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Monday July 29th 2019Tim Candler9

 

     West of the English Channel Paul-Michel Foucault was most definitely considered "disconcerting and strange" and consequently many followed his work in a somewhat cultish manner, he was a bright star in a Thatcher Reagan nightmare. One of his questions was why does a society divide people into sane people and insane people, and he wondered how a society did this. One of his conclusions about how a society did this was that a society marked a distinction between sane people and insane people. The distinction permitted society to do things like lock up those of us deemed nutty. And when he started looking around he saw all kinds of distinctions made by society, from sexuality all the way to what a person did for a living. What modern society did, Foucault suggested, was to make members of the society objects of the society instead of subjects. And here in the English language subjects generally means owing obedience to, as in subjects of the King. But by subjects Foucault meant subject in the subjective sense, which is best explained by using the medical use of the word where a subjective condition is a condition perceived by the patient and not a condition diagnosed by an examiner. In short, to be objectified by society is to be told what you are by society, and more often than not when society tells you what you are it's not necessarily who you think you are, but who knows, maybe society knows more about you than you do, so if you know what's good for you sit back and shut up.

 

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     Then if a person decides this isn't actually good for me, they come up against a whole social structure that maintains the distinction that yes this is what you are and you'd better get used to it because you're not going anywhere. Foucault goes on to suggest that within the distinctions marked between people within a society by a society, we don't necessarily think like objects and are very prone to trying to come to terms with ourselves by trying to understand our selves, and this can lead to confessional conversations with others. Which is fine if you're confessing something to the Girl Cat, but is a great deal more rewarding if there's someone at the other end of your confession who can say something better than 'open the door I need to go outside.' Thing is in this area of our trying to feel like subjects instead of objects to be moved around on a chess board, we generally look to some form of authority. And as we do so a power relationship develops between our yearning to be subjects, masters of our domain, rather than objects, with an authority. Power relationships like all relationships are mutually reinforcing. The power relationship between Fox News and its viewers, mutually reinforcing. Same with MSNBC, and when you think about it Twitters and Twitter followers, Facebook. The whole thing is depressingly endless and in modern society, despite rumors to the contrary we increasingly remain steadfast objects. Foucault was of the opinion that modern society had come to this as a result of increasing complexity resulting from the demands of the advance of technology. Not just internet, he was 57 when he died in 1984, back then it was all about the microfiche, but he would have read about Walter Cronkite deploying his own power relationship in his February 1968 news broadcast.

 

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