Forms of resistance: Foucault on tactical reversal and self-formation [Book Review]

Continental Philosophy Review 36 (2):113-138 (2003)
This paper argues that two distinct models of resistance are to be found in Foucault's work. The first, tactical reversal, is predicated on the idea that conflict is inherent to power relations, the strategical model of power, and thus that a specific configuration of power and knowledge can be thwarted by reversing the mechanisms whereby this relation is sustained. The second, the aesthetics of existence, is based in the governmental model of power and holds that it is possible to forge autonomous forms of life in and through such techniques of governance. I argue that Foucault came to favor the latter of these two alternatives because the model of power underlying resistance as tactical reversal proved insufficient both historically and conceptually. It was thus on this basis that he was able to work out the governmental conception of power relations and thereby accord a fundamental role to the concept of resistance as autonomy or self-formation. The key to understanding how this project is not only practical, but is also our obligation lies in the genealogy of the critical attitude that Foucault was developing in his final years.
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