The Mesh of Power (Michel Foucault, Viewpoint Magazine, September 12, 2012)

We will attempt to proceed towards an analysis of the concept of power.1 I am not the first, far from it, to attempt to skirt around the Freudian schema that pits instinct against suppression [répression], instinct against culture.2 Many decades ago, an entire school of psychoanalysts tried to modify and develop this Freudian schema of instinct versus culture, and of instinct versus suppression – I am referring to psychoanalysts in the English as well as the French language, like Melanie Klein, Winnicott, and Lacan, who have tried to show that suppression, far from being a secondary, ulterior, or later mechanism, which would attempt to control a given or natural play of instinct, constitutes a part of the mechanism of instinct, or, more or less, of the process through which the sexual instinct [l’instinct sexuel] is developed, unfolded and constituted as drive [pulsion].

The Freudian concept of Trieb3 need not be interpreted as a simple natural given, a natural biological mechanism upon which suppression would come to posit its law of prohibition, but rather, according to the psychoanalysts, as something which is already profoundly penetrated by suppression. Need, castration, lack, prohibition and the law are already elements through which desire has been constituted as sexual desire, and this implies a transformation of the original notion of sexual instinct, such as Freud had conceived of it at the end of the 19th century. It is then necessary to think instinct not as a natural given, but as already a development, as already being a complex play between the body and the law, between the body and the cultural mechanisms that assure the control of persons…..

from Pocket

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