About powerfoundation

There emerged only one word, like a message written with invisible ink, ready to appear on the page when the right chemical is added; and that word is power — Michel Foucault

Founded in 1997, powerfoundation has had many iterations to date, but the essential focus has always been power.

Inspired by the work of French political and social philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984), powerfoundation was initially a loose collective of activists, thinkers and artists engaged in the anti-globalisation movement. The goal was to set that movement within a broader context of struggle against dominating institutions and rationalities that, ascending from local problems, give rise to what Foucault called a “general method,” or a strategic field within which political and economic technologies unfold.

After 2000, partly because of the infiltration of the anti-globalisation movement and increasing state violence at protests, peaking in Genoa, both of which discouraged reflection and a deepening of the anti-globalisation effort, powerfoundation laid mainly dormant. It became what it remains now: a repository for essays and ideas from that period, and a placeholder for a project yet to be fully realised.

Power, properly understood, remains for us the essential lens through which to approach all social and political reality; which is to say our lives, the permissions and prohibitions on our conduct, and the societies in which we find ourselves. Following Foucault, by “power” we do not mean simply political office or the effect of amassing capital. These things in and of themselves are inconsequential if power and power relations are not operational. Power, rather, is a complex but largely regular interaction between the governed and the governing, between owners and workers, between the delinquent and punitive institutions, between law and those who are subject to law, between notions that have an historical trajectory, unfolding in wider strategic environments, and everyday life where political technology acts on live populations, and individual bodies and minds.

Power is an historical question, which is to say it takes particular forms, complex and evolving, related to strategic and technical horizons, unfolding within dialectics of order and disorder, buried deep within established presumptions and spaces of silence. Unless we understand the history and evolution of systems of power, we are lost in the face of the evolution of micro and macro fascisms that define the parameters and everyday production of human individual and communal life. To be concerned with power is, in our view, the baseline of free and open thinking, and is a task and responsibility for all of us, if presence is to mean anything, and if the worst effects of violence, intolerance, belligerency and ignorance are to be confronted.

To be concerned with power is necessarily to be concerned with the State, with the police, with work, with constituted limits to reason, with health, with cities, with nations, with world orders, and — indeed — with the entire horizon of human life, amid the mundane and the infinite.


Founder, Dr Ian Douglas
August 2010