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Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977

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Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault has become famous for a series of books that have permanently altered our understanding of many institutions of Western society. He analyzed mental institutions in the remarkable Madness and Civilization; hospitals in The Birth of the Clinic; prisons in Discipline and Punish; and schools Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault has become famous for a series of books that have permanently altered our understanding of many institutions of Western society. He analyzed mental institutions in the remarkable Madness and Civilization; hospitals in The Birth of the Clinic; prisons in Discipline and Punish; and schools and families in The History of Sexuality. But the general reader as well as the specialist is apt to miss the consistent purposes that lay behind these difficult individual studies, thus losing sight of the broad social vision and political aims that unified them. Now, in this superb set of essays and interviews, Foucault has provided a much-needed guide to Foucault. These pieces, ranging over the entire spectrum of his concerns, enabled Foucault, in his most intimate and accessible voice, to interpret the conclusions of his research in each area and to demonstrate the contribution of each to the magnificent - and terrifying - portrait of society that he was patiently compiling. For, as Foucault shows, what he was always describing was the nature of power in society; not the conventional treatment of power that concentrates on powerful individuals and repressive institutions, but the much more pervasive and insidious mechanisms by which power "reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives." Foucault's investigations of prisons, schools, barracks, hospitals, factories, cities, lodgings, families, and other organized forms of social life are each a segment of one of the most astonishing intellectual enterprises of all time - and, as this book proves, one which possesses profound implications for understanding the social control of our bodies and our minds.


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Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault has become famous for a series of books that have permanently altered our understanding of many institutions of Western society. He analyzed mental institutions in the remarkable Madness and Civilization; hospitals in The Birth of the Clinic; prisons in Discipline and Punish; and schools Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault has become famous for a series of books that have permanently altered our understanding of many institutions of Western society. He analyzed mental institutions in the remarkable Madness and Civilization; hospitals in The Birth of the Clinic; prisons in Discipline and Punish; and schools and families in The History of Sexuality. But the general reader as well as the specialist is apt to miss the consistent purposes that lay behind these difficult individual studies, thus losing sight of the broad social vision and political aims that unified them. Now, in this superb set of essays and interviews, Foucault has provided a much-needed guide to Foucault. These pieces, ranging over the entire spectrum of his concerns, enabled Foucault, in his most intimate and accessible voice, to interpret the conclusions of his research in each area and to demonstrate the contribution of each to the magnificent - and terrifying - portrait of society that he was patiently compiling. For, as Foucault shows, what he was always describing was the nature of power in society; not the conventional treatment of power that concentrates on powerful individuals and repressive institutions, but the much more pervasive and insidious mechanisms by which power "reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives." Foucault's investigations of prisons, schools, barracks, hospitals, factories, cities, lodgings, families, and other organized forms of social life are each a segment of one of the most astonishing intellectual enterprises of all time - and, as this book proves, one which possesses profound implications for understanding the social control of our bodies and our minds.

30 review for Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roberta Villalon

    foucault...what can i say...he's the best...i can't stop reading his work and rediscovering the world.... foucault...what can i say...he's the best...i can't stop reading his work and rediscovering the world....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott Gates

