Foucault News

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

Innico, S.
Enacting Statehood in Places of Exception: The Structural Effect of Statehood on Greek Migration Management
(2021) Ethnopolitics

DOI: 10.1080/17449057.2021.1907932

The aim of this paper is to outline an analytic perspective on the notion of statehood, state authorities’ performance in situations of exceptionality, and to present some insights from ethnographic research in the context of migration in contemporary Greece. Following Timothy Mitchell’s thesis on the ‘effect of state’, taking into account Giorgio Agamben’s and Michel Foucault’s theories regarding the ‘state of exception’ and ‘exceptionalised institutions’, as well as Erving Goffman’s ‘dramaturgical perspective’ on the studies of social interactions, it is argued that 1. the ongoing cases of illegal and unsanctioned practices carried out by police and army officers in the Greek migration context should be interpreted, first and foremost, as mere practices of statehood enactment; 2. the ‘state of exception’ is not merely a useful spatialised device used by state authorities for mobility-control purposes, but rather an essential trait of statehood enactment itself. In order to reconcile the internal ambiguities inherent in the convoluted ensemble of perceived notions about what ‘a state’ is and how ‘a state’ does what it is supposed to do, it will be argued that, statehood enactment, by its very definition and constitution, frequently requires recurring to an ‘institutionalised state of exception’. From a broader viewpoint, these arguments question some supposedly non-problematic assumptions about the (concrete or abstract) nature of the state, while at the same time proposing an examination of the epistemological status of migranthood.

Roberts, J., Sanderson, P., Seidl, D., Krivokapic, A.
The UK Corporate Governance Code Principle of ‘Comply or Explain’: Understanding Code Compliance as ‘Subjection’ (2020) Abacus

DOI: 10.1111/abac.12208

The focus of this paper is on UK Code compliance and the contests and confusions that have surrounded its principle of ‘comply or explain’. In contrast to many agency theory-informed studies, the paper suggests that visible compliance with the Code cannot itself be taken as a reliable proxy for board effectiveness. Instead, drawing upon Foucault’s account of governance as subjection, we argue that, as a form of board accountability, visible compliance can only support the Code’s primary objective of establishing norms which shape the conduct of directors within boards. The contests and confusions as to the meaning of comply or explain are then explored in terms of the challenge regulators have faced, throughout the subsequent life of the Code, in respecting the freedom of action of directors, whilst nevertheless seeking to influence how this is exercised. The paper first explores three key moments in the evolution of the UK Code: the initial Cadbury committee two-page ‘Code of Best Practice’ in 1992, the more prescriptive 2003 post-Enron changes to the UK Combined Code following the Higgs review, and the retreat from such prescription in the 2010 changes to the Code. This is complemented by drawing on qualitative empirical research to describe three very different ‘subject positions’—refusal, cynical distance, and willing embrace—which directors have come to adopt in response to the Code. The paper concludes by pointing to the very different consequences for actual board effectiveness implied by these contrasting, but largely invisible, responses to the Code. © 2020 Accounting Foundation, The University of Sydney

Author Keywords
Board effectiveness; Compliance; Comply or explain; Corporate governance; Foucault; Subjection

Crispin Sartwell, Michel Foucault Switches Sides, Splice Today, 7 June 2021

Neither the left nor the right can deal with an anti-authoritarian.

The French philosophe Michel Foucault (1926-1984) is currently up for re-assessment. In The New York Times, Ross Douthat writes that Foucault, usually thought of as a notorious postmodern neo-Marxist leftist relativist, has lately been associated with the Trumpian right. And an essay in The Point surveys the various attempts to make the French bad boy over into a neo-liberal, for heaven’s sake, and condemn him on that basis. (Neo-liberalism and Trumpian populism are also completely incompatible with one another.)

Right. Michel Foucault’s not on your side. But that doesn’t mean he’s on the other side.

In my opinion, the most important intellectual book of the late-20th century is Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

There are games of truth in which truth is a construction and others in which it is not. One can have, for example, a game of truth that consists of describing things in such and such a way: a person giving an anthropological description of a society supplies not a construction but a description, which itself has a certain number of historically changing rules, so that one can say that it is to a certain extent a construction with respect to another description. This does not mean that there’s just a void, that everything is a figment of the imagination. On the basis of what can be said, for example, about this transformation of games of truth, some people conclude that I have said that nothing exists-I have been seen as saying that madness does not exist, whereas the problem is absolutely the converse: it was a question of knowing how madness, under the various definitions that have been given, was at a particular time integrated into an institutional field that constituted it as a mental illness occupying a specific place alongside other illnesses.

Michel Foucault (1997). The ethics of the concern of the self as a practice of freedom. In P. Rabinow (Ed.), R. Hurley and others (Trans.), The essential works of Michel Foucault, 1954– 1984: Vol. 1. Ethics: Subjectivity and truth. Harmondsworth, UK: Allen Lane, Penguin, p.297

Jeremy Weissman, The Crowdsourced Panopticon. Conformity and Control on Social Media, Rowman & Littlefield, 2021

Review at LSE Review of Books

Behind the omnipresent screens of our laptops and smartphones, a digitally networked public has quickly grown larger than the population of any nation on Earth. On the flipside, in front of the ubiquitous recording devices that saturate our lives, individuals are hyper-exposed through a worldwide online broadcast that encourages the public to watch, judge, rate, and rank people’s lives. The interplay of these two forces – the invisibility of the anonymous crowd and the exposure of the individual before that crowd – is a central focus of this book. Informed by critiques of conformity and mass media by some of the greatest philosophers of the past two centuries, as well as by a wide range of historical and empirical studies, Weissman helps shed light on what may happen when our lives are increasingly broadcast online for everyone all the time, to be judged by the global community.

