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Working Paper

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We have come to know well and deploy easily the Foucauldian terms discipline and sécurité (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 sécurité, that is – the way that Foucault critiqued the terms folie, délinquance, or sexualité.

In this essay, I push further my meditations on punishment and subject discipline and sécurité to the same brutal method that Foucault used in his writings on folie, délinquance, and sexualité. 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 sécurité.


Law | Law and Society | Law Enforcement and Corrections | Public Law and Legal Theory


This paper was prepared for Le Carcéral, Sécurité, and Beyond:
Rethinking Michel Foucault’s 1978-1979 Collège de France Lectures
Bilingual and Interdisciplinary Colloquium at the
University of Chicago Paris Center
Friday June 6 2008
University of Chicago Paris Center
6 Rue Thomas Mann
75013 Paris