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Week 4 Tutor

Dr. Claudia Stein


Michel Foucault has been hugely influential in shaping an understanding of power that was no longer centred on actors or underlying structures toward the idea that ‘power is everywhere’, diffused in discourse, knowledge and ‘regimes of truth’ and inscribed into the human body. The lecture and seminar investigates how his understanding of power differed from earlier understandings (e.g. Marxism). It particularly focus on the relationship of power and the making of human subjectivities, the subject of his later works. In The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, Foucault not only clarifies his understanding of the ‘power/knowledge’ nexus but also presents his ideas of ‘biopower’, a concept that has gained considerable influence in the political sciences, social sciences, philosophy, and literary studies over the past decade.

Lecture powerpoint: TSM power.pptx

Core Reading
  • Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Volume 1. An Introduction (engl.1978 [1976]). [ebook in Library]
  • ibid., 'Power/Knowledge', in Colin Gordon, ed. Power/Knowledge (Brighton, 1980), pp. 55-62.
Seminar/Essay Questions
  1. According to Foucault, what is 'modern' about 'modern’ power?
  2. What does Foucault understand by the ‘repressive hypothesis’ and how does it relate to practices of power?
  3. According to Foucault, what is the relationship between knowledge and power?
  4. How can sex be a form of power?
  5. According to Foucault, what makes 'truth' true?
  6. One of Foucault's main claims about power is that it is 'productive'. What does this mean?
  7. What does Foucault understand by ‘biopower’ and howdoes it differ from ‘sovereign power’?
Further Reading
  • Michel Foucault, ‘The Birth of Social Medicine’, in Michel Foucault, Power, ed. J.D. Faubion, (2000),134-156.
  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1977).
  • Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College de France 1977–78 (2007).
  • Michel Foucault,‘The Right of Death and Power over Life’, in Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (1984), pp. 258-272.
  • Michel Foucault, ‘The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth-Century, in Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (1984), pp. 273-290.
  • Michel Foucault, ‘Truth and Power’, in Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (1984), pp. 51-75.
  • Michel Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power’, in Afterword to Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, ed. H.L. Dreyfuand, Paul Rabinow (1982) [Also available on JSTOR: Critical Inquiry, Summer 1982,].
  • Davidson, Arnold L., Foucault and His Interlocutors (1997), pp. 107-182.
  • Gutting, Gary, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2005) [A very, very good and affordable introduction!]
  • Rabinow, Paul and Rose Nicklas, ‘Thought on the Concept of Biopower’ [see].
  • Rabinow, Paul, and Rose, Niklas, ‘Biopower Today’, BioSocieties 1 (2006): 195–217.
  • Please also consult the Handbook of the Historiography Module for further secondary readings on Foucault.