By Alec McHoul, Wendy Grace
Who're we this present day? That deceptively easy query persisted to be requested via the French historian and thinker, Michel Foucault, who for the final 3 a long time has had a profound impression on English-speaking students within the humanities and social sciences.; this article is designed for undergraduates and others who consider short of a few counsel whilst coming to grips with Foucault's voluminous and intricate writings. rather than facing them chronologically, even if, this booklet concentrates on a few of their primary strategies, essentially Foucault's rethinking of the types of "discourse", "power", and " the subject".; Foucault's writings give a contribution jointly to what he himself calls "an ontology of the present". His ancient learn used to be consistently geared in the direction of exhibiting how issues might have been and nonetheless may be differently. this is often particularly the case with recognize to the construction of human subjects.
“A continually transparent, complete and available advent which rigorously sifts Foucault’s paintings for either its strengths and weaknesses. McHoul and charm convey an intimate familiarity with Foucault's writings and a full of life, yet serious engagement with the relevance of his paintings. A version primer.”
-Tony Bennett,author of out of doors Literature
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Extra resources for A Foucault Primer: Discourse, Power and the Subject
Two such techniques are the confessional and the prison design known as ‘the Panopticon’, which we deal with in more detail in Chapter 3. It suffices for now to mention that these are techniques (in fact, sets of techniques) which attempt to know particular 23 A Foucault Primer kinds of subjects—for example ‘sinners’ and ‘criminals’—from the outside. They form both the internal and external aspects of persons under surveillance, their bodies and minds, as objects. In this context, it is important to consider the slightly different tack taken by Foucault in the third ‘phase’ of his work, marked by the second and third volumes of his History of Sexuality (1986a, 1988).
This change of emphasis moves discourse away from being simply a technical accomplishment (linguistic or interactional) on the part of pre-existing sovereign subjects, and redirects it towards the questions: what can be said? and what can be thought? Referring back to his historical analyses in The Order of Things, Foucault (1972:80) considers his failure there to specify the terms ‘discourse’ and ‘statement’ (énoncé): Instead of gradually reducing the rather fluctuating meaning of the word ‘discourse’, I believe that I have in fact added to its meanings: treating it sometimes as the general domain of all statements, sometimes as an individualizable group of statements, and sometimes as a regulated practice that accounts for a certain number of statements; and have I not allowed this same word ‘discourse’, which should have served as a boundary around the term ‘statement’, to vary as I shifted my analysis or its point of application, as the statement itself faded from view?
The structuralists’ notion that ‘ordinary’ language always needs to be supplemented by an analysis of its ‘truer’ and ‘deeper’ meaning is effectively annulled. It is no longer possible to see discourses as ‘surface’ phenomena underpinned by a more ‘real’, but hidden, structure. Discourse can no longer be seen to be harmless, to have a mythically ‘original’ state. The ‘origin’ is a discursive myth—with its own history—and not a ‘real presence’ inhabiting an object or text (Derrida, 1976). Interpretation is nothing more than one discourse—usually a scientific one— trying to secure another within its bounds.
A Foucault Primer: Discourse, Power and the Subject by Alec McHoul, Wendy Grace