The exercise of power always-already presupposes a faction in power, giving commands, and a faction without power, obeying. Power then is clearly a property not of a specific person or group but of the social relation that exists between and encompasses both parties, it is effectively instrument of a social relation to reproduce itself. But how are we to conceptualise this specific type of relation, or even more pressing an issue: is there any social relation in which power is not involved? Can there be talk of discourse without domination?
It is Foucault who tackled this problem head on – concluding that power is socially diffuse and can be observed in its workings in any and all social relations; more radically even he asserted that there could be no subjectivity without it. On this view then subjectivity only arises as consequence of social relations and as social relations are necessarily permeated with the exercise of power, subjectivity could not arise without it.
Power then can never acquire true legitimacy – as its concrete forms determine the formal boundaries of subjectivity legitimacy becomes but a remainder of an ideological apology for the workings of power. One can here return to Althusser in that ‘common-sense’, the form engulfing the content of the subjects mind is ideology constructing reality – it is the dominant faction that has more control over how power manifests itself, which determines the coordinates of discourse and its ideology proper. Hegemony, the homogenisation of universal values, the coming into being of ‘false consciousness’, (note that Bourdieu was right in saying that classes nevertheless experience different life-worlds) is thus a necessary result of discourse, the exercise of power, itself.