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Human Studies (2005) 28: 114

Springer 2005

Power, Freedom, and Individuality: Foucault and Sexual Difference


MIRI ROZMARIN
Philosophy Department, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, Israel (E-mail: rozmarim@post.tau.ac.il)

Abstract. This paper offers a detailed account of Foucaults ethical and political notion of individuality as presented in his late work, and discusses its relationship to the feminist project of the theory of sexual difference. I argue that Foucaults elaboration of the classical ethos of care for the self opens the way for regarding the I-woman as an ethical, political and aesthetic self-creation. However, it has signicant limitations that cannot be ignored. I elaborate on two aspects of Foucaults avoidance of sexual difference as a relevant category for an account of political and ethical individuality, which thus implicitly associates individual agency with men. I argue that Foucault implicitly assumes the existence of an ontological desire to become engaged in political self-creation. However, the ethical position of self-knowledge and desire should be understood as a contingent option that depends on material and historical conditions for its realization. Hence, I argue that a feminist reworking of Foucaults notion of political individuality should add a substantial ethical condition to the imperative of self-knowledge and self-creation making possible the desiring woman subject. Key words: foucault, freedom, individuality, power, sexual difference, subjectivity

For more than 25 years, feminist theory has been considering possible alliances between feminist political thought and Foucaults work. One of the issues related to these alliances is the actual plausibility of Foucaults political suggestion of a feminist ethical and political endeavor of reguring subjectivity. It is widely accepted that Foucaults ideas bear only limited relevance to the project of sexual difference theory, which holds the basic premise that the category of woman and its specic symbolic and imaginary signicance is a necessary locus for overcoming phallocentric subjectivity. The major controversy revolves around the role of sexed identity in the political project of creating new and multiple positions of subjectivity.1

Individuality and The Folding of Power Judith Butler describes Foucaults notion of the subject in terms of the possibility of exceeding the linearity of power:

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Subjects who institute actions are themselves instituted effects of prior actions, and that of the horizon in which we act, not merely or exclusively as an exterior eld or theater of operations. But perhaps more signicantly, the action instituted via that subject is part of a chain of actions that can no longer be understood as nonlinear in direction or predictable in their outcomes. (1995: 43)2 This description focuses on the repetitious nature of power/language relations. Consequently, the possibility of breaking free of the deterministic mechanics of power needs to be proven and explained. In his late work, however, Foucault denes power in terms of actions affecting other actions, thus including the notions of freedom and the necessary openness of existence in the constitution of the subject. Power is: A mode of action which does not act directly and immediately on others. Instead it acts upon their actions: an action upon an action, on existing actions or on those, which may arise in the present or the future. (1983: 220) For Foucault, the open dynamics of effects between individuals is a necessary condition for the constitution of power. This view introduces a new ontology of individuals, that both de-essentializes them and preserves them as effective and fundamental ontological and political factors.3 The individuals freedom is secured in Foucaults framework by three elements: 1. Analytic distinction between power, communicative relations, and capacities. 2. Assumption of resistance as a basic fact in his theory of power. 3. Avoidance of any complete theory of power. These basic principles enable Foucault to reverse the relations between effect and power. Rather than explain the effects of the actions of individuals by some abstract mechanics of power, Foucaults denition of power in terms of the effects of actions entails a notion of individuality as embedded in power and yet still a non-reducible core of effects. The individual is an effect of power, and at the same time, or precisely to the extent to which it is that effect, is the element of its articulation. The individual which power has constituted is at the same time its vehicle. (1980: 98) Foucault resists the inclination to reduce crudely every process and entity to power, and introduces a distinction between power relations, capacities and communication (1983: 217219). Although Foucault himself does not explain this distinction it can be formulated as follows: capacities are an aspect

