Graham Burchell – notes on the translation of ‘Society Must be Defended’

Graham Burchell has sent me the following comments on the translation of Michel Foucault’s ‘Society Must be Defended’ lecture course. Graham is the translator of all the other Paris lecture courses: this course, the first to appear, was made by David Macey.


Some notes on the translation of “Il faut défendre la société”; “Society Must Be Defended” (pdf)

Here’s the opening explanation and disclaimer:

  1. The edition of the translation I refer to here is the first, American Picador edition of 2003. I do not know whether any of the mistakes indicated here have been picked up and corrected by other subsequent editions.
  2. These notes are not the result of a systematic check of the translation and indicate only passages where, for one reason or another, I referred back to the French while reading the translation; there may be other mistakes or questionable translation choices.
  3. The passages noted are of different kinds. Some are straightforwardly wrong (transpositions – ‘politics’ instead of ‘war’ and vice versa; ‘power’ instead of ‘truth’ and vice versa – and omission of words or expressions) and may very well be misprints or the effects of momentary inattention (all too easy, as I know to my cost, when, for example, translating two words which are repeated frequently and together).  Others seem to me to be errors of translation. They also vary in their significance, some distorting the meaning significantly, or even inverting it, others being perhaps of minor significance.  The French passage is given followed by the corresponding passage from the translation, and then my proposed translation. I am sure that in many cases my own proposals could be improved.

Continue reading here.


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2 Responses to Graham Burchell – notes on the translation of ‘Society Must be Defended’

  1. Pingback: Top posts on Progressive Geographies this week | Progressive Geographies

  2. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

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