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Intro to Political Theory FINAL PAPER
Choose between the following four options:
1) POWER IN MANY FORMS:
FROM SOFT DESPOTISM TO DISCIPLINE AND CONTROL
In the above quote from his Democracy in America, Tocqueville is struggling to describe a new kind of power emerging in the new form of society he examines with both fascination and concern. He does use the concept of “soft despotism” repeatedly throughout the book, yet at this late point of the text he wonders if this is an adequate descriptor of democratic society’s power. More than a century later Foucault argued that a new economy of power had emerged with modernity: he stressed “discipline.” Deleuze then built on this claim to add that “discipline” was now transforming, and that “control” was becoming prevalent.
Compare and contrast “soft despotism,” “discipline,” and “control.”
Drawing from Foucault and Deleuze, would you say that Tocqueville’s fears have been justified since he wrote Democracy in America?
2) INDIVIDUALISM, THE INDIVIDUAL SUBJECT, DIVIDUALS
In Democracy in America, Tocqueville worries about “individualism” in democratic society, yet he underscores “self-interest properly understood,” which in his view promises to be a healthier notion. On the other hand, Foucault problematizes the individual and argues that disciplinary power “individualizes and totalizes.” He writes:
“It is not that the beautiful totality of the individual is amputated, repressed, altered by our social order, it is rather that the individual is carefully fabricated in it, according to the whole technique of forces and bodies” (217).
Deleuze adds that the society of control inaugurates yet other kinds of subjects, namely what he calls “dividuals:”
“Individuals have become ‘dividuals,’ and masses, samples, data, markets, or banks. … The disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energy, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network.” (Deleuze, 6)
Engage two of the three authors in a critical discussion, around the following question: to what extent does the individual subject emerge from and to serve a disciplinary economy of power?
“I think that the type of oppression threatening democracies will not be like anything there has been
in the world before; our contemporaries would not be able be able to find any example of it in their
memories. I, too, am having difficulty finding a word which will exactly convey the whole idea I
have formed; the old words despotism and tyranny are not suitable.” (Tocqueville, 805)
3) POWER, KNOWLEDGE, EDUCATION
What is the relationship between the disciplinary society and the sciences of man for Foucault? Can you read Tocqueville’s call for a “new political science” from a Foucauldian perspective? What did Tocqueville have to say about knowledge, and intellectual pursuits, in the democratic society? In what sense does Foucault go further in his critique? Deleuze underscores data, flows of information, etc. In what ways do the developments that took place since Foucault and Deleuze wrote, like Twitter, the blogosphere, social media, continuous information channels, etc, alter the way we know what we know?
Each author at least mentions education, with various levels and depths of critique. Tocqueville criticizes America for valuing only vocational education though he praises the U.S. for providing education to many, while Foucault compares schools to prisons, and sees both, along with the factory, the hospital, the family, as oppressive disciplinary institutions. Finally Deleuze denounces control qua “perpetual training.”
Discuss the relationship between power and knowledge drawing from the three authors. Discuss also the relationship between a given economy of power and the form schooling takes in it.
Critically reflect on what it means to take an exam, or an online class, or to write this paper, and make your own argument regarding education, building on, drawing from, and perhaps critiquing the three authors.
How might you transform this problematic disciplinary or control endeavor in one that might make you more autonomous?
4) STREET ART, NORMS, RESISTANCE Comment on these graffiti from a Foucauldian and Deleuzian perspective:
Emphasize: norms; repetition; pace, rhythms and temporalities of discipline; institutions.
Is this graffiti, because it is graffiti and thus a disobedient form of art, also a form of resistance to the fabricated freedom it and Foucault denounce? Is Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish a form of resistance to the normative system, the disciplinary society it describes? What might be the role(s) of critique, philosophy, and art in a disciplinary society? How and where does Foucault see resistance (last part of the book)?
– Do not include your name on your paper, only your Panther ID number.
– Make sure to indicate the prompt number you have chosen, at the top of your paper.
– Create an original title for your paper: do not merely copy the prompt title, but try to write
a title that both catches your reader’s attention and at the same time gives a clear idea of the
problem you’ll discuss.
