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Sociology Michel Foucault
by
Gavin Kendall

Introduction

Paul-Michel Foucault was born in Poitiers, France, on 15 October 1926 and died in Paris on 25 June 1984. He was a French philosopher and historian—in his own words, a historian of systems of thought—but his work has had an enormous impact across the humanities and social sciences. His family background was in medicine: His father was a surgeon, and his mother, whose own father was also a doctor, helped run her husband’s practice. The Foucault family led a comfortable, middle-class existence, and there was an expectation that Michel (as he preferred to be known) would continue the family business, training in medicine and eventually taking over his father’s practice; this expectation would never be met, however, as Foucault had other interests. In 1946, he enrolled at the École Normale Supérieure. He passed the agrégation in 1951 and by 1952 was teaching psychology at the University of Lille. His first significant publications—Maladie Mentale et Personnalité and his introduction to Binswanger’s Dream and Existence—were published in 1954. In the next few years, Foucault held posts in Uppsala, Warsaw, and Hamburg before settling in 1960 at the University of Clermont-Ferrand. In 1961 he obtained his doctorate, and his major thesis, “Madness and Civilization,” was published. In 1963 he published The Birth of the Clinic and Raymond Roussel. In 1966, on the publication of the best-selling The Order of Things, Foucault was widely acclaimed as one of the leading figures in French intellectual life. In 1969, he moved to the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes and published The Archaeology of Knowledge. In 1970, he was appointed to a post (Professor of the History of Systems of Thought) at the Collège de France, a prestigious research institution, and he held this position until his death in 1984. The post entailed twenty-six hours of teaching each year, with about half of this commitment being taken up with lectures outlining current research. In 1973, he published I, Pierre Rivière . . . , and in 1975, Discipline and Punish. His final three published books were part of the History of Sexuality project: In 1976, he published the first volume; in 1984, knowing he was dying, he rushed to finish Volumes 2 and 3 (The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self).

General Overviews

There is a glut of general overviews, ranging from a number of texts aimed at undergraduates, which describe Foucault’s main concepts and aim at simplification, through to those that deal with the more complex elements of his work. Veyne 2010 is a good place to start, as it mixes details from Foucault’s life with key points about his philosophical preferences and is an easy read. Of the undergraduate texts, McHoul and Grace 1997 provides a straightforward introduction, while Smart 2002 gives more detail—Smart’s chapters on major themes and on methodology are especially useful for the beginning reader. O’Farrell 2005 and Deleuze 1986 are the best two general accounts of Foucault: O’Farrell concentrates on Foucault as a cultural analyst, while Deleuze’s strength is in taking us in turn through archaeology and genealogy and then knowledge, power, and the subject, without losing sight of their interconnections. Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982 is very useful for their methodological advice, showing us how genealogy emerges as a “solution” to the problems of archaeology; likewise Dean 1994 is most useful for its methodological sophistication and is the recommended text for those who want to know how to try to emulate Foucault’s approach. Gutting 2005 is a useful and interesting collection; for the beginner, the chapters by Flynn, and Bernauer and Mahon, are the best place to start.

  • Dean, Mitchell. 1994. Critical and effective histories: Foucault’s methods and historical sociology. New York: Routledge.

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    Especially useful for sociologists, as this text makes connections to Weber and Habermas. Concentrates on Foucault’s later work on governmentality. Dean makes a powerful argument for the role of historical work in sociology. This is the best place to start if one is interested in emulating Foucault’s methodological approach.

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  • Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Foucault. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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    Difficult and idiosyncratic but the best account of knowledge, power, and subjectification. The first half deals with archaeology and genealogy; the second deals with knowledge, power, and the subject. Extremely useful for showing how power and knowledge are not the same thing, a common misconception about Foucault’s work.

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  • Dreyfus, Hubert L., and Paul Rabinow. 1982. Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Very useful for making sense of The Archaeology of Knowledge and in analyzing the turn to genealogy, which is understood as a solution to the “failures” of archaeology. Together with Dean 1994, this is recommended as a methodological guide.

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  • Gutting, Gary, ed. 2005. The Cambridge companion to Foucault. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521840821Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A series of essays on various Foucaultian themes. Lacks coherence but takes the reader into a number of fascinating areas. Flynn on history and Bernauer and Mahon on ethics are especially useful chapters. The chapter by “Maurice Florence” purports to be Foucault’s own pseudonymous account of his thought.

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  • McHoul, Alec W., and Wendy Grace. 1997. A Foucault primer: Discourse, power, and the subject. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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    A well-written and easily understood text—perhaps the best place for an undergraduate to start.

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  • O’Farrell, Clare. 2005. Michel Foucault. London: SAGE.

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    Especially useful for those interested in cultural analysis. O’Farrell emphasizes the utility of Foucault’s definition of culture: the organization of knowledges and social relations and the ways in which these are rendered acceptable or unacceptable. Includes a useful chronology and bibliography. The appendix of key concepts is very valuable.

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  • Smart, Barry. 2002. Michel Foucault. New York: Routledge.

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    A well-written, thematic treatment of Foucault. Recommended for undergraduate audiences. The first chapter, on major themes in Foucault, and the second chapter, on methodological approaches, are especially well written for a beginner.

