Presentation on theme: "Critical Theory: Other Perspectives Michel Foucault “It’s not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for."— Presentation transcript:
Critical Theory: Other Perspectives Michel Foucault “It’s not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already power), but of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic and cultural within which it operates at the present time” Michel Foucault, “Truth and Power,” 131
2 The relation between truth and power Foucault examines the relation between truth and power. For him, “truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power. … [Truth] isn’t the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude … Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple form of constraint” (131). What does Foucault mean by ‘truth’?
3 The relation between truth and power Truth is to be understood as “a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements” (133). Truth is linked with discourses within which propositions have truth value—i.e. either true/false. Example. In addition, Foucault tells us that ‘truth’ “is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it” (133).
4 The relation between truth and power Foucault’s conception of ‘truth’ is not typical of tradition philosophy. Traditional theory of knowledge is concerned with the necessary and sufficient conditions for someone to know a state of affairs—e.g. “there is a red car across the street” The picture gets muddied when we consider much more complex examples, such as the claim that children between ages 2 and 4 do not have abstract principles guiding classification”
5 The relation between truth and power These are the examples that interests Foucault. Why? “Truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power. … [It] induces regular effects of power” (131). He wants to examine the effects of the social relations that sustain bodies knowledge on individuals. E.g. ‘Children ought to segregated from adults’
6 The relation between truth and power Notice though Foucault does not claim that social relations determines/produces which statements are true. That would be a fallacy. Why? That would be akin to saying the powerful determines the truth.
7 Foucault and ideology Foucault’s conception of truth has implications for critical theory with its emphasis on critique of ideology. Why? Ideologies systematically distort social reality. This implies there is true view behind ideology. For Foucault, the workings of modern relations of power cannot be explained by a ruling class generating a set of beliefs that systematically distorts social reality. Why is that?
8 Foucault and ideology Ideology presupposes truth is opposite to power. Truth can undermine ideological distortions and their power over individuals. However since in Foucault’s view, truth and power are interrelated, the question is not “a matter of emancipating truth from … power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already power) but of detaching the power of truth from hegemony. … The political question … is not error, illusion … it is truth itself” (133).
9 Foucault and ideology Furthermore, Foucault sees ideology critique as focusing on the beliefs and intentions of individuals. The problem for him is not about “changing people’s consciousness– or what’s in their heads—but the political, economic, institutional regime of the production of truth” (133). Is this Marx’s view about ideology critique, i.e. changing people’s consciousness?
10 What is to be done? Given his view of power and knowledge, what work is to be done by intellectuals? Intellectuals are not bearers of “universal values”; they are not masters of “truth and justice” (126). Rather intellectuals play a specific role—as specific intellectuals—because of their expertise they can map out the political, economic and institutional regime for the production of truth. Their role is to provide tools to aid everyday struggles (126).
11 Power/knowledge Foucault hints at the relation between power and knowledge in his comment that since the 17 th Century, a form of power came “into being that begins to exercise itself through social production and social service. It becomes a matter of obtaining productive service from individuals … [Power] had to gain access to the bodies of individuals, to their acts, attitudes and … behaviour” (125). He gives us a more in-depth account in “Right of Death and Power over life”
12 The political question in today’s society is life itself. Whereas the sovereign had the right to take life or let live (259), in today’s society the governing mechanism is to foster life by administrating it properly. Power has “a positive influence on life … [it] endeavours to administer, optimize and multiply it, subjecting it to precise controls and comprehensive regulations” (259). Example— public health
13 Biopower Foucault calls this form of power ‘biopower’. It simultaneously aims at two targets: the “anatomo-politics of the human body” and “a bio-politics of the population” (262). It seeks to obtain knowledge in both fields: knowledge about the human body—ergonomic studies of workers—and knowledge about groups of individuals—morbidity rates in communities. Such knowledge is used to regulate individuals and populations
14 The norm The focus on fostering life has the consequence of normalizing society. Modern mechanism of government do not wield power as a brute force as a sovereign might. Rather, it seeks “to qualify, measure, apraaise and hierarchize, rather than display itself in its murderous splendour; it effects distributions around the norm. … A normalizing society is the historical outcome of a technology of power centred on life” (266).
15 The power of the norm Why are norms effective in governing individuals? Think about the word ‘normal’. ‘It’ is a powerful word; it can affect the behaviour of individuals. What do ‘normal’ and its opposite ‘abnormal’ suggest? Normal suggests health; abnormal sickness. Individuals want to be normal. Note though it is individuals who fit the norm themselves.
16 Foucault and Critical Theory Marxist account of ideology attempt to explain social reality by reducing it to one idea—the domination of the ruling class. On Foucault’s account, the story is much more complicated. It isn’t just ownership and control of the means of production because the normalization of society takes place in non- capitalist societies as well