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Theory of Power

Marx, Foucault, Neo-Zapatismo

Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas

The subject of power (singular) and multiple social powers (plural) is unquestionably central to contemporary societies all over the globe. Growing stronger and expanding farther all the time, the world’s anti-systemic movements have been forced to address this issue—the nature of power and powers—as among their most pressing debates. In the process, these movements have also been forced to consider the best possible strategy for confronting them. Should they seize political power, even if they run the risk of simply reproducing it? Should they destroy it altogether? Is it enough to destroy political power while economic, ideological, military, and religious powers remain untouched? And what is the most effective anti-capitalist and anti-systemic way to confront, defeat, and overcome the many different powers found in all present-day societies on Earth? To answer such questions, among others, this book discusses the rich, complex contributions of Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, and neo-Zapatismo to a complicated and essential subject: the theory of power.
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Chapter Four: The Teachings of Michel Foucault: Macropower(s), Micropower(s), Punitive Power(s), Disciplinary Power(s)


I do not have a general, global conception of power. Someone else will come after me, I’m sure, and create one.

Michel Foucault, “Power and Knowledge,” interview with Shigehiko Hasumi, Paris, 1977

If we carefully review Michel Foucault’s rich intellectual journey, we find that his theoretical projects successively focused on three major areas of study. Together, these three areas interconnect and encompass his most important texts. They were largely determined by the profound intellectual effects of the global cultural revolution of 1968 and its radical social changes in France and all over the world.1

Foucault concentrated first on the history of discourse in the human sciences, particularly the history of the epistemes developed by European modernity between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Second, he studied the history of power, powers, and institutions of power within that same modernity, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And third, he analyzed the history of sexuality, and the genesis of this subject, from ancient Greece to ←69 | 70→modern times. These areas of research mark three stages of Foucault’s intellectual biography, the periodization of which was primarily shaped by the emergence and consequences of 1968: of the radical social movement in France and across the globe.

Foucault was living in Tunisia at the time, so he did not directly experience the complex events of May 1968 in France. Nonetheless, he intently observed and then intellectually processed the major teachings of the international cultural...

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