Koray Velibeyoglu
Ph.D. candidate at Izmir Institute of Technology, February,1999


In this section the essence of post-structuralism will be explored through the similarities and differences between the post-structuralists and the masters of modern philosophy and also abstract profiles of some post-structuralist thinkers will be cited.

1. The Basis of Post-structuralism

In the field of philosophy the post-structuralist wave struck Paris after 1968 and produced "a rage against humanism and the Enlightenment legacy" (Harvey, 1990) During these last thirty years post-structuralists have made some very important additions to human understanding. Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Lyotard and others have produced an impressive body of work. (Sarup, 1993)

I. Post-structuralists' critics on the basis of Modern Philosophy

To M. Sarup, there is a critique of the human subject by Post-structuralists. Also there is a massive attack on the thoughts of western philosophy under the great influence of Nietzsche. (Sarup, 1993)

Renaissance idea of free, emancipated individual is expressed in Descartes's works. To many critics Descartes (1596-1650) is admitted as the "father of modern philosophy." He used his famous "method of doubt" to show that he could not doubt the existence of his mind. As doubting involved thought, and thought needs a consciousness to think it, Descartes was sure that he could not doubt his mind existed: "I think therefore I am" (cogito ergo sum) (Jones, 1998) Here the Descartes's "I" assumes itself to be fully conscious, and therefore self-knowable. (bilen özne) In Descartes's philosophy individual is in the center of the universe. On the other hand, both structuralist and post-structuralists wanted to dissolve the human subject (traditionally the focus of philosophical thought as the place of experience, morality, choice and will) as the center of being. Leading structuralist Levi-Strauss stated that "the ultimate goal of the human sciences is not the constitute man but to dissolve him." (Sarup, 1993) Foucault contra Hegel

Hegel describes history as a dialectical movement toward the realization of the "Idea," the logical power of divinity, through "Reason," as "Spirit." He sees history as a worldly manifestation of philosophical absolutes. Human subjects are thus subjects of history to the extent that they manifest a "will to Spirit," and this "will to Spirit" is itself an historical inevitability.

Unlike Hegel, Foucault does not take the individual as a given. On the contrary, for Foucault, the individual is not an instrument of the Idea but an "effect of power." Foucault wrote: "The individual is not to be conceived as a sort of elementary nucleus, a primitive atom, a multiple and inert material on which power comes to fasten or against which it happens to strike... In fact, it is already one of the prime effects of power that certain bodies, certain gestures, certain discourses, certain desires, come to be identified and constituted as individuals." (Tribe, 1993) It would seem that power takes a similar in Foucault's theory that the Idea takes in Hegel's. The operative terms (power and Idea) are both universal and pervasively productive. Power, for Foucault, produces knowledges, histories, subjectivity much as the Idea, for Hegel, is the driving force of philosophy, history and the individual. To M. Tribe crucial differences are that;

Foucault contra Marx

Jean Paul Sartre, one of the leading existentialists in French post war left-wing intellectual movement, described himself as Marxist and indicated that Marxism is the unbreakable notion of our century. (Jones, 1998)

Marx rejects Hegel's idealism and replaces it with an empirical materialism. He describes history as the total of lived relations between and among classed subjects. Like Foucault, Marx begins his analysis of history with observation of solid phenomena and institutions. Marx's principal project can be described as a replacement of religion by science as the principal means of explaining the world.

Scientific method emerged during the Enlightenment as a process of testing hypotheses through the execution of repeatable and verifiable experiments. Marxist analysis, then, is a scientistic project in that its method shares with science a grounding faith in the utility and reliability of the empirical. But Foucault sees his project (genealogy of knowledge- bilginin soykütügü-) as a resistance to the effects of science on knowledge.

Unlike Marx Foucault's approach was anti-scientific. Although Marx and Foucault share an historical methodology their relation to science is distinct. A major distinction between them is:

In sum, Foucault's relation to Hegel on the one hand and Marx on the other is simultaneously one of similarity and difference. However Foucault did not so much build his project on the work of these German forerunners.

II. Nietzsche: The forerunner of the Post-structuralists

Almost all post-structuralists including Foucault found their inspirations in the philosophy of Nietzsche. For example, while Derrida took Nietzsche's critics on 'truth' and 'meaning' and Foucault borrowed Nietzsche's concept of geneology as the basis of his works.

Nietzsche is critical of philosophy since the Greeks and of Christianity. He says that we have separated two important aspects of ourselves: The "Dionysian" (celebratory and unconscious) and the "Apollonian" (conscious and rational). It is only when the creative individual expresses his will to power by synthesising these elements the he can progress. Nietzsche is critical of any philosophy that claims to show us a final "truth". To him there is no single physical reality beyond our interpretations. There are only perspectives. He wrote:

"What, therefore, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthromorphisms; truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions… coins which have their obverse effaced and now are no longer of account as coins but merely as metal" (Sarup, 1993)
Also in Nietzsche's philosophy the "will to power" is the most basic human drive. He thought that this will to power is a creative force and that human beings will progress to a new level of being.

