Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chapter Two of Society Must be Defended

I just think this is a good quote:

"Third, methodological precaution: Do not regard power as a phenomenon of mass and homogeneous domination--the domination of one individual over others, of one group over others, or of one class over others; keep it clearly in mind that unless we are looking at it from a great height and from a very great distance, power is not something that is divided between those who have it and hold it exclusively, and those who do not have it and are subject to it. Power must, I think, be analyzed as something that circulates, or rather as something that functions only when it is part of a chain It is never localized here or there, it is never in the hands of some, and it is never appropriated in the way that wealth of a commodity can be appropriated. Power functions. Power is exercised through networks, and individuals do not simply circulate in those networks; they are in a position to both submit to and exercise this power. They are never the inert or consenting targets of power; they are always its relays. In other words, power passes through individuals. It is not applied to them." (29)

Thus Foucault urges us not to conceive of the individual as some autonomous atomized figure, but to instead discuss this individual as an effect of power, constituted by and it and simultaneously the vessel for its exercise. The position of a "great height" from which one could conceivably see power is presumably fictive (Indeed, this links up most directly with the Deleuze and Guattari I've been reading lately, in which seeing networks of power would be possible only from a peak or mountain that thought itself capable of looking down on a plateau).


  1. Deacon takes this up in Fabricating Foucault; the more conservative appropriations of his work (foucault) seem increasingly difficult to sustain, eg in early Butler where she emphasizes the code of the performance over the performance itself.

    What more, when one would take that far away view they could possibly see beneath the soil, to the literal embodiment of the rhizome. In which case, what are we to do with readings that seem strategically to treat the grand view as if it were the only view?

    Or to put it in more disciplinary terms; if cultural formations can not be read from the abstraction, must a rhetorician become an ethnographer?

    Perhaps this is the reason why we allow so much agenda-setting to be called scholarship.

  2. There is a strange sense in which his writing sometimes seems like a polemic in favor of localism, which in some ways, is quite a conservative set of practices and attitudes.

    Its odd how he thinks say, the prison, functions as a metaphor for society, even though as an example its quite generalizable.

    Its been a while since i encountered Fabricating Foucault. I think if I roll with any secondary Foucault anytime soon it will be Dreyfus and Rabinow, which seems to be cited quite often.