POWER, FREEDOM, AND INDIVIDUALITY

of actions viewed as actions on objects, while communication is the aspect of content our actions may have, and this content can be differentiated from any of the effects of these actions. Finally, power is an aspect of our action that impinges on other people and affects their future actions. Foucault acknowledges that in reality power relations are interwoven with other relations: they always overlap one another, support one another reciprocally, and use each other mutually as a means to an end (1983: 218). If that is true, why should we maintain this analytic distinction? I suggest that this is not a distinction between different and independent components of human encounters but rather one that must be presumed in order to describe reality in non-reductive terms, yet with close attention to its material and practical aspects. Foucaults notion of power entails two commitments. The rst is to the everyday appearances of power, and consequently the modality of effects, as the actions of individual people. The second is to specify the conditions for the different modes of social power, including those which resist and disrupt the dominant strategies of power. The distinction between communication, power, and capacities enables a more complex analysis of the ways in which power both creates opportunities for further action and limits their scope.4 By dening power in terms of the modality of action, Foucault limits his analysis to specic historic forms of power. Thus, he also emphasizes that power should be analyzed through the multiple actual ways in which it affects others. In this framework, the individual is not a passive function of power relations but a real, living combination of effects and possibilities. Foucaults pragmatic perspective on power concentrates on the manifestation of power as a mode of the historical existence of people as individuals. In this mode, power, as opposed to force, is a form of inuence that implies different options of reaction. Thus, it is part of the denition of power that the individual is an indeterminate factor in the activation of social power. Foucault attributes to resistance the status of an undeniable phenomenon. Consequently, he does not attempt to prove the possibility of resistance but seeks the conditions in which it is possible. This assumption concerning the immanence of resistance to power secures the individuals role as the executor of social resistance and activator of the dynamic between social power and resistance. We are in this struggle, and the continuation of this situation can inuence the behavior or non-behavior of the other. So we are not trapped. We are always in this kind of situation. It means that we have always possibilities of changing the situation. (1997: 167) Foucault presents a perspective from which different actions, in given power relations, can be used as forms of transformation, which consequently change the possible future effects (1983: 220). This kind of analysis does not reduce

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the living individual to the power practices that secure its intelligibility, and thus does not imply a determinism or dispensability of the individual. The denition of power in terms of actions implies a specic notion of freedom that derives from the characterization of power as the modality of effects. Any concrete action taken by the individual is only one among many different potential actions. Action is neither a necessary outcome nor a natural cause, but a contingent practice with a contingent effect. This contingency is the effectual space that denes the freedom of individuals as the practical option of not acting according to the relevant social law, which denes the usual effects and reactions. Freedom, then, is neither an essential and a priori attribute of humans. Rather, it is an integral part of the description of social reality in terms of effects, in which freedom designates practices that challenge the regularity of power. It is intrinsic to the dynamic of modern power that freedom be dened in relation to the disciplinary and normalizing practices of power.5 It is clear from this presentation of Foucaults notion of power that the tension between individuality as a signicant political factor and as a product of repetitive practices of power is minimized, if not entirely eliminated. Foucault avoids this tension by suggesting that discursive practices are not abstract linguistic constructions in an oblique relation to their executors, but a mode of human action. From Foucaults notion of power follows a distinct view of individuality. Foucault releases it from its traditional metaphysical role, as the personied unit of a rational and free subject, yet preserves its political effectiveness. In Discipline and Punish and in The History of Sexuality, Foucault presents this metaphysical image of individuality as an historic form of power. This form of social control is manifested in contemporary governmental, economic, and cultural institutions, creating options for reenacting this historical form of human existence in new and transgressive forms. Thus, individuality is an embodied, active historical form of existence for people, through which they affect and are affected by others in specic historical power relations. Gilles Deleuze describes the status of the individual in Foucaults work as the result of the folding of power. The Greek idea of self-formation that Foucault adopts as his model involves turning the relations between the forces that act upon bodies, people, practices of knowledge, and arts of living into a relation of interiority. The individual is a result of power turning upon itself and constitutes a new domain of domination, mastery, governance, and responsibility. According to this view the individual cannot be reduced to power relations, not because of any abstract, independent element that transcends power, but because it is a specic form that depends on the historical form of the folding of power. It is the focal point of resistance that is an inevitable result of the capacity of power to turn upon its own products (1986: 99 106).

