Truth, power and ethics in care homes for people with learning difficulties




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Book chapter

Peer reviewed


Michel Foucault’s work focused on questions such as how, within specific systems of knowledge, certain characteristics of people (such as mental capacities) become constructed as specific problems (such as “learning difficulties”). He contended that these forms of knowledge and problematization are dynamically linked to power, and to the formation of subject positions which tie people to a specific self-identity (as someone who “has learning difficulties” for example). His work is thus hugely relevant, yet under-applied, in understanding the situation of people who are deemed to have “learning difficulties” in modern society.

This chapter illustrates the usefulness of a Foucauldian approach in understanding power and governance in community care accommodation for people with learning difficulties. It adapts methods of analyzing discourse that exist in the social sciences to examine the accounts of people living in such accommodation to understand their relationships to forms power and subjectivity. This type of analysis provides a new set of criteria for understanding and evaluating the care services, criteria based around understanding how the people involved interact with particular dynamics of power that direct their conduct and position them as subjects in specific ways.



Foucault, Community Care, Discourse analysis


Yates, S. (2015) Truth, power and ethics in care homes for people with learning difficulties. In: S. Tremain (ed.) Foucault and the Government of Disability (revised ed). University of Michigan Press.


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care