Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Isaev, I., Kornev, A., Lipen, S., Zenin, S.
The “machine of power” and aspects of political balance
(2020) Quaestio Rossica, 8 (3), pp. 979-992.

DOI: 10.15826/qr.2020.3.507

This article explores the historical pattern of the evolution of power technologies. The methodological basis relies on the philosophical movements of the twentieth century (phenomenology, structuralism, etc.) and works by P. Bourdieu, C. Lefort, N. Luhmann, D. Naisbitt, P. Sloterdijk, M. Foucault, O. Spann, F. G. Jünger, N. Elias, and a number of other authors. The creation of technologies for managing society and complex power mechanisms (“power machines”) are a general pattern of social development. The notion of dynamic power balance acts as a mandatory attribute of the management of society and focuses political activity on the constant consideration of numerous phenomena, circumstances, and interests. The state, as the main instrument of political management, seeks to constantly strengthen its power both within and without, and to spread it ever more to new spheres of social relations and territories. But over time, first in the sphere of international law, universal principles are recognised that establish the limits of power and assume the impossibility of strengthening the power of any one state (the idea of political balance of sovereign national states). In domestic politics, the increasing degree of agreement and gradually developing mechanisms of consensus contribute to the reduction of the role played by direct violence and the emergence of a system of institutions that were perceived as legitimate. Previous spontaneous processes and collisions of opposing forces are translated into technical, organisational, normative language – and political dynamics – into static social structures. Chaos and uncertainty are replaced by ideas about the desired ideal and order. The new “power machine” also receives a new justification that is no longer transcendent, but rather rational and technological. Constantly improving and becoming more complex, the “power machine” becomes ever more effective. The “technical” regularities of the organisation and functioning of political power, which determine the new social role of the “power machine”, come to the fore. The state, which is organised into a mechanism with supreme political power and absolute authority, has a decisive influence on the development of society. The transition from a dynastic to a bureaucratic state depersonalises the “power machine”. The figure of a monarch with absolute power dissolves in the hierarchy of numerous officials vested with power. The organisation of power to a large extent separates carriers or subjects of power from their decisions. There is no visible mechanism of power and subordination and the opposite interests of the ruling and the governed. Further, in the twentieth-century industrial revolutions, the “power machine” is forced to adapt to new social realities, i. e. to “network” relations where communication and connections between people and their groups become fundamental. This leads to the creation of new management structures with a plurality of centres. © 2020 Ural Federal University. All rights reserved.

Author Keywords
Apparatus of power; Machine of power; Power; Sovereignty; State; Technology of power

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