Power and the social dimension of existence.
Abstract: This paper outlines a study of meaning-giving and especially subjectification as a social enterprise, an enterprise that Michel Foucault denotes 'power'. Power is considered an ongoing social game that determines not only what things are, but also who and what we are, i.e. 'subjectification'. By looking at how we become, who we are from a social perspective, our understanding of meaning giving and creation of identity is not only broadened, it also enables us, as existential therapists, to help the clients understand and resist these games of power. The freedom to define her- or himself differently is enhanced.


Power, subjectification, social technologies, ethics
Article Type: Report
Subject: Existential psychology (Research)
Philosophy of mind (Research)
Interpersonal relations (Psychological aspects)
Author: Dahlager, Lisa
Pub Date: 07/01/2010
Publication: Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616
Issue: Date: July, 2010 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Denmark Geographic Code: 4EUDE Denmark
Accession Number: 288874196
Full Text: Power and the social dimension of existence

Playing happily in the backyard of the hospital ground where I grew up, the furious and rather threatening mother of my, at the time, best friend suddenly ordered: "Stop trying to persuade Anne not to attend kindergarten. Just because you aren't attending yourself, doesn't mean she shouldn't!" I was shocked. How could she think this of me? I tried to explain her that I had no such intentions. She interrupted me: "Anne is very fond of her kindergarten. Don't you try to make her feel otherwise." I made a new attempt to explain that I had comforted Anne the day before, because she was very unhappy in kindergarten. I had suggested she could stay home with me. I couldn't see why not? In my mind it was simple. But I didn't put much effort into what one could term 'a persuasion'. I was very content strolling around by myself in the endless labyrinthian hallways beneath the hospital and had really little need for company.

I did not get a chance to convince the mother of my innocence, even though I made several attempts. She kept on interrupting my attempt to even open my mouth: "Young lady, I don't want to hear your bad excuses". The sense of claustrophobia, of no way out and powerlessness, overwhelmed me. I felt the words being stuck in my mouth. As my face turned red and I felt my eyes and my lips tremble, I realized that I might as well give up. I knew that, in her eyes, I had given myself away; I was now not only proved guilty, but also a liar. I was certain I was definitely neither of the two, and that she was the one making me into this. As I walked away, my body shook from an existential shock. A new realization about the world had hit me: The world as a place where people could distrust me and, even worse, would not even listen to or allow me to speak the truth about myself. But I also felt firmness and resoluteness in my body, as a 'NO' grew in me. A 'no' to the one she attempted to make me be. It was a subjectification, as the French post-structuralist Michel Foucault termed it, that I had to resist.

Five years ago I began to understand what had happened and why I was been compelled to study power. Foucault throws light on issues that still have not obtained a high status within existential philosophy and practice, namely 'meaning-giving' and especially subjectification as a forceful social enterprise. An enterprise Foucault denotes 'power'. In this paper, power is considered an ongoing social game that determines not only what things are, but also who and what we are, i.e. 'subjectification'. The game of power is a serious game and can be a matter of life and death, as meaning not only creates our space of action but also our in- or exclusion in these.

The paper builds on Martin Heidegger's philosophy as laid out in 'Sein und Zeit' (Being and Time) (1). It will particularly focus on 'Dasein' and 'being-in-the-world' as alternatives to a traditional subject-object conceptualisation of human understanding. From this starting point the central Foucauldian concepts of power--processes of objectification and subjectification--are developed. This, I believe, bears not only philosophical importance for existential thinking, as it broadens the understanding of meaning giving as a social practice, but also political importance as it frames existential therapy within a socio-political reality and as an important 'counter-power'.

