“Michel Foucault’s art consisted in using history to cut diagonally through contemporary reality. He could speak of Nietzsche or Aristotle, of expert psychiatric opinion or the Christian pastoral, but those who attended his lectures always took from what he said a perspective on the present and contemporary events.”
…if I had wanted to give the lectures I am giving this year a more exact title, I certainly would not have chosen “security, territory, population.” What I would really like to undertake is something that I would call a history of “governmentality.”
[WORK IN PROGRESS]
11 January 1978
In the seventeenth century, and at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the town still had a particular legal and administrative definition that isolated it and marked it out quite specifically in comparison with other areas and spaces of the territory. Second, the town was typically confined within a tight, walled space, which had much more than just a military function. Finally, it was much more
economically and socially mixed than the countryside.
…the growth of trade, and then, in the eighteenth century, urban demography, raised the problem of the town’s compression and enclosure within its walls. […] Broadly speaking, what was at issue in the eighteenth century was the question of the spatial, juridical, administrative, and economic opening up of the town: resituating the town in a space of circulation.
Take a text from the middle of the seventeenth century, La Metropolitee, written by someone called Alexandre Le Maitre. […] The problem of La Metropolitee is: Must a country have a capital city, and in what should it consists? Le Maitre’s analysis is the following: The state, he says, actually comprises three elements…; the peasants, the artisans, and what he calls the third order, or third estate, which is, oddly, the sovereign and the officers in his service. The state must be like an edifice in relation to these three elements. The peasants, of course, are the foundations of the edifice, in the ground, under the ground, unseen but ensuring the solidity of the whole. […] The foundations will be the countryside… . Le Maitre sees the relationship between the capital and the rest of the territory in different ways. It must be a geometrical relationship in the sense that a good country is one that, in short, must have the form of the circle, and the capital must be right at the centre of the circle. […] The capital must be the ornament of the territory. […] The capital must give the example of good morals. The capital must be the place where the holy orators are the best and are best heard, and it must also be the site of academics, since they must give birth to the sciences and truth that is to be disseminated in the rest of the country. Finally, there is an economic role: the capital must be the site of luxury so that it is a point of attraction for products coming from other countries, and at the same time, through trade, it must be the distribution point of manufactured articles and products, etcetera.
…the interesting thing is that Le Maitre dreams of connecting the political effectiveness of sovereignty to a spatial distribution. […] In short, Le Maitre’s problem is how to ensure a well “capitalized” state, that is to say, a state well organized around a capital as the seat of sovereignty and the central point of political and commercial circulation.