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The individual in Foucaults account of power is an open and dynamic structure, shaped but not determined by social, historical and discursive conditions. I have argued that the open nature of the existence of individuals is part of the denition of power in terms of actions. It introduces a modality of time and effects into the notion of power and presents the individual as a set of practical political possibilities, which is always wider than those imposed by social mechanisms. The openness of the individual is a logical and practical condition of power as a distinct form of inuence, and it consists in the indeterminacy of the course of effects that the individual can create. The openness of the individual is also an ethical conception of human existence. Openness is the mode of ethical being that ontologically denes the individual as shaped through day-to-day decisions and practices that involve others, both concrete and as a collective. It introduces the notion of an individuals well-being as a continual process of self-creation in relation to others.6 Individuality has a performative aspect. The denition of power in terms of actions and effects of living bodies on others implies that there is no meta-law of power prior to its actual local manifestations. The crystallization of power in the shape of laws, norms, and institutions depends on local repetitions of certain effects. The creation of subjectivity and individuality depends on practices of self-creation, which, Foucault stresses, do not have the goal of attaining some real self or principle of authenticity; nor are they limited by a causal or teleological model of human potential. The ideals and norms that are practiced are tools for creating alternative ways of existence; they constitute an individualized project of creating congurations of relations with others that are conducive to well-being. Foucaults notion of power elucidates the emergence of the I as ontologically and ethically accountable for her or his effects. The individuals accountability stems from the I being a continual process of action and of indeterminable creation through praxis. The acts of the individual create both material effects and the I agent as contingent and open chains of effects that enact and change experience, thought, and bodies. Accountability, in other words, is the temporal principle of the continual creation of the I. In order for the I to transcend power, one must perform the continuous activity of creating a new subjectivity and new effects, through practice, in both the spatial and symbolic dimensions. The I should be understood as a new frame of active possibilities, including experiencing and participating in processes of meaning as an addressee and as an addresser. These new dimensions of movement and feeling create the I as a set of new connections between the body, language, and social power. The I is the element that welds these effective possibilities into a political and ethical entity, which is accountable for ones activity and its effects on others and their effective lives.

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Care for the Self and Sexual Difference In Foucaults late work the individual becomes the core of philosophical critique of the modern subject. His discussion of the Greek ethics of care for the self considers the individuals way of life to be a key to social resistance. Foucaults Care for the Self is an ethos that is directed towards the attainment of well-being and includes different practices of self-knowledge and self-training, such as reading, writing, engaging in different aspects of human relationships, inquiring into the diverse realization of ideals such as benevolence, performing rituals, etc. These practices constitute a constant principle of care for the self through practical becoming and the creation of ones own sense of self. By accepting responsibility for ones own course of life and forming an ethical notion of oneself, one establishes a political and ethical commitment to others (1997b: 286287). One may argue that Foucaults assumptions concerning the possibility of resistance reect a kind of dogmatism that renders Foucaults account weaker. After all, the 20th century seems to have been ruled by huge economic and political institutions, such as capitalism, the state, technology, and patriarchy, a fact which raises serious doubts as to an individuals ability to resist the tight grip of these institutions. In this context one could quote Baumans eloquent critique of the self-formative individual as the contemporary variation of the individualized form of power that Foucault described in his work (1995: 105 125). Indeed, there is no certain way of deciding whether self-formation is a path of resistance or a prominent form of power. It must to some extent be a form of power; otherwise it would not be available as an option for political manipulation. The question, then, is what kind of political options this form of social power makes possible. This paper aims to show that Foucaults notion of power can take part in re-shaping womens subjectivity and thus it can have, and indeed already has, a substantial political effect. Moreover, the assumption of some ability to resist is empirically reasonable and both existentially and politically required. Without assuming the potential of micro-resistance to achieve a political effect, it is hard to understand the daily involvement of individuals in political and ethical issues and the massive political changes that have occurred in the 20th century. We can either allow ourselves to become immersed in a very dark picture of power, in which the individuals power is a total illusion, mysteriously and remarkably sustained, or we can try to describe the dynamic of power in its individualized forms, and thus reconsider the individual as a factor in creating practical options for micro-resistance. The choice of a philosophical position that can activate political effects is supported by the meta-philosophical stand implied by Foucaults theory of knowledge and power. Foucault acknowledges that his philosophy participates in the dynamics of power and thus opens the way to examine philosophical views through their political effects.

