Power and Agency

Explore power dynamics through in-depth analysis of influential thinkers, like Marx, Weber, Freud, Lacan, Adorno, Gramsci, Foucault, etc.

How do ideologies and other forms of social control maintain social imbalances? How does domination occur when there is no clear dominating agent? In what way and to what extent can we have agency as members of powerful social institutions? What are some ways in which technological forces control our everyday lives? Who has power and who gets to resist? These are some of the questions that we will tackle in this course. This course will complement earlier courses like Political Philosophy and Ethics by offering students yet another set of frameworks to diagnose crucial contemporary problems as well as to explore different families of solutions. The broad problem the course will be structured around is how social forces – rather than individual agents – can be loci of power. We’ll examine the mechanisms whereby power is instantiated in cultural practices such as language and religion, the spheres of economics and politics (separately and together), in knowledge production, and the unconscious. We will try, also, to understand ways in which the exercises of power can be both oppressive and emancipatory.