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Description: An interview of the American anthropologist Paul Rabinow about his life and work in Morocco and in the philosophy of anthropology and science studies. Filmed by Alan Macfarlane on 31st October 2008. Edited by Sarah Harrison. Generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust. Includes a transcript.
 rabinow
Created: 2011-04-12 14:55
Collection: Film Interviews with Leading Thinkers
Publisher: University of Cambridge
Copyright: Professor Alan Macfarlane


Here is the section from the transcript on Foucault:

10:12:12 When I went to California as a professor in 1978, I had heard of Foucault before but had never been very interested in his work; Dreyfus, John Searle and I talked a lot and in my first year at Berkeley, Dreyfus and Searle were giving a seminar on Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida; Dreyfus and Searle interpreted Foucault as a structuralist which I didn’t think was correct; Dreyfus and I discussed the issue at length and decided to write an article together, I began to convince him that what he said should be nuanced; at that point someone mentioned that Foucault was coming to Stanford (near Berkeley) to give a lecture;

I suggested calling him and asking him to talk with us; Foucault agreed and we went to fetch him; Dreyfus tape records everything that he does as he claims not to have a memory; we talked for eight hours that first day; basically, Foucault felt isolated in Paris; this is very common in France where the boundaries of who you can talk to and confide in are rigorously policed, isolating people more the higher they go; Foucault was suffering from this half-voluntary half-involuntary control; so there we were, neither Dreyfus nor I were particularly interested in Foucault’s work or had any stakes in the matter, but we thought he was confused about some things and needed to clarify his method, Foucault responded extraordinarily well; it was a gift for him to actually engage in discussion without being so guarded;

he said once that if in Paris you said that you were talking about the Enlightenment, the one thing that everyone would be sure of was the Enlightenment was not the real subject; in Berkeley and in the US more generally he found the opposite is the case; the lack of Parisian sophistication pleased him, we developed a strong intellectual connection; my then wife and I became friends with Foucault and his partner, Daniel Defert, and spent a year and a half in Paris (1980-81);

during this period Foucault was returning to Berkeley regularly, this lasted until his untimely death (1984); during the course of our discussions the structuralism issue fell away, and another way of putting together rigorous concept work with detailed empirical work began to be exciting to me; that is what I like about anthropology and why I am an anthropologist with philosophic interests, but very few if any philosophers combine the two; since what he and I were doing was never the same, it was possible to work alongside him and also to be independent at the same time; This was a tremendously important turning point for me; I didn’t want to go back to Morocco, I was exploring the possibility of working in Vietnam; through discussions with Foucault, I began to formulate a conceptual framework which would be a kind of archaeological history of the present; I continue to think he was a great thinker but also that what he did had its limits;

much of the Foucault literature I find wrong or boring, especially the British governmentality work; as the gradual publication of his lectures indicate many unexpected things continue to be opened up by Foucault; like McKeon, he was a great influence but it was always impossible for me to be a disciple, and that is the position that I want; Foucault also wanted people to govern themselves; Bourdieu wanted you to be part of his state and his party, Foucault hated that; that suited me so I have continued with that as one of the things that I do; personally, Foucault was a very unhappy, deeply private man; he was extremely kind, and very attentive to small human things; at that level he was comfortable to be around; on the other hand you always had the sense that he was somewhere else; he was quasi-suicidal during these years, deeply in the process of changing his thought, and his relationship with Daniel was not good;

if you buy the argument that with Heidegger and Wittgenstein traditional Western metaphysics was over, then those people who wanted to continue to do philosophy or to lead a philosophic life had to figure out a different form; Richard Rorty tried and didn’t know how to do it because most philosophers can only do traditional philosophy even though they know that that tradition is over; Foucault figured out a different way of leading the philosophic life which included a Nietzschean, but also anthropological, attention to detail; in his case art and historical archaeological detail, but he spent his life not arguing concepts with people but working through material;

reading Foucault’s books and some of the lectures, their engagement with detailed historical context, with options and constraints, with settings and milieu, that combination of attention to detail combined with a passion for conceptual clarification, seems to me unique; with Dumont, you knew what his theory was, similarly with Bourdieu, theory and examples; Foucault developed a very different relation between theory and examples; I know he didn’t have any theory; this is in the tradition of concepts, experiments and results which then become problems; for me his was a philosophic life and, in many ways, a deeply anthropological life, always engaged outwards while thinking all the time; hence one needs to read his books, and particularly the recent lectures, as examples of experiences and experiments rather than theory or doctrine.

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Michel Foucault and the philosophy of punishment, Talking history, Panel discussion, 29 November 2014 Newstalk radio 106-108FM. Irish radio station

Page includes audio podcast.

The philosophy of punishment is an area of study that is relatively unaddressed and certainly does not resonate in the wider public consciousness.

The work of Michel Foucault went a long way to shedding further light on the philosophies behind discipline and punishment. This was particularly evident with his work ‘Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison’ (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison) published in 1975.

While much study had been conducted in this area prior to Foucault, with this publication, he brought the issue to the fore in the 20th century.

Foucault analysed the development of a culture that resulted in the prison system dominating the area of punishment, as society gradually moved away from the use of torture.

Foucault ultimately suggests that it is the use and subjugation of power that influences an institutions use of punishment. He rejects any notion that the development of this system had been motivated by any humanitarian ideals, or that this philosophy of punishment was initially intended as a form of rehabilitation.

While he does not suggest that this is the result of some grand master plan, he evaluates why it has developed in this manner and how this relates to society on a larger scale.

read more

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Partha Chatterjee, Governmentality in the East, lecture delivered 27 April, 2015, at the University of California, Berkeley.

There is a complete audio of the lecture on the site (Program in Critical Theory)

Foucault’s genealogy of governmentality as described in Security, Territory, Population is entirely West European. What would a genealogy of modern state practices look like in a former colonial country in Asia?

Looking at India, one finds that early governmental practices, including those of rational bureaucracy, rule of law and the knowledge of populations, were motivated mainly by raison d’État: it was the creation and maintenance of the sovereign power of British colonial authority that was the objective. In the 19th century, notions of liberal governmentality were introduced by officials influenced by utilitarian ideas to make Indian society the target of policy in order to improve productivity as well as morality. Indian nationalists in the 20th century rejected colonial governmentality and demanded full rights of sovereignty over the state. However, the postcolonial state retained the colonial apparatus of security based on raison d’État while expanding liberal governmentality to include an agenda of welfare of the people. In the more recent period, the spread of governmentality alongside the politics of electoral representation has produced in India forms of claim-making and resistance that go well beyond Foucault’s framework. (Chatterjee)

Partha Chatterjee is a political theorist and historian. He divides his time between Columbia University and the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, where he was the Director from 1997 to 2007. He is the author of more than twenty books, monographs and edited volumes and is a founding member of the Subaltern Studies Collective. He as awarded the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize for 2009 for outstanding achievements in the field of Asian studies. His books include: The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power (2012), Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy (2011), The Politics of the Governed: Considerations on Political Society in Most of the World (2004); A Princely Impostor? The Strange and Universal History of the Kumar of Bhawal (2002); The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (1993), and Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (1993).

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Colin Gordon, Lebensfuhrung and veridiction: Weber, Foucault

Podcast in a series on Daoism and Capitalism

Daoism is philosophical, political and devotional movement that emerged in early China as a critique of Confucian orthodoxy. At a crucial point in the development of the critique of political economy in the 20th and 21st centuries, a diverse array of thinkers converged upon Daoism as the image of an anti-authoritarian, non-coercive, and counter-governmental alternative to state power. Bringing together experts from sociology, political theory, cultural theory, German literary studies, philosophy, and Jewish studies to examine the composite image of ancient and modern China in contemporary political economy, this event engages with a little known, but geopolitically consequential lynchpin in the work of Max Weber, Walter Benjamin, and their interpreters. Exploring their interconnections and ramifications for the first time, the lectures grapple with how Daoism is integrated within the political economy of modern China, and within our understanding of political economy as a whole.

Colin Gordon is the editor and translator (with Graham Burchell and Peter Miller) of The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago UP, 1991) and Michel Foucault: Power/Knowledge (Pantheon, 1980). He has written extensively on political theory and history of political thought, social and cultural theory, Foucault and Weber, governmentality, and neoliberalism, and is a contributor to numerous essay collections and journal issues on Foucault’s writings and lectures.

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Naissance de la biopolitique : contextes, lectures, réceptions, disputes
Colloque de Cerisy

Podcast sur le site La forge numérique

A voir aussi France Culture plus le webcampus

Christian Laval, professeur de sociologie
laboratoire sophiapol
Date : 16/06/2015
Lieu : CCIC Cerisy
Durée : 53:17

Cette conférence a été donnée dans le cadre du colloque intitulé Foucault au Collège de France : une aventure intellectuelle et éditoriale qui s’est tenu au Centre Culturel International de Cerisy du 11 au 18 juin 2015, sous la direction de Frédéric GROS et Luca PALTRINIERI.

