Foucault: The Birth of Power Update 10 – Chapter Five and a complete first draft

FBP update 10With Chapters Four and Six drafted, Chapter Five was the only one I didn’t have in a decent form. The first task for this was the section on the Groupe d’Information sur les prisons (GIP). Foucault was actively involved in this group from beginning to end. In large part as a consequence, there is a lot of material by this group easily available, in Dits et écrits, Archives d’une lutte and Intolérable. An English translation of a lot of this material is forthcoming. I also consulted the archives of the group at IMEC a few weeks ago, and tracked down several newspaper reports of their activities. So I had a lot of material to draw upon. There is quite a lot of secondary literature on the group, both in French and English, including excellent work by Marcelo Hoffman, Philippe Artières, Perry Zurn and Kevin Thompson, as well as the biographies, so I didn’t feel I needed to go for an exhaustive treatment. But there is a story worth telling, and I have tried to connect up some of the well-known texts by Foucault to lesser-known documents, pamphlets and reports, from the Intolérable brochures to the Manuel de l’arrêté, and texts in the IMEC archive; and to say a little bit about the Comité d’Action des Prisonniers and Foucault’s visit to Attica in 1972. As in the nature of these things, at least with me, it quite quickly became a more substantial discussion than I’d envisaged.

The rest of Chapter Five is devoted to a reading of Surveiller et punir/Discipline and Punish. I had a long draft of material on this from over a year ago, so that slotted in quite easily, with a bit of work to update and incorporate some other materials. In the process, I checked a query with Google… and found exactly the right answer very quickly. It was in a note I’d written to a translation in an edited book almost ten years ago. I’m just glad someone found it useful.

Finishing this chapter then meant I had all the chapters in a draft state, so I began to pull them into a single file and format the text consistently. I then revised the introduction I had already drafted, and wrote a short conclusion. This was on New Year’s Eve. About 9pm I saved everything and turned off the computer. The next morning I opened up the file again to begin work, and found the file was corrupted and most of it was missing. A backup was in a similar state. Fortunately this is where my file-saving practice is invaluable. Each day I save the file with the date in the file name, building up a large archive of previous versions. So ‘Foucault – The Birth of Power 31 Dec 2015’. At worse, I would lose only a day’s work. But given the large amount of work I’d done that day, I’d saved a morning, afternoon and evening version, and it was only the evening version I’d lost. The afternoon version was saved around 5pm, so I’d lost just four hours of revision.

It actually only took me a couple of hours to get back to where I was the previous day, since I knew what I was doing, could check the web history for things I’d checked online, and some of what I’d done was merely mechanical. The big loss was the conclusion. I’ve rewritten this, and it uses the same material I’d been gathering for it, but it doesn’t feel as good as the one I’d written the previous day. I’ll obviously keep working on this, but I wonder if I’ll ever recapture the version I lost. But it could have been a lot, lot worse.

So, a complete first draft. This isn’t finished by a long way, but all the elements are there, the references are in good shape, and there are few highlighted queries in the text. I’ve read all the relevant texts by Foucault, many multiple times, though there are plenty I will go back to again. I have a list of things to check in libraries, some secondary texts to read or reread, and some activist work and newspaper references to follow up in the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale. The ‘to do’ list is, though less than one page in length, though the nature of these things is that for every thing done, another or more will need to be done. I have another visit to Paris booked for early February, and perhaps that will be enough for this book.

I’m now on holiday, and it feels good to take a break with a complete text ready for my return. A lot of work still to do, but a good moment.


Foucault’s Last Decade is 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: The Birth of Power, Michel Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Foucault: The Birth of Power Update 10 – Chapter Five and a complete first draft

  1. S says:

    Thanks for glimpses into your work process. Always informative and helpful. Not much is worse than re-revising after data glitch. I’ve given up on MS Word, but still need to use it. I’m migrating to Scrivener for all my longer writing projects where Word inevitably crashes or freaks out. Have a good holiday.

  2. Pingback: Foucault: the Birth of Power Update 11: clearing the decks and beginning to move from Foucault to Shakespeare | Progressive Geographies

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