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  • Veyne, Paul. 2010. Foucault: His thought, his character. Malden, MA: Polity.

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    This appreciation, by one of his close friends, stresses Foucault’s skepticism and his debt to Nietzsche. The book dismisses the idea that Foucault was a relativist but allows that he was a nominalist, who nonetheless respected the truth of “stubborn facts.”

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Biographies

There are three major biographies. Foucault was skeptical of the value of recounting the life of an author and pined for a degree of anonymity—why can we not simply read an author without concern for the author’s private life?—therefore, there is a certain incongruity surrounding the existence of these books. Nonetheless, it is useful to see how Foucault’s thought emerged from his engagement with Nietzsche and Heidegger (among others) and from his attempt to go beyond phenomenology and existentialism; these biographies cover the intellectual genesis of Foucault’s work well. Macey 1994 has the most useful bibliography and is perhaps the best at connecting Foucault’s life to his developing thought. Eribon 1991 reads more like a traditional biography, while Miller 1993 is the keenest to excavate the psychology of Foucault.

Selected Major Works

Foucault will be remembered for a series of brilliant monographs that, from 1961 to 1984, periodically disturbed the certainties of our knowledge about ourselves and our culture. His first book, Maladie mentale et personnalité, appeared in 1954 and then again in a revised and retitled version in 1962. Between the two editions of this work on psychology and mental illness, his major doctoral thesis (Foucault 2006) was published in 1961, analyzing madness and unreason. In 1963 he published an analysis of the writer Raymond Roussel, one of a number of less well-known writings on art and literature. Foucault 2008 continued the interrogation of medical knowledge but shifted his focus from psychiatry to clinical medicine. Foucault 2010a was the book that brought Foucault fame and established him as a leading intellectual figure of the age; it was an unlikely book to do so, as it contained some very difficult analyses of political economy, philology, and biology. The opening section, on Velázquez’s Las Meninas, is a beautiful discussion of a painting that symbolizes the transformation to a new age of representation, the Classical Age. Foucault 2010b is partly a methodological treatise, which allowed the reader to make more sense of what had been done in the earlier books. His final four books were all written as “genealogies,” as Foucault’s emphasis on power was added to a preexisting emphasis on knowledge. Foucault 1995 uses the emergence of the prison—as a replacement for more physical forms of punishment—to make a general argument about the nature of disciplinary power and modern society. Foucault 1990 was the first installment of the series on sexuality, and dealt with the conditions of possibility for the modern obsession with sexuality. Foucault 1992 and Foucault 1986 deal with the ancient and early Christian roots of the obsession with sex and sexuality, detailing historical shifts from concerns with “pleasures” to concerns about “flesh.”

  • Foucault, Michel. 1986. The care of the self: The history of sexuality. Vol. 3. New York: Random House.

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    First published in 1984 in French, this volume sees Foucault develop his analysis of ancient mores. In dealing with Hellenistic and Roman writers, especially the Stoics, Foucault shows us the growth of an anxiety about sex.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 1990. The history of sexuality. Vol. 1, An introduction. New York: Random House.

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    Published in French in 1976. Foucault inverts the usual understanding of sexuality as repressed, arguing instead that it has been incited by disciplines such as psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and sexology. These sciences make individuals, who imagine their confessions to be a path to personal liberation, speak endlessly of sexuality.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 1992. The history of sexuality. Vol. 2, The use of pleasure. London: Penguin New York.

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    First published in 1984, this volume sees Foucault begin his interrogation of the history of the moral concern around sexuality. This volume concentrates on ancient Greek understandings of sex and discusses the transition from a Greek ethos of moderation to a Christian model of austerity in regard to pleasure.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage.

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    The French version of this book dates from 1975. Foucault describes a shift in punishment from the body to the soul—from executions and torture to the numbing routine of the penal institution. This type of disciplinary power becomes more widely distributed in modern societies.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2006. History of madness. New York: Routledge.

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    A translation of the French original from 1961, with additional material from a 1972 edition. Foucault analyzes madness as a series of civilizationally specific meanings and argues that a contemporary meaning has become the object of disciplines like psychiatry and medicine. The introductory material by Ian Hacking and Jean Khalfa is useful.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2008. The birth of the clinic: An archaeology of medical perception. New York: Pantheon.

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    First published in French in 1963. In the “clinic,” or teaching hospital, the body and its diseases became the object of a medical gaze or scientific expertise. Foucault’s account of the reorganization of medical knowledge stresses a discontinuity with previous ways of seeing bodies and disease.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2010a. The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences. London: Routledge.

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    Published in 1966 in French, this book analyzes three elements of human activity—life, labor, and language—in terms of the knowledges that sought to grasp them fully. Biology, political economy, and philology are three human sciences that succeeded previous attempts (respectively: natural history, the analysis of wealth, and general grammar).

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2010b. The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Vintage.

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    Originally published in 1969, this book is often characterized as a methodological treatise dealing with discourse. In contrast to Anglo-American speech act theory, the point here is not to analyze the underlying truth of statements but to understand the rule systems that allow statements to have meanings.

