Foucault News

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

Lock down and punish
by Blake Smith| Washington Examiner, June 11, 2020

The French philosopher Michel Foucault warned that public health threatens the principles of liberal democracy. Our political system, he argued, depends on us imagining each other as citizens working out collective rules to protect our rights. Our conception of public health, however, results in us thinking of each other as victims and vectors of contagion. Appeals to “science” and “health” suspend our rights and the deliberative reason of the democratic process. But science and health are not neutral, objective categories. They always contain, and usually conceal, projects for reshaping humanity.

Foucault insisted that the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century had used public health concerns as covers to pursue their tyrannical ends. The Nazi regime committed genocide and mass euthanasia in the name of racial hygiene, and the Soviets imprisoned dissenters in psychiatric asylums. Before this year, Foucault’s argument might have appeared hyperbolic. But today, as cities and states debate whether to continue coronavirus lockdowns or declare racism a public health crisis, it should find a hearing.

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