Problematics

“Power is everywhere, not because it embraced everything, but because it comes from everywhere.” For Foucault, power is present on all levels of society because certain knowledges have been legitimized and accepted as true. This leads people to learn to speak in these discourses, which further reinforces them. Power works like this “not because it has the privilege of consolidating everything under its invincible unity, but because it is produced from one moment to the next, at every point, or rather in every relation from one point to another.” Thus Power is a system we’re all constantly participating in by how we talk about things and what ideas we’re willing to consider legitimate, a system into which we are socialized. This is a process of power but not, as the Marxist philosophers had claimed, one in which religious or secular authorities enforce an ideology on the common people like a weight, pressing down on the proletariat. For Foucault, power operated more like a grid, running through all layers of society and determining what people held to be true and, consequently, how they spoke about it. This view has gone on to become one of the core beliefs of applied postmodernism and Social Justice activism today: unjust power is everywhere, always, and it manifests in biases that are largely invisible because they have been internalized as “normal.” Consequently, speech is to be closely scrutinized to discover which discourses it is perpetuating, under the presumption that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or other latent prejudices must be present in the discourses and thus endemic to the society that produces them.  These “problematics” need to be identified and exposed, whether they manifest in a president’s address or in the decade-old adolescent tweet history of a relative nobody. The widespread slang term “woke” describes having become aware of and more able to set these “problematics”. [Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay (2020), Cynical Theories]