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October 28, 2012

Essay on Knowledge and Power


Knowledge that is best defined as an understanding a person develops for a particular thing, that being learned or witnesses through interacting with wide range of objects, holds its own importance to be acquired or learned among every single individual. It may at times be something that others would regard of being a good one and at times may even lead someone of acquiring what others may regard as being a bad one.
Further it is also important to state here that with the acquisition of knowledge is often simultaneously accompanied with a feeling of power as an individual begins to think himself as being superior to others in terms of the knowledge barrier that has provided him with greater leverage than others and with all of this a feeling of oppression also commences to accommodate itself somewhere within the disposition of an individual possessing all these qualities.
Apart from the interpretation that has been presented above philosophers during throughout the different phases of time have enlightened the topics of knowledge and power within different capacities and during the course of this discussion we will be assessing and comparing the viewpoints of the different school of thoughts that have been presented regarding these issues.
Philosophers in this regard have shared their own viewpoints for this subject matter and during the course of this argument; we will be developing an understanding approach towards the perspectives of two different scholars towards the idea of knowledge, power and oppression. These two philosophers include Michael Foucault and Jean Francois Lyotard. (Anderson, 1998)
The theories of Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard through their observation on the epistemology of modernity, have spoken influential critiques of modern ideologies as mechanisms of knowledge, power and prejudice. Both writers enlarge their critiques to invent new plans of political action and fight, making modes of political instruction in both succession and opposition to these ideologies. However, these new recommendations are difficult, conflicting and disabling, and can be shown partially to emulate the very political ideologies they attack and supersede. Ultimately, Foucault and Lyotard's work needs to be placed in a symbiotic relationship with modern political ideologies, to create an astute, if less- defined, critical equipment.
We should have a look into Michel Foucault and Jean-Francois Lyotard, both early postmodern philosophers, with their works, as well as other sources. General information about Foucault and Lyotard is used to point out the resemblances and dissimilarities between these two philosophers, their philosophies and their beliefs. While the two works are analyzed, the overall philosophies of Foucault and Lyotard are also the part of this paper. As such, it should be mentioned that this is a study of the work of two writers, Jean-François Lyotard and Michel Foucault, and that these two names should come into notice as coextensive with postmodernism, even within this specific area of political theory. Indeed, whilst Lyotard openly places himself within the postmodern camp, as the title of his most renowned book suggests, Foucault appears continually careful to distance himself from such categorization, even professing not to understand the term when questioned. In this research paper are having a deep look into Foucault and Lyotard because each uses a certain concept of power, knowledge , oppression language and a succeeding epistemology, which can be seen as basically demanding to the modernist project, and thus offers for a convincing critique of modern supporting ideologies.
 Considering Foucault, first it is important to mention that he introduced the concepts of discursive regime, genealogy and episteme used previously by philosophers in order to explain the relationship between knowledge, power and social orders and human behaviors.  (Hicks, 2004)
Central to the theories connected with power knowledge and oppression of Foucault and Lyotard is the historicisation of modern political ideologies, i.e. the site of their origin and growth within the historical period usually referred to as the 'modern'. Here again we are confronted with an ambiguous term, but a distinction should be documented between the sister-concepts of 'modernity' and 'modernism'; two separate, but consistent phenomena.
It is also important to state here that Foucault himself was a sheer advocate of exercising power in the name of spreading cultural hegemony, violence and exclusion. In this specific context the analysis of the relationship between power and truth is also worth mentioning. Foucault describes various ways in which power and truth are intertwined together with the history of human experience. For this the special focus for Foucault is the study of asylums and prisons as they provide an encapsulated perception about the use of power and the subsequent power relations that come into existence as a result of such power flowing processes (Bielskis, 2005).
One may feel that the approach towards the concept seems to be highly contradictory in nature, but another interesting aspect upon the basis of which Foucault constructs his model of power also shows a symbiotic existence with the idea of morality. According to Foucault morality comes into inception with the exercise of power, hence by intertwining the concepts of morality and power Foucault intentionally or unintentionally creates a legitimate reason that in the name of power of power any immoral act can be conducted and since it will be conducted on the basis of acquiring greater power it would not be considered as immoral. It is important to mention that even though the approach of power application and its exercise might seem very rigid when viewed through Foucault’s perspective, but nothing can be far from truth, he was himself an advocate of providing the authority of freedom to decide their future according to their own will, hence he himself was a pro-democrat.
