Nov 10, 2017 in Research

Critical Theories: Main Features of Foucault’s Analysis of Power

What are the main features of Foucault’s analysis of power? To what extent can his analysis of power be applied to the international realm?

In terms of working on the presented research questions, much attention was paid to the theoretical framework presented by one of the most well-known ideologists of philosophy. Without a doubt, the heritage of Michel Foucault can be also applied in the context of international relations, as the author tends to describe the distinguishing characteristics of this realm. His paradigm is also embedded into a contemporary world. Moreover, it is worth admitting that the theoretical concepts of this scientist correspond to the vital basis of political realism – one of the fundamental theories of international relations that exist in the modern world. That is why the findings of Michel Foucault in the sphere of international relations and global politics cannot be underestimated under any pretext. Thus, the leading goal of this investigation is to critically analyze the particular features of the presented theoretical framework related the category of power.

            According to the discourse of this French postmodernist, the power dominates in the present society. It is a vital category that dominates, rules, and regulates the relationships between the different categories of actors who pertain to the sphere of international relations (Brincat 2011). The essential features of Foucault’s analysis of power arise in the following context.

Power is everywhere – it is a major thesis of all of his fundamental works and main discussion concerning a political debate (Foucault 1991). As it was mentioned earlier, this theoretical framework resembles the concepts of political realism which also reveals the nature of power and might in the aspect of country’s ability to influence the economic, political, or social politics of the neighboring states (Gaventa 2003). However, Michel Foucault proposed a revolutionary vision of the criteria of power in the dimension of international relations and political science (Rengger and Thirkell-White 2008). He neglected the usage of power as a coercive method of impact. Moreover, this researcher remarked that only a natural power reveals the personality and makes other people what they are. As a result, this statement was subjected to the severe criticism (Roach 2010). Besides, the modern epoch as well as the recent tendencies of the 21st century demonstrates the applicability of these concepts in ordinary practice.

            Michel Foucault also rejected the idea that power is created by people or sovereign actors of international relations. According to the approach of this postmodernist, power serves as an instrumental tool only when it is born in a natural manner and comes from the interdependence between the different states (Roach 2007). It is worth admitting that this scientist interpreted the conception of power not only in a negative manner. He states that this category can be both negative and positive at the same time. In other words, a coercive or repressive nature of power can transform into necessary and even productive force of international relations. As a result, this vision of power in the context of political science can be treated as a significant characteristic of the contemporary society. Furthermore, his analysis of power applies to the international realm and can be highlighted as a quotidian feature at the international arena. It means that the mentioned-above characteristics permit to apply the term of power to the international realm.

Reference List

Gaventa, J 2003, Power after Lukes: a review of the literature, Fayard.

Foucault, M 1991, Discipline and Punish: the birth of a prison, Cambridge University Press.

Rengger, N and Thirkell-White, T 2008, Critical International Relations Theory After 25 Years, Cambridge University Press.

Roach, S 2010, Critical Theory of International Relations, Routledge.

 Roach, S 2007, Critical Theory and International Relations, Routledge.

 Wyn Jones, R 2000, Critical Theory and World Politics, Lynne Rienner.


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