The Politics of Truth an Essay by Michel Foucault

The Politics of Truth an Essay by Michel Foucault

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In the essay “The Politics of Truth”, Michel Foucault examines what critique is. Foucault begins his explanation of critique by relating it to Immanuel Kant’s definition of enlightenment. In the essay “What is Enlightenment” Kant argues that society has developed an “immaturity” that relies on the direction of authority. Kant states “If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need to exert myself at all” (3). Kant believes that this “immaturity” leads to society being constrained. Kant believes that “the public’s use of one’s own reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment” (4). Kant provides an example of a tax payer who pays his taxes but questions them as well. Kant states that the taxpayer “[civic duty is to] publicly express his thoughts regarding the impropriety or even injustice of such taxes” (5). In Kant’s example, a connection can be made to Foucault’s argument “what is critique?” Foucault’s examination of critique begins with his question “how to be governed like that” (44)? Foucault uses this question and its connection to Kant’s “Enlightenment” to critically look at the history of “power and knowledge”.

Foucault’s definition of critique closely related to Kant’s definition of enlightenment. Foucault states “Critique is the movement by which the subject gives himself the right to question the truth on its effects of power and question power on its discourses of truth” (47). Foucault want to mainly apply critique to what he calls the art of governing or “the movement through which individuals are subjugated in reality of a social practice through mechanism of power that adhere to a truth” (47). A...


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...argues here that through critique one can find cracks in the power-knowledge relationship. At this point the public will be able to ask the question “how not to be governed like that”?
At this point we can determine the purpose of Foucault’s question, “what is critique”? Foucault’s definition of critique provides a tool to find cracks in power-knowledge relationships by analyzing the genealogy of a power knowledge relationship. Foucault states “we have to deal with something whose stability, deep rootedness and foundation is never such that we cannot in one way or another envisage, if not its disappearance, then at least identifying by what and from what its disappearance is possible” (65). Foucault believes that using his method of critique a power and knowledge relationship is not permanent. Questioning and knowledge can be used to remove the leash from authority.

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