LX:6 | Foucault's Objective

My objective for more than twenty-five years has been to sketch out a history of the different ways in our culture that humans develop knowledge about themselves: economics, biology, psychiatry, medicine, and penology. The main point is not to accept this knowledge at face value but to analyze these so-called sciences as very specific "truth games" related to specific techniques that human beings use to understand themselves.

As a context, we must understand that there are four major types of these "technologies," each a matrix of practical reason: (1) technologies of production, which permit us to produce, transform, or manipulate things; (2) technologies of sign systems, which permit us to use signs, meanings, symbols, or signification; (3) technologies of power, which determine the conduct of individuals and submit them to certain ends or domination, an objectivizing of the subject; (4) technologies of the self, which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.

These four types of technologies hardly ever function separately, although each one of them is associated with a certain type of domination. Each implies certain modes of training and modification of individuals, not only in the obvious sense of acquiring certain skills but also in the sense of acquiring certain attitudes. I wanted to show both their specific nature and their constant interaction.  For instance, one sees the relation between manipulating things and domination in Karl Marx's "Capital," where every technique of production requires modification of individual conduct - not only skills but also attitudes. (17-18)


Martin, Luther T., Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton, eds. Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault.  University of Massachusetts Press 1988.

See Also

Lexicon Entries

Transition from the Ordinary Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical
The Notion of Liberation
Principle of Incompletion
Relations of Power
A Fundamental Quality of an Act
Training of the Self By Oneself

Works and Days






Tags: Michel Foucault

Recent (Lexicon)

  • 1
  • 2