Les leçons de Michel Foucault au Collège de France, prononcées entre 1971 et 1984, constituent une somme théorique indépassable qui a profondément renouvelé la connaissance et la réception d’un des plus importants penseurs du XXe siècle. Au mois de mai 2015 a paru, aux éditions du Seuil / Gallimard, le volume Théories et institutions pénales, correspondant à l’année universitaire 1971-1972. Avec cette parution, un point final est mis à l’édition de ces cours mise en œuvre par François Ewald et Alessandro Fontana au milieu des années quatre-vingt-dix. Définitivement, avec cette entreprise éditoriale, une pensée de Foucault prise au vif de la parole s’est imposée sur la scène intellectuelle mondiale.
Le présent colloque entend revenir sur l’accomplissement de cette aventure intellectuelle, et surtout prendre la mesure de la diversité théorique et de l’intensité politique de ces leçons (de la pénalité à la psychiatrie, de la raison d’Etat au libéralisme, du souci de soi au courage de la vérité) en conviant un certain nombre de chercheurs, intellectuels, écrivains ou artistes à réfléchir sur ce qu’a pu représenter pour eux la redécouverte de cette parole.

Christian Laval, professeur de sociologie à l’Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, est spécialiste de l’utilitarisme et de l’œuvre de Bentham, sujets sur lesquels il a publié plusieurs ouvrages dans les années 1990. Il a publié ensuite L’homme économique (Éditions Gallimard, 2007) et une histoire de la sociologie, L’ambition sociologique (Folio, 2012). Il a écrit de nombreux articles et ouvrages sur les politiques éducatives et les transformations de l’école. Depuis 2007, il a co-écrit plusieurs ouvrages avec Pierre Dardot sur le néolibéralisme (La Nouvelle raison du monde, 2009), la pensée de Marx (Marx, prénom: Karl, 2012) et les alternatives politiques contemporaines (Commun, 2014).

Résumé de la communication

Le cours de l’année 78-79 (qui se déroule en fait de janvier à avril 79) est l’un des plus lus, et aussi l’un des plus controversés de Foucault. Il sert d’appui à tous ceux qui, pour des raisons variées, entendent faire de Michel Foucault, sinon un théoricien néolibéral avoué, du moins un sympathisant plus ou moins honteux du néolibéralisme. Nous voudrions d’abord montrer que le double contexte de production de ce cours, son actualité politique et sa place dans la recherche de Foucault, permet de faire un sort à ces imputations. Nous voudrions ensuite faire voir que le cours, aussi zigzaguant soit-il, donne du néolibéralisme comme art de gouverner une cohérence originale qui sera largement validée par son extension ultérieure. Nous voudrions enfin nous interroger sur les effets paradoxaux d’une publication qui vient plus de trente ans plus tard heurter un certain sens commun critique qui avait tendance à faire du néolibéralisme ce que Foucault considérait comme la plus grande erreur, à savoir une simple répétition du libéralisme classique. Il sera intéressant, pour conclure, de mettre en regard les interprétations foucaldiennes et bourdieusiennes du néolibéralisme.

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PHILOSOPHY – Michel Foucault
The School of Life

Published on 3 Jul 2015

Michel Foucault was a philosophical historian who questioned many of our assumptions about how much better the world is today compared with the past. When he looked at the treatment of the mad, at the medical profession and at sexuality, he didn’t see the progress that’s routinely assumed. Please help us to make films by subscribing here: http://tinyurl.com/o28mut7
Brought to you by http://www.theschooloflife.com

Produced in collaboration with Mad Adam
http://www.madadamfilms.co.uk

Editorial comment: This sounds like Alain de Botton’s voice. Some of the material in this video should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. Stuart Elden also suggests that ‘the script could have used some serious work’. For more commentary on this video see Open Culture.

 

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Prospects for an Ethics of Self-Cultivation

Introduction

Videos of this conference

‘Prospects for an Ethics of Self-Cultivation’ is a two-year research project investigating the revival of ethical self-cultivation within the European philosophical tradition.

The project will host two international conferences and workshops. The first, entitled ‘Hellenistic Ethics from Nietzsche to Foucault’, took place at the University of Warwick, UK in September 2014. The second, entitled ‘Modern Appraisals of the Hellenistic Legacy’, will be at Monash University’s campus in Prato, Italy in June 2015.

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