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Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian and a sociologist. He was born in 1926 and died in 1984. He was a university lecturer and held a position in College de France where he was named history of system of thoughts. He is very famous for his critical studies of social institutions. He is known for human science, psychiatry, prison systems as well as history of human sexuality. The writing that he discussed, power has raised a lot of critique from different people. The following is a discussion on his conception of power.
The fist thing is looking the conception Foucault had over the Marxism's idea of politics and power. He says that Marxism characterized political power in the way the power did to maintenance in relation to production, and how this power has developed the forces that has made the production possible (Deleuze, 1988).
Power relation seems to affect the economy and they are analyzed in function of the way they affect the capitalist societies' interest. Nevertheless, Marxism does not seem to accept the fact that the capitalist society has legitimacy in its state or social democratic conception. In most, case the capitalist state as if liberals and they argue that the power has a focal point. This means that modern society is concentrated in various places such as institution. This makes some people in such places to have more power to a point of controlling their lives. According to Marxism, power is all about control of productive resource in the name of dominating the production but not sovereign power. The power goes as far as the area of social life where the dominant class tries to own and control the all means of production.
This is done by practice of mythical ideology that emphasizes the importance of obedience of the social orders. It is therefore controlled by repression role with an aim of maintaining production relations to ensure that the ruling class dominates. The Marxist conception is that the power cannot be well exercised without overthrowing capitalism and the majority people gain a substantial production means. Foucault in his side sees this as a socialist idea in a socialism market. Foucault criticized the Marxism and traditional liberal perspective of politics citing it to lack disciplinary and normalization nature of power.
According to Butler, (1999), Foucault in his lectures provided the conception of power in the modern society, and how they can be studied. He believed that the power should not concern itself with the legitimate form of regulation through a central position. Otherwise it should be destined to an ultimate destination in a more regional and local institution. The powers do not have some central point nor does it work under some principles justifying its roles but works under rule of right that makes it to be more organize. The power is instrumental as it invests even in the institutions where violent can eventually intervene to get the materials and power control.
Foucault discusses about the way the punishment can be effected. He does not believe that the right of punishment lies effectively in the right of sovereign power. He tries to see the power of punishment to be embodied in some local or regional numbers, which concern themselves with torture. Foucault looked the issue of punishment in a deeper meaning studying its actual practice. He was objected to the fact that the punishment requires theories explaining when it is justifiable, when it is legal and when the state work within its range of jurisdiction. He explained that the practice of punishment include various techniques and follows given rules. The punishment practice also requires some instrument and procedures to ensure that it is well delivered. Certain norms and strategies are to be followed to ensure that the punishment practice is followed to the letter. Foucault cited some of the things that are overlooked in the dissemination of the punishment in most of the sovereign countries. They bring about philosophies that entail the rule of law explaining the just and unjust punishment. He said that such philosophies divert the attention from how the power should be exercised to a position where it can be altered to less legal way.
His attention, Foucault wanted to straighten by reversing the mode of the way the power and punishment was analyzed by the whole discourse of right from the time of memorial. His discourse had an objective of fixing the real legitimacy of power. He specifically wanted to justify while the sovereign authority has delimited criticizing the way the power for years, and ensures that this is corrected.
He especially combined in his discourse the philosophical, moral and legal support in search of concealing domination that was causing such things as brutality in social life.
In his work, he took an example of a monarchy to help show the nature at which the judicial armoury is used to show the power of the sovereign state. This is done by investing royal power to ensure that monarchy have effective embodiment of sovereignty in pursuit of befitting its fundamental right. According to Foucault discourse of right, he shows the need for such government to impose balance in their sovereign power (Hekman, 1996). He says that such powers should be strained in certain rules o f right to confine them to remain legitimate. He criticized the practitioners of the monarchy jurisdiction as they for years have worked within such government without checking the divine power and right the king is bestowed by the law.
Nevertheless, the modern discourse has been no good after all according to Foucault. This is because for a long time they have assumed that the power is understood by living in it, coming from or possessing a central sovereign position. The democratic nature of the state having the lawmakers and enforcers has no great difference in the way they affect their powers to the citizen form the sovereign states that are monarchial in nature. The only difference is that they are liberally democratic and assume to protect or so seen, their citizen and let them participate in making of ideas democratically. They welcome their citizen's negotiations and facilitation, but in the contrary, the lawmakers will have a great influence with the final judgment and power display thus continuity of the spirit of sovereignty.
Foucault in his view saw that the while sovereignty issue was misleading and had a lot of discontent. This is because it has many assumptions about the power assumed in the modern societies. This lead to narrowing the understanding of politics and more often the society is in conflict. This made by lack of knowledge in the way the power is disseminated in them. He cited it to have disguised itself in the issue of supporting development of disciplinary power in the regions and local institutions.
The sovereign state has made it possible for this to continue existing by using central position of the political life and discourse right techniques. This is by using language of right that try to distract the people from how the power is manifested elsewhere. They know that if the society is let to have time to see the way power is practiced elsewhere, they might be in a position to see their live in different way. They may even be able to relate power and the manner in which it affects negatively their daily live in a way they had not thought.
Foucault argued that apparently, most of the people recently are getting to the up of the game by involving themselves actively in the political issues. According to Olssen (1999), this is demonstrated by the urge that most of them have to get knowledge by being educated. This has made them to be disciplined in focusing the political issues and intelligently criticizing the sovereign centre of power. He believe that even after the criticism that were subjected to the previous monarch system of government ceased, its ideology still exist as the current democratic system superimposed the same mechanisms in a way to hide the procedures that are actually there. The element of domination is rampant in the way they manifest power though they try to guarantee everyone proper exercise of sovereign rights by the virtue of being sovereign state.
