Michael Foucault's Theory Of Power

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In contemporary society today, individuals are entitled to a set of guaranteed rights and freedom which are used to safeguard individuality amongst all. In Canada, inhabitants physically residing on Canadian soil are protected by the Canadian Charter which grants individuals numerous civil and political rights. These rights are an encompassment of the common beliefs, customs, and norms based on society’s present understanding of the world. Hence, when society evolves and the population starts altering their views about certain topics, the entire legal system must adapt in order to be in accordance with the current beliefs, customs and norms of society. For instance, when examining the concept of “punishment” it is clear that although punishment…show more content…
Since it is not an option for cruel punishment to be used as a deterrence, the question arises; how does the state exhibit and enforce their supremacy upon the general public to ensure that individuals abide by the norms and customs of society? The goal of this paper is to answer this question through the utilization of French philosopher Michel Foucault’s theory of power. The paper will outline the key components that caused most democratic countries to move away from the idea of cruel penalties as a way to ensure obedience to the set rules. The paper will also differentiate between sovereign and disciplinary power, primarily concentrating on the prevailing relationship between modern society and disciplinary power. By doing so, additional scholars will be incorporated to examine various viewpoints on the notion of power and contrast any critiques present with Foucault’s ideas. The main purpose of this paper is to argue to readers that the awareness of being watched and a loss of privacy can put an end to independence and create conformity to the state and its…show more content…
He distinguishes between the two concepts of power: sovereignty and disciplinary, expanding our understanding of law and society by arguing that the modern state has shifted from enforcing power physically to psychologically. In the previous eras, it was common for power to be enforced physically amongst the population causing a sense of fear in the mind of an individual so the rules of society would not be challenged. Power of the state and sovereign was emblazoned through torture or execution on the bodies of those that had the courage to resist the rules set by society. Sovereignty was associated with monarchical rules as the head of state had absolute power over essentially every individual below him in position. For instance, those in the ruling class had a right of life and death which in essence means they can either have people put to death or allow the individuals to live (Foucault, 2003). Contemporary society has moved away from exercising power through this method and we see this evolution from countries such as Canada who no longer have execution rulings entrenched in their constitution as to punish those who contravene Canadian laws. Such authority the sovereign used as a way to punish has a significant historical background in regards to socio-legal studies because this authority is exactly what the movement of liberalism fought against. This fight ultimately leads
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