About the Talk

Shterna Friedman spoke about “Foucault and Systems of Oppression”. The synopsis of the seminar was:

Foucault famously criticized totalizing forms of theorizing as totalitarian, faulting both Communism for state-endorsed repression and neoliberalism for softer forms of power that shape behavior in the realm of civil, rather than directly political, society. This critique is predicated on expanding the notion of power to encompass relationships that go beyond the merely governmental to describe intrusive yet not directly repressive ways of shaping human behavior. Yet despite Foucault’s emphasis on the dispersion and multiplicity of power, he often seemed to depict the power relations as constituting a total system of oppression. In this implicit view, while oppressive power relations may not radiate from a single center, they are nevertheless strategic responses to systemic imperatives and needs. Foucault derives the presence of such imperatives and needs from the effects he is trying to explain, as if coercive effects imply the presence of an intentional or functional reason for them. Thus, despite his avowed attempt to criticize totalistic theorizing, Foucault himself relied (sometimes) on an implicitly systemic form of social theorizing, undermining his attempt to reckon with the contingency of modern society.

About the Speaker

Shterna Friedman is a Doctoral Candidate at the Department of Political Science at University of California, Berkeley.

She is studying the history of political thought with special attention to the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of systemic social theory as it emerged from the thought of the German Idealists, particularly Hegel.

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