An analytics of power relations: Foucault on the history of discipline

  • Deacon R
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Abstract

To understand how we have become what we are requires, following
Foucault, not a theory but an ‘analytics’ which examines how technologies
of power and knowledge have, since antiquity, intertwined and
developed in concrete and historical frameworks. Distilling from
Foucault’s oeuvre as a whole a rough periodization of western political
rationalities, this article shows how the processes whereby some people
discipline or govern others are frequently closely connected to procedures
of identity-constitution and knowledge-production. Platonic,
Stoic and Christian pursuits of self-mastery and self-knowledge, often
via the intervention of an external master, were initially confined to an
elite, but thereafter were amplified and generalized to encompass entire
populations in conjunction with the rise of the modern state. Via techniques
of confession and ascetic conduct, faith and empiricism, and selfreflection
and everyday reality, western political rationalities, in the
form of combined totalization and individualization technologies
whereby some (struggle to) discipline others even as all (are exhorted
to) discipline themselves, have come to dominate the globe.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Confession
  • Discipline
  • Foucault
  • History
  • Power relations

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Authors

  • Roger Deacon

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