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MICHEL

FOUCAULT

"Society Must Be

Defended"

L E C T U R E S AT T H E C O L L E G E

DE

FRANCE,

1975-76

Edited b y M a u r o Bertani and Alessandro Fontana


General Editors: Francois Ewald and Alessandro Fontana

English Series Editor: Arnold 1. Davidson

TRANSLATED

BY D A V I D

PICADOR
NEW

YORK

MACEY

"SOCIETY MUST BE DEFENDED". Copyright 1 9 9 7 by Editions de Seuil/Gallimard. Edition


established, under the direction of Francois Ewald and Alessandro Fontana, by Mauro
Bertani. Translation copyright '0 2 0 0 3 by David Macey. Introduction copyright 2 0 0 3
by Arnold I. Davidson. A l l rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No
part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
For information, address Picador, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 1 0 0 1 0 .

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First Edition: J a n u a r y 2 0 0 3

10

CONTENTS

Foreword: Francois Ewald and Alessandro

Introduction:

one

Fontana

A r n o l d I. D a v i d s o n

7 JANUARY

1976

What is a lecture? - Subjugated knowledges.


of struggles, genealogies,
at stake in genealogies.

- Historical

and scientific discourse. - Power, or what is


- Juridical and economic conceptions of

power. - Power as repression and power as war. aphorism

two

knowledge

Clausewit^s

inverted.

14 J A N U A R Y

1976

War and power. - Philosophy

and the limits of power. - Law and

royal power. - Law, domination,

and subjugation.

- Analytics of

power: questions of method. - Theory of sovereignty. -

Disciplinary

power. - Rule and norm.

three

21 J A N U A R Y

1976

Theory of sovereignty and operators of domination.

- War as

analyser of power relations. - The binary structure of


society. - Historico-political

discourse, the discourse of

perpetual

war. - The dialectic and its codifications. - The discourse of race


struggle and its transcriptions.

VI

four

Contents
65

28JANUARY 1976
Historical discourse and its supporters. - The counterhistory of race
struggle.

five

- Roman history and biblical history. -

Revolutionary

discourse. - Birth and transformations

of racism. - Race purity and

State racism: the Na%i transformation

and the Soviet

transformation.
87

4 FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6
Answer to a question on anti-Semitism.
sovereignty.

- Hobbes on war and

- The discourse on the Conquest in England: royalists,

parliamentarians,

and Levellers. - The binary schema and political

historicism. - What Hobbes wanted to eliminate.

six

11 F E B R U A R Y

115

1976

Stories about origins. - The Trojan myth. - France's


heredity. - "Franco-Gallia."

- Invasion, history, and public

right. - National dualism. - The knowledge of the


prince. - Boulainvilliers's

"Etat de la France." - The clerk, the

intendant, and the knowledge of the aristocracy. - A new subject of


history. - History and constitution.

seven

141

1 8 FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6
Nation and nations. - The Roman conquest. - Grandeur and
decadence of the Romans. - Boulainvilliers

on the freedom

Germans. - The Soissons vase. - Origins of feudalism.


right, and the language of State. - Boulainvilliers:
generalisations

three

about war: law of history and law of nature, the

institutions of war, the calculation of forces.

eight

of the

- Church,

- Remarks on war.

167

2 5 FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6
Boulainvilliers

and the constitution of a

hislorico-political

continuum. - Historicism. - Tragedy and public right. - The central


administration

of history. - The problematic of the

and the genealogy


disciplinary

Enlightenment

of knowledges. - The four operations of

knowledge and their effects. - Philosophy and

science. - Disciplining

knowledges.

Contents
nine

vii

3 M A R C H 1976
Tactical generalisation
Revolution,

189
of historical knowledge. -

Constitution,

and cyclical history. - The savage and the

barbarian. - Three ways of filtering barbarism: tactics of historical


discourse. - Questions of method: the epistemologicalfield
antihistoricism of the bourgeoisie.
during the Revolution.

ten

10

MARCH

- Reactivation

and the

of historical discourse

- Feudalism and the gothic novel.

1976

215

The political reworking of the idea of the nation during the


Revolution: Sieyes. - Theoretical implications and effects on historical
discourse. - The new history's grids of intelligibility: domination and
totalisation. - Montlosier and Augustin Thierry. - Birth of the
dialectic.

e l e v e n 17 M A R C H 1 9 7 6
From the power of sovereignty

2?9
to power over life. - Make live and

let die. - From man as body to man as species: the birth of


biopower. - Biopower's fields of application. - Population.
death, and of the death of Franco in particular.

- Of

- Articulations of

discipline and regulation: workers' housing, sexuality, and the


norm. - Biopower and racism. - Racism: functions and
domains. - Nazism. - Socialism.

Course Summary

Situating the Lectures: Alessandro Fontana

265

and

Mauro Bertani

273

Index

295

FOREWORD

T H I S V O L U M E IS T H E first in a series devoted to the lectures g i v e n


at the College de France b y M i c h e l Foucault.

M i c h e l Foucault taught at the College de France from J a n u a r y 1 9 7 1 u n


til h i s death i n j u n e 1 9 8 4 w i t h the exception of 1 9 7 7 , w h e n he enjoyed
a sabbatical y e a r . H i s chair w a s in the History of S y s t e m s of Thought.
The chair w a s established on 3 0 N o v e m b e r 1 9 6 9 at the proposal
of J u l e s V u i l l e m i n a n d in the course of a general m e e t i n g of the p r o
fessors of the C o l l e g e de France. It replaced the chair in the H i s t o r y
of Philosophical Thought, w h i c h w a s held u n t i l h i s death b y J e a n
H y p p o l i t e . On 1 2 A p r i l 1 9 7 0 , the g e n e r a l m e e t i n g elected M i c h e l
Foucault to the chair.' He w a s forty-three.
M i c h e l Foucault gave h i s inaugural l e c t u r e on 2 December

1970.

Professors t e a c h i n g at the C o l l e g e de France w o r k u n d e r specific r u l e s .


They are u n d e r an obligation to t e a c h for t w e n t y - s i x hours a y e a r ( u p

1 The candidacy presentation drawn up by Michel Foucault ends with the formula "[I]t
would be necessarv to undertake the history of systems of thought." "Titres et travaux," in
Dits et e'crits, ed. Daniel Defert and Francois Ewald (Paris: Gallimard), vol. 1, p. 846; trans..
"Candidacv Presentation: College de France," in Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow, The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 7954-1984 (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin
Press, 1 9 9 4 ) , vol. 1, p. 9.
2 It was published bv Editions Galhmard in March 1971 under the title VOrdre du discours.
The English translation bv Rupert Swver, "Orders of Discourse," is appended to the Ll.S.
edition of The Archaeology of Knowledge; it does not appear in Ll.K. editions.

Foreword

to half the hours can t a k e the form of s e m i n a r s ) . Each y e a r , they are


r e q u i r e d to give an account of the original research that they have
u n d e r t a k e n , w h i c h means that the content of their l e c t u r e s must a l
w a y s be new. A n y o n e is free to attend the lectures and seminars; there
is no enrollment, a n d no d i p l o m a s are r e q u i r e d . The professors do
1

not a w a r d any diplomas." In the vocabulary of the College de France,


its professors do not have students, b u t auditeurs

or listeners.

M i c h e l Foucault gave his lectures on W e d n e s d a y s from the b e g i n


ning of J a n u a r y to the end of M a r c h . The very large audience, made u p
of students, teachers, researchers, and those w h o attended simply out of
curiosity, m a n y of t h e m from abroad, filled two of the College de
France's l e c t u r e t h e a t e r s . M i c h e l Foucault often complained a b o u t the
distance t h i s could put b e t w e e n h i m a n d his " a u d i e n c e " and a b o u t the
5

w a y the l e c t u r e format left so l i t t l e room for d i a l o g u e . He d r e a m e d of


holding a seminar in w h i c h t r u l y collective w o r k could be done. He
m a d e v a r i o u s a t t e m p t s to hold s u c h a seminar. In his last y e a r s , he d e
v o t e d long p e r i o d s after his l e c t u r e s to a n s w e r i n g questions from his l i s
teners.
This is h o w G e r a r d Petitjean, a journalist on Le Nouvel

Observateur,

captured the atmosphere:

W h e n Foucault q u i c k l y enters the arena w i t h all the resolution


of someone d i v i n g into the w a t e r , he scrambles over b o d i e s to
get to his dais, pushes the microphones aside to put his papers
down, t a k e s off his jacket, s w i t c h e s on a l a m p and t a k e s off at
a h u n d r e d k i l o m e t e r s an hour. His loud, effective voice is r e l a y e d
by l o u d s p e a k e r s , w h i c h are the sole concession to m o d e r n i t y i n
a room t h a t is only d i m l y lit b y the l i g h t t h a t comes from t h e
stucco l a m p - h o l d e r s . There are t h r e e h u n d r e d seats, and five

3 Michel Foucault did so until the earlv 1980s.


4 In the context ot the College de France.
5 In 1976, Michel Foucault changed the time ot his lecture from 5:45 P.M. to 9 : 0 0 A . M . in
a vain attempt to reduce the numbers present. Cf. the beginning of the first lecture (7
Januarv 1 9 7 6 ) m the present volume.

Foreword

XI

h u n d r e d people are c r a m m e d into them, t a k i n g u p all the avail


able space . . . No oratorical effects. It is lucid a n d e x t r e m e l y
effective. Not the slightest concession to i m p r o v i s a t i o n . Foucault
has t w e l v e h o u r s to e x p l a i n , i n a series of p u b l i c lectures, the
m e a n i n g of the r e s e a r c h he has c a r r i e d out over the y e a r t h a t
has just ended. So he c r a m s in as much as possible, and fills i n
the m a r g i n s l i k e a l e t t e r w r i t e r w h o has too m u c h to say w h e n
he has r e a c h e d t h e b o t t o m of the sheet. 19.15. Foucault stops.
The s t u d e n t s rush to his desk. Not to t a l k to h i m , but to s w i t c h
off t h e i r tape recorders. No questions. Foucault is alone i n the
c r u s h . Foucault c o m m e n t s : " W e ought to be a b l e to d i s c u s s w h a t
I have p u t f o r w a r d . Sometimes, w h e n the l e c t u r e has not been
good, it w o u l d not t a k e a lot, a question, to put e v e r y t h i n g r i g h t .
B u t the question never comes. In France, the g r o u p effect m a k e s
all real discussion impossible. A n d as there is no feedback c h a n
nel, the l e c t u r e becomes a sort of t h e a t r i c a l performance. I relate
to the people w h o are there as though I w e r e an actor or an
acrobat. A n d w h e n I have finished s p e a k i n g , t h e r e ' s this feeling
of total s o l i t u d e . "

M i c h e l Foucault a p p r o a c h e d his teaching as a researcher. H e e x


p l o r e d p o s s i b i l i t i e s for books in p r e p a r a t i o n , o u t l i n e d fields of p r o b lematization, as though he w e r e h a n d i n g out invitations to potential
researchers. That is w h y the lectures given at the C o l l e g e de France
do not r e d u p l i c a t e the p u b l i s h e d books. They are not o u t l i n e s for
b o o k s , even t h o u g h the books a n d the l e c t u r e s do sometimes have
t h e m e s in common. They have a s t a t u s of t h e i r own. They b e l o n g to
a specific discursive regime w i t h i n the s u m t o t a l of the "philosophical
acts" performed b y M i c h e l Foucault. H e r e he q u i t e specifically out
lines the p r o g r a m for a genealogy of the relations b e t w e e n p o w e r and
k n o w l e d g e . From the early 1 9 7 0 s o n w a r d , it is this, and not the a r -

6 Gerard Petitjean, "Les Grands Pretres de i'universite fran^aise," Le Nouvel


7 April 1975.

Observatetir

Foreword

Xll

chaeology of discursive formations t h a t h a d previously b e e n h i s d o m


inant concern, that p r o v i d e s the framework for his discussion of his
own work.

The lectures also h a d a contemporary function. The auditeun

who

followed them w e r e not s i m p l y captivated by the narrative that w a s


b e i n g constructed w e e k after w e e k ; they w e r e not s i m p l y seduced by
the rigor of the exposition; they found that they w e r e also l i s t e n i n g
to a commentary on c u r r e n t events. M i c h e l Foucault k n e w the secret
of h o w to use history to cut through current events. He m i g h t w e l l
have been s p e a k i n g of Nietzsche or Aristotle, of psychiatric a p p r a i s a l
in the n i n e t e e n t h century or of C h r i s t i a n pastoralism, but h i s a u d i e n c e
w a s also l e a r n i n g about the present day a n d contemporary events. It
is t h i s subtle i n t e r p l a y a m o n g e r u d i t e scholarship, personal c o m m i t
ment, a n d w o r k on c u r r e n t events that gives M i c h e l Foucault's l e c
t u r e s their great p o w e r .

The 1 9 7 0 s saw the development a n d the refinement of cassette tape


recorders. M i c h e l Foucault's lecture theater w a s q u i c k l y invaded by
them. It is t h a n k s to t h e m that the lectures ( a n d some of the s e m i
n a r s ) have b e e n preserved.
This edition is based u p o n the w o r d s pronounced i n p u b l i c b y
8

M i c h e l Foucault. It gives the most literal transcription possible. W e


w o u l d h a v e l i k e d to p u b l i s h h i s w o r d s exactly as they w e r e spoken.
But the transition from the oral to the w r i t t e n does r e q u i r e some
editorial intervention. A t least some p u n c t a t i o n has to b e introduced,
a n d p a r a g r a p h b r e a k s have to be a d d e d . The p r i n c i p l e has a l w a y s

7 Cf. in particular "Nietzsche, la genealogie, l'histoire," in Dits et krits, 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,
1954-1984,
Volume 11 (London: Allen Lane, 1 9 9 8 ) , pp. 3 6 9 - 9 2 .
8 Particular use has been made of the recordings made by Gilbert Burlet and Jacques La
grange. These have been deposited at the College de France and in the Fonds Michel Foucault
held by Institut Memoires de l'Edition Contemporaine.

Foreword

xm

been to r e m a i n as close as possible to the lecture that w a s actually


given.
W h e n it seemed absolutely essential, r e p e t i t i o n s have been cut;
sentences t h a t b r e a k off have been completed, a n d incorrect construc
tions have b e e n rectified.
Ellipses indicate t h a t the tape recording i s i n a u d i b l e . In the case
of obscure phrases, b r a c k e t s indicate a conjectural interpolation or
addition.
A s t e r i s k s indicate significant v a r i a t i o n s b e t w e e n the notes used b y
M i c h e l Foucault a n d w h a t he a c t u a l l y said.
Quotations have b e e n checked, a n d references to the texts used
have been s u p p l i e d . The critical a p p a r a t u s is restricted to the e l u c i
dation of obscure points, the e x p l a n a t i o n of c e r t a i n allusions, a n d the
clarification of c r i t i c a l p o i n t s .
For the r e a d e r ' s benefit, each l e c t u r e is p r e c e d e d b y a b r i e f s u m
m a r y i n d i c a t i n g its m a i n a r t i c u l a t i o n s .

The t e x t of the lectures is followed b y the course s u m m a r y p u b l i s h e d


in the Annuaire

du College

de France.

M i c h e l Foucault u s u a l l y w r o t e h i s

course s u m m a r i e s in the m o n t h of J u n e , or in o t h e r w o r d s some t i m e


after the end of h i s lecture course. He saw t h e m as an

opportunity

to use the benefit of h i n d s i g h t to clarify his o w n intentions a n d ob


jectives. They are the best introduction to the lectures.
Each v o l u m e ends w i t h a " s i t u a t i o n " w r i t t e n b y the editor: this is
designed to provide the reader w i t h contextual, biographical, i d e o
logical, a n d p o l i t i c a l information t h a t s i t u a t e s the l e c t u r e s i n r e l a t i o n
to M i c h e l F o u c a u l t ' s p u b l i s h e d w o r k s . It s i t u a t e s the l e c t u r e s in r e
lation to the corpus used b y M i c h e l Foucault so as to facilitate a n
u n d e r s t a n d i n g of it, to avoid m i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g s , a n d to preserve the
memory of the circumstances in w h i c h e a c h lecture w a s p r e p a r e d a n d
delivered.

Forewo

XIV

rd

This edition of t h e lectures given at t h e College de France m a r k s a


new stage in the publication of the " w o r k s " of M i c h e l Foucault.
These are not u n p u b l i s h e d t e x t s i n the strict sense of the w o r d , as
this edition r e p r o d u c e s words that were spoken in public by M i c h e l
Foucault, b u t not the w r i t t e n a n d often very sophisticatedsupport
he used. Daniel Defert, w h o o w n s M i c h e l Foucault's notes, has al
lowed the editors to consult t h e m . They are e x t r e m e l y grateful to
him.
This edition of the lectures given at the College de France has been
a u t h o r i z e d b y M i c h e l Foucault's heirs, w h o w i s h e d to meet the great
d e m a n d for t h e i r p u b l i c a t i o n both in France and abroad. They w i s h e d
t h i s to be a serious u n d e r t a k i n g . The editors have a t t e m p t e d to prove
themselves w o r t h y of the trust that has been placed in them.
FRANCOIS EWALD A N D ALESSANDRO

FONTANA

INTRODUCTION

A r n o l d I. Davidson

T H I S V O L U M E I N A U G U R A T E S T H E E n g l i s h - l a n g u a g e p u b l i c a t i o n of

M i c h e l Foucault's e x t r a o r d i n a r y courses at t h e College de France.


C l a u d e Levi-Strauss recounts that after he w a s elected to the C o l
lege de France, an usher, w h o h a d g r o w n o l d in h i s job, t o o k h i m
from room to room so that he could choose the room in w h i c h he
w o u l d give h i s y e a r l y course. After L e v i - S t r a u s s h a d chosen a room
the usher b l u n t l y w a r n e d h i m : " N o t that one!" to w h i c h L e v i - S t r a u s s
expressed surprise:

"You see," [ t h e u s h e r ] e x p l a i n e d , " i t is laid out in such a w a y


that in order to reach the rostrum y o u have to m a k e vour w a y
t h r o u g h t h e entire audience, a n d , y o u have to do l i k e w i s e w h i l e
leaving." "Does it really m a t t e r ? " I said. W h e r e u p o n he shot
b a c k this response w i t h a p e r e m p t o r y

look: "Someone could

s p e a k to you." I stood b y m y choice, b u t , in the t r a d i t i o n of t h e


College, it is i n d e e d a m a t t e r of t h e professor dispensing h i s
w o r d s , a n d not r e c e i v i n g t h e m or even e x c h a n g i n g them.'

A n d Levi-Strauss goes on to talk about t h e "mental concentration a n d


nervous tension" involved in giving a course at the College de France.

In a 1975 i n t e r v i e w Foucault himself noted the strange p a r t i c u l a r i t y


of "teaching" at the College de France, r e m a r k i n g that he l i k e d not
having " t h e impression of teaching, that is, of exercising a relationship
of p o w e r w i t h respect to an a u d i e n c e . " ' The traditional teacher

first

m a k e s h i s audience feel g u i l t y for not k n o w i n g a certain n u m b e r of

XV)

Introduction;

Arnold

I.

Davidson

things they should k n o w ; then h e places the audience u n d e r the ob


ligation to learn the things that he, the professor, k n o w s ; and,

finally,

w h e n he has taught these things, he w i l l verify that the audience has


i n d e e d l e a r n e d them. C u l p a b i h z a t i o n , obligation, a n d verification are
the series of p o w e r relations exercised b y the t y p i c a l professor.'

But,

as Foucault points out, at the College de France, courses a r e open to


anyone w h o w i s h e s to attend: "If it i n t e r e s t s him, he comes; if it
doesn't interest him, he doesn't come."* A t the College a professor is
p a i d to present his w o r k , and "it is u p to the a u d i e n c e to say or to
show w h e t h e r or not it is interested":

In any case w h e n I am going to give m y courses at the College,


I have stage fright (trac),

absolutely, l i k e w h e n I took e x a m s ,

because I have the feeling that, really, people, the p u b l i c , come


to verify my w o r k , to show that they are interested or not; if
t h e y don't have an interested look, I a m v e r y sad, y o u k n o w .

N o w h e r e w e r e culpabihzation, obligation, a n d verification less present


than in Foucault's lectures at the College de France, a n d the interested
p u b l i c often gave w a y to an e x c i t e d , enthusiastic p u b l i c that made
the v e r y idea of presenting lectures a difficult task. Rather than an
a t m o s p h e r e of sadness, Foucault's courses p r o d u c e d a k i n d of frenzy,
a frenzy of k n o w l e d g e , that w a s i n t e l l e c t u a l l y a n d socially electrifying.
In an exceptional essay on Foucault, Gilles Deleuze has d i s t i n
guished two dimensions of Foucault's w r i t i n g s : on the one hand, the
lines of history, the a r c h i v e , Foucault's a n a l y t i c ; on the other, the l i n e s
of the present, of w h a t is h a p p e n i n g now, F o u c a u l t ' s diagnostic: "In
e v e r y a p p a r a t u s , w e have to disentangle the lines of the r e c e n t past
7

a n d those of the future at h a n d . " A c c o r d i n g to Deleuze, the majority


of Foucault's books establish " a precise archive w i t h e x c e e d i n g l y new
historical m e a n s , " w h i l e in h i s i n t e r v i e w s and conversations, Foucault
e x p l i c i t l y confronts

the other half of his task, tracing lines of a c t u

alization that " p u l l us t o w a r d a future, t o w a r d a b e c o m i n g . "

Ana

lytical strata a n d diagnostic contemporaneity are t w o essential poles


of Foucault's entire w o r k . Perhaps nowhere more clearly than in Fou-

Introduction:

Arnold

I.

Davidson

xvn

cault's l e c t u r e s at the College de France do w e see the balancing, the


alternation, a n d the o v e r l a p p i n g of these two poles. A t one and the
same time, these lectures e x h i b i t Foucault's relentless erudition and
his explosive force, g i v i n g further shape to that distinctive history of
the present that so changed our t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y landscape.

One of the most emblematic, a n d often cited, lines of the first volume
of Foucault's history of s e x u a l i t y , La Volonte

de savoir,

p u b l i s h e d in

1976, the year of this course, is the trenchant r e m a r k "In thought and
political analysis w e have still not cut off the head of the k i n g . "

In

s t u d y i n g the historico-political discourse of w a r in this course, Fou


cault s h o w s us one w a y to detach ourselves from the philosophicoj u n d i c a l discourse of sovereignty and the l a w that has so dominated
our thought and political a n a l y s i s . In an i m p o r t a n t lecture g i v e n i n
Brazil in 1 9 7 6 , and unfortunately still not translated into English,
Foucault underscores his claim that "the West has never h a d another
s y s t e m of representation, of formulation, and of a n a l y s i s of p o w e r t h a n
that of the l a w , the s y s t e m of the l a w . "

1 0

M a n y of F o u c a u l t ' s w r i t i n g s ,

lectures, and i n t e r v i e w s of the m i d - to late 1 9 7 0 s are responses to


this conceptual impasse, are a t t e m p t s to a r t i c u l a t e alternative w a y s of
a n a l y z i n g power.
Foucault's concern d u r i n g this period w a s both w i t h the r e p r e s e n
tation of power and w i t h the actual functioning of power. The focus
of this 1 9 7 6 course is on one a l t e r n a t i v e c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n of power,
a mode of thought that a n a l y z e s p o w e r r e l a t i o n s in t e r m s of the model
of w a r , that looks for the p r i n c i p l e of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y of politics in the
general form of w a r . Foucault himself, discussing the use of the notion
of " s t r u g g l e " in c e r t a i n political discourses, posed the following q u e s
tion:

[ S j h o u l d one, or should one not, analyze these " s t r u g g l e s " as


the vicissitudes of a w a r , should one d e c i p h e r them according
to a g r i d w h i c h w o u l d be one of strategy and tactics? Is the

Introduction:

XVI1]

Arnold

I.

Davidson

relation of forces i n t h e order of p o l i t i c s a relation of w a r ?


Personally, I do not feel myself ready for the moment to respond
in a definitive w a y w i t h a y e s or no."

