Can you explain what Foucault means with the term delegated power? The text I'm reading (Frank Nonnenmacher, 2009 - Politische Bildung in der Schule. Demokratisches Lernen als Widerspruch im System) is in the context of disciplinary institutions. There the author describes several features of disciplinary institutions under whom delegated power is one. Since I didn't know the term and found no explanations on the internet I decided to ask.

  • what do you mean by "my text"? Do you mean Disciple and Punish by Michel Focault or something else?
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 13:34
  • I edited the question to remove your name since it is given. You may roll this back or continue editing. As virmaior mentions it would be helpful to state what the text is so someone attempting an answer doesn't have to guess what it is. That would be a good reason to edit the question and add that additional information. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 14:11

1 Answer 1


This extract from Tom Keenan might help :

Individuals, as citizens, have rights and obligations [droits et devoirs] against or in the face of abusive rulers-governments that have attempted to reserve to themselves the power to speak and to act. This nongovernmental citizenry can and must intervene, verbally and actively, and not merely get indignant, against abuses of power: here, in order to assert and to address the misfortune of others (such as the boat people). And that responsibility includes assigning the responsibility for misfortune to governments, no matter how they attempt to account for it, to explain it away, or otherwise to evade it. But another, unprecedented, intervention is also required: actually, effectivement, inventing and undertaking strategies and tactics of acting in international politics, where governments have hitherto at once monopolized and squandered the rights and means to act. Their arrogation of speech and action must be wrested away, by reordering or reinscribing political reality-by claiming the right to do, and doing, what they will not ...

... The citizenry must resist the reduction of others' misfortune to un reste muet, a mute trace or leftover of politics and its calculations. The threat of the double effacement, the chance that misfortune will be left wordless, and not simply the misfortune itself, calls for its active and insistent assertion. "People's misfortune must not be allowed to be a silent remainder of politics. It founds an absolute right to rise and to address those who hold power." Against the possibility of that effacement insists the imperative that it be addressed, a duty to act, to speak, and to write. The gesture of address affirms the right to memory of a future survival, a reste, where it might otherwise be effaced, and its effacement silenced. The name and the trace must be preserved, kept in word and act of memory, so that the people of the name will not themselves be erased in the silent, calculated, oblivion of politics. What remains after the calculation, the remainder of the operation, is misfortune: an unmasterable and unelimlnable remnant that in its stubborn excess "founds an absolute right" and creates an obligation, to respond.

The misfortunate ones, though, have not delegated this noble task or the authority to perform it to anyone, have not ceded their rights or (what remains of) their voices to this committee, have not chosen Foucault or anyone else in Geneva to speak on their behalf. They, and their reasons, are beyond reach. Where is this right "founded," then? In the name of whom or what is it exercised? "Who has commissioned us to do this? No one. And that is precisely what establishes our right." C'est cela justement qui fait notre droit. Personne. Because there is no one, there is a right. The committee (like the other initiatives to which Foucault refers) was never elected, represents no one, has no mandate or authority There is no original owner or possessor of rights, no self- present source here mediated or represented in its (temporary and ultimately accidental) absence. Uprooting the monopoly claimed by those who have been delegated that authority and those rights (we are all already governed), the initiative of the initiatives, their institutive performance, has pragmatically "created," effectivement, this new nght: to speak and to intervene, outside or beyond this logic of delegation, where there is no one. In a gesture not unlike the one Derrda has called a coup de droit, the initiative initiates its "new right," makes or creates it, based on no one: No one "articulates and conjoins the two discursive modalities, the to-be and the ought-to-be, constative and prescriptive, fact and right [le fait et le droit]." No one makes our right. The invention, the intervention, creates the right to intervene, enacts the right to act, initiates the right to initiate. (Tom Keenan, 'The "Paradox" of Knowledge and Power: Reading Foucault on a Bias', Political Theory, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Feb., 1987), pp. 5-37 : 21-23.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. I'm going to read it and give a signal in case of further questions.
    – Rico1990
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 8:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .