Review: Psychiatric Power

Metapsychology Online Reviews Psychiatric Power:

In these lectures [Foucault] sets out the program for a genealogy of psychiatry, of its characteristic knowledge/power relations. Thus, Psychiatric Power pursues the history started with Madness and Civilization which undertook the archaeology of the division between the insane and the sane in Western society.

In order to give an account of this form of psychiatric and medical knowledge about madness, one must start with an analysis of the apparatuses and the techniques of power that organized the treatment of the mad in the period that spans from Philippe Pinel to Jean-Martin Charcot. Psychiatry is not born as a consequence of progress in the knowledge of madness but from the disciplinary apparatuses within which the regime imposed on madness is organized. From this point of view, Psychiatric Power continues the project of a history of human sciences.

At the very end of his course, when Foucault returns to the relations of power between hysteric and doctor, to hysterical resistance to medical power, the scene of sexuality is center stage. And Foucault draws the remarkable conclusion that “this sexuality is not an indecipherable remainder but the hysteric’s victory cry, the last maneuver by which they finally get the better of the neurologists and silence them” (p.322). But, in the final diagnosis, this great pleasure of hysteric’s victory becomes the great misfortune of our subjection to the apparatus of sexuality. And Foucault focuses our attention on that moving stratum of force relations that underlies the instability, of relations of power/resistance.


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