A critical leap Foucault makes in Discipline and Punish is the shifting of the subject of the punishment from the body to the soul… A corollary of this is that power is now firmly in the hands of a few elites that could delineate the normative discourse for society… Foucault’s assertion makes power far more intangible. Its dissociation from any entity and appearance in the dynamic relationship between entities makes it more difficult to influence it. Thus, Foucault’s power paradigm becomes a prison for society.
In a sense, Foucault continues Nietzsche’s assertion that the world is merely a system that the Übermensch can rise above, but he then proceeds to declare that it is impossible to escape Max Weber’s iron cage of society, an all-encompassing institution Foucault calls the carceral system. Since power can be defined only by technocrats and exercised by bureaucrats, it is impossible for the individual to access the nodes of power, and those who rise in the ranks of the technocrats or bureaucrats will have no incentive to reform, as Herbert Marcuse argued in One-Dimensional Man, because they themselves will have the most to lose.
An interesting deviation from Enlightenment thinkers is Foucault’s pessimism regarding individuality. Foucault sees the individual as a social construct created by a power discourse. Through mass technology the individual is constantly eulogised, but in reality, this created individual is merely an efficient cog in the system’s wheel. To not be an individual is not to follow the prescribed norm, and that is subversive and therefore bad. These non-individuals are then the subjects of the new prison, to be moulded into useful functionaries in the carceral system.
Discipline and Punish thus outlines a whole mode of existence with the prison at its centre as a metaphor. Foucault reveals the power relations between individuals and institutions and emphasises the difficulties in bringing change. However, Foucault reifies neither power nor society. Instead, Foucault’s aim (with a healthy superimposition of Weber) is to explain that economic “intelligence” of the day demanded that more work be crammed into less time. This basic “value” has led to our society today. Change in society must therefore necessarily come from change in values people hold since power lies at the nodes of interaction between people and the institutions they represent.
In the previous post we discussed the interaction of gnostic beings with the earth evolution and raised various questions that can arise as a result. Past attempts to define an advanced evolutionary form, after all, have been more or less unmitigated disasters, whether we look at the Nietschean “superman” or the “master race” of the Third Reich, or a government of an aristocracy of knowledge as Plato speculated, or an aristocracy of money power as we see in operation in today’s world; or other formulations that simply inflated human ambition and capabilities without effecting the spiritual transformation and consequent standpoint of Oneness and Harmony that are the basis of the gnostic evolutionary action. The past formulations saw the need for an ongoing evolutionary action, but were limited by human powers based on the fragmentation, separation and smallness of the mental, vital and physical powers in manifestation. As a consequence, they each failed to solve the riddle of the evolutionary action.
Comment on Paul Richard’s Tribute to Sri Aurobindo. by Nilanjan Chatterjee from Comments for Overman Foundation by Nilanjan Chatterjee
Consecrating to this name: AUROBINDO GHOSE is the YOUNIVERSE.
At that early 20th Century Paul Richard demarcated the Two Supermen – Nietzschean and Aurobindean- the first one is Political and Finite and the second one Spiritual and Infinite.