Re: Normalization and Control

> Dan:
> Normalizing techniques are forms of strategical deployment that operate
> within a power apparatus actively coordinating and dispersing bio-power.
> Many of us call this "control." Please post your take on Patton in regard
> to these matters.
> Yours in discourse,
> Steven Meinking
> The University Of Utah
> meinking@xxxxxxxxxx
> Foucauldians,
> My original point about a difference between control and
> normalization stems from my background in sociology. In the
> sociology of deviance literature there is much work on the
> relationship btw forms of deviance and the social control of these
> forms of deviance. My point is that Foucault seems instead to focus
> on the ways in which subjects (prisoners, students, etc) are
> constituted -- and normalized -- by certain discourses. By
> constituting normalized subjects, social control becomes largely
> obsolete (hence, it often doesn't matter if the prison guard is
> manning the panoptic tower).
> Dan
Dan makes an important point that Steve's comment misses. Normalization is
not the same as control, at least not in the sense of dictating specific
actions/outcomes. It seems to me that the particularly useful insight
developed by Foucault is that biopower operates to constitute subjects in
particular ways, but that the way in which these "subjects" then act is not
controlled or determined. This, I think, is one of the points that Paul
Patton is making in his reading of Foucault. In Subject and Power Foucault
stresses that power is precisely the ability to act (act on the actions of
others). This is not control. Control or domination is the absence of this
freedom or ability to act. Power is a relationship between actors (individual
or group) in which there is a dynamic reversibility or tension (an "agonism")
in which the direction of influence is contantly contestable and open to change
- this cannot really be rendered as "control". Control is when the possibility
for acting contrary to the influence of others no longer exists. As Foucault
says, when relations of power become "frozen" ie when a state of domination

This once again brings up the problem of interpreting power as "control",
"domination" etc. Foucault's emphasis does change on this, I think, but
his whole direction, from Discipline and Punish through Power/Knowledge to the
governmentality writings to History of Sexuality is, I would argue, towards
an increasingly clear distinction of positive notions of power and agency over
ones of power as purely negative. Even discipline is seen as operat-
ing through an increase in the "productivity" of individuals.

If we are going to render power etc as "control" or domination (as some on the
list seem to do frequently) then I would have to ask how this provides any
sort of conceptual advance over more traditional notions of power as an
imposition on some form of underlying, basic subjectivity. Power, it seems
to me, is a label for the constant constitution and reworking of subjectivity.
It is not so much what operates on subjects as what makes subjects - and that
is inherently a transformative and positive (ie productive, expansive) rather
than negative control process.

"Power is not so much a matter of imposing constraints upon citizens as of
'making up' citizens capable of bearing a kind of regulated freedom. Personal
autonomy is not the antithesis of political power, but a key term in its
exercise, the more so because most individuals are not merely the subjects of
power but play a part in its operations." Rose & Miller

I have to go away for a few days, so feel free to bucket me in my absence!!!


Paul Rutherford
Australian National University

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