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Power is Everywhere: Social Inequality from Discursive Formations to Patterns of Activation

37 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2013 Last revised: 19 Mar 2013

Kathleen Cole

Metropolitan State University

Date Written: December 17, 2012

Abstract

According to Foucault, discourse is centrally important for the formation and maintenance of power relations and for the construction of identities. That is to say, the language that we use to make sense of the world both reflects the contemporary power relations and affects the kind of selves we become. This element of Foucauldian theory has been generally accepted by contemporary political theorists. However, as Judith Butler notes, Foucault’s own theorizing cannot explain the way in which socially constructed subjectivity functions. As a result, Foucauldian theorizing leaves open the question of the way in which the social construction of the self affects how people perceive and think about the world. In this paper, I offer a theoretical model of the way in which socially constructed subjectivity functions. Drawing upon both Foucauldian theory and research from social cognitive psychology, I present a model of the functioning of subjectivity that illustrates the way in which power relations shape who we are at the most fundamental, cognitive level. I conclude the paper by considering the political implications of the model for social justice activists and theorists concerned with creating more just, equitable, and humane power relations.

Keywords: Michel Foucault, Social Construction, Social Cognition, Power, Social Justice

Suggested Citation

Cole, Kathleen, Power is Everywhere: Social Inequality from Discursive Formations to Patterns of Activation (December 17, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2233473 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2233473

Kathleen Cole (Contact Author)

Metropolitan State University ( email )

700 East Seventh Street
St. Paul, MN 55106
United States

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