Michael Foucault's Theory of Power

Topics: Sociology, Family, Marriage Pages: 2 (699 words) Published: September 27, 2010
The aim of this paper is to outline Michael Foucault’s theory of power relations and to present how helpful is this concept in understanding family life.

Power could generally be viewed as a certain degree of control that some individuals may have over others and it can manifest itself in many different ways. Whether we are aware of it or not, most of us are being subjected to various shapes and forms of power on everyday basis and we usually tend to accept it as a natural occurrence and a fact of life.

So far many ideologies and theories of power have been developed by various thinkers who have made attempts to introduce different views of what power is, how it is created and how it works. Below is an example of one such ideology, which was put forward by Michael Foucault, a French philosopher, whose concept of power has become well known and established amongst social scientists.

Foucault’s concept of power is not a straightforward notion. According to Foucault, power is not simply something that is exercised over others, but instead it is passing indirectly through the hands of the powerful as well as the powerless. In Foucault’s view, power is never possessed by one person. People do not have power implicitly. It is not a fixed quantity of physical force but instead a stream of energy flowing through all aspects of society. Power does not show itself in any obvious way but seeks to establish order by working on peoples’ actions and beliefs. For Foucault, power is located neither in human subjects nor in social institutions but is diffused throughout society. For instance, according to Foucault, power of the institution does not pass from the top down but instead circulates through organizational practices, which provoke certain actions and deny others. In Foucault’s view, compliance is also a complex matter. It depends on individuals’ willingness to internalise with the system of beliefs, ideas, practices or values that they have been presented...
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