Thursday 10 November 2011


Gutting, Gary, "Michel Foucault", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (London, 1973).

Michel Foucault: The European Graduate School

Michel Foucault (1990) The History of Sexuality vol 1. An introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, p.47. French original 1976.

Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow, Penguin, London. (First published: 1984).

"Michel Foucault." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2011
Feminism and the Final Foucault: Edited by Dianna Taylor and Karen Vintges” (2004).

How can some of Foucault's ideas and perspectives be usefully applied to the study of the mass media in society?” Steven Green, website: David Gauntlett

Jennifer Harding (1998), Sex Acts: Practices of Femininity and Masculinity, Sage, London.

Tamsin Spargo, Foucault and Queer Theory, Cox & Wyman Ltd, (1999)

Feminism and the Final Foucault: Edited by Dianna Taylor and Karen Vintges” (2004).

Formations of Modernity: Edited by Stuart Hall & Bram Gieben (1992).

Monday 7 November 2011

What's the truth?

Wouldn’t it be brilliant to have a field of studies initiated around you and your concepts? Well Foucault has done just that! After surfing Foucault’s noble name on the web for possibly the very last time I came across something quite interesting. There, in its black bold font shone the words “Foucault Studies”. He really has made an impact on the modern age. Maybe I’m giving Foucault a little more credit than he deserves, but I can’t help but remain fascinated with this man’s influence on modern works.

Foucault has had much of an impact on modern media, having helped develop the “Queer theory”, as well as theorising sexuality and gender roles in society. His concepts on power and archaeology are equally important in the field of media studies. For Foucault the importance of history is not necessarily the event but people's depictions of the event. Therefore he forces us to question reality and truth of not just history but of the present day. Foucault analyses the relationship between truth and power and argues that "Truth isn't outside power…Truth is a thing of this world…Each society has its regime of truth, its 'general politics' of truth; that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true", quoted from Formations of Modernity: Edited by Stuart Hall & Bram Gieben (1992). However mass media is a worldwide source and is used globally in our everyday lives, therefore it has the power to globalise various ideas and values. However, with all the institutions of media being owned by westerners, then mass media is a Westernised source and has the ability to change other people's beliefs on the "truth".

His influence on other deep thinkers

Michel Foucault was the most influential social theorist of his time. He caused controversy through many of his publications, yet provided people with an all-embracing reflection of historical values in a modern era. It is obvious that many theorists have been greatly influenced by Foucault’s works, having inspired not only social theorists, but intellects of history, media, modernity, culture, and philosophy. Theorists have often written books on the famous Foucault, in order to adapt and analyse his concepts.

Foucault’s later publications on sexuality largely influenced the feminist movement, having determined the book Feminism and the Final Foucault: Edited by Dianna Taylor and Karen Vintges. This book offers a feminist focus on many of Foucault’s concepts on sexuality, particularly focussing on his ideas of the self.

"The History of Sexuality" was one of Foucault's most famous and inspiring books. Foucault played a key role in influencing the founded "queer theory", by bringing homosexuality to the public's attention. Queer theory has been adopted by a vast number of theorists, for example Tamsin Spargo’s publication “Foucault and Queer Theory” (1999), which pretty much does what’s in the title, and delivers a Foucaultian view on sexuality. A more feminist approach was "Sex Acts: Practices of Femininity and Masculinity" written by Jennifer Harding (1998). In this book Harding offers a Foucault & Butler approach to the conception of sexuality and gender in modern discourses, and especially discusses the representation of sexuality in popular culture.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Power and Its Privileges

Foucault is not a theorist of media; in fact he died long before media revolutionised into what it is today. His theories on social institutions however, can be related to mass media. Again an example I’d like to use is his theories on power/knowledge and discourse. We felt a group discussion was necessary in order to evaluate the best possible methods of relating his theories to the world of media. After coming to terms with most members having contradicting opinions, we all decided to portray Foucault’s ideas differently, and I decided to focus more on relating his theories to ownership.