    For hundreds of years the trend in the arts and philosophy in the West has been towards daily life and subjectivity, that is, extolling the importance of actual lived experience day-to-day. This is of course tied in with the bourgeois revolutions, the rise of democracies—or what passes for them—in the West, and the ongoing deterioration of shared communal/religious values. The ownership of a daily life puts everyone on equal footing. You may not hunt rare forms of geese in the marshy regions of For hundreds of years the trend in the arts and philosophy in the West has been towards daily life and subjectivity, that is, extolling the importance of actual lived experience day-to-day. This is of course tied in with the bourgeois revolutions, the rise of democracies—or what passes for them—in the West, and the ongoing deterioration of shared communal/religious values. The ownership of a daily life puts everyone on equal footing. You may not hunt rare forms of geese in the marshy regions of your estate, or keep vintage bottles of port in your temperature-controlled wine cellar....but you do have a daily life. For example Vermeer’s paintings of matronly women carrying pails of water: These paintings serve to extol daily life, and in doing so they transfigure daily life into art. It’s no longer a given day in the fall of 1741 or whenever—when you paint it, the scene becomes to some extent Anytime Anywhere. The daily life becomes grand. The fact that someone is even paying attention to it is a change. We know what a given day looked like to one guy. The Ancients and Medievals, in general, didn’t give a shit about daily life. What did the inside of a medieval hovel in Provencal in the 1380s look like? What did families do in the evening? You don’t know, do you? What about Cicero’s house... what did that look like? Yeah you don’t know that either, but if Cicero were around now there’d be an MTV Cribs episode on him, and we’d all get to know what this big shot’s house looked like. (“This is where I deploy some of my best rhetoric, heh heh” [bedroom].) Foucault can be seen as the political theorist of daily life (at least as far as I’m concerned at the moment; reviews of books beg for such big assertions). Power is grassroots, located in the pores of daily life. The starting points of power are local conditions and particular needs: “They [power structures] took shape in piecemeal fashion, prior to any class strategy designed to weld them into vast, coherent ensembles. It should be noted that these ensembles don’t consist in a homogenization, but rather of a complex play of supports in mutual engagement, different mechanisms of power which retain all their specific character.” There is something creepy and claustrophobic about this. And as usual, it’s difficult to pin down precisely what Foucault thinks. At times, he seems to think that power is situated in the individual; other times, it’s as if power relations are quietly embedded in societies and that this dense nexus of mutual engagements dictates how the individual players act. I’ve heard the same critique of Foucault that I’ve heard about Wittgenstein: He doesn’t assert anything, he just tears down what’s already been asserted. Here is an example of Foucault walking on a balance beam looking down on two sides. He talks about the danger of “telescoping” the idea that everything is political to placing it all on individual responsibility. So don't do that. But neither should an analysis of the political be displaced as “glibly practiced today,” by saying “everything derives from the market economy, or from capitalist exploitation, or simply from the rottenness of our society (so that ... problems ... are put off until there is a ‘different’ society).” I guess this is a common criticism of Foucault, but his philosophy is primarily negative. He shows you the flaws of a given way of thinking, and then shows you the flaws of the opposite way of thinking. And there is no synthesis. Anyhow, the traditional idea of power being imposed on the populace by the sovereign and the elite class is junked. Just as Barthes thought that in critical theory the Author should be killed, so Foucault thinks that in political theory the King should be beheaded. Like in this quote: “At the end of the eighteenth century, people dreamed of a society without crime. And then the dream evaporated. Crime was too useful for them [the people] to dream of anything as crazy—or ultimately as dangerous—as a society without crime. No crime means no police. What makes the presence and control of the police tolerable for the population, if not fear of the criminal?” You could take the last sentence of this quote and think that Foucault is implying that the power elite whips up fear of the criminal in order to get the populace to comply with and support police interventions. But this is not what he’s saying. Foucault is saying that the populace at large demands that the police be there. So I think he’s saying that the organic structures of societies—the things that are so deeply embedded that people in the society are only dimly aware of them—are a reflection of individual/collective notions of the world. It’s our fault for the way things are, not the government’s or anyone else’s. Foucault really sounds kind of “conservative” when talking about stuff like this. But for sure this might be due to the fact that he keeps talking to Maoist Marxists in this book. Foucault also makes the point that when people talk about power it’s often discussed solely as it relates to oppression, censorship, negative qualities. But power also produces desirable things and has positive qualities. “It has been a tradition for humanism to assume that once someone gains power he ceases to know.... Modern humanism is … mistaken in drawing this line between knowledge and power. Knowledge and power are integrated with one another.... It is not possible for power to be exercised without knowledge, it is impossible for knowledge not to engender power. ‘Liberate scientific research from the demands of monopoly capitalism’: maybe it’s a good slogan, but it will never be more than a slogan.” Conservative! Here he comes close to saying something positive: “The problem is not to choose a political ‘position’ (which is to choose from a preexisting set of possibilities) but to imagine and to bring into being new schemas of politicization.” So this fellow writes a lot about madhouses, prisons, the army etc. Why? I think it’s because Foucault sees these things as distillations of society as a whole; it’s all prison, it’s all the army, everyone’s trapped and funneled unwittingly into their current situation and everyone does things because of overarching power impetuses that they are only dimly aware of. Foucault thought we were all imprisoned, and hence his politics is about finding a way out. Foucault is seeking something transcendental! Conservative?: “One would have to be naïve as Baudelaire to think that the bourgeoisie is stupid or prudish. Rather it is intelligent and cynical.” “In order to be able to fight a State that is more than just a government, the revolutionary movement must possess equivalent politico-military forces and hence must constitute itself as a party, organized internally the same way as a State apparatus with the same mechanisms of hierarchies and organization of powers.” Separately, Foucault puts the blame on Stoicism, not Judaism, for Christianity’s ethos that sex needed to be restricted, and that Christianity was forced to take this on when it assimilated into the Roman State, in which Stoicism was the universal philosophy. Honestly, I don’t know how Foucault could arrive at this position. Christianity has only itself (and of course Judaism) to blame for its obsessive repression of the sexual, it seems to me, since centuries before Christianity became part of the Roman State we have Paul laying down the Jewish Law with multiple constraints on the sexual, followed by the early Church Fathers (Augustine excepted to some extent) who continued in this vein. Here’s a priceless Foucault quote. He’s asked (in the midst of a heavily Marxist dialogue with a few others) who is against whom when it comes to class conflict, who is the enemy. “This is just a hypothesis, but I would say it’s all against all. There aren’t immediately given subjects of the struggle, one the proletariat, the other the bourgeoisie. Who fights against whom? We all fight each other. And there is always within each of us something that fights something else.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Campbell Rider

