Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Andrew Johnson, Foucault: Critical Theory of the Police in a Neoliberal Age, Theoria, Volume 61, Number 141, December 2014, pp. 5-29(25)


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In Discipline and Punish the police is a state institution isomorphic with the prison. In his Collège de France lectures, Foucault unearths a ‘secret history of the police’ where greater attention is paid to public health, social welfare and regulating the marketplace than investigating and arresting criminals. This broad overview of Foucault’s writings on the police exhibits a ‘splintering-effect’ in his modalities of power. To resolve this apparent contradiction, a nominalist reading that conflates Foucault’s divergent paradigms of power results in a more multifaceted history and a ubiquitous mode of power with diverse and precise techniques. There are strengths and weaknesses in Foucault’s theory when applied to modern neoliberal police. Foucault should not be employed for one-dimensional criticisms of modern police or as an analytical cure-all.


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