Michel Foucault: towards heterogeneity

Marks, J., 1993. Michel Foucault: towards heterogeneity. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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The aim of this thesis is to trace an articulation between the early and late work of Michel Foucault. His earliest work is concerned largely with the theme of transgression as an exploration of the limits of thought and language. He then looks at the close relationship between power and knowledge in the human sciences, and consequently investigates a serial, or "microphysical" conception of the workings of power in modem societies. Finally, his last work reformulates the notion of "pouvoir/savoir" in favour of the notion of "gouvernementalite" as a dominant form of thinking on the conduct of politics in Western societies. As yet no satisfactory consideration of the links between these stages has been offered.

Much of the thesis is based on lectures delivered at the College de France, which have yet to be fully exploited by researchers. Here, Foucault characterises the project described above as a continual series of shifts or "deplacements" away from the theory of a dominant ideology. Accepting this description, the thesis argues that the main continuity in Foucault's work - a continuity which both survives and is enriched by these shifts - is characterised by the idea of heterogeneity. That is not to say a theory of difference or otherness, but a sophisticated pluralism. This pluralism works towards a mode of thought which, as Habermas remarks, attempts to contain contradictions, without reducing these contradictions to a system.

Foucault's work on language, literature and the human sciences in the 'sixties is permeated by a set of spatial themes, which culminate in the notion of dispersion in fields of knowledge. These spatial themes have not yet been considered in their relationship to later works. The aim of this early formulation of heterogeneity is to undermine the concepts of progression in the field of the human sciences, and to prise knowledge away from causal paths which can be traced back to a sovereign subjective consciousness. Developing the Nietzschean thesis of genealogy, he shows that methods of thinking and acting may have lowly and contingent origins. Foucault then applies the notion of dispersion to areas such as the penal system, where the discursive and the non-discursive - in the form of buildings and institutions - intersect. Only Gilles Deleuze has suggested the importance of the serial approach to power in Surveiller et punir. Finally, Foucault applies the concept of heterogeneity to the neglected question of government in Western societies. Government is defined as the "conduct of conduct", and looks at the circulation of individual and State projects for government as a pastoral and biological concern for the provision of "health". These projects act "heterogeneously", which is not to say that they are either mutually exclusive, nor that they form a coherent system of, for example, a dominant ideology.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Marks, J.
Date: 1993
ISBN: 9781369323214
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 01 Oct 2020 15:36
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2023 14:22
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/41082

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