"Society

Must Be Defended"

i s Foucault's most concentrated a n d d e t a i l e d

historical e x a m i n a t i o n of the model of w a r as a g r i d for a n a l y z i n g


politics.
If t h i s course is an answer to t h e question of w h o first thought of
politics as w a r c o n t i n u e d by other m e a n s , w e must p u t it in the
context of the d e v e l o p m e n t of F o u c a u l t ' s o w n thought w i t h respect
to this s u b s t a n t i v e c l a i m . If i n 1975, just before the l e c t u r e s p u b l i s h e d
here, Foucault seemed himself to t a k e u p the c l a i m that p o l i t i c s is the
continuation of w a r b y other m e a n s ,

12

by 1 9 7 6 , just after t h i s course,

Foucault h a d subtly b u t significantly modified his o w n a t t i t u d e :

Should one then t u r n around the formula a n d say that p o l i t i c s


is w a r p u r s u e d b y other m e a n s ? Perhaps if one w i s h e s a l w a y s
to m a i n t a i n a difference b e t w e e n w a r a n d politics, one s h o u l d
suggest rather that this m u l t i p l i c i t y of force-relations can be
codedin p a r t a n d never t o t a l l y e i t h e r in the form of " w a r "
or i n the form of " p o l i t i c s " ; there w o u l d be here t w o different
strategies ( b u t r e a d y to tip over into one another ^ for i n t e g r a t
ing

these

unbalanced,

heterogeneous,

unstable, tense

force-

relations. '

As

this quotation m a k e s clear, Foucault's preoccupation w i t h the

schema of w a r w a s central to h i s formulation of the strategic model


of p o w e r , of force-relations, a s t r a t e g i c model that w o u l d a l l o w u s to
reorient our conception of p o w e r .
A l t h o u g h it is w i d e l y recognized that the articulation of this s t r a
tegic m o d e l w i t h its notions of force, struggle, w a r , tactics, strategy,
et ceterais one of the major achievements of Foucault's thought d u r
ing t h i s time, the full scope a n d significance of this model has not
b e e n fully appreciated. A l t h o u g h a full s t u d y of the e m e r g e n c e of t h i s

Introduction:

Arnold

1.

Davidson

xix

strategic model in Foucault's w o r k w o u l d have to begin w i t h t e x t s


H

w r i t t e n no later t h a n 1 9 7 1 , his course s u m m a r y p u b l i s h e d here leaves


no doubt that the e x a m i n a t i o n of the historico-political discourse of
war w a s an essential stage i n the formulation of a model of analysis
that is presented at greatest l e n g t h i n part h of La Volonte de

savoir.

Rather than trace the c h a n g i n g forms of this model, I want at least


to outline a few aspects of it that deserve further attention i n the
study of Foucault's w r i t i n g s d u r i n g t h i s period.
In La Volonte de savoir,

Foucault's strategic model t a k e s as its most

central field of a p p l i c a t i o n p o w e r r e l a t i o n s ( a n d resistances}, that is


to say, nondiscursive practices or the social field g e n e r a l l y . It p r o v i d e s
a model of strategic coherence, i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y , rationality that a n s w e r s
to w h a t Foucault s o m e t i m e s called the logic of s t r a t e g i e s .

15

Arrange

ments of relations of forces have a strategic i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y , a n d their


rationality, as w e l l as the transformation of these a r r a n g e m e n t s into
other coherent a r r a n g e m e n t s , obeys a logic distinct both from the logic
of e p i s t e m i c coherence and transformations s t u d i e d b y Foucault i n h i s
archaeological w o r k s , and from the logic of the model of sovereignty
and the l a w that is the direct object of Foucault's c r i t i c i s m s here.
A l t h o u g h this strategic model is, first of a l l , i n t e n d e d to p r o v i d e
an a l t e r n a t i v e system of representation of the nondiscursive social
field, a mode of representation that does not derive from the j u r i d i c a l
conception of power, in order to assess its significance w e must not
forget that as early as 1 9 6 7 Foucault r e c o g n i z e d that the form of
strategic i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y could also b e a p p l i e d to d i s c u r s i v e p r a c t i c e s .
In an u n p u b l i s h e d l e c t u r e , " S t r u c t u r a l i s m e et a n a l y s e l i t t e r a i r e , " given
in T u n i s i a i n 1 9 6 7 , Foucault, i n v o k i n g among others the name of J . L.
A u s t i n , a r g u e d that the description of a statement w a s not c o m p l e t e
w h e n one had defined the l i n g u i s t i c s t r u c t u r e of the statement, that
the a n a l y s i s of discourse could not b e r e d u c e d to the c o m b i n a t i o n of
e l e m e n t s a c c o r d i n g to l i n g u i s t i c r u l e s , that therefore " d i s c o u r s e is
6

something that necessarily extends beyond l a n g u a g e . ' " A s he put it


in a 1 9 6 7 letter to Daniel Defert, again a p p e a l i n g to "les
anglaises,"

analystes

"they a l l o w me i n d e e d to see h o w one can do nonlinguistic

Introduction:

XX

Arnold

I.

Davidson

analyses of statements. Treat statements in t h e i r

functioning."

17

nonlinguistic level of the analysis of discourse is in fact the level of


strategic i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y .
T h i s model of analysis i s developed further in Foucault's 1974 l e c
tures at the C a t h o l i c Pontifical U n i v e r s i t y of Rio de J a n e i r o , "La V e r i t e et les formes j u r i d i q u e s , " w h e r e Foucault urges us to consider t h e
facts of discourse a s strategic g a m e s .

18

single-page text, "Le Discours ne doit pas etre p r i s comme . . . , " a


text that appears in Dits et ecrits just before the course s u m m a r y of
"Society

Must Be Defended,"

Foucault describes this level of analysis as

the political analysis of discourse in w h i c h "it is a matter of e x h i b i t i n g


9

discourse as a strategic field.'" H e r e discourse is c h a r a c t e r i z e d as a


battle, a struggle, a place a n d an instrument

of confrontation,

"a

w e a p o n of p o w e r , of control, of subjection, of qualification a n d of


disqualification.''

20

Discourse does not s i m p l y e x p r e s s or

reproduce

a l r e a d y constituted social relations:

Discourse battle a n d not discourse reflection . . . Discoursethe


mere fact of s p e a k i n g , of employing w o r d s , of using the w o r d s
of others ( e v e n if it means returning

t h e m ) , w o r d s t h a t the

others u n d e r s t a n d a n d accept ( a n d , possibly, r e t u r n from t h e i r


s i d e ) t h i s fact is in itself a force. Discourse is, w i t h respect to
the relation of forces, not m e r e l y a surface of inscription, b u t
something t h a t brings a b o u t effects.

21

The strategic model of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y , w i t h a vocabulary one of w h o s e


p r i m a r y sources is the schema of w a r , a p p l i e s to the forces of discourse
as w e l l as to nondiscursive force-relations.

22

In La Volonte

de

savoir,

this form of analysis of discourse is e m p l o y e d in p a r t 4, chapter 2,


w h e n Foucault discusses the "rule of the tactical polyvalence of d i s
course," insisting that discourses s h o u l d be e x a m i n e d at the two levels
of t h e i r tactical p r o d u c t i v i t y a n d of t h e i r strategic i n t e g r a t i o n .

25

In

deed, s p e a k i n g of the perspectival character of k n o w l e d g e in a d i s


cussion of Nietzsche, Foucault recurs to this same terminology in

Introduction:

Arnold

I.

Davidson

xxi

order to a r t i c u l a t e the N i e t z s c h e a n claim that " k n o w l e d g e is a l w a y s


a c e r t a i n s t r a t e g i c relation in w h i c h man finds himself placed":

The perspectival character of k n o w l e d g e does not derive from


h u m a n n a t u r e , b u t a l w a y s from the polemical a n d strategic char
acter of k n o w l e d g e . One can speak of the perspectival character
of k n o w l e d g e because there is a battle a n d k n o w l e d g e is the
2

effect of this battle. "

A n d in h i s course a n d his s u m m a r y of "Society

Must Be

Defended"

Foucault d e s c r i b e s the historico-political discourse of w a r as p u t t i n g


forward a t r u t h that "functions as a w e a p o n , " as s p e a k i n g of a " p e r
spectival a n d strategic t r u t h . " Discourse, k n o w l e d g e , a n d t r u t h , as
well as relations of p o w e r , can be understood from w i t h i n the strategic
model. H e n c e the i m p o r t a n c e of seeing h o w this model functions at
all of i t s levels of a p p l i c a t i o n .
Finally, I w a n t to indicate that this course can be r e a d w i t h i n the
framework of w h a t Foucault called h i s " c i r c u l a r " project, a project
t h a t involves t w o endeavors that refer back to each other.

25

On the

one h a n d , Foucault w a n t e d to r i d us of a j u r i d i c a l representation of


p o w e r , conceived of i n t e r m s of l a w , p r o h i b i t i o n , a n d sovereignty, a
clearing a w a y that raises the question of h o w w e are to analyze w h a t
has t a k e n place i n h i s t o r y w i t h o u t the use of t h i s s y s t e m of r e p r e s e n
tation. On the other h a n d , Foucault w a n t e d to c a r r y out a more m e
ticulous historical e x a m i n a t i o n in o r d e r to show that

in

modern

societies p o w e r has not in fact functioned in the form of l a w a n d


sovereignty, a historical a n a l y s i s that forces one to find another form
of r e p r e s e n t a t i o n that does not depend on the j u r i d i c a l system.

Therefore, one must, at one a n d the same t i m e , w h i l e g i v i n g


oneself another theory of power, form another g r i d of historical
d e c i p h e r m e n t , a n d , w h i l e l o o k i n g more closely at an e n t i r e h i s
torical m a t e r i a l , advance little by l i t t l e t o w a r d another concep
tion of p o w e r .

26

Introduction:

XXI!

"Society

Must

Be

Defended"

Arnold

I.

Davidson

participates

fully

in

this

histonco-

theoretical project; it r e m i n d s us once again of Foucault's unrivaled


conjunction

of philosophical and historical analysis. A n d these lec

t u r e s , as in the courses to follow, show us the unfolding of Foucault's


thought in all of its vivacity, intensity, clarity, a n d precision.

I a m d e e p l y i n d e b t e d to Daniel Defert for his help and encourage


ment, to M i c h a e l Denneny a n d C h r i s t i n a Prestia, w h o i n i t i a t e d t h i s
project at St. M a r t i n ' s Press, a n d to Tim Bent and J u l i a Pastore, w h o
have followed it t h r o u g h .

Introduction:

Arnold

I.

Davidson

xxi n

1. Claude Levi-Strauss, Paroles donnees ( Pans: Plon, 1984), p. 9.


2. Ibid., p. 1 0 .
3. Michel Foucault, "Radioscopie de Michel Foucault," in Dits et ecrits (Pans: Galhmard,
1 9 9 4 ) , vol. 2, p. 7 8 6 .
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Gilles Deleuze, "Qu'est-ce qu'un dispositif?" in Michel Foucault,philosophe
(Pans: Editions
du Seuil, 1 9 8 9 ) , p. 191.
8. Ibid, pp. 192-93.
9. Michel Foucault, Hitfoire de la sexualite. vol. 1, La Volonte' de savoir (Pans: Gallimard, 1 9 7 6 ) ,
u

10. Michel Foucault, Les Mailles du pouvoir," in Dits et ecrits, vol. 4, p. 186.
11. Michel Foucault, "L'Oeil du pouvoir," in Dits et ecrits, vol. ), p. 2 0 6 .
12. Michel Foucault, "La Politique est la continuation de la guerre par d'autres moyens," in
Dits et ecrits, vol. 2, p. 704.
1 ) . Michel Foucault, La Volonte de savoir, p. 12).
14. See, for example, Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, la genealogie, l'histoire," in Dits el ecrits,
vol. 2. A complete study of this issue must await the publication of Foucault's 1971
course at the College de France, also entitled "La Volonte de savoir." The course summarv
can be found in Dits et ecrits, vol. 2. See also Daniel Defert, "Le 'dispositif de guerre'
comme analyseur des rapports de pouvoir," in Lectures de Michel Foucault: A propos de "II
faut defend?? la soct'e'te," ed. Jean-Claude Zancanni (Lyon: ENS Editions, n.d.).
15. See, among other texts, Michel Foucault, "Des Supplices aux cellules," in Dits el e'crits,
vol. ) , pp. 426-27.
16. A tape recording of this lecture can be found in the Centre Michel Foucault.
17. Cited in the "Chronologic" Dits el ecrits, vol. 1, p. 3l. For further discussion see my essay,
"Structures and Strategies of Discourse: Remarks Towards a History of Foucault's Phi
losophy of Language," in Foucault and His Interlocutors,
ed. Arnold I. Davidson (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1 9 9 7 ) .
18. Michel Foucault, "La Vente et les formes jundiques," in Dits et ecrits, vol. 2, p. 5)9.
19. Michel Foucault, "Le Discours ne doit pas etre pns comme . . . , " in Dits et ecrits, vol. ),
p. 12).
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid., p. 124.
22. See also Michel Foucault, "Dialogue sur le pouvoir," in Dits et ecrits, vol. ), p. 465.
2). Michel Foucault, La Volonte de savoir, pp. 1)2-)5.
24. Michel Foucault, "La Verite et les (ormes jundiques," in Dits et ecrits, vol. 2, p. 55125. Michel Foucauit, La Volonte de savoir, pp. 1 1 9 - 2 0 .
26. Ibid., p. 1 2 0 .

"Society

Must Be

Defended"

one

7 JANUARY 1 9 7 6

What is a lecture?
knowledge
discourse.

- Subjugated

of struggles,

knowledges.

genealogies,

- Historical

and scientific

- Power, or what is at stake in genealogies.

and economic
power

conceptions

of power.

as war. - Clausewit^s

- Power as repression
aphorism

inverted.

J
S

Juridical
and

:[
>

I W O U L D L I K E U S to b e a b i t clearer about w h a t is going on here,


in these lectures. You k n o w that the institution w h e r e y o u are, a n d
w h e r e I a m , is not exactly a t e a c h i n g institution. W e l l , w h a t e v e r
meaning it w a s i n t e n d e d to have w h e n it w a s founded long ago, the
College de France now functions essentially as a sort of research i n
stitute: w e are p a i d to do research. A n d I b e l i e v e that, u l t i m a t e l y , the
activity of teaching w o u l d be m e a n i n g l e s s unless w e gave it, or at least
lent it, t h i s meaning, or at least the m e a n i n g I suggest: Given that w e
are p a i d to do research, w h a t is there to monitor t h e research w e a r e
doing? H o w can w e k e e p informed p e o p l e w h o m i g h t be i n t e r e s t e d
in it, or w h o m i g h t have some reason for t a k i n g this research as a
s t a r t i n g p o i n t ? How can w e keep t h e m informed on a fairly r e g u l a r
basis about the w o r k w e are doing, except b y teaching, or in other
w o r d s by m a k i n g a p u b l i c s t a t e m e n t ? So I do not regard our W e d n e s
day m e e t i n g s as a t e a c h i n g a c t i v i t y , b u t r a t h e r as p u b l i c r e p o r t s on
the w o r k I am, in o t h e r respects, left to get on w i t h m o r e or less as
I see fit. To t h a t extent, I a c t u a l l y c o n s i d e r myself to be u n d e r a n
absolute obligation to t e l l y o u roughly w h a t I am doing, w h a t point

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

I've reached, in w h a t direction [ . . . ] the w o r k is going; a n d to that


extent, I t h i n k that you are c o m p l e t e l y free to do w h a t y o u like w i t h
w h a t I am saying. These are suggestions for research, ideas, schemata,
outlines, i n s t r u m e n t s ; do w h a t you l i k e w i t h them. U l t i m a t e l y , w h a t
you do w i t h t h e m both concerns me a n d is none of m y business. It
is none of my business to the extent that it is not u p to me to lay
down the l a w about the use y o u m a k e of it. A n d it does concern me
to the extent that, one w a y or another, w h a t you do w i t h it is con
nected, related to w h a t I a m doing.
H a v i n g said that, you k n o w w h a t has happened over the last few
y e a r s . A s a result of a sort of inflation that is h a r d to u n d e r s t a n d ,
w e ' v e reached the point w h e r e , I t h i n k , something has just about
come to a s t a n d s t i l l . You've been having to get here at half past four
[ . . . ] a n d I've been finding myself faced w i t h an audience m a d e u p
of p e o p l e w i t h w h o m I h a d strictly no contact because p a r t of t h e
audience, if not half of it, h a d to go into a n o t h e r room a n d listen to
w h a t I w a s s a y i n g o v e r a m i k e . It w a s t u r n i n g into something t h a t
w a s n ' t even a spectacle, b e c a u s e w e couldn't see each other. But t h e r e
w a s another reason w h y i t ' s come to a standstill. The problem for m e
w a s I ' l l b e q u i t e b l u n t about itthe fact t h a t I h a d to go through
this sort of circus every W e d n e s d a y w a s r e a l l y h o w can I put i t ?
torture is p u t t i n g it too strongly, boredom is p u t t i n g it too m i l d l y ,
so I suppose it w a s s o m e w h e r e b e t w e e n the t w o . The result w a s t h a t
I w a s r e a l l y p r e p a r i n g these l e c t u r e s , p u t t i n g a lot of care a n d a t t e n
tion into it, a n d I w a s s p e n d i n g a lot less t i m e on research m the real
sense of the w o r d if you like, on the interesting but somewhat inco
herent t h i n g s I could have been saying, than on asking myself the
question: H o w , in the space of an hour, an hour and a half, can I p u t
something across in such a w a y that I don't bore p e o p l e too m u c h ,
a n d t h a t they get some r e w a r d for being k i n d enough to get here so
early to hear w h a t I have to say in such a short space of time. It got
to the point w h e r e I w a s s p e n d i n g m o n t h s on it, and I t h i n k that the
reason for m y presence here, a n d the reason for your presence here,
is to do research, to slog a w a y , to b l o w the dust off certain things, to
have ideas, a n d t h a t all t h a t i s the r e w a r d for t h e w o r k t h a t has been

7 January

79 7 6

done. So I s a i d to myself: It w o u l d n ' t be such a b a d idea if t h i r t y or


forty of us co
I've been doing, a n d at the same t i m e have some contact w i t h you,
t a l k to you, answer y o u r questions a n d so on, a n d try to rediscover
the possibility of the e x c h a n g e and contact that are part of the normal
practice of research or teaching. So w h a t should I d o ? In legal t e r m s ,
I cannot l a y d o w n any formal conditions as to w h o has access to this
room. I've therefore a d o p t e d the g u e r r i l l a method of moving the l e c
ture to n i n e - t h i r t y in the morning in the belief that, as my corre
spondent w a s t e l l i n g me y e s t e r d a y , students are no longer capable of
getting u p at n i n e - t h i r t y . You m i g h t say that it's not a very fair
selection c r i t e r i o n : those w h o get u p , a n d those w h o don't get u p . It's
as good as any. In any case, there are a l w a y s the l i t t l e m i k e s t h e r e ,
and the t a p e m a c h i n e s , a n d w o r d gets a r o u n d

afterwardsometimes

it r e m a i n s on tape, sometimes it is t r a n s c r i b e d , a n d sometimes it t u r n s


up in t h e bookshopsso I said to myself, w o r d a l w a y s gets out. So I
w i l l t r y [ . . . ] so I'm s o r r y if I've got you out of bed early, a n d m y
apologies to those w h o can't be w i t h us; it w a s a w a y of getting our
W e d n e s d a y conversations a n d meetings b a c k into the normal p a t t e r n
of research, of ongoing w o r k , and that means r e p o r t i n g on it at r e g u l a r
institutional intervals.
So w h a t w a s I going to say to you this y e a r ? That I've just about
h a d enough; in other w o r d s , I'd l i k e to b r i n g to a close, to put an
end to, u p to a point, the series of research projectswell, ves, " r e
s e a r c h " w e all t a l k about it, b u t w h a t does it a c t u a l l y m e a n ? t h a t
we've been w o r k i n g on for four or five y e a r s , or practically ever since
I've been here, a n d I realize that there w e r e more a n d more d r a w
backs, for both you a n d me. Lines of research that w e r e verv closely
interrelated but that never a d d e d u p to a coherent body of w o r k , that
had no continuity. Fragments of research, none of w h i c h w a s com
pleted, a n d none of w h i c h w a s followed through; bits a n d pieces of
research, and at the same t i m e it w a s getting very repetitive, a l w a y s
falling into the same rut, the same themes, the same concepts. A few
r e m a r k s on the history of penal procedure; a few chapters on

the

evolution, the institutionalization of p s y c h i a t r y m the nineteenth cen-

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

t u r y ; considerations on sophistry or G r e e k coins; an outline history


of sexuality, or at least a history of k n o w l e d g e about s e x u a l i t y based
upon seventeenth-century confessional practices, or controls on infan
tile s e x u a l i t y in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; p i n p o i n t i n g
the genesis of a theory and k n o w l e d g e of anomalies, a n d of all the
r e l a t e d t e c h n i q u e s . W e a r e m a k i n g no progress, and i t ' s all l e a d i n g
nowhere. It's all repetitive, and it doesn't a d d u p . Basically, w e k e e p
saying the same thing, and there again, p e r h a p s w e ' r e not saying a n y
t h i n g at all. It's all getting into something of an i n e x t r i c a b l e tangle,
a n d i t ' s g e t t i n g us nowhere, as they say.
I could tell y o u that these things w e r e t r a i l s to b e followed, that
it d i d n ' t m a t t e r w h e r e they led, or even that t h e one thing that d i d
matter w a s that they d i d n ' t l e a d a n y w h e r e , or at least not in some
p r e d e t e r m i n e d direction. I could say they w e r e l i k e an outline for
something. It's u p to y o u to go on w i t h them or to go off on a tangent;
a n d i t ' s u p to me to p u r s u e them or give them a different configu
ration. A n d then, w e y o u or Icould see w h a t could b e done w i t h
these fragments. I felt a bit l i k e a s p e r m w h a l e that b r e a k s the surface
of the w a t e r , m a k e s a l i t t l e splash, a n d l e t s y o u believe, m a k e s you
believe, or w a n t to believe, that d o w n there w h e r e it can't be seen,
d o w n there w h e r e it i s neither seen nor monitored by anyone, it is
following a deep, coherent, a n d premeditated trajectory.
That i s more or less the position w e w e r e in, as I see it: I don't
k n o w w h a t it looked l i k e from w h e r e y o u are sitting. After all, the
fact that t h e w o r k I described to y o u looked b o t h fragmented, repet
itive, a n d discontinuous w a s quite in k e e p i n g w i t h w h a t might be
called a "feverish l a z i n e s s . " It's a character trait of people w h o love
libraries, documents, references, dusty manuscripts, texts that have
never been read, b o o k s w h i c h , no sooner p r i n t e d , w e r e closed a n d
then slept on the shelves and w e r e only t a k e n d o w n centuries later.
A l l t h i s q u i t e suits the b u s y i n e r t i a of those w h o profess useless
k n o w l e d g e , a sort of s u m p t u a r y k n o w l e d g e , the w e a l t h of a parvenu
and, as y o u well know, its external signs are found at the foot of the
page. It should appeal to all those w h o feel sympathetic to one of

7 January

1976

those secret societies, no doubt the oldest and the most characteristic
in t h e W e s t , one of those strangely i n d e s t r u c t i b l e secret societies that
w e r e , I t h i n k , u n k n o w n i n a n t i q u i t y and w h i c h w e r e formed in the
early C h r i s t i a n era, p r o b a b l y at the t i m e of the first monasteries, on
the fringes of invasions, fires, a n d forests. I a m t a l k i n g about the great,
tender, a n d w a r m freemasonry of useless e r u d i t i o n .
Except that it w a s not just a l i k i n g for t h i s freemasonry that led
me to do w h a t I've been doing. It seems to m e that w e could justify
the w o r k w e ' v e been doing, in a somewhat e m p i r i c a l a n d h a p h a z a r d
w a y on b o t h m y p a r t and yours, b y saying that it w a s q u i t e in k e e p i n g
w i t h a c e r t a i n period; w i t h the v e r y l i m i t e d p e r i o d w e have been
living through for the last ten or fifteen years, t w e n t y at the most. I
am t a l k i n g about a period in w h i c h w e can observe two phenomena
w h i c h w e r e , if not really important, r a t h e r interesting. On the one
hand, this h a s been a period c h a r a c t e r i z e d b y w h a t w e might call the
efficacy of dispersed a n d discontinuous offensives. I am t h i n k i n g of
many things, of, for instance, the strange efficacy, w h e n it c a m e to
j a m m i n g the w o r k i n g s of the p s y c h i a t r i c institution, of the discourse,
the discoursesand they really w e r e v e r y localizedof a n t i p s y c h i a t r y .
And y o u k n o w perfectly w e l l that they w e r e not supported, a r e not
supported, b y any overall systematization, no m a t t e r w h a t t h e i r points
of reference w e r e and are. I a m t h i n k i n g of the original reference to
existential analysis,' and of contemporary references to, b r o a d l y s p e a k
2

ing, M a r x i s m or Reich's theories. I a m also t h i n k i n g of the strange


efficacy of the a t t a c k s that have been m a d e on, say, m o r a l i t y a n d the
traditional s e x u a l h i e r a r c h y ; t h e y too referred in only v a g u e a n d d i s
3

tant t e r m s to Reich or M a r c u s e . I a m also t h i n k i n g of the efficacy of


the a t t a c k s on t h e j u d i c i a r y a n d penal a p p a r a t u s , some of w h i c h w e r e
very d i s t a n t l y related to the g e n e r a l a n d fairly dubiousnotion of
"class justice," w h i l e others w e r e basically related, albeit almost as
distantly, to an anarchist thematic. I am also t h i n k i n g much

more

specifically of the efficacy of somethingI hesitate to call it a book


like Anti-Oedipus?

