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Colin Koopman on "the power thinker" in Aeon


Michel Foucault, photographed by Roland Allard on March 22, 1977 (source: next.libération.fr)

The American philosopher Colin Koopman, who is co-editor of the foucaultblog, has just published an essay on the current relevance of Foucault's concept of power in Aeon — a substantial, beautifully designed digital magazine. In contrast to most of his contemporaries in the 1970s, Koopman writes, Foucault shifted his attention from language to power: "an idea that promises to help explain how words, or anything else for that matter, come to give things the order that they have."

Unlike his predecessors, however, Foucault did not claim to reveal the essence of power, but rather unfolded "an index to an entire field of analysis in which the work of philosophy must continually toil." And just as power, freedom is not a clear, definable concept. Koopman states: "Only by analysing power in its multiplicity, as Foucault did, do we have a chance to mount a multiplicity of freedoms that would counter all the different ways in which power comes to define the limits of who we can be."

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