Re: Foucault, Power and Supervenience

Re: Jan Bransen's supervening model:
I found your description of F's power mechanisms very interesting and to the
point, if I have correctly understood it. The main reservation I'd have though
concerns the sub-/supervention opposition, since F explicitly departs from the
classical Marxian model that opposes infra- to superstructures of social, his-
torical analyses. F is clearly opposed to a juridical conception of power,
which in M tends to reduce it to a superstructural level that reflects the
economic interests of a given class or of the ideological State apparatus.
That's why F extends the dispositif metaphor to analyze both the formation
of knowledges (savoirs) and the self-formation of subjects (technologies de
soi), so that the three axes are brought together on the same level of the
historical a priori. In my opinion, Deleuze's description of the Foulcauldian
threefold (or fourfold if you include historicity as a coordinate) of the
network of dispositifs defining regimes of truth, power relations and modes
of subjectivation is a felicitous one (cf. D's _Foucault_ book and his article
"What is a dispositif?" in _Michel Foucault Philosopher_). As D argues, the
real boundary for F is that between constants and variables, so that the lines
that form the dispositifs only affirm the continual variations, and all we are
left with are the lines of variation. F's device appears thus as a multilineal
ensemble, composed of lines of different nature forming nonhomogeneous systems:
each line is divided, submitted to variations of direction, submitted to deri-
vations. The enonces (statements) themselves that make up discourses are like
vectors or tensors, so that the fields of knowledge, power, and subjectivation
have no fixed contours, but are like chains of variables acting upon one
another. What accounts for social movements are neither subjects nor objects
but regimes of statements (regimes d'enonces) that, in contrast w/ nondiscur-
sive devices, serve to determine new archives and new historical media such as
the 17th-century General Hospital, the 18th-century clinic, the 19th-century
prison, the Ancient Greek polis, etc etc. That is why D can affirm that, for
F, "power is local because it is never global, but it is not local or locali-
zed because it is diffuse."(F 26) So in _Surveiller et punir_ F sets out to
study the birth of the prison only in the French penal system (SP 35 n.1;
DP 309 n.3) and yet he says at the end that his book "serves as a historical
background to various studies of the power of normalization and the formation
of knowledge in modern society."(DP 308; last footnote in SP) To my mind, that
simply means that the Foucauldian device cannot provide us w/ universal cons-
tants (hence, it offers no theory of power) although it constitutes a helpful
tool for both discursive and nondiscursive analyses of the microphysics of
power in the Netherlands, in the US, in Brazil and everywhere...
Nythamar de Oliveira, ndeolive@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Dept of Philosophy, SUNY at Stony Brook
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