We must conceive of power without the king. So Foucault tells us throughout his work, as if to dissociate historicism from the idea of a single sovereign force and from the model of linear succession from which kingly power derives. We must conceive of power instead as a multiplicity of forces in permanent battle, and the movement of history in terms of discontinuity and rupture, not linear succession. How embarrassing then that Foucault should be the new king, and how contradictory the battle cries: formalism is dead, long live the New Historicism. There were two paradoxes inherent in these battle cries. The first was that the New Historicism was committed to the dissolution of kingship while enjoying its privileges, its supremacy and its institutional power. The second was that the New Historicism was new, constructing the analytical methods of the recent past as old hat, implying a kind of technological progress or teleological evolution that the new historiographies flatly denied.
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