w h i c h referred to, w h i c h refers to n o t h i n g but i t s

o w n p r o d i g i o u s theoretical c r e a t i v i t y t h a t book, t h a t event, or t h a t

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

thing that succeeded, at the level of d a y - t o - d a y practice, in i n t r o d u c


ing a note of hoarseness into the w h i s p e r that had been passing from
couch to a r m c h a i r w i t h o u t a n y i n t e r r u p t i o n for such a long time.
So I w o u l d say: for the last ten or fifteen y e a r s , the immense and
proliferating c r i t i c i z a b i l i t y of things, institutions, practices, and dis
courses; a sort of general feeling that the ground w a s crumbling b e
neath our feet, especially in places w h e r e it seemed most familiar,
most solid, a n d closest [ n e a r e s t ] to u s , to our bodies, to our e v e r y d a y
gestures. But alongside this c r u m b l i n g a n d the astonishing efficacy of
discontinuous, particular, and local c r i t i q u e s , the facts w e r e also re
vealing something that could not, perhaps, have been foreseen from
the outset: w h a t might be c a l l e d the i n h i b i t i n g effect specific to t o
talitarian theories, or at leastwhat I m e a n isall-encompassing and
global theories. Not that all-encompassing and global theories haven't,
in fairly constant fashion, providedand don't continue to provide
tools that can be used at the local level; M a r x i s m a n d psychoanalysis
are living proof that they can. But they have, I think, provided tools
that can be used at the local level only when, and this is the real
point, the theoretical u n i t y of their discourse is, so to speak, s u s
pended, or at least cut up, r i p p e d up, torn to shreds, turned inside
out, displaced, caricatured, d r a m a t i z e d , theatricalized, and so on. Or
at least that the totalizing approach a l w a y s has the effect of putting
the b r a k e s on. So that, if vou like, is my first point, the first char
acteristic of w h a t has been happening over the last fifteen y e a r s or so:
the local character of the critique; this does not, I think, mean soft
eclecticism, opportunism, or openness to a n y old theoretical u n d e r
t a k i n g , nor does it mean a sort of deliberate asceticism that boils d o w n
to losing as much theoretical w e i g h t as possible. I think that

the

essentially local character of the c r i t i q u e in fact indicates something


resembling a sort of autonomous a n d noncentralized theoretical p r o
duction, or in other w o r d s a theoretical production t h a t does not need
a visa from some common regime to establish i t s v a l i d i t y .
This b r i n g s us to a second feature of w h a t has been happening for
some t i m e now. The point is this: It is what might be called " r e t u r n s
of k n o w l e d g e " that m a k e s this local c r i t i q u e possible. W h a t I mean

7 January

J 9 76

by " r e t u r n s of k n o w l e d g e " is this: W h i l e it is true that in recent years


we have often encountered, at least at the superficial level, a w h o l e
thematic: "life, not k n o w l e d g e , " "the real, not e r u d i t i o n , " "money, not
books,"* it a p p e a r s to me that b e n e a t h this w h o l e t h e m a t i c , t h r o u g h
it and even w i t h i n it, w e h a v e seen w h a t m i g h t be called the i n s u r
rection of subjugated k n o w l e d g e s . W h e n I say "subjugated
e d g e s , " I m e a n t w o t h i n g s . On

knowl

the one hand, I am referring

historical contents that have been buried or masked in

to

functional

coherences or formal systematizations. To put it in concrete t e r m s if


you l i k e , it w a s certainly not a semiology of life in the a s y l u m or a
sociology of d e h n q u e n c e that made an effective c r i t i q u e of the a s y l u m
or the prison possible; it really w a s the appearance of historical con
t e n t s . Q u i t e s i m p l y because historical contents alone a l l o w us to see
the d i v i d i n g lines in the confrontations and s t r u g g l e s t h a t functional
a r r a n g e m e n t s or systematic organizations are d e s i g n e d to mask. S u b
jugated k n o w l e d g e s are, then, blocks of historical k n o w l e d g e s t h a t
w e r e present in the functional and systematic ensembles, but w h i c h
w e r e masked, and the c r i t i q u e w a s able to reveal t h e i r existence by
using, obviously enough, the tools of scholarship.
Second, I t h i n k subjugated k n o w l e d g e s s h o u l d be understood
meaning something else and, in a sense, something quite

as

different.

W h e n I say "subjugated k n o w l e d g e s " I am also referring to a w h o l e


series of k n o w l e d g e s t h a t have been d i s q u a l i f i e d as

nonconceptual

knowledges, as insufficiently elaborated k n o w l e d g e s : naive k n o w l


edges, hierarchically inferior k n o w l e d g e s , k n o w l e d g e s that a r e b e l o w
t h e r e q u i r e d level of erudition or scientificity. A n d it is t h a n k s to t h e
reappearance of these k n o w l e d g e s from b e l o w , of these unqualified or
even disqualified knowledges, it is t h a n k s to the reappearance of these
k n o w l e d g e s : the k n o w l e d g e of the p s y c h i a t r i z e d , the patient,

the

nurse, the doctor, that is parallel to, marginal to, m e d i c a l k n o w l e d g e ,


the k n o w l e d g e of the d e l i n q u e n t , w h a t I w o u l d call, if you like, w h a t
people k n o w ( a n d this i s by no m e a n s the same thing a s comon
k n o w l e d g e or common sense but, on the contrary, a p a r t i c u l a r k n o w l -

*In the manuscript, "travel" replaces "money."

SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

edge, a k n o w l e d g e that is local, regional, or differential, incapable of


u n a n i m i t y and w h i c h derives its power solely from the fact that it is
different from all the k n o w l e d g e s that s u r r o u n d i t ) , it is the r e a p
pearance of w h a t people k n o w at a local level, of these disqualified
k n o w l e d g e s , that made the c r i t i q u e possible.
You m i g h t object that there is something v e r y paradoxical about
grouping together and p u t t i n g into the same category of "subjugated
knowledges," on the one hand, historical, meticulous, precise, tech
nical e x p e r t i s e and, on the other, these s i n g u l a r , local k n o w l e d g e s , the
noncommonsensical k n o w l e d g e s t h a t people h a v e , a n d w h i c h have in
a w a y been left to lie fallow, or even k e p t in t h e margins. W e l l , I
t h i n k it is the coupling together of the b u r i e d scholarly k n o w l e d g e
and k n o w l e d g e s that were disqualified by the hierarchy of e r u d i t i o n
and sciences that a c t u a l l y gave the discursive c r i t i q u e of the last fifteen
years its essential strength. W h a t w a s at s t a k e in both cases, in both
this s c h o l a r l y k n o w l e d g e and these disqualified k n o w l e d g e s , in these
t w o forms of k n o w l e d g e t h e buried and the disqualified? A histor
ical k n o w l e d g e of struggles. Both the specialized domain of scholar
ship

and

the

disqualified k n o w l e d g e

people

have

contained

the

memory of combats, the v e r y m e m o r y that had u n t i l then been con


fined to the m a r g i n s . A n d so w e have the outline of w h a t might b e
called a genealogy, or of m u l t i p l e genealogical investigations. W e have
both a meticulous rediscovery of struggles and the r a w memory of
fights. These genealogies are a combination of e r u d i t e k n o w l e d g e and
what people k n o w . They w o u l d not have been possiblethey could
not even have been a t t e m p t e d w e r e it not for one thing: the removal
of the tyranny of overall discourses, w i t h their hierarchies and all the
privileges enjoyed b y theoretical v a n g u a r d s . If y o u l i k e , w e c a n give
the name "genealogy" to this coupling together of scholarly e r u d i t i o n
and local memories, which a l l o w s us to constitute a historical k n o w l
edge of struggles and to m a k e use of that k n o w l e d g e in contemporary
tactics. That can, then, serve as a provisional definition of the g e n e
alogies I have been t r y i n g to trace w i t h you over the last few years.
You can see that this activity, w h i c h w e can describe as genealog
ical, is c e r t a i n l y not a matter of contrasting the abstract u n i t y of

7 January

1976

theory w i t h the concrete m u l t i p l i c i t y of the facts. It is certainly not


a matter of some form or other of scientism that disqualifies specu
lation b y contrasting it w i t h the r i g o r of w e l l - e s t a b l i s h e d bodies of
k n o w l e d g e . It is therefore not an e m p i r i c i s m that runs through

the

genealogical project, nor does it lead to a positivism, in the normal


sense of the w o r d . It is a w a y of p l a y i n g local, discontinuous, d i s
qualified, or nonlegitimized k n o w l e d g e s off against the u n i t a r y t h e o
retical instance t h a t c l a i m s to be able to filter them, organize them
into a h i e r a r c h y , o r g a n i z e them in the name of a true body of k n o w l
edge, in the name of the r i g h t s of a science that is in the h a n d s of
the few. Genealogies a r e therefore not positivistic returns to a form
of science that is more attentive or more accurate. Genealogies are,
quite specifically, antisciences. It is not that they d e m a n d the l y r i c a l
r i g h t to be i g n o r a n t , and not that they reject k n o w l e d g e , or invoke
or celebrate some i m m e d i a t e experience that has yet to be c a p t u r e d
b y k n o w l e d g e . That is not w h a t they are about. They are about the
insurrection of k n o w l e d g e s . Not so m u c h against the contents, m e t h
ods, or concepts of a science; this is a b o v e all, p r i m a r i l y , an i n s u r r e c
tion against the c e n t r a l i z i n g power-effects that are bound up w i t h the
institutionalization a n d w o r k i n g s of any scientific discourse o r g a n i z e d
in a society s u c h as ours. That t h i s i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n of scientific
discourse is e m b o d i e d in a u n i v e r s i t y or, in general t e r m s , a p e d a
gogical a p p a r a t u s , t h a t t h i s i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z a t i o n of scientific discourses
is embodied in a theoretico-commercial n e t w o r k such as p s y c h o a n a l
ysis, or in a political a p p a r a t u s w i t h e v e r y t h i n g that i m p l i e s i s
largely irrelevant. Genealogy has to fight the power-effects c h a r a c t e r
istic of a n y discourse that is r e g a r d e d as scientific.
To put it in more specific t e r m s , or at least in t e r m s t h a t m i g h t
mean more to you, let me say this: you k n o w how m a n y people have
been a s k i n g t h e m s e l v e s w h e t h e r or not M a r x i s m is a science for m a n y
y e a r s now, p r o b a b l y for more than a century. One might say that the
same question has been asked, and is still b e i n g asked, of psycho
a n a l y s i s or, worse still, of the semiology of l i t e r a r y texts. Genealogies'
or g e n e a l o g i s t s ' a n s w e r to the question "Is it a science or n o t ? " is:
" T u r n i n g M a r x i s m , or psychoanalysis, or w h a t e v e r else it is, into a

10

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

science is precisely w h a t w e are c r i t i c i z i n g you for. A n d if there is


one objection to be m a d e against M a r x i s m , i t ' s that it m i g h t well be
a science." To p u t it in moreif not more sophisticated t e r m s [ a t
l e a s t ] m i l d e r t e r m s , let m e say this: even before w e k n o w to w h a t
e x t e n t s o m e t h i n g l i k e M a r x i s m or psychoanalysis is analogous to a
scientific p r a c t i c e in its day-to-day operations, in its rules of construc
tion, in the concepts it uses, w e should b e a s k i n g the question, a s k i n g
ourselves about the aspiration to power that is inherent in the c l a i m
to being a science. The q u e s t i o n or q u e s t i o n s that h a v e to b e a s k e d
are: " W h a t t y p e s of k n o w l e d g e a r e y o u t r y i n g to disqualify w h e n you
say that you are a science? W h a t s p e a k i n g subject, w h a t discursive
subject, w h a t subject of experience a n d k n o w l e d g e are you t r y i n g to
minorize w h e n you begin to say: 'I speak t h i s discourse, I a m s p e a k i n g
a scientific discourse, a n d I am a scientist.' W h a t theoretico-political
v a n g u a r d are you t r y i n g to put on the throne in order to detach it
from all the massive, circulating, a n d discontinuous forms t h a t k n o w l
e d g e can t a k e ? " A n d I w o u l d say: " W h e n I see you t r y i n g to prove
that M a r x i s m is a science, to tell the truth, I do not really see you
trying to demonstrate once and for all that M a r x i s m has a rational
s t r u c t u r e a n d that its propositions a r e therefore the products of v e r
ification procedures. I see you, first a n d foremost, doing

something

different. I see you connecting to M a r x i s t discourse, a n d I see you


assigning to those w h o s p e a k that discourse the power-effects that t h e
W e s t h a s , ever since the M i d d l e A g e s , ascribed to a science a n d r e
served for those w h o s p e a k a scientific discourse."
C o m p a r e d to the a t t e m p t to inscribe k n o w l e d g e s in the p o w e r h i e r a r c h y t y p i c a l of science, genealogy is, then, a sort of a t t e m p t to
desubjugate historical k n o w l e d g e s , to set them free, or in other w o r d s
to enable them to oppose and struggle against the coercion of a u n i
tary, formal, a n d scientific theoretical discourse. The project of these
disorderly and tattered genealogies is to reactivate local k n o w l e d g e s
5

Deleuze w o u l d no doubt call them " m i n o r " a g a i n s t t h e scientific


hierarchicahzation of k n o w l e d g e and its intrinsic power-effects. To
put it in a nutshell: Archaeology is the m e t h o d specific to the analysis
of local discursivities, and genealogy is the tactic which, once it has

7 January

J976

11

described these local discursivities, b r i n g s into play the desubjugated


k n o w l e d g e s that have b e e n released from them. That just about s u m s
u p the overall project.
So you can see t h a t all the fragments of research, all the intercon
nected and i n t e r r u p t e d things I have been r e p e a t i n g so s t u b b o r n l y for
four or five years now, m i g h t be r e g a r d e d as e l e m e n t s of these g e
nealogies, a n d that I a m not the only one to have been doing this over
the last fifteen years. Far from it. Question: So w h y not go on w i t h
such a theory of discontinuity, w h e n it is so pretty a n d p r o b a b l y so
hard to v e r i f y ?

W h y don't I go on, a n d w h y don't I take a q u i c k

look at s o m e t h i n g to do w i t h p s y c h i a t r y , w i t h the t h e o r y of s e x u a l i t y ?
It's t r u e that one c o u l d g o onand I w i l l t r y to g o on u p to a
pointwere it not, p e r h a p s , for a certain n u m b e r of changes, a n d
changes in the conjuncture. W h a t I mean is that compared to the
situation w e had five, ten, or even fifteen y e a r s ago, things have, p e r
haps, changed; perhaps the battle no longer looks quite the same.
W e l l , a r e w e really still in the same relationship of force, a n d does i t
allow u s t o e x p l o i t the k n o w l e d g e s w e have d u g out of t h e sand, to
e x p l o i t them as they s t a n d , w i t h o u t t h e i r b e c o m i n g subjugated once
m o r e ? W h a t strength do they h a v e in t h e m s e l v e s ? A n d after all, once
w e h a v e excavated our genealogical fragments, once w e begin to e x
ploit t h e m a n d to put in circulation these elements of k n o w l e d g e that
w e have been t r y i n g to dig out of the sand, isn't there a d a n g e r that
they w i l l be recoded, recolonized by these u n i t a r y discourses w h i c h ,
having first disqualified them a n d having then ignored them w h e n
t h e y r e a p p e a r e d , m a y n o w b e ready to r e a n n e x them a n d i n c l u d e t h e m
in their o w n discourses a n d t h e i r o w n p o w e r - k n o w l e d g e effects? A n d
if w e t r y to protect the fragments w e have d u g u p , don't w e r u n the
risk of b u i l d i n g , w i t h our own hands, a u n i t a r y discourse? That is
w h a t w e are b e i n g invited to do, that is the t r a p that is being set for
us by all those w h o say, "It's all very w e l l , b u t where does it get u s ?
W h e r e does it l e a d u s ? W h a t u n i t y does it g i v e u s ? " The temptation
is, u p to a point, to say: Right, let's continue, let's accumulate. After
all, t h e r e is no d a n g e r at the moment that w e w i l l be colonized. I w a s
s a y i n g a moment a g o that these genealogical fragments m i g h t b e in

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danger of being recoded, but we could t h r o w down a challenge and


say, "Just t r y it!" W e could, for instance, say, Look: ever since the
very b e g i n n i n g s of a n t i p s y c h i a t r y or of the genealogies of p s y c h i a t r i c
institutionsand it has been going on for a good fifteen y e a r s now
has a single M a r x i s t , psychoanalyst, or psychiatrist ever a t t e m p t e d to
redo it in their own t e r m s or demonstrated that these genealogies
were wrong, badly elaborated, badly articulated, or i l l - f o u n d e d ? The
w a y things stand, the fragments of genealogy that have been done are
in fact still there, s u r r o u n d e d by a w a r y silence. The only a r g u m e n t s
that have been put forward against them areat the very best
propositions like the one w e recently h e a r d from, I t h i n k it w a s
M. Juquin:

" A l l t h i s is very well. But the fact r e m a i n s t h a t Soviet

p s y c h i a t r y is the best in the world." M y a n s w e r to t h a t is: "Yes, of


course, you're right. Soviet p s y c h i a t r y is the best in the w o r l d . T h a t ' s
just w h a t I hold against it." The silence, or rather the caution w i t h
which

unitary theories avoid the genealogy of k n o w l e d g e s might

therefore be one reason for going on. One could at any rate u n e a r t h
more a n d more genealogical fragments, like so many traps, questions,
challenges, or w h a t e v e r you w a n t to call them. Given that w e are t a l k
ing about a battlethe battle k n o w l e d g e s are w a g i n g a g a i n s t the
power-effects of scientific discourseit is probably o v e r o p t i m i s t i c to
assume t h a t our a d v e r s a r y ' s silence p r o v e s t h a t he is afraid of u s . The s i
lence of an a d v e r s a r y a n d t h i s is a methodological p r i n c i p l e or a t a c
tical principle that must a l w a y s be kept in mindcould just as easily be
a sign that he is not afraid of us at all. A n d w e must, I think, behave a s
t h o u g h he really is not frightened of u s . A n d I am not suggesting t h a t
w e g i v e all these s c a t t e r e d genealogies a continuous, solid theoretical
basisthe last t h i n g I w a n t to do is g i v e them, s u p e r i m p o s e on them, a
sort of theoretical crown that w o u l d unify t h e m b u t that we should
try, in future lectures, probably b e g i n n i n g this year, to specify or iden
tify w h a t is at s t a k e w h e n k n o w l e d g e s b e g i n to challenge, struggle
against, a n d

rise u p against the instutition and the

power-

and

k n o w l e d g e - effects of scientific discourse.


A s y o u k n o w , and as I scarcely need point out, w h a t is at s t a k e in
all these genealogies is this: W h a t is t h i s p o w e r w h o s e irruption, force,

7 January

1976

13

impact, a n d a b s u r d i t y have become p a l p a b l y obvious over the last


forty y e a r s , as a result of both the collapse of N a z i s m and the retreat
of S t a l i n i s m ? W h a t is p o w e r ? Or rathergiven that the

question

" W h a t i s p o w e r ? " i s obviously a theoretical question that would p r o


vide an a n s w e r to everything, w h i c h is just w h a t I don't want to do
the issue i s to d e t e r m i n e w h a t are, in t h e i r mechanisms, effects, t h e i r
relations, the v a r i o u s p o w e r - a p p a r a t u s e s t h a t operate at v a r i o u s levels
of society, in such v e r y different d o m a i n s a n d w i t h so m a n y different
extensions? R o u g h l y speaking, I think that w h a t i s at stake in all t h i s
is this: C a n the analysis of power, or the a n a l y s i s of p o w e r s , be in
one w a y or a n o t h e r d e d u c e d from the e c o n o m y ?
T h i s i s w h y I a s k the question, a n d t h i s is w h a t I m e a n b y it. I
certainly do not wish to erase the countless differences or huge dif
ferences, but, despite a n d because of these differences, it seems to me
that the j u r i d i c a l conception and, l e t ' s say, the liberal conception of
political p o w e r w h i c h w e find in the p h i l o s o p h e r s of the eighteenth
centurydo have certain t h i n g s in common, as does the M a r x i s t con
ception, or at least a certain c o n t e m p o r a r y conception that passes for
the M a r x i s t conception. Their common feature is w h a t I will call
"economism" in the theory of p o w e r . W h a t I m e a n to say is this: In
the case of the classic j u r i d i c a l theory of power, p o w e r is r e g a r d e d a s
a r i g h t w h i c h can be possessed in the w a y one possesses a commodity,
a n d w h i c h can therefore be transferred or a l i e n a t e d , e i t h e r completely
or p a r t l y , t h r o u g h a j u r i d i c a l act or an act t h a t founds a r i g h t i t
does not m a t t e r w h i c h , for the m o m e n t t h a n k s to the s u r r e n d e r of
something or t h a n k s to a contract. P o w e r i s t h e concrete p o w e r that
any i n d i v i d u a l can hold, a n d which he can surrender, either as a w h o l e
or in p a r t , so as to constitute a p o w e r or a political sovereignty. In
the b o d y of t h e o r y to w h i c h I a m referring, the constitution of polit
ical p o w e r is therefore constituted b y this series, or is modeled on a
juridical operation

s i m i l a r to an exchange of contracts. There

is

therefore an obvious analogy, a n d it r u n s through all these theories,


b e t w e e n p o w e r a n d commodities, b e t w e e n p o w e r a n d w e a l t h .
In the other case, a n d I a m obviously t h i n k i n g here of the general
M a r x i s t conception of p o w e r , there is obviously none of this. In this

"SOCIETY

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M a r x i s t conception, you have something else that m i g h t be called


the "economic functionality" of power. "Economic functionality" to the
e x t e n t that the role of p o w e r is essentially both to p e r p e t u a t e the
relations of production a n d to r e p r o d u c e a class domination that is
made possible by the development of the productive forces a n d the
w a y s they are a p p r o p r i a t e d . In this case, political power finds its
historical raison d'etre in the economy. Broadly speaking, w e have, if
you like, in one case a political p o w e r w h i c h finds its formal model
in the process of exchange, in the economy of the c i r c u l a t i o n of goods;
and in the other case, political power finds its historical raison d'etre,
the p r i n c i p l e of its concrete form a n d of its a c t u a l w o r k i n g s in the
economy.
The problem that is at issue in the research I am t a l k i n g about
can, I t h i n k , be broken d o w n as follows. First: Is p o w e r

always

secondary to the e c o n o m y ? A r e its finality a n d function a l w a y s de


t e r m i n e d by the economy? Is p o w e r ' s raison d'etre and purpose es
sentially to serve the e c o n o m y ? Is it designed to establish, solidify,
p e r p e t u a t e , a n d reproduce relations that are characteristic of the econ
omy a n d essential to its w o r k i n g s ? Second question: Is p o w e r modeled
on the c o m m o d i t y ? Is p o w e r something that can be possessed and
acquired, that can be surrendered t h r o u g h a contract or by force, that
can be a l i e n a t e d or recuperated, that circulates a n d fertilizes one r e
gion but avoids others? Or if w e w i s h to analyze it, do w e have to
operateon the c o n t r a r y w i t h different instruments, even if p o w e r
relations a r e d e e p l y involved in a n d w i t h economic relations, even if
p o w e r relations a n d economic relations a l w a y s constitute a sort of
n e t w o r k or l o o p ? If t h a t is the case, the i n d i s s o c i a b i l i t y of the econ
omy a n d politics is not a matter of functional s u b o r d i n a t i o n , nor of
formal isomorphism. It is of a different order, a n d it is precisely that
order that w e have to isolate.
W h a t tools are currently available for a noneconomic analysis of
p o w e r ? I t h i n k that we can say that w e really do not have a lot. W e
have, first of all, the assertion that p o w e r is not something that is
given, exchanged, or taken back, that it is something that is exercised
and that it exists only in action. W e also have the other assertion,

7 January

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15

that p o w e r is not p r i m a r i l y the p e r p e t u a t i o n a n d r e n e w a l of economic


relations, but that it is p r i m a r i l y , in itself, a relationship of force.
W h i c h raises some q u e s t i o n s , or r a t h e r t w o q u e s t i o n s . If p o w e r is
exercised, w h a t is the exercise of p o w e r ? W h a t does it consist of?
W h a t is its m e c h a n i s m ? W e have here w h a t I w o u l d call an off-thecuff a n s w e r , or at least an i m m e d i a t e response, a n d it seems to me
that this i s , u l t i m a t e l y , the a n s w e r g i v e n b y the concrete reality of
many contemporary

analyses: P o w e r is essentially that w h i c h r e

presses. Power is t h a t w h i c h represses n a t u r e , instincts, a class, or


i n d i v i d u a l s . A n d w h e n w e find contemporary discourse trotting out
the definition that p o w e r is that w h i c h represses, contemporary d i s
course is not r e a l l y s a y i n g a n y t h i n g new. H e g e l w a s the first to say
8

this, and then F r e u d and then R e i c h . In a n y case, in t o d a y ' s v o c a b


u l a r y , b e i n g an o r g a n of repression is almost p o w e r ' s H o m e r i c epithet.
So, m u s t the analysis of p o w e r be p r i m a r i l y , essentially even, an a n a l
ysis of the mechanisms of r e p r e s s i o n ?
Secondsecond off-the-cuff a n s w e r , if you likeif p o w e r is i n d e e d
the i m p l e m e n t a t i o n a n d d e p l o y m e n t of a r e l a t i o n s h i p of force, rather
than a n a l y z i n g it in t e r m s of s u r r e n d e r , contract, a n d alienation, or
rather t h a n a n a l y z i n g it in functional t e r m s a s the reproduction of the
relations of production, shouldn't w e be a n a l y z i n g it first and foremost
in terms of conflict, confrontation, a n d w a r ? That w o u l d g i v e us a n
alternative to the first h y p o t h e s i s w h i c h is t h a t the mechanism of
power is basically or essentially repressionor a second h y p o t h e s i s :
P o w e r is w a r , the c o n t i n u a t i o n of w a r by other means. A t this point,
w e can invert C l a u s e w i t z ' s p r o p o s i t i o n

a n d say that politics is the

continuation of w a r by other means. This w o u l d i m p l y three things.