Existential becoming

In classic Greek philosophy, Man is defined as "the living being having the capacity for discourse", (Batchelor, 1984, p. 74). A Buddhist definition of man is "the being who speaks and understands meaning", (Batchelor, 1984, p. 74). To this definition, one could with Heidegger add that Man is the being who speaks, understand meaning and is 'being-in-the world'. The being-in-the world is, in existential thinking, often interpreted as relatedness to the world: we are always, inevitably, in the world and related to it in a dynamic and always ever-changing manner. But in fact being-in-the-world is more fundamental than being 'related to'. 'Da-sein', which literally means being (sein) here (da), and 'being-in the world' are some of the many terms Heidegger invents in Sein und Zeit, as a reaction against the 'natural' starting point for epistemological thinking at the time: "(...) knowing as a 'relation between a Subject and Object' ", (Heidegger, 1963, p.87). He ironically asks: "For what is more obvious than that a 'Subject' is related to an 'Object' and vice versa? " (Ibid p. 86). Heidegger holds that Dasein is not a subject, an enclosed consciousness that can relate to the world as an object. Furthermore, the term Dasein is in fact not equivalent to human being as a self or an individual (standing by itself). Dasein is the term for the being of human beings. Dasein's 'substance' or 'essence' is to exist. Dasein is a relation, or rather 'to relate'; a verb. All things are, but human beings exist, i.e. a particular way of relating to being. 'Being-in-the-world' means how Dasein is being, how it relates.

In this new and alternative view, human existence in its unique way, like everything else in our world, no longer appears as something present as an object within a pregiven world space. Rather, human existence can be viewed as being, which cannot be objectified and which consists of an openness to the world and of the capacity to perceive what it encounters in that world. Through this openness, human existence itself, as well as any other given fact or our world, can come to their presence and unfolding. The proper task of human Da-sein is the event of letting-be what emerges into the openness of being.

(Foreword by Medard Boss in Heidegger, 1987, p. X)

Thus, Dasein is not an objectifying relation to the world. And Dasein is not a subject. Dasein is an openness to the world. But the human being has a tendency to understand itself in terms of the world; in terms of that which it is not. One of the reasons for this is that we fall prey to tradition i.e. we tend to establish subject-object relations, and we tend to create more or less fixed and sedimented structures (worldview) of our experience of the world (worlding) (2).

The Dasein-relationship is, Heidegger claims, a meaningful relationship. We are meaning making beings. This meaning is always already there (Heidegger, 1962, p.23), as each being is 'thrown into' an already interpreted world, a socio-cultural historical and concrete situation. Each being can and must reinterpret the world. Dasein is a hermeneutical circle of interpretation and reinterpretation, of opening and closing--it is a creative dialogue (Gadamar, 2004).

Dasein is also defined with the term 'je meines' translated in English as 'in each case mine' (Heidegger, 1962, p.67). Dasein is in each case mine. 'Je' in fact means 'exactly this one'--that which is individualised and pointed out/singled out. It also refers to 'jedesmal' i.e. 'every time'. 'Je meines' thus means that which is situated, individual and temporal. Mineness (je meines-keit) is the condition of possibility for authenticity or inauthenticity--the term used for two ways in which each being can relate to its own existence. Heidegger speaks of 'eigent-lich' or 'un-eigent-lich' existence, 'eigen' means owness, to own. As Ernesto Spinelli puts it:

Heidegger intended authenticity to refer to the opening up to, or ownship of, that which presents itself to us (Cohn, 2002). Authenticity involves and implicates each being in existence. In contrast, inauthenticity is a way of engaging with existence that allows a distance or detachment from any sense of 'owned' involvement with that which presents its self to a beings experience.

(Spinelli, 2005, p. 50)

In order to live authentically, each being must recognize this particular relationship as his or her own, as 'je meines', and the restraint and possibilities it gives for living. Further, 'egentlich' existence also refers to the fact that Dasein can relate to its own being as its innermost possibility. Dasein is its possibility; it is not something it 'has'. Authenticity can be understood as the 'openned openess'--the disclosed disclosure i.e. that each being can open itself to and recognize the openness of her or his being. Hereby, choice becomes possible. Because Dasein is in each case its own possibility, each being can, Heidegger claims, choose and win him- or herself, or lose or never win him- or herself, (Heidegger, 1962, p. 68). But instead of using this possibility, by establishing a creative relation to the world and by owning this relation, the human being rather flees into 'das Man', into 'they', i.e. how one should do or think.