Table of contents

Part I: Conformity

1. The Human Animal in Civilized Society
2. Social Media as an Escape from Freedom
3. Meaninglessness in the Present Age

Part II: Control
4. The Spectacular Power of the Public
5. ‘P2P’ Surveillance and Control

6. The Net of Noramlization

Part III: Resistance

7. Freedom from the Public Eye

8. Strategies of Resistance

The Early Foucault | 10-Minute Talks | The British Academy

In this talk Stuart Elden discusses his new book, ‘The Early Foucault’ and the research he did on the first period of Michel Foucault’s career. In particular, he highlights what Foucault did before the History of Madness in 1961 and how he came to write that book as well as the way newly available archival materials help to make sense of the period.

His book, ‘The Early Foucault’, was published in June 2021.

Speaker: Professor Stuart Elden FBA, Professor of Political Theory and Geography, University of Warwick

10-Minute Talks are a series of pre-recorded talks from Fellows of the British Academy screened each Wednesday on YouTube and also available on Apple Podcasts.

Geoff Shullenberger,The Violence of Institutions, or Girard avec Foucault, Outsider Theory, June 2, 2021

René Girard and Michel Foucault, two of the most ambitious interdisciplinary thinkers of the twentieth century, shared an abiding interest in the violence embedded in institutions, but their names are rarely mentioned together. My modest goal here is to outline a few intellectual convergences between them and to consider what we might learn from this theoretical encounter, with a view to developing a more extensive comparison of their bodies of work.

To begin, a few biographical observations. They were born three years apart (Girard in 1923, Foucault in 1926) in mid-sized provincial French cities known for their medieval architecture (Avignon and Poitiers, respectively). Their intellectual trajectories were parallel at several key points. Girard’s breakthrough book, Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque, appeared in France in the same year (1961) as Foucault’s: Folie et déraison. Both were published in English, to considerable acclaim, in 1965 and 1964, respectively. The next decade, the first volume of Foucault’s most ambitious work, The History of Sexuality, appeared in 1976, two years before Girard’s magnum opus, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. By the early 1980s, they were teaching on opposite sides of the San Francisco Bay, at Stanford and Berkeley; though Girard, unlike Foucault, had spent nearly his entire career in US academia.


Società Filosofica Italiana
Società Filosofica Italiana – sezione di Lucca


“Eccezione pandemica e tanatopolitica affermativa”

Francescomaria Tedesco
(Università di Camerino)

Giovanna Miglio
(Società Filosofica Italiana, Lucca)

H. 17:00-19:30

La Morte e le Parole – Immagini e corpi dell’ultimo nemico – Seminario on-line (2021)

Event by Laboratorio Archeologia filosofica
Online event
Price: free
Public · Anyone on or off Facebook

Cosa cambia nel modo in cui si muore? maschere, iconografie, letteratura, filosofia hanno codificato i modi del morire la cui lingua risulta di difficile ascolto nell’assordante rumore di fondo dell’informazione e delle prescrizioni, delle parole scambiate intorno alla malattia, alla degenza, alla rianimazione del corpo individuale e politico, al dispositivo di governo della “nuda vita”.
La collusione storica della devastazione del pianeta, della fine delle democrazie e di una inesorabile crisi energetica ed economica, si è risolta nel fatto che la nostra civiltà è già morta da tempo. Asssistiamo oggi alla mobilitazione dell’insieme dei dispositivi di emergenza che dovrebbero far fronte al presente: la morte nella “giusta maniera di vivere”.

Questa immagine vogliamo resusicitare attraverso i diversi intenti di questi incontri: sentire come parla la morte, quali figure sono all’opera. Si tratta di indagare i linguaggi del morire in contesti fatti di frammenti, estratti, “materiali” e di scoprire che le lingue sepolte non sono quelle di un’altra maniera di vivere.

Karen Bennett, Foucault in English, The politics of exoticization, In Translation in times of technocapitalism, Edited by Stefan Baumgarten and Jordi Cornellà-Detrell [Target 29:2] 2017, pp. 222–243, Published online: 29 June 2017

It is something of a cliché to affirm that translations into English are almost always domestications, privileging fluency and naturalness over fidelity to the source text. However, back in the 1970s, many of Michel Foucault’s major texts, which were introduced to the English-speaking public for the first time through Alan Sheridan Smith’s translations for Tavistock Publications, were not domesticated at all. Despite the fact that the originals are grounded in a non-empiricist theory of knowledge and use terms drawn from a universe of discourse that would have been completely alien in the English-speaking world, these translations closely follow the patterns of the French, with few or no concessions to the target reader’s knowledge and expectations. This paper analyses passages from Sheridan Smith’s English translations of Les Mots et les choses and L’Archéologie du savoir in order to discuss the long-term effects of this translation strategy. It then goes on to compare and assess two very different translations of Foucault’s lecture L’ Ordre du discours (1970), an early one by Rupert Swyer (1971), which brings the text to the English reader, and a later one by Ian McLeod (1981), which obliges the reader to go to the text. The paper concludes by reiterating the need for Anglophone academic culture to open up to foreign perspectives, and suggests, following Goethe (Book of West and East, 1819) that new epistemes are best introduced gradually in order to avoid alienating or confusing a public that might not be ready for them.

Keywords: Michel Foucault, English translation, French theory, continental philosophy, poststructuralism

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