In short Nietzsche's position can be thought as anti-scientific, anti-rationalist and critical against the thoughts of western philosophy.

III. Structuralism

Structural theories found their inspirations in the are of linguistic. The structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) suggested that meaning was to be found within the structure of a whole language rather than in the analysis of individual words. For Marxists, the truth of human existence could be understood by an analysis of economic structures. Psychoanalysts attempted to describe the structure of the mind in terms of an unconscious.

In the 1960's, the structuralist movement, based in France, attempted to synthesise the ideas of Marx, Freud and Saussure. They disagreed with the existentialists' (varolusçuluk) claim that each man is what he makes himself. (Human centric) For the structuralist the individual is shaped by sociological, psychological and linguistic structures over which he/she has no control, but which could be uncovered by using their methods of investigation. (Jones, 1998)

There is extended continuity between structuralism and post-structuralism. However there are also many surprises and contradictions. For example, unlike structuralists post-structuralist did not use linguistics as the basis of their works. (Sarup, 1993)

IV. Postmodernism and Post-structuralism

Post-structuralism and deconstruction can be seen as the theoretical formulations of the post-modern condition. (Jones, 1998) As suggested by Bertens, postmodernism rises from literary-critical origins in the 1950s to a level of global conceptualization in the 1980s. For this reason, although many associate postmodernism with the French post-structuralists (or deconstructionists) such as Derrida, some insist on the distinction between postmodernism and post-structuralism (or deconstructionism) due to the fact that postmodernism has its origin in America in 1950s. The merge of originally American postmodernism with French post-structuralism took place in 1970s. Some suggests that this merge was marked by Lyotard's La Condition postmoderne published in 1979 because he as a French post-structuralist adopted the term postmodern in his book. Bertens suggests that two moments within the post-structuralist postmodernism can be distinguished. In late 1970s, Barthes and Derrida, two French prominent figures from the linguistic circle, attacked on foundationalist notions of language and representation. Barthes's `The death of the author' and Derrida's attack on representation in itself as political act characterize the first moment. (Tribe, 1993)

In 1980s, Foucault spawned the second moment which assumes a reality of textuality and signs, of representation that do not represent. The emphasis is on working of powers because it accepts that knowledge, and languages simply, have become inseparable from power. While the first moment declares the collapse of representation but ignores the question of authorship, the second moment goes further by addressing the question of subjectivity and authorship, interrogating the institutions that support the discourses, and working against the hegemony of any system. This second moment has a far-reaching democratizing influence within cultural institutions and in the humanities at large.

In sum, the postmodern worldview includes many post-structuralist positions. But Barthes, Derrida, Foucault and other post-structuralists have not defined themselves as theorists of postmodernism. In fact, many of them have rarely used the term `postmodern' in their theories. Perhaps, one exception is Lyotard, the only post-structuralist who has played a major role in theorizing the postmodern.

However, the impact of these post-structuralists on the redefinition of postmodernism is significant. On the theoretical level, the post-structuralist practices appeared in all humanities in late 1970s, first in the field of literary criticism and then in the course of 1980s, have filtered into and affected a large number of disciplines, in which their intellectual premises are usually simply called postmodern or postmodernist. Therefore, to some critics there is no need to distinguish between post-structuralism and postmodernism. (Kwok, 1998)

2. Post-structuralist Thinkers

To M. Sarup, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault constitute the leading post-structuralists. They share anti-scientific position and question the status of science itself, and the possibility of objectivity of any language of description or analysis. Their rejection of Saussurian model of linguistics (on which structuralism based) creates a particular difference with Structuralists. (Sarup, 1993) A brief profile of the two, Derrida and Foucault will be given. Also the younger generation of post-structuralists who are influenced deeply by the thoughts of Nietzsche will also be indicated here.

I. Derrida and Deconstruction

For many analysts Jacques Derrida is the most influential thinker of post-structuralism. Derrida developed deconstruction as a technique for uncovering the multiple interpretation of texts. He mostly influenced by the thoughts of Heidegger and Nietzsche. (Sarup, 1993) To B. Agger;
"Post-structuralism refers to the theory of knowledge associated with the work of Jacques Derrida...This perspective suggests that language users do not pluck words out of thin air or thesaurus when trying to convey meaning, fitting them to the objects or feelings being conveyed. Instead, the meanings of words are largely imbedded in language use itself such that how we talk, write, and read largely determines what we end up saying. ... Derrida argues that meaning is forever elusive and incomplete in the sense that language can never perfectly convey what is meant by the language user." (Agger, 1998)
For Derrida, language or 'texts' are not a natural reflection of the world. Text structures our interpretation of the world. Following Heidegger, Derrida thinks that language shapes us: texts create a clearing that we understand as reality. Derrida sees the history of western thought as based on opposition: good vs. evil mind vs. matter, man vs. woman, speech vs. writing. These oppositions are defined hierarchically: the second term is seen as a corruption of the first, the terms are not equal opposites.

