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How does Foucault's account challenge the liberal conception of individuality as an emanipatory tool?

Within the liberal tradition there are a number of approaches. Even the most basic concept such as liberty can be understood in different ways. Similarly, the liberal individual can look slightly different from the viewpoints of Hobbes, Locke, Emerson and Rawls. In this paper we are going to consider the Lockean vision of the individual. The choice has been made because Locke, generally, avoids a negative approach; that is, Locke is more direct and explicit about his ideas instead of merely explaining what the individual is not. Not only does Locke assert the connection of private property to liberty, which has been traditionally a mainstay of liberal thought, he also explains how an individual comes to have property. This allows for more engagement with his ideas and opens the way for a deeper interaction with Foucault's views. it is beneficial to select Locke because by talking about the state of nature he explicates his reasoning for the paramountcy of liberty. Locke also engages with the question of justifiability of political authority which makes him relevant to Foucault in Discipline and Punish.

The first part of this paper is an attempt to delineate the parameters of this discussion; i.e. what is the liberal individual in the state of nature and what is the Foucauldian understanding of the same. Following this will be a more detailed discussion of individualism according to Locke and according to Foucault. Next, I will consider whether Foucalt's account is really a strong challenge to that of the Lockean-liberal individual.

The parameters of the debate Liberalism can be defined as the viewpoint that 'accord[s] liberty primacy as a political value'. For liberalism, 'freedom is normatively basic' and it also holds that 'restrictions on liberty must be justified'. [Stanford] This means that the liberal framework, in general, assumes liberty to be a common good, desired by the people, and that the goal of society is to achieve, maximize or preserve it. According to Locke, to understand the status of man in the political realm one needs

to refer to how things are ordered in the 'state of nature'. (Locke, Chap II, Sec. 4) As it turns out, in the state of nature men are equal and free to choose their actions as well as make choices about their persons and possessions; the only restriction being the bounds of the law of nature. In short, liberalism considers political institutions and relations by 'discovering' an inherent primacy and privilege to individualities that are supposed to be present from the beginning (Gruber), also assuming spontaneous, rational action. For liberals, any impingement upon liberty has to be justified, and according to Locke and others of the tradition, codified through one form of contract or the other.

For Foucault, on the other hand, the individual is constituted, at least in the sense of becoming legible, by the power that circulates the social body and penetrates it. In fact, according to David Gruber's reading of Foucault, individuality coincides with, and compliments, power such that, at least until the 18th century, only those who were top of the explicit power hierarchy had individuality. Gruber says, 'Individuality was a rare opportunity and privilege, a position of honor occupied fully by the king and derivatively by his minions'. For Foucalt individualism is a project brought about by the collective action of a host of forces acting throughout history, including cultural changes and the advocacy of scholars and legislators [for example, see D&P 75]. For Foucault, the body was 'discovered...as the object and target of power' [D&P 137]; power acts on the body to shape and mold the body as well as to know it, thus, bringing about the individual person. As Gruber puts it, 'Individuals are constituted in being known as individuals'.

The individual under liberalism To restate, Locke looks to a 'state of nature' for understanding of the role of humans in the political realm; he finds individuals, persons who exist even before society comes into existence. These individuals are perfectly free to make choices about their own actions and about actions pertaining to themselves. Locke emphasizes this individual freedom by explicating that these individuals are not only free themselves but that they are equally free such that 'all power and

jurisdiction is reciprocal'. This means that there is no hierarchy of power and authority in the state of nature, and that one cannot infringe on another's rights nor can they hurt another person. It is assumed that these individuals will take actions 'as they think fit', without having to depend upon the will of any other or to ask leave of them. That is, the individuals' actions are the result of rational thought.

Moreover, individuals can hold property, even before they have entered into society, before the existence of a contract. This is because, according to Locke, the Earth is, by default, held in common by the humankind. (Locke, Chap. V, Sec. 25) Moreover, one has primary property over their persons (or, body). (Locke, Chap. V, Sec. 27). In the case of property, when a person mixes their labor with what was previously held in common, no one but that person can rightfully use it; that is, the person whose labor went into, for example, the land comes to own it. (Locke, Chap. V, Sec. 27)

The individual under liberalism also is under certain restraints. For example, the individual can dispose of his person but not destroy it. (Locke, Chap. II, Sec. 6) That is, the individual cannot, at least actively, commit suicide. (This means that they are entitled to put their lives in danger by going to war; this discussion, however, is beyond the scope of this paper. )

