(I think my feature image may be the exact moment it dawned on Foucault that the baldness was not going to be a temporary thing. With his eyes he’s saying goodbye to his once luscious locks.)
This week in honour of the turtle-neck sweater aficionado himself, I’m going to have a little ponder over Foucault’s theory of micro-power: because it’s quite fascinating and I’m in the mood get all confused and have a small existential crisis here in the library.
Anyway, if you’ve ever taken history units at uni, odds are Foucault has been mentioned. His work was predominately concerned with questioning the popular interpretation of historical events as orderly, and a progressive development towards greater rationality. For Foucault, history is not linear, its an ongoing struggle for power between dominant groups. The theory of micro-power refers to how the power struggle of our time is expressed on and through our bodies.
According to Foucault, our body is the ‘inscribed surface of events’ (which sounds a bit like he secretly had a dolphin tramp-stamp that he did not regret #yolo). Power is always tied to the body, and shows itself through the way we intuitively act out our gender roles, class and culture – we are the embodiment of our historical period. This is seen for instance, in medieval times, when power belonged to the King: if a subject broke the law it was written on their body through torture. Additionally, categories which we use to define ourselves are created by power structures in order to make distinctions between things.
Even if you believe Foucault is being far too melodramatic here, and that we hold much more free-will over our bodies and personalities than his theory implied, it’s still incredible/a bit of a mind fuck to think that the extent of Power and History’s influence over who we are as individuals is unknowable. Thank you Foucault, my brain hurts a lot now!