Describe the Structure and Charachter of Modern Power

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  • Topic: Sociology, Hegemony, Cultural hegemony
  • Pages : 9 (3364 words )
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  • Published : March 16, 2013
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Describe the structure and character of modern power. Please delineate any possible strategies of resistance. (3500 words) “People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is, what they do, does.”  ― Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Power is a phenomenon that exists in every sphere of life and once in a lifetime every person has to go through the ordeal of facing the consequences of this struggle of power between different individuals living in a society. Different philosophers have given a stance on power, how the relationship is developed, what the powerful and powerless face and what are the consequences of the powerful exerting power on the powerless. The great French philosopher, Michael Foucault took power problem as a grave issue regarding the relations between society, individuals, groups and institutions. His viewpoint on power was that power is not only plain oppression of powerless by the powerful, but it is more of a strategy rather than possession used by institutions on groups or individuals. Foucault took power as being coextensive with resistance, as a productive factor, meaning that any power facing resistance brings productivity in a sense that helps the individual in the self making process and also resistance is a possibility condition for any relation. The Italian philosopher, Gramsei, talks about hegemony and counter hegemony. Hegemony is basically when one person exercises power on another person or tries to dominate the other person due to his or her great influence. However Gramsei said that hegemony has created a problematic dialectical relationship between coercion and consent, or domination and dependence. The relation is such that consent desires coercion and punishment. Therefore we can conclude that power cannot be thematized without thematizing coercion. Another great intellectual, Edward Said lay light on Gramsei’s, Benda’s, Foucault’s work on what qualities need to be present to make a person an intellectual and then he himself gave his idea as to who was the rightful intellectual in a society. Edward said that a true intellectual is that person who stands against the oppressor and speaks truth to power. He is not worried as to what would displease or please the people in power. Speaking the truth to power means additionally that the intellectual's constituency is neither a government nor a corporate or a career interest: only the truth, unadorned. All three philosophers Foucault, Gramsei and Said had a lot in common in regard to their presumption about power. There is a fundamental connection between the theories of all three. They all talk about the antagonist relationship between power and resistance and how this relationship forms an individual. Resistance is a commonality between all three philosophers; they all believe that coercion, hegemony and undue use of power need to be resisted for a person to break the preconceived conventional roles of the oppressor and the oppressed. Everybody in the society has this conservative view that power flows from top to bottom and is exercised by the powerful on the powerless. Foucault challenged this fundamental notion of power and said that power is an imposition. It is not only flowing from top to bottom but also from bottom to top. One would think how? It does so through consent, through desire and through internalization of hierarchy. The oppressed participates in this exercise of power by giving his consent to the oppressor. Foucault says that power should not be taken as repression which forces individuals to obey, “If power was anything but repressive, if it never did anything but say no, do you really believe that we should manage to obey it?” Therefore Foucault says that even in its most radical form oppression does not lead to repression or censorship but it is also productive, giving birth to new behaviors. Foucault’s...
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