He thought that all text contained a legacy of these assumptions, and as a result of this, these texts could be re-interpreted with an awareness of the hierarchies implicit in language. Derrida does not think that we can reach an end point of interpretation, a truth. For Derrida all texts exhibit differance: they allow multiple interpretations. Meaning is diffuse, not settled. Textuality always gives us a surplus of possibilities, yet we cannot stand outside of textuality in an attempt to find objectivity.

In deconstruction certainty in textual analyses is impossible. There may be competing interpretations, but there is no uninterpreted way one could assess the validity of these competing interpretations. (Jones, 1998)

II. Foucault and Post-structuralism

Despite his structuralist label some commentators saw Michel Foucault as one of the most important representative of the post-structuralist movement. However Foucault himself rejects all the labels associated with his position. To Megill, "Foucault regards himself as a critic and ontologist, but his ontology is the ontology of his own language, and he views criticism not in the conventional sense of a project design to bring us to the haven of understanding, but in the post-structuralist sense of to put into crisis." (Megill, 1985)

He agreed that language and society were shaped by rule governed systems, but he disagreed with the structuralists from two points. Firstly, he did not think that there were definite fundamental structures that could explain the human condition and secondly he thought that it was impossible to step outside of discourse and survey the situation objectively. (Jones, 1998)

III. Younger Generations of Post-structuralists

French thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Jean -François Lyotard and others constitute the younger generation of post-structuralists. These younger post-structuralists take place in leftist tradition and their inspirations come from German philosopher Nietzsche. For example Lyotard who had been a left-wing militant for a long time denounced the Soviet Union and turned to Nietzsche's ideas.

On the other hand, Deleuze rejects both Hegel's dialectical method and Marx's materialism and sees Nietzsche the first real critic of Hegel and dialectical thought. Deleuze also deeply interprets both Nietzsche and Foucault in his works. Foucault mentioned from Deleuze with compliments. In this context, Deleuze's position in the post-structuralism will shortly be cited here.

Deleuze and Guattari in their books Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia have taken three concepts, 'desire', 'production' and 'machine' From Freud and Marx. Then they constituted a new idea derived from these concepts: "we are desiring machines." In Anti-Oedipus (they use this title because of their anti-Freudian ideas), writers try to emphasize the nature of desire (dèlire) and its social character. Against the present tendency of privatization of desire they offered the personal is the political. To them there is no separation between personal and the social and the individual and collective. (Best and Kellner, 1991)

They describe two different type of desire: paranoid and the schizophrenic and based on these description constitute the main forms of society as the fascist (authoritarian) and revolutionary (libertarian). Both Deleuze and Guattari are against the domination of any ruling class on the society. In this context, they are agreed with Foucault's idea of 'power'. Foucault, Deleuze, and Guattari also attack to master narrative and mastercode of Marxism. These all three theoreticians see Marxism as an interpretative system that inevitably transforms itself into an instrument of political and physical domination. (Sarup, 1993)

In sum, all post-structuralists thinkers share some critical grounds. Firstly, they are all found their roots in Nietzsche's philosophy. Secondly, they share with Nietzsche an antipathy to any grand system. Thirdly, they are aware of the increasing pressure towards conformity and are highly critical of this tendency. Lastly they denounce science and any totalizing beliefs in the name of the spontaneous and the particular.


Michel Foucault is one of the most influential thinkers in the field of philosophy today. In this section, Foucault's personal profiles, his major works, and his concepts and ideas will briefly be discussed.

1. His Life

Foucault (1926-1984) is, arguably, the greatest social philosopher of this century. He is a French philosopher, who attempted to show that the basic ideas which people normally take to be permanent truths about human nature and society change in the course of history.

Foucault was born in Poitiers. He studied philosophy and psychology at the elite École Normale Supérieure in Paris. During the 1960s, he served as head of the philosophy departments at the University of Clermont-Ferrand and the University of Vincennes (officially known as the Vincennes Experimental University Centre). In 1970 he was elected to the highest academic post in France, the College de France, where he took the title of Professor of the History of Systems of Thought. During the 1970s and 1980s his international reputation grew as he lectured all over the world. (Merquior, 1986)

2. Foucault's Methodology: Archeology and Genealogy

Foucault was not a social theorist. He did not concern to create a social theory that would "explain" or "interpret" the history of the West in terms of "power." He was not a historian of ideas. He presented himself as an "archaeologist," who must be content with describing the invisible cultural formations that, he believed, produced the visible social and literary evidence he examined. He sought the conditions of possibility of discourse, the rules which governed the putting together of statements, and the ruptures in formations where novelty could appear. He wrote: "Archaeology tries to define not the thoughts, representations, images, themes, preoccupations that are concealed or revealed in discourses; but those discourses themselves, those discourses as practices obeying certain rules." (Horus Publications, 1998)

