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Quotes of the month (2002)


Foucault,GIP Press Conference

December 2002

'We can see, then, how vain and idle are all those wearisome discussions as to whether such and such forms of knowledge may be termed truly scientific, and to what conditions they ought to be subjected in order to become so. The 'sciences of man' are part of the modern episteme in the same way as chemistry or medicine or any other such science... But to say that they are part of the epistemological field means simply that their positivity is rooted in it, that that is where they find their condition of existence. They are not, therefore, merely illusions, pseudo-scientific fantasies motivated at the level of opinions, interests, or beliefs. They are not what others call by the bizarre name of 'ideology'. But that does not necessarily mean that they are sciences'. (trans mod.)

Michel Foucault. (1970). The Order of Things London: Tavistock, p. 365.


November 2002

'"Thought"... is not... to be sought only in theoretical formulations such as those of philosophy or science; it can and must be analyzed in every manner of speaking, doing or behaving in which the individividual appears and acts as subject of learning, as ethical or juridical subject, as subject conscious of himself and others. In this sense, thought is understood as the very form of action - as action insofar as it implies the play of true and false, the acceptance or refusal of rules, the relation to oneself and others. The study of forms of experience can thus proceed from an analysis of "practices" - discursive or not - as long as one qualifies that word to mean the different systems of action insofar as they are inhabited by thought as I have characterized it here.'

Michel Foucault,. (1991) [1984]. 'Preface to The History of Sexuality'. In Paul Rabinow, (ed.), The Foucault Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, pp.334-5.


October 2002

'Everyone has their own way of changing, or, what amounts to the same thing, of perceiving that everything changes. In this matter, nothing is more arrogant than trying to dictate to others. My way of no longer being the same is, by definition, the most unique part of what I am . Yet God knows there are ideological traffic police around, and we can hear their whistles blast: go left, go right, here, later, get moving, not now... The insistence on identity and the injunction to make a break both, and in the same way, feel like abuses.' (trans.mod.)

Michel Foucault, (2000) [1979] 'For an ethic of discomfort'. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Power The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume Three. New York: New Press, p. 444.


September 2002

'Nothing is fundamental. That is what is so interesting in the analysis of society. That is why nothing irritates me as much as these inquiries - which are by definition meptaphysical - on the foundations of power in a society or the self-institution of a society, etc. These are not fundamental phenomena. There are only reciprocal relations, and the perpetual gaps between intentions in relation to one another.'

Michel Foucault. (1991). 'Space, Knowledge and Power'. In Paul Rabinow, (ed.), The Foucault Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, p. 247.


August 2002

'Power relations are extremely widespread in human relationships. Now this does not mean that political power is everywhere, but that there is in human relationships a whole range of power relations that may come into play among individuals, within families, in pedagogical relationships, political life etc... Liberation is sometimes the political or historical condition for a practice of freedom. Taking sexuality as an example, it is clear that a number of liberations were required vis-à-vis male power...But this liberation does not give rise to the happy and full essence of a sexuality in which the subject has achieved a complete and satisfying relationship. Liberation paves the way for new power relationships, which must be controlled by practices of freedom.' (trans. mod)

Michel Foucault. (1996) [1984]. 'The ethics of the concern for self as a practice of freedom.' In Sylvère Lotringer (ed.) Foucault Live (Interviews, 1961-1984). Tr. Lysa Hochroth and John Johnston. 2nd edition. New York: Semiotext(e), p. 434


July 2002

'When I say that I am studying the "problematization" of madness,crime, or sexuality, it is not a way of denying the reality of such phenomena. On the contrary, I have tried to show that it was precisely some real existent in the world which was the target of social regulation at a given moment.'

Michel Foucault. (2001). Fearless Speech. Joseph Pearson (ed.). Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), p. 171


June 2002

'You see that's why I really work like a dog, and I worked like a dog all my life. I am not interested in the academic status of what I am doing because my problem is my own transformation... This transformation of one's self by one's knowledge, one's practice is, I think, something rather close the the aesthetic experience. Why should a painter work if he is not transformed by his own painting?'

Michel Foucault. (1997) [1983]. 'An interview by Stephen Riggins'. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume One. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, Allen Lane, p. 131.


May 2002

'Does there exist a pleasure in writing? I don't know. One thing is certain, that there is, I think, a very strong obligation to write. I don't really know where this obligation to write comes from ... You are made aware of it in a number of different ways. For example, by the fact that you feel extremely anxious and tense when you haven't done your daily page of writing. In writing this page you give yourself and your existence a kind of absolution. This absolution is indispensable for the happiness of the day... How is it that that this gesture which is so vain, so fictitious, so narcissistic, so turned in on itself and which consists of sitting down every morning at one's desk and scrawling over a certain number of blank pages can have this effect of benediction on the rest of the day?'

Michel Foucault, (1969) 'Interview with Claude Bonnefoy', Unpublished typescript, IMEC B14, pp. 29-30.


April 2002

'I am probably not the only one who writes in order to remain faceless. Don't ask me who I am, or tell me to stay the same: that is the bureaucratic morality, which keeps our papers in order. It ought to let us be when it comes to writing.' (trans. mod.)

Michel Foucault. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge, London: Tavistock, p. 17.


March 2002

'There is a very tenuous "analytic" link between a philosophical conception and the concrete political attitude of someone who is appealing to it; the "best" theories do not constitute a very effective protection against disastrous political choices: certain great themes such as "humanism" can be used to any end whatever - for example, to show with what gratitude Pohlenz would have greeted Hitler'

Michel Foucault. (1991) [1984]. 'Politics and Ethics: An Interview'. In Paul Rabinow, (ed.), The Foucault Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, p. 374.


February 2002

'Thought is not what inhabits a certain conduct and gives it meaning; rather, it is what allows one to step back from this way of acting or reacting, to present it to oneself as an object of thought and question it as to its meaning, its conditions, and its goals. Thought is freedom in relation to what one does, the motion by which one detaches oneself from it, establishes it as an object, and reflects on it as a problem.'

Michel Foucault, (1991) [1984]. 'Polemics, politics and problemizations'. . In Paul Rabinow, (ed.), The Foucault Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, p. 388.


January 2002

'...what defines a relationship of power is that it is a mode of action that does not act directly and immediately on others. Instead, it acts upon their actions: an action upon an action, on possible or actual future or present actions. A relationship of violence acts upon a body or upon things; it forces, it bends, it breaks, it destroys, or it closes off all possibilities.'

Michel Foucault. (2000) [1981]. "The Subject and Power". In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Power The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume Three. New York: New Press, p. 340.