Michel Foucault French Philosopher and Historian 1926-1984
Biography • Born Paul-Michel Foucault in Poitiers, France on October 15, 1926 • Father was a surgeon who hoped Michel would follow in his footsteps • Known for his critical studies of various social institutions, including medicine, education, psychiatry and his work on the history of sexuality • Influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant and Georges Dumézil • Experimented with the drug LSD in 1975, considered it the best experience of his life
Education and Career • attended École Normale Supérieure; earned degrees in both psychology and philosophy • Was a member of the French Communist Party from 1950-1953; later it was said he never was an active participant • Taught psychology at the University of Lille from 1953-1954 • 1954-1958 - served as a cultural delegate to the University of Uppsala in Sweden • Also held teaching posts at Warsaw University, the University of Hamburg and the University of Tunis throughout the late 1950s and 60’s • Also earned his doctorate in philosophy • 1970- elected to France's most prestigious academic body, the Collège de France as Professor of the History of Systems of Thought • First visited the U.S. in 1970- lectured at the University of Buffalo and UC-Berkeley
The Imitation of Life • Foucault’s writings on sexuality are thought to have been influenced by his homosexuality • In the 1970’s and 80’s, Foucault participated in anonymous lifestyle in San Francisco. It is suspected during this time, he contracted HIV • Died of an AIDS-related illness on June 16, 1984; the 1st high profile French personality to be reported as an AIDS victim • Originally slated to be a six-volume project, his work The History of Sexuality was never fully published due to restrictions within his estate.
The History of Sexuality Michel Foucault
Right to Life • “Right to Life” goes hand in hand with “Right to Die” • Whoever controls right by deduction has means to take it away
Power of Life and Death • Whoever controls the wealth, taxes, products, good, services, labor and blood controls life and death in a society • Examples: kings, lords, land owners, slave owners- any sovereign • Control food, war and peace and labor- can let live or die at will
Power Today • In a rational society, power usually does not come from control over life and death • Ex: death penalty • Less common • Seen as a protection for the rest of society • Importance of quality of life • New power comes from Bio-Power
Power Today • What are some examples of modern societies that have been controlled by direct power over life and death?
Bio-Power • Bio-power is a technology of power • Uses different techniques to allow for control of the entire population
Bio-Power • Anatomo-politics of the human body • Idea of the body as a machine- it is productive, useful, etc • Appears in the military, education ,work to make the population more disciplined
Bio-Power • Regulatory controls: a bio-politics of the population • Body is part of the mechanics of life- propagation, births and deaths, health, life expectancy and longevity • Used in demography, wealth analysis, etc to control population statistically
Bio-Power • Bio-power is responsible for: • Capitalism • Controlled input of people into labor and adjustments to the population • The Judicial System • Threat for disobedience is ultimately death • But not death by a sovereign, death becomes a norm upheld by society as punishment • Power held within society is more stable and accepted
Bio-Power and Sexuality • “The ‘right’ to life, to one’s body, to health, to happiness, to the satisfaction of needs, and beyond all the oppressions or ‘alienations,’ the ‘right’ to rediscover what one is and all that one can be, this ‘right’- which the classical juridical system was utterly incapable of comprehending- was the political response to all these new procedures of power which did not derive, either , from the traditional right of sovereignty.” –The History of Sexuality
Bio-Power and Sexuality • Link between control of the body and power makes sexuality a political issue in 2 ways: • Discipline of the body • Controlling and distributing people and their energy • Regulation of population • Affects medical and psychological fields, as well as public policy
Politics of Sex • Foucault highlights 4 lines of attack that the politics of sex play upon: • The sexualization of children • The hysterization of women • The solidity of the family institution • The safeguarding of society
Politics of sex • Do you agree with Foucault’s assessment that our society is based on bio-power? • Based on Foucault’s writing, what issues does our society currently face that may be seen as threats to the current nation state based on bio-power?
Truth and Power Michel Foucault
Truth and Power • An interview in which Foucault speaks on power, truth, phenomenology, ideology, as well as touches on society’s repression of sexuality • Is there a definition of power or truth? Although Foucault speaks extensively on the subject matter, he does not give a definition of what power is. • Speaks on the political problem
Power • Power is exercised concretely and in detail (in regards to specificity, techniques and tactics) • Power is visible • Is power simply a means of repression? According to Foucault, the answer is no. What makes power acceptable is that is “produces goods, induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse”. • Power should be viewed as a productive network versus a negative instance which represses
Truth “ The important thing here, I believe, is that truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power: contrary to a myth whose history and functions would repay further study, truth isn’t the reward of free spirits, the children of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power”.
