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Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and Leadership Discourse

Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and Leadership Discourse



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Published by Daniel Stout
I discuss how Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge interplays with the ideas of power and leadership within discourse.
I discuss how Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge interplays with the ideas of power and leadership within discourse.

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Published by: Daniel Stout on Jun 04, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Daniel R. StoutMWF 1:30Leadership CommunicationApril 4, 2005
Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and leadership discourse
Lets be honest, sometimes it takes a PhD from Northwestern to understand someof the discursive theories that are talked about in
The Archeology of Knowledge
byMichel Foucault. None the less after finishing the book it seems as though there are twomain arguments being made, first that discourse should be viewed as an event, andsecond is that discourse itself can create power, or the ability to get things done and havethem be in a way you deem needed.The first argument is broken up into three books in which Foucault deals withdifferent aspects of discourse, history and the way history was created. In this section of the book, Foucault does focus on the aspects of discourse, but there is very littleapplication to leadership. At best it seems as though there is a different way that Foucaultwould advocate looking at history. Foucault contends that we look at history only inlinear form of western deductive logic. This Foucault argues is a way that society hasexcluded other forms of logic and knowledge. Instead Foucault argues that we shouldlook at discourse as an event. He says that we should detach discourse from the givenlinear forms of thinking and open up space for different and alternative knowledges.Foucault says that the way we view discourse as an event is to not only place it outside of the linear forms of logic, but to also view discourse not as something that reflects theworld, IE a speech is reflective of things that happen in the world, but that discourse is
something that HAPPENS in the world, that itself has its own incorporeal aspects thatmust be considered. He would argue that the current ways we view discourse is purelymaterial. This is not to say that Foucault himself thinks that linear logic is bad, he wouldsimply argue that only using linear logic is bad, and that we must acknowledge not onlythe certain prescribed logic forms that are dictated but also acknowledge other forms of logic and understanding. More importantly Foucault says that viewing the incorporealityof discourse is not mutually exclusive with the material aspects of discourse. Ultimatelythe argument seems to be not that current forms of viewing discourse are bad, but onlyviewing discourse in its current forms is bad, and we should allow more avenues for exploration.So the second argument, the one that really interacts with leadership andcommunication in that it focuses on discourse and the ways it creates power. In the last part of the book, Foucault puts a lecture he gave entitled T
he Discourse on Language
,here he argues that power is created with three axes of subjectivity. He argues thatdiscourse contains these three axes and that they are able to control, and normalize thesocial body. This is what I would like to define as power, or the ability to control what people do and say and think. Foucault acknowledges the differences in what power andwhat discourse are, but says that they are inherently interrelated and feed one another.Foucault argues that the three axes dictate future discourse and future discursiveexpectations as well as what is considered acceptable from what isn’t. So, about now youare wondering what in the sam hell these three axes are, and with out further ado, thethree axes of subjectivity…..
First, the axis of knowledge, or truth. Here Foucault argues that discourse usesabsolute truths in order to explain what human beings are. This axis is what Foucaultargues gives legitimacy to things like Ph.D’s and other forms of elitism. These forms oelitism are entrenched by certain forms of discourse as acceptable and more importantlywhom is able to give those truths. A good example of this axis is a doctor, a doctor usescertain forms of discourse and creates a set of requirements as to what is allowed in thatfield of discourse. IE, they use medical words and definitions that define what discourseis supposed to be used in the medical field.Second, the axis of power. This axis is defined by rules for what is acceptablefrom what isn’t acceptable. This axis uses rules and criteria for discourse that allowssomeone to label the other as mad, crazy or not able to speak on certain issues. This formof discourse can be seen in debate we create a resolution or a sentence that is going to bethe given topic for discussion throughout the year. When someone is off topic we callthem non-topical and say that they should lose the round because of it. This is a form of rule-making that uses discourse as power, labeling the non-topical case as being mad andnon worth listening to.The third axis of subjectivity is the axis of ethics. This axis is defined byarticulating a certain way to live in the world, what values and practices people shoulduphold in the world. This axis can be used by discourse when people say that we shoulduphold a certain way of living in the world, or in other words, saying that we shouldn’tspend company time on personal e-mails, or that we shouldn’t consume fossil fuels. Now, I know what you are saying, they all seem to be the same, but I hope theexplanation is good enough that you recognize that they are all slightly different from one

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