Over the past several years I have been working on Foucault, leading to a four-volume intellectual history of his entire career. The books are published by Polity Press – Foucault’s Last Decade was published in April 2016; Foucault: The Birth of Power in January 2017. The Early Foucault, was begun in late 2016 and completed in October 2020, and was published in June 2021 (more information here and a Polity blog post here).
A fourth and final book on the 1960s, The Archaeology of Foucault (Polity 2023), completes the series (more here). A side project on Georges Canguilhem led to a book in Polity’s Key Contemporary Thinkers series, published in early 2019 (more details here).
Links to my series of updates on the research and writing of the books can be found at these links
- Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power
- The Early Foucault
- The Archaeology of Foucault
There is also a longer piece about the writing of the books at Berfrois.
There are interviews about Foucault’s Last Decade with Eugene Woulters at critical-theory.com; with Dave O’Brien for the New Books in Critical Theory series – download or stream; and with Thomas Roueché in Tank Magazine. A discussion with Peter Gratton, Eduardo Mendieta and Dianna Taylor is open access in Symposium; and there is a discussion with Antoinette Koleva in Foucault Studies, also in Bulgarian translation in Sociological Problems [Социологически проблеми]. There is a discussion with Dave O’Brien about Foucault: The Birth of Power at New Books in Critical Theory.
There is a two part interview on all the Foucault work with Anne Schult and Jonas Knatz at the Journal of the History of Ideas blog – part 1 and part 2
I also took part in a BBC Radio 3 programme on Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume IV, also with Shahidha Bari, Lisa Downing and Stephen Shapiro. It can be streamed here and downloaded here.
There are reviews of Foucault’s Last Decade by Kurt Borg in Foucault Studies, in Manchester Review of Books, by Ruben Pfizenmaier at KULT online (all open access) and Mattias Leanza in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (requires subscription). There are reviews of Foucault: The Birth of Power at the LSE Review of Books by Syamala Roberts (open access); by Audrey Borowski in Politics, Religion & Ideology, by Nancy Luxon in Perspectives in Politics (both require subscription), and by JM Moore in Justice, Power and Resistance (open access). A review of both books can be found in The Nation by Bruce Robbins and in 3am Magazine by Peter Gratton (along with Foucault’s The Punitive Society) – both open access. Both are discussed in a review essay by Mike Gane in Cultural Politics, which also looks at two of Foucault’s courses (requires subscription). In Thesis Eleven, Mitchell Dean reviews Foucault’s Last Decade and Ben Golder’s Foucault and the Politics of Rights; and Peter Beilharz reviews Foucault: The Birth of Power. Both reviews require subscription, unfortunately.
There are reviews of The Early Foucault by David Beer at The Fragment, Michael Maidan at Phenomenological Reviews (both open access), Colin Koopman at The Review of Politics (requires subscription) and Jasper Friedrich at Foucault Studies (open access).
Audio and video recordings are here.
Some translations, scans, textual analysis and links are available at Foucault Resources
On 26 August 1974, Michel Foucault completed work on Discipline and Punish, and on that very same day began writing the first volume of The History of Sexuality . A little under ten years later, on 25 June 1984, shortly after the second and third volumes were published, he was dead.
This decade is one of the most fascinating of his career. It begins with the initiation of the sexuality project, and ends with its enforced and premature closure. Yet in 1974 he had something very different in mind for The History of Sexuality than the way things were left in 1984. Foucault originally planned a thematically organised series of six volumes, but wrote little of what he promised and published none of them. Instead over the course of the next decade he took his work in very different directions, studying, lecturing and writing about historical periods stretching back to antiquity.
This book offers a detailed intellectual history of both the abandoned thematic project and the more properly historical version left incomplete at his death. It draws on all Foucault’s writings in this period, his courses at the Collège de France and lectures elsewhere, as well as material archived in France and California to provide a comprehensive overview and synthetic account of Foucault’s last decade.
Michel Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge was published in March 1969; Discipline and Punish in February 1975. Although only separated in time by six years, the difference in tone is stark: the former is a methodological treatise, the latter a call to arms. What accounts for the radical shift in Foucault’s approach?