As M. Sarup points out that Foucault is against the any form of global theorizing. He has great rejection on the systematic approaches. But instead he used archeology and genealogy in his works. Foucault borrowed genealogy, that is an effort to delegitimize the present by separating it from the past, from Nietzsche and he described his conception of history as geneology (soykütügü). Therefore he detached past from the present and tried to prove us the objectiveness of the present indicating the foreignness of the past. (Sarup, 1993)

3. His works

The main influences on Foucault's thought were German philosophers Frederick Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. Nietzsche maintained that human behavior is motivated by a will to power and that traditional values had lost their power over society.

Heidegger criticized what he called our current technological understanding of being. Foucault's thought explored the shifting patterns of power within a society and the ways in which power relates to the self.

He investigated the changing rules governing the kind of claims that could be taken seriously as true or false at different times in history. He also studied how everyday practices enabled people to define their identities and systematize knowledge; events may be understood as being produced by nature, by human effort, or by God. Foucault argued that each way of understanding things had its advantages and its dangers.

Foucault's thinking developed through three stages:

In all the books of his last period Foucault (Later Foucault) seeks to show that Western society has developed a new kind of power he calls bio-power; that is, a new system of control that traditional concepts of authority are unable to understand and criticize. Rather than being repressive, this new power enhances life.

I. Madness and Civilization

In this book Foucault looks at the history of medicine and mental illness and the discourse surrounding them. 'Madness' for example has not always been a 'medical' condition. Foucault argues that the cure for leprosy in Medieval Europe left the buildings used to confine lepers empty.

These circumstances provided a place to put 'mad' people - out of this grew asylums and therefore psychiatrists and over time 'madness' became described as 'mental illness'. The 'mad' before this were not ill, they were possessed by spirits or simply seen as the 'village idiot'.

On the other hand, in Madness and Civilization, Foucault states the definition of the "other"; and why it is important for the "other" to exists. To him "madness" is the other of the "knowledge." The "other" is both subject and object of the abnormalities that are perceived to threaten modern, civil societies - the "other"" is the standard for normality. (Hewett Univ. Guide, 1998)

II. The Order of Things

In The Order of Things, Foucault describes the emergence of human sciences (psychology, sociology and literature) and diciplines. The changing pattern of the linguistic, work, and knowledge is analyzed from Renaissance to Modern. (Merquior, 1986)

In this book Foucault argues that in certain empirical forms of knowledge such as biology, psychiatry, medicine etc., the rhythms of transformation do not follow the continuist schemas of development which are normally accepted. (Sarup, 1993)

In the very beginning of the book Foucault explains design as the essence of Classic Episteme and describe it with an artwork: Spanish painter Velasquez's Las Meninas. (Nedimeler tablosu) In this composition while Velasquez illustrates himself looking to the observer the real models, Spanish King and Queen, are portrayed as a loose silhouettes reflected from the mirror hanging on the back wall. (Fig.1.) Here the real subjects (King and Queen) are kept hidden. Foucault determines this as a symbol of the design: a knowledge in which the subject is secreted. (Merquior, 1986) To Foucault, this also reflects the withdrawal of the central role of the subject. (öznenin merkezsizlestirilmesi) This picture is the only one that the signifier is being signified. (bakanin bakilan olmasi) From this point Foucault begins to write 'the order of things'.

[Las Meninas]

Fig.1. Las Meninas, Velasquez, 1656, (Prado Museum, Madrid)

III. Discipline and Punish

In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison Foucault concerns the nature and role of the prison. This work is an attack on the prison system. But more importantly, it is an unmasking of the disciplinary nature of modern society, of which the prison is only one institutional manifestation. (Reginald at al, 1998)

Foucault is convinced that transformation from antiquity to modernity is the switch from a civilization of spectacle to a civilization of surveillance is one of the key components. This transformation from spectacle to surveillance is most clearly embodied in two particular forms of punishment: the scaffold (daragaci platformu) and the panopticon. (gözetleme evi) (Laughlin, 1998)

In this major work, Foucault identifies Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon as a metaphor for and effect of the distributions of power in eighteenth century France. To him, "The Panopticon... must be understood as a generalizable model of functioning; a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men." (Tribe, 1993) He sees the Panopticon as a technology of power: "In Discipline and Punish what I wanted to show was how... there was a veritable technological take-off in the productivity of power." (Tribe, 1993)

Foucault detects the repressive turn in Enlightenment practices toward surveillance and control. In the authoritarian system of enlightenment power is institutionalized and became the domain of a social ecosystem. (Harvey, 1990) "The gaze that sees is the gaze that dominates." This gaze (surveillance) as Foucault remarked can be seen in the architecture of Bentham's Panopticon or in the lens of the camera. (Telephobia, 1998)