Truth continued… • Is said to have been influenced by Nietzsche’s statement that “knowledge functions as an instrument of power” • Truth is subject to economic and political incitement • Is an object of diffusion and consumption • Is transmittable through the control of the dominant political and economical instutitions (e.g. academic institutions, military, media, writing) • The three-fold specificity of the intellectual a) class position b) conditions of his life and work c) the specificity of the politics of truth in our societies • The political problem is not changing the minds of people’s thinking, but the production of truth on political, economic and institutionalized levels • Truth is power (but would power be considered as truth?)
Foucault Discussion Questions • Foucault states that sexuality is “far more of a positive product of power than power was ever repression of sexuality”. What do you think is meant by that? • Is truth socially constructed? If so, what would contribute to constructing truth in modern society?
Jean Baudrillard July 29, 1929 – March 6, 2007
Jean Baudrillard • Born in Reims, France on July 29, 1929 to a peasant family. • He studied German at Sorbonne University in Paris. • He taught German in France from 1958 to 1966. • During that time, he worked as a translator and critic and studied sociology and philosophy. • He completed his doctoral thesis, “Thesis of the Third Cycle: The System of Objects,” in 1966. • From 1966 to 1972 he was a Professor of Sociology.
Jean Baudrillard • He finished his habilitation, “The Other, by oneself,” in 1972. • He was a Sociology Professor at the University of Paris-X Nanterre. • From 1986 to 1990, he was the Scientific Director at IRIS (Institut de Recherche et d'Information Socio-Économique) at the University of Paris-IX Dauphine. • He was the Satrap at the University of Pataphysics until he died. • He died in Paris on March 6, 2007 because of illness at age 77.
Jean BaudrillardMain Themes • He is frequently associated with post-structuralism. • He often made arguments based on the idea that systems of meaning could only be understood in terms of their interrelation. • The line between reality and simulation is false.
Jean BaudrillardMain Themes • All of his theories were based on the same basic principle that meaning is interpreted by absence. • Example: The word ‘desk’ means ‘desk’ not because of what the word itself says, but because of what it does not say: ‘chair’, ‘person’, ‘duck’, etc.
Jean BaudrillardMain Themes • He was critical of Foucalt. • He developed theories based on the concepts of hyperreality, seduction, and simulation rather than knowledge and power.
Jean BaudrillardInfluences • Karl Marx • Nietzsche • Freud • Lévi-Strauss • Marcel Mauss • Andy Warhol • Roland Barthes • Georges Bataille • Theodor Adorno
The System of Objects (1968) The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures (1970) For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1972) The Mirror of Production (1973) Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976) Forget Foucault (1977) Seduction (1979) Simulacra and Simulation (1983) In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities (1982) Fatal Strategies (1983) America (1986) Cool Memories (1987) The Ecstasy of Communication (1987) The Transparency of Evil (1990) The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991) The Illusion of the End (1992) Baudrillard Live: Selected Interviews (Edited by Mike Gane) (1993) The Perfect Crime (1995) Paroxysm: Interviews with Philippe Petit (1998) Impossible Exchange (1999) Passwords (2000) The Singular Objects of Architecture (2000) The Vital Illusion (2000) Au royaume des aveugles (2002) The Spirit of Terrorism: And Requiem for the Twin Towers (2002) Fragments (interviews with François L'Yvonnet) (2003) The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact (2005) The Conspiracy of Art (2005) Les exilés du dialogue, Jean Baudrillard and Enrique Valiente Noailles (2005) Utopia Deferred: Writings for Utopie (1967-1978) (2006) Jean BaudrillardWorks
Jean BaudrillardSimulacra and Simulation • Published in 1983 • He talks about how society has replaced the real with signs and symbols and that what we now know as reality is only a simulation of reality.
Jean BaudrillardSimulacra and Simulation • The present age is one of “hyperreality” where meaning is eradicated and reality has been superseded by the signs of its existence. • Example of the desk. (Desk does not mean chair, person, or duck, etc.)
