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Foucault's Critical Ethics$
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Richard A. Lynch

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823271252

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823271252.001.0001

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Approaching Power from a New Theoretical Basis

Approaching Power from a New Theoretical Basis

(p.19) 1 Approaching Power from a New Theoretical Basis
Foucault's Critical Ethics

Richard A. Lynch

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines Michel Foucault’s account of power, arguing that it is a “theory” of power, generalizable and subject to empirical confirmation. At the heart of Foucault’s philosophical and historical work is an analysis of power relations and their fundamental role in society—an analysis that has fostered and grounded new approaches to political engagement. For Foucault, ethics must emerge within a context of relations of power, which are “everywhere” and thus inescapable. This chapter considers Foucault’s conception of power relations and their role in society and presents the general principles of his theory of power through a close reading of Part 4 of La volonté de savoir (The History of Sexuality). It explains why Foucault’s analyses should be regarded as a “theory” of power and discusses the mistaken theories of power that his analysis is meant to supplant—the theories against which he is arguing. It concludes with an overview of the methodological guidelines that Foucault outlined for the study of power, sovereignty, and domination.

Keywords:   power, Michel Foucault, power theory, power relations, ethics, La volonté de savoir, sovereignty, domination

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