To sum up, Dasein is not a subject-object relation. Rather, it is a fundamental openness to meaning. At the same time it seems, our existence revolves in hermeneutical circles around a main polar opposition, which is our condition of possibility: open--close. This opposition repeats itself in terms like: worlding--worldview, process--structure, authenticity--inauthenticity. The Foucauldian concept of power is, as I see it, an elaboration of this. Power is, to cut it very short, the social practice of closing that which is open to meaning, of arresting processes in structures, of fixing becoming in identities.

Power--the social dimension of existence

Foucault turns our attention to structuring as a social practice, a practice he denotes power. To study power is, one could say, to study the how of closing, of structuring. He looks upon this structuring as a process of objectification and subjectification. He analyses how human beings are objectified by different social technologies of power, based on certain truths, and by this are created as subjects. I will return to this after a closer look at 'power' in Foucault's work.

Power, from a Foucauldian perspective, is a force that traverses the social space we all live in. It's not a force outside us (that would be a structural belief), nor a force inside us (an intra-psychic force as the Freudian libido). Power only takes place in action and hence not a determination or a structure acting behind the back of the self. "(...) power is neither given, nor exchanged, nor recovered, but rather exercised and that it only exists in action", (Foucault 1980, p.89). In this interpretation power is not a thing; it is not a metaphysical entity either. Nor is power the providence of certain powerful people. The agent is the residing human being, the embodied subject. We exist concretely, materially in the midst of the world, and we are structuring subjects just by being embodied beings in the act of enacting all the time.

Power is also a formative or constituting force. It gives form to the world. To paraphrase Luhmann: The world in itself does not contain distinctions. It is a priori empty or devoid of meaning. It just is (Luhmann, 2001). Power is, according to Foucault, the process of enacting distinctions in the world, and by this also differences, categories, boundaries etc. By this process, the world is constituted as meaningful--which is Heidegger's starting point. Order emerges out of this activity and relatively stable relations are thereby established. "In reality power means relations, a more-or-less organised, hierarchical, co-ordinated cluster of relations", (Foucault, 1980: 89). Thus, to meet the world necessarily means that we structure or give form to it. Without such a structuring and forming activity, we would not be able to find any meaning in anything whatsoever.

To sum up: from an existential point of view, one could say that 'Being' is empty, but 'being' is never empty as it always emanates with me situated in an already interpreted world. Reframing this into the language of power: We are thrown into a social field of distinction, and these distinctions are the conditions of possibilities on which the world and we are becoming. In the eyes of power, giving meaning is not such an innocent act as the word might indicate. It is an act of power. Furthermore, when we act in the world, we produce the world, and it has effects. Each of us is wholly involved in this interplay and also subjected to it. We are, right from the start and throughout our existence, in an open-ended social play that is constitutive of the world, of history and of our self. What comes into view here is the social dimension or our existence (Falzon, 1998).

Power and the creation of the subject--subjectification

Foucault examines the social process of structuring and meaning-giving, and how the acculturation process not only provides us with categories with which to comprehend and interpret natural objects, but also how "(...) power reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives", (Foucault, 1980: 39).

At the core of Foucault's thinking, power is enacted on others. "[exercise of power] is a total structure of action brought to bear upon possible actions; (...) a set of actions upon other actions", (Foucault, 1983, p. 220). In other words, we ourselves are the object of structuring and interpretation for other structuring, interpreting beings. This can be illustrated like this:


The subject (S) is someone/something (3) acting on ([??]) someone/something (O), which hereby becomes objectified. The structuring objectifies and constructs not only the world in a 'thing-like' way, but also makes others into some-thing--an object. Furthermore, which is crucial, the individual, who is the object, is in this process simultaneously constituted as an individual. Thus, one of the prime effects of power is:

(...) that certain bodies, certain gestures, certain discourses, certain desires, come to be identified and constituted as individuals.