    wtf im a discursive production now

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I always like reading books of interviews-- they give us the chacne to see a thinker play each card as it lays, and I'm remembering some excellent sets of interviews with Said and Deleuze. As the title suggests, most of the lectures and interviews here deal with Foucault's conception of power, which, despite its centrality to his theory, seems to be widely misunderstood, simplified, distorted, depoliticized, psychoanalyzed, etc. It's really a rather remarkable and complex concept, and one the way I always like reading books of interviews-- they give us the chacne to see a thinker play each card as it lays, and I'm remembering some excellent sets of interviews with Said and Deleuze. As the title suggests, most of the lectures and interviews here deal with Foucault's conception of power, which, despite its centrality to his theory, seems to be widely misunderstood, simplified, distorted, depoliticized, psychoanalyzed, etc. It's really a rather remarkable and complex concept, and one the way it saturates society is endlessly interesting. The book is also useful for examining the influence of Marx on Foucault, and on Foucault's relationship to Marxist thought (answer: he's more of a Marxist than either the Marxists or the postmodernists give him credit for), and for seeing a novel approach to the concepts therein in a world so different from the one dear old Karl was living in.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David McCormick

    After struggling with 'Discipline and Punish' I read this book and I think it makes a great introduction to Foucault. especially his ideas on on the prison. Its also fun to read because he more than once backs his Leftist interviewers into uncomfortable corners on the desirability of the state administering justice. Why must the state intervene in the form of courts and trials? Why does the only acceptable manner of conflict resolution within a community involve the state as mediator: at best bl After struggling with 'Discipline and Punish' I read this book and I think it makes a great introduction to Foucault. especially his ideas on on the prison. Its also fun to read because he more than once backs his Leftist interviewers into uncomfortable corners on the desirability of the state administering justice. Why must the state intervene in the form of courts and trials? Why does the only acceptable manner of conflict resolution within a community involve the state as mediator: at best blind, at worst malignant, coming between the people and the source of their grievance?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    A good overview of some of his most important theories. Less dense and easier to read than his actual works since several of these are interviews so they are condensed and to the point.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Edmond

