logo prison design michel-foucault.com

Quotes of the month (2004)


Foucault,GIP Press Conference

December 2004

I think that the word 'rationalization' is dangerous. What we have to do is analyze specific rationalities rather than always invoking the progress of rationalization in general.

Michel Foucault, (2000). '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.329.


November 2004

'One has to distinguish between different things in the analysis of an institution. First, there is what can be called its rationality, or its aim, that is, the ends it has in view and the means it possesses for attaining those ends... Second, there is the question of results. Obviously, the results very rarely coincide with the aim; thus the objective of the correctional prison, of imprisonment as a means of improving the individual, has not been achieved.'

Michel Foucault. (2000). 'What is called "punishing"?'. 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.385.


October 2004

'You must not attribute to me the idea that "Muslim spirituality will advantageously replace dictatorship". Since there have been demonstrations and people have been killed in Iran in the name of "Islamic government", it is an elementary duty to ask what content has been given to this term and what animates it... The Islamic problem as a political force is an essential problem for our times and for the years to come. The first condition for approaching it with some measure of intelligence is not to start with hatred.'

Michel Foucault (1994) [1978]. 'Réponse de Michel Foucault à une lectrice iranienne'. In Dits et Ecrits vol. 111. Paris: Gallimard, p. 708. (This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).

'...the "Islamic" movement could set fire to the whole region, overthrow the most unstable regimes and disturb the most solid. Islam which is not simply a religion, but a way of life, a belonging to a history and a civilisation, runs the risk of becoming a giant powder keg, on the scale of hundreds of millions of people.'

Michel Foucault. (1994) [1979]. 'Une poudrière appelée islam'. In Dits et Ecrits vol. 111. Paris: Gallimard, p. 761. (This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).


September 2004

'I am not at all the sort of philosopher who conducts or wants to conduct a discourse of truth on some science or other. Wanting to lay down the law for each and every science is the project of positivism... Now this role of referee, judge and universal witness is one I absolutely refuse to adopt.'

MichelFoucault. (1980). 'Questions on geography'. In C. Gordon (ed.). Tr. Kate Soper. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon, pp. 64-5.


August 2004

`We are doomed historically to history, to the patient construction of discourses about discourses, and to the task of hearing what has already been said'.

Foucault, Michel. (1973). The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception. Tr. A. M. S. Smith. London: Tavistock, p. xvi.


July 2004

'I am merely emphasizing that the fact of "health" is a cultural fact in the broadest sense of the word, a fact that is political, economic, and social as well, a fact that is tied to a certain state of individual and collective consciousness. Every era outlines a "normal" profile of health. Perhaps we should direct ourselves toward a system that defines, in the domain of the abnormal, the pathological, the sicknesses normally covered by society.'

Michel Foucault. (2000). 'The risks of security'. 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.379.


June 2004

'I would like my books to be a kind of tool-box which others can rummage through to find a tool which they can use however they wish in their own area... I would like the little volume that I want to write on disciplinary systems to be useful to an educator, a warden, a magistrate, a conscientious objector. I don't write for an audience, I write for users, not readers.'

Michel Foucault. (1994) [1974]. 'Prisons et asiles dans le mécanisme du pouvoir'. In Dits et Ecrits vol. 11. Paris: Gallimard, pp. 523-4. (This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).


May 2004

'Humanism may not be universal but may be quite relative to a certain situation. What we call humanism has been used by Marxists, liberals, Nazis, Catholics. This does not mean that we have to get rid of what we call human rights or freedom, but that we can't say that freedom or human rights has to be limited at certain frontiers. For instance, if you asked eighty years ago if feminine virtue was part of universal humanism, everyone would have answered yes. What I am afraid of about humanism is that it presents a certain form of our ethics as a universal model for any kind of freedom. I think that there are more secrets, more possible freedoms, and more inventions in our future than we can imagine in humanism as it is dogmatically represented on every side of the political rainbow: the Left, the Center, the Right.'

Michel Foucault. (1988) [1982]. 'Truth, Power, Self: An Interview with Michel Foucault - October 25th, 1982'. In Martin, L.H. et al (eds.), Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock, pp.9-15.


April 2004

'This notion of the government of men by truth ... Elaborating this notion means displacing things a little in relation to the now overworn and tired theme of power-knowledge. For the history of thought, my analysis was more or less organized, or revolved around, the notion of dominant ideology. If you like, there are in general two successive displacements: then, from the notion of dominant ideology to that of power-knowledge and now, a second displacement from the notion of knowledge-power to the notion of government by the truth... Discarding the notion of knowledge-power the same way as I discarded the notion of dominant ideology. Well, when I say that, I am perfectly devastated (detruite) because it is obvious that you don't discard something you thought yourself in the same way as you discard what others have thought. As a consequence, I will certainly be more indulgent with the notion of knowledge-power than with that of dominant ideology, but it is up to you to criticize me for that.'

Michel Foucault, (1980) 'Lecture 9 January', (unpublished).


March 2004

'...the power that one man exerts over another is always perilous. I am not saying that power, by nature is evil; I am saying that power, with its mechanisms is infinite (which does not mean that it is omnipotent, quite the contrary). The rules that exist to limit it can never be stringent enough; the universal principles for dispossessing it of all the occasions it seizes are never sufficiently rigorous. Against power one must always set inviolable laws and unrestricted rights.'

Michel Foucault, (2000) [1979] 'Useless to revolt?'. 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. 452-3.


February 2004

'...is it not perhaps the case that these fragments of genealogies are no sooner brought to light, that the particular elements of the knowledge that one seeks to disinter are no sooner accredited and put into circulation, than they run the risk of re-codification, re-colonisation? In fact, those unitary discourses, which first disqualified and then ignored them when they made their appearance, are, it seems, quite ready now to annex them, to take them back within the fold of their own discourse and to invest them with everything this implies in terms of their effects of knowledge and power. And if we want to protect these only lately liberated fragments are we not in danger of ourselves constructing, with our own hands, that unitary discourse to which we are invited, perhaps to lure us into a trap, by those who say to us: "All this is fine, but where are you heading? What kind of unity are you after?"'

Michel Foucault. (1980). 'Two lectures (first lecture: January 7, 1976)" In C. Gordon (ed.). Tr. Kate Soper. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon, p. 86.


January 2004

'I dream of a new age of curiosity. We have the technical means for it; the desire is there; the things to be known are infinite; the people who can employ themselves at this task exist. What are we suffering from? From too little: from channels that are too narrow, skimpy, quasi-monopolistic, insufficient. There is no point in adopting a protectionist attitude, to prevent "bad" information from invading and suffocating the "good". Rather we must multiply the paths and the possibility of comings and goings... Which doesn't mean, as is often feared, the homogenization and leveling from below. But on the contrary, the differentiation and simultaneity of different networks.'

Michel Foucault. (1996) [1980]. 'The Masked Philosopher'. In Sylvère Lotringer (ed.) Foucault Live (Interviews, 1961-1984). Tr. Lysa Hochroth and John Johnston. 2nd edition. New York: Semiotext(e), p.305