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Quotes of the month (2005-7)


Foucault,GIP Press Conference

Quote for December 2007

'Basically, I have only one object of historical study, that is the threshold of modernity. Who are we, we who speak a language such that it has powers that are imposed on us in our society as well as on other societies? What is this language which can be turned against us which we can turn against ourselves? What is this incredible obsession with the passage to the universal in Western discourse? That is my historical problem.'

Michel Foucault. (2004). 'Je suis un artificier'. In Roger-Pol Droit (ed.), Michel Foucault, entretiens. Paris: Odile Jacob, p. 95. (Interview conducted in 1975. This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).

July 2007

'It was not a question of a an initially timid, technical, and medical breach of a taboo of discourse, speech or expression that had weighed on sexuality from the depths of time and certainly since the seventeenth or eighteenth century. What I think took place around 1850 ... was not at all a metamorphosis of a practice of censorship, repression, or hypocrisy, but the metamorphosis of a quite positive practice of forced and obligatory confession. I would say that in the West, sexuality is not generally something about which people are silent and that must be kept secret; it is something one has to confess.'

Michel Foucault. (2003). Abnormal. Lectures at the College de France 1974 -1975. London: Verso, p. 169.


October 2006

'For centuries, let's say since Plato, the status of knowledge has been to have an essence which is fundamentally different from that of power. If you become king , you will be mad, enraged and blind. Renounce power, renounce ambition and then you will be able to contemplate truth ... Knowledge appears to be profoundly linked to a whole series of power effects. Archaeology is essentially this detection.'

Michel Foucault. (2004). 'Je suis un artificier'. In Roger-Pol Droit (ed.), Michel Foucault, entretiens. Paris: Odile Jacob, p. 128. (Interview conducted in 1975. This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).


March 2006

'One must remember that power is not an ensemble of mechanisms of negation, refusal, exclusion. But it produces effectively. It is likely that it produces right down to individuals themselves.'

Michel Foucault. (2004). 'Je suis un artificier'. In Roger-Pol Droit (ed.), Michel Foucault, entretiens. Paris: Odile Jacob, p. 113. (Interview conducted in 1975. This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).


February 2006

'As soon as you start writing, even if it is under your real name, you start to function as somebody slightly different, as a "writer". You establish from yourself to yourself continuities and a level of coherence which is not quite the same as your real life... All this ends up constituting a kind of neo-identity which is not identical to your identity as a citizen or your social identity, Besides you know this very well, since you want to protect your private life.'

Michel Foucault. (2004). 'Je suis un artificier'. In Roger-Pol Droit (ed.), Michel Foucault, entretiens. Paris: Odile Jacob, p. 106. (Interview conducted in 1975. This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).


January 2006

'...if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing'

Michel Foucault, (2004) 'Je suis un artificier'. In Roger-Pol Droit (ed.), Michel Foucault, entretiens. Paris: Odile Jacob, p. 95. (Interview conducted in 1975. This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).


October 2005

'My role is to raise question in an effective, genuine way, and to raise them with the greatest possible rigor, with the maximum complexity and difficulty so that a solution doesn't spring from the head of some reformist intellectual or suddenly appear in the head of a party's political bureau.'

Michel Foucault. (2000) [1980]. 'Interview with Michel Foucault'.. 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. 288.


July 2005

'Discourse is not life: its time is not your time; in it, you will not be reconciled to death; you may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said; but don't imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he.'

Michel Foucault. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge.Tr. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock.


May 2005

'It is hard for me to classify a form of research like my own within philosophy or within the human sciences. I could define it as an analysis of the cultural facts characterising our culture... I do in fact seek to place myself outside the culture to which we belong, to analyse its formal conditions in order to make a critique of it, not in the sense of reducing its values, but in order to see how it was actually constituted.'

Michel Foucault. (1999) [1967]. 'Who are you, Professor Foucault?. In Jeremy R. Carrette (ed.), Religion and Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 91.


April 2005

'Finally, there is a fourth characteristic of power - a power that, in a sense, traverses and drives those other powers. I'm thinking of an epistemological power-that is, a power to extract a knowledge from individuals and to extract a knowledge about those individuals -who are subjected to observation and already controlled by those different powers. This occurs, then, in two different ways. In an institution like the factory, for example, the worker's labor and the worker's knowledge about his own labor, the technical improvements - the little inventions and discoveries, the micro adaptations he's able to implement in the course of his labor - are immediately recorded, thus extracted from his practice, accumulated by the power exercised over him through supervision. In this way, the worker's labor is gradually absorbed into a certain technical knowledge of production which will enable a strengthening of control. So we see how there forms a knowledge that's extracted from the individuals themselves and derived from their own behavior.'

Michel Foucault. (2000). 'Truth and Juridical Forms'. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Power The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume Three. New York: New Press, pp. 83-4.


March 2005

'I would now like to start looking at that dimension which I have called by that rather nasty word "governmentality". Let us suppose that "governing" is not the same thing as "reigning", that it is not the same thing as "commanding" or "making the law", let us suppose that governing is not the same thing as being a sovereign, a suzerain, being lord, being judge, being a general, owner, master, professor. Let us suppose that there is a specificity to what it is to govern and we must now find out a little what type of power is covered by this notion.'

Michel Foucault. (2004). S╚curit╚, Territoire, Population. Cours au Coll╦ge de France. 1977-1978. Paris: Gallimard, 2004. p. 119.


February 2005

'My field is the history of thought. Man is a thinking being. The way he thinks is related to society, politics, economics, and history and is also related to very general and universal categories and formal structures. But thought is something other than societal relations. The way people really think is not adequately analyzed by the universal categories of logic. Between social history and formal analyses of thought there is a path, a lane - maybe very narrow - which is the path of the historian of thought.'

Michel Foucault. (1988). '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. p.9.


January 2005

'... the State does not have an essence. The State is not universal, the State is not in itself an autonomous source of power. The State is nothing other than the effect, the outline, the moving cross section of a perpetual process of State formation, or perpetual processes of State formation ... The State is nothing other than the changing effect of a multiple regime of governmentalities ... It is a matter of ... undertaking the investigation of the problem of the State starting from practices of governmentality.'

Michel Foucault. (2004). Naissance de la biopolitique. Cours au Coll╦ge de France. 1978-1979. Paris: Gallimard, p.79. (This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell)