Foucault News

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

The city in a time of plague
By PEPE ESCOBAR, Asia Times, APRIL 17, 2020

See also How to think post-Planet Lockdown By PEPE ESCOBAR. Asia Times, APRIL 28, 2020

History teaches us that epidemics are more like revelatory moments than social transformers

The plague-stricken town, traversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies – this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city.

– Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Predictably eyeing the Decline and Fall of the American Empire, a serious academic debate is raging around the working hypothesis of historian Kyle Harper, according to whom viruses and pandemics – especially the Justinian plague in the 6th century – led to the end of the Roman Empire.

Well, history actually teaches us that epidemics are more like revelatory moments than social transformers.

Patrick Boucheron, a crack historian and a professor at the esteemed College de France, offers a very interesting perspective. Incidentally, before the onset of Covid-19, he was about to start a seminar on the Black Death medieval plague.

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