    Another boring Foucault book. He could had said what he was trying to say in one sentence, instead he goes on and on and on. Reading Foucault is important, he is the modern philosopher, his thought governs modern society, but he is a terrible philosopher and writer. Modern society is in trouble if Foucault is the philosopher of the age.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gabi Smith

    Power/Knowledge is an extremely dense collection of Foucault's ideas about knowledge, power, truth, government, and various other topics. It begins with a discussion on popular justice and the power wielded by the judiciary system, ends with a discussion on racism and child-rearing, and spans numerous subjects. One thing that's difficult to read about this book (something I didn't like, I guess) is the amount of context it requires. While I suppose this will always be an issue with being a young Power/Knowledge is an extremely dense collection of Foucault's ideas about knowledge, power, truth, government, and various other topics. It begins with a discussion on popular justice and the power wielded by the judiciary system, ends with a discussion on racism and child-rearing, and spans numerous subjects. One thing that's difficult to read about this book (something I didn't like, I guess) is the amount of context it requires. While I suppose this will always be an issue with being a young person interested in philosophy who wants to read Foucault, it is somewhat of a challenge to fully grasp his examples of judiciary exploitation and modern intellectual specificity. The concepts are presentable enough, but the examples require research and a lot of prior knowledge of revolutions in the West, philosophy, psychology, medicine, prisons, class systems and more. Something that I found really enjoyable about this book was gleaning more insight into Foucault's thought processes and how he can move from one topic to the next easily, showing their interconnectedness. He introduced perspectives on power relations that I never considered (such as the notion that considering power as a wholly negative force limits viewing its whole impact and understanding it as a force that is constantly moving and being transferred throughout the fabric of our society). All in all, reading Power/Knowledge was an extremely interesting and thought-provoking experience. I feel that I would gain much more from it by reading it a second time (which I will hopefully have a chance to do in the near future), reading it again after a couple of years, after I graduate college, etc. This is just the beginning of my pursuit of philosophy (at least, I think it is!).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Any scholar in the wide array of disciplines, approaches, and questions which might be encompassed by the term 'critique' has to deal with the legacy of Michel Foucault. In reading Foucault, two questions are always foremost: "How do I explain this to someone else?" And "What the hell is Foucault saying?" Knowledge/Power serves as an adequate aide to answering both these questions, although it does not quite manage to stand on its own. A collection of interviews and lectures through the mid-1970 Any scholar in the wide array of disciplines, approaches, and questions which might be encompassed by the term 'critique' has to deal with the legacy of Michel Foucault. In reading Foucault, two questions are always foremost: "How do I explain this to someone else?" And "What the hell is Foucault saying?" Knowledge/Power serves as an adequate aide to answering both these questions, although it does not quite manage to stand on its own. A collection of interviews and lectures through the mid-1970s, Knowledge/Power shows a more informal Foucault, one working through the contradictions and terminology of his own theories. As such, the various pieces help show 'why' Foucault approached the overarching question of power through strategies, discourses, institutions and the like, as well as some of the methodological 'how' of genealogy and archaeology. The quality of the interviews varies widely. I found 'Two Lectures' and 'Truth and Power' to be the best, with the drunken 'Confessions of the Flesh' a lot of fun as well. Sadly, the book opens with the tedious and annoying 'On Popular Justice: A Discussion with Maoists.' On the whole, this book is probably best read as a companion to Foucualt's longer histories. The jargon is dense and could use some more clarification. But for all that, I think this collection makes a decent antidote to the unthinking and cult-like academic copying of Foucault's style without his insight.

