Foucault’s Lectures on the Punitive Society III

Stockerblog continues the reading of Foucault’s latest lecture course…


Lecture of seventeenth January 1973

Foucault starts this lecture by reference to a speech delivered in the constituent assembly in October 1789, which defended the legal practices of the Old Regime (the monarchy before the French Revolution) in new language. This confirms Foucault’s suggestion of a shift from a Medieval understanding in which crime refers to a private injury, and individual pursuit of the guilty party to a modern belief that the criminal is the enemy of the community, and that it is the job of public officials to apprehend and punish criminals from the point of view of the public good. The suggestion is the French Revolution carried on the work of the absolute monarchy in centralising sovereignty as a legal-political concepts and in matters of administrative, including penal, practice. There is a possible connection in Foucault’s analysis here with Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous argument in The Old Regime…

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