Re: Foucault on Power

John Ransom writes:
>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.

I don't mean to parse up Foucault too much -- perhaps I'm
overstressing my hestitancy regarding the quite common conception of
Foucault as a philosopher of power. Power is a sexy, convenient, and uselful
concept, especially in the social sciences and political philosophy.
Perhaps this is necessary and fine. The way I read him, though, the only
thing that seems to have been a constant concern for Foucault (even and
especially in his 'literary phase' between '62 and '66) is the nature of the
subject. I tend to see power as only one of Foucault's attempts to think
the subject in a non-subjectivistic way. If there are benefits to seeing
Foucault's various conceptual schemes as similacra of power-analysis (most
obviously, the elision from subject-qua-substance to subject-qua-function
being amenable to such analysis), I think there are also problems with it,
problems which were explictly and implicitly acknowledged by Foucault and
that led him to at least 'side-line' the power analysis and to introduce
others. For instance, of course phenomena of power are always present in
his (and almost anyone's, for Hegel's) analysis of the constitution of the
subject; there is always an exteriority that is fundamentally determinative
of the subject, and the more completely this exteriority seems to constitute
the subject, the more apropos seems the analytics of power. _Discipline and
Punish_ and other essays from the early mid '70s are 'extreme' in this
sense: they maximize the discourse of power. But this discourse also
exludes, makes it difficult to think some things (who could have taught this
better than Foucault!) that are nevertheless relevant for a reflection on
the subject, things that Foucault turned to in order to think the
non-subjectivistic subject and hence, so it seems to me, he turned away from
power-analysis. (Parenthetically, I think that for political philosophy it
is as interesting to ask what is happening in the recurrent reduction of
political discourse to the discourse of power as it is to ask which conept
of power it is that we should be reducing all this to.)
Rather than an analytic of power I think one might well characterize
the 'final Foucault' as a philosopher of care. Foucault's analysis of
parrhesia (1983) is, I think, irreducible to an analytics of power, though
without doubt power relations are nevertheless ubiquitous. I think there is
a space that opens up and takes shape with the final Foucault -- and in the
midst of the 'power-space' -- that calls into question the sufficiency of
power analysis (which is not to say its *concerns* become obsolete) without
simply negating it.
So, I want to agree with you that there is thematic continuity. My
question is what is the nature of this continuity that you see? What do you
make of the obvious differences in his various vocabularies and conceptual
Reg (who'll be off for a while but will try to follow up)


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