First, that power relations, as they function in a society like ours, are
essentially anchored in a certain r e l a t i o n s h i p of force that w a s e s t a b
lished in a n d t h r o u g h w a r at a g i v e n historical moment that can be
historically specified. A n d w h i l e it is t r u e that political p o w e r p u t s
an end to w a r a n d e s t a b l i s h e s or a t t e m p t s to establish the reign of
peace in civil society, it certainly does not do so in o r d e r to s u s p e n d
the effects of power or to n e u t r a l i z e the d i s e q u i l i b r i u m r e v e a l e d by
the last b a t t l e of the w a r . A c c o r d i n g to this h y p o t h e s i s , the role of

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political p o w e r is p e r p e t u a l l y to use a sort of silent w a r to r e i n s c n b e


that relationship of force, and to reinscribe it in institutions, economic
inequalities, language, and even the bodies of i n d i v i d u a l s . This is the
initial meaning of our inversion of C l a u s e w i t z ' s aphorismpolitics is
the continuation of w a r by other means. Politics, in other w o r d s ,
sanctions a n d reproduces the d i s e q u i l i b r i u m of forces manifested in
w a r . Inverting the proposition also means something else, namely that
within this "civil peace," these political struggles, these clashes over
or w i t h power, these modifications of relations of forcethe shifting
balance, the reversalsin a political system, all these things must be
interpreted a s a continuation of w a r . A n d t h e y are i n t e r p r e t e d a s so
many episodes, fragmentations, a n d displacements of the w a r itself.
W e are a l w a y s w r i t i n g the history of the same w a r , even w h e n w e
are w r i t i n g the history of peace and its institutions.
Inverting C l a u s e w i t z ' s a p h o r i s m also has a t h i r d meaning: The final
decision can come only from war, or in other words a trial by strength
in which weapons are the final judges. It means that the last battle
would put an end to politics, or in other w o r d s , that the last battle
w o u l d at lastand I mean "at l a s t " s u s p e n d the exercise of p o w e r
a s continuous warfare.
So you see, once w e try to get a w a y from economistic schemata in
our a t t e m p t to a n a l y z e power, w e i m m e d i a t e l y find ourselves faced
w i t h t w o g r a n d hypotheses; according to one, the mechanism of p o w e r
is repressionfor

the s a k e of convenience, I w i l l call this Reich's

hypothesis, if you l i k e a n d according to the second, the basis of the


p o w e r - r e l a t i o n s h i p lies in a w a r l i k e clash b e t w e e n forcesfor the sake
of convenience, I w i l l call this N i e t z s c h e ' s hypothesis. The t w o h y
potheses a r e not irreconcilable; on the contrary, there seems to be a
fairly logical connection b e t w e e n the two. After all, isn't repression
the political outcome of w a r , just a s oppression w a s , in the classical
theory of political right, the result of the abuse of sovereignty w i t h i n
the j u r i d i c a l d o m a i n ?
W e can, then, contrast t w o g r e a t s y s t e m s for a n a l y z i n g power. The
first, w h i c h is the old theory you find in the philosophers of the
seventeenth century, is articulated around power as a p r i m a l right

7 January

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17

that is s u r r e n d e r e d , a n d w h i c h constitutes sovereignty, with the con


tract a s the m a t r i x of political power. A n d w h e n the p o w e r t h a t has
been so constituted oversteps the limit, or oversteps the limits of the
contract, there is a danger that it will become oppression.

Power-

contract, w i t h oppression as the limit, or rather the transgression of


the l i m i t . A n d then w e have the other system, which tries to a n a l y z e
power not in terms of the contract-oppression schema, but in terms
of the w a r - r e p r e s s i o n schema. At this point, repression is not w h a t
oppression w a s in relation to the contract, namely an abuse, but, on
the contrary, s i m p l y the effect a n d the continuation of a relationship
of domination. Repression is no more than the i m p l e m e n t a t i o n , w i t h i n
a pseudopeace t h a t is being u n d e r m i n e d by a continuous w a r , of a
perpetual relationship of force. So, t w o schemata for the analysis of
power: the contract-oppression schema, w h i c h is, if you like, the j u
ridical schema,

and

the

war-repression

or

domination-repression

schema, in which the pertinent opposition is not, as in the previous


schema, that b e t w e e n the l e g i t i m a t e and the i l l e g i t i m a t e , but

that

b e t w e e n struggle a n d submission.
It is obvious that e v e r y t h i n g I have said to you in previous y e a r s
is inscribed w i t h i n the struggle-repression schema. T h a t is indeed the
schema I w a s t r y i n g to apply. Now, as I tried to a p p l y it, I w a s
eventually forced to reconsider it; both because, in many respects, it
is still insufficiently elaboratedI w o u l d even go so far as to s a y t h a t
it is not elaborated at a l l a n d also because I t h i n k t h a t the t w i n
notions of " r e p r e s s i o n " a n d " w a r " have to be considerably modified
and u l t i m a t e l y , perhaps, abandoned. A t all events, we have to look
very closely at these t w o notions of "repression" a n d " w a r " ; if y o u
like, w e have to look a little more closely at the hypothesis t h a t the
mechanisms of p o w e r a r e essentially mechanisms of repression, a n d
at the a l t e r n a t i v e hypothesis that w h a t is r u m b l i n g away and w h a t is
at w o r k beneath political p o w e r is essentially a n d above all a w a r l i k e
relation.
Without w i s h i n g to boast, I think that I have in fact long been
suspicious of this notion of "repression," a n d I have a t t e m p t e d

to

show you, in relation to the g e n e a l o g i e s I w a s t a l k i n g about just now,

18

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in relation to the history of penal law, p s y c h i a t r i c power, controls on


infantile sexuahtv, a n d so on, that the mechanisms at w o r k in these
power formations were something very different fromor

at least

much more thanrepression. I cannot go any further without re


peating some of this analysis of repression, w i t h o u t p u l l i n g together
everything I have said about it, no doubt in a r a m b l i n g sort of w a y .
The next lecture, perhaps the next t w o lectures, w i l l therefore be
devoted t o a critical r e e x a m i n a t i o n of t h e notion of "repression," to
t r y i n g to show h o w and why what is now the w i d e s p r e a d notion of
repression cannot provide an a d e q u a t e description of the m e c h a n i s m s
and effects of power, cannot define t h e m .

10

M o s t of the n e x t lecture w i l l , however, be devoted to the other


side of the question, or in other w o r d s the problem of w a r . I w o u l d
like to t r y to see the extent to w h i c h the b i n a r y s c h e m a of w a r a n d
struggle, of the clash b e t w e e n forces, can really be identified a s the
basis of civil society, a s both the p r i n c i p l e and motor of the exercise
of political power. A r e w e really t a l k i n g about w a r w h e n w e a n a l y z e
the w o r k i n g s of p o w e r ? A r e the notions of "tactics," " s t r a t e g y , " a n d
"relations of force" v a l i d ? To w h a t extent are they v a l i d ? Is power
quite s i m p l y a continuation of w a r b y means other than w e a p o n s a n d
battles? Does w h a t has now become the commonplace theme, though
it is a relatively recent theme, that power is responsible for defending
civil society imply, yes or no, that the political structure of society i s
so organized t h a t some can defend t h e m s e l v e s against others, or can
defend t h e i r domination against the rebellion of others, or q u i t e s i m
ply defend t h e i r victory and p e r p e t u a t e it by subjugating o t h e r s ?
The o u t l i n e for t h i s y e a r ' s course w i l l , then, be a s follows: one or
two lectures devoted to a r e e x a m i n a t i o n of the notion of repression;
then I will begin [to look atjI m a y go on in the y e a r s to come, I've
no ideathis problem of the w a r in civil society. I w i l l begin by
e l i m i n a t i n g the very people w h o are s a i d to be the theorists of the
w a r in civil society, a n d who are in m y v i e w no such thing, namely
M a c h i a v e l h and Hobbes. Then I w i l l t r y to look again at the theory
that w a r is the historical p r i n c i p l e behind the w o r k i n g s of power, in
the context of the r a c e problem, as it w a s r a c i a l b i n a r i s m t h a t led the

7 January

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19

West to see for the first time that it w a s possible to analyze political
power as w a r . A n d I will t r y to trace t h i s d o w n to the moment w h e n
race s t r u g g l e and class struggle became, at the end of the nineteenth
century, the t w o g r e a t schemata that w e r e used to identify the p h e
nomenon of w a r and the relationship of force w i t h i n political society.

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1. Michel Foucault is referring to the psvchiatnc movement (defined either as "anthropophenomenology" or Daseinanalyse)
which derived new conceptual instruments from the
philosophy of Husserl and Heidegger. Foucault examines this in his earliest writings. Cf.
chapter 4 of Maladie mentale etpersonalitt(Pans:
PUF, 1954)("La Maladie etl'existence");
the introduction to Ludwig Binswanger, Le Reve et /'existence (Pans: Desclee de Brouwer)
(reprinted in Dits et ecrits vol. 1, pp. 65-119; English translation bv Forrest Williams,
"Dream, Imagination, and Existence," in Michel Foucault and Ludwig Binswanger, Dream
and Existence, ed. Keith Holler [Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press]; "La Psvchologie de 1 8 5 0 a 1950," in A. Weber and D. Husiman, Tableau de la philosophic
contemporaine (Paris: Fischbacher, 1 9 5 4 ) (reprinted in Dits et ecrits vol. 1, pp. 120-37); "La
Recherche en psvchologie," in J . E. Morrere, ed., Des Cheixheurs s'intenvgent
(Paris: PUF,
1957) (reprinted in Dits et ecrits vol. 1, pp. 137-58). Foucault returned to these topics in
his last years; cf. Colloqui con Foucault (Salerno: 1 0 / 1 7 Cooperativa editrice, 1 9 8 1 ) ( French
translation: "Entretien avec Michel Foucault," Dits et ecrits vol. 4, pp. 41-95; English trans
lation by James Goldstein and James Cascaito, Remarks on Marx [New York:
Semiotext(e), 1 9 9 1 ] ) .
2.See Wilhelm Reich, Die Funktion des Orgasmus; Qir Psychopathologie
und %ur Sociologie des
Geschlechtslebens
(Vienna: I n t e r n a t i o n a l psychanalytischer Verlag, 1 9 2 7 ) (French trans
lation: La Fonction de I'orgasme [Paris: L'Arche, 1971]; English translation: The Function of
the Orgasm [New York: Condor Books, 1983]); Der Einbrach des Sexualmoral (Berlin:
Verlag fur Sexualpolitik, 1932) (French translation: L'lrruptxon del a morale sexuelle [Paris:
Payot, 1972]; English translation: The Invasion of Compulsory Sex Morality [New York:
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971 J); Charakteranalyse
(Vienna: Selbstverlag des Verfassers*
' 9 3 3 ) (French translation: VAnalyse caracte'riel/e [Paris: Payot, 1971 ]; English translation:
Character Analysis [New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1972]); Massenpsychologie
des
Faschismus: %ur Sexualonomie der politischen Reaktion und %ur proletarischen
Sexualpolitik (Co
penhagen, Paris, and Zurich: Verlag fur Sexualpolitik, 1933) (French translation: La
Psychologie de masse du fascisme [Pans: Payot, 1974]; English translation: The Mass
Psychology
of Fascism [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 9 7 0 ] ) ; Die Sexualitdt im Kulturkampf ( C o
penhagen: Sexpol Verlag, 1 9 3 6 ) (English translation: The Sexual Revolution [London: Vi
sion Press, 1 9 7 2 ] ) .
t

3. Michel Foucault is obviously referring here to Herbert Marcuse, Etvs and Civilisation: A
Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1 9 5 5 ) (French translation: Etvs et
civilisation [Paris: Seuil, 1971 ] ) and One-Dimensional
Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced
Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1 9 6 6 ) ( French translation: L'Homme
unidimensionnel |Pans: Seuil, 1 9 7 0 ] ) .
i. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattan, Anti-Oedipe (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972). It will
be recalled that Foucault develops this interpretation of Anti-Oedipe as livre evenement in
hispreiaceto the English translation ( English translation bv Robert Hurlev, Mark Seem,
and Helen R, Lane. Anti-Oedipus [New York: Viking, 1 9 8 3 ] ) . For the French version see
Dits et ecrits vol. 3, pp. 133-36.
5. The concepts ol "minor'' and "minority"singular events rather than individual essences,
individuation through "ecceity" rather than substantialitywere elaborated by Gilles
Deleuze and Felix Guattan in their Kafka,pour
une /literature mineure (Paris: Editions de
Minuit, 197S) ( English translation by Reda Bensmaia, Kafka: For a Minor Literature [Min
neapolis: Universitv of Minnesota Press, 1 9 8 6 ] ), reworked bv Deleuze in his article
"Philosophie et minorite" ( Critique, February 1 9 7 8 ) and then further developed, notably
in Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattan, Mille Plateaux; capitalisms et schisophrenic (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1 9 8 0 ) (English translation bv Brian Massumi, A Thousand
Plateaus:
Capitalism and Schizophrenia [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press]). "Minority"
also relates to the concept oi "molecular" elaborated by Felix Guattan in Psychanahic
tt

7 January

1976

21

transversalite,
Essai d'analyse institutionnelle (Pans: Maspero, 1972). Its logic is that of "be
coming" and "intensities."
6. Michel Foucault is referring to the debate about the concept of the episteme and the
status of discontinuity that was opened up bv the publication of Les Mots et les choses:
une archaeologie
des sciences humaines (Pans: Galhmard, 1 9 6 6 ) (English translation: The
Order of Things [London: Tavistock, 1 9 7 0 ] ) . He replied to criticisms in a series oi the
oretical and methodological mt'ses au point. See in particular "Reponse a une question,"
Esprit, May 1 9 6 8 , repnnted in Dits et ecrits vol. 1, pp. 673-95; "Reponse au Cercle
d*epistemologie," CaJiiers pour /'analyse 9 ( 1 9 6 8 ) , pp. 9 - 4 0 , repnnted m Dits et ecrits vol.
1, pp. 694-731; English translation: "On the Archaeology of the Science: Response to the
Epistemology Circle," Essential Works vol. 2, pp. 297-353.
7. A t that time, a depute' in the Parti Communiste Frangais.
8.Cf. G. W. F. Hegel, Grundimien
der Philosophic des Rechtes (Berlin, 1821), pp. 182-340
(French translation: Principesde la philosophic du droit [Pans: V n n , 1975]); Hegel's
Philosophy
of Right, translated with notes by T. M. Knox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952); Sigmund
Freud, "Das Unbewussten," in Internationale
Zjitschrifte
fur drt^iche Psychoanalyse,
vol. 3
( 1 9 1 5 ) (English translation: "The Unconscious," in Pelican Freud Library, Vol. 11: On
Metapsychology:
The Theory of Psychoanalysis
[Harmondsworth: Penguin, 19&4J); and Die
Zxkunft emer Illusion (Leipzig/Vienna/Zurich: Internationaler Psychoanalvtischer Verlag,
1927) (French translation: VAvenir d'une illusion [Paris: Denoel, 1932], reprinted Pans:
PUF, 1 9 9 5 ; English translation: The Future of an Illusion, in The Pelican Freud Library, Vol.
12: Civilisation, Society and Religion, Group Psychology,
Civilisation and Its Discontents and Other
Works [Harmondsworth: Penguin, I 9 8 5 J ) ; on Reich, cf. note 2 above.
9. Foucault alludes to the well-known formulation of Carl von Clausewitz's principle {Vom
Knege book 1, chap. 1, xxiv, in Hinterlassene
Werke, bd. 1-2-3 [Berlin, 1832] ): "War is a
mere continuation of policy by other means.. . . War is not merely a political act. but
also a truly political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of
the same by other means." On War, edited with an introduction by Anatol Rapoport
(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1 9 8 2 ) (French translation: De la guerre [Pans: Editions de
Minuit, 1 9 5 5 ] ) .
10. This promise was not kept. A lecture on "repression" is, however, intercalated in the
manuscript; it was presumably given at a foreign university. Foucault returns to this
question in La Volonte de savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1 9 7 6 ) (English translation by Robert
Hurley: The Histoty of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction [Harmondsworth: Penguin,
1981]).

two

14 J A N U A R Y 1 9 7 6

War and power.

- Philosophy

and royal power.

subjugation.

i t ...

- Analytics

of sovereignty.

and the limits of power.


- Law, domination,

of power:

- Disciplinary

questions
power.

- Law

%
f

and

of method.

- Theory

- Rule and norm.

\
I

THIS Y E A R , I W O U L D like to beginand to do no more than b e g i n


a s e r i e s of investigations into w h e t h e r or not w a r can possibly p r o v i d e
a principle for the a n a l y s i s of p o w e r relations: can w e find in bellicose
relations, in the m o d e l of w a r , in the s c h e m a of struggle or s t r u g g l e s ,
a p r i n c i p l e that can h e l p us understand and analyze political p o w e r ,
to interpret political p o w e r in t e r m s of w a r , struggles, and confron
tations? I w o u l d l i k e to begin, obviously, w i t h a contrapuntal a n a l y s i s
of the m i l i t a r y institution, of the real, a c t u a l , and historical w a y in
w h i c h m i l i t a r y i n s t i t u t i o n s have functioned in our societies from the
seventeenth century until the present d a y .
U n t i l now, or for roughly the last five y e a r s , it h a s been d i s c i p l i n e s ;
for the n e x t five years, it w i l l be w a r , struggle, the army. At the same
time, I w o u l d like to sum up w h a t I have been t r y i n g to say in
previous y e a r s , because doing so w i l l g i v e me more t i m e for my re
search on w a r , which has not got very far, and also because doing so
might provide a framework of reference for those of you w h o w e r e
not here in previous y e a r s . In any case, I'd like to s u m up w h a t I
have been trying to cover for my o w n benefit.

24

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

W h a t I have been trying to look at since 1970-1971 is the " h o w "


of power. S t u d y i n g the "how of p o w e r , " or in other w o r d s t r y i n g to
u n d e r s t a n d its mechanisms by establishing two markers, or limits; on
the one hand, the rules of right that formally delineate power, and
on the other hand, at the opposite extreme, the other l i m i t might be
the truth-effects that p o w e r produces, that this p o w e r conducts a n d
which, in their turn, reproduce that power. So w e have the triangle:
power, right, t r u t h . In schematic t e r m s , let us say that t h e r e is a
traditional question, w h i c h is, I think, that of political philosophy. It
can be formulated thus: How does the discourse of truth or, quite
s i m p l y , p h i l o s o p h y i n the sense that philosophy is the discourse of
t r u t h par excellenceestablish the l i m i t s of p o w e r ' s r i g h t ? That is
the traditional question. N o w the question I w o u l d l i k e to ask is a
question from below, and it is a very factual question compared to
that t r a d i t i o n a l , noble, a n d philosophical question. M y p r o b l e m is
roughly this: W h a t are the rules of r i g h t t h a t power i m p l e m e n t s to
produce discourses of t r u t h ? Or: W h a t t y p e of p o w e r is it that is
capable of p r o d u c i n g discourses of power that have, in a society l i k e
ours, s u c h powerful effects?
W h a t I m e a n is t h i s : In a society s u c h a s oursor in any society,
come to t h a t m u l i t i p l e relations of power traverse, characterize, a n d
constitute the social body; they are indissociable from a discourse of
t r u t h , a n d they can neither be established nor function unless a t r u e
discourse is produced, a c c u m u l a t e d , p u t into circulation, a n d set to
w o r k . P o w e r cannot be exercised unless a certain economy of d i s
courses of t r u t h functions in, on the basis of, a n d t h a n k s to, that
power. This is true of all societies, but I think that in our society,
this relationship among power, right, a n d t r u t h is o r g a n i z e d in a very
particular w a y .
In order to characterize not just the mechanism of the relationship
between power, right, and t r u t h itself but its intensity and constancy,
let us say that w e are obliged to produce the t r u t h by the power that
demands truth and needs it in order to function: w e are forced to tell
the t r u t h , w e a r e constrained, w e a r e c o n d e m n e d to a d m i t the t r u t h

14 January

1 976

25

or to discover it. Power constantly asks questions a n d questions us;


it constantly investigates and records; it institutionalizes the search
for the truth, professionalizes it, and r e w a r d s it. W e have to produce
the t r u t h in the same w a y , really, that w e have to produce w e a l t h ,
and w e have to produce the t r u t h in order to be able to produce
w e a l t h . In a different sense, w e a r e also subject to the t r u t h in the
sense that t r u t h lays d o w n the l a w : it is the discourse of t r u t h t h a t
decides, at least in part; it conveys and propels truth-effects.

After

all, w e are j u d g e d , condemned, forced to perform tasks, a n d d e s t i n e d


to live a n d die in c e r t a i n w a y s by d i s c o u r s e s t h a t are true, a n d w h i c h
b r i n g w i t h t h e m specific power-effects. So: r u l e s of right, m e c h a n i s m s
of power, truth-effects.

