Archive for the ‘Work by Foucault’ Category

Michael Bibby, Foucault’s Lectures on ‘Psychiatric Power’ at the Collège de France (1973-74)

Notes on selections
Here is a selection I have made from Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France between 1973-4, translated by Graham Burchell, and published by Macmillan in 2006 with the title Psychiatric Power.

The first thing I think that should be said about these lectures, given their title, is that they should be viewed as less about the ‘power of psychiatry’ and more about the ‘psychiatric character of power’ (although as soon as I invoke the word ‘power’ I feel the need to place that loaded word in quotation marks, to bracket it off, so that its meaning is no longer self-evident, and it is allowed to wander in the uncertainty of its meaning. Perhaps a better word here would be ‘discipline’, with which it is more or less synonymous).

In these lectures Foucault’s takes up again some of the themes which he first took up in Histoire de la folie. In some respects, it could be seen as a follow up to that earlier work which took up so much of his energies and represented the culmination of his first efforts (chronologically it begins roughly where that book left off, and, after all, he did say that Histoire de la folie was going to be the first volume of a much larger work), but it can also be seen as preparatory work for his Discipline and Punish (which was published the following year). Here is a link to a selection from the chapter ‘The Birth of the Asylum’ from Histoire de la folie.

My selection represents an attempt to distill the contents of these lectures so that they can be allowed to express themselves more forcibly (of course, it can in no way be said to replace the Macmillan publication, and I can satisfy my conscience for the crime of violating intellectual property laws– even though the size of my selection falls under 10% of the text– with the knowledge that, if anything, my dissemination of its contents will only lead to more interest in that publication). I have also added some supplementary material to further augment the text.

Here is the link to a selection I have made from Tuke’s Description of the Retreat, and see here for a selection from Pinel’s Treatise on Insanity.

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Michel Foucault, Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice, Fabienne Brion and Bernard E. Harcourt (eds.), Stephen W. Sawyer (tr.), University of Chicago Press, 2014, 344pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780226257709.

Reviewed by Todd May, Clemson University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 13 January 2015

This volume consists of six lectures, preceded by an inaugural lecture and followed by three interviews, that Michel Foucault delivered in 1981 at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium at the request of its School of Criminology. That fact has bearing on the lectures themselves. In these lectures (six of which were transcribed from videotapes, and the inaugural lecture from the manuscript), Foucault offers a rough genealogy of practices of what in French is called aveu, and is translated here as avowal.[1] Near the end of the final lecture, Foucault considers the role of avowal in recent penal practices, and it is clear that his interest is in good part giving an account of how avowal came to have the place it does in those practices.

For those who have read the recently released Collège de France lectures On the Government of the Living, some of the material will be familiar. Other parts harken back to Foucault’s first Collège de France presentations, Lectures on the Will to Know. However, the structure of these lectures is, to my mind, unique in Foucault’s corpus. Rather than focusing on a period of several hundred years, as was his normal practice, he covers a broad sweep from Homeric Greece to the present. In that sense, the Louvain lectures are not a genealogy in the sense many of us have come to identify in Foucault’s work. Rather than showing how the intersection of particular practices give rise to something that had not previously existed (madness, sexuality, the normal, etc.), the lectures trace changes over nearly three millenia in the way subjectivity was constituted in particular practices through the changing nature of avowal. As with his standard genealogies, Foucault is interested here in the relation of subjectivity and truth. Moreover, that interest is focused on the way certain forms of subjectivity are constituted by certain practices of truth. However, whereas in other works the focus is on the emergence of those forms of subjectivity as historical novelties, here the focus is on the changing nature of a particular type of practice: that of avowing. To put the point another way, whereas in the genealogies the focus is on new emergences, in the Louvain lectures it is on the evolving character of a particular practice.

[1] The editors note that they prefer the term avowal to the more commonly used confession, since the former has a wider use, which better reflects the variety of uses in the lectures.


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wrong-doingMichel Foucault, Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice,
Edited by Fabienne Brion and Bernard E. Harcourt
Translated by Stephen W. Sawyer

360 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2014

Further info

Three years before his death, Michel Foucault delivered a series of lectures at the Catholic University of Louvain that until recently remained almost unknown. These lectures—which focus on the role of avowal, or confession, in the determination of truth and justice—provide the missing link between Foucault’s early work on madness, delinquency, and sexuality and his later explorations of subjectivity in Greek and Roman antiquity.

Ranging broadly from Homer to the twentieth century, Foucault traces the early use of truth-telling in ancient Greece and follows it through to practices of self-examination in monastic times. By the nineteenth century, the avowal of wrongdoing was no longer sufficient to satisfy the call for justice; there remained the question of who the “criminal” was and what formative factors contributed to his wrong-doing. The call for psychiatric expertise marked the birth of the discipline of psychiatry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as its widespread recognition as the foundation of criminology and modern criminal justice.

Published here for the first time, the 1981 lectures have been superbly translated by Stephen W. Sawyer and expertly edited and extensively annotated by Fabienne Brion and Bernard E. Harcourt. They are accompanied by two contemporaneous interviews with Foucault in which he elaborates on a number of the key themes. An essential companion to Discipline and Punish, Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling will take its place as one of the most significant works of Foucault to appear in decades, and will be necessary reading for all those interested in his thought.

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Originally posted on Progressive Geographies:

Foucault’s major works – his sole-authored books, plus some articles – will appear in a two-volume collection in 2015 as a prestigious Pléiade edition. Thanks to Colin Gordon for alerting me to the news. Frédéric Gros is interviewed about this here (in French). Among other things the interview says that the final Collège de France course, Théories et institutions pénales (1971-1972), is due out in 2015, and that, in common with other volumes, the Pléiade volumes will be a critical edition.

