Archive for the ‘Work by Foucault’ Category

Colin Gordon, New additions to academia.edu site, March 2015

« Le possible : alors et maintenant : The possible then and now. » A new publication in a special issue of the French journal Cultures & Conflits on the theme of the critique of criminological reason. My piece is an essay in the history of the possible, looking back at the moment of possibility in thinking about penal practices which was opened up by Foucault’s Discipline and Punish – what is was, what happened to it, and what today’s possible might look like.

The other recent piece is « Expelled questions: Foucault, the Left and the law », a chapter from a volume edited by Ben Golder and published in 2013. This challenges and corrects a widespread misconception that Foucault’s thought neglects and marginalises law.

« Interview with Michel Foucault. » A posthumously published interview from 1978, originally intended to form part of the Power/Knowledge volume. Foucault talks about his relations with Marxism, his early philosophical influences, and his dislike of the concept of power.

« Introduction to Pasquino and Procacci. » A brief piece from the journal Ideology & Consciousness in 1978, presenting some early examples of Foucault-inspired genealogy of power/knowledge and governmentality.

« Birth of the Subject. » My first long piece on Foucault, published in Radical Philosophy in 1977 – an extended, pre-translation overview of Discipline and Punish and History of Sexuality 1.

« The Philosopher in the Classroom. » A 1977 report co-written with Jonathan Rée on how post-68 radicalism was challenging the way philosophy was being taught in schools.

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vrin-15Michel Foucault, Qu’est-ce que la critique? Suivie de La culture de soi
Édition établie par H.-P. Fruchaud et D. Lorenzini
Introduction et apparat critique par D. Lorenzini et A.I. Davidson

Vrin – Philosophie du présent
192 pages – 12,5 × 18 cm
ISBN 978-2-7116-2624-3 – mars 2015

Further info

PDF Table des matières

Le 27 mai 1978, Michel Foucault prononce devant la Société française de Philosophie une conférence où il inscrit sa démarche dans la perspective ouverte par l’article de Kant Qu’est-ce que les Lumières? (1784), et définit la critique, de manière frappante, comme une attitude éthico-politique consistant dans l’art de n’être pas tellement gouverné. Ce volume en présente pour la première fois l’édition critique.

On y trouvera également la traduction d’une conférence inédite intitulée La culture de soi, prononcée à l’Université de Californie à Berkeley le 12 avril 1983. C’est le seul moment où, définissant son travail comme une ontologie historique de nous-mêmes, Foucault fait le lien entre ses réflexions sur l’Aufklärung et ses analyses de l’Antiquité gréco-romaine. Au cours du même séjour en Californie, Foucault participe aussi à trois débats publics où il est amené à revenir sur plusieurs aspects de son parcours philosophique. On en trouvera le texte à la suite de la conférence.

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Michael Bibby, Selections from Foucault’s Lectures on ‘Security, Territory, Population’ at the College de France (1977-78)

“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.”

A selection from Foucault’s lectures at the College de France between 1977-78 titled Security, Territory, Population.

…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.”


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.

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manifestolibriMichel Foucault. Genealogie del presente, Con un’intervista a Michel Foucault e un’intervista a Daniel Defert
Saggi di Laura Cremonesi, Daniele Lorenzini, Orazio Irrera, Martina Tazzioli, Paolo B. Vernaglione
Manifestolibri, 2015

Further info

Dall’Introduzione al volume:

L’occasione di questa pubblicazione è stato il trentennale della scomparsa di Michel Foucault. Nel 2014 in tutto il mondo convegni e libri hanno reso testimonianza dell’opera di chi, a ragione, può essere considerato tra i grandi della storia del pensiero. Ma l’occasione non ha fatto e non può fare di Foucault un “classico” della filosofia, o dell’epistemologia, tantomeno la sua vasta produzione può essere circoscritta nell’area accademica ­– benchè ormai università e centri di formazione, luoghi di produzione e condivisione del sapere e imprese editoriali abbiano moltiplicato l’interesse per l’autore dei corsi al College de France. La figura di Foucault infatti, come accade a quei filosofi che da una posizione decentrata riscrivono categorie e forme del sapere, vive in questi anni di un paradosso: un pensiero del fuori e una cultura della marginalità sono stati indagati e compresi a partire dalle scansioni temporali che filosofi, storici ed epistemologi hanno assegnato ai grandi eventi e ai passaggi d’epoca, l’antichità, l’epoca classica, la modernità. Con Foucault infatti la pratica della storia ha aperto il pensiero, infrangendo le barriere disciplinari e gli specialismi, per catturare un’ontologia del presente di cui l’attualità chiede la restituzione.

