Like A Face Drawn in Sand at the Edge of the Sea
August 17, 2007 8:01 AM Subscribe
A society without power relations can only be an abstraction. Which, be it said in passing, makes all the more politically necessary the analysis of power relations in a given society, their historical formation, the source of their strength or fragility, the conditions which are necessary to transform some or to abolish others. For to say that there cannot be a society without power relations is not to say either that those which are established are necessary or, in any case, that power constitutes a fatality at the heart of societies, such that it cannot be undermined. Instead, I would say that the analysis, elaboration, and bringing into question of power relations and the "agonism" between power relations and the intransitivity of freedom is a permanent political task inherent in all social existence."Saint" Michel Foucault (1926-1984) transformed Western thought. Institutions -- prisons, asylums, clinics -- define the rhythm of our daily existence; Foucault found that they also determine the way we think. The search for the political and philosophical implications of this insight led him to biology and economics, linguistics and the study of sexuality. In Foucault's eyes, intellectual activity, however radical, could never be divorced from the techniques of power. This is why some have accused him of political quietism. Other critics say he was simply a bad scholar. Who was the real Foucault? "Anarchist, leftist, ostentatious or disguised Marxist, nihilist, explicit or secret anti-Marxist, technocrat in the service of Gaullism, new liberal," gay saint, charlatan, or something else entirely? Perhaps we have posed the question incorrectly...
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