  10. 4 out of 5

    May Ling

    This particular work covers a broad range of Foucault's writings and is ideal for someone who hoping to get a general understanding of his work before delving in further. What's wonderful about Foucault is that his works are approachable even to non-academics. There's not an egregious over-use of italicized jargon. He's trying to get his point across, not impress the reader with his superior intelligence. While I think the dialogue of power has evolved since Foucault's first writings, I would sa This particular work covers a broad range of Foucault's writings and is ideal for someone who hoping to get a general understanding of his work before delving in further. What's wonderful about Foucault is that his works are approachable even to non-academics. There's not an egregious over-use of italicized jargon. He's trying to get his point across, not impress the reader with his superior intelligence. While I think the dialogue of power has evolved since Foucault's first writings, I would say that in the context of what came before him, his work is quite amazing. It has had important implications in a variety of veins of academic thought. His unique ability to identify what seems normal but is actually absurd and couched in a wealth of rationalization makes him truly brilliant. His essays on the prison system, sexuality, and health are enlightening in this fashion. For my research, I was more interested in his work showing power as a far more pervasive/invasive instrument. Several essays elucidate the dialog surrounding the power and influence ascribed to process. His concept that power is NOT localized in the State and that the mechanics of society must also be addressed is quite brilliantly articulated. One should definitely read this book if they are interested in modern political or philosophical thought.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Best overview (by the man himself) of Foucault's later intellectual projects of power/knowledge relations and how humans become subjects. It is all his own lectures and interviews where you can quickly familiarize yourself with his theories on the concern with the inter-relationship between power and knowledge, which makes one float ideas of subject/object relations in any area of study in the social sciences that one is interested. For the Foucault beginner "Two Lectures", "Truth and Power", an Best overview (by the man himself) of Foucault's later intellectual projects of power/knowledge relations and how humans become subjects. It is all his own lectures and interviews where you can quickly familiarize yourself with his theories on the concern with the inter-relationship between power and knowledge, which makes one float ideas of subject/object relations in any area of study in the social sciences that one is interested. For the Foucault beginner "Two Lectures", "Truth and Power", and "Body/Power" are priceless.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Scott Eggerding

    I wanted a meaningful book when we were at Shakespeare and Co in Paris. What better than a collection of essays and interviews of Michel Foucault! It has been nearly 30 years since I last studied him, and I was worried I might not have the patience for this book, but given the political climate today, essays about power and knowledge were refreshing! Although Foucault boils things down to simple constructs, I found myself imagining what he would have said about American politics in 2018. I read I wanted a meaningful book when we were at Shakespeare and Co in Paris. What better than a collection of essays and interviews of Michel Foucault! It has been nearly 30 years since I last studied him, and I was worried I might not have the patience for this book, but given the political climate today, essays about power and knowledge were refreshing! Although Foucault boils things down to simple constructs, I found myself imagining what he would have said about American politics in 2018. I read with a pen and underlined so many things. Power and knowledge. What a concept!

  13. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    kind of a summation of the major monographs. maybe could serve as an introduction?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathrina

    Lost my momentum in the last 50 pages. When it was good, it was really good. Lots of notes. Finished the paper tonight.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Akasha Coral

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Foucault's perspective is shockingly still very applicable even in the so called modern social norms and institutions. Amazing! Foucault's perspective is shockingly still very applicable even in the so called modern social norms and institutions. Amazing!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mladen

