I find myself musing over Foucault a lot. Can't say that I'm completely versed on all of his works, though I have read Discipline and Punish. Can't say that I've read all commentaries that proliferate from his works, though I have read quite a few.


A thought occurred to me yesterday, and I'd like some input on it.


My understanding is that Foucault's conception of power is that it is:

          1. penetrative rather than coercive--it is internalized rather than enforced externally

          2. enabling rather than restrictive--it doesn't prohibit but rather shapes choices


So, we internalize, not so much a choice, but rather a limiting set of options; that is, we come to see an either-or scenario, in which the fuller spectrum of possibilities are sloughed off in favor of discrete limited choices.


It seems to me that the distilling of possible orientations (take the word how you will), practices and ideological elements into a limited and discrete system helps to galvanize consensus. As I read it, Foucault is saying that any such system will tend toward imbalance, with consensus on all poles, but more likely a majority at one pole that will define the norm (could we extemporize and call it orthodoxy?). This imbalance would then mark the underlying structures of inequalities that manifest as power and resistance.


Am I on the right track in reading a commentary on consensus in Foucault's theories?

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Hi Neil, 

I'm working on my undergraduate thesis about grassroots politics and subjectivity among young people in Athens, Greece, and I've been looking into biopolitics and Foucault's ideas about power, and it would be great if I could read some of your texts, they seem really interesting and I would appreciate a starting point in dealing with the variety of texts in relation to that. Do you think you could suggest any of your texts for me to read?


Neil Turner said:

Hi Stuart,

Thank you for the kind words. The essays are comprised from a wide variety of philosophical, historical and literary sources and authors not only the works of Foucault. Their purpose was to provide a foundation for a series of lectures to graduate students. As such, they are organized into four essays/lectures - they are: an introduction, an analysis of Foucault's archaeological and genealogical periods of writing and finally his ideas concerning truth. Those ideas concerning "power/knowledge" are contained in the archaeological period. His "Discipline and Punish" and "The History of Sexuality" series are fine examples of these concepts.  Also, there is "Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings - 1972-1977. Please advise which essays you are interested in viewing...again thanks...tchau.

Stuart Steidle said:

Neil -- I'm astonished by the breadth and depth of Foucalt you've seemingly penetrated.  Any chance you'd be willing to share your essays with another Foucalt-novice?

Thanks and best,


Neil Turner said:


I discovered Michel Foucault while pursuing my master’s in medical anthropology and my whole world changed. I became obsessed with his writings and spent four years of my life reading nothing but Foucault. Although, I do not consider myself an expert on Foucault, I have read close to one hundred books concerning his work (books by Foucault himself, collaborative works, works by other authors, interviews and short films). Last year, I was asked by the anthropology department of a California university to write a series of essays on Foucault for a graduate seminar class to assist students in understanding his work. I wrote four different essays. Of course, I covered the area of his concepts on power. If you are interested, I can provide these essays to you and hope that they will assist you in your pursuit of understanding one of the most important intellects of the 20th century.



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