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Foucaults conceptual framework can impart a historical and material sense to one of the fundamental theses of sexual difference theory, namely that womens difference cannot be expressed in the symbolic economy of Western culture: thus Woman signies the negativity of subjectivity. The exclusion of women from the symbolic could be understood as a complex conguration of power in which utterances, texts, and other symbolic actions do not create the same sphere of possible actions for women as they do for men. For Foucault as well as for Irigaray, the symbolic is not an autonomous eld; it is materialized through other embodied practices. Thus, the coercion of women by means of the symbolic function of negativity is understood to consist of a multitude of symbolic and non-symbolic practices. These practices enable women to move, feel, touch, excite, change form, and react, in ways that prevent them from creating positive and productive relations between their existence as women and their thought and actions. This Foucauldian reading of sexual difference theory may seem like an unnecessary limitation of the radical implications that Foucaults politics of sexuality may have on the discourse of gender. Sexual difference theory always risks essentialism and universalism. The reading I suggest offers a way to contextualize the notion of sexual difference. It stresses that sexual difference should not be understood as entailing xed categories of identity, but as a site of becoming and self-creation.7 This view can help to clarify the constitution of an alternative subjectivity for women as both an ethical and a political project, which must be pursued through the active practices of individuals. Moreover, Foucaults position makes it clear that womens struggle to express their embodied experience in the world in a way that reconnects their bodies to their thoughts should involve practical changes in womens ways of life. Thus, the creation of feminist subjectivity is mediated by the possibility for women to be agents; active determinants of their own lives. Foucaults notion of power posits the effective body as the heart of the processes that create thought, knowledge, and new meanings. The creation of an I-woman, held by sexual difference theory as a point of departure for articulating a positive feminine subjectivity, may be regarded in Foucauldian terms as the creation of a new eld of effects; an extreme realization of freedom as implied in symbolic action. Irigaray presents a textual strategy of writing an I-woman voice, as the heart-enunciation of different social and ethical relations. This strategy stresses the necessity of a sense of active individuality, which launches destructive effects as political resistance.8 Foucaults notion of freedom as inherent in power might clarify the possibility of such afrmative politics. Therefore, the constitution of the I-woman exercises the freedom conveyed in symbolic power by emphasizing the effective ability of the embodied individual to perform practices of freedom. Foucault depicts self-creation as the continuous

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outcome of multiple actions that take part in shaping the ow of effects and domination. Another possible contribution to sexual difference theory resides in Foucaults characterization of his political and ethical ideal in terms of power: I do not think that a society can exist without power relations, if by that one means the strategies by which individuals try to direct and control the conduct of others. The problem, then, is not to try and dissolve them in the utopia of completely transparent communication, but to acquire the rules of law, the management techniques, and also morality, the ethos, the practice of the self that will allow us to play these games of power with as little domination as possible. (1997b: 298) As I stated earlier, Foucault draws a distinction between domination, which minimizes personal freedom and leaves only self-destructive forms of resistance, and the power relation that maximizes freedom by providing possible options of realizing ones wishes and ethos. This distinction can add another parameter to the analysis of resistance by emphasizing the different effects of power on individuals. It can thus help to tie together the analysis of resistance in terms of social action and effect with resistance as personal action, which has a bearing on the individuals well-being. The notion of the care of the self can therefore be regarded as the personalized mode of political resistance. It provides a motivation, understood not as the conscious product of the rational and abstract subject, but as an immanent aspect of the articulation of the embodied and desiring subjectivity. Finally, I believe these elements in Foucaults ethical thought can also suggest a contextual examination of the political agenda implied in feminist theory. Feminist philosophy should ask itself what kind of tool it is becoming at the hand of different segments of society and in the different cultural positions of women.9 Foucaults ethics can also help to redene the many-faceted heterogeneous project of feminist philosophy, without appealing to common assumptions or ideals (although there can be agreement on a general ideal such as the end of womens social submission). Feminist philosophy can be regarded as an ethical project of individual philosophers who create social and cultural spaces for changing power relations. Hence, different discussions in feminist philosophy, as well as its function in general, can be viewed from the perspective of its effects on, and relations with, different cultural and social spaces. Braidotti presents a fundamental objection to regarding Foucault as significantly relevant to the feminist project of sexual difference theory. She argues that even though Foucault offers an important critique of modern power and thus contributes to the exposure of the subject, identity, and truth as forms of power, he nonetheless retains the Greek association between the care for the self and political life; a connection made through the male body and an ideal image of masculinity.

