logo prison design michel-foucault.com

Quotes of the month (2009)


Foucault,GIP Press Conference

Quote for October 2009

Panopticism is one of the characteristic traits of our society. It's a type of power that is applied to individuals in the form of continuous individual supervision, in the form of control, punishment and compensation, and in the form of correction, that is, the molding and transformation of individuals in terms of certain norms. This threefold aspect of panopticism - supervision, control, correction - seems to be a fundamental and characteristic dimension of the power relations that exist in our society.

Michel Foucault, (2000) [1981] '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, p. 70.


Quote for September 2009

The art of government ... which has now become the program of most governments in capitalist countries, absolutely does not seek the constitution of ... [a] standardizing, mass society of consumption and spectacle, etcetera... It involves, on the contrary, obtaining a society that is not orientated towards the commodity and the uniformity of the commodity, but towards the multiplicity and differentiation of enterprises... An enterprise society and a judicial society, a society orientated towards the enterprise and a society framed by a multiplicity of judicial institutions, are two faces of a single phenomenon.

Michel Foucault, (2008), In The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the Collège de France. 1978-1979. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 149-50.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for August 2009 -2

What bothers me is the quality of French television. It's true! It is one of the best in the world unfortunately!...
What bothers and irritates me horribly in France, is that you are obliged to look at the program in advance to know what you can't miss, and you have to arrange your evening as a result.
And then there is Le Pain Noir on Mondays. Result: every Monday is booked up... It is this which is the strength of television. People end up living according to its schedules. The news has been delayed by a quarter of an hour: well, you know that restaurants will see their diners arrive a quarter of an hour later.'

Michel Foucault, (1994) [1975] 'A quoi rêvent les philosophes?'. In Dits et Ecrits vol. II. Paris: Gallimard, p. 705. This passage translated by Clare O'Farrell

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for August 2009 -1

No-one is forced to write books, or to spend years elaborating them or to claim to be doing this kind of work. There is no reason to make it obligatory to include footnotes, bibliographies and references. No reason not to choose free reflection on the work of others. It is sufficient to indicate well and clearly what relation one is establishing between one's own work and the work of others.

Michel Foucault, (1994) [1983] 'A propos des faiseurs d'histoire'. In Dits et Ecrits vol. IV. Paris: Gallimard, pp. 413. This passage translated by Clare O'Farrell

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for July 2009

When I speak of a 'disciplinary' society, I don't mean a 'disciplined society'. When I speak of the spread of methods of discipline, this is not a claim that 'the French are obedient'! In the analysis of normalising procedures, it is not a question of a 'thesis of a massive normalisation'. As if these developments weren't precisely the measure of a perpetual failure.

Michel Foucault, (1994) [1980] 'La poussière et le nuage' In Dits et Ecrits vol. IV. Paris: Gallimard, pp. 15-16. This passage translated by Clare O'Farrell

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)

previous quotes of the month


Quote for June 2009

The term 'folklore' is nothing but a hypocrisy of the 'civilised' who won't take part in the game, and who want to hide their refusal to make contact under the mantle of respect for the picturesque...
Man is irrevocably a stranger to dawn. It needed our colonial way of thinking to believe that man could have remained faithful to his beginnings and that there was any place in the world where he could encounter the essence of the 'primitive'. (trans. Clare O'Farrell)

Michel Foucault, (1994) [1963]. 'Veilleur de la nuit des hommes'. In Dits et Ecrits vol. I. Paris: Gallimard, p. 232.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for May 2009

Didier Eribon: You are said to be rather pessimistic. Listening to you, though, I get the impression that you are something of an optimist instead.
There is an optimism that consists in saying, "In any case, it couldn't be any better." My optimism would consist in saying, "So many things can be changed, being as fragile as they are, tied more to contingencies than to necessities, more to what is arbitrary than to what is rationally established, more to complex but transitory historical contigencies than to inevitable anthropological constants..."

Michel Foucault, (2000) [1981] 'So is it important to think? '. 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. 458.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for April 2009

'I am an experimenter and not a theorist. I call a theorist someone who constructs a general system either deductive or analytical, and applies it to different fields in a uniform way . This isn't my case. I am an experimenter in the sense that I write in order to change myself and in order not to think the same thing as before'.

Michel Foucault. (2000) [1980]. Interview with Michel Foucault. In Power. J. Faubion (Ed.). New York: New Press, p. 240.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for March 2009

'If identity becomes the problem of sexual existence, and if people think they have to 'uncover' their 'own identity' and that their own identity has to become the law, the principle, the code of their existence; if the perennial question they ask is 'Does this thing conform to my identity?' then, I think, they will turn back to a kind of ethics very close to the old heterosexual virility. If we are asked to relate to the question of identity, it has to be an identity to our unique selves. But the relationships we have to have with ourselves are not ones of identity, rather they must be relationships of differentiation, of creation, of innovation. To be the same is really boring.'

Michel Foucault. (1996) [1984]. Sex, Power and the Politics of Identity. In Foucault Live. collected Interviews, 1961-1984. Sylvère Lotringer (Ed.). New York: Semiotext(e), p. 385.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for February 2009

'We have to rid ourselves of the prejudice that a history without causality is no longer history.'

[Michel Foucault. (1994) [1967]. Qui êtes-vous Professeur Foucault? In Dits et écrits: 1954-1988. Vol I. D. Defert, F. Ewald & J. Lagrange (Eds.). Paris: Gallimard, p. 607. This passage translated by Clare O'Farrell

Michel Foucault. (1999) [1967]. Who are you, Professor Foucault? In Religion and Culture. J. R. Carrette (Ed.). Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 92.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for January 2009

Interviewer: Structuralism was not born recently. It was around at the beginning of the century. Yet it is only today that people have started talking about it. For the general public you are the priest of 'structuralism'. Why?

Foucault: At the very most I am the altar boy of structuralism. Let's say I have rung the bell, the faithful have genuflected and the unbelievers have uttered cries of protest. But the service began a long time ago. The real mystery was not celebrated by me. [...] One can talk of a kind of structuralist philosophy which could be defined as the activity which allows one to diagnose what today is.

Michel Foucault. (1994) [1967]. La philosophie structuraliste permet de diagnostiquer ce qu'est 'aujourd'hui'. In Dits et écrits: 1954-1988. Vol I. D. Defert, F. Ewald & J. Lagrange (Eds.). Paris: Gallimard, p. 581. This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)