i have been very interested by the exchange on foucault?s use of grid of
intelligibility and even more so regarding the ill-understood concept of the
respectfully, i would have to disagree with colin gordon?s assertion that
foucault had little ?intellectual investment in the term 'dispositif'?
although he is undoubtedly right that ?The point was the kinds of phenomena
he wanted to use it to identify and describe.? those ?phenomena? tended to
coalesce around power and foucault endeavoured to take his analysis beyond
conceptualizations of power as either residing in the state and juridical
forms or as determined by the mode of production. hence the importance of
david mcinerney?s comment: the dispositif must be understood as a concept.
briefly, i would argue that the ?dispositif? is in fact a key foucaultian
concept, and one that has been literally ?lost in translation? for
english-language interlocutors. i am in the midst of writing my doctoral
dissertation and the ?dispositif? is central in my attempt to move beyond
the western marxist grid of ?ideology? in the discipline of communication.
of course, to date the most compelling case made for the importance of the
dispositif is made by gilles deleuze in his article ?what is a dispositif??.
the dispositif facilitates an ??analytics? of power? that understands power
as expressive and productive, as opposed to that which represses or
mystifies??a power to say no?. in short, for an analysis of power which
?cuts off the king?s head.? ?history of sexuality v1? marked foucault?s
first widespread deployment of the dispositif. he did so not only to analyse
the emerging form of biopower, but ?to show how deployments of power
(disposotifs de pouvoir) are directly connected to the body.?
the dispositif marks a conceptual shift away from the thoroughly discursive
?episteme.? simply stated by foucault, the dispositif is a ?thoroughly
heterogeneous ensemble? of discursive and material elements, including
?discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws,
administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and
philanthropic propositions? among myriad others.
conceptually, the dispositif places us in the middle of what deleuze calls
?a multilinear ensemble composed of heterogeneous lines? with power,
knowledge and subjectivity comprising the major variables. it is the complex
set of relations of these dispositifs which allows us to see and speak,
establishing grids of intelligibility, and, in the process not producing
?ideology? but their own ?truths?. to paraphrase michael hardt, ?dispositifs
constitute the horizon of the world (the limits of our thought and action)
expressing the weight, corporeality and power of being?. yet it is important
to remember that the dispositif arose from a conceptual crisis for
foucault?to break out of the conceptual trap of power as domination. thus
the dispositif rejects ?unbreakable and definitive contours? which
hermetically contain subjectivities to which we are interpellated tout
court. instead dispositifs always leak; processes of subjectification
therein can be lines of flight; and one is not beholden to the ?truth?
produced. thus, for me at least, the dispositif can be read in affinity with
italian autonomist marxists, for whom, within power-knowledge relations,
resistance always comes first. if this notion seems interesting to anyone, i
have a related published article on ?the italian foucault? at
i think the dispositif offers new possibilities for both a political reading
of foucault and conjunctural analysis. others seemingly think so as well.
for example, jason read?s new book ?the micropolitics of capital? utilizes
the dispositif. as well, i have a paper on the dispositif under journal
review that i would be happy to forward to anyone interested.
as a postscript, in regards to kevin?s question on ?society must be
defended?, in the original ?il faut défendre la société? it is ?grille de
intelligibilité;?. in the original, ?dispositif? is employed by foucault, on
pp. 13-4 , and on p. 39; in smbd, this is translated respectively on pp. 13
& 45 as ?power-apparatuses? (dispositifs de pouvoir) and ?apparatuses of
domination? (dispositifs de domination).
school of communication
simon fraser university
On Tue, 07 Sep 2004 05:27:03 -0400 foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> As a small suggestion, when in doubt it is always useful with Foucault
> to look at the specific context or contexts and the working practice
> in which a term is used and deployed.
> The word dispositif in F is used in different places in relation to
> sexuality and also to security - and has troubled translators in both
> I don't personally think there is much sign he had any particular
> intellectual investment in the term 'dispositif'. The point was the
> kinds of phenomena he wanted to use it to identify and describe.