From: "Brodie Richards" <brodie_richards@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 02:05:25 -0500
If we follow Foucault's own production of quotes, then, we must add the
statement "it is not power, but the subject, which is the general theme of
my research." (Subject and Power.) This is rather evident, but it is worth
repeating, that Foucault main task was always to participate in much a wider
philosophical project which was attempting to develop a way out of the
philosophical paradigm of the "constitutive subject."
The most pertinent question seems to me to be how does Foucault interpret
the constitution of the "mad subject" and how do the different shifts and
reevaluations throughout his life change that interpretation. The concept
of power is important to Foucault's concept of subjectivity and how
subjectivity is constituted by practice, but it seems to me that we have a
tendency of emphasizing the concept of power and losing the focal point that
is Foucault's dialogue with the philosophical discourse that is
problematizing the nature of subjectivity. Discourse, power, ethics are the
central parts to Foucault's grammar about subjectivity, but if we choose to
only analyse the concept of power itself, then all we gain from Foucault is
a novel idea about power but we don't know what work it can do. How many
studies can we point to that suggest they are "using" his concept of power,
but fail to understand its link with the philosophical question of the
Kevin, if we agree that the question of the subject is the central question
that Foucault asks, in all his work, how is our understanding of his
approach to that question enhanced by "trying to bring to the fore" a
conceptualization of power used in M/C but not theorized? If we say that he
uses a "repressive" notion of power in M/C, how does that impact the way we
relate to his discussion of the constitution of the "mad subject"? Is the
"early work" devalued by your thesis that he is using a notion of power that
he later rejects?
I think the importance of the "early work" is to watch Foucault situate
subjectivity in discourse and not consciousness. Yes, he is using a notion
of power that he would later rework to explain how language and practice
form a productive relation with one another, but that was a step built on
the initial theorization that our experience of ourselves as subjects is an
experience constituted by practice, specifically discursive practices. What
I am having trouble following is the "significance" of your thesis about the
"early work" and power for our understanding of Foucualt. What possibility
of understanding about his project does it open up?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Kevin Turner" <k_turner@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Sunday, December 05, 2004 12:30 PM
Subject: Re: critique or criticism?
> Foucault has stated that '[w]hen I think back now, I ask myself what else
> was I talking about in Madness and Civilization or The Birth of the
> but power?' Yet I'm perfectly aware that I scarcely used the word and
> had such a field of analysis at my disposal' ('Truth and Power').
> What i am doing in my thesis is taking this claim seriously by trying to
> bring to the fore the analyses of power implicit in Foucault's so-called
> "early writings."
> As a point of entry into this endevor I think that if we comprehend the
> Reichian hypothesis in the terms which Foucault characterised this in
> Society Must be Defended: that is, as a model of power in which power is
> thematised as being negative, dedutive, juridical (it says NO!), and
> repressive; then i think we can superimpose this, retrospectively, onto
> Madness and Civilisation and The Birth of the Clinic as being
> of one model of power that is implicitly operative in these texts.
> I am not alone in thinking this:
> Colin Gordon, for example, has stated that '[w]ith regard to Foucault's
> later thought about the analysis of power, it certainly cannot be denied
> that repression is a major and pervading topic in Madness and
> and that the main historical mutation which it maps appears as a movment
> from one regime of repression of the insane to another.' However, he also
> goes on to note, and i would agree most emphatically with this point, that
> this 'far from encapsulates the book's total approach,' that MC
> rather convincingly that the repressive and the productive dimensions of
> certain forms of power cannot easily be disjoined' (Gordon, C., 'Rewriting
> the History of Madness').
> Similarly, Michael Mahon has noted the in MC '[p]ower, manifest in the
> practices of interning the mad [i.e. repression], functions positively by
> constituting mental illness as a phenomena available to perception'
> M. Foucault's Nietzschean Genealogy).
> Again, Torbjörn Wandel points out that for Foucault, 'the opening of the
> Hôpital Général in 1656...had little or nothing to do with medicine or
> science' but was 'rather a sort of semi-juridical structure...an
> administrative entity' (MC: 40), and that in MC foucault used a negative
> model of power 'one that violates, censors, obstructs' (Wandel, T. 'The
> Power of Discourse').
> So, there's not one specific place which I can point you to and say here,
> this is what I am talking about, because i think the whole of Foucault's
> work from this time is pervaded with a notion of power understood as being
> negative, dedutive, juridical, and repressive, that violates, censors, and
> obstructs, etc., in shorth, all those elements with which Foucault later
> characterised the Reichean hypothesis.
> Regards - Kevin
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Arianna" <ari@xxxxxxxx>
> To: <foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Sent: Sunday, December 05, 2004 1:32 PM
> Subject: Re: critique or criticism?
>> Kevin Turner wrote:
>> > I agree with what you say, but just because there was no "explicitly"
>> > conceptualisation of power in these texts does not mean that there was
>> > (operative) model of power. As I said, I think if one reads these texts
>> > there is quite clearly a model of power being mobilised. This model,
>> > one can retrospectively characterise as the Reichian hypothesis, was
>> > unathematised, untheorised, and thus "implicit," but it was nonetheless
>> > present.
>> I can't find any implicit in Foucault's early work.
>> can you point to where you feel this is the case?
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