Thomas Corbin and JP Deranty, Foucault on the centrality of work. OnWork Newsletter, 2 November 2020
In recent weeks, our research has focused on Michel Foucault’s contribution to debates on work. Throughout his immense corpus, Foucault never ceased to take work as a central object of his analyses. The History of Madness for instance begins with an alternative account of the new value that work started to take on early in the 17th century, with a shift in the fundamental ethos justifying the condemnations of idleness. These are crucial pages to elaborate an alternative Foucauldian version of the “work ethic” hypothesis. Similarly, in Psychiatric Power, Foucault continues his historical analysis of work into the 18th century, now focusing specifically on “work discipline” and the rising emphasis on the control and management of workers time. The attention and significance Foucault gives to work in his writings is striking and gains yet more weight when we consider his corpus as a whole, over the entire span of his thinking life.
We have collated 84 citations throughout Foucault’s oeuvre in which work is significantly discussed. These citations are organised by publication and complement a collection of a further 133 citations from the secondary literature.