 One of his famous quotations regarding power which is very prominent in the understanding of the very ideology that links Foucault with the concept of power is that ‘power reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives’ he believed that power originates from everywhere and is present everywhere and it is basically the benchmark of power that is also highly influential in determining the relationships that people have with each other. Like other social theorists he is also an advocate of the fact that knowledge is always a form of power, but unlike his contemporaries he extended the boundaries of these two concepts to more logically oriented boundaries by saying that knowledge can be gained from power that actually produces or acts as a barrier in the entire process. Another important aspect which is quite prominent in the core doctrine that has been put forward by Foucault is the phenomenal significance of discourse which is defined as simple communication or dissemination of information to people. In his view it is the discourse or knowledge that has created human beings and therefore it is almost impossible for people to live without discourse. A child’s knowledge is created through discourse which fosters knowledge and coupled with the life experiences that one encounters during the passage of life constitute the formation of the identity that an individual is supposed to make for himself. Hence the secret behind the formation of a saint or Satan of the future is completely dependent upon the nature of discourse that he is being provided with.  In the opinion of Foucault a change in the society or any of its institution is only possible if there is a counter discursive element which begins to gather widespread attention and momentum and emerges as a serious challenge to the already existent status quo of the society (Kason, 2010).
 It is similar to an anti thesis that challenges the prevalent system of societal or institutional functioning which can only accommodate itself through non-violent means in the society by making proper and intelligent use of communication or self-representation. Regarding the aspect of oppression, Foucault believes that when there is an imbalance in the equilibrium of the people that have control over knowledge and power, a simple and straightforward outcome of this entire disruption in the entire process is mainly manifested in the form of oppression. When the menace of oppression proliferates itself within the social system it is precisely the point where an interest based war is waged between the different stakeholders who intend to act as sentinels of the gateways through which the influx and outflux of information can easily be controlled.  He also expressed serious concern about the fact that people must be conscious and properly aware about the people who are responsible for controlling power and knowledge and therefore it is important to find out the people who are recording our actions through which people can understand as to who has the power and who does not. (Walter, 1995)
He believed that it is through language that false and nonsensical tendencies emerge among individuals that might threaten the power composition and balance of a society. (Harvey, 1989)
On the other hand much of the work that has been done by Lyotard comprises of the changes that have easily accommodated themselves with the society is based on the postmodern and postindustrial age through which the status of knowledge and the subsequent alterations in cultures have started to manifest themselves in different forms (Featherstone, 1991).
According to the postmodern theorist Jean-François Lyotard, the term power stands for a conclusion of the procedure of modernity and enlightenment thinking, toward quick cultural change, to a state where even change is the status quo, leaving the notion of development clashing. Postmodernism, thus, relies on real experience over theoretical principles, always aware that the result of one's experience will unavoidably be imperfect, relative rather than convince . While modernism deals with reason, plan, hierarchy, distance, fusion, centering, and existence, postmodernism is identical with play, chance, chaos, contribution, antithesis, dispersal, and absence. As a cultural movement, factors such as globalization, consumerism, the breakup of authority, and the commoditization of knowledge have contributed largely to the growth of postmodernism.
They additional challenge that the nature of development remains primarily unchanged in the postmodern era. Some postmodernists, such as Lyotard, have observed that in advanced societies, socialist moves violently and their goals have been indistinct into the regulators of the system. Others have declared that it is the predictable response to mass broadcasting as well as to a society conditioned to mass production and mass politics.
Much of the doctrine that has been presented by Lyotard accentuates upon the concept of knowledge which is scientific in nature as Lyotard strongly believed that in the postindustrial world it is only the scientific knowledge that can play a pivotal role in contributing immensely to the progress and development of the society.
Contrary to the wide spectrum meaning of discourse as applied and used by Foucault, Lyotard believes that it in the post industrial and cultural age it is the scientific age that is the key discourse of contemporary times. 
This discourse according to Lyotard constitutes phonology and theories of linguistics, problems of communication and cybernetics, modern theories of algebra and informatics, computers and their languages and researching areas where technological tools involving compatibility among computer languages, problems regarding the storage of extensive information can easily be resolved with utmost convenience and simplicity.      
Lyotard hold the fact that knowledge unlike Foucault believed that in times when technological renaissance is engulfing the world it has become necessary that it must be disseminated to other people and must be exchanged in the form of any other commodity and he considered knowledge to be an idealistic tool for bringing liberty and social benefits. (MSU, 2010)
Similarly he also believed that power in coming times would only be possessed by people and who have the knowledge and who know the procedure of channeling it well. (Lyotard, 1984)
Hence it can be said that the philosophical approach of Lyotard seems much more flexible and less oppressive when compared to Foucault which has framed his philosophy with greater stringency and rigidity in his approach towards each of these aspects of societal functioning. (Moya, 2010)
Michel Foucault's claims that the power-knowledge relationship that is prevalent in society both on the large and small scale but Lyotard seeks to redefine its usefulness in the existence of the modern and in particular the postmodern era. It is within this movement, that the sublime can occur; as it seeks to break down the traditional aesthetic of art, by presenting the things, which is not presentable - in a society that is apparently blinded by meta-narratives.