    This book was a big disappointment. If it were any other author, I would be lenient in my review but this is, unfortunately, not the case. This book is the product of one of the most popular authors in social theory, the great Michel Foucault and because of this, I will have no remorse in my judgment. One of the things that annoyed me the most, in this book, is the language. Foucault has a tendency to take a complex concept and start rambling about it without precisely defining what he means by i This book was a big disappointment. If it were any other author, I would be lenient in my review but this is, unfortunately, not the case. This book is the product of one of the most popular authors in social theory, the great Michel Foucault and because of this, I will have no remorse in my judgment. One of the things that annoyed me the most, in this book, is the language. Foucault has a tendency to take a complex concept and start rambling about it without precisely defining what he means by it. Other times his sentences simply don't form coherent thoughts. But, since, plenty of philosophers had the same tendency, I decided to let this slide. The next thing that bothered me is his interpretation of history, or rather the lack of complexity in it. Foucault simplifies the history of sexuality to a few crucial moments in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. While I agree with the relevance of these particular periods, in the development of a contemporary understanding of sexuality, I find his explanation of why this happened, unclear. Foucault talks about power, the aristocracy, biopolitics, blood etc. Most of his theory can be summed in a few pages without the unnecessary use of vague terms, which he favors. To be more precise, Foucault focuses on the complexity of wrong things. Foucault is heavily influenced by marxism and so the idea of social conflict is deeply rooted in his theory. The bourgeois is out to get you! I don't care much for structuralism so this was a big no for me. Taking into context Foucault's life, his work seems highly apologetic of his lifestyle and sexuality and I have no problem with that. But, on a theoretical level, it simply doesn't seem to have that much quality. Foucault is more of a symbol for a new understanding of sexuality which is not based primarily on the biological functions of sex, but in terms of analytical and objective reasoning, Foucault is lacking. In other words, I see the context in which Foucault gained popularity, I just don't think it is deserved, and since I favor empirical confirmation, I cared little for so much unsubstantiated theorizing. The final verdict is three stars, just because of the cultural relevance of the work, otherwise, it would have been one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Schuschu

    At least for now I just read it for the last interview in which Foucault teases the basic content of the recently posthumously published (against his family’s wishes) fourth volume of History of Sexuality. At least I think it would be the most respectful way of figuring out his whole point there. His whole point being, don’t buy the whole liberals blaming the church for a repression that doesn’t exist- rather, attack the whole idea of abusing power in general and the way it gets us deeply confli At least for now I just read it for the last interview in which Foucault teases the basic content of the recently posthumously published (against his family’s wishes) fourth volume of History of Sexuality. At least I think it would be the most respectful way of figuring out his whole point there. His whole point being, don’t buy the whole liberals blaming the church for a repression that doesn’t exist- rather, attack the whole idea of abusing power in general and the way it gets us deeply conflicted about our own desires.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ali Tarık Alaçam

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "It is not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already power) but of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic and cultural, within which it operates at the present time. The political question, to sum up, is not error, illusion, alienated consciousness or ideology; it is truth itself. Hence the importance of Nietzsche.” "It is not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already power) but of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic and cultural, within which it operates at the present time. The political question, to sum up, is not error, illusion, alienated consciousness or ideology; it is truth itself. Hence the importance of Nietzsche.”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gordan Karlic

    I don't know. Did this book deserve 3, probably not, because there is wisdom in it. But the bottom line is its boring, repetitive, pretentious and named wrongly. It should be called Sex and might not Power/Knowledge. Overall, reading Power/knowledge was not a fun experience, sure I am kinda smarter for it, but it was a struggle reading it. I don't know. Did this book deserve 3, probably not, because there is wisdom in it. But the bottom line is its boring, repetitive, pretentious and named wrongly. It should be called Sex and might not Power/Knowledge. Overall, reading Power/knowledge was not a fun experience, sure I am kinda smarter for it, but it was a struggle reading it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Angus Stirling

    "J.A. MILLER: I'm not very happy with the huge concepts you're employing here.They seem to me to dissolve as soon as one looks at things more closely. FOUCAULT: But they're meant to be dissolved, these are only very general definitions . . . . " Interesting ideas about the functioning of power deeply buried under brutally unrelenting obscurantism. "J.A. MILLER: I'm not very happy with the huge concepts you're employing here.They seem to me to dissolve as soon as one looks at things more closely. FOUCAULT: But they're meant to be dissolved, these are only very general definitions . . . . " Interesting ideas about the functioning of power deeply buried under brutally unrelenting obscurantism.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Arman Behrad

    In the Original work of Foucault, we experiencing new narration from the path of human knowledge formation in the base of Power relation. If you want to understand the basic ideas of this path, this is the case.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maya