– Your paper must be between 7 and 8 pages.
– Double-spaced, 12 point font, Times New Roman, one inch margins.
– You must include citations where appropriate (anytime you paraphrase or comment on an
author’s insight, and everytime you quote – note that quotes are different than citations: if you do not know the difference, make an appointment with someone at the center for excellence and writing).
– Due date is December 8th at 4:30pm. You will have to bring a stapled, hard copy of your paper to your T.A. Garrett Pierman. Please his mailbox: it is located on the fourth floor of the SIPA building. If you cannot locate the TA mailboxes, ask the staff at the department’s front desk or any other faculty/staff member. They will be happy to assist you.
– No extensions will be granted unless you document of absolutely exceptional circumstances occurring during most of the time you have to write the paper. In this event, please contact your instructors immediately. If you do not face such circumstances, any lateness will be sanctioned with an “F” for the final.
– This final paper counts for 30% of your grade in this course, as indicated on the syllabus. The 8 Commandments of Theory Writing
– Thou shalt understand, analyse, critique:
This final exam requires that you demonstrate good reading comprehension and a careful analysis of the texts, but it will also require that you to take an original, critical position on contemporary political matters, drawing from and responding to the texts.
– Thou shalt distinguish:
Be very attentive to the differences and distinctions between each author’s respective positions and concepts. Tocqueville and Foucault are interesting to discuss together as they share some common questions, but they do not formulate these in the same ways, and their political and philosophical positions are drastically different, sometimes incompatible, in some respect, while they converge in a couple of aspects. Always emphasize differences and disagreements more than commonalities.
– Thou shalt be precise:
Always try to be as rigorous, precise, and specific as possible. Whenever you make a given claim, consider possible claims that would refute it. Develop every claim you make in detail. Structure your argument. When you comment on a given passage (especially when dealing with
the quotes provided in the prompts), always determine how that passage is situated in the overall text, how and to what extent it must be contextualized in a larger argument.
– Though shalt take copious notes for a close reading, before composing
Use the hand-out “SSAACC” on Blackboard and the study guides, to re-read the texts looking for material that addresses your topic, and put together abundant notes before you even start composing an outline and thinking of what your argument will be.
– Thou shalt structure your reasoning and arguments:
Do not free flow write everything at the last minute before due date. Plan your outline carefully. Make sure that each paragraph and each section supports the main claim(s)/addresses the main problem(s) explicitly. Try to think of all the possible counter-claims you can, for each assertion you make. Refute these carefully and clearly, or use them to nuance your own claims. Support and elaborate upon each claim. Only once you have taken lots of notes, as suggested in the commandment above, should you start thinking of your outline. And only once you’ve written a detailed outline, should you start writing. And only once you’ve finishing writing the whole development, should you write your introduction and your conclusion.
– Thou shalt not propose a program, thou must critique and ponder instead:
You are not writing a policy memo. Instead you should try to “stay with the trouble.” This is what philosophy does best: pose critical problems, especially where there would seem to only be self-evident, given, obvious, taken for granted, matters. Elaborate on the questions posed in the prompt you have chosen, and pose new ones from there. Work the key concepts and develop a discussion of how the authors understand these. You should not seek to arrive at a conclusion in the sense of a “solution,” or an answer to questions like “what is to be done?” Instead, your goal should be to leave your reader wondering what to think on even more issues than you even started with.
– Thou shalt forget you are writing to be graded by a teacher:
Do not write with your professor or your T.A. in mind as your audience. Instead, imagine you are explaining, critiquing and commenting these various authors so that a curious and smart undergraduate student who has not read these texts would be able to follow your reasoning.
– Thou shalt transform and challenge your own self:
In fact, not only is the goal here that you are able to articulate a careful and rigorous argument that challenges even the most seemingly self-evident truths, a skill that you’ll enjoy at future thanksgiving dinners, but most importantly, you should come out transformed by the experience of writing this … So really, ultimately, you are writing for your own self, to think thoughts you’d never suspect you could think. And then the challenge is to make those intelligible to others, so that you can spread the trouble.
If you feel dizzy by the time you are done, that’s most likely a good sign.
Think hard and enjoy!
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