The fundamental issue that emerges during The Enlightenment period between the art of governance and individual freedom, lead naturally to the right of participants to criticise and consequently to influence the interplay of power between the state and free entities. This in turn allowed for the choosing of which political party is preferred to submit for election. The Enlightenment thus sought to replace its mode of governance from that of being by a singular entity, a head of state, a monarch, a dictator, tyrant or lord, to a group of democratically elected individuals.
In The Politics of Power: Masochism and Enlightenment Political Theory (2011) E. Schreiber-Byers states that this brought with it new power relations, the voluntary critical free subject and the possibility to conceive of governments to which s/he be willing to submit. Regardless of this shift of authority and this new mode of critical thinking “power relations are rooted in the whole network of the social…all forms of social interaction form the basis of power” (Foucault 1982, 345). Institutions are not merely mechanisms of control but also producers of knowledge and truth. The critical thinker then gains the right to question these effects of power, the fabrication and exercise of such facts as those that maintain and uphold the status quo. This then results and leads to an act of voluntary subordination (Foucault 1990, 35-63) wherein the dominant truths that maintain the status quo and the reason for its power become questioned in order that why such knowledge is being produced may better be understood. Simultaneously the individual yields to a social contract that will guarantee more freedom. This freedom comes about by means of negotiation and renegotiation, by voluntarily accepting what to submit to.
Here is a form of relationship then that shares similarities with the interplay of power in masochistic activity. Both entities act consensually and submit to such structures of power as availing of the means of negotiation and agreement for (the necessary) freedom. This self-identification of the masochistic interplay of power is known as Power Exchange. The main constituent of (political) masochism is the constant realignment on the limits of interaction, such as the rights and responsibilities one is willing to abide by. The individual is also required to give up some rights in order that other practices may take place. The limits of rights and regulations are thus continuously tested through critique such that this dynamic political system may continuously readjust itself by means of stipulation between the dominant and the submissive, without allowing the relationship to disintegrate.. “There is, nonetheless, a constant renegotiation, such that the will of the people shapes the will of those who govern and therefore the rule of law to which individuals must submit.” (Schreiber-Byers 2011, 109). This mode of political masochism serves to protect a structure in order to assure stability. Unlike slavery the masochist’s submission to such a structure, protects his/her rights. Power is an inbuilt mechanism within all relationships…something that cannot be avoided.