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Lectures

Foucault took up the position of Professor of the History of Systems of Thought at the Collège de France in 1970. One of the requirements of this post was to give an annual lecture course, open to the public, detailing his current research. He gave the following courses: 1970–1971, The Will to Know; 1971–1972, Penal Theories and Institutions; 1972–1973, The Punitive Society; 1973–1974, Psychiatric Power; 1974–1975, Abnormal; 1975–1976, Society Must Be Defended; 1976–1977, sabbatical, no course delivered; 1977–1978, Security, Territory, Population; 1978–1979, The Birth of Biopolitics; 1979–1980, The Government of the Living; 1980–1981, Subjectivity and Truth; 1981–1982, The Hermeneutics of the Subject; 1982–1983, The Government of Self and Others; 1983–1984, The Courage of Truth. This material provides important additions and clarifications to the books and articles Foucault published. Sometimes we can read in these lectures early versions of work that was published in mature form; sometimes we can see more detailed discussions of issues that made briefer appearances in the books. The final five courses expand on the questions that most interested Foucault toward the end of his life, about the government of self and others and the antique literatures on care of self, techniques of self, and parrhesia (truth-telling). Foucault 2006 is of interest to the scholar of madness and psychiatry, while Foucault 2004 can be seen as a bridge between analyses of psychiatry and analyses of discipline and power that were characteristic of Discipline and Punish. Foucault 2007 and Foucault 2008 are the major texts for governmentality scholars; Foucault wrote very little on this topic, but in these lectures the depth and power of his arguments can be seen more clearly. Foucault 2003 develops topics familiar to the reader of the governmentality material and of Discipline and Punish, but in the discussions of the role of war and race moves into new territory. Foucault 2005 may well be—or at least is very close to—the original version of Care of the Self, a book that was at first planned to be about ethics rather than sexuality. The published version of The Care of the Self appears to be a compromise between this material and an earlier draft manuscript on sexuality in the ancient world. Foucault 2010 starts with a familiar motif: the analysis of Kant’s “What is Enlightenment?” The analysis of parrhesia—especially in Plato and the Cynics—is the beginnings of Foucault’s attempt to grapple with this problem.

  • Foucault, Michel. 2003. Society must be defended. New York: Picador.

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    Interrogates the fate of sovereignty. War, no longer antithetical to politics (as it was for Machiavelli and Hobbes) and waged externally between nations, is reconceptualized as a struggle, internal to states, between superior and inferior races. It is from the latter, some begin to theorize, that society must be defended.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2004. Abnormal. New York: Picador.

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    Deals with power and normalization. Taking the topic of monstrosity, Foucault shows how the monster was, at one time, understood as an affront to nature but later became understood as a mere irregularity that could be the object of medical discourse.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2005. The hermeneutics of the subject. New York: Picador.

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    The major concerns of this book are the care of self and the techniques of self; much of this material, albeit here in extended form, is familiar from Foucault’s monographs. Contains interesting discussions of spirituality in which Foucault’s work echoes Pierre Hadot’s.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2006. Psychiatric power. New York: Picador.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230245068Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Can be read as a continuation, chronologically, of Folie et déraison. The spread of psychiatry into new realms, and its reformulation into new disciplines, including neurology and psychoanalysis, are highlighted. The insertion of these disciplines into the circuits of family life is a fascinating thesis.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2007. Security, territory, population. New York: Picador.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230245075Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Vital for students of governmentality—indeed, Foucault remarks that it might have been better titled The History of Governmentality. Security, the art of government, pastoral techniques, reason of state, and police are handled in turn. The emergence of liberalism as a discontinuity in political practice is the ever-present backdrop.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2008. The birth of biopolitics. New York: Picador.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230594180Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A vital text for students of governmentality. Analyzes classical liberalism, the neoliberalism of the Chicago school, and the Ordoliberals, and moves to a discussion of key concepts in liberal thought. Usefully outlines how these concepts played out in contemporary French neoliberal attempts to generate social policy.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2010. The government of self and others. New York: Picador.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230274730Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on parrhesia, or truth-telling, showing how at various historical junctures it moves between philosophy, politics, and theology. Much of the course deals with the contrast between Plato’s parrhesia and that of the Cynics, but there are also digressions on the fate of parrhesia after Descartes and Kant.

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Interviews and Essays

There are a number of important collections of interviews and essays that require careful attention. Foucault was very adept in these formats, and it is often possible to see the bare bones of his arguments in short order. These references can be useful in orienting the beginning reader to Foucault’s approach. Foucault 1994 is an almost complete collection of essays and interviews and should be seen as the key text. Foucault 1997, Foucault 1998, and Foucault 2000 are English translations of some of the key works from Foucault 1994, and the attempt is to provide breadth of coverage of the collected material without too much repetition. While this goal is well met, it is, perhaps, irritating that there is no complete English version. Foucault 1989 is recommended because it contains some materials not available in Foucault 1994.

  • Foucault, Michel. 1989. Foucault live. Edited by Sylvère Lotringer. New York: Semiotext(e).

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    There are some problems of translation in this important collection, but it is nonetheless a good place to start. It contains a number of important pieces that are not in Foucault 1994, so it is a valuable addition to this list.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 1994. Dits et écrits. 4 vols. Paris: Gallimard.

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    This has become the standard reference, since it contains an almost complete collection (364 pieces) of Foucault’s essays and interviews, organized chronologically. The bibliography and chronology are invaluable. Selections have been published in English.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 1997. Ethics: Subjectivity and truth. Essential works of Foucault, 1954–1984. Vol. 1. Edited by Paul Rabinow. New York: New Press.

