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Literature – Power and the Subject

Power and the Subject

Power is a misnomer. An attempt to adequately define power will ultimately reveal more about the invisible but all too real limits of language. Such a result may seem horrifying, a direct assault on our sense of reason, and, perhaps, it is. Power resists the reasonable request to adhere to the boundaries of its own definition. Power can and upon occasion does exhibit a quality or intensity observed and captured in the written word; yet there is something slippery which allows power to defy a totalizing description. Power is active. Write as we may, power will not be objectified. Any discourse on power thus begins with this disadvantage. There is much to be learned, however, from a study of power, knowledge more valuable than a simplistic definition. By focusing on where power exists and has existed we can also discuss how power relates to or has impact upon knowledge, ethics, and the individual.

” ‘I mean that in human relations…power is always

present…These relations are changeable,

reversible, and understandable’ ” (McCarthy 139).

Like Foucault, my inquiry into power may be founded not in a desire to discover the true nature of power but to gain a new method of approaching and understanding human relations.

A fundamental question that presents itself in the face of power and demands to be reckoned with is the question of the subject. A concept of the individual, whether seen as a historically bound effect of power like Foucault or an autonomous unique creative force like Habermas, seems to underlie and shape any description, definition, or discussion of power. For the mom…

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…niversity of New York Press,


McCarthy, Thomas. “The Critique of Impure Reason: Foucault

and the Frankfurt School” In Rethinking Power. Thomas

E. Wartenberg Ed. New York: State University of New

York Press, 1992.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “More on Power/Knowledge”. In

Rethinking Power. Thomas E. Wartenberg Ed. New York:

State University of New York Press, 1992.

Wartenberg, Thomas E. “Situated Social Power” In Rethinking

Power. Thomas E. Wartenberg Ed. New York: State

University of New York Press, 1992.

Young, Iris Marion. “The Five Faces of Oppression”. In

Rethinking Power. Thomas E. Wartenberg Ed. New York:

State University of New York Press, 1992.

Common Ground on the Abortion Issue

Common Ground on the Abortion Issue

Is there some common ground which both the pro-choice proponents and the pro-life proponents would find palatable? Presently, the situation in the United States, nearly three decades after abortion became legal throughout the nation, seems to be at an impasse. Canada, presented with abortion (now on demand) throughout that nation four years earlier, has a similar situation. It is obvious that the issue of abortion will not just evaporate or go away. So where can both sides find a common ground for overcoming this seeming impasse?

The obvious fact is that the two sides remain completely polarized. There seems to be no middle ground, no chance for compromise. When one strips the issue to its bare bones, the reason for the lack of middle ground is only too obvious. This either is or is not a living human from conception. This living human either continues to live or is killed. It is obvious that this being can’t be just a little human, or perhaps not human at one point and then human at another. He or she either is or is not. Just as simply there is either life or death. There is no middle ground.

Pro-abortion advocates, who call themselves pro-choice, are unwilling to concede any ground at all. Would they allow passage of laws in either nation forbidding abortion in the third trimester for sex selection, to pick an extreme position? No! they have fought any such attempt.

Would true blue pro-lifers, if they had their choice, allow abortion for pregnancy resultant from assault rape and incest, or for pregnancies when the developing baby is severely handicapped? No, they might be forced into this as a political compromise, and as a temporary measure. But ethically …

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…ernatives to abortion, adoption being an alternative par excellence? Why can’t we cooperate in giving her all the information there is to be given from both sides of this controversial issue? Why not fully informed consent? Give her all the reasons for abortion, but also give her all the reasons for waiting, and most emphatically offer to her all of the constructive alternatives that now exist. If our laws continue to dictate that she be given that choice of life or death for her unborn, at the very least that choice should be a fully informed one. It should not just be informed in terms of technical information. No, it should also be a choice that is made in view of the fact that there is a warm and loving alternative to the technical quick fix of abortion.


Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. Empower America. William J. Bennett.

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