He narrates that t e issue of the state being a sovereign state or have human rights according to the democratic sovereignty mandate does not guarantee their citizen that they will have justified disciplinary action during its endorsement. He said that disciplinary power lacks such things as rights, liberty and sovereignty. Otherwise, it is dominated by scientific and pseudo-scientific norms that discourages liberal jurisdiction. His advices to anyone who want to form non-disciplinary form of power was that, he/she should not assimilate the ancient sovereignty right method. He/she should come up with a new method of right that is free from disciplinary method that is completely from sovereignty principles. Foucault added that some other ideas should be invented that is far from the popular sovereignty ones. The ideas should also not incline themselves in the socialist issues also as they still maintain the same ideology as the liberal ones. They only are enlarged by the fact that they use science to create domination.
Foucault tries to show how the view of power in the modern society prevent the society from understanding completely it exercise. From seventeenth century, emergence of power that had come up to the surface has been dominated by procedural techniques that have different apparatus and elements that relates to sovereign subject. He presented this by considering the revolution of the power in his lecture, Historical rapture.
Before the industrialization in Europe that caused capitalism came about, power was centralized in institution and authority. These institutions formed monarchy that had their subject implement the power as given t them by the relevant authority. They had sovereign authority that followed the legal system in distributing the resources such as land and other things to its subjects. This helped the state to have a good control over his people and exercise its sovereign power making it to very dominant. This was to help the state have a control over the territory. Otherwise, this was done without any scientific knowhow of such things as demographic areas, mortality rate and life expectancy among others. This lead to emergency of now the current statistical development of the population. Initially the issue of controlling the products and the people who produced them was not there. It came up with the new era of modern disciplinary power. For example in a country like France, the sovereignty had to be tangible to bring the sense of effectiveness. They ensured that, it was followed and put in order even if it was by brutal punishment.
The power at that time was exercised. Religion was seen to play a very great role in the domination of the power. Taxes were imposed to the public as well as legal obligations. Foucault see the same to be the one happening in the current mode of governance but now the people themselves are the one who have been subjected to central form of power. This makes the legitimacy of the current sovereign power to be questionable.
Regardless of what is now happened initially before modern sovereign states and industrial capitalism, the power of late is still exercised in more pronounced way. The modern political discourse development brought about constitutional politics, laws, institution as well as parliamentary politics, which remain fixed to their matters. Without relinquishing some matters that has of years statically fixed by such institutions, the society will always miss the modern distinctive power. The reason is the modern power ensures that the society is normalized in all ways by imposing controlled discipline and setting some values and varying them to ascertain success to a given degree.
In modern days, the power s exercised by different methods. The sovereign states uses legal codes to ensure that is its power dominate over its subjects. Such institution as schools, prisons, hospital among others, is used to sharpen the society towards the attaining political and social control. They ensure that they perpetrate norms to the society creating marginalization among them. These institutions are made to conform to the authority by making them obey administrative techniques and guiding strategies. The group concerned especially in places like prisons are marginalized and thus stigmatized in the name of being dangerous to the lest of the people. In the other hand, institution such as school according to Foucault, alienates some other group of people that is seen to have scientific training thus having their certain authority that create impact to people as they are regarded as expert. The next group is the capitalist and the politicians. They create observation domination by their constant surveillance techniques causing social control.
In such strategies, the society way of life is obvious controlled. With institution such as school for example, the sex and sexuality, morality as well as human nature is highly influenced and this is even more reinforced when other institutions are integrated in ones life, as they will always come with different code of conduct that streams oneself towards a certain way. This ensures the sovereign power prevails in the society as power bestowed in such institution will always have a certain direction hat has been put in place by the state to have control on those in them.
This ensures that the power of the sovereign state is not the one, which is in the central position, but the people who are subject to that power. This enhances the power to be effectively exercised. With the emergency of the modernity, this has made if the issue more pronounced with people being investigated, classified registered among many things in pursuit of understanding and coming up with the key problems the society may be facing. Foucault insisted that for the people to get the deeper meaning of the social and political power, they have to understand better the overlapping factors behind them. Therefore, there is need for examining in details the tactics and the techniques used in the organizational management, political discourse among the many aspect of life that surrounds society on their daily life. However, attention is always diverted from the modern control form as the elite thinks on the legitimacy of the state sovereignty but on the hand the political discourse as written by Foucault focuses overall state.
Therefore, concisely Foucault shows power being productive as well as repressive. This is caused by the characteristic of the modern society, which is industrialized. He explains this by a more application of ideas and concrete description. This is done by citing specific example from history. For example he tells that the power is not just a matter of a group of people ganging together and oppressing the lest. However, it goes beyond that, as other people are indirectly involved to propagate such oppression and domination.
Many people are made victims of circumstances as they succumb to certain ways of doing things, which they feel that they assimilate and they became part and parcel of their daily life. This power has been formed and it dominates oneself changing the whole societies making them think in a certain way as required by certain small group of people to ensure that they are easily manipulated. The society has got itself so much rooted in the process of propagating this act of domination through actively participating on such issues as cultural practices, political practices or in the oppression itself. Foucault show that most of the people in the society are victims of powerful few who benefit widely by the intertwined mode of society control method by ensuring that they benefit by dominating them.
Generally, the domination of power has been passed from the ancient form to the current modern society according to Foucault but has come in disguise. It so hidden that very few can notice the way the system work unless one get to learn the small bit of the whole system. The power domination has been transferred from the sovereign state to the individual level causing capitalization. This makes the society to be modeled in a certain way in the institution formed to ensure that they are easily manipulated in the name of democracy.