power

discourse

In proposing to examine the general economy of discourses on sex, Michel Foucault states his objective of defining "the regime of power - knowledge - pleasure that sustains the discourse on human sexuality in our part of the world." (p.11) For Foucault, "the 'economy' of discourses -- their intrinsic technology, the necessities of their operation, the tactics they employ, the effects of power which underlie them and which they transmit -- this, and not a system of representations, is what determines the essential features of what they have to say." (p.69) 

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identity politics

The concept of identity claims the virtue that, unlike 'reductionist' or 'essentialist' notions such as class, it can encompass - equally and without prejudice or privilege - everything from gender to class, from ethnicity or race to sexual preference. The 'politics of identity', then, purports to be both more fine-tuned in its sensitivity to the complexity of human experience and more inclusive in its emancipatory sweep than the old politics of socialism.

The laden phrase “identity politics” has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice by members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestos, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination. (From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) What is crucial about the “identity” of identity politics appears to be the experience of the subject, especially his or her experience of oppression and the possibility of a shared and more authentic or self-determined alternative.

It is easy to see how critics of identity politics, and even some cautious supporters, have feared that it is prone to essentialism, another philosophical term of abuse. Either the defining features one-dimensional, as if being Asian-American, for example, were entirely separable from being a woman, or generalizations made about particular social groups in the context of identity politics may come to have a disciplinary function within the group, not just describing but also dictating the self-understanding that its members should have.

Racism attempts to reduce members of social groups to their racial features, drawing on a complex history of racial stereotypes to do so. Advocates of color-consciousness argue that racism will not disappear without proactive efforts, which require the invocation of race. Thus affirmative action, for example, requires racial identification and categorization, and those working against racism face a paradox familiar in identity politics: the very identity they aim to dispel must be invoked to make their case. Without recourse to the white masculine middle-class ideal, politicized identities would forfeit a good deal of their claims to injury and exclusion, their claims to the political significance of their difference. (Wendy Brown, States of Injury)

For Wendy Brown, following Nietzche, the wounds that underlie the politics of identity lead to ressentiment, a powerless over the past— a past of injury, a past as a hurt will, as a "reason" for the "unendurable pain" of social powerlessness in the present.

power

For Foucault, every relation between forces is a "power relation." Power is not essentially repressive. It is practiced before it is possessed, and it passes through the hands of the mastered no less than through the hands of the masters. Therefore we should ask: "How is it practiced?" It is a physics of abstract action. (Deleuze, Foucault, p. 72) 

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transcend/immanence

Socrates first discovered the concept, or eidos as the relation between the particular and the general and as a germ of a new meaning of the general question concerning being. This meaning emerged in its full purity when the Socratic eidos went on to unfold into the (transcendental) Platonic "Idea." (see also essence) The eidos is absolutely and eternally real, but in respect to each single realization, it is the possible, its potentiality.

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utopia / heterotopia

In an article entitled "Other spaces; the principles of heterotopia", Michel Foucault looks at spaces which are in rapport in some way with all the other arrangements of space in a given society, but yet in some way contradict them. 

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War

In foraging societies men go to war to get or keep women. Access to women is the limiting factor on male's reproductive success. The most common spoils of tribal warfare are women. Raiders kill the men, abduct the nubile women, gang-rape them, and allocate them as wives. Leaders may sometimes use rape as a terror tactic to attain other ends, but it is effective precisely because the soldiers are so eager to implement it. In fact, it often backfires by giving the defenders an incalculable incentive to fight on, and probably for that reason, more than out of compassion for enemy women, modern armies have outlawed rape. (Pinker, How the Mind Works, p. 513) 

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