Thursday, May 14, 2015

FrançoisEwald. AlessandroFontana. Foreword. Il faut défendre la Société. Picador. 2003.

This volume is the first in a series devoted to the lectures given at the Collège de France by Michel Foucault.

Michel Foucault taught at the Collège de France from January 1971 until his death in June 1984 – with the exception of 1977, when he enjoyed a sabbatical year. His chair was in the History of Systems of Thought.
The chair was established on 30 November 1969 at the proposal of Jules Vuillemin and in the course of a general meeting of the professors of the Collège de France. It replaced the chair in the History of Philosophical Thought, which was held until his death by Jean Hyppolite. On 12 April 1970, the general meeting elected Michel Foucault to the chair. (1) He was forty-three.

[The candidacy presentation drawn up by Michel Foucault ends with the formula “[I]t would be necessary to undertake the History of systems of thought.” [FuckingA.] “Titres et travaux,” in Dits et écrits, ed. Daniel Defert and François Ewald (Paris: Gallimard), vol. 1, p. 846; trans., “Candidacy presentation: Collège de France,” in Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow, The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954-1984 (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1994), vol. 1, p. 9.]

Michel Foucault gave his inaugural lecture on 2 December 1970. (2)

[It was published Editions Gallimard in March 1971 under the title L’Ordre du discours. The English translation by Rupert Swyer, “Orders of discourse,” is appended to the U.S. edition of The Archaeology of Knowledge; it does not appear in U.K. editions.]

Professors teaching at the Collège de France work under specific rules. They are under an obligation to teach for twenty-six hours a year (up to half the hours can take the form of seminars). (3) Each year, they are required to give an account of the original research that they have undertaken, which means that the content of their lectures must always be new. Anyone is free to attend the lectures and seminars; there is no enrollment, and no diplomas are required. The professors do not award any diplomas. (4) In the Vocabulary of the Collège de France, its professors do not have students, but auditeurs or listeners.

[Michel Foucault did so until the early 1980s.]
[In the context of the Collège de France.]

Michel Foucault gave his lectures on Wednesdays from the beginning of January to the end of March. The very large audience, made up of students, teachers, researchers, and those who attended simply out of curiosity, many of them from abroad, filled two of the Collège de France’s lecture theatres. Michel Foucault often complained about the distance this could put between him and his “audience” and about the way the lecture format left so little room for dialogue. (5) He dreamed of holding a seminar in which truly collective work could be done. He made various attempts to hold such a seminar. In his last years, he devoted long periods after his lectures to answering questions from his listeners.

[In 1976, Michel Foucault changed the time of his lecture from 5:45 P.M. to 9:00 A.M. in a vain attempt to reduce the numbers present. Cf. the beginning of the first lecture (7 January 1976) in the present volume.]

This is how Gérard Petitjean, a journalist on Le Nouvel Observateur, captured the atmosphere:

When Foucault quickly enters the arena with all the resolution of someone diving into the water, he scrambles over bodies to get to his dais, pushes the microphones aside to put his papers down, takes off his jacket, switches on a lamp and takes off at a hundred kilometres an hour. His loud, effective voice is relayed by loudspeakers, which are the sole concession to modernity in a room that is only dimly lit by the light that comes from the stucco lamp-holders. There are three hundred seats, and five hundred people are crammed into them, taking up all the available space ... No oratorical effects. It is lucid and extremely effective. Not the slightest concession to improvisation. Foucault has twelve hours to explain, in a series of public lectures, the meaning of the research he has carried out over the year that has just ended. So he crams in as much as possible, and fills in the margins like a letter writer who has too much to say when he has reached the bottom of the sheet. 19.15. Foucault stops. The students rush to his desk. Not to talk to him, but to switch off their tape recorders. No questions. Foucault is alone in the crush. Foucault comments: “We ought to be able to discuss what I have put forward. [Accurate.] Sometimes, when the lecture has not been good, it would not take a lot, a question, to put everything right. But the question never comes. In France, the group effect makes all real discussion impossible. And as there is no feedback channel, the lecture becomes a sort of theatrical performance. I relate to the peopl who are there as though I were an actor or an acrobat. And when I have finished speaking, there’s this feeling of total solitude.” (6)

[Gérard Petitjean, “Les Grands prêtres de l’université française,’ Le Nouvel Observateur, 7 April 1975.]

