Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2008

Center/Program

Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Abstract

We have come to know well and deploy easily the Foucauldian terms discipline and securite (what we now call governmentality), especially as a result of Michel Foucault's 1978 and 1979 lectures at the College de France. What we know less well, I contend, is how to critique them - discipline and securite, that is - the way that Foucault critiqued the terms folie, delinquance, or sexualite. In this essay, I push further my meditations on punishment and subject discipline and securite to the same brutal method that Foucault used in his writings on folie, delinquance, and sexualite. I begin by supposing that they do not exist and, in this way, I critically reexamine some of my own preferred analytic constructs. The endeavor, I find, is dizzying. But the failure to subject these terms to critique comes at a deep cost to our own projects - intellectual and political. In this essay, I suggest that we may have been hiding behind these sophisticated analytic constructs to protect ourselves from asking - and having to answer in what can only be a vulgar or naive way - whether we are opposed to punishment. The question, then, is whether we avoid asking larger questions of punishment because we can argue, instead, against disciplinary practices or against governing through crime? Is that the price we pay, I ask, for believing in discipline and securite.

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