lunes, 24 de febrero de 2014

REFLEXIONS ON FOUCAULT


In his particular interpretation of Homer's works, Alessandro Baricco states that Homer's main intention is to transmit his knowledge to his son, not by a serious treatise, but by the Greek heroes’ adventures. In Baricco's opinion, when Homer relates –orally, it is important to remember— the passage between the Cyclop Polyphemus and Ulysses, he is explaining how to take care of a flock of sheeps, how to produce milk and cheese, by the practices and objects. This an example of the importance of practical knowledge, a source of knowledge completely different from that stated later by classical philosophy.

Foucault writing flows around objects and practices in the same way as his picture of power: a concept not always negative, an idea never centered as contemporary theories of identity. Foucault states there it is impossible to study human beings as a science because everything is unstable with people. This is the problem that remains in identity -the subject in Foucaldian words-. The French philosophert claims that it is impossible also to describe the self or the other. However, there are the practices, the objects, the interaction of the bodies with discipline and power that Foucault describes with his writing. The meticulous description of practices and objects in Foucault is in some ways a more powerful description of the subject than Cartesian definitions of the self that one find in psychology during modernity.

To begin with, in Discipline and Punishment, Foucault points out that the entering of the individual in the scientific discourse supposes a registration and examination of the body which remembers Althusser's interpellation because it seems a similar coercion of the human body by authority figures. These techniques of surveillance and examination are which describe the subject as a body interacting with the power. That is a political anatomy (political economy of the body, political technology of the body). Power processes subject our bodies to be controlled, processes that constitute us as subjects. For example, modern judges understand delinquents as a judgment of the soul. This picture is a kind of social environment that includes all of society because each one of us can be a surveyor of the Panopticon or inside the Inspection House; all of us are in a system in which power flows.

It seems clear that most practices exposed in Governmentality and Foucauldian conception of biopolitics are related to national identity and its links with the political state. The study of these practices between the state and the individuals in a collective issue could be very useful to understand sociological processes and to produce historical research. In addition, the important role developed by sciences, especially social sciences, in biopolitics and in sovereignty, is crucial to rethink the interaction between science and national identity. This is the case, for instance, of the strategies developed by power to identify citizens stated in Governmentality, or the racist practices imposed by Nazis and socialism.

Although the Cartesian tradition of human actions are produced by something that occurs inside, Foucault's subject perspective is described only by actions, without an inside (as in the case of the delinquent). This perspective is very useful for social sciences. Perhaps this is a weaker point in Foucault's concepts of identity, but it resolves the instability of human beings. The practices that Foucault writes makes possible our existing conceptions of ourselves and describe the subject in the same way that Homer transmitted his knowledge.