The psychic life of power: theories in subjection

Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press (1997)
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Abstract

The author considers the way in which psychic life is generated by the social operation of power, and how that social operation of power is concealed and fortified by the psyche that it produces. Power is no longer understood to be 'internalized' by an existing subject, but the subject is spawned as an ambivalent effect of power, one that is staged through the operation of conscience. To claim that power fabricates the psyche is also to claim that there is a fictional and fabricated quality to the psyche. The figure of a psyche that 'turns against itself' is crucial to this study, and offers an alternative to describing power as 'internalized'. Although most readers of Foucault eschew psychoanalytic theory, and most thinkers of the psyche eschew Foucault, the author seeks to theorize this ambivalent relation between the social and the psychic as one of the most dynamic and difficult effects of power.

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Judith Butler
University of California, Berkeley

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