“You are adapting more to me than I am adapting to you” (but what does more mean?): Cybernetic and Foucaultian explorations of the domain of power

Phillip V Guddemi


It is possible to derive a cybernetic approach to what the concept of power might mean, an approach which illuminates and critiques both that concept and the relations it is used to describe. Selected quotes from a short article Michel Foucault wrote late in his life, entitled “The Subject and Power,” are juxtaposed with a demonstration that aspects of his emerging relational view of power, as he was formulating it in this article, prefigure some elements of what might be developed into a cybernetic approach to what might be meant by power. I show that such a relational cybernetic approach can be developed from basic cybernetic and systems principles including system capacity, (structural) coupling, the relationship of an organism to a niche or environment, and the hierarchical organization of adaptive systems. A resulting concept of power, or rather, of the domain in which we talk about power, can help reanimate our theoretical discussion of what we mean by such a concept and what such a concept inevitably obscures.


adaptive systems; hierarchy theory; structural coupling

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