Thursday, 12 October 2017

What the Faucault? - GCOP200

Today's lecture covered the themes of power, discourse and madness, which were all ideas discussed by Michael Faucault.

Discourse can be defined as 'a written or spoken communication or debate'. Faucault describes discourse in 'The Archeology of Knowledge', by using an example of book. He claims that rather than a book just being words on a page, they are instead a 'node in a network', whereby they are within a 'system of references' to other books and medias. So books are in discourse to other books, and are responses/ developments of other written work (rather than existing independently and being entirely original).

This concept can be likened to art, whereby art pieces link together in a network, and are all connected under one subject. For example, 'Las Meninas' by Diego Velazquez has been copied and interpreted by countless other artists including: Salvador Dali, Joel Peter Witkin, and Gerard Rancinan.

Power can be defined as the capacity or ability to influence/direct ones actions or behaviour. There are many examples of power in the world that we live in, it ultimately governs and binds together society. The saying 'Big Brother is always watching you' is particularly relevant in the UK, as we are one of the most watched countries in the world. There is 1 CCTV camera for every 11 people in the United Kingdom, so it's no wonder we are often referred to as the 'surveillance state'. This form of power is used to deter people from committing crimes, the subconscious feeling of being watched is proven to control ones behaviour. However, some critics think that this is an abuse of power, and the level of which we are being watched has been blown out of proportion. Questions have also been raised to the legitimacy of the watchmen's judgement of power, who's to stop them from abusing their power and the ease of reporting 'petty' crimes? Despite some peoples doubts, CCTV has proven to be an effective form of crime control. Not only does it stop people from committing the crime in the first place, but it also helps to bring justice to crimes that have been committed - for example in 2009, 95% of Scotland Yard murder cases used CCTV footage as evidence. Therefore, with this in mind, maybe being watched all of the time is outweighed by the advantages and safety it brings to society?

This form of power, and the relationship between the watchmen and civilians, can be evidenced throughout our history. The Panopticon was designed by Jeremy Bentham, and was a carefully designed layout of a prison which played/depended on psychological power. All of the prison cells were arranged in a circle, with a singular blacked-out tower positioned in the middle, which could see into every cell. The prisoners were not locked inside the cells, but instead were kept captive under the psychological power of the watchmen, and the notion of being watched. Bentham looked highly upon this technique, as he claimed that it was more humane. However others saw it was an invasion of privacy and psychologically draining for the prisoners as they knew that they were always being watched. Perhaps the panopticon is the same as CCTV?

Power can come from language, and can often be used (and abused) by people who have lots of power in societies. For example white privilege and corruption in governments, e.g unfair voting rights and unlawful prosecution against individuals (e.g Chelsea Manning). These examples predominantly come from people who are abuse their power, and unfairly treat the minority. For example in America the police force are abusing their power and are unlawfully killing black people. This has lead to the 'Black Lives Matter' campaign which highlights and showcases how power can be used in language and art. Illustrations can not only be powerful in themselves, but they can also stand up to figures of power (Banksy for example).

Madness can be defined as the state of having a serious mental illness, or chaotic behaviour. In societies throughout history, there have always been a label given to a group of people, who were outcast from communities. In the Middle Ages, people who had Leprosy were forced to live in an area outside of the rest of civilisation (called the Leper) and were labelled as the 'madness'. Once the disease was eradicated, another group/type of people were put in their place, for example the creation of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. These people were an outcast and considered mad, as they didn't believe in the Christian God. It can be argued that in the 21st Century, refugees have become the 'madness' of our age. People of power can influence which social minority is considered as the 'madness' . The language that the media and people of power use towards refugees (e.g a "swarm"), labels these people as inhumane and different - just like the the people inhabiting the Jewish Ghettos and Lepers. It seems that in this age, the refugees have filled this space.

This demonstrates how power can be used in societies, as the people of power look down upon the minorities. Power is also used in language to be used against individuals, and to persuade people to change their views/opinion towards others. Faucault claims that it is the "societal need to have outsiders, in order to reflect their own cultures as 'normal'" - this is why there always seems to be a group of people in communities labelled as 'the madness'.

No comments:

Post a Comment