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    Part 1 gives summaries of the courses Foucault gave at the Collège de France. Part 2 contains material on care and techniques of self.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 1998. Aesthetics, method, and epistemology. Essential works of Foucault, 1954–1984. Vol. 2. Edited by James D. Faubion. New York: New Press.

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    This selection showcases Foucault’s interests in literary and artistic questions and also contains a number of methodological statements.

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  • Foucault, Michel. 2000. Power. Essential works of Foucault, 1954–1984. Vol. 3. Edited by James D. Faubion. New York: New Press.

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    Punishing, surveillance, and power are the major themes of this selection. The key essays on governmentality are also collected here, as are some useful methodological papers on genealogy.

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Bibliographies

There are a number of bibliographies with varying degrees of completeness. It is recommended that the reader start with the resources provided by Richard A. Lynch in the Foucault Bibliography Online, and cross-reference with Dits et Écrits by Foucault 1994. After that, the other bibliographies (Bernauer 1990, Clark1983, Macey 1994, and Machiel Karskens’ Online Bibliography) can be consulted to find additional works.

Journals

There are a number of journals that regularly carry articles with Foucaultian themes, including Economy and Society, History of the Human Sciences, Telos, Radical Philosophy, and Parrhesia. Foucault Studies and m/f Materiali Foucaultiani are, however, journals whose entire raison d’être is the coverage of Foucaultian themes. It is worth keeping a watch on the webpage of m/f to be alerted to new publications by and on Foucault. Le panoptique is a news magazine rather than an academic journal, and consequently a slightly different range of more topical issues are raised.

Knowledge and Discourse

Before power became a key concern in Foucault’s work, he developed an “archaeological” method, which aimed to excavate the history of ways of speaking the truth. His use of the term discourse—with an emphasis on the statement—also stems from this period. Deleuze 1986 is a surprisingly neglected resource, but it represents the best analysis of what knowledge is for Foucault and how it connects to power and subjectification; sometimes the problem is in disentangling Deleuze’s own perspective from what is reportedly about Foucault. Once Foucault has been understood with Deleuze’s help, Hacking 1981, Rose 1985, and Jones and Williamson 1979 are excellent examples of how to analyze specific knowledges. It is interesting to note that much of the best work in this tradition is rather old; it seems to be the case that Foucault’s transition to analytics of power led his successors to write less about knowledge and more about power. During 1992 and Osborne 1998 take this analysis of knowledge into fresh territory. Fox 1998 is notable for a clear discussion of knowledge and discourse; Fox’s critique of Foucault is well worth reading but can be easily dismissed through familiarity with Deleuze 1986. Finally, Venn 2006 packs a lot into a very short piece; not only does Venn connect Foucault to an earlier generation of thinkers about the problem of knowledge, he also draws attention to the issue of the bridge between knowledge and specific technologies.

  • Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Foucault. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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    Deleuze shows how Foucault broke the concept of knowledge into two poles: the discursive and the nondiscursive. Foucault’s turn to power—understood as forces that mediate between the forms of knowledge—was a philosophical solution to a deterministic relationship between the discursive (words) and the nondiscursive (things).

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  • During, Simon. 1992. Foucault and literature: Towards a genealogy of writing. New York: Routledge.

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    Concentrating on literary studies, During shows how Foucault’s theory of knowledge informed his account of transgressive writers and of the category of the “author” more generally.

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  • Fox, Nick J. 1998. Foucault, Foucauldians and sociology. British Journal of Sociology 49.3: 415–433.

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    A useful summary of Foucault’s understanding of knowledge and discourse. The main thrust of the rest of the article is a critique of Foucault’s generation of a deterministic theory of discourse.

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  • Hacking, Ian. 1981. How should we do the history of statistics? Ideology & Consciousness 8:15–26.

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    Taking a specific example, Hacking shows how a Foucaultian archaeology might be conducted. The best practical guide available.

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  • Jones, Karen, and Kevin Williamson. 1979. The birth of the schoolroom. Ideology & Consciousness 6:59–110.

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    Jones and Williamson’s account of how to analyze discursive formations is exemplary.

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  • Osborne, Thomas. 1998. Aspects of enlightenment: Social theory and the ethics of truth. London: UCL Press.

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    Using a Foucaultian approach, Osborne asks how the various “regimes of Enlightenment” (for example, knowledge projects such as science) connect to human nature.

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  • Rose, Nikolas. 1985. The psychological complex: Psychology, politics, and society in England, 1869–1939. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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    Extremely useful as a model of how a Foucaultian archaeology may be conducted, Rose shows how a variety of psychologies, including the psychology of individual difference and child development, did not emerge as philosophical problems but as solutions to pressing practical problems.

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  • Venn, Couze. 2006. A note on knowledge. Theory, Culture & Society 23.2–3: 191–193.

