The story we tell ourselves about the history of democracy is that we evolved from a dark past where power reigned absolute to a state of checked violence and a shared understanding of the value of a human being. Despite its flaws, modern democracy is proof that we are here for a reason and share a destiny: freedom. But in order to achieve this goal of freedom, we consent to give it up, per the social contract. What does it mean to consent to be governed? Is such consent actually possible, or does it simply clear the path for state bureaucracy and violence to expand deeper into our private lives? If the purpose of history is liberation, why are we using it to justify the modern expansion of power?
In this Olio, participants wrestle with the relationship between democracy and freedom. We begin with Foucault’s assertion—that the shift from monarchy to democracy doesn’t just signal the diminishment of power, but rather the disappearance of power—and go on to analyze his most celebrated and provocative lectures from the series “Society Must Be Defended,” in which he argues that our goal is to make power visible, to make “windows where there were once walls.” The session will also examines Foucault’s suggestion that we build a democracy to secure our most basic pleasures.
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