Power, Religion, and Simulacrum— Foucault on the Cult of Dionysus

  • Sanna Tirkkonen
Keywords: Dionysus, Foucault, governance, individual, popular religion, power, simulacrum

Abstract

This article examines a passage concerning the cult of Dionysus in Michel Foucault’s 1970–71 lecture series Lectures on the Will to Know (2013; Leçons sur la volonté de savoir 2011). The article shows how the intensification of ritual prescriptions is associated with socio-political changes. The cult of Dionysus is located in the political field, and the passage is contextualized by literature from classical scholarship. The discussion is embedded in the analysis of truth: the cult and the societal aspects are connected to power in Foucault’s 1970–71 lectures by the key theoretical concept of simulacrum.

The article deals particularly with legislation as one of the societal changes Foucault associates with increased ritualism: the introduction of publicly recognized laws—visible to all and applied by everyone—implies power that is exercised through and by all citizens. The cult of Dionysus is analyzed as an anti-system in opposition to prevailing social practices and official religious forms. Foucault points out that the cult manages to slip away from certain traditional systems of power. The article claims, however, that as the official status of the cult is strengthened in the classical era, performing the rites also serves the individualization process of the new political culture and its legislation, which is not necessarily liberating. In this way, the inaugural lecture series is connected to Foucault’s later work on governmentality—techniques of governing the self and the others.

Author Biography

Sanna Tirkkonen

PhD in Philosophy, Researcher
University of Helsinki, Deaprtment of Political and Economic Studies 
Yliopistonkatu 4, Helsinki, Finland 00100
e-mail: sanna.tirkkonen@helsinki.fi 

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Published
2015-12-29
How to Cite
TirkkonenS. (2015). Power, Religion, and Simulacrum— Foucault on the Cult of Dionysus. Stasis, 3(2). Retrieved from http://stasisjournal.net/index.php/journal/article/view/45