Re: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance

I don't know how useful this may be, but I find it helpful to think of puissance as having the power to be able to act and pouvoir as being able to exercise power: i.e. pouvoir draws my attention to that which need to be in place (tactic, mechanism, technique, technology, etc.) in order to be able to exercise power, i.e. to be able to act on the actions of others, to be able to conduct the conduct of others, etc. In other words, pouvoir draws my attention to all the mundane, tiny, heterogeneous ingredients from which power is made.

- k

> -----Original Message-----
> From: a.obrien@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Sent: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 20:46:44 +0000
> To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance
> So does the puissance/pouvoir distinction map on to
> soveriegn/disciplinary power? In D & P sovereign power is clearly
> corporeal, hence the opening graphic description of the fate of Damiens.
> It seems to me (as a monolingual English speaker) that there is no
> difficulty in a work like 'power' having two meanings. Of course we do
> have to know in which sense we are using a word (like 'power') and a lot
> of attention is given to this in English language publications.
> Tony O'Brien
> ________________________________________
> From: foucault-l-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [foucault-l-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
> on behalf of Karskens, M.L.J. (Machiel) [mkarskens@xxxxxxxxxx]
> Sent: Wednesday, 16 November 2011 9:30 a.m.
> To: Mailing-list
> Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance
> In French and Latin and other Roman languages there is a generally used
> distinction between puissance (Lat: potentia), being power = force,
> capacity to effect or ableness, and pouvoir (Lat: potestas), being
> political, constitutional power (for example:sovereignty = summa
> potestas). In English this distinction cannot be made, unfortunately both
> are called power.
> Foucault most often speaks of pouvoir meaning political power,
> sometimes he uses puissance(s), referring to the actual power = capacity
> of enforcement of some political actors, or mostly: bodies.
> Most of time, however, he speaks of force (relation de(s) force(s))in
> that case.
> yours
> machiel karskens
> ----- "Kevin Turner" <kevin.turner@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> From: "Kevin Turner" <kevin.turner@xxxxxxxxx>
>> To: "Mailing-list" <foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>> Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 7:08:32 PM
>> Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance
>> Hi David,
>> thanks for the references.
>> and i know what you mean about the French - I often woder why I did
>> not chose and English writer as my favorite author.
>> Regards,
>> Kevin.
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: vagabond@xxxxxxxxx
>>> Sent: Wed, 16 Nov 2011 00:26:57 +1030
>>> To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>> Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance
>>> A related reference that might elucidate this somewhat is the
>> translation
>>> of Althusser's book on Montesquieu, which makes this distinction
>> with
>>> regard to what we might call 'social powers' (puissances) in
>> Montesquieu
>>> - le roi, des grands, et le peuple (the king, the great, and the
>> people)
>>> - and 'powers of government' (pouvoirs) - executive, juridical,
>>> legislative. With regard to the thesis that the juridical power is
>> not a
>>> true power - in that it is restricted to 'a sight and a voice' ('to
>> read
>>> and speak the law') - then this corresponds to the formula 'three
>>> puissances but only two pouvoirs'. What is interesting here is that
>> the
>>> juridical pouvoir is also described here as a puissance (the
>> capacity to
>>> speak and read) but really it is the right or authority to read and
>> speak
>>> the law that constitutes it as a pouvoir.
>>> Not being a speaker of French in any real capacity I have found this
>>> confusing too.
>>> This is traced back to at least Spinoza (the distinction also exists
>> in
>>> Latin and Italian).
>>> For useful references on pouvoir/puissance see Patton's critique of
>>> Taylor, Hardt's introduction to his translation of Negri's Savage
>>> Anomaly, and Montag's review of Negri's Insurgencies.
>>> Best of luck. As I said above, I have been struggling with the
>> nuances
>>> of this distinction myself.
>>> On 15/11/2011, at 11:00 PM, Tiffany P. wrote:
>>>> Hi Kevin,
>>>> I don't know if your question has already been answered, but here
>> is
>>>> what I can tell (I'm french) : in general, the term "puissance"
>> refers
>>>> to the "capacity of the body", not to political power. "Puissance"
>> has
>>>> an "inner" aspect which doesn't have "power". In Il faut défendre
>> la
>>>> société, Foucault talks about "puissance" in a political sense when
>> he
>>>> refers to colonial political power, or to king's political force.
>> In a
>>>> sense, and I think you are right, "puissance" isn't appropriate to
>>>> qualify modern power , but could be for sovereign power, which
>> precisely
>>>> thinks itself in the terms of "puissance". '(in french you say
>> "grandes
>>>> puissances industrielles" ou "coloniales", "la puissance économique
>> d'un
>>>> pays", etc.). The term "puissance" is indeed used when sovereign
>> power
>>>> comes into question, but in the very expression : "sovereign
>> power", in
>>>> french he uses the term "pouvoir" and not "puissance" (i.e.
>> "pouvoir
>>>> souverain").
>>>> I found a excerpt in which Foucault states : "En déplaçant l'axe,
>> le
>>>> centre de gravité, de son analyse, Boulainvilliers faisait quelque
>> chose
>>>> d'important. D'abord, parce qu'il définissait le principe de ce
>> qu'on
>>>> pourrait appeler le caractère relationnel du pouvoir : le pouvoir,
>> ce
>>>> n'est pas une propriété, ce n'est pas une puissance ; le pouvoir ce
>>>> n'est jamais qu'une relation que l'on ne peut, et ne doit, étudier
>> qu'en
>>>> fonction des termes entre lesquels cette relation joue. On ne peut
>> donc
>>>> faire ni l'histoire des rois ni l'histoire des peuples, mais
>> l'histoire
>>>> de ce qui constitue, l'un en face de l'autre, ces deux termes, dont
>> l'un
>>>> n'est jamais l'infini et l'autre n'est jamais le zéro. En faisant
>> cette
>>>> histoire, en définissant le caractère relationnel du pouvoir et en
>>>> l'analysant dans l'histoire, Boulainvilliers refusait - et c'est
>> là, je
>>>> crois, l'autre aspect de son opération -le modèle juridique de la
>>>> souveraineté qui avait été, jusque-là, la seule manière que l'on
>> avait
>>>> de penser le rapport entre le peuple et le monarque, ou encore
>> entre le
>>>> peuple et ceux qui gouvernent. Ce n'est pas en termes juridiques de
>>>> souveraineté, mais en termes historiques de domination et de jeu
>> entre
>>>> les rapports de force que Boulainvilliers a décrit ce phénomène du
>>>> pouvoir. Et c'est dans ce champ-là qu'il a placé l'objet de son
>> analyse
>>>> historique" (Il faut défendre
>>>> la société,
>> éd.
>>>> française, p. 150)
>>>> Hope it will help you,
>>>> Best regards,
>>>> Tiffany P.
>>>>> Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2011 01:57:39 -0800
>>>>> From: kevin.turner@xxxxxxxxx
>>>>> To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>>>> Subject: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance
>>>>> Hi to one and all,
>>>>> I was just curious, when Foucault talks of sovereign power - in Il
>> faut
>>>>> défendre la société or La volonté de savoir, for example - does he
>> use
>>>>> the term "puissance" or "pouvoir."
>>>>> Cheers - K
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  • Re: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance
    • From: Karskens, M.L.J. (Machiel)
  • Replies
    Re: [Foucault-L] pouvoir/puissance, Anthony O'Brien
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