I don’t know if you like Peter, Paul, and Mary, but I sure do. They’re a dog friendly band. Why? Because they sing Foucault. They sing about justice, freedom, hope. This is what Foucault calls the third type of “empancipatory” power.
In the case of Peter, Paul, and Mary, empancipatory power is exercised through discourse using the particularly local and disenfranchised technology of song.
No doubt, their songs pull from a power base unreachable by global corporations and governments. The oppressor cannot sing the songs of the oppressed– it wouldn’t be in tune; it wouldn’t be genuine. Songs like this grow only from grass roots; they only can be written by the person who is moved by a disqualified–non-sovereign and non-disciplinary–power. Government and corporation do not have access to this song, this technology.
So… what is the message of emancipatory power? As any dog will tell you, emancipatory power spreads the word that power is not held by masters or corporations or governments. It is not held by anyone. Power is not capital. It’s a force, just like gravity or thermodynamics. Emancipatory power says, “‘Take up your mat and walk,’ but don’t call it ‘liberation’ because doing so is ascent to having been subjugated. The truth is that your agency to exercise power always exists, regardless of whether you are so doing.”
This is why dogs like Peter, Paul, and Mary. They sing about what we know, and what humans need to know: there is danger, there is warning, there is love. This pretty much describes every bit of my relationship with my master. These three things he communicates to me. It is empancipatory power that allows his communication to be productive and our relationhip to be healthy.
The real question is, could humans ever interact this way with corporations and governments? Could ordinary average citizens ever use empancipatory power to reconstruct the house their sovereign and disciplinary “masters” built?
If you only had a hammer…