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Michel Foucault: Power and Its Products
PHIL 359
Spring 2018
Section: 01  

Is power productive of reality? What does Michel Foucault (1926-1984) mean when he famously declares that power is not just prohibitive, but productive? Foucault's work has been enormously influential in the fields of philosophy, social theory, history, anthropology, queer theory, and feminist theory, among others. The primary topic of Foucault┐s work is the way in which we have come to categorize not only our world but ourselves and in particular to categorize ourselves in terms of madness, criminality, disease, and sexuality. Foucault, however, is interested in more than these categories themselves: he aims to investigate the conditions through which these categories come to be seen as capable of capturing truths about ourselves. This investigation leads him, in the mature phase of his work that begins in the 1970s, to the problem of power, which is best thought of as a set of relations and not as a thing or a possession. Foucault takes power relations to be (a) implied in relations of knowledge and (b) to be "productive," in a certain sense, of social reality. In this course, we will try to clarify the relationship between power, the production of the social, and knowledge in Foucault's work.

On the one hand, to call power productive opens the door to a major reconsideration of the basic problems of social and political philosophy, which can no longer be assured of having a timeless set of basic questions or objects (the state, the citizen-subject). On the other hand, there is a risk in this approach of ascribing almost magical qualities to power and of reifying it. Since his death, Foucault's thought has often been taken to end up in a curious impasse, caught between extreme activism that accepts no system of power as established and cynicism that sees co-optation everywhere and resistance as futile. What are the political implications of Foucault's shifting conception of power? What follows for our understanding of ourselves? What is really at stake in the ways that we classify and categorize ourselves today?
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS PHIL
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (PHIL)(PHIL-Philosophy)(PHIL-Social Jus)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on JUN-21-2024
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