Locke also tries to put into place some minimal restraints with regards to property. For one, there is generally no question about the rightfulness of the acquired property so long as it there is, still, enough and 'as good' left in common. (Locke, Chap. V, Sec. 27) One should only gather as many fruits as one can enjoy before they spoil. Just as it is true for one's person, one cannot destroy what they possess except, 'where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it'. (Locke, Chap. II, Sec. 6)

The law of nature, since it is not a society functioning under a contract, isa kind of law that does not need a formal judicial and punitive system. The natural law can be understood to have power

in two ways: firstly, normative power and, secondly, allowing for a general right to punish transgressions. Since rights and jurisdiction are reciprocal, If transgression of the law occurs, everyone has a right to adjudicate, everyone can punish the offender. (Locke, Chap. II Section 8) The basic principle in punishment, which also informs the extent and proportionality of a punishment, is to hinder the violation of the law; whatever else has been describe by Locke is elaboration. Locke seems to be, at least, superficially aware that the right to punish held by other individuals violates, generally, the rights of the transgressor; it is inconsonant with what one has come to expect of the state of nature. Thus, he justifies the need to have a judicial system in the state of nature; that the law of nature will be in vain, unable to protect the innocent or restrain the mischievous, if there is no body to execute the law. However, those who overcome the transgressor cannot act arbitrarily, according to what they wish. Retribution is what is expected of them, in a way that is proportionate to the transgression, in line with rational and conscientious thinking. This proportion is to be determined by what is considered necessary for reparation and restraint, which, in the Lockean worldview are the only two reasons for which harming another human being is lawful. (Locke, Chap. II Section 8)

The individual who breaks the law has, in effect, opted out of the set of rules and values ('reason and common equity') that had up till now provided them with security. Because of this the issue of their rights becomes less than important. (Locke, Chap. II Section 8)

Foucault's challenge to the account of liberal individual Foucault completely subverts the idea of individualism. Unlike Locke, he does not start from an the state of nature or any such perfect place which some later scholars such as Gruber have called political myth. Instead Foucault, in Discipline and Punish, is interested in the present or recent history. For him the means of understanding something contemporary is by tracing the history of its development. Instead of posing a counter-theory to the state of nature, Foucault works on the genealogy of individualism.

As Gruber explains it, for Foucault power, and the privilege of individuality, rested with a few at the top of the social pyramid. The liberal project brought about a dispersal of the power and a move towards increasing individuality to all corners of the social spectrum. This is consistent with the liberal claim to liberty and equality, or, as was seen earlier with Locke, the idea that in the state of nature 'all power and jurisdiction is reciprocal'.

However, this is the extent of the agreement. Liberals explain socio-political developments of the past two centuries as either the achievement of individuality or as a struggle to vitiate the buried individual. For Foucault, however, these have been times of 'inversion and alternation in every dimension' of the traditional forms of power. [Gruber]

Desiring individuality as an expression of agency is discarded by Foucault as a project that rests on the pretense of agency and freedom. For Foucault, individuality has come about through the dispersal of power throughout the social body, affecting us through, for example, discourse. In fact, power acts through the nodes of individuality, both growing proportionately; making individuality less an 'agential locus' and more a 'vehicle of power' [Gruber].

In the liberal conception, property and property rights are given a lot of importance so that having an excess of property over another individual can be seen as, potentially, threatening individual rights to the extent that Locke had to prescribe restraints on how much one could acquire in the state of nature. In the traditional social structure, too, those at with the most property are considered at the top of the social hierarchy. Foucault, on the other hand, gives importance to knowledge, to the extent that there seems to be little distinction between power and knowledge. It is knowledge that produces individuals, or, 'individuals are constituted in being known as individuals'[Gruber].

Foucault looks to the mundane for understanding of social life. The growing body of knowledge and increasingly sophisticated methods of analysis that have developed in the past few centuries are, to Foucault, the action of power. The evolution of classrooms into a 'table' that allowed the teacher to learn about each student and their background by merely looking at their position in the classroom. At the same time this system serves to separate the different types of students. Foucault pays attention to the power relations in this system where knowledge has produced standards of normality as well as simultaneous and continuous observation and analysis; for him, it is important to understand that the bodies in the classroom are not legible independent of their rank. This account has consequences not only for identity but also the agency of the liberal individual. This network of powers elicits from the individual automatic action, the bodies have become docile.