Or: rules of power, and the power of t r u e

discourses. That, r o u g h l y , is the v e r y general d o m a i n I w a n t e d to


examine, and w h i c h I have been e x a m i n i n g to some extent and w i t h ,
as I am w e l l a w a r e , m a n y digressions.
I w o u l d now l i k e to say a few w o r d s about this domain. W h a t
general p r i n c i p l e g u i d e d m e , a n d w h a t w e r e the i m p e r a t i v e com
m a n d s , or the methodological precautions that I resolved to t a k e ?
W h e r e relations b e t w e e n right a n d p o w e r a r e concerned, the g e n e r a l
principle i s , it seems to me, that one fact must never be forgotten: In
Western societies, the elaboration of j u r i d i c a l thought has essentially
centered a r o u n d royal p o w e r ever since the M i d d l e A g e s . The j u r i d
ical edifice of our societies w a s elaborated at the d e m a n d of royal
power, as w e l l as for its benefit, and in order to serve a s its i n s t r u m e n t
or its justification. In the West, right is the r i g h t of the royal com
mand. Everyone is of course familiar w i t h the famous, celebrated,
repeated, a n d repetitive role p l a y e d by j u r i s t s in the organization of
royal power. It must not be forgotten that the reactivation of R o m a n
law in the middle of the M i d d l e A g e s a n d this w a s the g r e a t phe
nomenon that made it possible to reconstruct a juridical edifice that
h a d collapsed after the fall of the R o m a n Empirewas one of the
i n s t r u m e n t s that w a s used to constitute monarchical, a u t h o r i t a r i a n ,
a d m i n i s t r a t i v e , and, u l t i m a t e l y , absolute power. The juridical edifice
was, then, formed around the r o y a l personage, at the d e m a n d of royal

26

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

power, and for the benefit of royal power. When in later centuries
this j u r i d i c a l edifice escaped from royal control, w h e n it w a s t u r n e d
against royal power, the issue at stake w a s a l w a y s , and a l w a y s w o u l d
be, the limits of that power, the question of its prerogatives. In other
w o r d s , I believe that the k i n g w a s the central character in the entire
W e s t e r n j u r i d i c a l edifice. The g e n e r a l system, or at least the general
organization of the W e s t e r n j u r i d i c a l system, w a s all about the king:
the king, his r i g h t s , his power, and the possible l i m i t s of h i s power.
That, basically, is w h a t the general system, or at least the general
organization, of the W e s t e r n j u r i d i c a l system is all about. No matter
whether the jurists w e r e the k i n g ' s servants or his adversaries, the
great edifices of juridical thought and j u r i d i c a l k n o w l e d g e w e r e a l w a y s
about royal power.
It w a s all about r o y a l p o w e r in t w o senses. Either it had to be
demonstrated that royal p o w e r w a s invested in a juridical a r m a t u r e ,
that the monarch w a s i n d e e d the l i v i n g body of sovereignty, and that
his power, even when absolute, w a s perfectly in keeping w i t h a basic
right; or it had to be d e m o n s t r a t e d that the p o w e r of the sovereign
had to be l i m i t e d , that it had to submit to certain rules, and that, if
that power w e r e to retain i t s legitimacy, it h a d to be exercised w i t h i n
certain l i m i t s . From the M i d d l e A g e s o n w a r d , the essential role of the
theory of r i g h t has been to establish the l e g i t i m a c y of power; the major
or central problem around w h i c h the theory of r i g h t is organized is
the problem of sovereignty. To say that the problem of sovereignty is
the central problem of right in W e s t e r n societies means that the e s
sential function of the technique a n d discourse of right is to dissolve
the element of domination in p o w e r a n d to replace that domination,
w h i c h has to be reduced or masked, w i t h t w o things: the legitimate
rights of the sovereign on the one hand, a n d the legal obligation to
obey on the other. The system of right is completely centered on the
k i n g ; it is, in other w o r d s , u l t i m a t e l y an elimination of domination
and its consequences.
In previous y e a r s w h e n w e w e r e t a l k i n g about the various l i t t l e
things I have mentioned, the general project w a s , basically, to invert
the general direction of the analysis that has, I think, been the entire

74 January

1976

27

discourse of r i g h t ever since the M i d d l e A g e s . I have been t r y i n g to


do the opposite, or in other w o r d s to stress the fact of domination in
all its b r u t a l i t y and its secrecy, a n d then to show not only that right
is an instrument of that dominationthat

is self-evidentbut also

how, to w h a t extent, a n d in w h a t form right ( a n d w h e n I say right,


I am not thinking just of the l a w , b u t of all the a p p a r a t u s e s , insti
tutions, a n d rules t h a t a p p l y i t ) serves as a vehicle for a n d i m p l e m e n t s
relations t h a t are not relations of sovereignty, b u t relations of domi
nation. A n d b y d o m i n a t i o n I do not m e a n the b r u t e fact of the dom
ination of the one over the m a n y , or of one g r o u p over another, b u t
the m u l t i p l e forms of d o m i n a t i o n t h a t can be e x e r c i s e d in society; so,
not the k i n g in his central position, b u t subjects in their reciprocal
relations; not sovereignty in its one edifice, but the m u l t i p l e s u b j u
gations t h a t t a k e place a n d function w i t h i n the social body.
The system of right and the j u d i c i a r y field a r e permanent vehicles
for relations of domination, a n d for p o l y m o r p h o u s techniques of s u b
jugation. R i g h t m u s t , I t h i n k , b e v i e w e d not in terms of a l e g i t i m a c y
that has to be established, but in t e r m s of the procedures of s u b j u
gation it i m p l e m e n t s . A s I see it, w e h a v e to b y p a s s or get a r o u n d
the p r o b l e m of s o v e r e i g n t y w h i c h is central to the theory of right
a n d the obedience of i n d i v i d u a l s w h o s u b m i t to it, and to r e v e a l the
p r o b l e m of d o m i n a t i o n a n d subjugation instead of sovereignty a n d
subjugation. H a v i n g s a i d that, a certain n u m b e r of methodological
precautions had to be t a k e n in order to follow this line, w h i c h w a s
an a t t e m p t to b y p a s s or deviate from the general line of the j u r i d i c a l
analysis.
Methodological

precautions. Our

object

is not to a n a l y z e r u l e -

governed and l e g i t i m a t e forms of p o w e r w h i c h h a v e a single center,


or to look at w h a t their general m e c h a n i s m s or its overall effects m i g h t
be. O u r object i s , on the contrary, to u n d e r s t a n d power by looking
at its e x t r e m i t i e s , at its outer l i m i t s at the point where it becomes
capillary; in other w o r d s , to u n d e r s t a n d p o w e r in i t s most regional
forms and i n s t i t u t i o n s , and especially at the points w h e r e this p o w e r
transgresses the r u l e s of r i g h t t h a t organize and delineate it, oversteps
those r u l e s and is invested in institutions, is embodied in t e c h n i q u e s

28

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

D E f E N D t D "

and a c q u i r e s the material m e a n s to i n t e r v e n e , sometimes in violent


w a y s . W e can t a k e an e x a m p l e if you like: rather t h a n t r y i n g to see
w h e r e and how the p o w e r to p u n i s h finds its basis in the sovereignty,
as described by philosophy, of either monarchical right or democratic
right, I tried to look at how the power to punish w a s embodied in a
certain n u m b e r of local, regional, and material institutions, such as
t o r t u r e or imprisonment, and to look at the simultaneously i n s t i t u
tional, p h y s i c a l , regulatory, a n d violent w o r l d of the actual a p p a r a
tuses of p u n i s h m e n t . I t r i e d , in other w o r d s , to understand power by
looking at its e x t r e m i t i e s , at w h e r e its exercise became less and less
j u n d i c i a l . T h a t w a s my first precaution.
Second precaution: M y goal w a s not to a n a l y z e power at the level
of intentions or decisions, not to t r y to approach it from inside, a n d
not to ask the question ( w h i c h l e a d s u s , I t h i n k , into a l a b y r i n t h from
w h i c h t h e r e is no w a y o u t ) : So who has p o w e r ? W h a t is going on in
his h e a d ? A n d w h a t is he t r y i n g to do, t h i s m a n w h o h a s p o w e r ?
The g o a l w a s , on the contrary, to s t u d y p o w e r at the point w h e r e h i s
intentionsif, that is, any intention is involvedare completely i n
v e s t e d in real and effective p r a c t i c e s ; to s t u d y p o w e r by looking, as
it w e r e , at its external face, at the point w h e r e it relates directly and
i m m e d i a t e l y to w h a t w e might, very provisionally, call its object, its
target, its field of application, or, in other w o r d s , the places w h e r e it
i m p l a n t s itself a n d produces its real effects. So the question is not:
W h y do some people w a n t to be d o m i n a n t ? W h a t do thev w a n t ?
W h a t is t h e i r overall s t r a t e g y ? The q u e s t i o n is this: W h a t happens at
the moment of, at the level of the procedure ot subjugation, or in the
continuous and u n i n t e r r u p t e d processes t h a t subjugate bodies, direct
gestures, and regulate forms of b e h a v i o r ? In other w o r d s , rather t h a n
a s k i n g ourselves w h a t the s o v e r e i g n looks l i k e from on high, w e
should be t r y i n g to discover how m u l t i p l e bodies, forces, energies,
matters, desires, thoughts, and so on are g r a d u a l l y , progressively, ac
tually a n d m a t e r i a l l y constituted as subjects, or as the subject. To
grasp the material agency of subjugation insofar as it constitutes s u b
jects w o u l d , if you like, be to do precisely the opposite of w h a t
H o b b e s w a s t r y i n g to do in Leviathan.'

U l t i m a t e l y , I t h i n k that all

J 4 January

197 6

29

jurists try to do the same thing, as t h e i r problem is to discover how


a m u l t i p l i c i t y oi i n d i v i d u a l s and w i l l s can be s h a p e d into a single w i l l
or e v e n a s i n g l e b o d y that is s u p p o s e d l y a n i m a t e d bv a soul k n o w n
2

as sovereignty. R e m e m b e r the schema of Leviathan.

In this schema,

the Leviathan, being an artificial man, is no more than the coagulation


ot a c e r t a i n n u m b e r ot distinct i n d i v i d u a l i t i e s that find themselves
united bv a certain number of the S t a t e ' s constituent elements. But
at the heart, or rather the head, of the State, there is something that
constitutes it as such, and that something

i s sovereignty, w h i c h

Hobbes specifically describes as the soul of the Leviathan. W e l l , rather


than r a i s i n g this problem ol the central soul, I think w e should be
t r y i n g a n d t h i s i s w h a t I have been t r y i n g t o doto study the m u l
t i p l e p e r i p h e r a l b o d i e s , the b o d i e s that are c o n s t i t u t e d as subjects by
power-effects.
Third methodological precaution: Do not r e g a r d p o w e r as a p h e
nomenon of mass and homogeneous d o m i n a t i o n t h e domination ol
one i n d i v i d u a l over others, of one g r o u p over others, or of one class
over others; k e e p it clearly in m i n d that unless w e are looking at it
from a great h e i g h t and from a v e r y great d i s t a n c e , p o w e r i s not
something that is d i v i d e d b e t w e e n those w h o have it and hold it
exclusively, a n d those who d o not have it a n d a r e sub|ect to it. P o w e r
must, I think, be a n a l y z e d as something that c i r c u l a t e s , or r a t h e r as
something that functions only w h e n it is part ot a chain. It is never
localized here or there, it i s never in the h a n d s of some, a n d it is
never a p p r o p r i a t e d in the w a y that w e a l t h or a commodity can be
a p p r o p r i a t e d . Power functions. Power is e x e r c i s e d through n e t w o r k s ,
and i n d i v i d u a l s do not simply circulate in those n e t w o r k s ; they are
in a position to both submit to and e x e r c i s e this power. They are
never t h e inert or consenting targets ol power; they are a l w a y s its
r e l a y s . In other w o r d s , p o w e r passes through i n d i v i d u a l s . It is not
applied to them.
It is therefore, I think, a m i s t a k e to think of the individual as a
sort of e l e m e n t a r y nucleus, a p r i m i t i v e atom or some m u l t i p l e , inert
matter to w h i c h p o w e r is applied, or w h i c h is s t r u c k by a p o w e r that
s u b o r d i n a t e s or destroys i n d i v i d u a l s . In actual fact, one of the

first

JO

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

effects of power is that it allows bodies, gestures, discourses, and


desires to be identified and constituted as something i n d i v i d u a l . The
i n d i v i d u a l is not, in other w o r d s , p o w e r ' s opposite number; the in
dividual is one of p o w e r ' s first effects. The i n d i v i d u a l is in fact a
power-effect, and at the same time, and to the extent that he is a
power-effect, the i n d i v i d u a l is a relay: power passes through the in
d i v i d u a l s it has constituted.
Fourth i m p l i c a t i o n at the

level of methodological

precautions:

When I say, " P o w e r is exercised, circulates, a n d forms n e t w o r k s , " this


m i g h t be true up to a certain point. W e can also say, " W e all have
some element of fascism inside our h e a d s , " or, at a more basic level
still, " W e all have some element of power in our bodies." A n d power
doesat least to some extentpass or migrate through our bodies.
W e can i n d e e d say all that, but I do not t h i n k that w e therefore have
to conclude that p o w e r is the b e s t - d i s t r i b u t e d thing, the most w i d e l y
d i s t r i b u t e d thing, in the w o r l d , even t h o u g h this is, u p to a point,
the case. P o w e r is not d i s t r i b u t e d throughout the body in democratic
or a n a r c h i c fashion. W h a t I mean is this: i t seems to meand this
w i l l be our fourth methodological precautionit is important not to,
so to speak, deduce power by b e g i n n i n g at the center a n d trying to
see how far d o w n it goes, or to w h a t extent it is reproduced

or

r e n e w e d in the most atomistic elements of society. I t h i n k that, on


the c o n t r a r y a n d this is a methodological precaution that has to be
t a k e n w e s h o u l d m a k e an ascending analysis of power, or in other
w o r d s begin w i t h its infinitesimal mechanisms, w h i c h have their own
history, their o w n trajectory, their o w n techniques a n d tactics, a n d
then look at how these mechanisms of power, which have their so
l i d i t y a n d , in a sense, their own technology, have been a n d are i n
vested, colonized, used, inflected, transformed, d i s p l a c e d , extended,
and so on by increasingly general mechanisms a n d forms of overall
domination. Overall domination is not something that is p l u r a h z e d
a n d then has repercussions d o w n below. I t h i n k w e h a v e to analyze
the w a y in w h i c h the phenomena, techniques, and procedures of
power come into play at the lowest levels; we have to show, obviously,
how these procedures are displaced, extended, and modified

and,

14 January

1976

31

above all, how they are invested or a n n e x e d b y global phenomena,


a n d how more general p o w e r s or economic benefits can slip into the
play of t h e s e technologies of p o w e r , w h i c h a r e at once relatively a u
tonomous a n d infinitesimal.
To m a k e t h i n g s clearer, I w i l l t a k e the e x a m p l e of m a d n e s s . W e
c o u l d s a y t h i s , w e c o u l d m a k e the descending analysis we h a v e to
distrust. W e could s a y t h a t from the late sixteenth c e n t u r y or the
seventeenth century o n w a r d , the bourgeoisie became the r u l i n g class.
Having s a i d that, how can w e deduce that the m a d w i l l be confined?
Y o u can certainly m a k e t h a t d e d u c t i o n ; it is a l w a y s e a s y , a n d that is
precisely w h a t I hold a g a i n s t it. It is in fact easy to show how, because
the m a d are obviously of no use to i n d u s t r i a l production, t h e y have
to b e got r i d of. W e could, if y o u like, say the same thing, not about
the m a d m a n this t i m e , b u t about infantile s e x u a l i t y a n d a n u m b e r
3

of people h a v e done so: W i l h e l m R e i c h does so up to a point, a n d


H

R e i m u t Reich c e r t a i n l y does so. W e could a s k how the rule of the


bourgeoisie a l l o w s us to u n d e r s t a n d the repression of infantile s e x u
ality. Well, i t ' s q u i t e s i m p l e : from the seventeenth or eighteenth cen
t u r y o n w a r d , the h u m a n b o d y essentially became a p r o d u c t i v e force,
a n d all forms of e x p e n d i t u r e that could not be r e d u c e d to these r e
lations, or to the constitution of the productive forces, all forms of
e x p e n d i t u r e t h a t could be s h o w n to be u n p r o d u c t i v e , w e r e b a n i s h e d ,
excluded, a n d repressed. Such d e d u c t i o n s are a l w a y s possible; t h e y
a r e both t r u e and false. T h e y a r e essentially too facile, because w e can
say precisely the opposite. W e can deduce from the p r i n c i p l e that the
bourgeoisie b e c a m e a r u l i n g class t h a t controlling s e x u a l i t y , a n d i n
fantile s e x u a l i t y , is not absolutely d e s i r a b l e . W e c a n r e a c h the opposite
conclusion a n d s a y t h a t w h a t is n e e d e d is a sexual a p p r e n t i c e s h i p ,
sexual training, sexual precocity, to the e x t e n t t h a t the goal is to use
sexuality to reproduce a labor force, a n d it is w e l l k n o w n that, at
least in the early nineteenth c e n t u r y , it w a s b e l i e v e d that the o p t i m a l
labor force w a s an infinite labor force: the g r e a t e r the labor force, the
greater the capitalist system of production's a b i l i t y to function

fully

and efficiently.
I t h i n k that w e can deduce w h a t e v e r we l i k e from the g e n e r a l

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

phenomenon of the domination of the bourgeois class. It seems to me


that w e s h o u l d be doing q u i t e the opposite, or in other w o r d s looking
in historical t e r m s , a n d from below, at how control mechanisms could
come into play in t e r m s of the exclusion of madness, or the repression
a n d suppression of s e x u a l i t y ; at how these phenomena of repression
or exclusion found their i n s t r u m e n t s a n d their logic, a n d met a certain
n u m b e r of needs at the actual level of the family a n d its i m m e d i a t e
entourage, or in the cells or the lowest levels of society. W e should
be s h o w i n g w h a t their agents w e r e , and w e should be looking for
those agents not in the bourgeoisie in general, but in the real agents
that exist in the i m m e d i a t e entourage: the family, parents, doctors,
the lowest levels of the police, a n d so on. A n d w e should be looking
at how, at a given moment, in a specific conjuncture and subject to a
certain n u m b e r of transformations, these p o w e r - m e c h a n i s m s began to
become economically profitable a n d p o l i t i c a l l y useful. A n d I think w e
could easily succeed in d e m o n s t r a t i n g a n d t h i s is, after all, w h a t I
have tried to do on a number of occasions in the pastthat, basically,
w h a t the bourgeoisie needed, and the reason w h y the system u l t i
m a t e l y proved to w o r k to its advantage, w a s not that the m a d had to
be excluded or that childhood masturbation h a d to be controlled or
forbiddenthe

bourgeois system can, I repeat, quite easily tolerate

the opposite of this. W h a t did prove to be in its interest, and w h a t


it d i d invest, w a s not the fact that they w e r e excluded, but the tech
nique and procedures of their exclusion. It w a s the mechanisms of
exclusion, the surveillance a p p a r a t u s , the m e d i c a h z a t i o n of sexuality,
madness, and d e l i n q u e n c y , it w a s all that, or in other w o r d s the m i cromechanics of power that came at a certain moment to represent,
to constitute the interest of the bourgeoisie. That is w h a t the b o u r
geoisie w a s i n t e r e s t e d in.
To put it a n o t h e r w a y : to the extent t h a t these notions of "the
bourgeoisie" and "the i n t e r e s t s of the b o u r g e o i s i e " p r o b a b l y have no
content, or at least not in t e r m s of the p r o b l e m s w e have just raised,
what w e have to realize is precisely that there w a s no such thing as
a bourgeoisie that thought that madness should be excluded or that
infantile s e x u a l i t y had to be repressed; but there were mechanisms to

14 January

1976

exclude madness and t e c h n i q u e s t o keep infantile s e x u a l i t y u n d e r


surveillance. A t a g i v e n moment, a n d for reasons t h a t have to be
studied, they generated a certain economic profit, a certain political
utility, and they w e r e therefore

colonized and supported by global

m e c h a n i s m s and, finally, by the entire s y s t e m of the State. If w e con


centrate on the techniques of power a n d show the economic profit or
political u t i l i t y that can b e d e r i v e d from t h e m , in a certain context
and for certain reasons, then w e can u n d e r s t a n d how these m e c h a
n i s m s a c t u a l l y a n d e v e n t u a l l y became p a r t of the w h o l e . In

other

w o r d s , the bourgeoisie doesn't give a d a m n about the m a d , but from


the nineteenth c e n t u r y o n w a r d a n d subject to certain transformations,
the p r o c e d u r e s used to e x c l u d e the m a d p r o d u c e d or g e n e r a t e d a
political profit, or even a certain economic u t i l i t y . They consolidated
the system a n d helped it to function as a w h o l e . The bourgeoisie is
not interested in the mad, b u t it is interested in p o w e r over the m a d ;
the bourgeoisie is not interested in the s e x u a l i t y of children, but it is
interested in the system of p o w e r that controls the s e x u a l i t y of c h i l
dren. The bourgeoisie does not give a damn about d e l i n q u e n t s , or
about how t h e y a r e punished or r e h a b i l i t a t e d , as t h a t is of no great
economic interest. On the other hand, the set of m e c h a n i s m s w h e r e b y
d e l i n q u e n t s a r e controlled, kept t r a c k of, p u n i s h e d , and reformed does
generate a bourgeois interest t h a t functions w i t h i n the

economico-

pohtical s y s t e m a s a w h o l e . T h a t is the fourth precaution, the fourth


methodological line I w a n t e d to follow.
Fifth precaution: It is q u i t e possible t h a t ideological p r o d u c t i o n
d i d coexist w i t h the great m a c h i n e r i e s of p o w e r . T h e r e w a s no d o u b t
an ideology of education, an ideology of monarchical p o w e r , an ide
ology of p a r l i a m e n t a r y democracy, a n d so on. But I do not t h i n k that
it i s ideologies that are shaped at the base, at the point w h e r e the
n e t w o r k s of power c u l m i n a t e . It is much less and much more than
that. It is the actual instruments that form a n d accumulate k n o w l
edge, the observational methods, the r e c o r d i n g t e c h n i q u e s , the i n v e s
tigative research procedures, the verification m e c h a n i s m s . That i s , the
delicate m e c h a n i s m s of p o w e r cannot function unless k n o w l e d g e , or
rather k n o w l e d g e apparatuses, are formed, organized, and put

into

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

circulation, and those a p p a r a t u s e s are not ideological trimmings or


edifices.
To sum u p these five methodological precautions, let me say that
rather than orienting our research into power t o w a r d the juridical
edifice of sovereignty, State apparatuses, a n d the ideologies that ac
company them, I think we s h o u l d orient our analysis of p o w e r t o w a r d
material operations, forms of subjugation, a n d the connections among
a n d the uses made of the local systems of subjugation on the one
hand, and a p p a r a t u s e s of k n o w l e d g e on the other.
In short, w e have to abandon the model of Leviathan, that model
of an artificial m a n w h o is at once an automaton, a fabricated man,
but also a unitary m a n w h o contains all real i n d i v i d u a l s , whose body
is m a d e u p of citizens b u t w h o s e soul i s sovereignty. W e have to study
p o w e r outside the model of Leviathan, outside the field delineated by
juridical sovereignty and t h e i n s t i t u t i o n of t h e State. W e have to an
alyze it by beginning w i t h the techniques a n d tactics of domination.
That, I t h i n k , is the methodological line w e have to follow, a n d w h i c h
I have t r i e d to follow in the different research projects w e have u n
d e r t a k e n in previous y e a r s on psychiatric p o w e r , infantile sexuality,
the punitive system, a n d so on.
Now if w e look at this domain and take these methodological pre
cautions, I t h i n k that one massive historical fact emerges, and that it
will help to p r o v i d e u s w i t h a n introduction to the p r o b l e m I w i s h
to t a l k about from now o n w a r d . The massive historical fact is this:
The j u r i d i c o - p o l i t i c a l theory of sovereigntythe theory we have to
get a w a y from if w e w a n t to a n a l y z e power-dates from the M i d d l e
A g e s . It dates from the reactivation of R o m a n l a w and is constituted
around the p r o b l e m of the monarch and the monarchy. A n d I believe
that, in historical t e r m s , this theory of s o v e r e i g n t y w h i c h is the great
t r a p w e are in danger of falling into w h e n w e try to a n a l y z e power
p l a y e d tour roles.
First, it referred to an actual p o w e r mechanism: that of the feudal
monarchy. Second, it w a s used as an instrument to constitute a n d
justify the great monarchical administrations. From the sixteenth and
especially the seventeenth century onward, or at the time of the W a r s

74 January

1976

15

of R e l i g i o n , the theory of sovereignty then became a w e a p o n that w a s


in circulation on both sides, and it w a s used both to restrict a n d to
strengthen royal p o w e r . You find it in the hands of Catholic mon
archists a n d Protestant antimonarchists; you also find it in the h a n d s
of more or less l i b e r a l Protestant monarchists; y o u also find it in the
h a n d s of C a t h o l i c s w h o advocate regicide or a c h a n g e of d y n a s t y . You
find t h i s theory of sovereignty b e i n g b r o u g h t into p l a y by aristocrats
a n d parlement

aires?

by the r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s of royal p o w e r a n d by the

last feudalists. It w a s , in a w o r d , the g r e a t i n s t r u m e n t of the political


a n d theoretical struggles that took p l a c e a r o u n d systems of p o w e r in
the s i x t e e n t h a n d seventeenth c e n t u r i e s . In the eighteenth c e n t u r y ,
finally,

you find the s a m e t h e o r y of s o v e r e i g n t y , the s a m e reactivation

of R o m a n l a w , in the w o r k of Rousseau and his contemporaries, but


it now p l a y e d a fourth and different role; at this point in time, its
role w a s to construct an alternative model to a u t h o r i t a r i a n or absolute
monarchical administration: that of the p a r l i a m e n t a r y democracies.
A n d it w e n t on p l a y i n g t h a t role u n t i l the t i m e of the Revolution.
It seems to me that if w e look at these four roles, w e find that, so
long as feudal-type societies survived, the p r o b l e m s dealt w i t h by the
theory of sovereignty, or to w h i c h it referred, w e r e actually coexten
sive w i t h the g e n e r a l mechanics of p o w e r , or the w a y p o w e r w a s
exercised from the highest to the l o w e s t levels. In other w o r d s , the
relationship of sovereignty, u n d e r s t o o d

in both the broad a n d

the

n a r r o w sense, w a s , in short, coextensive w i t h the entire social body.


