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Foucault's lectures at the Collège de France

Lectures at the Collège de France
Author Michel Foucault
Original title Lectures at the Collège de France series
Translator Graham Burchell
Country France
Language French
Published St Martin's Press
  • Lectures on the Will to Know
On the Government of the Living
  • Psychiatric Power
Security, Territory, Population
  • Society Must be Defended
The Birth of Biopolitics
  • The Courage of Truth
The Government of Self and Others
  • The Hermeneutics of the Subject
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

In 1970 Michel Foucault was admitted to the Collège de France; as required by this appointment he held a series of public lectures from 1970 until his death in 1984. These lectures in which he further advanced his work, were summarised from audio recordings and edited by Michel Senellart. They were subsequently translated into English and further edited by Graham Burchell and published posthumously by St Martin's Press.

On the Punitive Society (1972-1973)

In these lectures, yet to be published into English, Foucault uses the first precursor of Discipline and Punish to study the foundations of what he calls “disciplinary institutions”(punitive power) and the productive dimensions of penality. Foucault spent a lot of time during this period trying to make intelligible the internal and external dynamics of what we call the prison. He questioned, "What are the relations of power which made possible the historical emergence of something like the prison?". This was correlated to three terms; firstly ‘measure’ "a means of establishing or restoring order, the right order, in the combat of men or the elements; but also a matrix of mathematical and physical knowledge."(treated in more detail in The Will To Knowledge lectures of 1971); Secondly the ‘inquiry’ "a means of establishing or restoring facts, events, actions, properties, rights; but also a matrix of empirical knowledge and natural sciences"(from the 1972 lectures Theories On Punishment and Penal Theories and Institutions) and thirdly ‘the examination’ treated as “the permanent control of the individual, like a permanent test with no endpoint”. Foucault links the examination with 18th century Political economy and the productive labourers with the wealth they produce and the forces of production.

Society Must Be Defended (1975-1976)

Foucault,in these series of lectures,which form a trilogy;Society Must Be Defended, Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitics the very first time the concept of Biopower first appears here.Also,the first explanatory explanation of the term “Civil war” gets a full discussion in the form of rigorous treatment of a working definition.Foucault try’s to go into great detail how power(as Foucault saw it) the general detail becomes a battle ground drifting from civil war to generalized pacification of the individual and particularly the systems he(the individual) relies upon and gives loyalty too: "According to this hypothesis, the role of political power is perpetually to use a sort of silent war to reinscribe that relationship of force, and to reinscribe it in institutions, economic inequalities, language, and even the bodies of individuals.” Foucault begins to explain that this generalized form of power is not only rooted into Disciplinary institutions but is also concentrated into “political sovereignty, the military, and war” so is in turn spread evenly right throughout modern society as a network of domination and a “Jurisdiction test with a permanent perpetual verdict as a resultant dynamic juridical and economic conceptions of power, law, domination, and subjugation including biological theory applied to politics as a resultant consequence therefore, extending the Medieval term Body politic "King as body of the nation" to modern society". So Foucault asks us to consider how the role of subjectification can manufacture subjects and most importantly how with the concept civil war(Foucault uses the term “civil war” instead of the Marxist term “class war”) person-to-person group-to-group dynamics that this “civil war” “become the professional and technical prerogative of a carefully defined and controlled military apparatus?”