The role of punishment methods, attributed to the rise of humanistic values, post-Enlightenment, is not removal from society, something the dungeon, accomplished, but keeping the body infinitely in the society, moulding and structuring the individuality, lightly, without even touching the body. Foucault uses the figure of the Panopticon to explain how, according to him, docile bodies are produced. The most important features of the Panopticon are that the guards can see the prisoners without being seen and the prisoners cannot see the other prisoners. This means that the guards do not even have to be there all the time. Just the knowledge of the possibility that they are being watched is enough to elicit complacency. For Foucault, the guard tower does not even necessarily have to be inhabited by guards, he imagines that the society could play that role; coming and going at all hours. For Foucault, this is the role played by societal norms which strips away, or rather precludes, agency.

It is not just in the prison but also in the workplace that the pervasiveness of power creates individualities from which it can elicit repetitive, automatic, identical action. For Foucault this is an act of weakening the body as it strengthens for the purposes of production. As Gruber points out, it makes responses and individuals homogenous and interchangeable, and thus, disposable.

However, it is important to remember that Foucault is not concerned with imposed, universal grand-narratives. Unlike Lockean-liberalism, Foucault is not concerned with providing a framework for understanding how the world works. He does talk about disciplinary power, but it is not a universal regime. Gruber says that Foucault uses the disciplinary as 'an analytical shorthand' and though there are certain patterns that the power functions tend to be expressed in, they are emergent patterns. An easy way to cognize the difference is through chronology; that is, if we think of liberalism as being prescriptive or at least descriptive at a point where it was able to affect the course of history; Foucault, on the other hand, can be said to be diagnosing the situation, discovering patterns on the way.

Foucault, liberalism and the challenge 1

It is important to understand where Foucault would place his own account in relation to liberalism. Is this diffusion and pervasiveness of power, for Foucault, a tragic end of the great, humanistic project that was sparked off at the Enlightenment? Or, is it the failure of liberal ideals to be realized that led to disciplinary power? David Gruber argues that Foucault's account picks up on history long before the start of the liberal project and that, for Foucault, liberalism is a reaction to the pervasiveness of governmental power. Even though Discipline and Punish is not, explicitly, posed as an argument against liberalism it, nonetheless, brings to attention a counter-narrative to that of individual rights, liberty and ownership; it focuses on the narrative of thorough utilization, and retail (Gruber), of the population.

By focusing on the produced effects of modern power, Foucault wants to shed light on the dissonance between the theoretical individual and the docile bodies and homogenized

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This section is heavily influenced by David Grubers reading of Discipline and Punish

subjectivities of the real, modern world. Foucaults description, by pointing to this contradiction, attempts to nullify the claim of liberalism to the emancipatory nature of its project.

It is not just that there is a contradiction between intention and effect. Foucaults project is to show that the contradiction runs deeper; that it is inherent in the institutions the liberal world rests on. These institutions are not just securers of, for example, legal rights, but are, at the same time, part of the disciplinary archipelago. The contradiction lies in that discipline is practiced by these institutions upon those whose rights they purport to uphold. In fact, these individualities that are subjected to discipline have been constituted in these institutions. If there seems to be liberation, or peace and justice, under liberalism, it is because of quieter but more thorough processes.

By focusing on discipline and punish, Foucault is able to point to another contradiction; subjecting individuals to corrective methods to restore them back to society undermines the contract and goes against the liberal description of the individual and its role as a rational, independent agent. Foucaults account also points to the fact that capitalism and trade depend on discipline and docile bodies, not on free individuals.

Foucaults work also highlights the intricately interwoven nature of knowledge and power. Foucault shows that the lofty institutions, that ostensibly hold authority and are responsible for balance in the society, are merely ratifying bodies. The disciplines of science or knowledge in general hold the reins on what and how punitive measures are to be meted out.

Even an individuals own legibility to themselves is dependent on knowledge, the constant search for knowledge, thus, is integrated into individuality. Foucault shows that, therefore, to attempt to achieve ones emancipation by realizing ones individuality means that one needs to constantly and continuously direct disciplinary power and the power of knowledge to this individuality.

Foucaults speaks to the attitude of looking to releasing or realizing ones individuality as a means of emancipation. The rhetorical question Foucault would pose to them would be whether one needs to think outside the framework of individualities.

Bibliography Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Print. Locke, John. Of Civil Government: Second Treatise. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1955. Print. Gruber, David F. "Foucault's Critique of the Liberal Individual." The Journal of Philosophy 86.11 (1989): 615-21. JSTOR. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/2027038>.