Category Archives: Philosophy

Michel Foucault: Society Must Be Defended

This is one of the great books in Foucault’s groundbreaking series of lectures at the Collège de France. The e-book is available here. The main theme of the lectures is the contention that war can be used to analyse power relations. Foucault contends that politics is a continuation of war by other means. Thus, any constitutional theory of sovereignty and right is an attempt to refute the fact that power relations are based upon a relationship of conflict, violence and domination. The book is coloured with historical examples, drawn from the early modern period in both England and France, with wonderful digressions into subjects as diverse as classical French tragedy and the gothic novel. Here, Foucault deals with the emergence in the early seventeenth century of a new understanding of war as the permanent basis of all institutions of power, a hidden presence within society that could be deciphered by an historical analysis. Tracing this development, Foucault outlines the genealogy of power and knowledge that had become his dominant concern. Praise for “Society Must Be Defended”: [Foucault] must be reckoned with by humanists, social scientists, and political activists. – The New York Times Book Review. Foucault is quite central to our sense of where we are. . . [He] is carrying out, in the noblest way, the promiscuous aim of true culture. – The Nation. Continue reading

Michel Foucault: The Punitive Society

9781403986603This is one of the great series of books in Foucault’s groundbreaking series of lectures at the Collège de France.“Unfortunately, when we teach morality, when we study the history of morals, we always analyze the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and do not read [Colquhoun], this character who is fundamental for our morality. To understand a society’s system of morality we have to ask the question: Where is the wealth? The history of morality should be organized entirely by this question of the location and movement of wealth,” said Michel Foucault. These thirteen lectures on the ‘punitive society,’ delivered at the Collège de France: in the first three months of 1973, examine the way in which the relations between justice and truth that govern modern penal law were forged, and question what links them to the emergence of a new punitive regime that still dominates contemporary society. Presumed to be preparation for Discipline and Punish, published in 1975, in fact the lectures unfold quite differently, going beyond the carceral system and encompassing the whole of capitalist society, at the heart of which is the invention of a particular management of the multiplicity of interweaving illegalisms. Continue reading

Michel Foucault: Security, Territory, Population

This is one of the great series of books in Foucault’s groundbreaking series of lectures at the Collège de France: the full pdf e-book is available here. The book description is as follows: Marking a major development in Foucault’s thinking, this book derives from the lecture course which he gave at the Collège de France between January and April, 1978. Taking as his starting point the notion of ‘bio-power’, introduced both in his 1976 course Society Must be Defended and in the first volume of his History of Sexuality, Foucault sets out to study the foundations of this new technology of power over population. Distinct from disciplinary techniques, the mechanisms of power are here finely entwined with technologies of security, and it is to the 18th century developments of these technologies with which the first chapters of the book are concerned. By the fourth lecture however Foucault’s attention turns, focusing newly on a history of ‘governmentality’ from the first centuries of the Christian era through to the emergence of the modern nation state. As Michel Sennerlart explains in his afterword, the effect of this Continue reading

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

This classic by Michel Foucault is available as an e-book here. In the Middle Ages there were goals and dungeons, but punishment was for the most part a spectacle. The economic changes and growing popular dissent of the 18th century made necessary a more systematic control over the individual members of society, and this in effect meant a change from punishment, which chastised the body, to reform, which touched the soul. Foucault shows the development of the Western system of prisons, police organizations, administrative and legal hierarchies for social control – and the growth of disciplinary society as a whole. Foucault also reveals that between school, factories, barracks and hospitals all share a common organization, in which it is possible to control the use of an individual’s time and space hour by hour.