Chapter 3 The Formation of Objects - Chapter 3 The...

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Chapter 3: The Formation of Objects Summary Foucault now attempts to give some 'real content' to the notion of 'rules of formation.' He will begin by looking at the formation of objects, using the example of psychopathology from the late nineteenth century onwards (whose objects seem range from major ones like 'madness' to minor, more specific ones like 'sexual aberrations and disturbances' or 'criminality'). The objects of psychopathology arise in different ways, and some get completely erased; all are transformed over time. What rules govern these processes? First, we can consider 'surfaces of emergence,' the fields in which an object first arises. These can be pre- existing fields like family, social group, work situation, etc., each of which is normative to some degree, each of which has developed a 'margin of tolerance' that roughly defines the field by what it rejects (in the present example, by what it deems 'mad'). There are also markedly new surfaces that begin to emerge in the late nineteenth century, such as art (with a new, strict normativity), sexuality (as an observable field of possible deviations), and penality (in which madness and crime become linked for the first time). All of these serve as surfaces of emergence for the objects of psychopathology; they are fields of 'initial differentiation,' whose 'distances, discontinuities, and thresholds' allow psychiatric discourse to define what it is talking about (thereby creating apparently definite objects of discourse). Second, the 'authorities of delimitation' must be considered. Who had the authority to 'delimit, designate, name, and define' objects like madness? What was the structure of their power (both in its organization and in how it was publicly perceived), and what were the processes by which they adjudicated the limits of a given object? Finally, we must analyze 'grids of specification,' the systems by which madnesses were described, separated, and classified (for the nineteenth century, Foucault lists 'the soul…the body…the life and history of individuals…[and] the interplays of neuropsychological correlations,' each system with its own organizing principles). But this picture of the emergence of discursive objects is still only partial, because it fails to address the complexity of the relations between the object and its plane(s) of emergence on the one hand, and between the various planes on the other; none of these are truly separate from each other. To really examine the emergence of discursive objects, our focal point must be not the individual planes of emergence, but their overlaps, tensions, and relations as they give rise to discursive objects.
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