Foucault: the Birth of Power Update 9 – restructuring the drafts of Chapters Four and Six

Foucault: The Birth of Power is taking shape. The first half of this book is comprised of three chapters: Measure, Inquiry, Examination. These treat, in order, Lectures on the Will to Know, Théories et Institutions Pénales, and The Punitive Society, along with related publications. If those courses, and analyses, can be seen as the progressive development of concepts and tools, the second half of the book looks at how they were put into practice, in analyses of Madness, Discipline and Health. The idea is that each of these chapters looks at lectures, publications and activism together around those themes.


GIS, CERFI and related documents and reports on health and mental illness

Chapter Six, which discussed Foucault’s work with the Groupe Information Santé (GIS), collaborative research projects at the Collège de France and with CERFI, and the 1974 lectures on medicine in Rio, was becoming much too long. Some major restructuring was needed. This became easier as I started to edit Chapter Four into shape. Chapter Four was mainly a discussion of the Psychiatric Power course, but now it is much more generally about the early 1970s work on psychiatry, of which that course is only one part. I ended up moving the whole discussion of Foucault’s early Collège de France seminars to this chapter, as well as the brief discussion of the Groupe Information Asiles (GIA). The early seminars are on penal psychiatry, and result in the I, Pierre Rivière volume. I’d initially used the discussion of the seminars to lead into a broader discussion of collaborative research, but I think the theme fits better with the treatment of psychiatric power in Chapter Four. I also added a brief discussion of a 1973 lecture on antipsychiatry, published in the Cahier L’Herne; and posted a little here on Frans Hals, The Regents and the History of Madness – a painting added to the 1972 edition of the book.

Foucault was one of the founders and major participants in the Groupe d’Information sur les prisons (GIP), played a lesser but significant role in the GIS, and had limited involvement with the GIA. David Macey claims the GIA “was founded and functioned without any help from Foucault”, though I think there is a little more to say than that. Foucault only had peripheral direct involvement with the GIA, but they worked with the GIS and with the Comité d’action prisonniers (CAP) – a kind of successor group to the GIP.  Ideally I’d talk about the GIP first, then the GIA as the first group that based itself on the model, and then the GIS. But the order I want to discuss the substantive topics of psychiatry, prisons and health mean that the GIA discussion will need to come before the GIP part. The alternative would be to talk about Discipline and Punish before Psychiatric Power, but that doesn’t work for more important reasons; or to separate the activist work from the academic treatment of the related issues, which I want to resist. So a brief discussion of the GIA before the GIP seems the least bad option. I’ll keep thinking about this.

Sorting out Chapter Four, and incorporating the material from Chapter Six meant that both chapters now exist in pretty good draft form. Chapter Six works much better with the parts removed. Chapter Five on prison activism and Discipline and Punish will be the next, and final, chapter to draft. I’ve already collected lots of documentary material for this chapter, and spent some more time in the British Library newsroom recently, mainly tracking down petitions Foucault signed in Le Monde and news reports on activities of the GIP and related groups. So I think I have most of the raw material and resources I need, but now have to shape it into some order.


As I’ve said before, Foucault’s Last Decade is now available to pre-order. For more information on these two books, see the descriptions here. Audio and video recordings relating to them are here; and a full list of the updates I’ve been posting on the process of writing here. Some translations, bibliographies, scans and links are available at Foucault Resources.

This entry was posted in Foucault's Last Decade, Foucault: The Birth of Power, Michel Foucault. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Foucault: the Birth of Power Update 9 – restructuring the drafts of Chapters Four and Six

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

  2. Pingback: Foucault: The Birth of Power Update 10 – Chapter Five and a complete first draft | Progressive Geographies

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