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    A short piece that is more about Bachelard, Canguilhem, and Heidegger than Foucault. Nonetheless it is important for its suggestions about how Foucault’s notion of “regimes of truth’” may connect to more technical issues, such as tests for measuring IQ. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Madness and Mental Illness

Foucault first rose to prominence with his work on madness, unreason, and psychiatry and for a time was thought of as part of the antipsychiatry movement. The complete English translation of Folie et déraison was not published until 2006; the reception of Foucault’s work was affected by the fact that only half the book was widely read in the Anglophone community. A key document to consult is Still and Velody 1992, which contains reprints of Gordon 1990 and Rose 1990. These pieces shed light on the history of Folie et déraison, its reception, and the various misapprehensions about it that have kept critics like Andrew Scull so busy. Boyne 1990 provides a readable summary of Foucault’s arguments and the criticism that it drew from Jacques Derrida; unfortunately, Boyne ends up rather simplifying both protagonists with the aim of finding a “winner.” In 1973–1974, Foucault returned to the topic of psychiatric power in his annual course at the Collège de France. Elden 2006 provides a good account of the major themes Foucault dealt with there. Hacking 1992 is an easy and stimulating read and is very good at communicating difficult philosophical concepts, which shows one how a Foucaultian analysis of other sorts of mental illness might proceed. Elsewhere, Hacking has developed this work, including two important books on mental illness (Rewriting the Soul and Mad Travelers). Miller and Rose 1986 also tries to put Foucault to use to analyze some different problems in mental health. Philo 2004 is broadly sympathetic to Foucault’s project but suggests as a corrective that more work on the spatial aspects of dealing with insanity is necessary.

  • Boyne, Roy. 1990. Foucault and Derrida: The other side of reason. London: Unwin Hyman.

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    Foucault had a famous and lengthy dispute with Jacques Derrida after the publication of Folie et déraison. Boyne sets out the disagreement and some of the secondary material that relates to it. Very useful for these summaries, but less so for Boyne’s own opinions.

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  • Elden, Stuart. 2006. Discipline, health and madness: Foucault’s “Le pouvoir psychiatrique.” History of the Human Sciences 19.1: 39–66.

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    Foucault’s lecture courses at the Collège de France provide an important background to his major works. Here, Elden summarizes the lecture course titled “Le pouvoir psychiatrique.” Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Gordon, Colin. 1990. Histoire de la folie: An unknown book by Michel Foucault. History of the Human Sciences 3.1: 3–26.

    DOI: 10.1177/095269519000300102Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gordon focuses on the reception and misunderstanding of Foucault’s work on madness, not least because only half of it was available in English for a long time. Gordon discusses whether Foucault was a structuralist thinker at the time he wrote Folie et déraison and what Foucault means by “experience.” Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hacking, Ian. 1992. Multiple personality disorder and its hosts. History of the Human Sciences 5.2: 3–31.

    DOI: 10.1177/095269519200500202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Foucault’s methodology is behind Hacking’s analysis of the emergence of multiple personality disorder from the problem of double consciousness. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miller, Peter, and Nikolas Rose, eds. 1986. The power of psychiatry. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    A valuable collection that analyzes 20th-century psychiatric practice.

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  • Philo, Chris. 2004. A geographical history of institutional provision for the insane from medieval times to the 1860s in England and Wales: The space reserved for insanity. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon.

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    A useful summary of Foucault’s work and of criticisms and alternatives to Foucault’s account. Philo develops his own take on the need for spatial methodologies to grasp the history of madness.

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  • Rose, Nikolas. 1990. Of madness itself: Histoire de la folie and the object of psychiatric history. History of the Human Sciences 3.3: 373–380.

    DOI: 10.1177/095269519000300305Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rose dismisses the idea that Foucault’s work is about madness as a “stable referent.” He emphasizes the role of the exclusion of madness in the development of our civilization and suggests that Foucault’s work is ethical because it invites us to revisit our relationships with those we label as mad. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Still, Arthur, and Irving Velody, eds. 1992. Rewriting the history of madness: Studies in Foucault’s Histoire de la folie. New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203208274Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of papers drawn from the journal History of Human Sciences, with a few additions. Papers by Gordon, Rose, Bové, Castel, and Porter are especially important. A useful bibliography is also included.

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Power and Punishment

With the publication of Discipline and Punish, studies of power and surveillance were given a boost. Foucault not only laid out a new understanding of the character and use of power, he provided a spur to studies of the interconnections among bodily discipline, types of institutions, and forms of knowledge. Garland 1990 and Smith 2008 both make an important connection for sociologists and criminologists in that they reexamine Foucault’s contribution to the study of punishment in the light of Durkheim’s work. Hindess 1996 and Lynch 1998 provide clear analyses of what is meant by power in Foucault’s work; Hindess is especially useful because he contextualizes Foucault’s notion of power within the discipline of political theory. Caluya 2010 shows us very clearly the trajectory that runs from studies of panopticism to studies of the surveillance society and suggests that we may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Hunt and Wickham 1994 provides a helpful summary of Foucault’s work on power and uses it to give fresh impetus to the sociology of law, which is enjoined to take governance as its key object of study. However, the authors suggest that Foucault’s work necessarily removes law from an analysis of modern society, a charge that is deftly answered by Golder and Fitzpatrick 2009. Pasquino 1980 provides a superb account of something surprisingly missing (or, at least, underdeveloped) in Foucault’s work on punitive societies: the development of criminology.

  • Caluya, Gilbert. 2010. The post-panoptic society? Reassessing Foucault in surveillance studies. In Special issue: Foucault, 25 years on. Social Identities 16.5: 621–633.

    DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2010.509565Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes both Foucault’s work on the panopticon and the post-Foucaultian work on surveillance; Caluya argues for a return to Foucault’s panoptic account. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Garland, David. 1990. Frameworks of inquiry in the sociology of punishment. British Journal of Sociology 41.1: 1–15.

    DOI: 10.2307/591014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares Foucault’s contribution to Durkheim’s in our understandings of punishment and suggests that the dominant “social control” approach stems from a reading of Foucault. Garland aims for a rapprochement between Foucault and Durkheim.

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  • Golder, Ben, and Peter Fitzpatrick. 2009. Foucault’s law. New York: Routledge.

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    Deals with what we might call the “expulsion hypothesis”—that a logical consequence of understanding power as diffused throughout society is to downplay the importance of law. In reinstating the role of law in modernity, the authors canvass three possible interpretations of law.

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  • Hindess, Barry. 1996. Discourses of power: From Hobbes to Foucault. Oxford: Blackwell.

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    Working through Hobbes, Locke, Lukes, and Foucault, Hindess shows that to understand power, we need to disentangle two different meanings: power as capacity and power as right. Clearly written and a good place to start reading about power in general.

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  • Hunt, Alan, and Gary Wickham. 1994. Foucault and law: Towards a sociology of law as governance. Boulder, CO: Pluto.

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    The first half of the book is very useful in introducing the beginner to what Foucault wrote about law; although with the publication of the Collège de France lectures, this material is rather incomplete. The second half attempts to develop these insights into a new sociology of law.

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  • Lynch, Richard A. 1998. Is power all there is? Michel Foucault and the Omnipresence of Power Relations. Philosophy Today 42.1: 65–70.

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    Clear discussion of power, with specific reference to Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1.

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  • Pasquino, Pasquale. 1980. Criminology: The birth of a special savoir? Ideology & Consciousness 7: 17–32.

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    Analyzes the emergence of criminology in the 19th century in the context of shifts in penal law and technologies of punishment. The concept of “social defense” was crucial to the birth of a new human science.

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  • Smith, Philip. 2008. Punishment and culture. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Smith thinks of Durkheim and Foucault as the two key thinkers for sociologists of punishment. Smith leans toward the Durkheimian account; his summaries and criticisms of Foucault on punishment are insightful. The discussions of punishment technologies are especially interesting.

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Sexuality

Foucault had long thought—at least as early as 1961—of writing an account of the history of sexuality. The first volume of The History of Sexuality continued some of the themes of Discipline and Punish, especially the genealogical approach to uncover the relations between forms of knowledge and forces of power. Foucault changed his plans about how to tackle that genealogy, at first deciding to write a six-volume series and then settling on four volumes. Only three volumes have been published. As with Discipline and Punish, Foucault’s intellectual journey was followed by many, and the history of sexuality became a hot topic of research. Butler 1999 shows how Foucault’s work can help in the reformulation of desire and the reinstatement of pleasure. Weeks 2005 makes use of Foucault to reconceptualize identity. Davidson 2001 and Bevis, et al. 1989 draw attention to some problems in Foucault’s interpretation of the ancient sources and try to give a more nuanced view of ancient sexual mores. Davidson 1987 is faithful to Foucault’s reading of sexuality but asserts the importance of connections to other disciplines and knowledges. Halperin 1990, McWhorter 2004, and Sawicki 1991 all attempt to use Foucault as a jumping-off point to theorize newer areas: Halperin 1990 expands on the idea of sexuality as a social construct; McWhorter 2004 adds race to Foucault’s analysis of biopower; Sawicki 1991 is the most accessible, and most sympathetic, of the many feminist accounts of Foucault, which attempt to go beyond a perceived masculinist bias in the work on sexuality.

  • Bevis, Phil, Michèle Cohen, and Gavin Kendall. 1989. Archaeologizing genealogy: Michel Foucault and the economy of austerity. Economy and Society 18.3: 323–345.

    DOI: 10.1080/03085148900000015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the three volumes of the sexuality project and argues that the notions of austerity and moderation are inadequate to cover the variety of thought around sex and sexuality in the antique and early Christian ages. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Butler, Judith. 1999. Revisiting bodies and pleasures. Theory, Culture & Society 16.2: 11–20.

    DOI: 10.1177/02632769922050520Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A sympathetic account of Foucault’s project, emphasizing the importance of Foucault’s suggestion that bodies and pleasures might constitute an oppositional point to the monarchy of sex-desire. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Davidson, Arnold I. 1987. Sex and the emergence of sexuality. Critical Inquiry 14.1: 16–48.

    DOI: 10.1086/448426Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Taking his cue from Foucault, Davidson discusses the connection between types of experience (in this case, sexuality) and forms of knowledge (in this case, psychiatry). A fuller, book-length treatment (The Emergence of Sexuality) was published in 2001.

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  • Davidson, James. 2001. Dover, Foucault and Greek homosexuality: Penetration and the truth of sex. Past & Present 170.1: 3–51.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/170.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A key assertion made by Foucault about the character of ancient Greek sexual relations concerns the obsession with a clear delineation between activity and passivity: For Foucault, ancient Greek sexual relations were a zero-sum game. Davidson produces evidence to enable us to take a more nuanced view. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Halperin, David. 1990. One hundred years of homosexuality. New York: Routledge.

