Came across a couple of neat definitions today in McNaly (1994).
Autonomy: “a process in which the interrogation of the established limits identity leads to an increased capacity for independent thought and behaviour (p. 145).” This constant interrogation fights off the individualizing and normalizing effects of power. Foucault retained an Enlightenment notion of which McNaly describes as a state of “positive liberty”: an “individual’s ability to exercise critical judgement free from the influence of dominant beliefs and desires” (p. 144). I wonder what is meant by a dominant belief. How does a belief become “dominant”? Does my belief that I feel tired and need to sleep become a dominant belief that disables my autonomy?
Subject: is subject to another through dependence and this normalising view of the self is tied to a person’s own identity through “conscience or self-knowledge (p. 142).” I think here of the way that psychology and psychiatry create a normalised view of a person, or at least encourage people to become normal. Foucault cringed at the thought of this normalisation and instead wanted scholars to fight normalising power so as to allow for the development of the pure aesthetics of the self.
Freedom from normalising forms of individuality come from exploring the limits of our subjectivity; and these limits can come from our sexuality or any other number of normalising structures. (p. 145)
McNaly, L. (1994). Foucault. Oxford: Polity Press.