Foucault News

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

Pat Norman, Power, Knowledge and Palpatine. In Barnes, Naomi, Bedford, Alison (Eds.), Unlocking Social Theory with Popular Culture, Remixing Theoretical Influencers, Springer, 2021

Abstract

In this chapter, I look at the way Star Wars can help us to understand Michel Foucault’s concepts of power/knowledge and governmentality. Foucault argued that power and knowledge interact and produce each other, and this relationship is instrumental in techniques of governing people (or subjects). The Jedi in the Star Wars galaxy provide a case study in how the strategies and tactics of power are deployed to shape institutions of government and to apply these to the formation of the self. Star Wars is a huge pop cultural phenomenon, spanning decades. The prequel trilogy captures the long decline and fall of the Old Republic—a manipulation by the evil Palpatine who engineered both sides of this conflict from the shadows. In this sense, it is a case study in the exercise of power over knowledge. Foucault’s ideas about power/knowledge and governmentality are useful in a wide range of fields: from education to political science, economics to sociology. Just as the Force and the logic of the Jedi shape and produce identity, the social and governing structures of our world do the same. This essay will explore how Foucault’s idea of power can be observed in the galaxy of Star Wars and how those lessons might be applied to our own, much closer, contemporary world.

Keywords
Foucault Performativity Archaeology of knowledge Genealogy of knowledge Governmentality Discourse

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