For Foucault power is used by the institution, he stresses that institutions have the ability to structure society; they even have enough control to change our values. Media is the most powerful source in the modern age, with a person spending on average 4 hours and 35 minutes watching television a day, and 13 hours of internet usage a week. This doesn’t include the hours a person spends listening to the radio, and reading newspapers or magazines. By these statistics it’s clear that media plays a huge role in society and therefore has allot of influence on a postmodern age. Foucault states that “…from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries onward, there was a veritable technological take-off in the productivity of power.” “The Foucault Reader: Truth and Power” (p.61)

Power in the media demonstrates Foucault’s theory, because power isn't a clear possession of either the institution or the audience. To some extent power shifts between the two, but is mostly used by the institution. This formulates many questions on the amount of control the owners at the top of the pyramid of cultural power have on their audience. Over the years media ownership has condensed into a minimum of six, meaning a small number of extremely rich and powerful people have complete control over the media, and are able to inject ideas into society.

Sunday 30 October 2011

“Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.” (Michel Foucault: The Foucault Reader)

Foucault has publicised a number of interesting concepts, most of which contradict with modern hegemonic values. We arranged a group meeting to collaborate over his key theories. Whilst reading Foucault’s works I found that most of them were over complicated and prolonged. We decided upon analysing “The Foucault Reader”, because it includes his key ideologies on power/knowledge and discourse. Also we found we’d have more time analysing and discussing the book due to its direct and simplistic discourse.

In this book Foucault rejects the accepted values of power/knowledge, and invents his own. It’s commonly thought of that each individual has a self identity, and that some people possess more power than others. Foucault observes the way in which knowledge/discourse and power are integrated in a modern Western society, and argues that knowledge creates a persons identity. For Foucault those who are in control have the ability to manipulate and contrive a person’s selfhood. “…psychiatric internment, the mental normalization of individuals, and penal institutions… are undoubtedly essential to the general functioning of the wheels of power.” (p.58) Power derives from institutions, rather than the individual. However, Foucault believed that power is not a quality obtained, power is a temporary alternating force. Those who conditionally possess power in a postmodern society would also include churches, schools, the government, and the army, all of which use it as a “discipline”.
Foucault argues that power isn't completely a negative force in society, but has advantages too. "What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn't only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse. It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression." (p.61)

Sunday 16 October 2011

Michel Foucault: A Man in Search of the Ultimate Answer (1926 – 1984)

Michel Foucault is a man of many interests, driven by passion and pleasure to make his mark on society. Foucault was a French historian and philosopher, who became most famous for his studies on social establishments. Son of a surgeon, Foucault was heartened to follow in his footsteps, yet Foucault had other plans, and steered his way into Saint-Stanislas School where he began his education in philosophy. During 1946 Foucault entered the most eminent school in France, Exalted for their humanities studies department, “The École Normale Supérièure d’Ulm”. After spending a fair amount of time in education, his instruction was complete by 1951. Foucault graduated with a BA degree in Psychopathology (1947), a BA equivalent degree in Philosophy (1948), and had successfully passed his ‘agrégation’ (1951).

Foucault’s inspiring career activated in 1961 with the release of his first and most compelling works “Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason”. This book beams Foucault's magnetism to madness, unreason and the state of delirium. Foucault accentuates on negative concepts in society and argues that madness and reason are inevitably linked.

Following this Foucault released “The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception” (1963). Here Foucault outlines the advancement of medical cures and diseases. Foucault specifically fashioned the term "medical gaze" to imply the impersonalizing dissection of the individual’s body and self hood. Foucault’s other influential works include: “Death and the Labyrinth” (1963), “The Order of Things” (1966), “Discipline and Punish” (1975), and “The History of Sexuality” (1976-1984).

What fascinates me most with Foucault is his continuous reference to power and knowledge throughout his publications. Foucault was truly a man of power himself, having being the most influential social theorist of the late 20th century. It is Foucault’s concepts on power and knowledge that we will be discussing in further blog entries.