Foucault on lettres de cachet and their contemporary relevance

Interesting post from Jeremy Crampton here on Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault’s collection Le désordre des familles and the more recent National Security Letters in the US. He ends with a tantalising suggestion for a paper: “It would be very useful if someone could do a full comparison of the lettres de cachet and the NSLs”.

As he said in a post from a few years back, “this work is perhaps one of the most important remaining texts that has not seen an English translation”.

Both of these sound like projects that should be pursued. I suppose the relatively low proportion of Foucault to documentary material is one reason for the lack of English translation, but it’s surprising the ‘Presentation’ hasn’t been translated.

This entry was posted in Arlette Farge, Jeremy Crampton, Michel Foucault. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Foucault on lettres de cachet and their contemporary relevance

  1. Ian Douglas says:

    It was from this project that The Lives of Infamous Men emerged, which Deleuze rightly described as a masterpiece. Michel shows himself in this short essay not only to be a genius but a profoundly gentle and sensitive man.

  2. stuartelden says:

    Thanks Ian – that’s not quite right. Yes, both projects come out of a shared interest in archival material and stories of individuals from those archives, but ‘Lives of Infamous Men’ predates this book by a few years.

  3. Ian Douglas says:

    You are right. I put it badly, and I meant something different. Foucault had been circling around publishing selections of the lettres de cachet since seeing Folie et déraison to print, and at least some of the material of Le désordre des familles appeared to be from his second aborted attempt, of which La Vie des hommes infames was the introduction, published ahead the anticipated volume. I have no information on the difference, if there is any, between the planned format for La Vie des hommes infames the book and what would become, a couple of years later, Le désordre des familles. It’s a shame, I think, that the volume hasn’t been translated. The material that moved the man ought to be as important as what he wrote about it, especially to young scholars.

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