Oral Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Concepts of power, agency, and politics in the works of Foucault and Arendt (#9)

Joanna Schilling 1 , Olga Petrovskaya 1
  1. School of Nursing , University of Victoria , Victoria , British Columbia, Canada

Concepts of power, agency, and politics have been widely used in nursing literature for over four decades. It is often said that to address inequities in healthcare, nurses need to exercise their agency, engage in politics, understand and fight power structures. But are these concepts always well understood? Nurses cite various sources, including the Giddens on the duality of structure and agency, Michel Foucault, and to a lesser degree Hannah Arendt. However, these concepts are sometimes used vaguely without specific explanation. Further, to the best of our knowledge, a comparative analysis of these concepts as theorized by Foucault and Arendt has not been previously undertaken.

The goal of this presentation is to compare concepts of power, politics, and agency between the perspectives of Foucault and Arendt. We argue that although their theorizing of concepts of interest varies immensely, both perspectives can be utilized in nursing. For example, they can be used to help nurses identify problematic assumptions and practices around artificial intelligence and to resist technology-induced health inequities. To illustrate our discussion, we will use examples of emerging health inequities in the expanding field of artificial intelligence in healthcare.