Foucault News

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

Michiel T’Jampens & Jelle Versieren (2020) Entering the Archive: “Il faut défendre la société” and Michel Foucault’s Critical Archeological Inquiry into the History and Method of Genealogy, Critical Horizons,
DOI: 10.1080/14409917.2020.1790753

In “Il faut défendre la société”, Foucault attempted to historicize and criticize Nietzsche’s equating of the social with struggle. In order to do so, Foucault produced a descriptive discursive history of his genealogical project by deploying the method of the critical archaeology. Foucault realized thereinafter that his archaeological exposition of the genealogical discourse in fact laid bare a close historical and conceptual bond between genealogy and modern racial discourses. In the first lectures, Foucault, unearthed the genealogical discourse hidden in the literature written by the nobility as they attempted to resist the centralisation of royal power. In the latter part of his lectures, he described a discursive interplay between genealogy-as-struggle and the biopolitical practices of the modern state. As such, he gave a tentatively description how the modern state inherited and extensively applied the notion of struggle in its biopolitical control on its populations. The immoral and historical consequences of this affinity, resulting in the biopolitics of genocide, warranted Foucault to distance himself from Nietzsche’s concept, which in effect resulted in rethinking the social within the framework of gouvernmentalité, in which struggle was a modality rather than the prime mover of society.

KEYWORDS: Michel Foucault, biopolitics, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri de Boulainvilliers, absolutism, genealogy

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