Foucault and the Theories of Power and Identity

Topics: Judith Butler, Feminism, Queer theory Pages: 4 (1380 words) Published: April 1, 2005
Foucault believed that power is never in any one person's hands, it does not show itself in any obvious manner but rather as something that works its way into our imaginations and serves to constrain how we act. For example in the setting of a workplace the power does not pass from the top down; instead it circulates through their organizational practices. Such practices act like a grid, provoking and inciting certain courses of action and denying others. Foucault considers this as no straightforward matter and believes that it rests on how far individuals interpret what is being laid down as "obvious" or "self evident", institutional power works best when all parties accept it willingly. Foucault's notion of power is a difficult notion to grasp principally because it is never entirely clear on who has the power in the first place, once the idea is removed that power must be vested in someone at the top of the ladder e.g. the company director, it becomes much more difficult to identify what power is or where and whom it lies with. Foucault believes that we are so used to thinking about power as an identifiable and overt force and that this view is simply not the case, because it is taken for granted that the above statement is true then it is much more complicated to comprehend power as a guiding force that does not show itself in an obvious manner. According to Foucault we take it upon ourselves to regulate our own conduct, even though we are free to do and say as we please we choose to constrain our behaviour and the reason for us doing so it that we know what is expected of us, we do not need someone in a position of "authority" to do this for us, we all take responsibility for our own lives. It is in this sense that power works as an anonymous force, provoking free agents to act in ways that make it difficult for them to do otherwise. Foucault's theory of power "revolves around indirect techniques of self-regulation which induce appropriate forms of...
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