Jean BaudrillardIdea of the Precession of Simulacra(From his 1976 writing: Symbolic Exchange and Death) • the era of the original • to the counterfeit • to the produced, mechanical copy • to the simulated "third order of simulacra", whereby the copy has replaced the original.
Jean BaudrillardExample of the Empire and the map • He used a fable based on a writing by Jorge Luis Borges, in which a powerful Empire created a map so large and detailed that it became the size of the Empire itself. The map would grow or decay as the Empire gained or lost territory. When the Empire collapsed, all that was left was the rotting map.
Jean BaudrillardExample of the Empire and the map • If the fable were to be revived today, the territory would be rotting, not the map, because of the precession of simulacra -the map now precedes the territory. • In contemporary society the simulated copy has replaced the original object just like the map came to precede the geographic territory.
Jean BaudrillardExample of the Empire and the map • According to Baudrillard, we are living in the map (the simulation of reality) and reality is decaying because it has been abandoned. • He used this same idea later to argue that the first Gulf War did not occur. The image of war preceded real war.
Jean BaudrillardThe Divine Irreference of Images • Dissimulate-to feign not to have what one has. • Simulation- to feign to have what one hasn’t. Not simply to feign. • “Someone who feigns an illness can simply go to bed and pretend he is ill. Someone who simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms.” • Dissimulating leaves room for the principle of reality and so the difference is clear and only masked. • Simulating produces “true” symptoms and the line between “real and imaginary” and “true and false” is threatened. The simulator cannot be treated as ill or not ill because symptoms are now being produced. • Medicine stops at this point because symptoms are no longer natural or capable of being treated because there are no longer objective causes or “true illnesses.”
Jean BaudrillardThe Divine Irreference of Images • “I forbade any simulacrum in the temples because the divinity that breathes life into nature cannot be represented.” • Iconoclasts- did not see images as distorted truths, but as perfect simulacra. • They went on a rage to destroy images because they thought that images of God would erase God from the consciousness of people and suggest that there has never been any God; that only God has only ever been his own simulacrum.
Jean BaudrillardThe Divine Irreference of Images • A sign could refer to the depth of meaning or • A sign could exchange for meaning • Representation-the sign and the real are equivalent. • Tries to absorb simulation and interpret it as false representation. • Simulation-the sign is a form of deterioration of the real. • Envelopes the whole structure of representation itself as a simulacrum.
Jean BaudrillardThe Divine Irreference of Images • Successive phases of the image: • It is the reflection of a basic reality. • The image is a good appearance- order of sacrament. • It masks and perverts a basic reality. • The image is an evil appearance- order of malefice. • It masks the absence of a basic reality. • The image plays at being an appearance- order of sorcery. • It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum. • The image is no longer an appearance- order of simulation.
Jean BaudrillardHyperreal and Imaginary • “Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulation.” • The imaginary world is what is supposed to make it successful, but it is made successful through its miniaturized social representation of “real” America.
Jean BaudrillardHyperreal and Imaginary • “The objective profile of America can be traced throughout Disneyland, down to the morphology of the crowd.” • Third-order simulation (where the copy replaces the original): Disneyland exists to cover up the fact that it is all of “real” America that is Disneyland. • Disneyland is presented as imaginary so that we will think that the rest of the country is real, when actually the rest of America is no longer real but made up of simulation and the hyperreal. • There is no longer a question of false representation of reality, but of hiding the fact that the real is no longer real.
Jean BaudrillardHyperreal and Imaginary • Disneyland is supposed to make its visitors believe that adults and the “real” world are elsewhere. • It is meant to hide the fact that real childishness is everywhere. • Los Angeles and the rest of America are only a network of continuous, unreal circulation.
Jean BaudrillardDiscussion Questions • He talks about how what we know as reality now is actually a simulation of reality. Do you agree or disagree? Do you think that there is a line between what is real and what is imaginary? Do you think that reality can actually be replaced by the existence of symbols of reality?
Jean BaudrillardDiscussion Questions • What is another modern example, besides Disneyland, that would stand as a model of simulation?
Jean BaudrillardDiscussion Questions • As of this past Friday, gays and lesbians are now able to participate in fairy tale weddings in Disneyland whereas before only couples with valid marriage licenses were allowed to participate in these ceremonies. How does this coincide with Baudrillard’s example of Disneyland as a social representation of “real” America? What other examples can you think of?