Foucault’s Last Decade – Tenth update

Update 10I’m now about to leave Melbourne. Since the last update on this book, I’ve completed a draft of Chapter Five – which now includes the material from the old Chapter Six – and as a consequence is much too long. But splitting it in two doesn’t work, as I’ve seen through trying that before; and the topics it covers are so important that it’s hard to see where to cut. In a sense this is the mid-point of the book (though not quite half-way chronologically) and it may need to remain as the longest chapter. Apart from the length, and some quotations that I plan to cut down, it’s now in reasonable shape. In the last several days I’ve added in a section on the dispositif, plus brief discussions of and references to various mid-1970s lectures (New York, Rio, Montreal, Japan, etc). When I return I will need to reread his little book of interviews with Roger Pol-Droit and see if there are things that need to be incorporated here, plus a few other smaller references I was unable resolve here.

I then did a little work on two further lecture courses, Du gouvernement des vivants (January-March 1980) and Mal faire, dire vrai (April-May 1981). I read both these when they first came out, but unlike most other courses neither published a review nor discussion, or even took extensive notes. As I now turn to them I’m aware the English translations are coming out this year as On the Government of the Living and Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling. There isn’t therefore the need to worry overly about some translation choices at this stage, so my initial notes alternate between English summaries and English/French quotations. I can fix the exact wording at a later date when I have both texts to hand. I should say that with this project generally I am always referencing English translations where they exist, but frequently modify their versions. I do this least often, by far, when they are Graham Burchell’s versions; much more with the books published in Foucault’s lifetime and the work of other translators. With Subjectivité et vérité, delivered between these two courses, down to be published soon there is also a good reason to wait a little longer to work on this chapter. It is, however, becoming increasingly clear to me that we should read Du gouvernement des vivants as much as the effective third course on governmentality as the first course on antiquity. (Or, perhaps, a stronger claim: what Foucault calls governmentality never really goes away.)

I had thought I would do more work on this chapter in Melbourne, and leave Chapter Six on governmentality until I returned, but I’ve changed my mind a bit – and not just because I’ve run out of time here. I think it now makes sense to work on governmentality next. I’ve published quite a bit on this topic already, albeit with a different focus, and have some quite extensive notes files on the lectures. But I’ll read them again in the way I’ve worked up until now and see what develops. There is a bit of work to be done on Foucault’s sabbatical year too. As I currently plan it, the chapter on governmentality will also have an extensive discussion of Foucault’s collaborative projects.

Talking about Foucault again at Monash University and University of Melbourne was also good. Even though the focus was on a single course, in discussion I was able to link backwards and forwards from that single moment. Some of the overall arguments and claims I’m making in this project are starting to emerge more clearly.

You can read more about the Foucault’s Last Decade project, along with links to previous updates, here.

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