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Arguing that governing oneself, managing ones estate, and participating in the administration of the city were three practices of the same kind, Foucault emphasizes the key value of ethical virility as the ideal on which the system as a whole rests. In turn this implies perfect coincidence between ones male sex and an imaginary construction of masculine sexuality; moreover, he stresses the accordance of both to the ruling social representations of what ought to be the universal ethical standard; symbolic virility. Thus the male body is all one with the body politic. (1993: 128129) According to this critique, Foucault stands in opposition to the basic project of sexual difference, which endeavors to rethink the world from the starting point of embodied and sexed subjects. This emphasis on sexual difference, argues Braidotti, provides better theoretical and practical tools for the project of redening ethics in ways that exceed the modern conception of the subject (1993:124135). I accept Braidottis analysis that Foucaults ideal of care of the self is historically connected to male subjectivity, as well as Schors argument that Foucault fails to consider the specicity of womens effective bodies (1995). Foucaults refusal to consider sexual difference as a relevant category for the account of political and ethical individuality relates to a presupposed male subject exercising the practices of care for the self, which constitute the political individual, and therefore limits the applicability and usefulness of his suggestion to feminist politics. I would like to point out two major ways in which the presupposed masculinity of the individual shapes Foucaults account of the political and ethical path toward a different subjectivity. When Foucault denes the necessary relations between care for the self and care for others, he says: But if you take proper care for yourself, that is, if you know ontologically what you are, if you know what you are capable of, if you know what it means for you to be a citizen of a city, to be the master of a household in an oikos, if you know what things you should and should not fear, if you know what you can responsibly hope for and on the other hand, what things should not matter to you, if you know nally, that you should not be afraid of death if you know all this, you cannot abuse your power over others. (1997b: 288) Foucault makes two assumptions in this passage that simply cannot be accepted as they stand by feminist discussion. First, Foucault assumes that the basic ethical problem is how to avoid the misuse of power. It is obvious that Foucault, following his Greek forefathers, thinks about individuals as fundamentally having power over others. In a feminist context, this assumption cannot be taken for granted. In many contexts women are deprived of almost any social power. Thus, the fundamental question of power should be: What are the material and cultural conditions that enable women to adopt an

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ethos through which they can gain the power to govern their lives, actions, and practices of self-knowledge? Another assumption that underlies Foucaults ethics is the triviality of access to the position of self-knowledge. In the passage quoted above, Foucault concentrates on the practice of acquiring knowledge of oneself as a crucial practice of care for the self, and for him access to the position of the knowing subject is unquestionable. This assumption, like the previous one, cannot be accepted by a feminist account of individual agency because as has been pointed out by Irigaray as well as by others the exclusion of women from the position of the subject of experience and knowledge lies at the core of their subordination. The imperative know yourself, even in the Foucauldian sense of create yourself through practices of knowledge, is not complete if one doesnt see the forces that prevent women from attributing positive meaning to their bodily experiences, sexuality, and desires. Self-creation, then, cannot be regarded as a spontaneous result of living.10 Foucault writes from a privileged position, which allows him to assume that the individual can simply strive towards his own well-being and has sufcient productive connections between his social power, embodied existence, desire to exercise his freedom as an aesthetic creation, and the practices of knowledge and self-mastery. However, this picture is not applicable to many women, and if we accept the general argument of sexual difference theory, the signier Woman. in western culture, still does not stand for such productive relations between different aspects of creative subjectivity.11 The position of self-creation and the productive connections that make it possible are individualized social possibilities that demand social negotiation over power.12 Hence, Foucaults notion of individuality uncritically assumes a certain position within language, which is historically tied to the male body. It thus fails to acknowledge the different path women have to take in order to sustain a political individuality as a medium of creating a new subjective existence. Monique Deveaux stresses that Foucaults notion of power can be used in a feminist political theory only if it is accompanied by a political vocabulary that emphasizes the embodied nature of the experience of power (1996: 233). Deveaux emphasizes the conscious subject as a key to the introduction of the individuals perspective. I agree with Deveaux that a critique of power and a notion of agency require an account of power in terms of the lives and experience of individuals. However the phenomenology of the conscious subject is not the only way to secure the political affectivity of individuals. The basic alliance between feminists and post-structuralist thinkers lies precisely in the critique of the conscious subject, as the philosophical representation of a prominent form of power. I agree with Sawicki, who rejects the idea that in order to maintain productive relations between a feminist critique of power and womens politics,

