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Michel Foucault's Theories - Essay Example

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Twenty years ago, Michel Foucault was the most criticized postmodern theorists, while today he is recognized as the most influential thinker of our time and his ideas have become the part of human understanding of the world. Foucault's works have challenged virtually all fields and medicine (history, political economy, sociology, literature and psychology)…
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Michel Foucaults Theories
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Download file to see previous pages This is usually understood that people are dominate by big social groups and are unable to resist the power of institutions which control day-to-day lives. In the last ten years, the ideas of Foucault has been taken up and use not only by students, but also by professionals in numerous areas. Looking on the three major Foucault's themes in account of prison - power, subjectivity and surveillance - is vital to understanding ideas of Foucault.
Foucault's works deal with discipline and instructions. He traces the workings of power at the micro-level and distinguishes his approach from studies of power that focus on the dominating role of the institutions. Foucault writes that it is necessary to cut off the king's head, to understand that power is not the property of the might, but rather the set of forces which establish positions and ways of behaving that influence people in everyday life (Grovier 2005). Foucault has distinguished his understanding of power by noting that there is no right and no wrong way of reasoning, and people are capable of making sense of the world through their own reasoning. However, the human understanding of the self and lives is always filtered though the ideas and institutions that constitute the society (Danaher 2000).
Penal system is the s...
Foucault devotes a lot of his writings to presenting the genealogy of the prison. IN particular, he writers about the changes in penal procedures in France in late 18th- early 19th centuries. The key change was the abandonment of the torture and public executions, the development of the incarcerating practices and regulating prisoners by practices of surveillance (Eribon 1991). Foucault relates these changes to the Enlightenment - the emerging philosophies based on humanistic virtues of reason and justice. Thus, the changes in prison system were the reflection of the idea that prisoners were aware of their failings.
Thus, the old concept of power was replaced by the new physical power which Foucault associates with discipline. He offers two ways of understanding discipline - one tied to punishment, and the other to skills and knowledge. The second concept of discipline is like the set of qualities which humans need to master in order to be recognized and values within the particular field (Danaher 2000). If from the first perspective, discipline is negative, from the second perspective discipline is seen as the positive force tied with self-empowerment and achievement. Disciplinary power gives the person the space within the institution as well as the rank within the system. This ranking enables the institution to regulate the movement of people throughout the space as well as to regulate the progress they can make from one task to another. Foucault further notes that discipline was not simply imposed from above and people submitted themselves to be able to operate effectively in the social conditions (McNay 1994).
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