Re: Power/knowledge in Foucault

I think an interesting element of Foucault's power/knowledge nexus
was his (later) focus on the process of "problematization."

Problematization is a double process in fact. On the one hand,
it is a set of practices that transforms a realm of human
existence into a crisis of thought. Foucault says, "For a domain
of action, a behavior, to enter the field of thought, it is necessary
for a certain number of factors to have made it uncertain, to have
made it lose its familiarity, or to have provoked a certain number
of difficulties around it." On the other hand, problematizing
practices construct human difficulties in such a way that a
diversity of thought responses and interventions are brought to
bear on them; morality, science, politics, the law, etc.
For example, normalizing practices problematize madness and
illness, distabilizing them as human difficulties and reordering
them in order to be universalized through expert knowledges.

The questions for Foucault, then, are: at what point does
the provocation of human difficulties around an action, or
behaviour, invite their problematization by a constellation
of knowledges to sort out their "truth." For example, at
what point do practices of the self make sexuality a target
of problematizing practices. Also, at what point do the
effects of a particular problematization, in power and
knowledge, outlast the provocation of the human difficulty
itself. How do archaeo-subjectivities and disciplines
persist within each successive adventure in human
problems and subsequent problematizations.

Without a genealogical mapping of the problematization of
madness, for example, it would be difficult to why Tuke
here and Laing there, or why do unrelated practices find
association together (the asylum, the subject of the expert,
the "patient," the governmental techniques of cases and
record keeping, the "science" of the healing "countryside,"
etc.). So, perhaps the problem is less which came "first,"
power or knowledge, or which is subordinate to which,
than which kinds of problematizations brought them together
and why do they persist long after the crisis has passed.

Stephen Katz,
Trent University.

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