Once More, with Intensity: Foucault’s History of Power Revisited//Foucault Beyond Foucault/Jeffrey Nealon

This article explores Foucault’s assessment of the History of Power and it’s mutations over time. There are 3 dominant processes of power as described by Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, Jeffrey Nealon adds a fourth process to describe the emergent power system of today:

century of Emergence    17th               17th-18th                18th-19th           19th-present

Mode of Power                Sovereign          Social                      Discipline         Biopwer

Primary Actor                  King                   Jurist                      Expert               Individual

Primary Target                Flesh                  Signs                      Capacities           Lives

Primary Hinge                 Bodies               Souls                       Training       Governmentality

Primary Practice              Ceremony         Representation      Exercise              Norm

Most Intense Form         Torture               Reform                    Panopticism      Sexuality

Desired Outcome             Obedience         Community            Docility           Autocontrol

This link is slightly tangental, but relevant in that they talk about the reification of self through interaction. How people establish their reality, and with that their identity through feedback loops, input from other people and their environment. They describe experiments which isolate people, that ultimately lead to hallucination and pacing, as people create input for their starved processors(minds).

Splendid Isolation//How Stuff Works/ 9.29.2011 Podcast

This idea of existence through communicated affirmation of self paired with the power of the norm are vividly portrayed in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. When he does not perform to his capacity his family(actors) disassociates(discipline) from him and he can no longer hold on to reality or a sense of self(life-existence, not dead or alive).

This human condition, to exist through the larger body, is one characteristic of individuals which enables the mechanism of norms to be so effective. The threat of a compromised life, of isolation, using individuals to disseminate discipline, makes the Biopower model extremely light and efficient.

It occurs to me that this social pressure always existed, and is only now coming into alignment with democratic power, being exploited for control. I am unclear as to how the primary hinge is governmentality, but I suppose this could reflect that norms are built in accordance with or to contest authority (government).

This entry was published on February 3, 2012 at 2:02 am and is filed under Swarm. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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