View Full Version : Michel Foucault

09-25-2006, 02:42 PM
I'm currently working on Foucault and I'd love to engage in a bit of online discussion of his ideas.. Any takers? If so, just jump in anywhere. It all connects...

09-25-2006, 02:50 PM
I'm currently working on Foucault and I'd love to engage in a bit of online discussion of his ideas.. Any takers? If so, just jump in anywhere. It all connects...

I have only read his "The Order of Things", which I found to contain major errors. As I understand it, his earlier works were pretty good, particularly the one on mental illness.

09-25-2006, 03:16 PM
The only thing I got from Foucault was the idea of Panoptican - the cylindrical prison where everyone can see what everyone else is doing. It linked well with other works I was reading by Deleuze and Guattari. They did some work about how we exist on "plains" - that we move along a path and our attempts to take flight form the path are stopped by other people and society. It's kind of similar to the work by Althusser.

I did all this stuff at Uni and have probably forgotten half of it but I found it really interesting. You can really get engrossed reading it.

09-25-2006, 05:20 PM
I read "Sureveiller et punir" (Surveillance and Punishment, is it?) some years ago. What I vividly remember is a sort of critique on the enlightenment / modern thought or, if extrapolated, perhaps a Catholic-inspired critique of Protestantism. The main thought that stuck with me was that the old way of thinking punishment or repentance focussed on the body (i.e. torture, burnings at the stake etc.) but left the soul untouched whereas new thinking has sanctified the body (no corporeal punishment) but tries to worm its way into the soul thus taking what, according to the doctrine, is supreme.

09-27-2006, 04:05 PM
What came to me when you talked about the "body" being saved of punishment and the mind left to carry the blame / guilt etc as a form of punishment is this:

We are in a constant battle at the moment (due to the media etc) tormenting ourselves inside, striving to make our outward appearance "correct" - to be thinner, better dressed, perfect etc.

Fanon wrote an article called "Black Skin White Mask" about the idea of imposed identities and culture. Does that fit in with what you said about the inside and outside? :idea:

09-28-2006, 08:59 AM
This is an interesting way to look at it, Chucklecat. I don't know the article (would like to read it though, where can I find it?) but it seems to be on a similar line. What Foucault critizes, if I remember correctly, is that the soul, although it should be owned by the individual alone becomes the target of society. Not Chucklecat shall own her soul but society shall.
You now can carry on two ways:
1. you are not supposed to own your soul but you are allowed to own your body
2. the body has become the Supreme
I personally don't think there is a contradiction between the two, although it may at first look like one. You own your body, no punisher is allowed (at least not according to the Hague) to touch it but neither is your soul. The body is the supreme part that defines you i.e. the soul (i.e. being beautiful, six-pack muscles etc.). We don't strive for beautiful souls anymore (there are entirely second rate) but for our untouchable and soul-defining vessel.
In the middle ages and antiquity, many people also thought that a crooked and ugly body contains a crooked and ugly soul (Socrates fell victim to this kind of thinking, amongst other things) but they thought the body takes the shape of the soul, not vice versa.