Foucault, Disciplinary Power, and the ‘Decentring ’ of Political Thought: A Marxian View 1. Two of the theories Foucault criticised when he wrote, lectured, and conversed about discipline,

Abstract

normalisation, and power, are Marxism and what he called the juridical theory of sovereignty (which he held to be a core element of much modern liberal or social democratic thought). Foucault wanted to think of power in a distinct way, distinct from the way both liberal political theorists and Marxists do. In Foucault's view liberals and Marxists, however different they are from each other, have glossed over the workings of power in our everyday lives. Many commentators have suggested that Foucault has given us a new way of critically examining our social relations. We are now, they have claimed, in a post-Marxist (and perhaps post-modern) age in which the old categories have exhausted their critical potential. Are these ‘old ’ theories with their ‘old ’ categories (such as ‘class ’ or ‘sovereignty’) rival or complementary to what has been called Foucault's "interpretive analytics of power"? (Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1983) It is not clear whether Foucault had a settled view on this, but he sometimes treated them as if they were rivals. Many of his commentators do as well, in some cases much more than Foucault himself. 1 In his ‘Two Lectures’, Foucault was more explicit than usual about his way of analysing and interpreting power relations and about how this differed from, and was (he thought) in certain respects better than, Marxist and 'juridical '--or, as Deleuze referred to the latter, "bourgeois"-conceptions and theories. 2 Again, many of Foucault's commentators have been sympathetic wit

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