A Foucauldian Analysis of Psychoanalysis: A Discipline that “Disciplines”

One of the ethico-political choices of the later Foucault was to focus on the danger represented by psychoanalysis in our developing disciplinary society. Tendentially, such a society, for Foucault, would be “a regulated, anatomical, hierarchized society whose time is carefully distributed, its spaces partitioned, characterized by obedience and surveillance.” If we refer to a developing disciplinary society, it is because, for Foucault, these tendencies encounter resistance, not all the trends and practices of our society are disciplinary, and, therefore, the very powerful disciplinary tendencies which characterize modernity do not constitute a totalization. According to Foucault, “‘Discipline’ may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a ‘physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology.” That developing disciplinary society, in which we moderns find ourselves, has as one of its key feature a political technology of individuals in which the repression and domination of people through the violence, or direct threat of violence, by the monarch or ruler has been largely replaced by the control of people through disciplinary technologies and the disciplines, These latter, the human science, of which psychoanalysis is one, make it possible to discipline the human subjects to whose very creation they have been integral. As C. G. Prado has pointed out, central to Foucault’s account of modernity is:

… what he calls “disciplines” or what can be glossed as techniques for managing people. His point is that disciplinary or managerial techniques were initiated and developed into a technology for the control of individuals. The new techniques continued to operate on the body, as had monarchical torture, but they did so by imposing schedules, restrictions, obligatory comportment, and examinations. In contrast to their brutal predecessors, the new techniques did not inflict violence on the body. Instead of inflicting pain, the new techniques instilled controlling habits and value-sustaining self-images.



About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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