    A brief inquiry into Foucault's which clearly undefined for those with shallow thoughts. With his explanations about politics and events we need to make sure to follow his tracks. It seems power comes from knowledge and habit perhaps? A brief inquiry into Foucault's which clearly undefined for those with shallow thoughts. With his explanations about politics and events we need to make sure to follow his tracks. It seems power comes from knowledge and habit perhaps?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Arnab Chatterjee

    Without any doubt, Foucault and his theories are beyond genius to be exact. Through this edition several of his powerful interviews are revealed his idea towards his other theories. His theory on power, authority, punishment, discipline are way beyond the time and interesting indeed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    [ashes]

    Great book that shows the connection between power and knowledge, without ever putting its reader in too big of a depth. (read in 2 phases: first for my thesis, later to finish it completely)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bidita

    4.5 stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    WHAT A VERY POWERFUL BOOK.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Katz

    Come for the discussion on popular justice and prisons, stay for the analysis of sex and power.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Quim

    Good resume of Foucault. The geography guy is a beast.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    In the preface to this book, editor Colin Gordon claims that this book can aid in helping to understand basic Foucauldian concepts, but my experience while reading most of this book was otherwise. In general, I find most of Foucault’s texts and ideas accessible yet challenging—or is it challenging yet accessible? In any case, I can read and think while wading through his texts, digesting his ideas with the rumination demonstrated on country pastures. Foucault in verbal form, however, such as dur In the preface to this book, editor Colin Gordon claims that this book can aid in helping to understand basic Foucauldian concepts, but my experience while reading most of this book was otherwise. In general, I find most of Foucault’s texts and ideas accessible yet challenging—or is it challenging yet accessible? In any case, I can read and think while wading through his texts, digesting his ideas with the rumination demonstrated on country pastures. Foucault in verbal form, however, such as during an interview, panel discussion, etc., I find difficult to follow. He seems to really enjoy debate and discussion, but the passion such interactions generates leads to structural arguments and ideas that I find difficult to digest. Most of texts in this collection are transcriptions of verbal exchanges and presentations; I much prefer his written material. Despite my observation above, the chapters/sections I found most valuable harken to Foucauldian thinking I have previously encountered. In the chapter entitled “Truth and Power”—one of his “greatest hits” in terms of concepts, this interview with Alessandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino offers an opportunity for Foucault to reflect on the disappearance of the intellectual in the humanities and the resulting rise in power and influence of science. He observes that the role of the intellectual has shifted such that the focus is on offering beneficial contributions or destroying life. We have lost the sense of the intellectual as the “great writer” (129). In a subsequent chapter, “The Eye of Power,” the focus shifts towards another popular topic for Foucault: the panopticon. In this chapter, he offers an examination of the history of the panopticon as an example of space as a tool for establishing and maintaining power structures. He identifies a shift in architectural design beginning at the end of the eighteenth center, moving from the church and the monarchy (represented by the palace) at the center of social structures to the development of various categories to differentiate spaces. He notes that “a whole history remains to be written of spaces—which would at the same time be the history of powers (both these terms in the plural)” (149). These spaces and their accompanying powers emerge in the forms of “the great strategies of geo-politics to the little tactics of the habitat, institutional architecture from the classroom to the design of hospitals, passing via economic and political installations” (149). With this reflection emerges the notion of “anchorage” sites which serve as tools for maintaining power across various sectors of the social spectrum, including penal institutions and intuitions of mental and physical health. Foucault’s reflections on “anchorage” sites as a tool for maintaining power in socio-political orders then lead into the next chapter, “The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century.” He notes at the end that these sites developed as institutions of medical knowledge that were spurred by urban development, population growth, and family structures (182). In other words, these institutions reflect not only the intents of these anchored spaces as with larger power structures, but also the social order and structures of other spaces within the human population. There are eleven chapters in this book beyond the three mentioned here, but I did not find them as valuable, interesting, and/or accessible as the above and, therefore, do not write about them here. Foucault does engage in rigorous thinking about issues of contemporary politics (of his time) and social justice. In fact, that is one of the traits I most admire about him—his engagement with contemporary political activism through academic thinking. Furthermore, Foucault’s obsession with contemporary politics is also presented through the lens of examining history as a means of understanding how we ended up with the institutions of knowledge we have and how they work to maintain social orders of power and truth. As Gorden writes in the Afterword, “If Foucault poses a philosophical challenge to history, it is not to question the reality of ‘the past’ but to interrogate the rationality of the ‘present’” (242). Interrogating the rationality of the present is not the end, of course, but simply the beginning. Gordon concludes his Afterward and the book with a call to action to the reader who now carries great responsibility: “what Foucault may have to offer is a set of possible tools, tools for the identification of the conditions of possibility which operate through the obviousnesses and enigmas of our present, tools perhaps also for the eventual modification of those conditions” (258).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mr.

