Power is not evil

“[L]et us take sexual or amorous relationships: to wield power over the other in a sort of openended strategic game where the situation may be reversed is not evil; it’s a part of love, of passion and sexual pleasure. And let us take, as another example … the pedagogical institution. I see nothing wrong in the practice of a person who, knowing more than others in a specific game of truth, tells those others what to do, teaches them, and transmits knowledge and techniques.”

–Michel Foucault, “The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom,” in Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, quoted here.

Power is not intrinsically evil: both love and pedagogy depend on power relations. The question becomes: how do we bring about a world where power is wielded transparently, with justice, and in pursuit of mutual human flourishing?

Thoughts inspired by this podcast. Image is Chagall.


2 thoughts on “Power is not evil

  1. UM August 29, 2012 / 5:18 am

    Where does this Chagall painting hang? I do not remember ever seeing it.


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