Tag Archives: Foucault and Politics

from power based on the law to power based on the norm

“Here, we must refer to something else that Foucault thinks has happened in power in recent times, a move from power based on the law to power based on the norm (HS1 144). The best way to grasp this change I think is by thinking of it as one from a society governed primarily by negative rules, telling us what not to do, to a a society in which we are given detailed models of how we should behave, which we are expected to live up to. Of course, rules and laws continue to exist, but the norm eclipses them. Thus, we can say that, where gender is concerned, we have moved from rules to norms (everyone is expected to display a full and appropriate range of emotions).” (Mark G. E. Kelly, Foucault and Politics, pp. 124-5)

a critical distance

“Foucault is neither a universalist (advocating what he sees as the single ultimately correct perspective) nor a relativist (advocating an awareness that we are trapped within our perspective). His position may be characterized as a version of realism, since he believes a pre-linguistic reality exists, even if he does not believe in our ability to describe it. He believes we can leverage this reality to get a critical distance on our cultural perspective, though this does not imply that we can escape it entirely. We cannot simply live in the pure reality beyond words and things. What we can do is criticise any particular perspective whatsoever, including our own. We ourselves do indeed have to have a perspective, but our potential to criticize our own point of view is limitless.” (Mark G. E. Kelly, Foucault and Politics, p. 56)

visible and invisible

“In Merleau-Ponty’s usage, the distinction of visible and invisible refers to the difference between the specifically human pole of existence, what might be called subjectivity, and the non-human, objective pole. Merleau-Ponty’s point in using the terms, and presumably Foucault’s in following him, is to avoid the vocabulary of subjectivity and humanness, which Merleau-Ponty had himself used copiously in his earlier work, and by avoiding this vocabulary to minimize the difference between language and material reality, between humans and things. For Merleau-Ponty, humans are a ‘fold in being’, by which he means that our consciousness is essentially a permutation of reality, rather than a substantially different element to physical things. We are an invisible side of the same nature as visible things.” (Mark G. E. Kelly, Foucault and Politics, pp. 48-49)