Evaluation of the Usefulness of Selected Examples of Foucault's Theory

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Within this paper, I shall evaluate the usefulness of selected examples of Foucault’s theories from a feminist perspective. To begin, a short introduction will outline the era in which Foucault wrote, as this has been seen as influential to his work, inspiring him to move away from the former ideological ways of thinking about the world (Taylor and Vintges 2004, Mills 1997). I shall then go on to consider the changing nature of feminism, which has moved on from viewing patriarchy and men as the oppressors of women, and is persistently developing more complex analyses of the ways in which gendered power relations operate. I wish to discuss the ways in which Foucault’s theorisation of power and his methodology of discourse analysis have been …show more content…
Foucault felt it necessary to dispense with ideologies such as socialism, communism and liberalism, which had all made claims to ‘absolute truth’ and which had resulted in widespread devastation (Taylor and Vintges 2004: 2). Foucault’s work focussed on the ways in which power operates throughout society. In his earlier work this was on the ways in which societies govern their subjects; his later focus was on the ways in which humans are subjectified within society, and the ways in which conduct is guided by self-governance (Mills 2003). He wanted to move beyond an analysis of behaviours and ways of thinking that relied on the concept of ideology, and throughout his work he highlighted the oppressive function of ‘truths’ and the effects of ‘norms’, when they are adopted unquestioned and uncritically (Mills 1997:30). Although Foucault openly refused the label of sociologist, poststructuralist, or postmodernist, his work has been aligned with these disciplines, and he has had a significant impact within these schools of thought (Smart 2002).
Traditional feminist theorisation focussed on the notion of patriarchy, that male dominated society serves the needs of men, while oppressing women (Walby 1990). However, the view that all men oppress all women is now widely seen as inaccurate and oversimplified. While some women are indeed victims of male oppression, this is not the case for all women, as some may be in positions in which they exert