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Foucault on every corner

Written By: daveski on February 23, 2009 5 Comments

“There is no difference between marks and words in the sense that there is between observation and accepted authority, or between verifiable fact and tradition. The process is everywhere the same: that of the sign and its likeness, and this is why nature and the word can intertwine with one another to infinity, forming, for those who can read it, one vast single text.” (The order of things, p. 34)

From Foucault on every corner

“The fact that the crime and the punishment were related and bound up in the form of atrocity was not the result of some obscurely accepted law of retaliation. It was the effect, in the rites of punishment, of a certain mechanism of power: of a power that not only did not hesitate to exert itself directly on bodies, but was exalted and strengthened by its visible manifestations; of a power that asserted itself as an armed power whose functions of maintaining order were not entirely unconnected with the functions of war; of a power that presented rules and obligations as personal bonds, a breach of which constituted an offence and called for vengeance; of a power for which disobedience was an act of hostility, the first sign of rebellion, which is not in principle different from civil war; of a power that had to demonstrate not why it enforced its laws, but who were its enemies, and what unleashing of force threatened them; of a power which, in the absence of continual supervision, sought a renewal of its effect in the spectacle of its individual manifestations; of a power that was recharged in the ritual display of its reality as ‘super-power’” (Discipline and punish, p. 57).

From Foucault on every corner

“Discourse will become the vehicle of the law: the constant principle of universal recoding” (Discipline and punish, p. 112).

From Foucault on every corner

“Codification, definition of offences, the fixing of a scale of penalties, rules of procedure, definition of the role of magistrates…provided, in effect, by means of the theory of interests, representations and signs, by the series and geneses that it reconstituted, a sort of general recipe for the exercise of power over men: the ‘mind as a surface of inscription for power, with semiology as its tool; the submission of bodies through the control of ideas; the analysis of representations as a principle in a politics of bodies that was much more effective than the ritual anatomy of torture and execution” (Discipline and punish, p. 102).

From Foucault on every corner

“…the disciplinary institutions secreted a machinery of control that functioned like a microscope of conduct; the fine, analytical divisions that they created formed around men an apparatus of observation, recording and training” (Discipline and punish, p. 173).

From Foucault on every corner

“Disciplinary power … is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on those whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility. In discipline, it is the subjects who have to be seen. Their visibility assures the hold of the power that is exercised over them. It is the fact of being constantly seen, of being able always to be seen, that maintains the disciplined individual in his subjection” (Discipline and punish, p. 187).

From Foucault on every corner

“It is comforting, however, and a source of profound relief to think that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form” (The order of things, p. xxiii).

From Foucault on every corner

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5 Responses to “Foucault on every corner”

  1. Youki on: 24 February 2009 at 1:45 am

    Very nice recontextualization of Foucault. I feel like I’m looking at late 20th century western society in a museum (presumably sometime in the far future). You know, that eerie “I see this every day but it’s always been in the background, and now it looks unnatural” kinda feeling.

  2. Youki on: 25 February 2009 at 4:45 pm

    An odd thought came to me today: “What if Foucault blogged?”

    What kind of Foucault would we know now? Would blogging, as a genre, have changed not just how he understands the world, but how he expresses it?

  3. daveski on: 25 February 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Wow, I’m glad you got that looking-in-the-museum feeling. It’s funny, when I’m reading Foucault (and I don’t do it very often, or nearly often enough) I feel like he must be on the internet with us. How would he have known otherwise?

    Blogging and social networking, like I was trying to get at with showing my facebook page above (and it’s the first time I’ve seen my profile pic of myself on the rock as … exposed … ), and all the other Web 2.0 social media, seem to me so disciplinary, subjecting people through their own visibility…to the point that they WANT to insert themselves into the light at every node of the network because to be networked is to be alive…

    I wonder if he would have blogged. What would he have blogged about? Or would he have BEEN the blog?

    You know who I bet would have blogged, or maybe he is, is Chomsky…does he?

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 25 February 2009 at 11:28 pm

    The closest thing is THIS. Is it blogging?

  5. Youki on: 26 February 2009 at 1:01 am

    It’s hard for me to imagine Foucault being a blogger, but a lot of that is because I construct him in “late” form — as an adult, as a brilliant thinker/writer, and as a published intellectual. I have trouble imagining what kind of person he was when he was a struggling graduate student, when his ideas were still in genesis.

    I think Foucault would have blogged. Setting aside the ontological paradox that occurs with associating Foucault with blogs, I can imagine him being a type of blogging activist who examines everyday life to uncover the power relations that are deeply embedded in our interactions with the world around us. “Discipline and Punish” especially seems conducive to commentary (as this post demonstrates!).

    I don’t think I’d call the Chomsky material blogging. Much of the material is obviously not, either interviews or articles or lectures. The content that look most like blog posts look more like essays to me. Or op-eds in the newspaper. Very formal, very uni-directional, more of what we’re used to seeing in printed format than on blogs.

    To me, blogging isn’t about the text, it’s about the social relations that arise out of the writership-readership system. I don’t see any Chomsky responses to the comments. Hard to say if he even reads them. Much of the material is reprinted. I don’t consider that site to be blogging. But then again, we can spend eternity debating what a blog is (because we do!).

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