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    Foucault provides the inspiration for this social constructionist account of sexuality. Halperin’s lively text is based on an argument that (homo)sexuality—the idea that sexual acts and character or personality are inseparable—was invented in the 19th century.

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  • McWhorter, Ladelle. 2004. Sex, race, and biopower: A Foucauldian genealogy. Hypatia 19.3: 38–62.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2004.tb01301.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Race is a missing term in Foucault’s work, and race and sex developed as concepts contemporaneously and in relation to the same political questions. An extended argument is in Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2009). It should be noted that Foucault’s Abnormal deals with similar material.

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  • Sawicki, Jana. 1991. Disciplining Foucault: Feminism, power and the body. New York: Routledge.

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    There are a number of important feminist critiques of Foucault’s work on sexuality, often suggesting Foucault’s work suffers from a masculinist bias. In spite of these concerns, Sawicki bends Foucault’s work on power, self, and the body to a feminist account. Accessible to an undergraduate audience.

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  • Weeks, Jeffrey. 2005. Remembering Foucault. Journal of the History of Sexuality 14.1–2: 186–201.

    DOI: 10.1353/sex.2006.0018Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Weeks analyzes what Foucault’s work on sexuality means for contemporary identity and ethics.

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Governmentality

This fertile and influential research area was started by a very small amount of original material. Foucault’s essay on historically variable forms of governmental rationality, to which he gave the neologism “governmentality,” spawned a huge and vibrant set of analyses. Foucault’s Collège de France lectures reveal deeper connections between this governmental line of work and his other projects and must be consulted to gain a full understanding of this important concept. Tribe 2009 is not only a useful summary of the relevant Collège de France lectures but also shows the genesis of this way of thinking and its prescience. Barry, et al. 1996 and Burchell, et al. 1991 are the earliest major resources: They contain a series of crucial essays that expand and exemplify the governmentality approach. Gordon 1991 lays out the ground admirably and is maybe the best place to start, as it provides a summary and exposition of Foucault’s classic “Governmentality” paper. Two papers from the journal Economy and Society (Miller and Rose 1990 and Rose 1993) were instrumental in bringing governmentality to the attention of the Anglophone sociology/political theory community. These papers do a number of things: extend Foucault’s work to modern themes, develop an emphasis on expertise, emphasize the entrepreneurial self that coexists with neoliberal governmental rationality, and add Latour’s ideas as a way of understanding the technical procedures that must be comprehended by an analytics of government. Pasquino 1978 develops the previously sketchy remarks by Foucault on “police”; for a long time, the Anglophone community relied heavily on this paper as a way of making sense of police. The need for this is perhaps less now that there is easy access to Foucault’s development of the concept in his Collège de France lecture “Security, Territory, Population.” Dean 2010 is a recent and comprehensive summary and critique of the field that comes highly recommended.

  • Barry, Andrew, Thomas Osborne, and Nikolas Rose, eds. 1996. Foucault and political reason: Liberalism, neo-liberalism, and rationalities of government. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Twelve essays that concentrate on various spheres of governmental activity (education, insurance, etc.). The Introduction and Burchell’s “Liberal Government and Techniques of the Self” provide a good place to start in understanding governmentality.

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  • Burchell, Graham, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds. 1991. The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Gordon’s Introduction is helpful. Castel’s “From Dangerousness to Risk” is a nice exemplification of liberal techniques of rule in action in specific welfare settings. The essay that started this research program—Foucault’s “Governmentality”—can be found in this collection.

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  • Dean, Mitchell. 2010. Governmentality: Power and rule in modern society. 2d ed. London: SAGE.

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    Provides a comprehensive overview of Foucault’s work in this area, as well as integrating a number of critiques and alternative perspectives. Dean’s discussion of authoritarian liberalism is especially interesting. The second edition has been updated to include material on global and international governance.

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  • Gordon, Colin. 1991. Governmental rationality: An introduction. In The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality. Edited by Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Especially useful because it unpacks Foucault’s “Governmentality” essay, a rather dense piece of writing that demands a lot of background knowledge. The importance of Machiavelli and Adam Smith is especially well brought out. Undergraduates should make this an early resource to be consulted.

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  • Miller, Peter, and Nikolas Rose. 1990. Governing economic life. Economy and Society 19.1: 1–31.

    DOI: 10.1080/03085149000000001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early attempt to extend Foucault’s conception of governmentality both temporally and theoretically. Makes use of Bruno Latour’s work to emphasize the technical or instrumental means necessary for rationalities of government to work effectively. The construction of a particular psychological type—the entrepreneurial self—is likewise indispensable. Available online for purchase.

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  • Pasquino, Pasquale. 1978. Theatrum politicum. The genealogy of capital: Police and the state of prosperity. Ideology & Consciousness 7:17–32.

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    Pasquino emphasizes the technical means of population control crucial for the development of capitalism. He outlines the emergence of the science of “police,” a vital concept for Foucault’s notion of governmentality. Police emerge at the beginning of the 17th century, in the transition from sovereignty to public government and population management.

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  • Rose, Nikolas. 1993. Government, authority and expertise in advanced liberalism. Economy and Society 22.3: 283–299.

