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In The Will To Knowledge Foucault questions the way in which the relationship between sex and power is conceived as repressive and attempts to demonstrate the constitutive implications this has upon the subject in terms of their subjectification as knowable objects, which in turn is internalized, operating at the level of the body and the conduct of the individual. It is this process by which the individual has come to adopt the search for truth or ‘the will to knowledge’ as a form of liberation, which Foucault wants to trace in order to highlight how power is implicated in and inseparable from knowledge. More widely, Foucault argues for the need to understand and analyze modern forms of power as operating and effective not in terms of top down repression, prohibition or limits, in the form of the juridical, but rather through productive techniques of examination, social norms and practices that are expressed in and give rise to a certain discourse, capable of modifying behavior and constituting subjectivities including that of ‘the other’. Power, for Foucault, in the form of social norms, operates to individualize and differentiate but at the same time, through the regulation of ‘populations’, becomes a dangerous and totalizing force. Foucault in turn conceives of resistance as multiple and necessary forces internal to the relations of power.

Foucault’s nominalist stance and productive idea of power clearly has radical implications in terms of agency and the subject and his implication of power in all claims to knowledge and truth raises questions about our ability to justify any calls for change. However, Foucault’s ideas embrace radical plurality and difference in the sense that knowledge and truths on his account could always be otherwise. Not in a relativist sense but as a call for continuous questioning, debate and struggle, politics as truth games, he argues. As contesting truths, not arriving at truths

I found this passage, and the discussion very rich and extremely provoking in terms of the problem of innovation how, and if it is possible conceived of as a conceptual problem.

But I have two ongoing problems with Foucault.

1. He seems both to want, and yet not to want, to say that the operation of power is privative of freedom repressive. If power is (necessarily and always) systemic, emancipation is impossible perhaps even unimaginable.

2. Even if repressive and systemic power represent historically successive forms of power (rather than competing universalistic claims about its essential character), as a Political Agenda the shift of focus from repressive power to systemic power seems to me premature. The existence of identifiably repressive power is still sufficiently widespread and ugly for it to be worth identifying and confronting! Claims about the epistemically based character of power begin to look like the rather precious preoccupation of academic/intellectuals! Does Foucault own discourse about power need to be situated?

One alternative way of reading/using him is to put him in Gramscian framework which views two tactical ways of confronting power a War of Manoevre/Movement which would be a confrontational relation to repressive power, and a War of Position which would seek to subvert systemic power at the epistemic, cultural, agit prop, level.

Im still grappling with all this and certainly don have any straight answers to the issues you pose. Having said that, perhaps in modern western society, which of course is Foucault concern, the binary of emancipated and non emancipated is unhelpful and his systemic or rather relational conception more apt in that it poses the idea of transgression, liberty or resistance as that of ongoing practice not as a state that can be achieved. This is necessarily from within the relations of power, though not, i think, because one is trapped but rather that power enables as well as restricts and operates at all levels of society as ongoing struggle. I see this agonistic conception of power relations as Foucault central normative claim which necessarily includes struggle against domination as that which restricts practices of liberty.

Thus, his own claim against apathy towards rather a hyper and pessimistic activism. A consciousness of the dangers implicit in all regimes of knowledge/power not so as not to change but rather as ongoing change

I wonder if the repressive power you refer to in modern society could be accounted for by Foucault notion of congealed power relations and whether resistance could be offered in the form of questioning regimes of knowledge/power as opposed to appeal to universal human rights that are to significant numbers formal but inaccessible?

The ugly relations which you refer to and which must be confronted is without argument but, in Foucault terms, necessarily to be fought from within relations of power not by abstract appeals that are indeed themselves enmeshed in power relations and constitutive of certain subject formations.

I was thinking about your point of women struggle for greater choice within maternity care being fought and enabled through organisations such as the NCT against a repressive form of power and wondered about the norms implicitly subscribed to by these in terms of pregnancy and motherhood and what these mean for women more generally or particularly marginal or more isolated groups such as the teenage mother, the unemployed or the non english speaking mothers. I think, with Foucault, the cost of this kind of resistance is that of the exclusion of some, their constitution as other, as well as the restrictions upon behaviour as social norms are reinforced.

I have yet, however, to think of real and effective Foucauldian resistance in this context

I appreciate your comments.

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This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

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binaural beats without headphones Welcome to the University of Exeter Political Theory reading group blog