The Apparatus of Power and Sexuality in Foucault’s Philosophy

Topics: Michel Foucault, Human sexuality, Human sexual behavior Pages: 16 (5704 words) Published: July 1, 2008
A political theorist once claimed that one should be most critical of ideas that have been deemed normal or scientific. For the most part, these notions that have been branded as “facts of life” carry with them several nuisances and drawbacks that people often ignore or fail to see since they are primarily held by many as irreplaceable truths. Unfortunately, such non-examined concepts are normalized in the level of human consciousness and in effect, rendering the individual a myopic perspective of reality. This has been the context by which Michel Foucault built his overall frameworks of thought. As a philosopher and cultural historian, Foucault underscored in his writings that the fundamental ideas that people commonly consider as the permanent truths of their being have changed throughout the course of history. Without a doubt, with his unorthodox contemplations on the disciplinary society and the distortions of human sexuality, Michel Foucault’s influence to the postmodernist movement and contemporary philosophical thought is undeniably significant and of great magnitude. The concept of power is the overriding principle of Foucault’s philosophy. Foucault’s philosophical equation has power as the “principle of development and integration within our society.” Power is often defined as the relation between two people or parties wherein one influences the other’s set of behaviors and actions. In essence, it entails the restraint, obstruction or modification of one’s personal will by subjecting his individual faculties. But Foucault, for the most part, is not adhering to such strict definitions. He once asserted that “the only thing that could be said about power in general is that it is an open-ended, more or less coordinated ‘cluster of relations.’ For him, there is no evident meaning or particular description that can capture the extent of such concept. Nevertheless, the fact remains that power is an omnipresent element in both micro-level relationships, as well as, in the macro plane of societies. Without a doubt, in Foucault’s analysis, power is exercised in various forms, settings and circumstances.

“Instead of portraying power as the property of any particular group or institution, Foucault preferred to describe it as a heterogeneous ensemble of strategies and techniques. He was thus skeptical of any approach, which mapped power onto an abstract model of class relations.. ..Rather than confining his analysis to key institutions such as the state, he emphasized that power took many forms, often at its most effective where is was least visible. He remarked that “we must escape from the limited field of juridical sovereignty and state institutions, and instead base our analysis of power on the study of the techniques and tactics of domination.”

Moreover, there is a prevalent understanding that power is a subtractive force that only deal with dirty politics and endless enmities and struggles. However, Foucault declares the contrary. He highlights the fact that power is more than the negativity it is commonly associated with. In more ways than one, power could operate as a positive force that can form the entirety of subjects. By the same token, in a January 1976 lecture, Foucault echoes the same sentiment by saying that “power [should be considered], if properly speaking, as the way in which relations of forces are deployed and given concrete expression rather than analyzing it in terms of cession, contract, alienation, struggle, conflict or war.” In the end, although Foucault is admitting that power has an inclination towards dispute and strife, he “underscores its distinctness from domination, in which the ‘free play’ of plurality of agents has given way to the ‘stable mechanisms’ of a single dominant agent.” In effect, the target of power is never forced, victimized or rendered useless. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault created a blueprint for the evolution of power relationships in the eighteenth and...
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