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feminism must embrace an idea of the epistemological clarity of the subject (1996: 168). Such an appeal to a modern image of political individuality is implied in Deveauxs appeal to choice, conscious appropriation, and self-determination (1996: 229, 233). It seems that Deveaux assumes that the phenomenology of power as apparent and re-worked in individuals lives can be part of theory only if we reinstate an image of the individual as transcending the power relations that shape her/his reality. Instead, I argue that, in order for women to take the place of the knowing/creating subject, they have to build the connections, which Foucault took for granted, between being a desiring subject and a knowing subject; between being located in a social eld and having power. I wish to stress that a feminist reworking of Foucaults notion of care for the self should add a substantial ethical condition to the imperative of self-knowledge and self-creation: the enabling of the desiring woman subject; she who desires to search for, question, and determine truth, and who can rethink reality in ways that acknowledge other aspects of her being. McWhorters argues against any appeal to a notion of subject desire, which, she argues, is inseparably connected to a normalized body. Following Foucaults genealogy of sexuality, she argues that a notion of desiring subject rests on a separation between desire and pleasure. This separation cuts human bodies off from pleasure, as a source of effective impulses which can be manipulated politically. It reshapes the body as an object of disciplinary practices. Hence, argues McWhorter, political activation of the body demands a notion of a body as a creative site; a source of multiple experiences, which can be strategically used to challenge the boundaries of itself as an object of modern-liberal politics and heterosexist conceptualization. McWhorter regards Foucaults notion of bodies of pleasure as designating the alternative to the desiring body (1999: 111129). I do not contest McWhorters argument for the need of practices through which identity and individuality are constructed as embodied, playful, dynamic, and free. I contest the idea that in order to participate in and to originate such practices women need to abandon their sense of being a desiring subject. Judith Butler stresses that Foucaults notion of bodies of pleasers, and the notion of individual agency that stems from it, must be contextualized and made historical: Who is it, who is able to recognize him or herself as subject of sexuality, and how are the means of recognition controlled, dispersed and regulated such that only a certain kind of subject is recognizable through them? One might very well be the bearer of sexuality in a way that ones very status as a subject is destroyed by bearing such sexuality. (1999: 19) Thus, a notion of political individuality should take into consideration the ways embodied subjects are differently situated in material and symbolic relations.

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Judith Butler anchors the possibility of integrating the critique of power and a defense of the individual as a source of political effect in the nature of regulatory power which is not conned by a teleological or any other meta-principle, and thus is open to deviant repetitions that defy the individual constitutive practices. For Butler, desire is an historical construct of regulatory power that must be worked through in order not to create a political agenda that is detached from actual political conditions (1999: 20). Thus she cautions against abandoning the notion of a desiring subject in order to advance an alternative image of sexual subjectivity. As I argued, the ability to practice bodies of pleasure is a political prerogative. It assumes a minimal level of freedom, a sense of agency and potentiality, as well as a sense of being an enunciation point for meaning and action. Many women are not in the position to take such a political road. The notion of a subject of desire resists the history of bodies of women as a silent materiality, a property and an object. The subject of desire, then, is the missing link between the embodied experience of power and political action. This image of desiring subject stresses the need for productive relations between bodily experience, notion of I, and being a subject of meaning and action. Desire, as arising from the individualized productive relations between experience, culture, pleasures, and actions, should be understood as a contingent option that depends on material and historical conditions for its realization. This position of knowledge, which has been excluded from the reality of women for centuries, is an ethical and ontological goal for feminist theory, and it also opens the path to a critique of power that takes into account the individual lived experience of power.

