Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’

Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’

Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ Foucault never attempts at any definition of power but gives a definition of power relations at best. “The exercise of power is not simply a relationship between partners, individuals or collective; it is a way in which certain actions modify others. Which is to say, of course, that something called power with or without a capital letter, which is assumed to exist universally in a concentrated or diffused form, does not exist.” Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ Foucault goes on to insist that knowledge and power are always and necessarily interdependent. A site where power is enforced is also a site where knowledge is produced and conversely, a site from which knowledge is derived is a place where power is exercised. In ‘Discipline and Punish’ he sees prison as an example of just such a site of power, and as a place where knowledge, essential to the modern social sciences, was formed. Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ Reciprocally the ideas from which the social sciences were formulated were also the ones that gave birth to the prison. The belief that a scientist can arrive at an objective conclusion, Foucault argues, is one of the greatest fallacies of the modern, humanist era.

Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ This is especially pertinent to scientific discourses, which are legitimated by the rationality paradigm. Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ Discourses contain power because they establish particular truths and knowledge, and their power is exercised through the creation and sustenance of social norms, practices and institutions. In Foucauldian analysis, power is not monopolised by any one subject through its control of a predominant discourse; the discursive field comprises multiple subjects who manipulate various discourses to some extent. Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ For Foucault, the issue is not origin of discourses, but the implications of their power effects and the types of knowledge they produce and institutionalise. Since power originates in discourses, it has no unitary source but is heterogeneous and pluralistic, coming from everywhere and being everywhere.

Foucault’s Archeological Writings

Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’: Foucault’s early work provides an archaeology of knowledge, wherein he deconstructs the underlying unconscious rationalities of historically specific domains. In his first major work, Madness and Civilisation, Foucault traces the evolution of the relationship between insanity and modern reason. He examines the historical and discursive process whereby insanity is constructed as the opposite of rationality and is systematically separated from reason through “discourses of exclusion and institutions of confinement”.

Foucault’s most elaborate archaeological exposition occurs in his following book, The Order of Things (original French edition 1966), in which he describes the emergence of the human and social sciences as the product of “the underlying rules, assumptions and ordering procedures of the Renaissance, classical, and modern eras” (Best and Kellner 1991:41), and the creation of “man” as a discursive construct of scientific knowledge and inquiry. In his final archaeological writing, Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’. The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault provides a reflexive critique and clarification of his intellectual project: the development of a historical and theoretical epistemological space. Foucault’s archaeological writings have been criticized for an excessive focus on discourse, to the exclusion of social institutions and practice. Nevertheless, Foucault’s archaeologies clearly privilege the analysis of theory and knowledge over social practices and institutions.

An inquiry into the effect of discourse on the social and political environment would require an evaluation of material institutions. Foucault’s concept of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ This principle guides Foucault’s next intellectual phase, in which he borrows from the Nietzschean principle of genealogy to concentrate explicitly on power effects and their relationship with knowledge.

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