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subjectiviteMichel Foucault, Subjectivité et vérité. Cours au Collège de France (1980-1981), Gallimard Seuil, Collection Hautes Etudes

Date de parution 02/05/2014
352 pages – 26.00 € TTC

Publisher’s page

« L’hypothèse de travail est celle-ci : il est vrai que la sexualité comme expérience n’est évidemment pas indépendante des codes et du système des interdits, mais il faut rappeler aussitôt que ces codes sont étonnamment stables, continus, lents à se mouvoir. Il faut rappeler aussi que la façon dont ils sont observés ou transgressés semble elle aussi très stable et très répétitive. En revanche le point de mobilité historique, ce qui sans doute change le plus souvent, ce qui a été le plus fragile, ce sont les modalités de l’expérience. »

Michel Foucault

Foucault prononce en 1981 un cours qui marque une inflexion décisive dans son chemin de pensée et le projet ébauché dès 1976 d’une Histoire de la sexualité. C’est le moment où les arts de vivre deviennent le foyer de sens à partir duquel pourra se déployer une pensée neuve de la subjectivité. C’est le moment aussi où Foucault problématise une conception de l’éthique comprise comme l’élaboration patiente d’un rapport de soi à soi. L’étude de l’expérience sexuelle des Anciens permet ces nouveaux déploiements conceptuels. Dans ce cadre, Foucault analyse des écrits médicaux, des traités sur le mariage, la philosophie de l’amour ou la valeur pronostique des rêves érotiques, afin d’y retrouver le témoignage d’une structuration du sujet dans son rapport aux plaisirs (aphrodisia) antérieure à la construction moderne d’une science de la sexualité, antérieure à la hantise chrétienne de la chair. L’enjeu est en effet d’établir que l’imposition d’une herméneutique patiente et interminable du désir constitue l’invention du christianisme. Mais pour cela, il importait de ressaisir la spécificité irréductible des techniques de soi antiques.

Dans cette série de leçons, qui annoncent clairement L’Usage des plaisirs et Le Souci de soi, Foucault interroge particulièrement le primat grec de l’opposition actif / passif sur les distinctions de genre, ainsi que l’élaboration par le stoïcisme impérial d’un modèle de lien conjugal prônant une fidélité sans faille, un partage des sentiments, et conduisant à la disqualification de l’homosexualité.

With thanks to Stuart Elden at Progressive Geographies for this news

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Philosophers DVD
Author(s): Moderator and commentator Fons Elders
Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault
Sir Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess
Leszek Kolakowski and Henri Lefèbvre
Sir Karl Popper and Sir John Eccles

A series by Fons Elders

This DVD is available at a more reasonable price from Fons Elders’ site than from Icarus films.

Review by Brian Boling

In 1971, a Dutch initiative called the International Philosophers Project brought together the leading thinkers of the day for a series of one-on-one debates. The participants included intellectual superstars Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess, Karl Popper and John Eccles, Leszek Kolakowski and Henri Lefèbvre, and – most notably, in a now justifiably famous exchange – Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault.

This two-disc set collects all four remarkable conversations, along with introductions and commentary by Dutch philosopher and writer Fons Elders. Elders moderated the original debates – hand-picking each of the participants after spending some time getting to know them. Now, looking back four decades later, he offers perspective and context, summarizing the arguments and highlighting the key moments of each debate.

DISC ONE (80 and 74 minutes)

Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault  

The Chomsky-Foucault debate has become a much-studied classic. This DVD captures all the energy and passion of the two philosophers, as they discuss whether or not some form of universal human nature – an inherent ability to understand language and scientific concepts, for instance – exists, or whether our responses are purely socially and culturally conditioned.

Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess  

A lively debate between British empiricist Alfred Ayer, who champions a limited skepticism, and Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, the founder of the deep ecology movement, whose philosophy embraces interconnectedness.

DISC TWO (80 and 77 minutes)

Karl Popper and John Eccles  

Historian of science Karl Popper and his close friend, Nobel-prize-winning neuroscientist John Eccles, discuss Popper’s famous criterion of falsifiability: the idea that a statement is only scientific if it could possibility be proved false, which he had articulated against the traditional positivist view of the scientific method.

Leszek Kolakowski and Henri Lefèbvre  

Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski and French thinker Henri Lefèbvre (both former Communist Party members) debate the ongoing significance of Marxism and the concept of alienation – while at the same time struggling to define what a future, post-capitalist society might hold.


Each of these conversations captures the intellectual and social ferment of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when dramatic social and economic transformation seemed imminent – and philosophical questions underpinned discussions about what form the new society would take. Though many of the questions under discussion are timeless, this social and political context gives them a particular sense of urgency.

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clarisMichel Foucault – Freedom and Knowledge
Author(s): Edited by Fons Elders and Lionel Claris
Elders Special Productions BV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ISBN 978-90-805600-6-2 NUR 730

You can purchase this book as a paperback and also read the book in an ereader on Fons Elder’s site. An extract can also be found on Lionel Claris’ academia.edu site and you can find a version of Lynne Huffer’s introduction via a link in this earlier post on Foucault news


1, Preface by Fons Elders

2. Introduction by Lynne Huffer,
What Could Be Otherwise

Notes Introduction

3. Fons Elders’ response letter to Lynne Huffer

4. Michel Foucault,
Freedom and Knowledge
A first-time published interview by Fons Elders, translated by Lionel Claris

5. Michel Foucault: Retrospective Commentaries
by Fons Elders

Part I –The Interview,
The Question of Paradise

Part II –The Debate:
Human Nature: Justice versus Power
Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault

Part III –Michel Foucault – My Personal View

Index of Names
Index of Subjects

Here is a link again to the newly rediscovered 1971 Foucault interview on Dutch television referred to in this book.

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