Foucault’s Concept of ‘Discourse’ vs. Ideology

Michel Foucault and Karl Marx are some of the greatest scholars and philosophers whose ideas continue to guide and reshape human life. Foucault defines discourse as:

“Systems of thoughts composed of ideas, courses of action, or practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which people speak.”

He identifies it as statements that make it for people to offer or describe a particular political issue or subject within a specified period. Consequently, the reader realizes that his definition of the concept tries to make it a tool for framing knowledge and talking about a given topic. He argues that all subjects will only have meaning when examined from the notion of discourse. This becomes the right tool for pursuing social and political power. Marx presented the concept of ideology as a form of knowledge the elite promote to “reinforce their oppressive tendencies or power.” According to him, it is a concept those in power pursue to continue exploiting members of the lower class or proletariats. When a person develops a similar lens, it becomes possible to develop new beliefs and values for transforming society.

Although discourses and ideologies might be different, they still have specific meanings and similarities that make them powerful tools for reshaping or studying society. The first similarity is that they will be spread, acquired, improved, or changed through the use of talk and text. People will pursue discourses and develop certain ideologies depending on their goals. The second one is that the two present a unique way of thought for establishing a specific understanding of a particular issue or subject matter. The third outstanding similarity is that discourse and ideology would work synergistically in order to guide more people to advance their perceptions and opinions. This happens to be the case since an individual’s views about a specific issue emerge from the established social norms or practices within a government community. Without discourse, it would, therefore, be impossible for a certain group of people to develop specific ideologies and pursue most of the emerging challenges or questions in their respective societies or countries.

These two concepts have specific differences that analysts and scholars need to take into consideration. First, discourses are usually pursued as a tool for framing knowledge or truth, while ideologies are mainly aimed at pursuing authoritative power. Second, discourses will guide human thoughts and ideas in a given community. However, ideologies will become the beliefs or values a given capitalistic society tries to share. Discourses become meaningful approaches for analyzing a wide range of issues, occurrences, and events in a particular society. Ideologies tend to be developed and organized in accordance with the schemas or goals of those in positions of power. A proper understanding of the above differences and similarities between discourses and ideologies can make it easier for analysts and members of the community to apply the two terms efficiently. The end result is that they will pursue them accordingly in an attempt to achieve most of their goals in life.

Removal Request
This essay on Foucault’s Concept of ‘Discourse’ vs. Ideology was written by a student just like you. You can use it for research or as a reference for your own work. Keep in mind, though, that a proper citation is necessary.
Request for Removal

You can submit a removal request if you own the copyright to this content and don't want it to be available on our website anymore.

Send a Removal Request