Knowledge Is Power Michel Foucault: Best Knowledge Power Theory And More

Knowledge Is Power Michel Foucault | Michel Foucault Theory | Michel Foucault Power | Michel Foucault Knowledge And Power | Michel Foucault Knowledge And Power |

Michel Foucault Theory: Different theorists have long commented on the source of power in society or how this power works. Many of them refer to a strong state as the center of power. Machiavelli, in his book The Prince, justifies the ability of the government to display maximum power at will. Thomas Hobbes, on the other hand, in his book ‘Leviathan’ has given the highest power in the hands of a king to stop the bad aspects of people.

michel foucault

Throughout history, theorists have linked the state to power. Some have identified power as an element of the social structure, in this thinking power is an object that one can hold and use within oneself. Until the 1960s, the theory of power was divided into two parts: one was the power of the government or state over the people, and the other was the Marxist view of the conflict of power between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. However, these theories were basically at the macro level.

Knowledge Is Power Michel Foucault
Power at the collective level

But the French thinker Michel Foucault saw power a little differently. He speaks of seeking power in knowledge. Of course, such talk about power is not new. Karl Marx drew on the relationship between power and knowledge and called it the ideal. Max Weber also said that “as bureaucracy grows in society, so will knowledge.”

Foucault went one step further than Marx and Weber, saying that power is hidden and dangerous, power is found in truth and discourse, and power is exercised in body and mind. According to him, power is exercised not only by the state or the capitalists but also in every sphere of society. According to him, “power comes from everything, and power is applied to everything.” “Power is like a weapon, it can only be held and exercised,” he said. According to him, it is not power, but the ability to exercise power.

It will not be considered a power unless action is taken. That is, power is something that no one can possess, but power is something that can be used to do something to another person, something that can affect the work of others.

knowledge is power michel foucault

Instead of thinking of power as an object, Foucault saw power as a relation. He has tried to explain the nature of power by exploring the power hidden in the relationships at different levels of modern society. For example, a person has a power relationship with the state, while a person has a power relationship with his employer, his child, his domestic worker, and so on.

Medieval punishment

According to Foucault, power is one of the most important elements in shaping social order. But according to him, the nature of power has changed drastically from the Middle Ages to the modern era. The ‘sovereign’ use of power in medieval society was torture or the death penalty, in particular, the central authorities exercising their power to control the common people. But in Europe, after the Enlightenment, torture became known as inhumane and at the same time an ineffective method of controlling people.

Surveillance And Control

There is a more effective mechanism for controlling behavior than discipline, and that is discipline. Institutions such as prisons, insane asylums, hospitals, or schools have been set up instead of punishment as a means of demonstrating power, so that people can be more disciplined, especially in these institutions where people are taught how to refrain from any behavior. These institutions not only block the way for transgression, but also determine how behavior can be fixed and, above all, the individual can be monitored and controlled.

Panopticon model

The thing to observe is very important because it points to the evolution of the exercise of power in modern society. Foucault was inspired by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s idea of ​​the Panopticon. The Panopticon is a type of prison where the prison cell is surrounded by a circle around the Watchtower, with a cell at the back of each cell, so that no part of the cell is dark and the prisoner can be monitored at all times.

Prisoners do not understand when they are being monitored or when they are not being monitored, so they have to control their own behavior for fear of being monitored. Power is no longer exercised by force but is exercised in such a way as to obtain consent from the individual for certain actions.

michel foucault power Theory Behavior Control And Discourse

The exercise of power or ‘technology of power’ has become an integral part of society. In Western society, the behavior of the individual is controlled more by order than by control. Here no authority commands the people to do anything, or prevents them from behaving differently, but controls the complex power relations of the society in such a way that the ordinary citizens of the society automatically act according to those rules.

The principles-ethics, norms-values ​​in the society are being fixed, the manifestation of this new kind of exercise of power. Foucault called it ‘discourse’. Discourse can be said in simple language, the type of how to talk about a subject.

Foucault has thought differently about discourse, delving deeper into it. First, thought has a great deal to do with language. We always think in one language, this language fixes our thinking. Again, what we think, how we do that thought, is expressed through our language. That is, discourse fixes our language and way of thinking.

Second, the person taking the discourse behaves in a biased manner as a result of being in that discourse. When one is involved in discourse, he cannot think outside of that discourse, so he is biased towards that discourse. For example, the opposite discourse of Muslims and Christians towards the Crusades. According to Muslim discourse, European Christians ‘occupied’ Jerusalem from the Muslims, and later the Muslims ‘occupied’ it again.

On the contrary, according to Christian discourse, the Muslims “occupied” their holy land, so they carried out the Crusades and “took possession” of it. When one accepts a discourse, one automatically adjusts one’s position according to that discourse and thinks, feels, and uses it.

Third, Foucault has shown that discourse is controlled by inserting discourse without imposing anything within a social group.

Different discourses and different opinions

Some of the beliefs and values ​​acceptable in the eyes of the society are gradually evolving, as a result of which those ideals-beliefs at one time became influential in the society. According to that ideal, society decides which work is good and which is bad. That is, a label of good-bad deeds is affixed. As a result, the person decides his own life according to that ‘discourse’. Here the person does not even realize that he is being controlled by the discourse and the ideals-values ​​outside the discourse never even come to his mind.

‘True’ Discourse

Discourse in society is constantly changing, as it is both a weapon of power and the result of power. Human thinking and behavior are controlled by creating discourse, which at one time took the form of human belief. It fixes what is right and what is wrong, so the discourse itself is established as an ‘established truth’ that cannot be ignored.

‘Knowledge is power, Foucault challenged the notion that knowledge can be produced not only through energy but also through energy. He called the relationship “power-knowledge.” At present, power is exercised by correcting what is right and what is wrong. The so-called ‘truth’ is established in society by discarding everything except what seems right.

Since the exercise of power is not expressed through punishment as in the past, the behavior of the individual is controlled through the production of discourse, so the effect of creating this discourse cannot be directly predicted. And since it has no structure or it is not a visible object, it cannot be resisted. Foucault has shown that social change is not possible through political resistance or revolution, because it only challenges the power of the state. But the exercise of power at every level of society cannot stop it. But Foucault suggests a way to counter-discourse, and that is to create another discourse to the contrary.

The new discourse created as a weapon of power demonstration is intended to have a power relationship, and if there is a power relationship, there must be resistance against it. If there is no resistance, then there is no point in exercising power.


Michel Foucault Power: Foucault’s theory of power relations and discourse was later rejected by many theorists as being too vague and speculative. However, his lectures and writings have become very popular and many consider him one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. In particular, his ‘discourse’ thinking has started a new trend in sociology. Foucault was the first to show how a number of theories, including modern feminism, queer theory, and Culturology, are indebted to Foucault’s theories, especially how an imposed concept is established in society and how to think outside the discourse.

Michel Foucault Knowledge And Power


Q. What was Foucault’s philosophy?

A. Foucault’s entire philosophy is based on the assumption that human knowledge and existence are profoundly historical.

Q. Michel Foucault Birth Place?

A. Poitiers, France.

Q. When was Michel Foucault born?

A. 15 October 1926

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