Tim & Dan & Michel
Foucault begins this largely impenetrable lecture by describing two 'limits.' On the one hand are the limits of the 'rights' that set the formal rules regarding power, and, on the other hand, the limits of the truth--or perhaps knowledge--about power as it acts in the world. Foucault describes this as a triangle of power, right, and truth.
Foucault discusses power as it related to the rights of the monarchy or sovereign, describing how Roman Law and the developing codes and laws in the West bolstered and supported the notion of the absolute power of the king. Then, Foucault describes how his interest lay in looking at power, not from the perspective of the sovereign, but as it related to the relationships between subjects withing the 'social organism'--by which one supposes he means, society. After describing five 'methodological precautions' Foucault summarizes by suggesting that research should not be directed toward sovereignty and state mechanisms, but toward how power is used as a tool of domination by individual subjects.
Finally, Foucault describes how power changed, beginning in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries from a means of gathering wealth for the sovereign through reappropriation or taxation, to a means of taking from subjects their time and labor in the interest of production. The truths or knowledge about power from this perspective form the foundation of industrial capitalism. The right of sovereignty and a mechanism of discipline make up the arena in which power is exercised. This arena is really developed by the bourgoisie. This created the development of a democratisation of sovereignty, especially through the mechanism of disciplinary coercion. He further describes how this might have been made palatable to subjects as democracies and representative forms of government came into being. The sovereign, in this new paradigm, was supposedly the collective group of citizens who made up those democracies and from which representatives were chosen. In exchange for this, the new power understanding required that a system of laws and norms be established to coerce productive behavior from those same citizens.
Behavior: What is the relationship of individuals' behavior to the exercise of power? What role does behavior play?
Power is used by and on individuals as part of the normal give and take within society. Power is not necessarily possessed by an individual, but is there in the codes and norms to be used by individuals, when properly positioned. Foucault suggests that power is used to coerce individuals to produce behaviors best suited to the perpetuation and health of a productive society--e.g. a capitalist economy. When power is deployed in aid of these objectives, the existing truths about power are reinforced. The behaviors that lend themselves to production ore reinforced, while the mechanisms of disipline respond to those behaviors that limit production, and thereby reduce the wealth and resources of the bourgoisie.
Decision making and control: Who makes decisions and who has control? How do decision making and control function in the exercise of power?
Decisions might be made, in the formal sense, by duly elected legislatures or other bodies. Decisions are also made, however, by each individual in society as they interact with other subjects. Again, one senses that Foucault is suggesting that even individual decisions are coercive in nature, and intended to achieve some desired outcome on the part of the individual deploying power.
Conflict: What is the status of conflict, and what is its role in the exercise of power?
Foucault appears to suggest that conflict is often worked out by appeal to formal rules and codes. This, of course, implies that those who are conflicted are also willing to subject themselves to the kinds of truths that are produced by those rules and codes. In other words--as Foucault is prone to say, with little subsequent amplification--those in conflict with one another will have to be satisfied with the remedy provided for in the law. If you want, for instance, to pluck out the eye if your neighbor (here in the United States in the early days of the 21st century) who has--for whatever reason--knocked out yours, you will not be satisfied with the results. But, having been acculturated to the truths and knowledge produced regarding power in this particular society, you are less likely to expect that result. This is an example of power producing truths and knowledge.
Interests: How are individuals' interests advanced? Protected?
The interests of individuals are advanced as they work with the system, using their knowledge about power to position themselves, persuade others, and manage conflicts in their favor. This might involve, for instance, one recognizing that the law provides a forms of formal legal remedy for a certain situation, and then deploying the power available in that law in one's interest. In this instance, one might not be appealing to the power of the monarch, as one might have done in medieval times. Rather, one is appealing to the power that the collective has invested formal laws and codes with, and asserting their 'right' to do so. In much the same way, a plaintive or opposing party might easily appeal to that same set of formal rules in order to protect their interests. The system of law that has developed over time to protect the interests of the sovereignty continues to reinforce the dominant power structure, even as the oppressed turn to that system of lawto protect them, as well. When individual interests are worked out this way--within the 'system'--Foucault would likely suggest that this is one of ways in which subjects are dominated.
Moral orientation: What are the normative goals that the exercise of power aims to achieve?
Speaking of modern Western society, Foucault would say that the normative goals are those of the bourgeoisie--or perhaps those who control/own the means of production in society. The goal might be said to be the protection of a status quo that perpetuates the dominance of the wealthy and middle classes.