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Quotes of the month (2008)


Foucault,GIP Press Conference

Quote for December 2008

' Relations of power are not in themselves forms of repression. But what happens is that, in society, in most societies, organizations are created to freeze the relations of power, hold those relations in a state of asymmetry, so that a certain number of persons get an advantage, socially, economically, politically, institutionally, etc. And this totally freezes the situation. That's what one calls power in the strict sense of the term: it's a specific type of power relation that has been institutionalized, frozen, immobilized, to the profit of some and to the detriment of others.'

Michel Foucault. Power, Moral Values, and the Intellectual. An Interview with Michel Foucault by Michael Bess, History of the Present 4 (Spring 1988), p. 1.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for November 2008

' I was telling you earlier about the three elements in my morals. They are (1) the refusal to accept as self-evident the things that are proposed to us; (2) the need to analyze and to know, since we can accomplish nothing without reflection and understanding‹thus, the principle of curiosity; and (3) the principle of innovation: to seek out in our reflection those things that have never been thought or imagined. Thus: refusal, curiosity, innovation.'

Michel Foucault. Power, Moral Values, and the Intellectual. An Interview with Michel Foucault by Michael Bess, History of the Present 4 (Spring 1988), p. 1.


Quote for October 2008

'In a sense, I am a moralist, insofar as I believe that one of the tasks, one of the meanings of human existence - the source of human freedom - is never to accept anything as definitive, untouchable, obvious, or immobile. No aspect of reality should be allowed to become a definitive and inhuman law for us.             We have to rise up against all forms of power - but not just power in the narrow sense of the word, referring to the power of a government or of one social group over another: these are only a few particular instances of power.            Power is anything that tends to render immobile and untouchable those things that are offered to us as real, as true, as good.'

Michel Foucault. Power, Moral Values, and the Intellectual. An Interview with Michel Foucault by Michael Bess, History of the Present 4 (Spring 1988), p. 1.


Quote for September 2008

'My first book was called Madness and Civilization, but in fact my problem was rationality, that is, how does reason operate in a society such as ours? Well, to understand this issue, instead of beginning with the subject moving from awareness to reason, it is better if we see how, in the Western world, those who are not the subjects of reason, those who are not considered reasonable, that is those who are mad, are removed from the life process. Starting with this practice, with constellations of real practices, and finally, a process of negation, we reach the place where we can see the place of reason. Or we find that reason is not just the movements and actions of rational structures, but the movements of the structures and the mechanisms of power.'

Michel Foucault. (2005) [1979]. 'Dialogue between Michel Foucault and Baqir Parham'. In Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson (eds.). Foucault and the Iranian Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 188.


Quote for August 2008

'The very definition of an intellectual comprises a person who necessarily is entangled with the politics and major decisions of his society. Thus, the point is not whether or not an intellectual has a presence in political life. Rather, the point is what should the role of an intellectual be in the present stateof the world, in order that he or she would reach the most decisive, authentic, accurate results.'

Michel Foucault. (2005) [1979]. 'Dialogue between Michel Foucault and Baqir Parham'. In Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson (eds.). Foucault and the Iranian Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 183-184.


Quote for July 2008

'The problem of the truth of what I say is a very difficult one for me; in fact, it's the central problem. That's the question I still haven't answered. And yet I make use of the most conventional methods: demonstration, or, at any rate, proof in historical matters, textual references, citation of authorities, drawing connections between texts and facts, suggesting schemes of intelligibility, offering different types of explanation. There is nothing original in what I do. From this standpoint, what I say in my books can be verified or invalidated in the same way as any other book of history.'

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. 242.


Quote for June 2008

'May '68 was extremely important, without any doubt. It's certain that without May '68 I wouldn't have afterward done the work I did in regard to prison, delinquency, and sexuality.'

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.


Quote for May 2008

'To become a bourgeois intellectual, a professor, a journalist, a writer, or anything of that sort seemed repugnant. The experience of the war had shown us the urgent need of a society radically different from the one in which we were living, this society that had permitted Nazism, that had lain down in front of it, and that had gone over en masse to de Gaulle. A large sector of French youth had a reaction of total disgust toward all that. We wanted a world and a society that were not only different but that would be an alternative version of ourselves: we wanted to be completely other in a completely different world.'

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, pp. 247-8.


Quote for March 2008

'When, with Rousseau and Pestallozzi, the eighteenth century concerned itself with constituting for the child, with educational rules that followed his development, a world that would be adapted to him, it made it possible to form around children an unreal, abstract, archaic environment that had no relation to the adult world. The whole development of contemporary education, with its irreproachable aim of preserving the child from adult conflicts, accentuates the distance that separates, for a man, his life as a child and his life as an adult. That is to say, by sparing the child conflicts, it exposes him to a major conflict, to the contradiction between his childhood and his real life. If one adds that, in its educational institutions, a culture does not project its reality directly, with all its conflicts and contradictions, but that it reflects it indirectly through the myths that excuse it, justify it, and idealize it in a chimerical coherence; if one adds that in its education a society dreams of its golden age [...] one understands that fixations and pathological regressions are possible only in a given culture, that they multiply to the extent that social forms do not permit the assimilation of the past into the present content of experience.'

Michel Foucault. [1954] (1987). Mental Illness and Psycbology. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 81.


Quote for February 2008

'Painting has at least this much in common with discourse: when it gives rise to a force which creates history, it is political.'

Michel Foucault. [1975] (2007). The Force of Flight. In Jermy Crampton and Stuart Elden (eds.) Space, Knowledge and Power. Foucault and Geography. Aldershot: Ashgate, p. 169


Quote for January 2008

'A society expresses itself positively in the mental illness displayed by its members, whether it places them at the centre of its religious life, as is often the case amongst the primitive peoples, or whether it seeks to expatriate them by situating them outside social life, as does our culture'.

Michel Foucault. (1966). Maladie Mentale et psychologie. 3rd ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, p. 75. (1st edition 1954. This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell).