Synopses & Reviews
In 1980, Michel Foucault began a vast project of research on the relationship between subjectivity and truth, an examination of conscience, confession, and truth-telling that would become a crucial feature of his life-long work on the relationship between knowledge, power, and the self. The lectures published here offer one of the clearest pathways into this project, contrasting Greco-Roman techniques of the self with those of early Christian monastic culture in order to uncover, in the latter, the historical origin of many of the features that still characterize the modern subject. They are accompanied by a public discussion and debate as well as by an interview with Michael Bess, all of which took place at the University of California, Berkeley, where Foucault delivered an earlier and slightly different version of these lectures.
Foucault analyzes the practices of self-examination and confession in Greco-Roman antiquity and in the first centuries of Christianity in order to highlight a radical transformation from the ancient Delphic principle of “know thyself” to the monastic precept of “confess all of your thoughts to your spiritual guide.” His aim in doing so is to retrace the genealogy of the modern subject, which is inextricably tied to the emergence of the “hermeneutics of the self”—the necessity to explore one’s own thoughts and feelings and to confess them to a spiritual director—in early Christianity. According to Foucault, since some features of this Christian hermeneutics of the subject still determine our contemporary “gnoseologic” self, then the genealogy of the modern subject is both an ethical and a political enterprise, aiming to show that the “self” is nothing but the historical correlate of a series of technologies built into our history. Thus, from Foucault’s perspective, our main problem today is not to discover what “the self” is, but to try to analyze and change these technologies in order to change its form.
This new title in the Collège de France Lecture Series charts a new development in Michel Foucault's thinking. Starting from the notion of 'bio-power' developed in the previous 1976 course, Society Must be Defended, Foucault explores the birth of the modern nation state in the Eighteenth Century through an analysis of its adminstration of institutionalized power relations, beginning with the fundamental technologies of security.
Marking a major development in Foucault's thinking, this book derives from the lecture course which he gave at the Collège de France between January and April, 1978. Taking as his starting point the notion of "bio-power," introduced in his 1976 course Society Must be Defended, Foucault sets out to study the foundations of this new technology of power over population. Distinct from punitive, disciplinary systems, the mechanisms of power are here finely entwined with the technologies of security, and it is to 18th century developments of these technologies with which the first chapters of the book are concerned. By the fourth lecture however Foucault's attention turns, focusing on a history of "governmentality" from the first centuries of the Christian era to the emergence of the modern nation state. As Michel Sennelart explains in his afterword, the effect of this change of direction is to "shift the center of gravity of the lectures from the question of biopower to that of government, to such an extent that the former almost entirely eclipses the former ..." Consequently, in light of Foucault's later work, it is tempting to see these lectures as the moment of a radical turning point at which the transition to the problematic of the "government of self and others" would begin.
Translation of: Securite, territoire, population.
About the Author
(1926–84) was one of the most significant social theorists of the twentieth century, his influence extending across many areas of the humanities and social sciences. He is the author of many books and published lectures, including, most recently, Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling
, also published by the University of Chicago Press. Graham Burchell
is a freelance research and translator and has translated several volumes of Foucault’s lectures. He is coeditor of The Foucault Effect
, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
Foreword * Introduction * 11 January 1978 * 18 January 1978 * 25 January 1978 * 1 February 1978 * 8 February 1978 * 15 February 1978 * 22 February 1978 * 1 March 1978 * 8 March 1978 * 15 March 1978 * 22 March 1978 * 29 March 1978 * 5 April 1978 * Course Summary * Course Context * Index of Notions * Index of Names