Subjectivation As Process of Becoming a Subject – Transgressing Foucault with Butler

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Hörsaal 45 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Dietmar WETZEL, University of Basel, Switzerland
In a first step, my contribution focuses on the understanding of the subject and power by Michel Foucault that he developed towards the end of his life (especially in its now published lectures at the Collège de France). As it is known, the question of the subject for Foucault has always been connected to power and resistance against the state: "We have to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of this kind of individuality which has been imposed on us for several centuries" (Foucault 1982: 212). A major criticism of this "analysis of the subject/power" has been developed by Judith Butler, mainly in "The Psychic Life of Power” (1997a) and also in "Excitable speech" (1997b). In the former she writes: "Power acts on the subject in at least two ways: first, as what makes the subject possible, the condition of its possibility and its formative occasion, and second, as what is taken up and reiterated in the subject's ‘own’ acting" (Butler 1997a: 14). After having shortly explained Butlers (with Freud) objections against a Foucauldian understanding of subject(ivation)/power, especially with regard to the psychological dimensions of the constitution of the subject, I try to develop in a final step some parallels with the "meaning-constitution" individual subject (A. Schutz). The following questions will be addressed: (1) Where do the two approaches differ from one another, and b) how can they be linked together conceptually – especially when we try to give insights into the complex question of the constitution/construction of the (modern) subject.


Butler, Judith (1997a): The Psychic Life of Power. Theories in Subjection. Stanford.

Butler, Judith (1997b): Excitable Speech. A Politics of the performance. New York.

Foucault, Michel (1992): "The Subject and Power," in: Hubert L. Dreyfus/Paul Rabinow (Eds.), Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago, 208-226.