Michel Foucault (1926-1984) is a famous French philosopher who is known as one of the founders of post-structuralism and post-modernism. Foucault is well known for his critiques of various social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine and the prison system and also for his ideas on the history of sexuality. Foucault’s method of binary oppositions can be said to be the source of inspiration to Edward Said in creating “Orientalism”. Foucault analyzed power relations in different social instituions and criticized discourses. In this assignment, I am going to analyze two articles of him, “Governmentality” and “Two Lectures”.
In “Governmentality”, Foucault basically talks about the development of the art of government. In his view, from the middle of the 16th century to the end of 18th, a new treatise of political science in the form of the art of government was developed in Europe. The art of government was basically about how to govern and how to be governed and which was caused by two important processes: the establishment of great administrative and colonial states and Reformation and the questions about how to be spiritually ruled in order to attain eternal salvation (Foucault, pg 87). Thus, there was a double movement, “state centralization on the one hand and dispersion and religious dissidence on the other” (Foucault, pg 88). Foucault later begins to analyze Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. In Foucault’s view, The Prince was characterized by one principle: it aims to create a synthetic link between the Prince and his subjects. No matter how the Prince acquires his principality, he “remains external to it” (Foucault, pg 90). The Prince primarily focuses on his territory and tries to protect it from external enemies. Thus, “Machiavelli’s text will be twofold: to identify strangers and secondly, to develop the art of manipulating relations of force that will allow the prince to ensure the protection of his principality, understood as the link that binds him to his territory and his subjects” (Foucault, pg 90). Thus, Foucault considers The Prince as a treatise about the prince’s ability to keep his principality safe.
Contrary to Machiavelli, in works related to the art of government, the practive of government goes beyong these borders and it aims to establish power relations both in upwards and downwards directions. La Perriere for example, clearly shows that the governance is not only about princedom. “Governors can signify monarch, emperor, king, prince, lord, magistrate, prelate, judge and the like” (Foucault, pg 90). So, there are basically three types of government: the art of self-government which is related to morality, the art of properly governing a family which belongs to economy and the art of ruling the state which is know as politics (Foucault, pg 91). So, unlike the theory of the Prince, this modern way of thinking tries to provide a continuity in upwards and downwards directions. Upwards continuity is provided by a person’s realization that he must first learn to govern himself morally, later his family economically and finally the state politically. Downwards continuity takes place in such a way that “when a state is well run, the head of the family will know how to look after his family, his goods and his patrimony, which means that individuals will, in turn, behave as they should” (Foucault, pg 92). Thus, the art of government tradition ensures the Prince’s pedagogical formation and provides upwards continuity and the police guarantees downwards continuity. Moreover, unlike the Prince which focuses on the territory, the art of government aims to “govern things”, “men, but men in their relations, their links, their imbrication with those other things which are wealth, resources, means of subsistence, the territory with its specific qualities, climate, irrigation, fertility, etc.; men in their relation to that other kind of things, customs, habits, ways of acting and thinking, etci; lastly, men in their relation to other kind of things, acidents and misfortunes such as famine, epidemics, death, etc” (Foucault, pg 93). This type of approach is characterized by economy more than territorial security. That is why Frederick the Great praises Holland which has enormous economic activities and despises Russia which is territorially big but has less industry and activity compared to Holland (Foucault, pg 94). According to Foucault, “the end of the sovereignity is internal to itself and possesses itw own intrinsic instruments in the shape of laws, the finality of government resides in the things it manages and in the pursuit of the perfection and intensification of the processes which it directs; and the instruments of government, instead of being laws, now come to be a range of multiform tactics” (Foucault, pg 95). Moreover, a good ruler from the perspective of La Perriere must have patience, wisdom and dilligence.
In “Two Lectures”, Foucault first talks about the fragmentary, repetitive and discontinous character of his works. Although Foucault made researches on various topics including the history of penal procedure, the evolution and institutionalization of psychiatry, history of sexuality etc., he deliberately abstained himself from to create a new, complete discourse. Foucault calls this kind of theories as “totalitarian theories” (Foucault, pg 80). Foucault admits that some totalitarian theories might help us to discover micro realities and they are “useful tools for local research” but the important is to get rid of the enslaving nature of totalitarian theories and to catch up “the local character of criticism” (Foucault, pg 81). Foucault calls this approach as “insurrection of subjugated knowledges” by which he means that we should get rid of the totalitarian functionalist theories and to go back to naïve, unrecognized, local knowledge. This local knowledge according to Foucault, is “a particular, local, regional knowledge, a differential knowledge incapable of unanimity and which owes its force only to be harshness with which it is opposed by everything surrounding it” (Foucault, pg 82). He calls this method as “genealogy” or “archeology” of knowledge. He defines genealogy as follows; “… a genealogy should be seen as a kind of attempt to emancipate historical knowledges from that subjection, to render them, that is, capable of opposition and of struggle against the coercion of a theoretical, unitary, formal and scientific discourse” (Foucault, pg 85). Foucault is clearly against the totalitarian aspect of functionalist theories.