Foucault then goes into great detail what lies behind the “academic chestnut” which couldn’t be deciphered by his historical predecessors namely the disjointed and discontinuous movement of history and power(Biopower).What is meant by this? For Foucault predecessors history was concerned by deeds of monarchs and a full list of their accomplishments in which the sovereign is presented in the text as doing all things ‘great’.This 'greatness' of deeds was accomplished all by themselves however,for Foucault this wasn’t the case: “Sovereignty-whether it involves a "commonwealth by institution" or a "commonwealth by acquisition”.Foucault’s genealogy comes into play here where Foucault try’s to build a bridge between two theoretical notions;disciplinary power (Disciplinary institutions) and Biopower and the constant shift,throughout history, between the two ‘Paradigms’.And what developments-from these two ‘paradigms’ became new subjects(subjectification and domination).The previous historical dimensions so often portrayed by historians (according to Foucault)was sovereign history and most importantly a signifier for sovereignty and acts as a ceremonial tool for sovereign power “It glorifies and adds lustre to power. History performs this function in two modes: (1)in a “genealogical” mode (understood in the simple sense of that term) that traces the linage of the sovereign.”This is where Foucault discusses a “counterhistory” of “race struggle or race war”.By race Foucault means different cultural, religious and linguistics practices which culminates into-as what we understand the term-the mythology of different ‘biological races’ and acts as unifying agent amongst the population forming a ‘nation’. By the time of the 17th century with the development of Mercantilism, Statistics (Mathematical statistics) and Political economy this reaches a most vitriolic and vicious form (in the guise of armies both industrial and military)in which-according to Foucault-a war against each not in the form of constant bickering amongst ourselves but in a struggle for the states very existence.

Security, Territory, Population (1977–1978)

The course deals with the genesis of a political knowledge that was to place at the centre of its concerns the notion of population and the mechanisms capable of ensuring its regulation but even of its procedures and means employed to ensure,in a given society, "the government of men". A transition from a "territorial state" to a "population state"(Nation state)? Foucault examines the notion of biopolitics and Biopower as a new technology of power over populations that is distinct from punitive disciplinary systems, by tracing the history of governmentality, from the first centuries of the Christian era to the emergence of the modern nation state. These lectures illustrate a radical turning point in Foucault's work at which a shift to the problematic of the government of self and others occurred.

The Birth of Biopolitics (1978–1979)

The Birth of Biopolitics develops further the notion of biopolitics that Foucault introduced in his lectures on "Society must be defended". It traces how eighteenth-century political economy marked the birth of a new governmental rationality and raises questions of political philosophy and social policy about the role and status of neo-liberalism in twentieth century politics.

On The Government Of The Living (1979-1980)

In the On The Government Of The Living lectures delivered in the early months of 1980 Foucault begins to ask questions of Western man obedience to power structures unreservedly and the pressing question of Government: "Government of children, government of souls and consciences, government of a household, of a state, or of oneself." Or Governmentality,as Foucault prefers to call it without ever questioning its very existence nor its development.Foucault try’s to trace the kernel of “the genealogy of obedience” in western society.The 1980 lectures attempt to relate the historical foundations of “our obedience”—which must be understood as the obedience of the Western subject.Foucault argues, confessional techniques are an innovation of the Christian West intended to guarantee men’s obedience to structures of power in return,so the belief goes,for Christian salvation.In his summary of the course Foucault asks the question: “How is it that within Western Christian culture, the government of men requires, on the part of those who are led, in addition to acts of obedience and submission, ‘acts of truth,’ which have this particular character that not only is the subject required to speak truthfully, but to speak truthfully about himself?”The reader should take note here, much of this kind of work has been done before, albeit in what is best described as brilliant, lost and forgotten scholarship by such scholars as Ernst Kantorowicz(his work on the Body politic and the King’s two bodies),Percy Ernst Schramm,Carl Erdmann,Hermann Kantorowicz,Frederick Pollock and Frederick Maitland.However, Foucault was after the genealogical dynamics and his main thrust was “regimes of truth”and the emergence and gradual development of “reflexive acts of truth”.Foucault locates the very beginning of this act of obedience to power structures and the truth that they bring to the first Christian institutions between 2nd century and the 5th century C.E..This is where Foucault starts to use his main tool-that is Genealogy (philosophy) as his main focus and it is with this genealogical tool that you finely get to understand fully what genealogy actually means.Foucault goes into great pain staking detail into the Christian Baptism and its contingency and discontinuity in order to find the “the genealogy of confession”.This is an attempt-according to Foucault-to write a “political history of the truth”.

Subjectivity and Truth (1980-1981)

In these lectures, yet to be published in English, Foucault develops notions on the ability of the concept of truth to shift through time as described by the modern human sciences (for example Ethology) in contrast to ancient society (Aristotelian notions). It discusses how these notions are accepted as truth and produce the self as true. This is followed by a discussion on the existence of this truth and the discourse of truth for the experience of the self.

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