18 Pages

Introduction: museums, power, knowledge

At the end of his interview with Alessandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino on the subject of truth and power, Michel Foucault puts forward a few propositions to clarify the political implications of all that he had said before in seeking to detach truth from the idealist freight that had been placed on it as the moment of revelation that accompanies liberation, to insist that it must be understood as ‘a thing of this world’ (Foucault, 1980: 131). Truth, he says, is to be understood as ‘a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements’ (133). As such, it ‘is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it’ (133). Since such ‘régimes of truth’ are not ideological superstructures but material practices, the political task they pose for intellectuals is not one of ideology critique but that ‘of ascertaining the possibility of constituting a new politics of truth’ (133). The problem, Foucault goes on to say, ‘is not changing people’s consciousness – or what’s in their heads – but the political, economic, institutional régime of the production of truth’ (133). Truth is not to be emancipated from power; rather, its detachment from the economic, social and cultural hegemonies within which it currently operates is to serve as a prelude to the production of new regimes of truth which will, in turn, produce their own distinctive power effects. Such is the task to which Foucault summons specifi c intellectuals, urging that they eschew the illusory embrace of a truth and politics beyond power that had beckoned the universal intellectual.