Del resto il paradosso di un archeologo non può che essere questo. D’altra parte produrre discorso nell’orizzonte di una critica radicale del sapere, dei rapporti di potere e delle forme di soggettivazione comporta una reazione forte di quella modernità che è stata criticata e messa in scacco con i suoi stessi strumenti concettuali.

Da questa particolare postura, assunta nell’elaborazione di un metodo genealogico, a partire dagli scorsi anni Sessanta, si stacca la problematizzazione dello strutturalismo e della fenomenologia, e deriva quello sguardo trasversale sul sapere e la storia che ha molto in comune con il gesto sovversivo di Nietzsche nei confronti della metafisica. L’”uso” che è stato e continuerà ad essere fatto del pensiero di Foucualt costituisce, non solo per questi motivi, il lascito più importante e produttivo per le generazioni a venire. Infatti movimenti di contestazione, comunità gay, teorici politici radicali, nonchè quei rari filosofi che assumono l’archeologia dei saperi e del linguaggio come orizzonte complessivo di ricerca, e la genealogia come metodo analitico, hanno continuato l’opera foucauldiana, rendendo esplicito l’intreccio inestricabile di pensiero e prassi e sgombrando in via definitiva il campo sia dall’ideologia dell’intellettuale come figura separata dalla società, ideologia resistente fino a Sartre, sia dall’idea che la militanza politica escluda la riflessione e sia l’orizzonte esclusivo dei conflitti.

D’altra parte la ricerca e il dibattito intorno alla follia, all’organizzazione discorsiva dei saperi, ai dispositivi disciplinari e alle forme di soggettivazione vivono nella contraddizione che si è aperta tra ricezione del pensiero di Foucault e la rilettura più o meno filologica della sua opera. Ricerca e confronto che hanno impegnato almeno tre generazioni di studiosi, militanti e ricercatori, prima di acquisire il rango di tematiche del presente, con l’inevitabile genericità che comporta l’adattamento ad un’attualità che le respinge, di questioni inscritte nella carne viva di esistenze compromesse. Così, mentre negli anni Sessanta il metodo inaugurato da Le parole e le cose e L‘ Archeologia del sapere si scontrava con la tradizione storicista e lo strutturalismo, risultando di difficile penetrazione anzitutto in Francia, negli anni Settanta la stagione dei conflitti operai e studenteschi produceva un controeffetto sul lavoro che Foucault sviluppava sulle istituzioni disciplinari e la microfisica del potere, annodando riflessione e pratica politica, teoria e analisi delle contraddizioni del capitalismo nel confronto con il pensiero di Marx, letto a sua volta per la prima volta fuori e contro i “marxismi”.

Laddove poi la modernità assumeva l’abito e il ritmo della “modernizzazione”, negli anni Ottanta, la grande riflessione di Foucault sulle pratiche di soggettivazione, la parresia, la cura di sè e il governo dei viventi, rendevano esplicito il rapporto essenziale tra l’ “inattualità” del metodo archivistico e la registrazione del presente, dotando il pensiero di un formidabile strumento di penetrazione di una realtà considerata debole perchè postideologica. Ciò che è successo dopo, con la pubblicazione progressiva dei Corsi, dell’impressionante mole dei Dits et Ecrits e con la progressiva pubblicazione delle conferenze e degli interventi degli anni Ottanta, di cui abbiamo anche parziale testimonianaza on line con le registrazioni audio e video, ha contribuito in larga misura a rendere popolare la ricezione e l’ascolto di Foucault, aprendo quel piano concettuale che va sotto il nome di “biopolitica”. Questo rimane a tutt’oggi il luogo più discusso e rielaborato del suo pensiero.

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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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