In this essay, Foucault’s principal interest is how power diffuses itself in systems of authority and how it affects of truth are produced within discourses which in themselves are neither true nor false. Truth itself is the product of relations of power and of the systems in which it follows, it changes as system changes. There are certain systems in society. So, the system is formed of many individuals, so it is a group power. Therefore, he doesn’t focus on any individual power. Under the system, society possesses some knowledge.
By using such knowledge, the society (people) creates discourse (literature). We speak of the ideas we want. We produce speeches, we write books, newspaper etc. This process is discourse formation, and whatever is produced it is discourse. But this discourse consists of representation power and truth. Representations have different forms: written and oral, audiovisual etc. Power is circulated through different forms of representation. Now this very represented power creates certain truth to everyone who is under the system.
It means, power determines the truth and as soon as the system of society changes the truth also changes. It means, Foucault’s discourse is related to the production of any information that provides knowledge. Once the discourse is created, knowledge about some aspect of life is provided. Thus knowledge helps create truth. But, Foucault himself admits that such truth is neither true nor false. The power is generated in society by producing the discourses, and by constructing truths. Such power is creative. Marxist power is just political and economic whereas Foucauldian power is applicable everywhere.
It operates in horizontal way (everywhere) other than Marxist power that goes in a vertical axis (from upper class to lower class). In Foucauldan power there is always check and balance. In terms of power, Marx has created hierarchy but Faucault has ruptured the hierarchy. It means there is equality in the case of power distribution. For, instance, people exercise power in choosing the president or PM, who exercises his power over people by making certain rules and regulations. So the power has relational relationship.
If there are no people, there is no PM, and if there is no ruled, there is no ruler. In this way, relational relationship indicates the horizontal way of power. But this very power is accepted in society and the acceptance is the outcome of our constructed truths. For example, parents create certain discourse about their children what they should do and should not do. By generating power through discourse parents even beat their children if they disobey. So, discourse provides information to give knowledge about the things. The truths are constructed and power is created.
If the power changes through certain resistance, truth and knowledge also get changed. The power is pervasive (everywhere) that occurs in all social bodies. In society, the normal is defined viewing abnormal. If one goes mad, he is excluded from society and his voice is not listened because normal people have power over abnormal people. Normal people have certain truth knowledge about madness and they behave accordingly. Therefore, power is accusing in society in a subtle way. Power/ knowledge functions through language. Power, therefore is everywhere and keeps on changing.
Because of new forms of power that were generated in society the issues of homosexuality, lesbianism, feminism and other minorities get a new definition in the course of history. New Historicism New Historicism began with Foucault’s concept of power. Foucault questions the traditional history. The historicists were tied to the historical fact; for them socio-economic circumstances were sufficient to produce human consciousness. In that sense, Marxists are also historicists. It questions the history created by those historicists including Marxist.
For new historicists, old (traditional) history is linear or chronological. It says that the old history is exclusive, it does not include everyone, it rather includes only those who are already in power. It does not talk about those who are not in power. New Historicism says that truth is constructed/fabricated/created. When power changes, the knowledge changes, and truth also changes. Therefore, the truth is changeable. For them, knowledge is independent of perspective. The western people produced a body of knowledge about non-westerners that is merely their perspective.
New historicism even questions materialism. Cultural materialism is a form of domination, but it does not use force. It is an indirect means of controlling the people. Cultural materialists distribute their culture, and make the people speechless. For instance; American gives arm, medicine and economic support, and affects our internal behavior. Gramsci sees another effect of cultural materialism and says that it produces hegemony, the consent of the ruled to be ruled: ruled themselves agree to be ruled. People through hegemony internalize their inferiority.