Butler and Foucault: A Revision of Power Essay

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Both Foucault and Butler claim that sexuality is not what makes us who we are, that it is simply a social construct. In addition, they both believe that by submitting to the mechanisms of power and categorizing ourselves sexually, we are giving impetus to our own subjugation. While they hold similar beliefs in many ways, and much of Judith Butler's work is building upon work done by Michael Foucault, Judith Butler does diverge from Foucault's ideas. The reason Butler revises Foucault is that his concept of biopower leaves no room for resistance to power. For Foucault, a shift in the 17th century from a top-down monarchial model of power which focused on the individual gave way to a political technology for controlling entire populations.…show more content…
Foucault spells out the genesis of this political technology and its use for social control: "One of the great innovations in the techniques of power in the eighteenth century was the emergence of “population” as an economic and political problem: population as wealth, population as manpower or labour capacity, population balanced between its own growth and the resources it commanded. Governments perceived that they were not dealing simply with subjects, or even with a “people,” but with a “population,” with its specific phenomena and its peculiar variables." (298/25) This is where we begin to see Foucault's concept of Biopower come into play. One of the central themes of Foucault's writing, he defines biopower as "[T]he forms of power, the channels it takes, and the discourses it permeates in order to reach the most tenuous and individual modes of behavior, the paths that give it access to the rare or scarcely perceivable forms of desire, how it penetrates and controls everyday pleasure—all this entailing effects that may be those of refusal, blockage, and invalidation, but also incitement and intensification: in short, the 'polymorphous techniques of power.'” (292/11 For Foucault, Biopower relates to the government's concern with fostering the life of the population, but is also a form of complete control of that population through surveillance or perceived surveillance. Foucault believed that Biopower permeates through the
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