    DOI: 10.1080/03085149300000019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the role of expertise in modern forms of rule. Advanced liberalism is not a cast or set of ideas that determine everyday practice. Advanced liberal government is not about governing society directly, as was the case for the welfare states, but through the regulation of choice of “free” entrepreneurial actors. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Tribe, Keith. 2009. The political economy of modernity: Foucault’s Collège de France lectures of 1978 and 1979. Economy and Society 38.4: 679–698.

    DOI: 10.1080/03085140903190391Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows the sources for Foucault’s understanding of governmentality are from two distinct periods: first, 17th- and 18th-century European political economy and second, 20th-century German and American neoliberalism. Tribe dwells on the sources Foucault did and did not use for his lectures. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Subjectification and Techniques of Self

Foucault’s final major works—on the concern with pleasures in the ancient world and the gradual emergence of a stoic and Christian ethos of austerity in relation to sex, which replaced a classical emphasis on moderation—saw a much deeper engagement with the problem of self, and especially with the idea of the self having a relationship with or experience of itself. There was a clear connection to his governmentality work, however, in that Foucault stressed the link between the government of self and the government of others. Foucault’s oeuvre can be seen to have come full circle, perhaps: from the experience of and around madness to the experience the self has of itself. If it were possible to think of the early Foucault as close to the structuralists, and having little concern for self except as a terminal point of discourse, then it is clear that by the end of his life the problem of the subject was one that had captured Foucault’s imagination. In the relevant secondary literature, one can see differences in approach between North American and British writers. The North Americans, such as Bernauer and Rasmussen 1988; Flynn 1985; and Martin, et al. 1988, are especially concerned with the ancient world, with parrhesia, and with truth. The British, including Burchell 1996, Osborne 1994, and Rose 1990, prefer to concentrate on liberalism, forms of conduct, intellectual disciplines such as psychology, and forms of self. Hacking 1999 is an excellent article for helping one to think how one might apply “dynamic nominalism” to new problems and for making clear what is original in Foucault’s approach. The beginning reader may wish to start here. Kurasawa 1999 provides a critique of Foucault’s work, suggesting it is too caught up in Western notions of self to be useful. In general, these sorts of criticisms are worthless, since Foucault did not claim to be giving universal accounts; however, Kurasawa’s piece is written with some style and is worth consulting.

  • Bernauer, James William, and David Rasmussen, eds. 1988. The final Foucault. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    A useful collection including an interview with Foucault. Flynn’s summary of parrhesia is a good place to start; the other essays continue the interest in techniques of self. There is also a bibliography and a biographical chronology.

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  • Burchell, Graham. 1996. Liberal government and techniques of the self. In Foucault and political reason: Liberalism, neo-liberalism, and rationalities of government. Edited by Andrew Barry, Thomas Osborne, and Nikolas Rose. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Burchell stresses how the sine qua non of liberal government is a certain type of self, which needs to have a relation of government or mastery over itself and others. The individual actor of classical liberalism has been transformed in our contemporary world into a quasi-enterprise.

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  • Flynn, Thomas R. 1985. Truth and subjectivation in the later Foucault. Journal of Philosophy 82.10: 531–540.

    DOI: 10.2307/2026360Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A brusque but thought-provoking account of Foucault’s last concerns. Flynn suggests a possible trajectory in Foucault’s oeuvre from knowledge to power to self to truth, but then shows how each of these terms is interior to the rest.

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  • Hacking, Ian. 1999. Making up people. In The science studies reader. Edited by Mario Biagioli, 161–171. New York: Routledge.

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    Hacking outlines the importance of classification systems as a way of providing potential identities for human beings to inhabit with a number of examples. He makes use of a philosophy of “dynamic nominalism.” Social identities and systems of classification constantly shift and readjust themselves, each to the other.

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  • Kurasawa, Fuyuki. 1999. The exotic effect: Foucault and the question of cultural alterity. European Journal of Social Theory 2.2: 147–165.

    DOI: 10.1177/13684319922224383Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kurasawa examines whether Foucault takes account of cultural alterity in his work on subjectification. Although there are some promising and suggestive remarks by Foucault on Japanese and Iranian subjectivity, Kurasawa concludes that Foucault engages in a type of “orientalism,” with his work limited by Western reason. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Martin, Luther H., Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton, eds. 1988. Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press.

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    A partial record of a 1982 seminar at the University of Vermont. There are interviews with and chapters by Foucault, as well as a number of interesting accounts of technologies of self in various historical periods.

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  • Osborne, Thomas. 1994. Sociology, liberalism and the historicity of conduct. Economy and Society 23.4: 484–501.

    DOI: 10.1080/03085149400000021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Even if we accept Foucault’s account of techniques of individuation, we need to be aware that there are multiple techniques and multiple fields of individuation—at the very least, of the body, of consciousness, of conscience, and of self. Available online for purchase.

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  • Rose, Nikolas. 1990. Governing the soul: The shaping of the private self. London: Routledge.

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    A development of his account of the birth of psychology, Rose outlines the interaction between (neo-)liberal techniques of government and the self who is able to choose, in the name of its own freedom, how to govern and maximize itself.

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LAST MODIFIED: 07/27/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756384-0021

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