Several transitions took place during this period. Foucault returned to France from Tunisia, first to the experimental University of Vincennes and then to a prestigious chair at the Collège de France. Tunisia was a political awakening for him, and he returned to a France much changed by the turmoil of 1968. He quickly became involved in activist work, particularly concerning prisons but also around health issues such as abortion rights, and in his seminars he built research teams to conduct collaborative work, often around issues related to his lectures and activism.
Foucault: The Birth of Power makes use of his Collège de France courses, newly available documents at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, as well as archival material relating to his activism and collaborative research, to provide a detailed intellectual history of Foucault as writer, researcher, lecturer and activist. Through a careful reconstruction of Foucault’s work and preoccupations, Elden shows that, while Discipline and Punish may be the major published output of this period, it rests on a much wider range of concerns and projects. This is an essential companion to Foucault’s Last Decade(Polity, 2016).
It was not until 1961 that Foucault published his first major book, History of Madness. He had already been working as an academic for a decade, teaching in Lille and Paris, writing, organizing cultural programmes and lecturing in Uppsala, Warsaw and Hamburg. Although he published little in this period, Foucault wrote much more, some of which has been preserved and only recently become available to researchers.
Drawing on archives in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA, this is the most detailed study yet of Foucault’s early career. It recounts his debt to teachers including Louis Althusser, Jean Hyppolite, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean Wahl; his diploma thesis on Hegel; and his early teaching career. It explores his initial encounters with Georges Canguilhem, Jacques Lacan, and Georges Dumézil, and analyses his sustained reading of Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Also included are detailed discussions of his translations of Ludwig Binswanger, Victor von Weizsäcker, and Immanuel Kant; his clinical work with Georges and Jacqueline Verdeaux; and his cultural work outside of France.
Investigating how Foucault came to write History of Madness, Stuart Elden shows this great thinker’s deep engagement with phenomenology, anthropology and psychology. An outstanding, meticulous work of intellectual history, The Early Foucault sheds new light on the formation of a major twentieth-century figure.
On 20 May 1961 Foucault defended his two doctoral theses; on 2 December 1970 he gave his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France. Between these significant dates, he published four books, travelled widely and wrote extensively on literature, the visual arts, linguistics and philosophy. He taught both psychology and philosophy, beginning his explorations of the question of sexuality.
Weaving together analyses of published and unpublished material, much of which has only recently become available, this book is a comprehensive study of this crucial period of Foucault’s career. As well as his major texts, it discusses his initial visits to Brazil, Japan and the USA, his time in Tunisia, and his editorial work for Critique and the complete works of Nietzsche and Bataille.
It was in this period that Foucault developed the historical-philosophical approach he called ‘archaeology’. For Foucault ‘archaeology’ meant the elaboration of the archive, which he understood as the rules which make possible specific claims. In its detailed study of Foucault’s archive, this book is also an archaeology of Foucault in a more literal sense, as a digging down, an uncovering, both excavation and reconstruction.
This book completes a four-volume series of major intellectual histories of Michel Foucault, exploring newly released archival material and covering the French thinker’s entire academic career. Foucault’s Last Decade was published by Polity in 2016; Foucault: The Birth of Power followed in 2017; and The Early Foucault in 2021.
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I thought I remembered Foucault’s long discussion on Confession from his College de France 1974-75 lectures. Also in reading Blacklist Foucault’s entire genealogy of confession was re-invented by Eric Maddox in his interrogation techniques to capture Saddam. It is astonishing how closely Maddox parallels Foucault in this as a naive questioner in the military. Blacklist is not a book anyone would think to look in for this so it is quite a surprise to find it there waiting for a reader and student of Foucault. It’s a quick read and thrilling in Maddox’s intellectual twists and turns as he invents surprising ways of obtaining the information the military needs up to the last minute.
That’s interesting – I didn’t know the Blacklist book. Confession is a major theme of Foucault’s Last Decade, because I suggest it is the key to both the original and subsequent plans of the History of Sexuality, and the challenge of working on it led to many of the twists and turns of his work in this period.
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It’s one of those quick ghost written with a hired writer when some subject is hot like getting Saddam. No reason any of us would read it but I just happened to be interested in the making of the movie as I was working on Twilight and the actors in that movie and their expanding plans.
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Pingback: Indo-European thought project update 9: Dumézil’s courses; Benveniste’s teaching records; Barthes, Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida; and a forthcoming article on “Foucault and Dumézil on Antiquity” | Progressive Geographies