Notes
1. On the development of this contention in feminist theory see Deveaux (1996). 2. Foucaults notion of power as established in Discipline and Punish was viewed by some interpreters as all-encompassing, reductive, and implying political incompetence. For examples, see Fraser (1989) and Dews (1989). 3. Sandra Bartky argues that the bad Foucault, who stresses the oppressive and almost deterministic nature of modern power, and the good Foucault, who stresses the immanent option to play the social eld against its regularities, are, in fact, two models of power in Foucaults work. The rst studies power as the maker of persons, and the second studies power from a perspective of a player in the social eld (2002: 4142). I suggest that these are not two separate models but two perspectives aimed at two related purposes. The earlier notion of power, which analyzes the society as a whole, serves to problematize the foundations of liberal and humanistic discourse. The second notion of power emphasizes the individual agent for whom this eld of power is her/his life. The main purpose of such a notion is to nd ways of resistance and well-being for individuals. These two trends are not separated or antagonistic to each other but are two necessary aspects of political life.

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4. Foucaults commitment to the phenomenology of power is apparent in a commentary on his project of power analysis. See 1983: 210211. 5. On the practical aspect of Foucaults notion of freedom see McNay (1994: 130). 6. Ewa Plonowska Ziarek argues that this ontological openness is a part of an ethos of becoming, which is a mode of relating to ones own actions and identity without enacting the disciplinary power imbedded in the individuals identity and subjectivity. See Ziarek (2001: 3336) 7. Although sexual difference theory maintains that the category of woman has a vital role in the process of resisting and overcoming phallocentric constructions of sex, sexuality and gender, one should not understand the use of the this category as implying a unifying structure of experience or subjectivity of women. On the contrary, according to Irigaray, sexual difference is the immediate experience of the inability to unify the Other with the I. Moreover, since the identity as a woman, in this perspective, is a site of becoming and self-creation it is open for the differences between women (of race, sexuality, religion etc.) to become part of each individuals path of becoming. Braidotti provides an eloquent exposition of the rationale of sexual difference theory and the role of sexual difference as a condition for a culture that embraces different sorts of differences (1994: 160167). Nevertheless, it is true that sexual difference theorists emphasize the sexual divide as the most crucial to the critique of culture and to womens political resistance. Thus, their discussions do not address the diversity of embodied experience of women from different races, ages, social positions and sexuality. 8. This strategy can be found in texts such as Irigaray (1981), (1985), (1991), (1996), (2000). 9. Foucaults notion of disciplinary was a valuable contribution for several important feminist analyses of womens embodiment as a site of social power. Among them are Bartky (1990), Bordo (1993), and Butler (1993). However these writers did not consider Foucaults ethics as a useful source for an account of womens quest for alternative subjectivity. 10. For similar reasons, Jean Grimshaw (1993) views Foucaults ethics as preserving an image of an autonomous subject. For her, this is an important reason for nding Foucaults ethics to be disappointing in a feminist context. 11. Although many men also cannot achieve the privilege position assumed by Foucault, the emphasis in this argument is on the ways the identity as man or woman effects the accessibility of individuals to this position. 12. Hartsock (1990), McNay (1991) and Deveaux (1996) have criticized Foucaults ethics for providing neither the conceptual tools for empowerment nor a sufcient description of womens political agency.

References
Bartky, S. (1990). Femininity and Domination. New York: Routledge. Bartky, S. (2002). Sympathy and Solidarity. New York: Rowman & Littleeld Publishers. Bauman, Z. (1995). Life in Fragments. Oxford: Blackwell. Bordo, S. (1993). Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body. London: University of California Press. Braidotti, R. (1993). Nomadic Subjects. New York: Columbia University Press. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge. Butler, J. (1995). Contingent Foundations. In S. Benhabib, J. Butler, D. Cornell and N. Fraser (Eds.), Feminist Contentions, a Philosophical Exchange. New York: Routledge. Butler, J. (1999). Revisiting Bodies and Pleasures. Theory, Culture & Society 16: 1120. Deleuze, G. (1986). Foucault. S. Hand (Trans. ). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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