(Foucault, 1980, p. 98).

Foucault hereby calls our attention to that we are constituting as well as constituted individuals.

The individual is an effect of power, and at the same time, or precisely to the extent to which it is that effect, it is the element of its articulation. The individual which power has constituted is at the same time its vehicle.

(Foucault, 1980, p. 98)

Foucault denotes the process in which the individual is constituted: 'subjectification'.

Foucault claims that no one is a subject per se--subjectification is a movement or a process towards the creation of the subject or the self. Here, he plays on the double meaning of the word 'subject'. Subject is not only the one acting, but also the one who subjects her- or himself when acted upon. As we subject ourselves, we take on the truths, norms, thinking and identities we are 'offered', and hereby we are engaged in the process of 'subjectification'. We are created as subjects.


The individual firstly objectified, secondarily subjectified, now acts in the world and on other individuals, who are now the object of action. This could be illustrated like this:

Model 2. The alternating subject and object positions.

The individual is in other words by turn subject and object in the ongoing game of power. The model also illustrates how the individual by means of objectification (O) becomes constituted as a subject (S). Finally, it illustrates how, in the process of subjectification, we are ourselves active agents, as we (S) work on ourselves as objects (O) with the goal of becoming a moral person. This Foucault terms 'ethics', and I will return to this later. Our own involvement in the subjectification process is also what makes room for resistance, as I have exemplified in the beginning of the article

Modes of objectification

The process of subjectification is Foucault's analytical focal point.

I would like to say, first of all, what has been the goal of my work during the last twenty years. It has not been to analyze the phenomena ofpower, nor to elaborate the foundations of such an analysis.

My objective, instead, has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects. My work has dealt with three modes of objectification which transforms human being into subjects.

(Foucault, 1983, p. 208).

Foucault goes on to describe three modes of objectification, which exemplifies how our ability to speak and understand meaning is an act of power. The first mode is through scientific and discursive practices. That is, through various forms of knowledge and ways to speak about humans in certain domains. Man's ability to speak is a powerful activity. One need only consider the impact on therapeutic practice using the term 'client' instead of 'patient'. The second mode is what he terms 'dividing practices': social practices, which categorizes, divides and establishes differences among individuals. In the process, the subject is provided with a social and as well as with a personal identity, and it is divided from others. These practices combine knowledge with exclusion, often in a spatial sense, but always in the social sense. One example is the division of the mentally sick from the mentally healthy by diagnoses and by commitment. Finally the third mode, the way human being turns themselves into a subject by objectifying themselves through specific modes of action, e.g. by trying to become a better person by analyzing and changing thinking patterns.

Although these three ways theoretically can be distinguished from each other, they are in practice effectively combined in various forms of social technologies aimed at regulating and transforming action and subjectivity. Social technologies establish categories of subjects and objects, and prescriptions of how subjects can act and how objects can be acted upon. (Therapy is an example of a social technology (4)). They can be regarded as formative practices, as characteristic ways to articulate, conceptualize, intervene on, and mobilize objects (the object here being the self and others as an object for (self)regulation) Social technologies presume and promote identities by drawing on different forms of truths, (expert)knowledge, discourses and concepts, which are their very basis (5).

There can be no possible exercise of power without a certain economy of discourses of truth which operates through and on the basis of this association. We are subjected to the production of truth through power and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth.

(Foucault, 1980: 93).

Knowledge and truth encompass both a description and a prescription aspect, as they function as norms (5a). Norms emerge historically out of human activity, and they become constitutive for whom we are, as we subject ourselves to them.

