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2.34 Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (Poitiers, France 1926 – Paris 1984, not to be confused with Jean Bernard Léon Foucault 1819 – 1868, inventor of the famous pendulum designed to prove that the earth turns) studied in depth an idea that sometimes could rise in our mind: how do we divide mad people from doctors who instead should cure them? However, he did not stop in a simple relativism, but tried to analyze how, in the various epochs, the mentalities of the time established not only which the madmen were, but also the diseases to be considered more serious, and therefore more urgent to be cured; in other words, every age has tried to establish which were the incarnations of the evil of its time and this allows us to evaluate the way of thinking of that era; these epochal mentalities were actually one of the ways to establish who should command and who should obey. From this point of view Foucault also accuses Freud, who, without realizing it, establishes power relations when he determines who in the clinic must be the psychologist, and therefore must command, and who must be the patient and therefore must obey. Foucault, however, does this analysis not for superficially anarchist purposes, but in the effort to identify the coordinates of thought in which each historical epoch is situated.
Another interesting analysis carried out by Foucault was the attention to sex as an instrument of power, exercised not by someone who commands, but by the idea itself, which imposed itself and gave rise to convictions. From this point of view, according to Foucault, the Christian tradition of repression of sex and the subsequent tradition of liberalization are actually the same thing, parts of a single mechanism that has imposed a marked attention to sex and has led to believe, in both parts, that a certain attitude towards sex constituted a human liberation; in the Christian side it was believed that authentic human liberation consisted in the moralization of sex, in the secular side it was believed that liberation was a way of living sex that tried to free itself from any prohibition. Actually, in both cases it has always been the only idea of attention to sex to impose itself on human minds and to make them believe that in that attention there was a crucial point to achieve a liberation of man; actually this liberation did not occur either with Christian moralization or with secular anarchy, because the whole was nothing more than a mechanism of power that the idea of sex managed to trigger in human minds. In fact, according to Foucault, it is not people who manage ideas, power, language, but it is language that makes its way into man and manages him, determines his behavior. We human beings are managed by language and by many other mechanisms that make their way in us. For this reason, according to Foucault, after the time of God’s death, the age of man’s death came: the subject does not exist, but there are only mechanisms that determine it; it is structuralism: man is an element like many others, determined by the structures of which he is a part; what we can do is try to notice these structures, not so much to bring man back to life, but simply to become aware of how things are going.

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