Foucault Essays Of Power

Such an antifoundationalist history, or genealogy, Foucault believes, will serve an emancipatory purpose; it will liberate local knowledge and local histories from the oblivion to which...

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The principal book of this second period is , 1977).

In that work, “genealogy,” as adapted from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, refers to an investigative method that assumes that “truth,” wherever it appears, is always relative to an order of power.

With the rise of democratic states and the decentralization of political authority, punishment ceases to be conceived of as vengeance and is, instead, promoted as reform.

Although it is often thought that the movement for prison reform arose only after certain abuses had become apparent, Foucault argues that the discourse of reform was apparent from the very inception of the modern prison.

is a loosely related collection of writings and interviews that cover a crucial transitional period in Michel Foucault’s development as a thinker and theorist of power—his enduring theme.

Three distinct periods can be discerned in his work.Traditional criminal punishment was, he notes in chapter 2 (“Prison Talk”), an exercise of power from above; every form of criminality was, in essence, a threat to the sovereign.Thus punishment was conceived as exemplary vengeance.Certainly there is a shift away from genealogy understood as the study of how subjects (selves) are fashioned and constrained by institutions; but the genealogical method is not so much abandoned as adapted to the study of how subjects are fashioned vis-à-vis self-imposed ethical codes or systems.More particularly, the shift involves a movement away from the study of power toward the study of the origins of modern sexuality which, at least since psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, has been the primary source for the individual’s self-understanding.In other words, Foucault is arguing that modern notions of the self cannot be properly understood outside a genealogy of of recent vintage.His thesis reverses the romantic claim that subjects somehow possess an inherent, biologically given sexual role that is closely related to the truth of one’s innermost nature.One reason for this influence is the timing of the work, appearing as it does at a crucial moment of transition between the middle and late phases of his career. Another reason is that is far more accessible than most of Foucault’s texts, probably because of the exigencies of the interview format. This work, part of a series on modern philosophers, examines Foucault’s views on ethics in the twentieth century. Further, reform functioned principally through methods of surveillance, a term that signifies for...(The entire section is 616 words.) , particularly chapter 10, “The History of Sexuality,” indicate the new direction that Foucault’s research had begun to take in the final years of his life.


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