Modalities of Power and the Formation of Knowledge

Modalities of Power and the Formation of Knowledge

Revisiting Dryden’s Virgil, world history, contemporary culture and Michel Foucault’s theories on the discursive modes of power, this section will explore mechanisms of power and their expression in the scope of human interaction, from the personal and familial through to the institutional and national.

CONSIDERING LANGUAGE AND POWER
Embedded here is a link to John Dryden’s 1697 translation of Virgil’s Aeneid: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1175. It is probably the most famous English language version of Virgil’s epic. Bernard Shaw took his title to Arms and the Man directly from the opening lines of Dryden’s translation. Below is the opening stanza:

ARMS, and the man I sing, who, forc’d by fate,
And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and exil’d, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destin’d town;
His banish’d gods restor’d to rites divine,
And settled sure succession in his line,
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.

Most traditional accounts of the Aeneid would précis it as a poem about Aeneas, a heroic young warrior Trojan who travels westward from Troy to found the nation of Italy.

Although Aeneas is known previously, including an appearance in Homer’s Iliad, surviving legends and myth associated with Aeneas are fragmentary and incidental before Virgil unifies them in a single story.

When we look more critically at Virgil’s context, however, the poem can be viewed as form of propaganda, designed to legitimize the rule of the then current leadership.

View the following:

Augustus’ Propagandists: Virgil, Horace and Ovid
http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/augustus-propagandists-virgil-horace-and-ovid.html#lesson

When we look at Virgil and the Aeneid in these terms, we look past its artistry and recognize its place in shaping history and the dominant narrative. As a concept, the dominant narrative can be difficult to conceptualize, but follow the link to below to see it being discussed in connection to recent events.

Tim Wise on the “Dominant Narrative”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyeK7mcestg

Consider Arms and the Man:
How might Shaw have been employing irony by evoking Virgil?
What about the use of the comic form, allows Shaw to rewrite the implications of the national epic?
How could Shaw be seen as attacking the dominant narrative? What longstanding, still applicable, notions or truths is he questioning?

PLAYING WITH POWER
This critical approach has many roots, but one of the most influential figures is the French Cultural Critic, Michel Foucault. Follow the link and review the material below to get a sense of where his principles lay and what his ideas were all about:

http://educationmuseum.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/michel-foucault-modalities-of-power/

“There are many modes of power operating in democratic societies. Different modes of power are exercised with different mechanisms. In democracies, sometimes we are subjects of sovereign power, sometimes disciplinary power, sometimes pastoral power, and sometimes bio-power. We could probably come up with many other modes of power. In Foucault’s philosophy, the more fine-grained our analysis of power, the better equipped we are to adopt a critical perspective on the modes of governance in which we participate.”
Foucault argues a number of points in relation to power and offers definitions that are directly opposed to more traditional liberal and Marxist theories of power.
Definitions:

1. power is not a thing but a relation;
2. power is not simply repressive but it is productive;
3. power is not simply a property of the State. Power is not something that is exclusively localized in government and the State (which is not a universal essence). Rather, power is exercised throughout the social body;
4. power operates at the most micro levels of social relations. Power is omnipresent at every level of the social body;
5. the exercise of power is strategic and war-like” (from, http://www.michel-foucault.com/concepts/).

When Foucault talks about the social body, above, he is talking about a mechanism that regulates social authority. Through its exercise is made known, explicitly or implicitly, social mores; and from it evolves the lived social experience (after http://www2.hawaii.edu/~pesaconf/zpdfs/96grierson.pdf ).
Michael Karlberg, for one, has a more constructive notion of the social body. His blog is a site where many people work out the question of agency and the social body: http://agencyandchange.com.
• What might you add to my definition of the social body after checking out Karlberg’s page?
• Where does agency—as in one’s capacity to act independently in response to her/his own free choices—fit into Karlberg’s notion of the social body?

Bernard Shaw is similarly interested in the social body, but for Shaw his interest is largely localized in the class system. With all that class might entail, however, reflect on these lines spoken by Nicola to Louka, in the opening of Act II.
“Child, you don’t know the power such high people have over the like of you and me when we try to rise out of our poverty against them. (He goes close to her and lowers his voice.) Look at me, ten years in their service. Do you think I know no secrets? I know things about the mistress that she wouldn’t have the master know for a thousand levas. I know things about him that she wouldn’t let him hear the last of for six months if I blabbed them to her. I know things about Raina that would break off her match with Sergius if….”

There are sixteen occurrences of the word “poor” in Shaw’s text, but his use of the word is predominately as an adjective. Follow the link below to an online etymological dictionary (if you are unaware, an etymological dictionary is one that looks at how the meanings of words have changed throughout history).

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=poor&searchmode=none

Use the find function on the Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3618/3618-h/3618-h.htm) edition to locate instances of the word.

• What does his pronoun use of ‘poor’ suggest about how he is judging characters and ‘judgements’ in the text?

POSSIBLE EXTENSION
Create an extended dialog (500-750 words) or scene between two characters (who may or may not be from Arms and the Man) who are talking about the difference between the material condition of poverty versus the condition of moral poverty or personal deficiency. Your characters may discuss characters from Shaw’s play, may create characters to serve as foils for contrasting viewpoints or they may discuss the two poverty’s directly, as critical social issues.

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Revisiting Dryden’s Virgil, world history, contemporary culture and Michel Foucault’s theories on the discursive modes of power, this section will explore mechanisms of power and their expression in the scope of human interaction, from the personal and familial through to the institutional and national.
http://educationmuseum.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/michel-foucault-modalities-of-power/

Theoretical and Historical Background

Modalities of Power

“There are many modes of power operating in democratic societies. Different modes of power are exercised with different mechanisms. In democracies, sometimes we are subjects of sovereign power, sometimes disciplinary power, sometimes pastoral power, and sometimes bio-power. We could probably come up with many other modes of power. In Foucault’s philosophy, the more fine-grained our analysis of power, the better equipped we are to adopt a critical perspective on the modes of governance in which we participate.”

Foucault argues a number of points in relation to power and offers definitions that are directly opposed to more traditional liberal and Marxist theories of power.

Definitions
1.power is not a thing but a relation
2.power is not simply repressive but it is productive
3.power is not simply a property of the State.Power is not something that is exclusively localized in government and the State (which is not a universal essence). Rather, power is exercised throughout the social body.
4.power operates at the most micro levels of social relations. Power is omnipresent at every level of the social body.
5.the exercise of power is strategic and war-like

Source: http://www.michel-foucault.com/concepts/

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