Power in society according to Foucault is to make people do things, not suppress them. The first proof of this power is within the family an individual belongs to. According to Lyotard power is relations of force. Power is not a property it is a relation. Therefore, it cannot be associated with anything it is dispersed all through society (Anderson, 1995). This simply means individual people are powerless within society. It is important to note that collectively however, people do potentially have a wealth of power. That is the main reason that the theorists like Foucault and Lyotard have relatively different point of views.
The subject of power and knowledge is conceptualized into a post cultural patriarchial theory that contains language as a totality. In a sense, Lyotard uses the term 'sub cultural theory' to denote the ordinary ground between truth and society. The damage/construction distinction, which is a central theme of Eco is The Island of the Day Before, emerges again in The Name of the Rose. Therefore, several narratives about not discourse, but prediscourse may be discovered whereas Foucault promotes the use of post cultural patriarchial theory to modify and deconstruct sexual identity. Foucault encourages the use of cultural sub capitalist theory to read and analyze class. It could be said that Sartreist existentialism suggests that academe is capable of consequence and significance.
Conclusion
In the light of these analyses, it is exciting to compare the prescriptions of Foucault and Lyotard with the set of formal individuality listed earlier as being classically found in modern political ideologies. It looks that a case can be completed for saying that the former come far closer to the latter than they would probably wish. Lyotard's privileging of his own system of justice over all others and the charges of reductivism, irrefutability and the advocation of his own 'true' theory of power thrown at Foucault proposes that both may have created theories tending towards the totalizing themselves (whilst contrasting universal and totalizing theory), thereby at the same time reproducing the subject/object binary of modern thought . One may also detect certain teleology within their work, albeit towards a dystopic state of heterogeneity and conflict, which seems to have at least superficial structural correlation with the kind of second order found in conservatism.
It is also not at all obvious that Foucault's repeatedly arguments on fight and Lyotard's polemic against cruel agreement have escaped a dependence on human being subjects as equal primary metaphysical components. This circumstances thus infuse the 'post-' of 'postmodern' with a serious uncertainty in this case, for it would seem that whilst offering an unquestionably essential critique of the premises of the modern project ('post-' as undermining and replacing).
Foucault and Lyotard can be taken to mean in some ways as remaining inner to its very logic ('post-' as the logical growth of): post-modern, yet modern; an ideological, yet ideological. In the end, though, this disagreements should be savoured and the doubts conserved, for it can only stop Lyotard and Foucault's work from saying the sort of power and status of total 'truthfulness' which is exactly what both theorists or philosophers attack. Perhaps the fact that their systems of political instruction simply do not stand up to wide philosophical critique, even according to their own grounds, should encourage us to view them as self-subverting ideologies, to be utilized and referenced, but too defective to be rigidly forced.
What Foucault and Lyotard have done is sufficiently reveal the dangers of 'truth', the individuality inherent in it, and the oppression that takes place whenever it is emotionally involved to an institutional set-up or functional within a social association. As such, any bent to include a wide range of fact with one coherent theoretical viewpoint, caledl as truth and offering prescriptions accordingly, must be discarded. It may well be that modern political ideologies have been dealt the deathblow; it is certainly absurd that there will be any more On Liberty's, Communist Manifesto's, or Social Contract's. However it is evenly ridiculous that these theories or books will be chucked on the fire, to be returned on the shelf by the texts of writers such as Foucault and Lyotard, for the anti-social breakup and critical disabling that the latter scenario would entail is equally unfavorable. Rather the two should co-exist together: the latter conservation from pretensions to universalism and the dogmatics of truth found in the former; the former protecting us from the latter is inability to see wider critical perspectives and tendencies to individualism. Perhaps we should embrace some kind of division in the realm of theory, a middle way between the oppression of knowledge and the inability to fight oppression inherent in its submit.
A collective rebellion may have been exposed as an authoritarian oppression, but this does not mean that Marxist texts cannot provide us with critical clarifications when reflecting on assured phenomena, within a limited domain and adhered to undogmatically. In the same way, the Marxist notion of philosophy as inexpensively resolute within a base framework may be too tantalizing and oppressive towards the ideologies themselves, but may still be a helpful model to refer to in consideration elements within the specific actions of particular ideologies. Certain indistinctness is predictable here, for theory remains a toolbox from which tools must be selected for each individual task with which we are faced (Braschi, 1994). However, there are perhaps certain tasks, which need superior, more influential tools; these are modern political philosophies, and as long as they are hold responsibly and with concern, their efficiency should not be ignored.

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