His work i believe is great with Biology and Psychiatry etc. since it elucidates how humans are turned into subjects, but how does he reject grand theories derived from Physics which simply describes objective reality as it can be empirically measured and demonstrably shown to exist via experiments ? How do epistemes subjectify physics ? What dominant discourses of power can be hidden in physics ?

1 Answer 1


It depends.

If you are talking about fundamental physics, the object of that program is to boil out any cultural, societal, religious or political content from the sought-after description of the universe so that anyone anywhere will obtain the (same) correct answer to any given question they could pose about the universe. In this sense, there is no power discourse content in fundamental physics.

If you are talking about paying for fundamental physics, the tools required to get those answers are extremely expensive, which excludes all but the most wealthy nations (or in some cases individuals) from the practice. Power relations then determine who gets to host the tools and operate them, even in wealthy nations (see for instance the history of the defunct superconducting supercollider in the US).

If you are talking about training people to design, operate, and interpret the results from those tools, then power relations play a key part in the sense that the schools where the relevant subjects are taught are highly specialized and furnish no immediately useful results to help communities. Decisions on who builds the school and who is allowed to attend it are value-laden, subjective, and controlled by power discourse.

If you are talking about which individuals are qualified to participate in this field, an effortless and entirely natural mastery of the most abstract and subtle mathematics known to humanity is a necessary prerequisite, since the truths of the universe are written in the language of mathematics. Because it relies on people with these extraordinary gifts, the practice of fundamental physics has been criticized as elitist, ableist, and fundamentally exclusionary (all of which criticisms I fundamentally reject as nonsensical).

  • And if you are talking about the idea that the truths of the universe are written in the language of mathematics, that is also a power relation. Mathematics is clearly of value in engineering and similar pragmatic disciplines. Whether it is useful in describing unobservable phenomena is, and always will be, a matter of unprovable opinion. Mar 7, 2022 at 2:27
  • @DavidGudeman, as far as astrophysics and particle physics are concerned, my assertion about mathematics is indeed true. what in the world does that have to do with power relations? and regarding the "unobservable", *predicting the "unobservable" * (i.e., predicting the existence of a new subatomic particle 10 years before the means to make it observable exists) is the stuff of Nobel prizes. Mar 7, 2022 at 5:11
  • "predicting the unobservable" means that someone used mathematics to predict that they would find a certain curve on a photographic plate if they did a certain experiment. What that represents is what is decided by power relationships. Mar 7, 2022 at 5:24
  • @DavidGudeman - But consider the physical reductionist hypothesis (expressed by Einstein here for example) that the behavior any physical system whatsoever, including the Earth and all the people living on it, could in principle be predicted given knowledge of its initial physical state and the laws of physics governing the evolution of arbitrary physical states. Do you think Foucault would see this as definitely wrong, or meaningless?
    – Hypnosifl
    Mar 7, 2022 at 16:20
  • I think he would see it as an exercise of skill, "much like prostitution" in his words (by that, he was not using prostitution in a negative sense, only as an example of skill that would shock his readers). In other words, he would claim that they may be right, but they aren't showing a grasp of truth, only a grasp of how things work in their specialization. Mar 8, 2022 at 0:03

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