1 This assignment will discuss and compare Foucault and Gramsci’s different understandings of the way power evolves

. On the first part of this write up, Foucault views will be discussed to show that social power is ultimately created through individuals internalising discipline. On the second part, Gramsci posits that social power is an intricate process of building hegemony in which consent and coercion play mutually constituting roles. The discussions on views of these two authors will show the comparisms for the purpose of this assignment before concluding with a suggestion that the views of these authors go a long way to explaining some of the power relations in present times.

Foucault writings are largely concerned with the questions of power. He argues that power is ubiquitous everywhere as will be discussed in this part of the assignment. Also, this part will show Foucault understanding of the evolvement of power into its modern form. He talked about power being source of sovereignty and control by leaders in earlier stage of power as a concept. Power was used as a repressive means to control and rule people with individual’s body targeted for punishment by means of torture. Torture was used to get confessions from “patients” (Foucault, 1995, p. 23) and also used as means of killing offenders through different gradual process.

Similarly, laws were so repressive that a mere suspect can lose his life while being interrogated just to force confession out from the suspect irrespective of his innocence. It is very ironic that one is forced to make confession over a crime one did not commit. Power was very negative on people’s lives as the case was because it did not stop people from committing crimes. Tortures and executioners apply the laws to extreme on orders from the leader. This system takes a long

2 time, resources and energy to administer. For example, instead of passing judgments on people and kill them on one single process when found guilty, the leader will prefer to look into the case for a long period of time before doing a public execution (Foucault, 1995).

On the last stage of evolvement of power, it becomes a means to normalise or change people for the better. Though people still have to be disciplined but offenders are rehabilitated through fines and imprisonment. At this stage, the soul was targeted and judges gave more interpretation to laws and also introduced different sentencing in hierarchical order. In this wise, punishment for stealing for instance should not be same for murder or manslaughter. Also in another example, a madman who committed a crime is better off taking to a mental institution to receive cure rather than going to prison because he did not commit the crime with a reasonable mind (Foucault, 1995).

Foucault sees panoticism as an ideal model of power in which the subject is visible and supervised. The observer is not seen by the subject who is reminiscent to the observer becoming omnipresent. In this vein, power is exercised as position and source of knowledge regarded as “epistemologico- juridical formation” (Foucault, 1995, p. 23) which is evolution of knowledge and law. This knowledge further sets norms for the society and the subjects are meant to follow the laid down rules (Foucault, 1995).

More importantly, the most crucial point is examination of power which is the combination of surveillance and normalisation. If the surveillance and control fail to normalise the people, then power is seen to have been abused and misappropriated. This is why he maintained that

3 individuals constitute in power relations. This is because if the individuals refuse to cooperate with the leader, there will be anomie in the society. Therefore, the leader is within house of power and is the observer. However, he is also being observed through his action and decision. With the help of democracy, the leader can be changed if he is not living up to expectations. So, the micro-physics of power underlie democracy (Foucault, 1995).

This era of power is significant and reflects on the economy and superstructures in three different ways. Firstly, “to obtain the exercise of power at the lowest possible cost (economically, by the low expenditure it involves; politically, by its discretion its low exteriorization, its relative invisibility, by the little resistance it arouse)” (Foucault, 1995, p. 218). Secondly, power fulfills maximum utility in this era and thirdly, it connects growth in economy of power with the positive outcome of various institutions such as military and education within which power is exercised (Foucault, 1995).

In this second part of the paper, attempt will be made to pinpoint how Gramsci views evolvement of power in lieu of how difficult it is to understand his literature. He identified power to be in three different phases though he was forced to understand it that way by becoming a prisoner. The three phases are Economic/Social, political and military. For Gramsci, economy is linked to political and military power. Both powers are exercised through mass forces which becomes hegemony. Hegemony is seen as a superstructure which society and individuals must contend with in form of socialism or capitalism. However, Gramsci thinks that human consciousness is the most important thing but could not understand why revolutions took place in the East and not in the West (Gramsci 1929-1935).

4 Furthermore, Foucault posits that Hegemony works through civil society and the state. The state is not only a repressive force but also make sure it mediates class interests which is prevalent in capitalist economy. In this case, it makes sure that the capitalist does not exploit the workers much and the workers do not demand for much wages. In the other hand, civil society also mediates between states and the economy. The whole process is intertwined and complements each other. While the state maintains law and order, the civil societies follow the rules and are productive members of the society with churches and political groups as examples. The civil society offers constructive opinions and criticisms to government policies to ensure good governance (Gramsci 1929-1935).

Finally, Gramsci argues that in modern capital economy, economic transformation is not enough but also political constitutions are important. The state should always intervene in the economy to ensure stability instead of the market forces becoming the determinant factors. In situation where the state is not functioning properly, war position and war movements should be the central means of transformation in civil society. Gramsci’s ideal solution for checks and balances in power is through mass protests by the working class who slowly takes over and reconstitutes civil society and refashion it to its own image. By putting it house in order, this becomes the central means of revolution leading to seisure of the state power by the civil society (Gramsci 19291935).

Having discussed the different views of Foucault and Gramsci with regard to evolvement of power, it is obvious in comparisms that there are some differences. However, both see power as means of authority and control. They highlighted the evolution of power from overt coercive

5 mechanisms of control forced on individuals to subtle forms of power acting through internalisation for Foucault and hegemony for Gramsci. Meaning Foucault see social power as being ultimately enacted through individuals internalising discipline whereas Gramsci thinks social power is an intricate process of building hegemony in which consent and coercion play mutually constituting roles.

Some major difference noted in their different views include the fact that Foucault thinks that superstructure plays a deeper role and leaves the individuals with little or no option but to comply with power and live a dogmatic life. Gramsci on the other hand though acknowledges the impact of superstructure but thinks the most important thing is consciousness. In this regard, human agency is significant. Foucault means of change of power is through democracy whereas reshaping of civil society leads to seizure of power according to Gramsci.

In conclusion, the modern society has continued to use different systems of power (internalisation and hegemony) to govern the society. Seisure of power still take place in some society by military whereas some societies are enjoying democracy. Democracy however is being interpreted differently in different countries and it is safe to say that different system of power is still an on going process and therefore there is no one particular system generally acceptable. What is good for America may not be good for Iran with regards to system of power.

6 Reference:

(Gramsci 1929-1935).

Michele Foucault. 1995. Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books.

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