A n d the w a y i n w h i c h p o w e r w a s e x e r c i s e d could indeed be t r a n
s c r i b e d , at least in its essentials, in t e r m s of the s o v e r e i g n / s u b j e c t
relationship.
N o w , an i m p o r t a n t phenomenon occurred in the seventeenth a n d
eighteenth centuries: the appearanceone should say the invention
of a n e w m e c h a n i s m of p o w e r w h i c h had very specific procedures,
completely n e w i n s t r u m e n t s , and v e r y different e q u i p m e n t . It w a s , I
believe, absolutely i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h relations of sovereignty. T h i s
new mechanism of p o w e r a p p l i e s p r i m a r i l y to bodies a n d w h a t they
do rather than to the land and w h a t it produces. It w a s a m e c h a n i s m
of p o w e r that made it possible to extract time a n d labor, rather than

36

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

commodities a n d w e a l t h , from bodies. It w a s a type of power that


w a s exercised through constant surveillance and not in discontinuous
fashion t h r o u g h chronologically defined systems of taxation and ob
ligation. It w a s a type of power that presupposed a closely meshed
g r i d of material coercions rather than the physical existence of a sov
ereign, and it therefore defined a new economy of power based upon
the p r i n c i p l e that there had to be an increase both in the subjugated
forces and in the force and efficacy of that w h i c h subjugated them.
It seems to me that this t y p e of p o w e r is the exact, point-for-point
opposite of the mechanics of p o w e r that the theory of sovereignty
described or tried to transcribe. The theory of sovereignty is b o u n d
up w i t h a form of p o w e r that is exercised over the l a n d and the
produce of the land, much more so than over bodies and what they
do. [This t h e o r y ] concerns p o w e r ' s displacement and

appropriation

not of time and labor, but of goods and w e a l t h . This m a k e s it possible


to transcribe, into j u r i d i c a l t e r m s , discontinuous obligations and tax
records, b u t not to code continuous surveillance; it is a theory that
makes it possible to found absolute power around and on the basis
of the physical existence of the sovereign, but not continuous

and

permanent systems of surveillance. The theory of sovereignty is, if you


like, a theory w h i c h can found absolute p o w e r on the absolute e x
p e n d i t u r e of p o w e r , but w h i c h cannot calculate p o w e r with m i n i m u m
e x p e n d i t u r e and m a x i m u m efficiency. This new t y p e of power, which
can therefore no longer be transcribed in terms of sovereignty, is, I
believe, one of bourgeois society's great inventions. It w a s one of the
basic tools for the establishment of industrial capitalism and the cor
responding type of society. This nonsovereign power, w h i c h is foreign
to the form of sovereignty, is " d i s c i p l i n a r y " power. This power cannot
be described or justified in terms of the theory of sovereignty. It is
radically heterogeneous and should logically have led to the complete
disappearance of the great juridical edifice of the theory of sovereignty.
In fact, the theory of sovereignty not only continued to exist as, if
you like, an ideology of right; it also continued to organize the j u r i d
ical codes that nineteenth-century

Europe adopted after the N a p o

leonic codes.'' W h y did the theory of sovereignty live on in this way

14 January

7 9 76

37

as an ideology and as the organizing p r i n c i p l e b e h i n d the great j u


ridical codes?
I t h i n k there are t w o reasons. On the one hand, the theory of
sovereignty w a s , in the seventeenth century and even the nineteenth
century, a p e r m a n e n t critical i n s t r u m e n t to be used against the mon
a r c h y and all the obstacles t h a t stood in the w a y of the development
of the d i s c i p l i n a r y society. On the other h a n d , this theory, a n d the
organization of a j u r i d i c a l code c e n t e r e d upon it, m a d e it possible to
superimpose on t h e mechanism of d i s c i p l i n e a system of right that
concealed its mechanisms and erased the element of domination a n d
the t e c h n i q u e s of domination involved in discipline, and w h i c h , fi
n a l l y , g u a r a n t e e d t h a t everyone could exercise his or her own sover
eign r i g h t s t h a n k s to the s o v e r e i g n t y of the State. In other w o r d s ,
juridical systems, no matter w h e t h e r t h e y w e r e theories or codes,
allowed the democratization of sovereignty, and the establishment of
a p u b l i c right a r t i c u l a t e d w i t h collective sovereignty, at the verv t i m e
when, to the extent that, a n d because the democratization of sover
eignty w a s heavily ballasted by the mechanisms of d i s c i p l i n a r y coer
cion. To p u t it in more condensed t e r m s , one might say t h a t once
disciplinary constraints h a d to both Junction as mechanisms of d o m
ination and be concealed to the e x t e n t t h a t they w e r e the mode in
which p o w e r w a s actually exercised, the theory of sovereignty had to
find expression in t h e j u r i d i c a l a p p a r a t u s a n d had to b e reactivated
or complemented b y judicial codes.
From the nineteenth c e n t u r y u n t i l the present day, we h a v e then
in m o d e r n societies, on the one hand, a legislation, a discourse, a n d
an organization of p u b l i c right a r t i c u l a t e d a r o u n d the principle of the
sovereignty of the social body and the delegation of i n d i v i d u a l sov
ereignty to the State; a n d we also have a t i g h t g r i d of d i s c i p l i n a r y
coercions that a c t u a l l y g u a r a n t e e s the cohesion of that social body.
Now that g r i d cannot in any w a y be transcribed in right, even though
the t w o necessarily go together. A right of sovereignty and a m e
chanics of d i s c i p l i n e . It i s , I t h i n k , b e t w e e n these t w o l i m i t s that
power is exercised. The t w o l i m i t s a r e , however, of such a k i n d a n d
so heterogeneous that w e can never reduce one to the other. In mod-

38

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

ern societies, p o w e r is exercised through, on the basis of, a n d in the


very play of the heterogeneity b e t w e e n a public right of sovereignty
a n d a p o l y m o r p h o u s mechanics of discipline. This is not to say that
y o u have, on the one hand, a g a r r u l o u s a n d explicit system of right,
a n d on the other hand, obscure silent disciplines that operate down
below, in the shadows, a n d which constitute the silent basement of
the great mechanics of power. Disciplines in fact have their o w n d i s
course. They do, for the reasons I w a s telling you about a moment
ago, create a p p a r a t u s e s of k n o w l e d g e , k n o w l e d g e s and multiple fields
of expertise. T h e y are e x t r a o r d i n a r i l y inventive w h e n it comes to cre
ating a p p a r a t u s e s to shape k n o w l e d g e and expertise, and they do s u p
port a discourse, b u t it is a discourse that cannot be the discourse of
right or a j u r i d i c a l discourse. The discourse of discipline is alien to
t h a t of the l a w ; it is alien to the discourse that makes rules a product
of t h e will of the sovereign. The discourse of disciplines is about a
rule: not a j u r i d i c a l rule d e r i v e d from sovereignty, but a discourse
about a natural rule, or in other w o r d s a norm. Disciplines w i l l define
not a code of l a w , but a code of normalization, and t h e y w i l l neces
s a r i l y refer to a theoretical horizon that is not the edifice of l a w , but
the field of the h u m a n sciences. A n d the j u r i s p r u d e n c e of these d i s
ciplines w i l l b e that of a clinical k n o w l e d g e .
In short, w h a t I h a v e been t r y i n g to show over the last few years
is certainly not how, as the front of the exact sciences advances, the
uncertain, difficult, and confused domain of h u m a n behavior is g r a d
ually a n n e x e d by science: the g r a d u a l constitution of the h u m a n sci
ences is not the result of an increased rationality on t h e part of the
e x a c t sciences. I t h i n k that the process that has m a d e possible the
discourse of the human sciences is the juxtaposition of, the confron
tation between, t w o m e c h a n i s m s and t w o t y p e s of discourse t h a t are
absolutely heterogeneous: on the one hand, the organization of right
around sovereignty, and on the other, the mechanics of the coercions
exercised by disciplines. In our day, it is the fact that p o w e r is e x
ercised t h r o u g h both right and disciplines, that the techniques of
discipline and discourses born of discipline are invading right, and
that normalizing procedures are increasingly colonizing the proce-

14 January

1970

39

d u r e s of the l a w , that might e x p l a i n the overall w o r k i n g s of w h a t I


would call a " n o r m a l i z i n g society."
To b e m o r e specific, w h a t I mean is t h i s : I t h i n k that normalization,
that d i s c i p l i n a r y normalizations, a r e i n c r e a s i n g l y in conflict w i t h the
juridical s y s t e m of sovereignty; the i n c o m p a t i b i l i t y of the two is i n
creasingly apparent; t h e r e is a greater a n d greater need for a sort of
arbitrating discourse, for a sort of power a n d k n o w l e d g e that has been
rendered neutral because its scientificity h a s become sacred. A n d it
is precisely in the expansion

of m e d i c i n e that w e a r e seeingI

w o u l d n ' t call it a combination of, a reduction ofbut a perpetual


exchange or confrontation

between the mechanics of discipline and

the principle of right. The development of medicine, the general m e d lcahzation of behavior, modes of conduct, discourses, d e s i r e s , a n d so
on, is t a k i n g place on the front w h e r e the heterogeneous l a y e r s of
discipline a n d sovereignty meet.
T h a t is w h y w e now find ourselves in a situation w h e r e the only
existing a n d a p p a r e n t l y solid recourse w e have against the u s u r p a t i o n s
of d i s c i p l i n a r y mechanics a n d a g a i n s t the rise of a p o w e r that is b o u n d
up w i t h scientific k n o w l e d g e is precisely a recourse or a r e t u r n to a
right that is o r g a n i z e d around sovereignty, or that is a r t i c u l a t e d on
that old p r i n c i p l e . Which means in concrete terms that when w e w a n t
to make some objection against d i s c i p l i n e s and all the k n o w l e d g e effects and power-effects that are b o u n d u p w i t h t h e m , w h a t do w e
do in concrete terms? W h a t do w e do in real life? W h a t do

the

Syndicat de la m a g i s t r a t u r e a n d other institutions like it d o ? W h a t


do w e do? W e obviously invoke r i g h t , the famous old formal, b o u r
geois right. A n d it is in reality the right of sovereignty. A n d I t h i n k
that at t h i s point w e a r e in a sort ol b o t t l e n e c k , t h a t w e cannot go
on w o r k i n g l i k e this forever; having recourse to sovereignty against
discipline will not e n a b l e us to limit the effects ol disciplinary p o w e r .
Sovereignty and d i s c i p l i n e , legislation, the right of sovereignty and
disciplinary mechanics are in fact the t w o things that constitutein
an absolute sensethe general mechanisms of p o w e r in our society.
Truth to tell, if w e a r e to struggle against d i s c i p l i n e s , or rather against
disciplinary power, in our search for a n o n d i s c i p l i n a r y power, w e

40

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

should not be turning to the old right of sovereignty; w e should be


looking for a new right that is b o t h a n t i d i s c i p h n a r y and emancipated
from the principle of sovereignty.
A t this point w e come back to the notion of "repression." I may
talk to you about that next time, unless I have had enough of r e
peating things that have a l r e a d y been said, and move on immediately
to other things to do w i t h w a r . If I feel like it and if I can be bothered
to, I will talk to you about the notion of "repression," w h i c h h a s , I
t h i n k , the twofold

disadvantage, in the use that is made of it, of

m a k i n g obscure reference to a certain theory of sovereigntythe t h e


ory of the sovereign rights of the i n d i v i d u a l a n d of b r i n g i n g into
play, w h e n it is used, a whole set of psychological references b o r r o w e d
from the h u m a n sciences, or in other w o r d s from discourses and p r a c
tices that relate to the d i s c i p l i n a r y domain. I think that the notion of
" r e p r e s s i o n " is still, whatever critical use w e t r y to m a k e of it, a
( u r i d i c o - d i s c i p h n a r y notion; and to that extent the critical use of the
notion of "repression" is t a i n t e d , spoiled, and rotten from the outset
because it implies both a juridical reference to sovereignty and a d i s
c i p l i n a r y reference to normalization. N e x t time, I will either talk to
you about repression or move on to the problem of w a r .

14 January

7976

41

1. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Common-Wealth


Eidesiasticai/
and Civill { London, 1651). The I-a tin translation of the text, which was in fact a new
version, was published in Amsterdam in 1 6 6 8 .
2. Foucault is alluding to the famous frontispiece to the "Head" edition of Leviathan pub
lished by Andrew Crooke. It depicts the bodv of a state constituted bv its subjects, with
the head representing the sovereign, who holds a sword in one hand and a crosier in
the other. The basic attributes of civil and ecclesiastical power are depicted below it.
3- Wilhelm Reich, Der Einbruch der Sexua/moraL
4. Reimut Reich, Sexualitdt und Klassenkampf: %ur Abwehr rtpressiver Ensublimierung ( Frankfurt
am Main: Verlag Neue Kntik, 1 9 6 8 ) (French translation: Sexualiteet lutte de classe [Pans:
Maspero, 1 9 6 9 ] ) .
5. The thirteen parlements of the Ancien Regime were high courts of appeal and had no
legislative powers, though the parlement de Paris did attempt to usurp such powers.
[Trans. ]
6. The reference is to the "Napoleonic codes," or in other words the Code civil of 1804,
the Code d e s t r u c t i o n criminelle of 1808, and the Code penal of 1810.

three

21 J A N U A R Y 1 9 7 6

Theory

of sovereignty

analyzer
|

society.

and operators

of power

relations.

- Historico-political

of domination.

- The binary

discourse,

- War as

structure

the discourse

of

J.

of perpetual

is..

war. - The dialectic

and its codifications.

struggle

and its

- The discourse

of race

transcriptions.

L A S T T I M E , W E S A I D a sort of farewell to the theory of s o v e r e i g n t y

insofar as it couldand canbe described as a method for a n a l y z i n g


p o w e r relations. I w o u l d l i k e to show you that the j u r i d i c a l model of
sovereignty w a s not, I believe, a b l e to provide a concrete a n a l y s i s of
t h e m u l t i p l i c i t y of p o w e r relations. In fact, it seems to meto s u m it
all u p in a few w o r d s , in t h r e e w o r d s to be precisethat the t h e o r y
of sovereignty necessarily tries to establish w h a t I w o u l d c a l l a c y c l e
the subject-to-subject c y c l e a n d to show h o w a subjectunderstood
as m e a n i n g an i n d i v i d u a l who is n a t u r a l l y e n d o w e d ( o r e n d o w e d by
n a t u r e ) w i t h rights, capabilities, and so oncan and m u s t become a
subject, this time in the sense of an element that is subjectified in a
power relationship. Sovereignty is the theory that goes from subject
to subject, that e s t a b l i s h e s the political relationship b e t w e e n subject
and subject. Second, it seems to me that the theory of sovereignty
assumes from the outset the existence of a m u l t i p l i c i t y of p o w e r s that
are not p o w e r s in the political sense of the term; they are capacities,
possibilities, potentials, and it can constitute them as p o w e r s in the
political sense of the t e r m only if it h a s in the meantime established

44

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

a moment of fundamental and foundational unity between possibilities


a n d p o w e r s , n a m e l y the u n i t y of power. W h e t h e r this u n i t y of power
t a k e s on the face of the monarch or the form of the State is irrelevant;
the various forms, aspects, mechanisms, and institutions ol p o w e r will
be derived from this u n i t a r y power. T h e m u l t i p l i c i t y of powers, in
the sense of political p o w e r s , can be established a n d can function only
on the b a s i s of this u n i t a r y p o w e r , w h i c h is founded by the theory
of sovereignty. Third and finally, it seems to me that the theory of
sovereignty shows, or attempts to show, how a power can be consti
tuted, not e x a c t l y in accordance w i t h the law, but in accordance w i t h
a certain basic legitimacy that is more basic than any law and that
allows l a w s to function as such. The theory of sovereignty is, in other
w o r d s , the subject-to-subject

cycle, the cycle of power and powers,

and the cycle of legitimacy and l a w . So we can say that in one w a y


or anotherand depending, obviously, upon the different theoretical
schemata in which it is deployedthe theory of sovereignty p r e s u p
poses the subject; its goal is to establish the essential u n i t y of power,
and it is a l w a y s deployed w i t h i n the preexisting element of the l a w .
It therefore

assumes the existence of three " p r i m i t i v e " elements: a

subject who has to be subjectified, the unity of the p o w e r that has to


be founded, and the legitimacy that has to be respected. Subject, u n i
t a r y p o w e r , and l a w : the theory of sovereignty comes into play, I
think, among these elements, and it both takes them as given and
tries to found them. M y projectwhich I i m m e d i a t e l y abandoned
w a s to show you how the instrument that politico-psychological anal
ysis a c q u i r e d almost three or four h u n d r e d y e a r s a g o , or in other
w o r d s the notion of repressionwhich does look, rather, as though
it w a s b o r r o w e d from Freudianism or F r e u d o - M a r x i s m w a s in fact
inscribed in an interpretation

of p o w e r as sovereignty. To do that

would, however, take us back over things that have already been said,
so I w i l l move on, though I m a y come back to this at the end of the
y e a r if w e have enough time left.
The general project, both in previous vears and this vear, is to trv
to release or emancipate this a n a l v s i s of power from three assump-

21 January

1976

45

tionsof subject, unity, and l a w a n d to b r i n g out, r a t h e r than these


basic elements of sovereignty, what I w o u l d call relations or operators
of domination. R a t h e r than d e r i v i n g p o w e r s from sovereignty, we
should be e x t r a c t i n g operators of domination from relations of power,
both historically a n d e m p i r i c a l l y . A theory of domination, of domi
n a t i o n s , r a t h e r than a theory of sovereignty: this means t h a t rather
than starting w i t h the subject ( o r even s u b j e c t s ) a n d elements that
exist prior to the relationship a n d that can be localized, we begin
w i t h the power relationship itself, w i t h the a c t u a l or effective rela
tionship of domination, and see how that relationship itself d e t e r
mines the e l e m e n t s to w h i c h it is a p p l i e d . W e should not, therefore,
be a s k i n g subjects how, w h y , and by w h a t right they can agree to
being subjugated, b u t showing how actual relations of subjugation
manufacture subjects. Our second task should be to reveal relations
of domination, a n d to allow them to assert themselves in their m u l
tiplicity, their differences, their specificity, or their r e v e r s i b i l i t y ; w e
s h o u l d not be l o o k i n g for a sort of sovereignty from w h i c h p o w e r s
spring, but showing how the v a r i o u s operators of d o m i n a t i o n s u p p o r t
one another, r e l a t e to one another, at how they converge a n d reinforce
one another in some cases, and negate or strive to annul one another
in other cases. I am obviously not saying that great a p p a r a t u s e s of
p o w e r do not exist, or t h a t we can neither g e t at them nor d e s c r i b e
them. But I do t h i n k that they a l w a y s function on the basis of these
a p p a r a t u s e s of domination. To put it in more concrete terms, we can
obviously describe a given society's school a p p a r a t u s or its set of ed
ucational a p p a r a t u s e s , b u t I think that w e can analyze them effectively
only if w e do not see them as an overall u n i t y , onlv if w e do not try
to derive t h e m from s o m e t h i n g like the S t a t i s t unity of sovereignty.
W e can analyze them only if w e try to see how they interact, how
they support one another, a n d how t h i s a p p a r a t u s defines a certain
n u m b e r of global strategies on the basis of multiple subjugations ( of
child to a d u l t , progeny to parents, ignorance to k n o w l e d g e , apprentice
to master, family to a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , a n d so o n ) . All these mechanisms
a n d operators of domination are the actual plinth of the global a p -

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

p a r a t u s that is the school a p p a r a t u s . So, if you like, w e have to see


the structures of power as global strategies that traverse and use local
tactics ol domination.
Third a n d finally, revealing relations of domination rather than the
source of sovereignty m e a n s this: W e do not t r y to trace their origins
back to that w h i c h gives them t h e i r basic legitimacy. W e have to try,
on the contrary, to identify the technical i n s t r u m e n t s t h a t guarantee
that they function. So to s u m up and to, if not settle the issue for the
moment, at least clarify it somewhat: Rather than looking at the three
p r e r e q u i s i t e s of l a w , u n i t y , a n d subjectwhich m a k e s o v e r e i g n t y both
the source of p o w e r and the basis of institutionsI t h i n k t h a t w e
have to adopt the threefold point of v i e w of the techniques, the het
erogeneity of t e c h n i q u e s , and the subjugation-effects that m a k e tech
nologies of domination the real fabric of both power relations and the
g r e a t a p p a r a t u s e s of power. The manufacture of subjects r a t h e r than
the genesis of the sovereign: that is our general theme. But w h i l e it
is q u i t e clear that relations of domination provide the access road that
leads to the analysis of power, how can we analyze these relations of
d o m i n a t i o n ? W h i l e it is true that w e should be studying domination
a n d not sovereignty, or rather that w e should be s t u d y i n g d o m i n a t i o n s
a n d operators of domination, how can w e pursue our analysis of r e
l a t i o n s of d o m i n a t i o n ? To w h a t e x t e n t can a relationship of domi
nation boil d o w n to or be r e d u c e d to the notion of a relationship of
force? To w h a t extent a n d h o w can the r e l a t i o n s h i p of force be r e
d u c e d to a relationship of w a r ?
That i s , so to speak, the p r e l i m i n a r y question I w o u l d like to look
at a bit t h i s year: C a n w a r r e a l l y provide a v a l i d analysis of power
relations, and can it act as a m a t r i x for techniques of d o m i n a t i o n ?
You m i g h t say to me that we cannot, from the outset, confuse power
relations w i t h relations of w a r . Of course not. I am s i m p l y t a k i n g an
e x t r e m e [ c a s e ] to the e x t e n t that w a r can be r e g a r d e d as the point
ol m a x i m u m tension, or a s force-relations laid bare. Is the p o w e r
relationship basically a relationship of confrontation, a struggle to the
death, or a w a r ? If we look beneath peace, order, w e a l t h , and a u
thority, beneath the calm order of subordinations, beneath the State

2 J January

79/6

and State apparatuses, beneath the l a w s , and so on, will w e hear and
discover a sort of p r i m i t i v e and permanent w a r ? I would like to begin
by a s k i n g t h i s question, not forgetting that we will also have to raise
a w h o l e series of other questions. I w i l l t r y to deal w i t h them in vears
to come. A s a first a p p r o x i m a t i o n , w e can simplv say that they include
the following questions. C a n the p h e n o m e n o n of w a r be regarded a s
p r i m a r y w i t h respect to other r e l a t i o n s ( r e l a t i o n s of i n e q u a l i t y , d i s
s y m m e t r i e s , divisions of labor, relations of exploitation, et c e t e r a ) ?
M u s t i t be r e g a r d e d as p r i m a r y ? C a n w e and must w e group together
in the general mechanism, the general form, k n o w n a s w a r , p h e n o m
ena such as antagonism, r i v a l r y , confrontation, and struggles b e t w e e n
i n d i v i d u a l s , g r o u p s , or classes? W e m i g h t also ask w h e t h e r

notions

derived from w h a t w a s k n o w n in the eighteenth c e n t u r y and even


the nineteenth century as the art of w a r ( s t r a t e g y , tactics, et c e t e r a )
constitute in themselves a v a l i d and a d e q u a t e i n s t r u m e n t for the a n a l
ysis of p o w e r r e l a t i o n s . W e could, and must, also ask ourselves if
m i l i t a r y institutions, a n d the practices that s u r r o u n d t h e m a n d in
more general t e r m s all the t e c h n i q u e s that are used to fight a w a r
are, whichever w a y w e look at them, directly or indirectly, the nucleus
of political institutions. A n d finally, the first question I w o u l d like to
s t u d y this year is this: H o w , w h e n , and w h y w a s it noticed or i m a g
ined that w h a t is going on beneath and in power relations is a w a r ?
W h e n , how, and w h y d i d someone come u p w i t h the idea that it is
a sort of u n i n t e r r u p t e d

battle that shapes peace, and that the civil

o r d e r i t s b a s i s , its essence, its essential mechanismsis basically a n


o r d e r of b a t t l e ? W h o came u p w i t h the i d e a that the civil order is
an order of b a t t l e ? [ . . . ] Who s a w w a r just beneath the surface of
peace; w h o sought in t h e noise and confusion of w a r , in t h e m u d of
battles, t h e principle that a l l o w s u s to u n d e r s t a n d order, t h e State,
its institutions, and its h i s t o r y ?
That, then, i s the question I am g o i n g to p u r s u e a bit in coming
lectures, a n d p e r h a p s for the rest of the year. Basically, the question
can be put very simply, a n d that is how I b e g a n to put it mvself:
Who, basically, had the idea of i n v e r t i n g C l a u s e w i t z ' s principle, and
who thought of saying: "It is quite possible that w a r is the continu-

SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

ation of politics by other means, b u t isn't politics itself a continuation


of w a r by other m e a n s ? " N o w I think that the problem is not so
much w h o inverted C l a u s e w i t z ' s p r i n c i p l e as it is the question of the
p r i n c i p l e C l a u s e w i t z inverted, or rather of w h o formulated the p r i n
ciple C l a u s e w i t z i n v e r t e d w h e n he s a i d : "But, after all, w a r is no more
than a continuation of politics." I in fact t h i n k a n d will a t t e m p t to
provethat

the p r i n c i p l e that w a r is a continuation of politics by

other means w a s a p r i n c i p l e that existed long before C l a u s e w i t z , w h o


simply inverted a sort of thesis that had been in circulation since the
seventeenth a n d eighteenth centuries and w h i c h w a s both diffuse and
specific.
So: Politics is the continuation of w a r by other m e a n s . T h i s thesis
and the very existence of this thesis, which predates C l a u s e w i t z
contains a sort of historical p a r a d o x . W e can indeed say, schematically
and s o m e w h a t crudely, that w i t h the g r o w t h and development of
States t h r o u g h o u t the M i d d l e A g e s and u p to the threshold of the
modern era, w e see the practices and institutions of w a r undergoing
a m a r k e d , very visible change, which can be characterized thus: The
practices and institutions of w a r were initially concentrated

in the

hand of a central power; it g r a d u a l l y t r a n s p i r e d that in both de facto


and de jure terms, only State powers could wage w a r s and manipulate
the instruments of war. The State acquired a monopoly on w a r . The
i m m e d i a t e effect of this State monopoly w a s that w h a t might be called
d a y - t o day warfare, and w h a t w a s actually called "private warfare,"
w a s eradicated from the social body, and from relations among men
a n d relations among groups. Increasingly, w a r s , the practices of w a r ,
and the institutions of w a r tended to exist, so to speak, only on the
frontiers, on the outer limits of the g r e a t State units, and only as a
violent relationshipthat

actually existed or threatened to exist

between States. But g r a d u a l l y , the entire social body w a s cleansed of


the bellicose relations that had permeated it through and

through

during the M i d d l e Ages.


