Foucault News

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

Bernard E. Harcourt, Foucault 3/13 The Punitive Society: Didier Fassin, Axel Honneth, Nadia Urbinati, and the Question of the Political and Moral Economies of Punishment

[This article draws on a longer essay titled “The ’73 Graft: Punishment, Political Economy, and the Genealogy of Morals”]

In their fascinating and provocative articles on The Punitive Society, Didier Fassin, Axel Honneth, and Nadia Urbinati raise a set of critical questions about Foucault’s 1973 lectures, concerning:

  • the idea of civil war as a model for relations of power in society, and the related notion of the “criminal as social enemy” as a specific instantiation of the matrix of war;
  • the concept of “illegalisms” as the basis for a political economy of punishment that criminalizes the poor and minorities;
  • the relation of that particular political-economic theory to a Weberian-inspired, genealogical  analysis of the protestant roots of the wage- and prison-form;
  • the contemporary reflections of all this in our present condition of massive and racialized over-incarceration, or what has come to be known as the New Jim Crow; and
  • the role and method for militant specific intellectuals to intervene in our present, drawing on The Punitive Society as a political text.

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One thought on “Foucault 3/13 The Punitive Society (2015)

  1. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    A terrific piece by Bernard Harcourt on the 1973 lectures. Many useful insights, including:

    The core concept of illégalismes is a term that has somewhat erroneously been translated as “illegalities” in the English edition of Discipline and Punish. It would be more appropriate to use a neologism, such as illegalisms, because “illegalities” is actually the end state, that which, in some sense, resolves the struggle. Illegalities is what represents the culmination of a power struggle that operates through illegalisms.

    – See more at:

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