Bentham, in his 1791 publication of Panopticon or Inspection House, offered a plan for the perfect prison in which there was to be constant inspection of both prisoners and keepers. His ideas helped give rise to the maximum security prison. Foucault describes Bentham's panopticon in detail:

"…The principle was this. A perimeter building in the form of a ring. At the center of this, a tower pierced by large windows opening on to the inner face of the ring. The outer building is divided into cells each of that traverses the whole thickness of the building. These cells have two windows, one opening on to the inside, facing the windows of the central tower, the other, outer one allowing daylight to pass through the whole cell. All that is then needed is to put an overseer in the tower and place in each of the cells a lunatic, a patient, a convict, or a schoolboy. The back lighting enables one to pick out from the central tower the little captive silhouettes in the ring of cells. In short, the principle of the dungeon is reversed; daylight and the overseer's gaze capture the inmate more effectively than darkness, which afforded after all a sort of protection." (Foucault, 1977) (Fig.2)
[Bentham's Panopticon]

Fig.2. Panopticon (Inspection House): In this circular building of cells no prisoner can be certain of not being observed from the central watch-tower, and so the prisoners gradually begin to police their own behavior. (Sarup, 1993)

This new mode of power, as M. Sarup suggests, can be called as panopticism that was predominantly used in schools, barracks and hospitals. In Foucault's Discipline and Punish Sarup pays attention to the resemblance between the Panopticon (the all-seeing) and the Christian God's infinite knowledge. Another parallel that she indicates is between the Panopticon and the computer monitoring of individuals in advanced capitalism. (Sarup, 1993)

According to Foucault, the machinery of the worldwide communications network constitutes a kind of camouflaged Panopticon. Recent developments in telecommunications, along with other new means of collecting personal information give Bentham's image of the Panopticon great contemporary significance. (Marx, 1996) The panoptic metaphors of Bentham and Foucault are re-invented in the technosphere in the form of electronic "agents," digital security systems, genetic screening, satellite imaging technologies with imaging capability of less than one meter resolution from 35,000 miles in "space," SkyCam news networks with robotic cameras surveying for crisis. In short more than a panoptic metaphor but a transoptic one in which the invisible threat of the gaze is welcomed as a symptom of containment and stability. (Fig. 3) (Telephobia, 1998)

[Panoptic eye]

Fig.3. Telecommunications network as the camouflaged Panopticon. Source: "The Eye of Power" at

On the other hand, some writers criticize the Foucault's metaphor about the impacts of panoptical systems upon the informational society. Mark Tribe wrote: "Discipline and Punish isn't about the present, and it would be a mistake to employ the figure of the Panopticon to describe contemporary social space." Then he continued "In the Panoptic regime, power is concentrated in a center that exerts control over the periphery through an apparatus of visibility. Those on the periphery internalize the controlling effects of the gaze, policing their own behaviors and desires. With the net (Internet), power is no longer centralized: it offers a structure without a center and periphery." (Tribe, 1993)

4. Basic terms and ideas in Foucault's Philosophy

The terms genealogy, discourse, essentialism, power/knowledge, repressive, hypothesis, subject, discipline, panopticon have remarkable significance in Foucault's terminology. However in most of his work a special emphasize will be given to these two terms: Discourse and Power. (Sarup, 1993)

I. Discourse (Söylem)

"Discourse in Foucault's vocabulary is an authoritative way of describing. Discourses are propagated by specific institutions and divide up the world in specific ways. For example, we can talk of medical, legal, and psychological discourses. Literary criticism is also a discourse, as is the terminology associated with grading." (SOU Guide, 1998)

II. Power/Knowledge (Güç/Bilgi)

Foucault's idea on Power/Knowledge is discussed in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). His concept of this aspect of archaeology displaced the human subject from the central role it played in the humanism dominant in our culture since Kant. Consequently, the withdrawal of the central role of the human was illustrated as 'objects of disciplinary knowledge' in Discipline and Punish (1975)

He asserted that power produced and controlled the epistemology, theoretic structure, and taxonomy of formal knowledge, the cultural codes by which groups acted out their roles, and the voluble social discourses between diverse ethnic groups and classes of modern society (heterogeneity). Foucault's radical project focused to the complete historicizing of scientific knowledge and of human cultures.

