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[T]he parrhesia in social media may set individuals against one another in pointless struggles for authenticity while precluding them from uniting politically to fight for shared goals against those remote elites. The satisfaction of those games, the “self” and “truth” that emerges from those compulsions [...] make the present tolerable or even pleasurable while altering nothing about a general condition that makes people feel overburdened, depressed, precarious, excluded, humiliated. There is a pale satisfaction in making a limited truth in the moment, even if it has no effect on the distribution of power or the way one is known by society.In a series of recent posts at The New Inquiry, Rob Horning writes about the construction of the self in social media as novelistic pleasure, ego depletion, and Foucauldian truth game.
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...