Re: power

At 05:05 PM 3/20/96 -0800, you wrote:

>> I am a fourth year student with a question about Foucault. I am
>> trying to come to a conclusion as to why Foucault was so interested in
>> power. Can anybody out there help me out? I am just beginning to see how
>> magical his works are but am having trouble with the origins of his
>> interest surrounding this topic.
>> Thank you, Rich Clark
>> Richard Clark
>> Carleton University, Ottawa Can
>> email rtclark@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Foucault cared so much about power, because power (discourses,
tactics, techniques,
>practices, truths, forces, prohibitions, pleasures, etc.) is that which
>constructs(constitutes) subjects (human beings in their thoughts, desires,
>identities, behaviors and so forth). Power, for Foucualt, is an
> extraordinarily general phenomena.
> Greg Coolidge
> University of Calif., Riverside
> gcoolidg@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I should say 'power' is an extraordinarily general phenomena for
Foucault, and for most Foucauldians (Foucaultians). If one is a queer
theorist, 'power' becomes the hegemony of oedipal structures. If one is a
post-colonialist, it becomes the power of the dominant culture, etc., but
all theorists look to Foucault as the one who originated it all. I find
that the best of Foucault is found in his use of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and
Marx (though his use of the latter is almost obligitory considering the
tableau of ideas and thought in which he operated as a student and young
professor). There are a lot of other people/thinkers/philosophies lurking
around in Foucault's idea of power, such as de Sade, Bergson, and Spinoza.
To take a less celebratory look at Foucault's 'concept' of power, it
seems to me that most discussions of power, whether they be from Foucault or
Foucaultians, sound a lot like Obi Wan Kanobee (spelling?) as he explains
"The Force" to Luke Skywalker in -Star Wars-: it is what gives us life, it
is what surrounds us. And it is everywhere, and so forth. Forgive the
paraphrase of Star Wars--it's been a while since I've had the time to watch
it. I am tempted to say 'please forgive the sarcasm,' but I would like to
see a more detailed investigation into Foucault's idea of power, especially
one which takes a look at Foucault's notion as something which is not a
positive value, but which is an enabling trope for Foucault. This would
make Foucault's concept something which is less philosophically "true" than
it is something discursive and useful for him as he sought to create a 'new'
and interesting philosophy.
I suggest that Foucault's use of this concept is more of a trope, or
way for him to begin writing, than it is something which has positive value.
I know that my position makes Foucault seem a lot less interested in
liberty, freedom, and domination, but it seems that for many years
Foucaultians have been talking about power, but that no tenable and common
understanding of it has been produced. I think it might be time to
understand Foucault in terms of his adherence to certain philosophical moves
and discourses than his constant resistance to anyone's version of oppression.

--James Stanger University of California, Riverside


Partial thread listing: