Monday, March 06, 2006


The final exam will be held on Monday, March 13th at 10:30 to 12:20. You will be asked to write two essays. Each essay will be selected from two options.

The first essay will cover the concept of power as developed by Michel Foucault, and it's potential applications for research.

The second essay will be a more comprehensive essay that will ask you to trace themes from the course as a whole. In other words, this essay will ask you to draw on some theories and ideas from the first half of the course, but it will allow you some leeway in determining what theories and theorists will choose.

A key to this exam will be to identify themes and points of comparison between theorists--themes such as "freedom and power," "power over and power to" and so on.

Here are some sample questions from exams past. This should give you an idea of how I construct questions:

I will include questions on the final of similar content to these. 2/3 for you to answer.

1)What does Foucault seek to replace the juridico-discurvise theory of power with? Does his alternative better explain the relationship between power and human sexuality? Explain.

2)How does Young use the insights of power theorists to construct a theory of justice. Discuss at least on strength and one weakness to her use of these theories.

3)How does the power without a face contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of 4th grade classrooms?

4)In light of all the criticisms of his approach, how useful is Dahl's definition of power?

5) What is the best way to understand the relationship between power and freedom? Does Foucault help us better understand this relationship?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Defacing Power

As you're reading the book, feel free to ask questions and comment here. I'll post a couple of questions to get us started, but add your own. Remember, participating at least occasionally in these discussions is part of your grade.

How does Hayward define power? Does this offer an improvement over Foucault's approach?

What does she hope to accomplish with her observations of 4th grade classrooms?

Is this a good method to better understand power? Why/why not?

What is Hayward's critique of "critical pedagogical theory"? Do you agree?

Does Hayward's book shed any new light on how to understand the relationship between freedom on the one hand and power on the other?

Discussion Thread: Iris Young

For any discussion of Iris Youngs essays.

Some suggested topics:

Does Young show any influence of Foucault's thinking about power?

Is her typology of oppression missing anything, or including some things that shouldn't be there?

Do you agree with her critique of the distributive paradigm?

Do the five faces of oppression give us a sufficient conceptual map of the real world of (unjust) power?

As always, your own questions and comments are welcome.

Grading Scale

Here's the grading scale for the midterm:

98-100 4.0
96-97 3.9
93-95 3.8
91-92 3.7
89-90 3.6
86-89 3.5
84-85 3.4
81-83 3.3
79-80 3.2
77-78 3.1
75-76 3.0
72-74 2.9
70-71 2.8
68-69 2.7
66-67 2.6
63-65 2.5
61-62 2.4
59-60 2.3
56-58 2.2
53-55 2.1
50-52 2.0
48-49 1.9
46-47 1.8
43-45 1.7
41-42 1.6
39-40 1.5
36-38 1.4
33-35 1.3
30-32 1.2
28-29 1.1
25-27 1.0

Monday, February 20, 2006

Foucault, Young

First note: The readings for Thursday--two chapters from Justice and the Politics of Difference by Iris Marion Young, are on e-reserve. However, the author is listed, inexplicably, as Yang. Do not be deterred by this complication.

By now you should be in the process of finishing up with Foucault.

A few questions for you as you finish up:

Does Foucault succeed in providing an alternative to juridico-political/sovereign models of power?

What are the key features of this alternative?

Why does Foucault call it "bio-power" in the concluding section of the book?

Foucault concludes by speculating that one day people will be very puzzled by the importance with which we viewed sex and sexuality in our society. What is it that will puzzle them so much, according to Foucault? Has he provided reason to find his suspicion likely?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Foucault, The History of Sexuality--some discussion questions

1) In a nutshell, what is Foucault's objection to the "repressive hypothesis"? Why is it incorrect to think of the 19th century as an era of repressed sexuality?

2) Who are the "other" Victorians?

3) Why, according to Foucault, is the represive hypothesis so popular? (hint: see pg 6)

4) Why is Foucault so interested in "discourses"? What does he mean by this term? What role do they play in his historical analysis?

5) Foucault frequently refers to the "explosion of discourses" in the 18th and 19th centuries about sex. What are some of these new discourses of sex?

6) If you had to speculate as to the causes of the explosion of discourses of sexuality at this historical juncture, how would you explain it?

As always, feel free to raise your own issues and questions and comments from the early chapters of the book in this thread.

Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction

As you read this, a couple of suggestions and reminders.

1) While this book is ostensibly about the history of sexuality (or, more accurately, the history of the way was talk, write, and think about sexuality, and regulate it), we're interested in what we can learn about the way power works in society, according to Foucault.

2) Still, this is a difficult book, and while Foucault will eventually have a lot to say about power, he doesn't discuss his theory of power much directly in the early chapters. Don't worry too much about power, just try to follow the argument and the narrative Foucault presents. As you continue to read he'll get to his theory of power, but it'll be quite difficult to understand if you haven't followed the narrative about sexuality so far.

3) This book was first published in France in 1976. A bit of historical context: Foucault is writing in the wake of the so-called sexual revolution of the previous decade in Western Europe and the United States. In other words, many people--especially Foucault's likely audience--are heavily invested in the "repressive hypothesis" that Foucault is criticizing. The idea that the recent innovations in sexuality in Western societies were acheived by throwing off antiquated forms of repressive social power and replacing them with freedom were widely held. They were primarily challenged by those on the cultural right; defenders of traditional and quasi-Victorian sexual mores. Foucault is one of the only to challenge this way of thinking from an entirely different perspective that has nothing whatsoever to do with the traditional values critique.

