Michel Foucault presents two perspectives in the understanding of power. The disciplinary power is based on the delegation of authority by sovereigns to execute power on their behalf. However, sovereign power is wielded by societally recognized power agents like kings and princes. The key emphasis is placed on the efficiency of the disciplinary power due to its invisible nature. In addition, Foucault analyses the development of the religious form of control among the Catholics and the Calvinists. Central to Weber’s understanding, religion has been used as a means of formal rationalization of authority control. Foucault perceives confession among the Catholics as playing a major role in the control of modern societies and disciplinarity. Solidarity, according to Foucault, emerges as the result of the situation people find themselves in. He argues that it emerges due to political concern. The paper reviews these perspectives of religion and solidarity as postulated by Foucault. In addition, it analyses the salient features of the form of power presented by Foucault. Michel Foucault Distinguishes between Sovereign Power and Disciplinary Power.
What are the Essential Elements of Each Type of Power?
Foucault perceives sovereign power as being expressed by conventionally acknowledged means and through known individuals. This includes the prince, kings, and their agents who Michel Foucault refers to as “nodes”. The individuals have known agencies of power both by society and at the individual levels. The sovereign power is characterized by law enforcement and punishment and instituting taxation (Foucault, 1975). Further, they also engage in the building up of armies in times of war. The implication of this type of power on the subject has definite causation. The effects of the operation of the sovereign power can be determined. This is done in terms of causation and the agency of power execution. The sovereign power experiences wider societal resistance due to its blatantly visible nature of implementation structures.
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On the other hand, disciplinary power is exercised by the subordinates of the sovereign authority. They are power agents who represent the sovereign authority. They can either conduct daily transactions in their capacity or under sovereigns’ rules (rule-based authority). This form of power is inherently less visible than sovereign power (Foucault, 1975). The focus of disciplinary power is to augment the visibility of the subject as opposed to the power. The invisibility of the disciplinary power facilitates less resistance and enhances its pervasiveness. In terms of its efficiency, the disciplinary power achieves greater success due to limited resistance. Further, the inability to verify the potentiality of the disciplinary power is an impetus for its totalizing power. According to Foucault (1975), the ability to determine the source of power is relative to the impacts on subjects.
How would Foucault Interpret Weber’s Distinction between Catholicism and Calvinism?
Foucault focused his critiques on confession among the Catholic Church. He analyzed the requirements imposed for public confessions as emerging from monastic life requirements. This is contrary to Protestantism that advocates for private and personal confessions. According to Foucault (1975), these forms of confessions are used in uniting Christians in religious communities. The rising number of these Christians led to the development of monasteries. These monasteries provided spiritual guides who performed confessions, the evaluation of inner conscience, and penance. This form of organizing the lives of monks has become a predominant part of the modern order system. Foucault (1975) perceives that confession has transcended Christians and religious rituals to a means of disciplining society as a whole. Foucault (1975) also perceives disciplinarity as rooted in the basis of confessions. Individuals were forced to provide information through confessions by fear and torture. This is a primary foundation of discipline in modern societies according to Foucault (1975).
The doctrine of predestination on whether one would go to heaven or hell was at the center of the Calvinists’ beliefs. They believed that an individual’s fate could not be changed, which contributed to the idea that successful business was the only salvation. This sense of ethical responsibility to invest money was complemented with abstinence from individual pleasure. This is what Max Weber refers to as the Protestant ethic, and he attributes it to spiritual capitalism. The monasticism in Catholicism was an impetus for capitalistic activity (Weber, 2002). According to Weber (2002), the Catholics were assured of salvation if they complied with the church authority and took the sacrament. Later reformation led to the departure from the belief of these assurances and people searched for new signs.
How would Foucault Assess Durkheim’s Distinction between Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity?
In Foucault’s school of thought, individuals are not united by group or individual self-consciousness as Durkheim asserts. They arrive at their knowledge based on the inherent situations they find themselves in. Situations that exist and emerge in society define solidarity in Foucault’s view. Further, he argues that the solidarity among the people in society is based on a political concern (Foucault, 1975). This is contrary to Weber’s mechanical solidarity, where unity and a low level of connectedness are based on similarities. The norms established in society define morality in mechanical solidarity. Further, it is focused on the fundamental groups in society, including family and community. This form of solidarity could exist when individuals were engaged in similar activities. There is a general acceptance of common consciousness and agreements in sentiments and beliefs (Durkheim, 1933, p. 63).
Foucault postulates solidarity-in-difference of political agencies as the prerequisite from unitary political action. This evaluation negates the basic proposition of specialization as the epicenter of modern organizations. In Weber’s view, organic solidarity is a high level of connectedness based on specialization and dependency on one another. The scope of society in this form of solidarity is bigger and it possesses high moral and material density. The law plays a central role in the regulation of morality. In addition, the development of individual personality augments this function. Therefore, in Foucault's view, solidarity in society is oriented along with political activities. The people unite based on political interest as their main impetus. Hence, the significance of specializations in Foucault’s view is not a major facet of solidarity.
