Michel Foucault, Penal Theories and Institutions – Palgrave, November 2018

Michel Foucault, Penal Theories and Institutions: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1971-1972 – Palgrave, November 2018

“What characterizes the act of justice is not resort to a court and to judges; it is not the intervention of magistrates (even if they had to be simple mediators or arbitrators).  What characterizes the juridical act, the process or the procedure in the broad sense, is the regulated development of a dispute.  And the intervention of judges, their opinion or decision, is only ever an episode in this development.  What defines the juridical order is the way in which one confronts one another, the way in which one struggles. The rule and the struggle, the rule in the struggle, this is the juridical.”

Michel Foucault

Penal Theories and Institutions is the title Michel Foucault gave to the lectures he delivered at the Collège de France from November 1971 to March 1972.

In these lectures Michel Foucault presents for the first time his approach to the question of power that will be the focus of his research up to the writing of Discipline and Punish (1975) and beyond.  His analysis starts with a detailed account of Richelieu’s repression of the Nu-pieds revolt (1639-1640) and then goes on to show how the apparatus of power developed by the monarchy on this occasion breaks with the system of juridical and judicial institutions of the Middle Ages and opens out onto a “judicial State apparatus”, a “repressive system”, whose function is focused on the confinement of those who challenge its order.

Michel Foucault systemizes the approach of a history of truth on the basis of the study of “juridico-political matrices” that he had begun in the previous year’s lectures (Lectures on the Will to Know) and which is at the heart of the notion of “knowledge-power”.

In these lectures Foucault develops his theory of justice and penal law.

The appearance of this volume marks the end of the publication of the series Foucault’s courses at the Collège de France (the first volume of which was published in 1997).

I wrote a piece on these lectures when they first appeared in French in 2015 at Berfrois (open access). They are discussed in more detail in Foucault: The Birth of Power.

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