An analytics of power relations: Foucault on the history of discipline

History of the Human Sciences 15 (1):89-117 (2002)
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Abstract

To understand how we have become what we are requires, following Foucault, not a theory but an `analytics' which examines how technologies of power and knowledge have, since antiquity, intertwined and developed in concrete and historical frameworks. Distilling from Foucault's oeuvre as a whole a rough periodization of western political rationalities, this article shows how the processes whereby some people discipline or govern others are frequently closely connected to procedures of identity-constitution and knowledge-production. Platonic, Stoic and Christian pursuits of self-mastery and self-knowledge, often via the intervention of an external master, were initially confined to an elite, but thereafter were amplified and generalized to encompass entire populations in conjunction with the rise of the modern state. Via techniques of confession and ascetic conduct, faith and empiricism, and selfreflection and everyday reality, western political rationalities, in the form of combined totalization and individualization technologies whereby some (struggle to) discipline others even as all (are exhorted to) discipline themselves, have come to dominate the globe

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