Foucault said that by "power" he did not refer to the pressure based on police power with which a ruling class suppresses other classes. Power had to be positive as well as negative. Power had to create new forms of behavior, new modes of self-understanding, and new codes of meaning, as well as restrain behaviors opposed to a ruling class. He said that power is like war, and power is like language. To D. Lacombe, "Foucault's notion of power is better understood as a 'mechanism for life' that includes strategies of self-development that both constrain and enable agency." (Lacombe, 1996)

III. His Vision of Society

Foucault established his analyses around three social constructs, as if he believed these societies shared some unity: class or caste, command economics, and the state. Using the three concepts of class, command, and state, Foucault characterized different Western societies in similar terms. These features were present all periods, but they became stronger in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. All societies have classes All societies were hierarchically organized. All states were administrative. All had administrative collective institutions (army, hospitals, etc.) that completed the will of the state. Social behaviors were produced in institutional settings in which behavior was regulated by "systems of power", and in which persons were brought to see themselves as "subjects" of the regulation. The major problem of government was power and the organization of power. He saw the "state" as co- extensive with "society."

Foucault rejected all of the major Western traditions of social and economic interpretation of the West of the past three hundred years. Foucault believed that seeing Western society as the product of "power" made it impossible to see the West in terms of freedom. Since all Western social theory has been based on assumptions of the real meaningfulness of freedom, Foucault could not use them. Therefore his story of the West is not the story of freedom. (Horus Publications, 1998)


Social theorist D. Harvey suggest that some poststruructuralists' concepts like Lyotard's "local determinism" and Foucault's "heterotopias" offer multiple possibilities within which a spatialized "otherness" can flourish. (Harvey, 1990) Otherness has very significant role in the rhetoric of postmodern thinking and postmodernism wants to preserve a sense of 'concrete otherness' within models of equality rather than to focus on similarity. (Benhabib, 1992)

In this section, while Foucault's term heterotopia is deeply investigated there will be given references to the some concepts: hetero-architecture, heteropolis and so on.

1. Foucault and Heterotopia

According to Michel Foucault heterotopia is the place for the otherness. In other words Foucault's concept of 'heterotopia' implies the 'other' space.

Unlike utopias, which are 'fundamentally unreal spaces', heterotopias are 'counter-sites', a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found in the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. At this point, Foucault offers us the term "heterotopology" as a systematic approach that analyzes and describes the features of other spaces. He examines the basis of heterotopology into six main headings:

Firstly, Almost every culture in the world has made its own heterotopias. In this context, Foucault cites that there would not be the certain, universal heterotopia norms. However, he categorize them as two different main category:

First type of these heterotopias is the crisis heterotopias (kriz heterotopyasi). In primitive society they are privileged or sacred or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and the human environment in which they live, in a state of crisis: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women, the elderly, etc. Some of these places have persisted in modern society, such as the boarding school or military service for young men.

In contrast to these "crisis heterotopias", Foucault claims that the dominant forms of heterotopias today are "heterotopias of deviation" (sapma heterotopyalari), places like 'rest homes, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons': all are institutions for people excluded from mainstream society.

On the other hand, Foucault assumes asylums as places where these two types of heterotopia are being together. They include a "crisis heterotopia" because elderliness is a crisis; at the same time is a "heterotopias of deviation" because idleness is a kind of deviation in modern societies.

Second principle is that, in one society, any existing heterotopia can be practiced in a very different ways in a certain historical periods. Foucault takes cemeteries as an example of this principle. Cemeteries have always existed in the western tradition. However they have been transformed through over time. Till the end of 18th century cemeteries were placed in the center of the city and very near to the church. However beginning with the early 1800s burial grounds have moved to the outer areas of cities because of the locus for some epidemics. Consequently cemeteries lost their functions as holy and immortal center of the cities and became 'other city.'

Third principle: In a one real basis heterotopia can superimpose several spaces actually that can never being together. Related to this principle, Foucault gives traditional Iran gardens in eastern culture as an example. These gardens could be perceived as the series of superimposed places each have deeper meanings on their own. They were the smallest parcels of the world and at the same time were the idealized models of it.

Fourth principle is related to time. First example that is given by Foucault is the museums and libraries that are the "heterotopias of collected time." (Biriken zamanin heterotopyasi) "Both the library and museum have the effect of recording the past and depicting geography while breaking with it. The reduction of the past to a representation organized as a display of artifacts (books, paintings, relics, etc.) is just as formalistic as the reduction of geography to a set of displays of things from far-off places." (Harvey, 1990) The idea of establishing museums included the collections, achievements and arts of all historical periods but protected itself from the destructive effects of time. To Foucault museums and libraries are the heterotopias of the 19th century Western culture. The heterotopias in the second category are the polar opposite to the "heterotopias of collected time". They reflects the discontinuity and temporally and are belong to the present time. Polynesian style holiday resorts, circuses, festival spaces, fairs etc. are the examples of these kinds of heterotopias.

The fifth principle: Heterotopic space is not a freely entering place as public places. Either there is an obligatory entering to the place as in barracks and prisons or individuals must pass from some religious ablutions and ceremonies before come in. In Muslim baths purification is occurred for both religious and hygienic reasons.