Michel Foucault approached his teaching as a researcher. He explored possibilities for books in preparation, outlined fields of problematisation, as though he were handing out invitations to potential researchers. That is why the lectures given at the Collège de France do not reduplicate the published books. They are not outlines for books, even though the books and the lectures do sometimes have themes in common. They have a status of their own. They belong to a specific discursive regime within the sum total of the “philosophical acts” performed by Michel Foucault. Here he quite specifically outlines the program for a Genealogy of the relations between Power and Knowledge. From the early 1970s onward, it is this, and not the Archaeology of discursive formations that had previously been his dominant concern, that provides the framework for his discussion of his own work. (7)

[Cf. in particular “Nietzsche, la Généalogie, l’Histoire,” in Dits et écrits, vol. 2, p. 137. English translation by Donald F. Brouchard and Sherry Simon, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in James Faubion, ed., Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology: Essential works of Foucault, 1956-1984, Volume II (London: Allen Lane, 1998), pp. 369-92.]

The lectures also had a contemporary function. The auditeurs who followed them were not simply captivated by the narrative that was being constructed week after week; they were not simply seduced by the rigor of the exposition; they found that they were also listening to a commentary on current events. Michel Foucault knew the secret of how to use History to cut through current events. He might well have been speaking of Nietzsche or Aristoteles, of psychiatric appraisal in the nineteenth century or of christian Pastoralism, but his audience was also learning about the present day and contemporary events. It is this subtle interplay among erudite scholarship, personal commitment, and work on current events that gives Michel Foucault’s lectures their great power.

The 1970s saw the development and the refinement of cassette tape recorders. Michel Foucault’s lecture theatre was quickly invaded by them. It is thanks to them that the lectures (and some of the seminars) have been preserved.
This edition is based upon the words pronounced in public by Michel Foucault. It gives the most literal transcription possible. (8) We would have liked to publish his words exactly as they were spoken. But the transition from the oral to the written does require some editorial intervention. At least some punctuation has to be introduced, and paragraph breaks have to be added. The principle has always been to remain as close as possible to the lecture that was actually given.

[Particular use has been made of the recordings made by Gilbert Burlet and Jacques Lagrange. These have been deposited at the Collège de France and in the Fonds Michel Foucault held by Institut Mémoires de l’Édition Contemporaine.]

When it seemed absolutely essential, repetitions have been cut; sentences that break off have been completed, and incorrect constructions have been rectified.
Ellipses indicate that the tape recording is inaudible. In the case of obscure phrases, brackets indicate a conjectural interpretation or addition.
Asterisks indicate significant variations between the notes used by Michel Foucault and what he actually said.
Quotations have been checked, and references to the texts used have been supplied. The critical apparatus is restricted to the elucidation of obscure points, the explanation of certain allusions, and the clarification of critical points.
For the reader’s benefit, each lecture is preceded by a brief summary indicating its main articulations.

The text of the lectures is followed by the course summary published in the Annuaire du Collège de France. Michel Foucault usually wrote his course summaries in the month of June, or in other words some time after the end of his lecture course. He saw them as an opportunity to use the benefit of hindsight to clarify his own intentions and objectives. They are the best introduction to the lectures.
Each volume ends with a situation written by the editor: this is designed to provide the reader with contextual, biographical, Ideological, and political information that situates the lectures in relation to Michel Foucault’s published works. It situates the lectures in relation to the corpus used by Michel Foucault so as to facilitate an understanding of it, to avoid misunderstandings, and to preserve the memory of the circumstances in which each lecture was prepared and delivered.

This edition of the lectures given at the Collège de France marks a new stage in the publication of the “works” of Michel Foucault.
These are not unpublished texts in the strict sense of the word, as this edition reproduces words that were spoken in public by Michel Foucault, but not the written – and often very sophisticated – support he used. Daniel Defert, who owns Michel Foucault’s notes, has allowed the editors to consult them. They are extremely grateful to him.
This edition of the lectures given at the Collège de France has been authorised by Michel Foucault’s heirs, who wished to meet the great demand for their publication both in France and abroad. They wished this to be a serious undertaking. The editors have attempted to prouve themselves worthy of the trust that has been placed in them.

François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana

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