POWER/KNOWLEDGE: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977 by Michel Foucault

POWER/KNOWLEDGE: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Madness and Civilization to The History of Sexuality, French philosopher/historian Foucault has been building an impressive, if not always comprehensible, body of ""researches"" into the mechanisms of power. What makes Foucault's studies of power different is his position, often repeated in these selections, that what characterizes power in modernity is not authority or even repression, which are the forms of power generated by the state and its ""apparatuses,"" but ""discipline."" Disciplinary power shapes the body and mind through such ""technologies"" as asylums, prisons, medicine, and sexual codes, to create the sort of individual who is compatible with the requirements of industrialized society. Foucault's work on all these topics has been shrouded in an esoteric language characteristic of today's Parisian intellectuals, with the favorite word being ""discourses."" The hope that this collection of (mostly) interviews, not previously published in English, would get around this obstacle through the less formal means of oral dialogue, is dashed rather quickly; Foucault and his many interviewers manage to speak the same trendy, obscurantist language they write. The interviewers, in particular, are given to a kind of jargon: ""how would you situate the genealogical approach? As a questioning of the conditions of possibility, modalities and constitution of the 'objects' and domains you have successively analyzed, what makes it necessary?"" But while these offerings--which also include two lectures and an essay, as well as a useful afterword by editor Colin Gordon (Oxford)--are not much ""easier"" than Foucault's books, a general sense of his work does emerge; and the effort is worth it. Since the discussions cover all his previous topics, moreover, the volume makes an excellent entree to Foucault's discourse on discourse. But it ain't easy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1980
ISBN: 039473954X
Publisher: Pantheon