Re: Re[4]: ethics and poststructuralism

The problem with situating Foucault's genealogies from a Marxist position
of the masses, is that Foucault quite specifically in 'Power/Knowledge', 'The
History of Sexuality' and elsewhere, describes power as something which
does not attack a mass of passive, essentially human individuals, who are
alienated or oppressed by power. For Foucualt there is no common experience
domination characteristic of large groups, as in Marxism. Power, and hence
domination, is primarily a local, or individual phenomonen, which affects its
victims in any number of unique ways, thus, creating in the subject a unique
subjectivity comprised of a host of unstable and constantly shifting thoughts,
desires, identities, interests etc. Foucualt wished to bring his analysis
down from the naive generality of Marxism, down to a more realistic level
of micro-power and its myriad effects. Foucualt wished to explain diversity
in the subject, as well as the forms of power which construct these diverse
subjects in an almost infinite combination of power relations. In D & P,
Foucualt was forced, for reasons of methodology, to study power at the
institutional level( the meta-level chahracterstic of many Marxist studies).
However, in 'The Subject and Power', Foucualt states (A crude paraphrase):
"let us not fool ourselves, when I speak of institutional power I am not
imagining that insitutions dominate, I am rather imagining power relations
between individuals within such institutions....Power relations occur between
partners". Power relations, and thus, domination occurs at the micro-level,
not at the meta-level of insitituions, economic systems or ideology. The
study of power at the institutional level is a necessary evil (we have to
abstract somewhat in any analysis of social phenomena). It is not meant to
assume that all people within an institution are dominated by the same froms of power, resulting in similar effects across a mass of subjects. Delinquency in the prison (the failure of the tactics of discipline to produce obedient and well adjusted subjects) occurs because not
every subject is dominated by the same tactics (they are myriad and
individuating), and each subject reacts to tactics, both similar and
distinctive tactics, in different ways depending upon their constructed
subjectivity up to that point in time. This form of analysis, and
understanding of power and construction, is representative of a
post-structuralist perspective (micro-power, and no essential human being
as a victim), and the structuralism of Marxism (meta-level power(ideology,
economic systems, etc.), and an essential human being that is alienated
or oppressed by power). I would not characterize Foucault's position as
one based on a Marxist foundation. But you are correct in your appraisal that
Foucualt finds it rather disconcerting that all of us (the masses) are
victims of insidious and normalizing forms of power unknown until the
modern age.

Greg Coolidge, Dept. of Political
Science, Univ. of Calif, Riverside


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