So, t h a n k s to the establishment of this State monopoly and to the
fact that w a r w a s now, so to speak, a practice that functioned only at
the outer l i m i t s of the State, it tended to become the technical and

21 January

7976

49

professional prerogative of a carefully defined a n d controlled m i l i t a r y


a p p a r a t u s . This led, broadly speaking, to the emergence of something
that d i d not exist as such in the M i d d l e A g e s : the army as institution.
It is only at the end of the M i d d l e A g e s t h a t w e see the emergence
of a State e n d o w e d w i t h m i l i t a r y institutions that replace both the
d a y - t o - d a y and g e n e r a l i z e d practice of w a r f a r e , and a society that w a s
perpetually traversed by relations of w a r . W e w i l l have to come back
to this development, but I think w e can accept it as at least a first
historical hypothesis.
So w h e r e is the p a r a d o x ? The p a r a d o x arises at the very moment
w h e n this transformation occurs ( o r p e r h a p s i m m e d i a t e l y a f t e r w a r d ) .
W h e n w a r w a s expelled to the l i m i t s of the State, or w a s b o t h cen
t r a l i z e d in practice a n d confined to the frontier, a certain discourse
a p p e a r e d . A new discourse, a strange discourse. It w a s new,
because it w a s , I think,

the

first

historico-political discourse

first,
on

society, and it w a s very different from t h e philosophico-juridical d i s


course that had been habitually spoken u n t i l then. A n d the historicopolitical discourse t h a t a p p e a r e d at this m o m e n t w a s also a discourse
on w a r , w h i c h w a s understood to be a p e r m a n e n t social relationship,
the ineradicable b a s i s of all relations a n d institutions of p o w e r . A n d
w h a t is the date of b i r t h of this historico-political discourse that
m a k e s w a r the basis of social relations? S y m p t o m a t i c a l l y , it seems, I
t h i n k a n d I w i l l try to prove this to youto be after the end of t h e
civil a n d religious w a r s of t h e s i x t e e n t h century. T h e a p p e a r a n c e of
this discourse i s , then, by no means the product of a history or a n
analysis of t h e c i v i l w a r s of t h e s i x t e e n t h century. On t h e contrary,
it w a s already, if not constituted, at least clearly formulated at the
beginning of the g r e a t political s t r u g g l e s of seventeenth-century

En

gland, at the time of the English bourgeois revolution. W e then see


it reappear in France at the end of the seventeenth century, at the
end of the reign of Louis XIV, and in other political struggleslet us
say, the r e a r g u a r d struggle w a g e d by the French aristocracy against
the establishment of the great a b s o l u t e - a d m i n i s t r a t i v e monarchy. So
you see, the discourse was i m m e d i a t e l y a m b i g u o u s . In England it w a s
one of the instruments used in bourgeois, p e t i t bourgeoisand s o m e -

"SOCIETY

50

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

times p o p u l a r s t r u g g l e s a n d polemics against the absolute monarchy,


a n d it w a s a tool for political organization. It w a s also an aristocratic
discourse directed against that same monarchy. Those w h o spoke this
discourse often bore names t h a t w e r e at once obscure and heteroge
neous. In England w e find people such a s E d w a r d Coke

or J o h n

L i l b u r n e , w h o r e p r e s e n t e d p o p u l a r movements; in France, too, w e


find names such a s those of B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s , ' Freret,'' a n d a gentleman
from the Massif C e n t r a l called the Comte d'Estaing.
course w a s then t a k e n up b y Sieyes,
gustus Thierry," a n d C o u r t e t .

And,

The same d i s

but also by Buonarroti,


finally,

Au

y o u w i l l find it in the

racist biologists a n d eugenicists of the late nineteenth c e n t u r y . It is a


sophisticated discourse, a scientific discourse, an erudite discourse
spoken by people w i t h dust in t h e i r eyes a n d dust on their

fingers,

b u t it is alsoas y o u w i l l seea discourse that certainly h a d an i m


mense n u m b e r of p o p u l a r a n d a n o n y m o u s s p e a k e r s . W h a t is this d i s
course s a y i n g ? W e l l , I t h i n k it is saying this: N o

matter

what

p h i l o s o p h i c o - j u r i d i c a l theory may say, political p o w e r does not begin


w h e n t h e w a r ends. The organization a n d j u r i d i c a l structure of power,
of States, monarchies, a n d societies, does not emerge w h e n the clash
of a r m s ceases. W a r has not been averted. W a r obviously p r e s i d e d
over the b i r t h of States: right, peace, a n d l a w s w e r e born in the blood
a n d m u d of battles. This should not be t a k e n to mean the ideal b a t t l e s
a n d r i v a l r i e s d r e a m e d u p by philosophers or jurists: w e are not t a l k i n g
about some theoretical savagery. The l a w is not born of n a t u r e , a n d
it w a s not born n e a r the fountains that the first shepherds frequented:
the l a w is born of real b a t t l e s , victories, massacres, a n d conquests
w h i c h can b e d a t e d a n d w h i c h have their horrific heroes; the l a w w a s
born in b u r n i n g towns and ravaged fields. It w a s born together w i t h
the famous innocents w h o d i e d at b r e a k of d a y .
This does not, h o w e v e r , m e a n that society, the l a w , a n d t h e State
are l i k e a r m i s t i c e s that p u t a n end to w a r s , or that they are the
products of definitive victories. L a w is not pacification, for b e n e a t h
the l a w , w a r continues to rage in all the mechanisms of power, even
in the most r e g u l a r . W a r is t h e motor b e h i n d i n s t i t u t i o n s a n d order.
In the smallest of its cogs, peace is w a g i n g a secret w a r . To p u t it

21 January

1976

51

another w a y , w e have to i n t e r p r e t the w a r that i s going on b e n e a t h


peace; peace itself is a coded w a r . W e are therefore at w a r w i t h one
another; a battlefront r u n s through the w h o l e of society, continuously
a n d permanently, a n d it is this battlefront that p u t s us all on one side
or the other. There is no such t h i n g as a neutral subject. W e are all
inevitably someone's adversary.
A binary structure r u n s t h r o u g h society. A n d h e r e you see the
emergence of s o m e t h i n g I w i l l t r y to come back to, as it is very i m
portant. The great p y r a m i d a l description t h a t the M i d d l e A g e s or
philosophico-pohtical

t h e o r i e s gave of the social b o d y , the

great

image of the organism or the h u m a n b o d y p a i n t e d by H o b b e s , or


even the t e r n a r y organization ( t h e three orders} t h a t prevailed in
France ( a n d to a certain e x t e n t a n u m b e r of other countries in Eu
rope} a n d w h i c h continued to a r t i c u l a t e a certain n u m b e r of d i s
courses, or in a n y case m o s t i n s t i t u t i o n s , is b e i n g challenged b y a
b i n a r y conception of society. This had h a p p e n e d before, but this is
the first t i m e the b i n a r y conception

has been a r t i c u l a t e d w i t h a

specific history. T h e r e are t w o g r o u p s , t w o categories of i n d i v i d u a l s ,


or t w o a r m i e s , a n d they are opposed to each other. A n d

beneath

the l a p s e s of m e m o r y , t h e i l l u s i o n s , a n d t h e l i e s t h a t w o u l d h a v e us
believe that there is a t e r n a r y order, a p y r a m i d of s u b o r d i n a t i o n s ,
beneath the lies that w o u l d have us b e l i e v e that the social body is
governed by either natural necessities or functional

demands, w e

must rediscover the w a r that is still g o i n g on, w a r w i t h all i t s a c


cidents a n d i n c i d e n t s . W h y do w e h a v e to r e d i s c o v e r w a r ? W e l l ,
because t h i s ancient w a r i s a [ . . . ] p e r m a n e n t w a r . W e really d o
have to become e x p e r t s on b a t t l e s , because t h e w a r h a s not e n d e d ,
because p r e p a r a t i o n s a r e still b e i n g m a d e for the decisive b a t t l e s ,
a n d because w e h a v e to w i n the decisive b a t t l e . In other w o r d s , t h e
enemies w h o face us s t i l l pose a t h r e a t to u s , and it is not

some

reconciliation or pacification t h a t w i l l a l l o w us to b r i n g the w a r to


an end. It w i l l end only to the e x t e n t that w e really a r e the victors.
That is a first, a n d obviously v e r y v a g u e , characterization of t h i s
t y p e of discourse. I t h i n k that, even on this b a s i s , w e can b e g a n to
understand w h y it is important. It i s , I t h i n k , i m p o r t a n t b e c a u s e it is

52

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

the first discourse in postmedieval Western society that can be strictly


described as being historico-political. First because the subject who
speaks in this discourse, who says "I" or "we," cannot, and is in fact
not trying to, occupy the position of the jurist or the philosopher, or
in other words the position of a universal, totalizing, or neutral sub
ject. In the general struggle he is talking about, the person who is
speaking, telling the truth, recounting the story, rediscovering mem
ories and trying not to forget anything, well, that person is inevitably
on one side or the other: he is involved in the battle, has adversaries,
and is working toward a particular victory. Of course, he speaks the
discourse of right, asserts a right and demands a right. But what he
is demanding and asserting is "his" rightshe says: "We have a right."
These are singular rights, and they are strongly marked by a rela
tionship of property, conquest, victory, or nature. It might be the
right of his family or race, the right of superiority or seniority, the
right of triumphal invasions, or the right of recent or ancient occu
pations. In all cases, it is a right that is both grounded in history and
decentered from a juridical universality. And if this subject

who

speaks of right (or rather, rights} is speaking the truth, that t r u t h is


no longer the universal truth of the philosopher. It is true that this
discourse about the general war, this discourse that tries to interpret
the war beneath peace, is indeed an attempt to describe the battle as
a whole and to reconstruct the general course of the war. But that
does not make it a totalizing or neutral discourse; it is always a perspectival discourse. It is interested in the totality only to the extent
that it can see it in one-sided terms, distort it and see it from its own
point of view. The truth is, in other words, a truth that can be de
ployed only from its combat position, from the perspective of the
sought for victory and ultimately, so to speak, of the survival of the
speaking subject himself.
This discourse established a basic link between relations of force
and relations oi truth. This also means that the identification of truth
with peace or neutrality, or with the median position which, as JeanPierre Vernant has clearly demonstrated, was, at least from a certain
point onward, a constituent element of Greek philosophy, is being

21 January

19 76

dissolved.' In a discourse such as this, being on one side and not the
other means that you are in a better position to speak the truth. It
is the fact of being on one sidethe decentered positionthat makes
it possible to interpret the truth, to denounce the illusions and errors
that are being usedby your adversariesto make you believe we
are living in a world in which order and peace have been restored.
"The more I decenter myself, the better I can see the truth; the more
I accentuate the relationship of force, and the harder I fight, the more
effectively I can deploy the truth ahead of me and use it to fight,
survive, and win." And conversely, if the relationship of force sets
truth free, the truth in its turn will come into playand will, ulti
mately, be soughtonly insofar as it can indeed become a weapon
within the relationship of force. Either the truth makes you stronger,
or the truth shifts the balance, accentuates the dissymmetries, and
finally gives the victory to one side rather than the other. Truth is an
additional force, and it can be deployed only on the basis of a rela
tionship of force. The fact that the truth is essentially part of a re
lationship of force, of dissymmetry, decentering, combat, and war, is
inscribed in this type of discourse. Ever since Greek

philosophy,

philosophico-juridical discourse has a l w a y s worked with the assump


tion of a pacified universality, but it is now being seriously called
into question or, quite simply, cynically ignored.
We have a historical and political discourseand it is in that sense
that it is historically anchored and politically decenteredthat lays a
claim to truth and legitimate right on the basis of a relationship of
force, and in order to develop that very relationship of force by
therefore excluding the speaking subjectthe subject who speaks of
right and seeks the truthfrom

juridico-philosophical universality.

The role of the person who is speaking is therefore not the role of
the legislator or the philosopher who belongs to neither side, a figure
of peace and armistices who occupies the position dreamed of by
Solon and that Kant was still dreaming of." Establishing oneself be
tween the adversaries, in the center and above them, imposing one
general law on all and founding a reconcihatory order: that is precisely
what this is not about. It is, rather, about establishing a right marked

54

"SOCIETY MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

by d i s s y m m e t r y , establishing a t r u t h bound u p w i t h a relationship of


force, a t r u t h - w e a p o n a n d a singular right. The subject w h o i s speak
ing is1 w o u l d n ' t

even say a polemical subjecta subject w h o is

fighting a w a r . This is one of the first points that makes a discourse


of this type important,

and it certainly introduced a rift into

the

discourse of truth and l a w that had been spoken for thousands of


years, for over a thousand y e a r s .
Second, t h i s is a discourse t h a t inverts the v a l u e s , the e q u i l i b r i u m ,
and the traditional polarities of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y , a n d w h i c h posits, d e
m a n d s , an explanation from b e l o w . But in this explanation, the " b e
low" is not necessarily w h a t is clearest and simplest. Explaining things
from below also means e x p l a i n i n g them in terms of what is most
confused, most obscure, most disorderly a n d most subject to chance,
because what is b e i n g put forward as a p r i n c i p l e for the interpretation
of society and its visible order is the confusion of violence, passions,
hatreds, r a g e s , resentments, a n d bitterness; a n d it is the obscurity of
contingencies and all the minor incidents that b r i n g about defeats a n d
ensure victories. This discourse is essentially a s k i n g the elliptical god
of battles to e x p l a i n the long d a y s of order, labor, peace, and justice.
Fury is being asked to e x p l a i n calm and order.
So w h a t is the principle t h a t e x p l a i n s h i s t o r y ? * First, a series of
b r u t e facts, w h i c h might a l r e a d y be d e s c r i b e d as physico-biological
facts: physical strength, force, energy, the proliferation of one race,
the w e a k n e s s of the other, a n d so on. A series of accidents, or at least
contingencies: defeats, victories, the failure or success of rebellions,
the failure or success of conspiracies or alliances; and finally, a b u n d l e
of psychological and moral elements ( c o u r a g e , fear, scorn, hatred, forgetfulness, et c e t e r a ) . I n t e r t w i n i n g

bodies, passions, and accidents:

according to this discourse, that is w h a t constitutes the

permanent

w e b of historv and societies. A n d something fragile and superficial


will be b u i l t on top ol this w e b of bodies, accidents, and passions,
this seething mass which is sometimes murky a n d sometimes bloody:
a growing rationality. The rationality of calculations, strategies, and

*The manuscript has "and right."

21 January

1976

55

ruses; the r a t i o n a l i t y of technical procedures that are used to perpet


uate the victory, to silence, or so it w o u l d seem, the w a r , a n d to
preserve or invert the r e l a t i o n s h i p of force. This i s , then, a r a t i o n a l i t y
w h i c h , as w e move u p w a r d a n d as it develops, w i l l basically be more
and more abstract, more a n d more b o u n d u p w i t h fragility a n d i l
l u s i o n s , a n d also more closely b o u n d u p w i t h the c u n n i n g a n d w i c k
edness of those w h o have won a t e m p o r a r y victory. A n d g i v e n that
the r e l a t i o n s h i p of domination w o r k s to their a d v a n t a g e , it is c e r t a i n l y
not in their interest to call any of t h i s into question.
In this schema, w e have, then, an ascending a x i s w h i c h is, I b e l i e v e ,
v e r y different, in t e r m s of the v a l u e s it d i s t r i b u t e s , from the t r a d i t i o n a l
a x i s . W e h a v e an axis based u p o n a fundamental a n d p e r m a n e n t i r
rationality, a crude a n d n a k e d i r r a t i o n a l i t y , b u t w h i c h proclaims t h e
t r u t h ; and, higher u p , w e have a fragile r a t i o n a l i t y , a t r a n s i t o r y r a
tionality w h i c h is a l w a y s c o m p r o m i s e d a n d b o u n d u p w i t h i l l u s i o n
a n d w i c k e d n e s s . Reason is on the side of w i l d d r e a m s , cunning, a n d
the w i c k e d . A t the opposite end of the a x i s , y o u have an e l e m e n t a r y
b r u t a l i t y : a collection of d e e d s , acts, and passions, a n d cynical rage in
a l l its n u d i t y . T r u t h i s therefore on the side of unreason a n d b r u t a l i t y ;
reason, on the other h a n d , is on the side of w i l d d r e a m s a n d w i c k
edness. Q u i t e the opposite, then, of the d i s c o u r s e t h a t h a d u n t i l n o w
been u s e d to e x p l a i n right a n d history. That d i s c o u r s e ' s a t t e m p t s at
e x p l a n a t i o n consisted in e x t r a c t i n g from all these superficial a n d v i
olent accidents, w h i c h are l i n k e d to e r r o r , a basic a n d

permanent

rationality w h i c h is, by its v e r y essence, b o u n d u p w i t h fairness a n d


the good. The e x p l a n a t o r y a x i s of the l a w a n d history has, I believe,
been inverted.
The t h i r d reason w h y the t y p e of discourse I w o u l d l i k e to a n a l y z e
a bit this y e a r is i m p o r t a n t i s , y o u see, t h a t it is a discourse t h a t
d e v e l o p s completely w i t h i n the h i s t o r i c a l dimension. It is d e p l o y e d
w i t h i n a h i s t o r y t h a t h a s no b o u n d a r i e s , no end, a n d no l i m i t s . In a
discourse like this, the drabness of history cannot be regarded as a
superficial given that has to be r e o r d e r e d about a few basic, stable
p r i n c i p l e s . It is not i n t e r e s t e d in p a s s i n g j u d g m e n t on unjust govern
ments, or on crimes a n d acts of violence, by referring them to a certain

56

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED

ideal schema ( t h a t of natural law, the w i l l of God, basic p r i n c i p l e s ,


a n d so o n ) . On the contrary, it is interested in defining and discov
ering, beneath the forms of justice that have been instituted, the order
that h a s been imposed, the forgotten

past of real struggles, actual

victories, and defeats which may have been disguised but w h i c h r e


main profoundly inscribed. It is interested in rediscovering the blood
that h a s d r i e d in the codes, a n d not, therefore, the absolute right that
lies beneath the transience of history; it is interested not in referring
the relativity of history to the absolute of the l a w , but in discovering,
beneath the s t a b i l i t y of the law or the t r u t h , the indefiniteness of
history. It is interested in the battle cries that can be heard beneath
the formulas of r i g h t , in the d i s s y m m e t r y of forces that lies beneath
the e q u i l i b r i u m of justice. W i t h i n a historical field that cannot even
be said to be a relative field, as it does not relate to any absolute, it
is the indefiniteness of history that is in a sense being " i r r e l a t i v i z e d . "
It is the indefiniteness of its eternal, the eternal dissolution into the
m e c h a n i s m s and e v e n t s k n o w n as force, power, and w a r .
You might t h i n k a n d this is, I t h i n k , another reason w h y this
discourse is importantthat

this must be a sad, gloomy discourse, a

discourse for nostalgic aristocrats or scholars in a l i b r a r y . It is in fact


a discourse w h i c h has, ever since it began and until very late in the
nineteenth century, and even the t w e n t i e t h , also been supported by
very t r a d i t i o n a l m y t h i c a l forms, and it is often invested in those forms.
This

discourse

twins

subtle

knowledge

and

myths

that

areI

w o u l d n ' t say crude, but they are basic, clumsy, and overloaded. W e
can, after all, easily see how a discourse of this type can be articulated
( a n d , as you will see, w a s actually a r t i c u l a t e d ) w i t h a whole m y
thology: [the lost age of great ancestors, the imminence of n e w times
and a m i l l e n a r y revenge, the coming of the new k i n g d o m that w i l l
w i p e out the defeats of o l d ] . ' ' T h i s mythology t e l l s of how the v i c
tories of g i a n t s h a v e g r a d u a l l y been forgotten and b u r i e d , of the t w i
l i g h t of the g o d s , of how heroes w e r e w o u n d e d or died, and of how
k i n g s fell asleep in inaccessible caves. W e also have the theme of the
rights and privileges of the earliest race, w h i c h w e r e flouted by cun
ning invaders, the theme of the w a r that is still going on in secret, of

21 January

1976

57

the plot that has to be r e v i v e d so a s to r e k i n d l e t h a t w a r a n d to d r i v e


out the invaders or enemies; the t h e m e of the famous battle that w i l l
t a k e place t o m o r r o w , t h a t w i l l at last i n v e r t the relationship of force,
a n d transform the v a n q u i s h e d into v i c t o r s w h o will k n o w a n d show
no mercy. Throughout the whole of the M i d d l e A g e s , a n d even l a t e r ,
the theme of perpetual w a r will be related to the g r e a t , u n d y i n g hope
that the d a y of revenge is at hand, to the expectation of the emperor
of the last vears, the dux novus,

the n e w leader, the new g u i d e , the

n e w Ftihrer; the idea of the fifth m o n a r c h y , the t h i r d e m p i r e or the


T h i r d Reich, the man w h o w i l l be both the beast of the A p o c a l y p s e
a n d the savior of the poor. It's the r e t u r n of A l e x a n d e r , w h o got lost
in India; the r e t u r n , e x p e c t e d for so long in England, of E d w a r d the
Confessor;

i t ' s the t w o FredericksBarbarossa a n d F r e d e r i c k

II

w a i t i n g in their caves for their people a n d t h e i r e m p i r e s to r e a w a k e n ;


it's C h a r l e m a g n e sleeping in his tomb, and w h o will w a k e u p to revive
the just w a r ; it's the k i n g of Portugal, lost in the sands of Africa,
returning for a new battle a n d a n e w w a r w h i c h , this t i m e , w i l l lead
to a final, definitive v i c t o r y .
This discourse of perpetual w a r is therefore not just the sad b r a i n
c h i l d of a few i n t e l l e c t u a l s w h o w e r e i n d e e d m a r g i n a l i z e d long ago.
It seems to me that, because it b y p a s s e s the great

philosophico-

j u r i d i c a l systems, this discourse is in fact t i e d u p w i t h a k n o w l e d g e


which is sometimes in the possession of a d e c l i n i n g aristocracy, w i t h
great m y t h i c a l i m p u l s e s , a n d w i t h the a r d o r of the revenge of the
people. In short, this may w e l l be the

first

e x c l u s i v e l y historico-

political discourseas opposed to a philosophico-juridical discourse


to emerge in the West; it is a discourse in w h i c h t r u t h

functions

e x c l u s i v e l y a s a w e a p o n t h a t is used to w i n an e x c l u s i v e l y p a r t i s a n
victory. It is a somber, critical discourse, but it is also an intensely
mythical discourse; it is a discourse of bitterness [ . . . ] but also of
the most insane hopes. For philosophers a n d j u r i s t s , it is obviously
an e x t e r n a l , foreign discourse. It is not even the discourse of their
adversary, as they are not in dialogue w i t h it. It is a discourse that is
i n e v i t a b l y disqualified, t h a t can and must be kept in the m a r g i n s ,
precisely because its negation is the precondition for a true and just