What went on in my childhood is an example of how different social technologies and norms are put into play in order to regulate the action of another, who thereby becomes object. The mother identified and categorised my conversation with Anne as a 'persuasion'. She established herself in an authoritarian position as capable of knowing the truth about my innermost intentions: I was only doing it to help myself. I was a selfish child. Perhaps even manipulative, as I attempted to make it look like I was helping my friend. She furthermore labelled my attempts to speak as 'bad excuses' and prevented me from even speaking. During these few minutes a whole moral or normative basis was activated: the obligation to be selfless and truthful in order to be an accepted social being. This moral basis was already incorporated in the five-year-old girl, and she felt shameful for being 'a bad person'. (6)

Ethics--the self's involvement in the process of subjectification

We thus become object of different social technologies through our involvement in the social world in general, and more specifically through our inclusion in social institutions (e.g. education, health- and social care) (7), and not the least, through subjecting to the subjectifications we are offered. We identify ourselves with the 'depressed client', the 'healthy citizen' or 'the creative employee'. In On the Genealogy of Ethics (Foucault, 1997) Foucault defines ethics as:

The kind of relationship you ought to have with yourself, rapport d soi, which I call ethics, and which determines how the individual is supposed to constitute himself as a moral subject of its own action

(Foucault, 1997: 263)

Ethics is the relationship one should have to oneself, and defines how the individual is expected to constitute itself as a moral subject. The relationship to oneself has, according to Foucault four major aspects. The first aspect is the ethical substance, the part of oneself, the material to be worked through with ethics (such as the body or desires). The second aspect is modes of subjectifications, the ways in which we are invited to accept or recognize our moral obligations (such as a divine law or a law of nature). The third aspect is the means through which we can change ourselves into an ethical subject. These are the ways through which we work on the ethical substance, the material, or in the broad sense self-formative acts (such as when we moderate our actions, repress our desires, interpret what we are) in order to be ethical subjects. The fourth aspect is the sort of being we hope to become or the existence we hope to achieve, when we conduct ourselves in a moral way (such as healthy, immortal, free), which Foucault calls telos (Foucault, 1997). We can therefore understand ethics as the self's involvement in the process of subjectification. One locates oneself in relation to a culture's normative principles, and forms oneself into a moral subject.

Existential therapy as a social technology

Existential psychotherapy can be described as a social technology. It explores (means) the client's worldview (material), with the aim (telos) of creating a space of authenticity for the client, a space of: "the opening up to, or ownship of, that which presents itself to us," (Spinelli, 2007, p.50). The inter-relation between therapist and client becomes the primary mean to achieve this:

In this way, the existential psychotherapist's related presence is in the service of an investigative focus upon the client's currently lived worldview rather than, as other systems might suggest, a hindrance to its illumination. (...) On reflection, it becomes evident that any hope of achieving this enterprise requires initially the therapist's openness to, and acceptance of, the client's currently presenting worldview. To adopt any other stance which emphasizes a directive or manipulative change in the client's way of being, no matter how benevolent or concerned to ameliorate the client's distress, will only serve to allow the client to continue to avoid reflecting upon, and perhaps eventually owning, his or her world view as it is rather as he or she might want or prefer it to be.

(Spinelli, 2007, pp.59-60)

The task for the therapist is to help the clients to stay where and with who they are, and to see more of what they have become, by relating authentically to the client. The therapist takes a stance towards the world and the client that allows the client to adopt a parallel way of relating, to adopt a specific ethical practice. Existential therapy is a social technology that rest on a particular way of relating, not only as it foremost technology, but also as its telos, as it is aimed at re-opening that which has been closed. Existential therapy systematically encompasses and works on the effects of any social technology: closing meaning, of arresting process, and of structuring and fixing identity. The therapist must, according to Spinelli in the quote above, stay open and abandon any projects on behalf of the client. In other words, give up the very goal of a social technology: to govern. The work of Foucault can serve as a ground for this practice, which I understand as a 'social dialogue with the other'. This I will return to after a short introduction to the concept of freedom in Foucault's work.

Social dialogue with the other

Looking back at the incident in the backyard, how may one explain the 'no'? The process of subjectification seems very determinating, especially when we consider that the opponent was, after all, a Mother. She had a position and a status that made resistance a very daring enterprise. But in the process of subjectification, Foucault maintains, the individual being objectified is not passive. It also resists interpretations, eludes them, and affects them in turn.

