Re: What is Power?

On Tue, 1 Aug 1995 CCOLWELL@xxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> Re: Power as intentional and non-subjective, see History of Sexuality, I
> pp 92-6
> Power is intentional to the extent that there are intentions imbedded
> in power relations, e.g.,heterosexual or patriarchal intentions imbedded
> in most if not all institutions in this country. It is non-subjective tot
> the extent that there is no subject to which origin or responsibility
> can be assigned for these intentions. The effects of our 'actions'
> (conceived as broadly as possible) not only escape or intentions but
> generate effects of power to which we can ascribe, or simply perceive,
> intentions. Indeed, if F coherently argues that subjects are the effects
> of power/knowledge relations then power relations must be non-subjective.
Yes power is "subjective", but for Foucault, power creates the very
subjects which then perpetuate or resistpower relations. In this sense
there is no subject prior to power-knowledge. However, this does not
necessarily mean that Foucault dispenses with some conception of agency -
if we read Foucault through Judith Butler's work on the 'citational'
production of identities then we begin to gain a sense of the force of
law ( which Foucault sometime underplays) with the micro- and repetative
technoogies that Foucault articulates through the conception of
bio-power. The 'subject' is a difficult subject in Foucault - he
recognises the suject as bot the product of power-knowledge relations and
as an intransegent site of resistance. To understand his ambiguous
stance, the whole process of 'subjectification' has to be put into
motion - i.e. the repeated marking out of fields of possible actions and
knowledge. However,this repitition (and this is Butler's point- although
a more thorough interogation of Butler's relation to Foucault and its
relation to the more Lacanian and Derridian aspects of her work would be
an interesting project) is also the condition of possibility for resistance.
However, Foucault's ambiguous stance towards he subject is perhaps best
illustrated in 'What is Enlightenment' : here he elaborates a temporal
model of self-creation while advocating the search for 'limit
experiences'. He pursues such experiences again in 'Remarks on Marx' in
his references to Bataille and Neitzsche. But this desire for the
disolution of the subject remains problematic if we look at his later
works on 'ethic of the care for the self' (and also problematic in
Nietszche - I don't know enough about Bataille to comment).

Anyway - any thoughts on the above would be interesting. I think that
Foucault's thoughts on power are fluid, continually responding to new
constellations of power relations, in the truely agonal sense which he
elaborates in the 'Subject and Power' (1982- in Michel Foucault, Beyond
Hermenutics and Struturlism - ed Rabinow (I think))

Saul Walker
Cambridge (though soon to be Warwick)


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