Post-modernist or post-structuralist method?
It is easy to summarise Foucault’s use of space as some form of post-modernist or post-structuralist method, but we have to be careful. Philo (2007: 360) notes how Foucault’s 1976 course of lectures at the Collège de France focuses upon the discourse of politics, struggle and war. He suggests that Foucault’s approach to ‘bellicose history’ is about ‘accentuating heterogeneity over homogenisation, fragmentation over coherence, multiplicities over singularities’, forming a fundamental assault on modernist reasoning.
However, Philo is wrong to simply concentrate on forms of division and discontinuity within these lectures. In the following year’s lectures on ‘Security, Territory, Population’, for example, Foucault (2007: 238-9) discusses the possibility of finding intelligibility in history that ‘does not lie in assigning a cause that is always more or less a metaphor for the source’, but here the emphasis is upon displaying ‘phenomena of coagulation, support, reciprocal reinforcement, cohesion, and integration’ to replace dialectical notions based on conflict or duality. For Foucault, heterogeneity never excludes ‘coexistence, conjunction, or connection’.
McHale (1992: 250), in summing up post-modernity through Foucault’s technique, suggests that ‘impossible spaces…fragments of disparate discursive orders…. are merely juxtaposed, without any attempt to reduce them to a common order’. But this misses the whole point. Discursive and non-discursive elements are spread out spatially in order to see new connections. Spatial thinking provokes an alternative mode of decipherment or analytical grid that above all replaces the dialectics of time, but also provides a different ‘point of view’ as part of a , ‘critical morality’, for example, avoiding entrenched and commonplace concepts of the ‘state’ shared by both neo-Marxists and neo-liberals (Foucault, 2008: 186-187).
Foucault, M. (2007)  Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College de France 1977-78, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Foucault, M. (2008)  The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France 1978-1979, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
McHale, B. (1992) Constructing Postmodernism, London: Routledge.
Philo, C. (2007) ‘Bellicose History and Local Discursivities: An Archaeological Reading of Michel Foucault’s Society Must be Defended’ in J. W. Crampton and S. Elden (eds.) Space, Knowledge and Power, Aldershot: Ashgate, 341-367.