Cultural Studies Terms/Power-Knowledge

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Chief Theorist: Michel Foucault (1926-1984), was a famous French historian, philosopher and critic, associated with the structuralist and post-structuralist movements. He strongly influenced a wide range of humanistic and social scientific disciplines as well as philosophy.

Definition of Power: Power is the ability of its holder to make other individuals obedient on whatever basis in some social relationship. In Foucault's theories power is not only seen as brute physical force or faced in one single direction, but working net-like creating counterforces.

Definition of Knowledge: Knowledge is a person's or a society's familiarity and conciousness of a topic or an idea mainly created through any type of discourse.

Definition of Power/Knowledge: There exists an omnipresent interplay between Power and Knowledge. In Foucault's theories power is granted through knowledge and therefore constructs truth. To understand this, it is helpful to think of knowledge being changeable in time. New types of discourse are creating new forms of knowledge. Mostly the part of society, that got the power (through knowledge) leads discourse into the preferred direction (regime of truth), but as power works net-like, different individuals create different discourses through their power and knowledge. Though many theorists like Marx or Gramsci with his idea and definition of hegemony state that power is controlled by the upper class, Foucault disagrees with the idea of classes in terms of power.

Related terms: Discourse, Regime of Truth, Hegemony, Stereotyping

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