Vincent Kundukulam

The efficacy of philosophizing largely consists in the capacity of the philosophers to discover the underpinnings of social conventions that influence the societal life. Among the postmodern philosophers, like his contemporaries, Michel Foucault has greatly attempted to unveil the unconscious assumptions concerning intellectual order that underlie the historical states of particular societies. He coined a special term like episteme to denote the historical apriori conditions which delimit the totality of experience in the given field of knowledge. To him, the mode of being of the objects in the world, the perceptions that function as theoretical frame works in the minds of men and the norm of making a theoretical discourse as genuine law by the professionals are governed by certain conditions which lie below the human perceptions. To dig out the archeology of the episteme was a passion for Foucault.

Among the implicit epistemological unconscious components of culture include the agents of power and knowledge. Foucault observed that the power and knowledge interact mutually in all the discourses of the people who rationally defend their views by branding other outlooks as ‘unreasonable.’ In order to make their discourses normative they often judge other treaties as untrue. In this process they inevitably bring into existence a section of people called the ‘other.’

They give a subordinated identity to these ‘unreasonable others’ and exclude them even from the participation of power and knowledge. Foucault says that the homosexuals, women, criminals, insane people, prisoners, non-whites, etc. are examples of the others who are excluded by those who exercise power and knowledge in the society.

The fact of controlling the individuals for the benefit of vested interests of a few who enjoy power and knowledge is visible in all the layers of society from top to bottom. It can be seen from the pronouncements of judges to the scientific journals and to the TV advertisements. The common public internalizes these subordinating norms and make them part of their common language without however realizing that they are in the process of destroying their own identities. They baptize the politicized interpretations as credible and normal facts about nature and society.

The pitiable aspect of the game is that those who make their vested discourses as norms of societal life are unwilling to recognize their individual responsibility in doing so. They establish their arguments and actions as valid or need of time on the ground that the majority of the people in the society wish the same. They succeed in projecting their views as having political importance for the welfare of certain groups of people. If somebody questions their opinions when they prove to be a failure, they will then claim to have been exonerated as they were trying to put into practice the wish of the common people.

The defect of Foucault’s philosophy is that he did not develop any ethical norm to check the abuse of power and knowledge by the vicious and politicized intellectuals. He described power as something inevitably accompanying the humankind like an electric force.


Leave a Comment