    Excellent preliminary introduction to the thought of French philosopher Michel Foucault, who was situated at the forefront of French post-modernity and post-structuralism during the 1960's, grouped with other intellectuals such as Derrida, Lacan, Althusser, and Delueze. For Foucault, (as it exists in modern societies) power is not an entity to be acquired, it is an instrument that is continually exercised. Power operates as knowledge through discourse, confession, observation, surveillance, etc. Excellent preliminary introduction to the thought of French philosopher Michel Foucault, who was situated at the forefront of French post-modernity and post-structuralism during the 1960's, grouped with other intellectuals such as Derrida, Lacan, Althusser, and Delueze. For Foucault, (as it exists in modern societies) power is not an entity to be acquired, it is an instrument that is continually exercised. Power operates as knowledge through discourse, confession, observation, surveillance, etc. "Power for Foucault is not an omnipotent causal principle, or shaping spirit but a perspective concept" (245). Power is used and applied, not obtained. This volume serves as a useful compendium to the ideas outlined in Foucault's major works, (i.e. Madness and Civilization, Discipline and Punish, the Order of Things, Archeology of Knowledge, Birth of the Clinic, etc.). It is mostly a gathering of lectures and interviews with various scholars in the field of the history of systems of thought. The first essay (On Popular Justice) is a discussion with a Maoist organization about the applicability of people's courts and the use and relativity of the concept of justice. One gets the impression that Foucault is not entirely at home with this material. The second essay (Prison Talk) is an explication of the major ideas posited in Discipline and Punish, particularly the development of Bentham's Panopticon and the transmission of power as surveillance. A fascinating read, and one of Foucault's great breakthroughs in the social sciences. The third essay (Body/Power) provides further information about Discipline and Punish. The fourth essay (Questions of Geography) is very interesting as Foucualt is backed into a corner by the interviewer for failing to address questions of space in his analysis of power in the age or reason. It is fun to watch Foucault's thinking shift here throughout the course of the interview; initially he is quite hostile to the idea of examining geographical material as a means to access power relations, but he finishes with tremendous enthusiasm for the idea. The fifth essay (Two lectures) is a lecture course primarily concerned with Marxism and the social sciences more broadly. The sixth essay (Truth/Power) is another interview about power and the dissemination of knowledge and information and the dynamics of power as transmitted via discourse. The seventh essay (Power and Strategies) basically outlines the workings of power in totalitarian communist societies (esp. the USSR), and the usage of the gulags as a means of inducing docility and subordination. The eighth essay (The Eye of Power) is another explication of power as a mode of surveillance. The ninth essay (The Politics of Health in the 19th century) is not particularly interesting; in it, Foucault analyses the power relations implicit in public hospitals and medical treatment (further elaborated in Birth of the Clinic). The tenth essay is a very helpful summary of the major ideas posited in the History of Sexuality, an extraordinarily difficult and important text. Additionally, the eleventh essay (the Confession of the Flesh) provides further explication into the subsequent volumes of Foucault's massive history (which he sadly failed to complete). Naturally, any serious student of Foucault should turn to his original texts in order to fully grasp his philosophical outlook, yet this collection should serve as a useful conduit for new readers to his rich and complex body of work.

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