RE: social constraint as power -Reply

>>> Hagen Finley <hagen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 11/19/95 04:15pm >>>
In her essay, "Foucault on Modern Power", Nancy Fraser writes that=20
"social constraint, or in Foucault's terms, 'power', circulates in and
through the production of discourses in societies".

Does Foucault explicitly write of power as social constraint and, if so,
where? Are there writers besides Fraser who have written about
power as social constraint?

Debra Shogan

Dear Debra,
The obvious question that follows: What exactly is meant by
social = constraint?
I have always thought that 'power' is constituted in social =
interaction. This is to say that the range of physically possible action = is
constrained by the social need to act in concert. For example, = although
humans are capable of uttering a wide range of noises, they = constrain
themselves and are constrained by the community to make sounds =
which are conventionally recognizable. In this manner we get the dual =
sense of power Foucault describes, power which disables and enables.
It = disables in the sense that a whole range of possible action is ruled
out = of hand. It enables in the sense that the 'chosen' or conventional =
actions actually function to create social action.=20
This depiction tends to dilute the sinister elements often
associated = with Foucault's power analysis, however, the traces are
still clearly = discernable. For example the manner in which a certain
pattern of action = is elevated to a socially prescribed pattern need not
be democratic, = rational, efficient, etc.. Individuals or groups who have
an interest in = maintaining or undermining a particular schema can exert
their interests = and influence or determine the manner in which the
society conducts its = affairs.

Hagen FInley
Berkeley, CA


I agree with your interpretation of social constraint as power. Do you
know of examples from Foucault's work in which he writes of power as
social constraint? There are places in which one can imply the
connection, for example, in "Truth and Power" from Power/Knowledge,
ed. Colin Gordon, Foucault writes that, "Truth is a thing of this world: it is
produced by virtue of multiple effects of power" (p. 131).

Debra Shogan


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