Collected Interviews of Michel Foucault

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* Book: Foucault Live. Michel Foucault. Collected Interviews, 1961-1984. Semiotexte.


Michel Bauwens, April 2003:

Caution: The interviews vary from one topic to another, so the notes are necessarily lacking coherent structure as well. The notes are based on the first eleven interviews only.

- Foucault defines the modern age as beginning in 1790-1810 and ending in the 1950s.

- "My own work is very limited, it consists of trying to discover, in the history of science and knowledge, something that would be its own unconscious, its own set of laws and determinations"

- The main philosophical influences on Foucault were Husserl, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. This influenced vanished in 1950-55 and was replaced by the more limited work of Jacobson n language and Dumezil in religion.

- Foucault does not look for the depth of things, for their foundation or origin, but for their materiality, and to which rules their concrete manifestations obey.

The subjects of Foucault

- The system of exclusion and confinement of the insane from the 16th to the 19th cy

- The establishment of medical science and practice at the beginning of the 19th cy.

- The organisation of the sciences of Man in the 18th and 19th cy

- The epistemology of discourse: why are things said, and others not, at a particular juncture

- Foucault does this by studying the mass of documents available in the archives

In conversation with Deleuze

- "Practice is no longer an application of theory or vice versa. But one becomes the relay of another, to transport it in another domain"

- There is no representation anymore. We are all mixities, and groupuscules, within ourselves. So there is only a multiplicity of action.

Foucault on Power

The problem of the 19th cy was exploitation, and it was uncovered by Marx. But power itself, its diffuse exercise, was not understood, and this is what Foucault and Deleuze tried to tackle. If there is no representation, there is no totalisation, no reform, but only localized struggles of all those who feel the dominance of power in their lives. Hence, the concern for the insane, the prisoners, students, children, homosexuals.

The Death of Progress and Reason

The new historians that inspired Foucault, the school of the Annales, focused on continuities (the longue duree), like the material civilisation of the European peasants, studied by Braudel. On the other hand, and at the same time, Foucault as the historian of ideas, started to look at discontinuities, rather than on the unending Progress of Reason

The Death of the Sovereign Subject


1) Because he is split

2) Because he is dependent and linked;

3) because he is not a origin, but a function ceaselessly modified

The Death of Man

Man, the independent and free subject, ('a theological man, after the death of God'), was a 19th cy. creation. It was hoped that by uncovering his determinations, he could live free from his alienations. It was hoped that through the human sciences, his depth would be uncovered. But in studying madness, one uncovered the unconscious, an endless mix, constituted as a language, and in examining that language, the only thing found were structures and correlations. Thus the theme of the 'death of Man' and the 'death of humanism'.

Death of Philosophy

With Sartre, philosophy as a totalising entreprise was replaced as a theoretical activity in many subdisciplines for the 'diagram of the present'.