The last principle described by Foucault is that heterotopias those singular spaces to be found in some given social spaces whose functions are different or even the opposite of others. To Foucault some 17th century Puritan societies in America were produced the most extreme examples of other spaces: a realized utopia, a rigidly planned settlement that symbolizes the sign of Christianity, and a mechanized order of communal life. (Foucault, 1988)

I. Homotopia versus Heterotopia

Homogeneous space of grid has always been used from the cities in the Greek and Roman civilizations to the utopic plans of masters of Modern Movement as a tool for boundless extension and regularity. The necessity for homogeneity, a necessity the character of which is both constructional and ethical, defined the ordering sensibility of Modernism. To architect D. Porphyrios this is the sense of homotopia: "This is the kingdom of sameness; the region where the landscape is similar; the site where differences are put aside and expansive unities are established." On the other hand, "heterotopia will now seek to destroy the continuity of syntax and to shatter the predictable modes of the homogeneous grid."(Porphyrios, 1978)

In the "Order of the Things", Foucault indicates similarities and varieties in the concepts of 'discriminatio' and 'convenientia.' In his vocabulary, discriminatio refers to the activity of the mind which no longer consists in drawing thing together, but, on the contrary, in discriminating, that is, imposing the primary and fundamental investigation of difference. On the other hand convenientia refers to adjacency of dissimilar things, so that they assume similarities by default through their spatial juxtaposition. (Porphyrios, 1978) Then we will see the duality between such terms: homotopia/heterotopia, similarity/variety, homogenity/heterogenity.

II. Heteropolis

To Foucault, heterotopias exist without any doubt in a society and give way to otherness. Otherness, from the Foucauldian points of view, opens a door to variety than plurality. In this context, heterogenity is the dominant characteristic of postmodern utopian thinking, and especially of heterotopia.

In the postmodern architecture and urban design Charles Jenck's strategy of "double coding" is intended to preserve differences within a new on a higher level. (Ellin, 1996) This system based on the emergence of variety, heterogenity and equity in the urban scene.

According to Jencks; Architecture of an open society must articulate opposite opinions and listen to both sides. The principle of double coding is essential to a dialogic which is open ended and oriented to a future world. The enjoyment of difference and a variety in a city makes it necessary that one respects and furthers the 'otherness' one finds gives something back to the pre-existing heterogeneity.

In this sense Jencks introduced Los Angeles as the future of Heteropolis: "Difference and heterogeneity exist at many levels and this pluralism is itself a major reason why people continue to be drawn to Los Angeles." (Jencks, 1993) As Jenks states that with over one hundred different ethnic groups forty different lifestyle clusters, eighty-six languages spoken in the schools of L.A. and more animal diversity than in other cities of the United States. To him, Los Angeles either develops a love for pluralism and becomes the self-conscious heteropolitan city or it will die from social struggle. As generalized all global cities in the world will face these problems in near future. (Jencks, 1993)

Here come back again to Foucault space is fundamental in any exercise of power. There are movements when one always has some power over others, power over one's own body and parts of the local environment. Then, the idea of heteropolis can only be established with the love of difference (heterophilia) which respects the otherness cultural variety and heterogenity.

III. Foucault's Power Concept on Architecture and Urbanism

Systems like prisons, hospitals and asylums are the source of Foucault's thought on 'disciplinary power' and architectural space is an indispensable factor of these systems. His discussion of power, space and systems as the object of systems of social control traced the relationship among them from the end of the eighteenth century.

He stated in 'Space, Knowledge, and Power' (1980), referring to the concepts of power and space that architecture became political at the end of the eighteenth century with the power of the government. (Rainbow 1980) According to him, architectural space at the end of the eighteenth century in relation to the power of the government had a major role to express and practice governmental rationality. Spatial distribution in the city planning, in terms of displacing collective facilities, hygiene and private architecture, is an expression of the rationality of the government and, through that, the government established orderly, efficient control of the city and its territory. The same principle governing spatial distribution of the city applied to the state.

Therefore, space and its resultant power is controlled and arranged by the government. However, in the early nineteenth century, with the development of technology, particularly railway and electricity, and the failure of spatial distribution of government rationality caused by persisting urban problems: revolts, epidemics, spatialization of the city and the state etc. These negative factors weakened the dominance of governmental power and spatial issues that is the prevalent concern of architects and urbanists were altered by technicians, like engineers, builders and polytechnicians who can control 'territory, communication and speed. (e.g. Spanish engineer Arturo Soria y Mata's Linear City)

A new idea of society emerged with the failure of governmental rationality and the development of technology. The spatialization of the eighteenth century to govern people in the state is now shifted to deal with new variables of territory, communication and speed and, according to Foucault, 'these escape the domain of architects.' (Dreyfus 1982) The society is not necessarily so spatialized as the state, because the remoteness between places within the state is overcome by the railroads and, therefore, communication between places is much easier than before. Consequently, there are 'changes in the behavior of people.' The changes in behavior refer to, as Foucault quotes from a theory developed in France on the railroads, increasing 'familiarity among people' and developing 'the new forms of human universality.' In the development of the new forms of human universality, unlike the state that relies on spatialization of the territory, 'the society is not necessarily so spatialized.' The new relationship between power and space is formed based on the society, not on the state. (Dreyfus 1982)

