This weeks text is a section from Foucault’s History of Sexuality and will be presented by Ditte Madsen.
The relevant extract, Vol. 1 (Introduction Part I, and first two chapters from Part IV), is here-
and Ditte’s summary is as follows:
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…