Foucault on Power

Reg Lilly writes:

John et. al;

It strikes me that the problem is not caps or no caps, but that
(at least for a time [ca. 1972-80]) Foucault believed there was something
in terms of which one could render all possible phenomena intelligible:
power. In the HSI passage you quote/summarize, he makes it clear that
power is intelligibility itself, and since this is the case, one need not
look for something behind power to make it intelligible. He therefore
also implies that all the concepts descriptive of power's functioning
were also univocal. However, what happens if the symmetry between power
and "target(s)" or effects is seen to be asymmetrical? What if the
economy of power is not closed but admits of excess, pointless
expenditure, etc? What happens if, rather than seeing power as that for
which there is no exteriority (viz. "resistance is never in a position of
exteriority in relation to power" 95), one conceives power qua
intelligibility as itself conditioned and conditional in every instance.
I think that the analytics of power then becomes much more problematic as
I think it did in Foucault's view at the end of his life, eg., _Care of
the Self_, _The Use of Pleasure_, etc. in which the analytic of power is
quite muted. I think it may be the case, ironically, that when Foucault
-- or for that matter, Nietzsche--(momentarily) ignores the way language
functions, they end up hypostatizing a term-thing that functions,
ambiguously, as a foundation for their analytics, and they can do this
because, in a rather classically metaphysical manner, what they have also
hypostatized the *Grund*/reason of what it: power. For the Foucault of
HSI, power is both the final term of one's analysis as well as the
essential constituent of things. That power drops out of his later
discourse is not, I think, just a change in expressive style.

This is not so say thay these analyses aren't very illuminating, but so
are Hegel's.

[end comment from Reg]

Reg, I must admit that I prefer a Foucault that is more thematically
unified than the one you present above. I agree with you that the term
power and reflections on power are less emphasized later in Foucault's
career (though see 1982's "Subject and Power"), but I do not think that
is because F thought the whole power approach was a blind alley. In
addition, while the theme of power is not highlighted in the last two
books (_Pleasures_ and _Care_), I think that it is present. That is,
exercises of power are being described in these books, but the site has
been relocated from the social to the individual level.



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