and power are only an analytical grid” (60). This is important to Foucault’s defined archeological system and his definition of critique itself because it allows the knowledge and power to be a tool for analysis in the system. Foucault also believes that knowledge and power have to mutually exist together.
After defining a system, Foucault describes how to critique or analyze the archeological level. Foucault begins with looking at the connections or origins power and knowledge have throughout history. Foucault believes that looking at events as a “singularity” or original even, Foucault believes that critique should analyze the cause and effects of these events. Foucault argues that focusing on history as a singularity will lead to a “dead end” (63). Instead Foucault argues that “the route [of critique] goes by way of an analysis of the knowledge-power nexus supporting it, recouping it at the point where it is accepted, moving toward what makes it acceptable, of course, not in general, but only where it is accepted” (61). First, Foucault’s analysis examines what is using the power and knowledge. Kant’s example of a government imposing taxes can be used here. First, analyzing why the government expands those taxes to wherever it finds it to be acceptable. Second, analyzing why the tax payer accepted these imposed taxes. Finally, analyzing the origins of these tax as well as how they were used again throughout history.
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