Foucault and the Theories of Power and Identity

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Foucault and the Theories of Power and Identity Foucault believed that power is never in any one person?s hands, it does not show itself in any obvious manner but rather as something that works its way into our imaginations and serves to constrain how we act. For example in the setting of a workplace the power does not pass from the top down; instead it circulates through their organizational practices. Such practices act like a grid, provoking and inciting certain courses of action and denying others. Foucault considers this as no straightforward matter and believes that it rests on how far individuals interpret what is being laid down as 'obvious' or 'self evident', institutional power works best when all parties accept it willingly. Foucault's notion of power is a difficult notion to grasp principally because it is never entirely clear on who has the power in the first place, once the idea is removed that power must be vested in someone at the top of the ladder e.g. the company director, it becomes much more difficult to identify what power is or where and whom it lies with. Foucault believes that we are so used to thinking about power as an identifiable and overt force and that this view is simply not the case, because it is taken for granted that the above statement is true then it is much more complicated to comprehend power as a guiding force that does not show itself in an obvious manner. According to Foucault we take it upon ourselves to regulate our own conduct, even though we are free to do and say as we please we choose to constrain our behaviour and the reason for us doing so it that we know what is expected of us, we do not need someone in a position of ?authority? to do this for us, we all take responsibility for our own lives. It is in this sense that power works as an anonymous force, provoking free agents to act in ways that make it difficult for them to do otherwise. Foucault?s theory of power ?revolves around indirect techniques of self-regulation which induce appropriate forms of behaviour.?1, we are free to govern ourselves. In the absence of an authority figure we will automatically restrain our behaviour, there is no ?hand? of power that pushes us all into line, only an acknowledgement that we all work within a framework of choices, that are ultimately subjected to influence and direction, but that we ourselves have the fina... ... middle of paper ... ...ogist Kathy Woodward, she also points out that our identity would need to change depending on whom it is we were interacting with and the situation that we were in, ?subtle and not so subtle variations of identity may well be called upon for each of these roles.?8 Butler describes modern notions of identity as ?being made up of regulatory ideals?9, these regulatory ideals provide ?idealised and reified norms which people are expected to live up to.?10 These types of regulatory ideals are sustained or undermined through performance. Performativity is not a singular act, ?it is always the reiteration of a norm or a set of norms, and to the extent that it acquires an act like status in the present, it conceals or dissimulates the conventions of which it is a repitition.?11It is through this repeated action that that these norms are created and lived up to. This idea can also be related to discourse; Butler argues that performative acts are statements that also produce that which they say. Discourse promotes specific kinds of power relations, in other words to know is to participate in complicated webs of power. Thus perfomative acts are a domain in which discourse acts as power.
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