The Psychic Life of Power by Judith Butler: An Analysis

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  • Topic: Louis Althusser, Subject, Interpellation
  • Pages : 2 (485 words )
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  • Published : October 31, 2012
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The response paper
Youngil Hong

The Psychic Life of Power- Judith Butler

Butler surveys the ideas of Hegel, Althusser, and Foucault around subject formation, interrogating how power produces its subject and how that subject comes to perceive itself as one. Butler understands power as forming the subject and as providing the very condition of its existence. I believe that her basic idea is that the subjects become attached to the conditions of their own subjectivity even if these conditions are oppressive one. According to her, therefore, power is not simply what we oppose but also, in a strong sense, what we depend on for our existence and what we harbor and preserve in the beings that we are. She argues that power is not mechanically reproduced when it is assumed. Instead, power runs the risk of assuming another form and direction.

She also points out that the subject, which is a key point for understating Butler’s understating of power, is the linguistic occasion for the individual to achieve and reproduce intelligibility, the linguistic condition of its existence and agency. She says that no individual becomes a subject without first becoming subjected or undergoing subjectivation. One critical point that Butler draws attention to is that the notion of the subject should not be interchangeable with "the person" or "the individual," and should rather be designated as a "linguistic category, a place-holder, a structure in formation."

She tackles the notion of interpellation in Althusser where one is hailed and turns around to face the Law, which allows one to recognize him or herself as a subject subjected to that Law. Whereas Althusser argues that all ideology hail or interpellate concrete individuals as concrete subjects and that the ideological state apparatus is good because of its quality of self-regulating, Butler does not seem to care where it is repressive state apparatus or ideological state apparatus. That is, it does not matter, to...
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