4) Foucault's pessimism about the sexual liberation of his era is perhaps even more surprising given his personal life (Foucault was a gay man who died of AIDS-related complications in 1984). Given his sexual orientation, he was someone particularly situated to benefit from the social changes associated with the sexual revolution, which included a major step forward for the social acceptance of gays and lesbians.

Monday, February 06, 2006


This exam is due no later than Monday, February 13th, at 4:00 PM. You may turn in your midterm in the political science main office, Gowen 101. If you cannot come to campus to turn it in, you must email a copy of it to me before the deadline. You must, then, bring a paper copy to class the next day, otherwise the exam will be considered late. If an emergency prevents you from completing the exam by the due date, you may be eligible for an extension, which you must discuss and clear with me beforehand. Otherwise, late papers will not be accepted.

Please note that with any course material quoted or paraphrased, you must give a citation. However, as long as you are using only course material, a bibliography isn't necessary--just give the author and page number in parenthesis, like this (Hartsock, p. 223).

The first essay should be answered with a roughly four page (typed, double spaced, 10-12 point font, standard margins) paper:

Both Isaac and Arendt/Hartsock present serious challenges to the "faces of power" approach of Steven Lukes. Explain and assess Hartsock/Arendt or Isaac's critical perspective on the Faces of power debate. How might one defend the faces of power theorists from the criticisms of Isaac and/or Hartsock/Arendt? Would such a defense be successful? Why or why not? Be as clear and specific as possible about both the nature of the criticism and the responses. (70 points possible)

The second essay should be answered with a roughly two page (typed, double spaced, 10-12 point font, standard margins). Choose one of the following two options.

Option A: "Georg Simmel offers an important alternative to the Marxist and Weberian views on the nature of power, one that has important implications for the study of power relations in society." Give a defense of this statement--what is significant about Simmel's theory of power? Why does it present and attractive alternative to Marx and/or Weber's conception? (30 points possible)

Option B: Do the philosophical formulations of essentially contested concepts, as put forth by Gallie and Connolly, help or hinder our ability to study and better understand the concept of power? Be as clear as possible about the way this approach helps or hinders this project. (30 points possible)

A final note of instruction: While you can go over the page limits above if necessary, the total length of your exam should not exceed seven double spaced pages. Any material beyond the seventh complete page will not be graded.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Thursday's reading

Thursday's reading is "Beyond the Three Faces of Power: A Realist Critique" by Jeffrey Isaac. It is in the Journal Polity, volume 20, Issue #1, Autumn 1987, pp. 4-31.

It can be found, like the Bachrach and Baratz articles, in JSTOR.

I recommend logging in to the library from the off campus proxy (if you're off campus) and selecting databases, and choosing JSTOR.

The easiest way is to choose "Browse" and select the journal by title and go straight to the issue, but it's easy enough to craft a search to find it as well.

The three dimensions of power

Some discussion for this week:

Tuesday, 1/31 the Third Face of Power

1) How does Stephen Lukes propose improving on the first two faces of power?

2) According to Lukes, the 3rd face of power allows us to consider the how some might enthusiastically and earnestly participate in their own oppression. How does this work? What methodological issues does this raise?

3) How do we know what someone's "real" interests are? What is wrong, according to Lukes, with just asking them?

4) Does Lukes expand the concept of power too far, so as to include influences that are freely adapted? How can we tell if, say, a consumptive choice is freely chosen?

5) Is Lukes developing the notion of power and prestige developed by Simmel?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Getting Thursday's readings

To get Thursday's readings by Bachrach and Baratz, follow this process:

Log onto the library homepage and select "JSTOR" under research databases.

Choose advanced search.

Put the words Bachrach and Baratz in the first search window, and limit search to Author in the journal "American Political Science Review"

They are the first two results. Here is the full citation information:

"The Two Faces of Power," Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz, The American Political Science Review v. 56 no. 4 (December 1962), p. 947-952.

"Decisions and Non-Decisions: An Analytic Framework," Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz, The American Political Science Review v. 57 no. 3 (September 1963), p. 632-642.

Simmel, next week

I didn't post on Simmel, so feel free to send your Simmel questions and comments here.

This coming week, we turn our attention to the study of power amongst political scientists in the 1950's and 1960's, including Robert Dahl and his "second face" critics.

The first "face" of power is represented by Robert Dahl. Nice, short, easy readings for Tuesday to make up for Parsons.

What I'd like to do on Tuesday is, first, make sure we're all on the same page and have a good understanding of the first face model of power, as described by Lukes and using Dahl as an example.

Then I'd like to consider the following issues:

1) Assumptions (including unstated assumptions) of this view of power

2) Strengths of this approach

3) Weaknesses of this approach

4) Normative implications of this approach

We'll do something very similar for The second face on Thursday.

I'd like to see an online discussion get started. Use this thread to post your comments on any of the above issues regarding the first face of power and Dahl's approach. I'm particularly interested in your thoughts on his strengths and weaknesses.