Ilott, Luke. “Genealogy Beyond Critique: Foucault’s Discipline and Punish as Coalitional Worldmaking.” Political Theory, (July 2022).
Michel Foucault was an energetic activist, yet his bleak depiction of totalizing power and his refusal to make normative claims have led many to judge that Discipline and Punish (1975) did not sustain a positive political project. This article offers a new, contextualist account of Foucault’s political purposes by reading Discipline and Punish as a tool for coalition building through historical worldmaking. Addressing the division and marginalization of movements on France’s “alternative left” like feminism and gay liberation, Foucault wove together their differentiated concerns into a shared historical world. His apparently demoralizing identification of the same forms of power everywhere in fact revealed new possibilities for alliance. Focusing on Foucault’s unifying historical narratives reveals a positive project beyond the negative, denaturalizing “critique of power” we usually associate with his political thought. Foucault’s coalitional work of worldmaking may offer a model for genealogical political theory today.
Foucault, genealogy, history, critique, coalition