Rosie Smith, Book Review: Foucault’s ‘Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling’. The Sociological Imagination, 2015
Michel Foucault’s 1981 Louvain lecture series ‘Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling’ is a wonderfully insightful book. It provides a detailed examination of the role of truth-telling throughout antiquity and its development into a key stone of contemporary European juridical proceedings. Specifically, Foucault investigates, within the discourse of criminal law and criminal justice, the use of ‘avowal’ as a particular form of truth-telling; the process through which an individual identifies themselves as the criminal subject, rather than merely as the author of a crime. Foucault guides the reader through the history of truth-telling within society, how it is constructed and how it affects power, knowledge, and the subject. Using vivid historical, philosophical and literary examples, Foucault constructs a coherent genealogy of the subject (Brion and Bernard, 1981: 271), and how truth-telling aids individuals’ development of a sense of self. The lectures are delivered with great zeal and open a window onto Foucault’s own politicization, particularly his involvement with the French Maoist political party, Gauche Prolétarienne, during the early 1970s. In culmination the reader is provided with an impassioned analysis of “the points where the techniques of the self are integrated into structures of coercion or domination” (1981: 300).
With thanks to Dave Beer for this news