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Democracy is perceived as being facilitated by the bureaucratic systems that enhance control through authority over others willingly. This is essential in Weber’s understanding of the rise of modern democratic societies. In this school of thought, Max Weber and Lenin agree on bureaucracy as primarily the center of their inquiries. Both assert that the establishment of bureaucratic organizations is the result of deteriorating leadership capabilities of political parties and parliaments. Further, they argue that bureaucratic systems tend to promote the establishment of capitalism. This is done through the promotion of the capitalistic class interests fostered by bureaucracy. However, they defer mainly to the future of bureaucratic domination in the development of modern societies. The paper addresses the significance of bureaucracy in the development of democracy. Further, it evaluates the different perspectives postulated by Lenin and Weber.
What are the Elements of This Bureaucracy and what is Its Relation to Democracy?
In his school of thought, Max Weber postulated bureaucracy as permanently inherent in society. The idea was mainly influenced by formal rationality. It focuses on the decisions of taking action usually regulated by rules and laws. People with power exercised authority and control over others. The persistent existence of people having control over others is an impetus to having bureaucracy in society. Bureaucracy is defined by a hierarchical structure based on unitary decision-making. It involves a system of rules that foster control of those in power. According to Weber (2002), lower hierarchies’ stratification is based on specialization and appropriate skills. The bureaucratic systems serve the interest of the owners or stockholders. The fidelity of the subjects in the bureaucratic structure is to those in authority - the people vested with power and authority upon them.
Weber’s contributions to rationalization and bureaucracy were central in understanding democracy. The democratic perspectives greatly resonate with the ideals of bureaucracy. The ability of people to be controlled and dominated by the systems they have created is essential in Weber’s view. He perceives this state as irrational and it should be rationalized to foster legitimate bureaucratization. Religion plays a central role in the development of bureaucratic (capitalistic) states. In the context of democracy, bureaucracy ensures that the most appropriate and qualified individuals acquire authority over others. These individuals are motivated by the zeal to serve others over their self-interest. In addition, limited consideration is given to personal issues, and formal norms are prioritized. The advent of bureaucracy serves to the breakdown down the existing social classes and disparities.
How would Lenin Criticize Weber?
Lenin centers his criticism on Weber’s perception of bureaucratic domination. In Lenin’s view, these forms of domination are necessary for the maintenance of class rule. He perceives domination as being responsible for the capitalist rule of the bourgeoisie. In his school of thought, Lenin perceived bureaucracy as an avenue for careerists to advocate their gain. The notion has led to the conception that the opportunism of bureaucracy can be resolved by kicking out careerists (Lenin, 1918). This was counterproductive since, according to Lenin (1918), the old bureaucrats transformed and reintegrated into the system. He advocated the abolishment of bureaucracy as postulated in the State and Revolution. Lenin (1918) argued that bureaucracy was parasitic and later developed an antidote for this form of parasitic bureaucracy. In his proposal, he advocated the rotation of administrative tasks, limiting salaries of key officials, and introducing elective principles (Lenin, 1918). He asserted that bureaucratic states (capitalistic) had to be “smashed” for socialism and pure communism to develop.
It is fair to say Lenin appreciates the importance of Weber’s organizations and bureaucratic systems. However, he perceives these bureaucratic systems as avenues for the decision-making for workers. The cyclic nature of bureaucratic systems renders revolution a hard concept to institute. Therefore, it is contrary to the permanent outlook placed on bureaucracy in modern society by Weber. The significance of the future perspectives of bureaucracy by both Weber and Lenin is key to the antagonistic view. Lenin’s pessimistic view is geared towards the abolishment of bureaucracy, while Weber places it at the epicenter of modern societies.
In Turn, how would Weber Respond to Lenin?
In response to Lenin’s advocacy for the abolishment of bureaucratic systems, Weber uses religion to assert its permanence in society. He argues that a system of intimate sentiments attached to particular religious groups is used to rationalize the bureaucratic system (Lenin, 1918, p. 23). Religion necessitates the central role of maintaining resistance against the bureaucratic systems. This is contrary to Lenin’s belief that the ultimate aim should be to abolish bureaucratic systems and institute communism.
Max Weber was against any form of socialist ideas. In his school of thought, the imposition of authority by those in power is inevitable. He ignores the relevance of the struggles between those in authority and the influences in the bureaucratic systems. This struggle was a major consideration in Lenin’s argument against capitalism and bourgeois domination. Contrary to Lenin’s view, Weber (2002) perceives bureaucracy as being fostered by modernization. There is a departure from the age of human good to the new era of the bourgeoisie. Further, he considers the inherent ability of a human being to be subjected to and punished by the systems they established. This is what he refers to as irrationality mainly motivated by religion.
The separation of the state and bureaucratic systems domination is essential in responding to Lenin’s critiques. Max Weber perceives that state and class relations have been radically continent. He postulates the state has been independent with its structures of dominance and control. This inherent view is a true reflection of Weber’s view of bureaucracy as a permanent facet of modern life. The inevitable nature of bureaucracy is the essential facet of Weber’s arguments.