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Studies employing the Foucauldian discourse analysis might look at how figures in authority use language to express their dominance, and request obedience and respect from those subordinate to them. The disciplinary interaction between authority and their followers emphasize the power dynamic found within the relationships. This approach could also be used to study how language is used as a form of resistance to those in power. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Given The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods. Retrieved 22 February Autopoiesis in organization theory and practice. Emerald Group Publishing. Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. The human body became a machine the functioning of which could be optimized, calculated, and improved. Its functions, movements and capabilities were broken down into narrow segments, analyzed in detail and recomposed in a maximally effective way.

They question the naturalistic explanatory framework that understands human nature—uncovered by science—as the basis for such complex areas of behavior as sexuality, insanity or criminality. He effectively reveals the double role of the present system: it aims at both punishing and correcting, and therefore it mixes juridical and scientific practices. Foucault argued that the intervention of criminal psychiatry in the field of law that occurred at the beginning of the nineteenth century, for example, was part of the gradual shift in penal practice from a focus on the crime to a focus on the criminal, from the action to agency and personality.

The new rationality could not function in an effective way in the existing system without the emergence of new forms of scientific knowledge such as criminal psychiatry that enabled the characterization of criminals in themselves, beneath their acts. Foucault suggests that this shift resulted in the emergence of new, insidious forms of domination and violence. The critical impact of Discipline and Punish thus lies in its ability to reveal the processes of subject formation that operate in modern penal institutions. The modern prison does not just punish by depriving its inmates of liberty, it categorizes them as delinquent subjects, types of people with a dangerous, criminal nature.

It outlined the project of the overall history, explaining the basic viewpoint and the methods to be used.

However, it becomes apparent that there is a further dimension in the power associated with the sciences of sexuality. Individuals internalize the norms laid down by the sciences of sexuality and monitor themselves in an effort to conform to these norms. Thus, they are controlled not only as objects of disciplines but also as self-scrutinizing and self-forming subjects. Foucault shows how sexuality becomes an essential construct in determining not only moral worth, but also health, desire, and identity.

Subjects are further obligated to tell the truth about themselves by confessing the details of their sexuality. Sexuality was inextricably linked to truth: these new discourses were able to tell us the scientific truth about ourselves through our sexuality. The prevalent views on sexuality in the s and s held that there was a natural and healthy sexuality that all human beings shared simply in virtue of being human, and this sexuality was presently repressed by cultural prohibitions and conventions such as bourgeois morality and capitalist socio-economic structures.

Repressed sexuality was the cause of various neuroses and it was important to have an active and free sexuality.

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Michel Foucault (1926–1984)

The popular discourse on sexuality thus fervently argued for sexual liberation: we had to liberate our true sexuality from the repressive mechanisms of power. Foucault challenged this view by showing how our conceptions and experiences of sexuality are in fact always the result of specific cultural conventions and mechanisms of power and could not exist independently of them. The mission to liberate our repressed sexuality was thus fundamentally misguided because there was no authentic or natural sexuality to liberate.

To free oneself from one set of norms only meant adopting different norms in their stead, and that could turn out to be just as controlling and normalizing. He wrote mockingly that the irony of our endless preoccupation with sexuality was that we believed that it had something to do with our liberation. In order to challenge the dominant view of the relationship between sexuality and repressive power, Foucault had to re-conceive the nature of power.

His major claim is that power is not essentially repressive but productive. It does not operate by repressing and prohibiting the true and authentic expressions of a natural sexuality. Instead it produces, through cultural normative practices and scientific discourses, the ways in which we experience and conceive of our sexuality. Foucault outlined what became one of the most influential contemporary understandings of power in a series of short propositions over three pages of The History of Sexuality, Volume 1.

13. Introduction to Foucault

He elucidated and developed this understanding of power in a number of essays, lectures and interviews throughout the rest of his life, but the basic idea was already present in these pages. One has to analyze power relations from the bottom up and not from the top down, and to study the myriad ways in which the subjects themselves are constituted in these diverse but intersecting networks. Although dispersed among various interlacing networks throughout society, power nevertheless has a rationality, a series of aims and objectives, and the means of attaining them.

This does not imply that any individual has consciously formulated them.

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As the example of the Panopticon shows, power often functions according to a clear rationality irrespective of the intentions and motives of the individual who guards the prison from the tower. Despite the centrality of the Panopticon as a model for power, Foucault does not hold that power forms a deterministic system of overbearing constraints.

Power should rather be understood and analyzed as an unstable network of practices implying that where there is power, there is always resistance too. Just as there is no center of power, there is no center of resistance somewhere outside of it. While power relations permeate the whole body of society, they may be denser in some regions and less dense in others.

Foucault contrasts it to what he calls sovereign power: a form of power that was historically founded on violence—the right to kill.

Using Foucault's Methods by Gavin Kendall

The obligation to wage war on behalf of the sovereign and the imposition of death penalty for going against his will were the clearest forms of such power. But Foucault claims that the West has undergone a profound transformation in its mechanisms of power since the seventeenth century. This era of biopower is marked by the explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the control of populations: techniques that, for example, coordinate medical care, normalize behavior, rationalize mechanisms of insurance, and rethink urban planning.

The aim is the effective administration of bodies and the calculated management of life through means that are scientific and continuous. Mechanisms of power and knowledge have assumed responsibility for the life process in order to optimize, control, and modify it. The exercise of power over living beings no longer carries the threat of death, but instead takes charge of their lives. The rationality of biopower is markedly different from that of sovereign power in terms not just of its objectives, but also of its instruments.

A major consequence of its development is the growing importance of norms at the expense of the juridical system of the law. Foucault claims that the dominance of biopower as the paradigmatic form of power means that we live in a society in which the power of the law has subsided in favor of regulative and corrective mechanisms based on scientific knowledge. Biopower penetrates traditional forms of political power, but it is essentially the power of experts and administrators.


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The genealogical attempt to historicize the body is prominent also in The History of Sexuality, Vol. At the end of the book Foucault takes up the question of whether we can find a scientific truth about sex.


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  8. He makes clear that his genealogical investigation of sexuality implies a challenge to a certain kind of explanatory framework of sexuality and gender: the idea of sex as a natural foundation or an unobserved cause, which supports the visible effects of gender and sexuality. He critically appraises the idea of a natural, scientifically defined true sex by revealing the historical development of this form of thought.

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    He does not claim that sex, understood as the categories of maleness and femaleness, was invented in a particular historical period. This idea has had enormous influence on feminist philosophers and queer theorists. The History of Sexuality had been planned as a multi-volume work on various themes in a study of modern sexuality. The first volume, discussed above, was a general introduction.

    Foucault wrote a second volume Les aveux de la chair that dealt with the origins of the modern notion of the subject in the practices of Christian confession, but he never published it. It was published posthumously in His concern was that a proper understanding of the Christian development required a comparison with ancient conceptions of the ethical self, something he undertook in his last two books on Greek and Roman sexuality: The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self.

    These treatments of ancient sexuality moved Foucault into ethical issues that had been implicit but seldom explicitly thematized in his earlier writings. What emerges out of his historical studies of ancient sexuality is a particular conception of ethics that he traces to antiquity.

    In the ancient conception, ethics referred to the practice through which one forms oneself as an ethical subject following the prescriptive elements of morality. It concerns the way in which moral rules can be adopted and problematized by the subjects themselves. The importance of a study of ethics becomes apparent when we try to make visible the difference between the morality of antiquity and that of Christianity. He argues that, contrary to what is often believed, on the level of moral codes of behavior, there are in fact striking similarities between antiquity and Christianity.