An understanding of power must not be sought in a unique source of sovereignty from which secondary and recent forms would emanate; it is the moving substrate of force relations which, by virtue of their inequality, constantly engender states of power, but the later are always local and unstable..
.. Power is everywhere not because it embraces everything but because it comes from everywhere. And ‘Power’ insofar as it is permanent, repetitious, inert and self reproducing, is simply the over all affect that emerges from all these mobility’s, the concatenation that rests on each of them and seeks in turn to arrest their movement…
..Power is not an institution and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategically situation in a particular society’ (Foucault, M 1990) Nancy Hartsock in her book Feminism and Postmodernism wrote “Much of what Foucault has to say about power stresses the systematic nature of power and its presence in multiple social relations.
At the same time, however, his stress on heterogeneity and the specificity of each situation leads him to lose track of social structures and instead to focus on how individual experience and exercise power. Individuals, he argues circulate among the threads of power.They ” are always in the position of simultaneously undergoing and exercising power” Individuals are not like an atom which power strikes, but rather the fact that certain bodies and discourses are constituted as individual is an effect of power. Power must not be seen as a single individual dominating others or as one group or class dominating others. Foucault makes it difficult to locate domination, including domination in gender relations, Hartstock argues that this is a consequence of looking at power from the top down. Foucault resists power from the perspective of a white male citizen of a colonizer country, who sees all power relations as largely equivalent and stresses resistance but not social transformation. Foucault says that power is exercised generally through a ‘net like organisation’ and that ‘individuals circulate between its threads’.
Domination is not part of this image, rather the image of a network in which we all participate carries implications of equality and agency, rather than the systematic domination of the many by the few. For example he argues that the 19th Century family should be understood as a “network of pleasures and powers linked together at multiple points. ” Foucault acknowledges two modes of disciplinary: sovereign power, which is expressed in recognizable ways through particular and identifiable figures such as kings, the law, and even teachers; and the more effective disciplinary power, which is less visible, difficult to locate and therefore difficult to resist.In Foucault’s article, “The Means of Correct Training” (1975), the success of disciplinary power is said to depend on three factors: hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and examination. Firstly, discipline operates best by calculated gaze and not by force. This invisible impersonal gaze is only effective when the subject and not the power is seen, the subject must know itself to be under watch, yet the gaze must be completely invisible so that it will still be effective even if it is not actually tuned towards the individual.
Secondly, normality becomes whatever does not meet the rule and departs from it. Therefore, it is the function of punishment to correct anything that departs from the average behaviour.In addition, punishment also creates gaps and arranges qualities into hierarchies as discipline rewards and punishes by awarding ranks. Normalization makes people homogeneous and allows a chance to measure differences between individuals. Lastly, the evaluation of normality through examinations in school settings is an example on how society uses the “normal” as a goal and an ideal for disciplinary powers to define for us the way we are supposed to be as it qualifies, classifies and punishes. Ironically, examinations allow individuality as it also subjects each person to be analyzed and described if their evaluation escapes that of the average. The Canadian schools system lies within both systematic and disciplinary power.While Foucault uses schools as one of the models of disciplinary institutions, as teachers are themselves subject to the web of disciplinary power, teachers also exercise power intermittently over specific parts of the students’ lives with great visibility.
This is a reason that the school can become a site of resistance and rebellion as a revolt against this sovereign power. As students see themselves being forced to act in way that they would not, it is logical for them to resist and/or rebel. This resistance to power has harmful effects as it only helps ensure children to follow into their predetermined “niche” in society based on race, culture and socio-economic background.For Foucault, power is not simply a repressive, law-like force that controls and prohibits (Foucault, 1975). For Foucault, power is productive as well as repressive. Power does not just come from those in authority: it manifests itself in diverse ways and from different points at once.
Power directs the transmission of knowledge and discourses and shapes our concepts and self-image (Foucault, 1975). The use of discipline is an effect of power. Discipline is a way of controlling the movement and operations of the body in a constant way. It is a type of power that coerces the body by regulating and dividing up its movement and the space and time in which it moves.The modern educational system, and indeed the modern state, is believed to be impossible without this idea of the mass control of bodies and movement.
Conversely, Weber would oppose with Foucault’s imperative of power as the importance base for all aspects of life. Weber agreed that with power, people can more easily realize their maximum potential against the resistance of others. However, this all depends on the social context of historical and structural circumstances such as the struggles of Blacks in North America during the sixties/seventies as they tried to enter the education system. Weber also acknowledges that people do not only strive for power to enrich themselves as social honor and status are more important factors for social approval.
This can be seen in classrooms as the bully is usually not the most popular student. Foucault’s notion of the omnipresence and specifity of power relations contradicts his call for resistance and makes social change untenable. Foucault frequently uses language that argues that power “pervades the entire social body” or is “omnipresent”.
This all of social life comes to be a network of power relations. Some critics have argued that if power is everywhere at all times it is functionally equivalent to saying power is nowhere. Power just is. And anything you try to do to counter power is within the system of omnipresent power of relations and may indeed lead to further oppressions.Many critiques are based on the seeming contradictions in Foucault’s work and the ways in which he appears to advocate a kind of relativism at the same time as he advocates resistance.
(Rassmussen, D, M 1996) If power is pervasive in all interactions and if it is mobile is there anything that can be done to change oppressive situations? Foucault seems to call for resistance to power, for example he suggests that a counter attack against the deployment of sexuality should not be sex desire but bodies and pleasure and he imagines a future without the current power/knowledge discourse. He also suggests that resistance is implicit in all power relations and this allows the possibility of change.The claim that Foucault’s rhetoric is intended to incite us into action is unsatisfactory because it is never clear, even in a specific local situation, how is a person to act and why? The appeal is to specificity and locality does not help us to elucidate the ethical political question of how a person should act. It merely relocates the issue on a local level. Nancy Fraser says, “Because he lacks a normative standard, a clear ethical standard in his formulation of truth and freedom for example, he leaves himself open to misunderstanding. Many followers of Foucault and post-modern philosophy have adopted a kind of ethical ultra-relativism that is, in part based on the kind of deconstructive practice that Foucault developed.
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