Public Education | Participatory Democracy: After Neoliberalism

Games of Truth

Games of truth, for Foucault, are not entertainment, sport, or pastime, nor are
they simply the product of power. Instead they are “a set of rules by which truth is
produced” (Foucault, 1997e, p. 297). Tactics and strategies employed to determine truth
differ depending on the place and time in which one lives (Rabinow & Rose, 2003). In
terms of place, the “truth” about how someone dies today in the United States may be
attributed to a particular biological malfunction, while an essentially identical death
today in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea is more likely considered a result of
sorcery. As for time, the truth about the relationship between the earth and other
celestial bodies differed before and after Galileo’s life. In these examples, the specific
knowledge systems of the places and times determine what is acceptable evidence and
proper processes for determining truth.
In answer to his question, “Who speaks the truth?” Foucault answered, “Free
individuals who establish a certain consensus, and who find themselves within a certain
network of practices of power and constraining institutions” (Foucault, 1997e, p. 297).
Truth games, like knowledge, are inherently connected with power (technologies of
power, power relations). The question for truth, then, is not a question of absolute Truth,
relative truth, or even truths of positionality. Instead, at issue for Foucault were
technologies of power and games of knowledge at work in the production of T/truth(s).
In other words, for Foucault, What is true?, was the wrong question. For him, truth
ultimately came down to technologies of power-knowledge enacted as though something
was true or as if particular processes would determine it as true. These technologies
focus on the behavior of individuals, particular forms of domination, and the
objectification of the subject (Foucault, 1997e, p. 299). For Foucault, the more
appropriate questions addressed the intersection of practices of the self and technologies
of power – how are free individuals constructed through these technologies, and how do
they play truth games?