Daniel R.

Stout MWF 1:30 Leadership Communication April 4, 2005 Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and leadership discourse Lets be honest, sometimes it takes a PhD from Northwestern to understand some of the discursive theories that are talked about in The Archeology of Knowledge by Michel Foucault. None the less after finishing the book it seems as though there are two main arguments being made, first that discourse should be viewed as an event, and second is that discourse itself can create power, or the ability to get things done and have them be in a way you deem needed. The first argument is broken up into three books in which Foucault deals with different 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 little application to leadership. At best it seems as though there is a different way that Foucault would advocate looking at history. Foucault contends that we look at history only in linear form of western deductive logic. This Foucault argues is a way that society has excluded other forms of logic and knowledge. Instead Foucault argues that we should look at discourse as an event. He says that we should detach discourse from the given linear 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 the world, 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 that must be considered. He would argue that the current ways we view discourse is purely material. This is not to say that Foucault himself thinks that linear logic is bad, he would simply argue that only using linear logic is bad, and that we must acknowledge not only the certain prescribed logic forms that are dictated but also acknowledge other forms of logic and understanding. More importantly Foucault says that viewing the incorporeality of discourse is not mutually exclusive with the material aspects of discourse. Ultimately the argument seems to be not that current forms of viewing discourse are bad, but only viewing 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 and communication 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 The Discourse on Language, here he argues that power is created with three axes of subjectivity. He argues that discourse contains these three axes and that they are able to control, and normalize the social 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 and what discourse are, but says that they are inherently interrelated and feed one another. Foucault argues that the three axes dictate future discourse and future discursive expectations as well as what is considered acceptable from what isn’t. So, about now you are wondering what in the sam hell these three axes are, and with out further ado, the three axes of subjectivity…..

First, the axis of knowledge, or truth. Here Foucault argues that discourse uses absolute truths in order to explain what human beings are. This axis is what Foucault argues gives legitimacy to things like Ph.D’s and other forms of elitism. These forms of elitism are entrenched by certain forms of discourse as acceptable and more importantly whom is able to give those truths. A good example of this axis is a doctor, a doctor uses certain forms of discourse and creates a set of requirements as to what is allowed in that field of discourse. IE, they use medical words and definitions that define what discourse is supposed to be used in the medical field. Second, the axis of power. This axis is defined by rules for what is acceptable from what isn’t acceptable. This axis uses rules and criteria for discourse that allows someone to label the other as mad, crazy or not able to speak on certain issues. This form of discourse can be seen in debate we create a resolution or a sentence that is going to be the given topic for discussion throughout the year. When someone is off topic we call them 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 and non worth listening to. The third axis of subjectivity is the axis of ethics. This axis is defined by articulating a certain way to live in the world, what values and practices people should uphold in the world. This axis can be used by discourse when people say that we should uphold a certain way of living in the world, or in other words, saying that we shouldn’t spend 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 the explanation is good enough that you recognize that they are all slightly different from one

another. But it would be Foucault’s argument that all these axes of subjectivity interact, intertwine and feed one another, and that they should be viewed without a consideration of which is more important over another. The application to leadership is obvious. In order to be an effective leader one must have power. This power is in a way the ability gain the legitimacy for your own thoughts and desires. This is important to leaders because it means that they should focus on the three axis of subjectivity when giving speeches, or using any other forms of discourse, because when one does, this will enable the given person the ability to gain the power that is needed to get things done, and it will silence opposition. Remember Foucault wouldn’t say that power is inherently bad, he would just say that it is dangerous, and that we should use these different axes of subjectivity in order to gain the power needed for a cause only if it is decided that it’s a good cause. By a good cause I would argue that it means that it is more good than bad. To decide if something is a good cause, one may look at the discourse as an event, (the above explained theory) this would allow the most amount of information and ability to truly decide whether a cause is good, bad, or what shade of grey it may be. This seems to be the only application to leadership that first theory of the book, could possibly have. In any case, discourse that uses the three axes of subjectivity would be able to give power to people when needed. To do this people should use discourse that contain truths, which prescribe a way of living in the world, and dictate what is acceptable from what is not. These aspects of discourse will give anyone the needed power to get things done.