The Discourse of Power. michael foucault: history of sexuality & crime and punishment

Essay by dancnnancieUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, February 2004

download word file, 5 pages 3.0

Downloaded 260 times

To Foucault, everything is about power

relationships. Entwined with power is knowledge so

that in every power relationship there is knowledge

and vice-versa. Foucault takes the cliché "Knowledge

is power" and revises it: the knowledge of humans

integrated with the power that acts on humans equals

power/knowledge. Consequently, power/knowledge (not a

binary opposition but an integrated construction) is

always a discursive formation and works through

language. To understand how power/knowledge works,

it's important to understand "epistemes" and


Epistemes are whole systems of relations or historical

groupings of knowledge. Foucault looks for truth and

knowledge in historical contexts rather than in

Humanist or Structuralist theories. Grouping

taxonomies, or categorizing is important in studying

epistemes because how we group things reveals what we

value. Power/knowledge works through language in

discourse as well as in epistemes. Discourse is

grouping an order of objects about a subject or group

of specialized knowledge about a subject.

Discourse is

not simply language. Foucault says it is "not a group

of signs but practices that systematically form the

objects of which they speak." In this sense, analysis

of discourses leads to truth.

Discourse is fixed and limited to the time in which it

exists. For example, we can look at the current war

in Iraq and its discursive elements (weapons,

participants, strategy), but this discourse is

specific only to the time the war in Iraq exists. This

discursive formation is not relevant in the past and

will hold no truth in the future; it pertains solely

to its particular time. The goal for discursive

analysis is to discover what is being said through

what is said or as Foucault says, "to find what is

this specific existence that emerges from what is said

and nowhere else."

Control over body and soul is the primary focus...