Self-Documentation as Counter Discipline in the Ethical Works of Michel Foucault

СОЦИОЛОГИЧЕСКИ ПРОБЛЕМИ 48 (3-4):279-292 (2016)
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Abstract

This paper examines the role of self-documentation in the care of the self. As is well known, Michel Foucault exposes how disciplinary power functions in hospitals, schools, prisons, and other institutions to train the living for productive use. An important tool of disciplinary power is documentation, or the recording and cataloguing of the living that constitutes them as objects of knowledge. I show how documentation creates and extends knowledge to individuals. At the same time, documents become physical appendages of the lives they record, which, while separable from those lives, nevertheless affect those lives. Despite these apparently negative functions, Foucault finds that documentation can also be the means by which the living take over their own disciplining. In writings about both fiction and ancient ethics, Foucault points to self-documentation as a way of objectifying the self before the self, so that the self may train itself according to self-imposed standards. Although disciplinary power may be inescapable, self-documentation offers a technique of counter-discipline that functions alongside and against institutional discipline.

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