Power and knowledge

holzerabuseThere are famous sayings like “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and expressions like  “power mad” and “drunk with power.” And there’s my favorite, from Jenny Holzer: “Abuse of power comes as no surprise.” The meaning is that we should put limits on power and constantly keep the powerful in check. Don’t let them get too big to fail and all that. I tend to believe these things intuitively.

1984And then there’s that saying “Knowledge is power.” Given my profession, I certainly believe that. But it would seem to be at odds with the other statements about power. That never occurred to me until I read that part in Foucault about knowledge/power relationships (p. 27). Does knowledge corrupt? The story of Adam and Eve and the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which we touched upon in class, might imply that. Things like deception, disinformation and propaganda could be called abuses of knowledge as much as abuses of power. Orwell’s 1984 may have been the ultimate dark view of that knowledge/power relationship.


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2 Responses to Power and knowledge

  1. Okay first of all I love your “url” name. I wasn’t shore what it meant at first until I read the caption on the side of your page. I like “Abuse of power comes at no surprise”, I feel that a lot of time people in today’s time abuse power. People abuse the power that they have in many ways and for many reasons. Putting limits on power is a good idea, so that people won’t abuse the power. My favorite line is, “Knowledge is power”. It represent so many things in so many ways.

    • phb256 says:

      Glad you like the name. I didn’t feel like I could use my real name because there’s comedians and bootmakers and artists and lawyers using it already.
      Foucault articulates relationships between power, crime and justice in some ways I hadn’t thought of before.

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