Even though Foucault asserts the human being, the self, to be fundamentally empty, he operates with a concept of resistance and freedom. Resistance is a driving force in the game of power--forces against forces. As forces are always imposed on other forces, this imposition requires the overcoming or taming of those other forces, and there is always resistance, struggle against the limits such overcoming imposes. (Foucault, 1998). Freedom can be seen as the flip side of power. Power and freedom does not exclude each other, but there is a complex play between them. Without the possibility of freedom, the possibility of another possible possibility, it is mere coercion. Freedom is our power to act differently, by not only reproducing or resisting, but also transgressing existing and socially imposed limits. Even though our possibilities are structured by already existing differentiations, categories, thinking-patterns, norms, knowledge, ideals and so forth, they are not determined. Order can continually be challenged and transformed through this capacity to freedom, a freedom Heidegger saw as fundamental for our being.

Falzon denotes this kind of practice 'social dialogue with the other' (Falzon, 1998). Our situation as social beings, Falzon claims, can be understood in terms of a fundamental encounter with the other. This 'encounter' can adequately be understood as a dialogue--"a reciprocity, a two-way, back and forth movement or interplay between ourselves and the world," (Falzon, 1998, p. 3). 'The other' is that which does not simply yield to us, which does not simply fall into line with our beliefs and fancies, but which has an independency from us, resist us, and is able to affect us in turn. 'Social dialogue with the other' involves an attitude of openness towards the other, and hereby promotes ongoing resistance, creative transgression, dialogue and transformation. It's a willingness "to hold open an intersubjective space in which difference can unfold in its particularity," (White, 1991, p.99). This makes the renewal and revitalisation of the social order possible.

The work of Foucault and the notion of 'social dialogue with the other', I find, strengthens the philosophical ground for the importance of existential therapy within the current sociopolitical context. I will therefore end this paper with a discussion of existential therapy as a 'counter-power'.

Conclusion. The serious game of power

The driving force of the subjectification process is, as I see it, dual. Firstly we are made up by and drawn to certain truths and ideals. As Foucault puts it:

If power were never anything but repressive, if it never did anything but to say no, do you really think one would be brought to obey it? What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn't only weigh on us a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasures, forms knowledge, produces discourse. It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression.

(Foucault, 1980, p. 119).

Secondly, simultaneously, we are driven as social individuals by the fear of not being part of the community. In order to be in the community, not only in a broad psycho-social sense, but also in the sense of the care offered by it (health care, social welfare, education, labour), we have to meet certain norms and standards, and we are always at the risk of not being included, or worse, being excluded. 'To live right' is a form of social coercion. The mechanisms of in- and exclusion, based on norms as differentiating acts, rules the social body, and it does weigh on us as a terrible force that could say 'no' (Dahlager, 2005). In my view, social exclusion is an existential given that can be compared to death, as it threatens to pull away our social existence. It is an existential given that should be taken equally into account as any other given within existential therapy.

Our focus in existential therapy is the situated individual, and yet we seem to forget the force of the socio-political context the client since birth is 'thrown into' and which always is her or his condition of possibility. We cannot detach ourselves from this, as it is ontic expressions of ontological conditions. The 'depressed client', who identifies with 'dysfunctional thinking' and 'schemas', or the 'creative employee', who is responsible for continuously developing his 'inner potentials', are examples of powerful discourses and subjectifying technologies, we are faced with presently. 'Depressed', 'dysfunctional', 'schemas', 'developing' and 'inner potentials' functions as structuring elements in encounters, they structure how the individual understands and works upon him- or herself with various and multiple consequences and they can functions as in- or excluding criteria.

