Another Look At The Power/Knowledge Relationships Of Michel Foucault

Power/Knowledge Relationships—Another Obstacle On The Path To Liberation

Social organization and social structure are born out of the power arrangements
which best reflect the prevailing episteme. According to Foucault, man (as a
conceptual entity) and scientific knowledge are born out of these power
arrangements. Blanchot describes the theme that surfaces “above the analysis” in
Foucault’s books:

“Thus, already in The Archaeology of Knowledge, where we seem to indulge in the
illusion of an autonomous discourse (an illusion with which literature and art
perhaps bewitch themselves), there are announced the multiple connections
between knowledge and power, and the obligation to recognize the political
effects that are produced, at any given moment in history, by the ancient desire
to disentangle the true from the false. Knowledge, power, truth? Reason,
exclusion, repression?” [Foucault, Blanchot, 1987, p. 80]

These power/knowledge relationships, when considered in the context of the
liberation process, become just another obstacle that stands in the way of
liberation. These “pockets of power,” in the form of social structure and social
organization, may be thought of as static elements in the liberation process;
that is, from the point of view of the people who tend to benefit from these
“pockets of power” they are static, but, from the point of view of the people
who are “locked out” of these “pockets of power” they are oppressive. In other
words, although power/knowledge relationships dictate the options available in
terms of accessing one’s environment, ultimately, there is no preferred state of
privilege and control; it all becomes an obstacle in the liberation process.

Of course, in the real world, I realize I have just described the stratification of the “haves” and “have-nots;” and, I suppose, Foucault would be content to leave it at that. One cannot deny that built into the power structure of social organization is the secured status and privilege of the groups that possess the most power. And further, this security, more often than not, becomes secured by denying power (access to the environment) to the “underprivileged.” That said, it should be noted that the power/knowledge consequence of the liberation process, as it becomes manifest in the highly differentiated attributes of society (Durkheim) contributes positively to the individuals well being, health, growth, and freedom—all the freedom that satisfies needs, permits access to one’s environment, provides security, encourages aesthetic appreciation, provides moral examples, and, promotes justice—attests to this fact. At the very least, in so far as change is inherent in the liberation process, it remains open to positive results. Hopefully, change for the better will/ought to happen, but, in all likelihood, for this kind of change to occur, it will require (in Foucault’s language) the birth of a whole new episteme. This new episteme has already taken root in the logical implications generated by the new physics.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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