Foucault and the Theories of Power and Identity Essay

1395 Words Apr 16th, 2005 6 Pages
Foucault believed that power is never in any one person's hands, it does not show itself in any obvious manner but rather as something that works its way into our imaginations and serves to constrain how we act. For example in the setting of a workplace the power does not pass from the top down; instead it circulates through their organizational practices. Such practices act like a grid, provoking and inciting certain courses of action and denying others. Foucault considers this as no straightforward matter and believes that it rests on how far individuals interpret what is being laid down as "obvious" or "self evident", institutional power works best when all parties accept it willingly. Foucault's notion of power is a difficult notion to …show more content…
Institutional power is not so much a hierarchical system with clearly defined lines of authority and delegation but a "scenario of power in which each side circles the other, vying for position in the hope of influencing the outcome."5 Since Foucault other theorists have developed the notions of power and identity, the most notable being Judith Butler. Butler has written extensively on questions of identity politics, gender and sexuality. She is critical of traditional feminists for remaining within the confines of a male/female binary. The subject for Butler is never exactly male or female. In her essay Imitation and Gender Subordination, Butler quotes "identity categories tend to be instruments of regulatory regimes, whether as normalizing categories of oppressive structures or as the rallying points for a libratory contestation of that very oppression". Throughout her essay Butler maintains that people cannot be placed in specific identity groups, for example, women should not be identified in terms of their sex and a gay man or a lesbian cannot be identified as such. Butler argues that as soon as this is applied to a person they immediately fall prey to the binary power structure that they wished to break apart from and that once a person falls into a label that lies outside of the power structures norms

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