Discourses or technologies embedded in institutions are often closely linked to the rarely outspoken, but still relentless, demand to subject in order to be included for care. They therefore become 'double-edged swords'. A picture Foucault concretized in relation to homosexuals: "the affirmation "I am a homosexual" is necessary to uphold ones rights and simultaneously it is a cage or a trap," (paraphrased from: Foucault, 1994). Here we see how inclusion and the process of subjectification are closely linked: In order to be included (for care) a more and more tight and closed structure are created until the phenomenon becomes strap down an accepted by the care givers (e.g. the therapist) and by the individual (e.g. the client) as an identity. "I currently feel depressed" or "I am being depressed" becomes "I am (a) depressed (person). In other words: to be included, an individual with all its inherent complexity and inconsistencies is forced into a rigid cultural archetype; they are type casted.

However, power always contains the potential for counter-power, which is more than resistance. Whereas resistance is always closely linked to the specific type of power exercised, counter-power erode these by creating an alternative (Foucault 1990). I understand existential therapy as a counterpower. If we understand power as the social practice of closing that which is open to meaning, of arresting processes in structures, of fixing becoming in identities, we have, as existential therapists, the means to undermine its very foundation. Heidegger has given us a philosophy and a method to reopen and expand, to disclose disclosures. We can create a space with the client that allows new options for becoming. In other words: enhance authenticity--from a power perspective.


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(1) Existential therapy often draws on Being and Time when Heidegger is brought into the picture. In fact, his later work shows a movement towards a focus on the technologies and the social side of being. In this article, I will focus on Being and Time for the sake of creating a dialogue with existential therapy. My reading of Heidegger and Foucault is therefore coloured by this aim.

(2) Ernesto Spinelli uses the terms 'worldview' for being as a structure, which he contrasts to 'worlding', being as a process.

(3) I acknowledge the importance of non-human actors (S), which Actor-Network Theory has stressed (see e.g. Latour 1987).

(4) The characteristic of a specific social technology can be addressed through questions like: What forms of identity are presupposed by it, and what sort of transformation does it seek? How are these transformations to be fostered? How are certain aspects of conduct problematized? What statuses, capacities, attributes and orientations are assumed of those who exercise authority (e.g. the therapist) and of those who are its object (e.g. the client). What form of conduct is expected of them? What are their duties and obligations? (Dean 1999).

(5) British sociologist Nikolas Rose has elaborated on this. See e.g. Rose, 1999.

(5a) Rose points to the fact that the understanding of normality/abnormality today rest on the result of a variety of technologies, such as social statistics, which were introduced in the nineteenth century. Through social statistics (statistics on morbidity, lifetime expectancy, mortality, reproduction etc.), the norms of the populations could be calculated and compared to that of the individuals (including height, weight, intelligence and so forth). Statistical standards on vital issues (the descriptive aspect) could serve as prescriptive standards (moral or social norms) for the individual to live his life in order to measure up to the norm (Rose 1999).

(6) The Mother drew on what Foucault has termed 'disciplinary power'. A form of power, which, according to Foucault, has been a dominant form of power since the eighteenth century. It is characterised by the use of shame as one of its primary social technologies in the regulation of action (Foucault, 1991).

(7) Thus norms are closely linked, not only to regulation of the social body, but also to mechanisms of in- and exclusion. One has to meet specific norms in order to be included. E.g. you need to be diagnosed--on the basis of specific agreed upon criteria or norms--as mentally ill (e.g. depressed), in order to be included for the normalization (treatment). At the same time, as a patient, one has to meet certain behavioural norms in order to get treated with care. If you are classified as a so-called 'irresponsible patient', you can be excluded from the care of the others, and perhaps also from treatment (Dahlager, 2005).

Lisa Dahlager has a background in cultural sociology and holds a PhD in public health from the University of Copenhagen. Her thesis 'Room to Talk' is an analysis of power applied to lifestyle counseling. She now works as assistant professor and as an existential coach and counselor at the 'Study Center for Students with Special Needs' at The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University. She trained as an existential therapist in 'The New School of Psychology', Copenhagen.

Address: Study Center for Students with Special Needs, Room C006, The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Tuborgvej 164, 2400 Kobenhavn NV, Denmark. E-mail: lidaj@dpu.dk
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