The shift of the possession of power from the state to the society was described by Foucault on human science (such as psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics and medicine) which is closely connected to the society. He states:

"The goal of my work during the last twenty years has not been to analyze the phenomena of power, nor to elaborate the foundations of such an analysis. My objective, instead, has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects" (Dreyfus 1982)
Therefore, Foucault's interest in the subject causes him to investigate 'forms which are the distinctive feature of modern practices of control over the transformation of subjects' through 'the systematic linking of the categories of power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.' (Hirst, 1992)

For the test of the hybrid of power-knowledge, Foucault introduced 'disciplinary power' of prisons, hospitals, schools or asylums. Disciplinary power, he maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects. In relation to knowledge tied to systems and human beings as objects of disciplinary knowledge, Foucault introduced Panopticon that was mentioned previously. (See Discipline and Punish in Chapter B) Foucault selected Bentham's idea of Panopticon to explore his concepts on power-knowledge. He saw that space was arranged to carry out disciplinary power through knowledge of surveillance.

Then Foucault claimed that architecture by arrangements of space could determine activities of people through allocation, canalization or the coding and their relations. Arrangements of space, therefore, implicate the presence of power to carry out such activities. (Hirst, 1992)

Arrangements of space for the activities may need an order and this order becomes a hierarchy of spatial arrangement in architecture by power that is obvious to a society and embodied in their cultural codes. According to Foucault, a military camp is an exceptional example, 'where the military hierarchy is to be read in the ground itself, by the place occupied by the tents and the buildings reserved for each rank.' He then continues, 'It produces precisely through architecture a pyramid of power' Consequently, to Foucault 'power transforms those who subject to it, and it uses knowledge as resource of doing so' as seen in the example of Panopticon. (Hirst, 1992)

The mechanism of power-knowledge is understood by arrangements of space, because power required space as a catalyst to activate its appearance. As Rainbow suggests that Foucault's ideas on power-knowledge and space give references to spatial arrangements in architecture as well as in urban design that are based on a hierarchical order of itself and the order in it refers to the presence of power (Rainbow, 1980)


Foucault rarely expresses clear statements on his arguments. His works is fully based on long historical descriptions of concepts (archeology of history) which seemed to me largely confusing. Despite my clearness on his some subjects I will try to express my personal accounts on Foucault in terms of my field of interest. Simply his two basic concepts will be highlighted: power relationships, and his thoughts on space. On the distribution of power Foucault states; Old models of power always tend to argue that exclusively dominant groups in society hold power. For example for Marxists, power can only be exercised by the rich ruling class who owned the means of production. On the other hand, for feminists, power is something holds by men.

These kinds of models distribute power between some interest groups whose identifications are very distinctive: the ruling class or workers, male or female and so on. However from the Foucauldian points of view power is not possessed by certain groups of people or interest groups. Instead, power is something that can be used and brought together by particular people in specific situations. In this sense, power will not depend on specific groups or identities.

In this context, two things can be indicated: Firstly, power is not owned by any social classes therefore we have rights on the shaping of our urban spaces that are interpreted by Foucault as a system of containers of social power. To reconstruct the power relationships means the reorganization of the urban space. With the magic of power many urban fantasies can be established or destroyed within the same span of time. Individual has power over the rules of any resistance. To shape our urban environments according to our basic needs and desires we should organize our living environments with the 'creative use of power'.

Second is around the otherness. Foucault did not attack the choices of others, but the rationalizations that they added to their choices. A genealogical criticism does not say, "I am right and the others are mistaken," but only, "the others are wrong to claim that they are right." (Wayne, 1998) Foucault is offering us a kind of social agreement which people can respect to each other's rights on the urban scene. 'The love of difference' is a notion that what Foucault tries to set up. At the same time the celebration of heterogeneity and a possible modern utopia or heterotopia in which the "otherness" can grow.

Despite our multicultural identity and historical diversity Turkish culture, consequently our contemporary urban environment is ordered consciously on the basis of sameness and homogeneity. The richness of genealogical codes of our culture is fully ignored. The resultant form of this is the loss of identity and boredom urban fabric that is wowed by the monotony of any urban regulations.

Being an urban designer, urban planner or architect we should reconsider our urban environment as the hybrid forms which reflects our cultural diversity, richness and identity. Perhaps, this kind of heterogeneity may find its inspirations in the excellent order of old Turkish urban quarters in where the variety of ethnic groups give their own colors to their spatial arrangements.


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