"SOCIETY

58

MUST

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DEFENDED"

discourse that can at last b e g i n to functionin the m i d d l e , b e t w e e n


the adversaries, above their headsas a l a w . The discourse I am t a l k
ing about, this p a r t i s a n discourse, this discourse of w a r and history,
can therefore p e r h a p s t a k e the form of the cunning sophist of the
G r e e k era. W h a t e v e r form it t a k e s , it w i l l be denounced as the d i s
course of a biased and n a i v e historian, a b i t t e r politician, a dispos
sessed aristocracy, or as an uncouth

discourse that puts

forward

inarticulate demands.
N o w this discourse, w h i c h w a s basically or s t r u c t u r a l l y k e p t in the
margins by that of the philosophers a n d j u r i s t s , b e g a n its careeror
perhaps its new career in the W e s t i n very specific conditions be
t w e e n the end of the s i x t e e n t h a n d the b e g i n n i n g of the seventeenth
centuries a n d represented a twofoldaristocratic and p o p u l a r c h a l
l e n g e to royal p o w e r . From this point o n w a r d , I t h i n k , it proliferated
considerably, a n d its surface of extension extended rapidly and con
s i d e r a b l y until the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning
of the t w e n t i e t h . It w o u l d , however, be a m i s t a k e to think that the
dialectic can function as the great reconversion of this discourse, or
that it can

finally

convert it into philosophy. The dialectic may at

first sight seem to be the discourse of the universal and historical


movement of contradiction and w a r , but I t h i n k that it does not in
fact v a l i d a t e this discourse in philosophical terms. On the contrary,
it seems to me that it h a d the effect of t a k i n g it over a n d displacing
it into the old form of p h i l o s o p h i c o - j u r i d i c a l discourse. Basically, the
dialectic codifies struggle, w a r , and confrontations into a logic, or socalled logic, of contradiction; it t u r n s them into the twofold process
of the totalization and revelation of a rationality that is at once final
but also basic, and in any case irreversible. The dialectic, finally, en
sures the historical constitution of a universal subject, a reconciled
t r u t h , a n d a r i g h t in w h i c h all p a r t i c u l a r i t i e s have their o r d a i n e d
place. The H e g e l i a n dialectic and all those that came after it must, I
t h i n k a n d as I will try to demonstrate to you, be understood as p h i
losophy a n d r i g h t ' s colonization a n d a u t h o r i t a r i a n colonization of a
histonco-pohtical

discourse that w a s both a statement

of fact, a

proclamation, and a practice of social warfare. The dialectic colonized

21 J anuary
a histonco-pohtical
often

1976

59

discourse w h i c h , sometimes conspicuously a n d

in the s h a d o w s , sometimes in scholarship and sometimes in

blood, had been g a i n i n g g r o u n d for centuries in Europe. The d i a l e c t i c


is the philosophical order's, a n d p e r h a p s the political order's, w a y of
colonizing t h i s bitter a n d partisan discourse of basic warfare. There
you have the general frame w i t h i n w h i c h I w o u l d l i k e to try this y e a r
to retrace the history of this discourse.
I w o u l d now like to tell you how w e should study this, a n d w h a t
our s t a r t i n g point should be. First of a l l , w e have to get r i d of a
number of false paternities that are u s u a l l y mentioned in connection
w i t h t h i s h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l discourse. A s soon a s w e b e g i n to t h i n k
about the p o w e r / w a r r e l a t i o n s h i p or about p o w e r / r e l a t i o n s of force,
two names i m m e d i a t e l y s p r i n g to mind: w e t h i n k of M a c h i a v e l l i a n d
w e t h i n k of Hobbes. I w o u l d l i k e to show that they have n o t h i n g to
do w i t h it, t h a t this h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l discourse is not, and cannot
be, that of the Prince's politics" or, obviously, that of absolute p o w e r .
It is in fact a discourse that i n e v i t a b l y r e g a r d s the P r i n c e as an i l l u s i o n ,
an i n s t r u m e n t , or, at best, a n e n e m y . T h i s is, basically, a discourse
that cuts off the k i n g ' s head, or w h i c h at least does w i t h o u t a sov
ereign and denounces him. H a v i n g e l i m i n a t e d these false p a t e r n i t i e s ,
I w o u l d then l i k e to show y o u this discourse's point of e m e r g e n c e .
A n d it seems to me that w e have to t r y to s i t u a t e it in the s e v e n t e e n t h
century, w h i c h has a n u m b e r of i m p o r t a n t characteristics. First, this
d i s c o u r s e w a s b o r n t w i c e . On the one h a n d , w e see it e m e r g i n g
roughly in the 1 6 3 0 s , and in the context of the p o p u l a r or

petit

bourgeois d e m a n d s t h a t w e r e b e i n g put forward in p r e r e v o l u t i o n a r y


a n d revolutionary England. It is the discourse of the P u r i t a n s , the
discourse of the Levellers. A n d then fifty years later, in France at the
end of the r e i g n of Louis X I V , you find it on the opposite s i d e , b u t
it is still the discourse of a struggle against the king, a discourse of
aristocratic bitterness. A n d t h e n , a n d t h i s is the important p o i n t , w e
find even at this early stage, or in o t h e r w o r d s from the seventeenth
c e n t u r y o n w a r d , that the idea that w a r is the u n i n t e r r u p t e d frame of
history t a k e s a specific form: The w a r that is going on beneath order
and peace, the w a r that u n d e r m i n e s our society and d i v i d e s it in a

60

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

binary mode is, basically, a race w a r . A t a very early stage, we rind


the basic elements that make the w a r possible, and then ensure its
continuation, pursuit, and development: ethnic differences, differences
b e t w e e n languages, different d e g r e e s of force, vigor, e n e r g y , and vio
lence; the differences b e t w e e n savagery and b a r b a r i s m ; the conquest
and s u b j u g a t i o n of one race by another. The social body is basically
a r t i c u l a t e d a r o u n d t w o races. It is t h i s i d e a that this clash b e t w e e n
t w o races r u n s t h r o u g h society from top to bottom w h i c h we see
being formulated as early as the seventeenth century. A n d it forms
the m a t r i x for all the forms beneath w h i c h w e can find the face a n d
mechanisms of social warfare.
I would l i k e to trace the history of this theory of races, or rather
of race w a r , during the French Revolution and especially in the early
nineteenth c e n t u r y w i t h A u g u s t i n a n d A m e d e e Thierry," a n d to show
how it u n d e r w e n t t w o transcriptions. On the one hand, there w a s an
openly biological transcription, w h i c h occurred long before

Darwin

a n d which b o r r o w e d i t s discourse, together w i t h all its elements, con


cepts, a n d vocabulary, from a materialist anatomo-physiology. It also
has the s u p p o r t of philology, and t h u s gives b i r t h to the theory of
races in the historico-biological sense of the term. Once again a n d
almost as i n the seventeenth century, t h i s is a very a m b i g u o u s theory,
a n d it is a r t i c u l a t e d w i t h , on the one hand, nationalist m o v e m e n t s in
Europe and w i t h n a t i o n a l i t i e s ' struggles against the g r e a t State a p
paratuses ( e s s e n t i a l l y the R u s s i a n a n d the A u s t r i a n ) ; y o u w i l l then
see it a r t i c u l a t e d w i t h European policies of colonization. That is the
firstbiologicaltranscription

of the theory of permanent

struggle

and race struggle. A n d then you find a second transcription

based

upon the great theme a n d theory of social w a r , w h i c h emerges in the


v e r y first y e a r s of the nineteenth century, and w h i c h tends to erase
every trace of racial conflict in order to define itself a s class struggle.
We have, then, a sort of major parting of the w a v s , which I w i l l try
to reconstruct. It corresponds to a recasting of the theme of the anal
ysis of these struggles in the form of the dialectic, and to a recasting
of the theme of racial confrontations

in terms ol the theory of evo

lutionism a n d the struggle for existence. Having established this, a n d

2 1 January

1976

61

placing special emphasis on the latter argumentthe biological t r a n


scriptionI w i l l try to trace the full development of a biologico-social
racism. By this, I mean the ideawhich is absolutely n e w a n d w h i c h
w i l l m a k e the discourse function very differentlythat the other race
is basically not the race that came from elsewhere or that w a s , for a
time, t r i u m p h a n t a n d dominant, but that it is a race that is p e r m a
nently, ceaselessly infiltrating the social body, or w h i c h is, rather,
constantly b e i n g re-created in a n d b y the social fabric. In other w o r d s ,
w h a t w e see as a polarity, as a b i n a r y rift w i t h i n society, is not a clash
b e t w e e n t w o distinct r a c e s . It is the s p l i t t i n g of a single race into a
superrace a n d a subrace. To put it a different w a y , it is the r e a p
pearance, w i t h i n a single race, of the past of that race. In a w o r d , the
obverse a n d the u n d e r s i d e of the race r e a p p e a r s w i t h i n it.
T h i s has one fundamental i m p l i c a t i o n : The discourse of race strug
g l e w h i c h , w h e n it first a p p e a r e d and b e g a n to function in the sev
enteenth century, w a s essentially an i n s t r u m e n t used in the s t r u g g l e s
w a g e d by decentered c a m p s w i l l be r e c e n t e r e d a n d will become the
discourse of p o w e r itself. It w i l l become the discourse of a centered,
c e n t r a l i z e d , a n d c e n t r a l i z i n g p o w e r . It w i l l become the discourse of a
battle that has to be w a g e d not b e t w e e n races, but by a race that is
p o r t r a y e d as the one true race, the race that h o l d s power a n d is
entitled to define the norm, a n d against those w h o deviate from that
norm, against those w h o pose a threat to the biological heritage. A t
this point, w e have all those biological-racist discourses of degeneracy,
but also all those institutions w i t h i n the social body which m a k e the
discourse of race struggle function a s a p r i n c i p l e of exclusion a n d
segregation a n d , u l t i m a t e l y , a s a w a y of n o r m a l i z i n g society. A t t h i s
point, the discourse w h o s e history I w o u l d l i k e to trace abandons the
initial basic formulation, w h i c h w a s " W e have to defend ourselves
against our enemies because the State a p p a r a t u s e s , the l a w , a n d the
p o w e r structures not only do not defend us against our enemies; they
are the i n s t r u m e n t s our enemies are u s i n g to pursue a n d subjugate
us." That discourse now disappears. It is no longer: " W e have to
defend ourselves against society," but

"We have to defend society

against all the biological t h r e a t s posed b y the other race, the subrace,

62

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

the counterrace that w e are, despite ourselves, b r i n g i n g into e x i s


tence." A t this point, the racist thematic is no longer a moment in
the struggle b e t w e e n one social g r o u p a n d another; it w i l l promote
the global strategy of social conservatisms. At this pointand this is
a paradox, g i v e n the goals a n d the first form of the discourse I have
been t a l k i n g a b o u t w e see the appearance of a State racism: a racism
that society w i l l direct against itself, against its own elements a n d its
o w n products. This is the internal racism of permanent purification,
a n d it w i l l become one of the basic dimensions of social normalization.
This year, I w o u l d like to look a little at the history of this discourse
of race s t r u g g l e a n d w a r from the seventeenth century to the e m e r
gence of State racism in the e a r l y nineteenth century.

21 January

1976

6)

1. Edward Coke's most important works are A Book of Entries ( London, 1614); Commentaries
on Littleton (London, 1628); A Treatise of Bail and Mainprise (London, 16)5); Institutes of
the Laws of England (London, vol. 1, 1628; vol. 2, 1642; vols. )-4, 1644); Reports ( London,
vols. 1-11, 1600-1615; vol. 12, 1656; vol. 1), 1659). On Coke, see the lecture of 4 February
in the present volume.
2. On Lilburne, see the lecture of 4 February in the present volume.
). On H. de Boulainvilhers, see the lectures of 11 February, 18 February, and 25 February
in the present volume.
4. Most of Freret's works were first published in the Memoircs de VAcademic des Sciences.
They were subsequently collected in his Oeuvres completes, 20 vols. (Pans, 1 7 9 6 - 1 7 9 9 ) .
See, inter alia, De I'origine des Francois etde leur etablissement dans I a Gaule (vol. 5 ), Recherches
historiques sur les moeurs et le gouvemement
des Francois, dans les divers temps de la monarchic
(vol. 6), Reflexions sur I'etude des anciennes histoires et sur le degre de certitude de
leurspreuves
(vol. 7), Vues generates sur I'origine et le melange des anciennes nations et sur la maniere d'en
etudier I'histoire (vol. 18), and Observations sur les Meivvingiens
(vol. 20). On Freret, see the
lecture of 18 February in the present volume.
5. Joachim, comte d'Estaing, Dissertation sur la noblesse d'extraction et sur les origines des fiefs, des
surnoms et des atmoiries (Pans, 1690).
6. Foucault's lecture on 10 March, and now in the present volume, is based mainly on E.-J.
Sieves, Qu'est<e que le Tiers Etat? (1789). (Cf. the reprinted editions, Paris: PUF, 1982
and Pans: Flammanon, 1 9 8 8 . )
7. Ct. F. Buonarroti, Conspiration pour Vegalite, dite de Babeuf, suivie du proces auquel elle donna
lieu et les pieces fusticatives, 2 vols. (Brussels, 1828).
8. The historical works by Augustin Thierry referred to by Foucault, particularly in his
lecture of 10 March, are as follows: Vues des revolutions d'Angleterre (Pans, 1917); Histoire
de la conqucte de PAngletcrre par les Normands, de ses causes et de ces suites jusqu'd nos jours
(Pans, 1825); Lettres sur thistoire de France pour servir d'introduction a I'etude de cette histoire
(Pans, 1827); Dix ans d'etudes historiques (Paris, 18)4); Re cits des temps mewvingiens,
precedes
de considerations sur I'histoire de France (Pans, 18)4); Essais sur I'histoire de la formation et des
progris du Tiers-Etat (Pans, 185)).
9. See in particular A. V. Courtet de I'lslc La Science politique jondee sur la science de I'homme
(Paris, 18)7).
10. CI. J.-P. Vernant, Les Origines de la pensee grecque ( Pans: PUF, 1965), especially chapters
7 and 8; My the et pensee chevies Grecs: Etudes de psychologic histon'que (Pans: La Decouverte,
1965), especially chapters ), 4, and 7; My the et societe' en Grice ancicnne (Pans: Seuil, 1974 );
J. P. Vernant and P. Vidal-Naquet, Mythe et tragedie en Grece ancienne-(Pans:
La Decou
verte, 1972), particularly chapter ). English translations: The Origins of Greek
Thought
(London: Methuen, 1982); Myth and Thought among the Greeks (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1982); Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece, tr. Janet Lloyd (New York: Zone
Books, 1 9 9 0 ) .
11. For Solon (see m particular fragment 16 in the Diehl edition), the reader is referred to
the analysis of "mesure" made by Michel Foucault in his lectures at the College de France
in 1970-1971 on The Will to Knowledge. On Kant, the reader is simply referred to "What
Is Enlightenment?" trans. Catherine Porter, in Paul Rabinow, ed., The Foucault
Reader
( Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), pp. )2-50, reprinted with emendations in Ethics: The
Essential Works, vol. 1, pp. )0)-20 (French original, Dits et ecrits vol. 4, pp. 562-84);
"Qu'est-ce que les Lumieres?" Dits et ecrits vol. 4, pp. 6 7 9 - 8 8 (English translation by
Colin Gordon, "Kant on Enlightenment and Revolution," Economy and Society, vol. 15,
no. 1 [February 1986], pp. 8 8 - 9 6 ) ; and the lecture given to the Societe Franchise de
Philosophic on 27 May 1978 on "Qu'est-ce que la critique," Bulletin de la Societe Framboise
de Philosophic April-June 1 9 9 0 , pp. )5-67; see also I. Kant, Zum weigen Fn'eden: ein philoso-

64

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

phischer Enwurf ( Konigsberg, 1795; see m particular the second edition of 1796) in Werke
in Tg'olf Banden (Frankfurt am Main: Inse] Verlag, 1968), vol. 11, pp. 191-251; Der Sreti
der Fakultdten in drei abschnitten (Konigsberg, 1798), ibid., pp. 261-393. (English transla
tion: Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch and "The Conflict ol Faculties," in Political
Writings, ed. Hanns Reiss, trans. H. B Nisbct [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
1 9 7 0 ] . ) Foucault owned the complete works of Kant in Ernst Cassirer's 12-volume
edition ( Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1912-1922), and Ernst Cassirer's Kants Leben un Lehre
(Berlin, 1921) (English translation by Haden James, Kant's Life and Work [New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1983]).
12. The interpolation is based upon the course summary for the year 1975-1976, in Dits et
e'crtts, vol 3. no. 187, pp. 124-130.
13. On Machiavelli, see the lecture ot 1 February 1978 ("Governmentality") in the course
ol lectures given at the College de France on "Securite territoire et population en 19771978" (English translation: "Governmentality," in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and
Peter Miller, eds.. The Foucault Effect: Studies in Covemmentality
[Hemel Hempstead: Har
vester Wheatsheaf, 1991 ]); "Omnes et Singulatim: Towards a Critique of Political Rea
son" (1981), in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, ed. Sterling M. McMurrin, vol. 2
(Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1981); T h e Political Technology ot Individuals" (1982), Dits et ecrits vol. 3, no. 239, and
vol. 4, no. 219, no. 364, in Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hucton,
eds Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault ( London: Tavistock, 1988).
14- On Augustin Thierry, see note 8 above. For Amedee Thierry, see his Fiistoires des Gaulois,
depuis les temps les plus recules jusqu'a I'entiere soumission de la Gaule a la domination
mmaine
(Paris, 1828); Histoire de la Gaule sous /'administration
mmaine ( Pans, 1840-1847).

four

28

Historical

discourse

JANUARY 1976

and its supporters.

race struggle.
history.

~ Revolutionary

racism.

- Race purity

- Roman history
discourse.

- The counterhistory
and

of

biblical

- Birth and transformations

of

and State racism: the NaQ transformation

and the Soviet

transformation.

^
'\
- -i

Y O U M I G H T H A V E T H O U G H T , last time, that I w a s trying to b o t h


trace the history of racist discourse a n d p r a i s e it. A n d y o u w o u l d not
have been entirely wrong, except in one respect. It w a s not e x a c t l y
racist discourse whose history I w a s tracing a n d that I w a s praising:
it w a s the discourse of race w a r or race s t r u g g l e . I think w e should
reserve the expression " r a c i s m " or "racist discourse" for

something

that w a s basically no more than a p a r t i c u l a r and localized episode in


the great discourse of race w a r or race s t r u g g l e . Racist discourse w a s
really no more than an episode, a phase, the reversal, or at least the
reworking, at the end of the nineteenth c e n t u r y , of the discourse of
race w a r . It w a s a r e w o r k i n g of that old discourse, w h i c h at that point
was already hundreds of y e a r s old, in sociobiological t e r m s , and it
w a s r e w o r k e d for purposes of social conservatism and, at least in a
certain n u m b e r

of cases, colonial domination. H a v i n g said that to

situate both the link and the difference b e t w e e n racist discourse and
the discourse of race war, I was indeed praising the discourse of race
war. I w a s praising it in the sense that I w a n t e d to show you howat
least for a time, or in other w o r d s u p to the end of the

nineteenth

64

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

phischer Enwurf (Konigsberg, 1795; sec in particular the second edition of 1 7 9 6 ) in Werke
in qrilf Bdnien (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1968), vol. 11, pp. 191-251; Der Sreti
der Fakultdten in drei abschnitten (Konigsberg, 1798), ibid., pp. 261-393- (English transla
tion: Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch and "The Conflict of Faculties," in Political
Writings, ed. Hanns Reiss, trans. H. B. Nisbet [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1 9 7 0 ] . ) Foucault owned the complete works of Kant in Ernst Cassirer's 12-volume
edition (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1912-1922), and Ernst Cassirer's Hants Leben un Lehre
(Berlin, 1 9 2 1 ) (English translation by Haden James, Kant's Life and Work [New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1983]).
12. The interpolation is based upon the course summarv for the year 1975-1976, in Dits et
e'crits, vol 3, no. 187, pp. 124-130.
13. On Machiavelli, see the lecture of 1 February 1 9 7 8 ("Governmentahty") in the course
of lectures given at the College de France on "Securite territoire et population en 19771978" (English translation: "Governmentality," in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and
Peter Miller, eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Govemmenta/ity
[Hemel Hempstead: Har
vester Wheatsheaf, 1991 ]); "Omnes et Singulatim: Towards a Critique of Political Rea
son" ( 1 9 8 1 ) , in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, ed. Sterling M. McMurrin, vol. 2
( Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1 9 8 1 ) : "The Political Technology of Individuals" ( 1 9 8 2 ) , Dits et e'crits vol. 3, no. 239, and
vol. 4, no. 219, no. 364, in Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hucton,
eds., Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault (London: Tavistock, 1 9 8 8 ) .
14. On Augustin Thierrv, see note 8 above. For Amedee Thierrv, see his Histoires des Gaulois,
depuis les temps les plus recules jusqu'a I'entiere soumission de la Gaule a la domination
romaine
(Pans, 1828); Histoire de la Gaule sous ^administration
romaine ( Paris, 1840-1847).

four

28

Historical

discourse

JANUARY 1976

and its supporters.

race struggle.
history.

- Revolutionary

racism.

- Race purity

- The counterhistory

- Roman

history

discourse.

- Birth and transformations

of

and biblical

w
of

and State racism: the Na%i transformation

and the Soviet

-'i

\
.*

transformation.

Y O U M I G H T H A V E T H O U G H T , last t i m e , that I w a s trying to b o t h


trace the history of racist discourse a n d praise it. A n d you w o u l d not
have been entirely wrong, except in one respect. It w a s not e x a c t l y
racist discourse whose history I w a s tracing and that I w a s praising:
it w a s the discourse of race w a r or race s t r u g g l e . I think w e should
reserve the e x p r e s s i o n " r a c i s m " or "racist d i s c o u r s e " for

something

that w a s basically no more than a p a r t i c u l a r and localized episode in


the great discourse of race w a r or race struggle. R a c i s t discourse w a s
really no more than an episode, a phase, the reversal, or at least the
r e w o r k i n g , at the end of the nineteenth century, of the discourse of
race w a r . It w a s a r e w o r k i n g of that old discourse, w h i c h at that point
w a s a l r e a d y h u n d r e d s of y e a r s old, in sociobiological terms, a n d it
w a s r e w o r k e d for purposes of social c o n s e r v a t i s m and, at least in a
certain number

of cases, colonial domination. H a v i n g said that to

situate both the link and the difference b e t w e e n racist discourse and
the discourse of race w a r , I w a s indeed praising the discourse of race
war. I w a s praising it in the sense that I w a n t e d to show you howat
least for a time, or in other w o r d s u p to the end of the

nineteenth

66

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

century, at w h i c h point it t u r n e d into a racist discoursethis d i s


course of race w a r functioned as a counterhistory. A n d today I w o u l d
like to say something about its counterhistorical function.
It seems to me that w e can s a y p e r h a p s somewhat hastily or sche
matically, b u t w e w o u l d still b e e s s e n t i a l l y correctthat historical
discourse, the discourse of historians, or this practice of recounting
history, w a s for a long time w h a t it had no doubt been in a n t i q u i t y
a n d w h a t it still w a s in the M i d d l e Ages: for a long time, it remained
related to the r i t u a l s of power. It seems to me that w e can u n d e r s t a n d
the discourse of the historian to be a sort of ceremony, oral or w r i t t e n ,
that must in reality produce both a justification of p o w e r a n d a r e
inforcement of that power. It also seems to me that the traditional
function of history, from the first R o m a n annalists' u n t i l the late M i d
dle A g e s , and p e r h a p s the seventeenth century or even later, w a s to
speak the right of power and to intensify the luster of p o w e r . It h a d
two roles. The point of recounting history, the history of kings, the
m i g h t y sovereigns a n d their victories ( a n d , if need be, their temporary
defeats) w a s to use the continuity of the l a w to establish a j u r i d i c a l
link b e t w e e n those men and p o w e r , because p o w e r a n d i t s w o r k i n g s
w e r e a demonstration

of the continuity of the law itself. History's

other role w a s to use the almost u n b e a r a b l e intensity of the g l o r y of


power, its e x a m p l e s and its exploits, to fascinate men. The yoke of
the law a n d the luster of glory appear to me to be the t w o things
historical discourse strives to use to reinforce power. Like rituals,
coronations, funerals, ceremonies, a n d legendary stories, history is an
operator of power, an intensifier of p o w e r .
It seems to me t h a t in the M i d d l e Ages, the twofold function of
historical discourse c a n be found on its three traditional axes. The
genealogical a x i s spoke of the a n t i q u i t y of kingdoms, brought great
ancestors back to life, and rediscovered the heroes w h o founded em
pires and dynasties. The goal of this "genealogical" task w a s to ensure
that the greatness of the events or men of the past could guarantee
the value of the present, a n d transform its pettiness and m u n d a n i t y
into something e q u a l l y heroic a n d e q u a l l y legitimate. This genealogical
axis of h i s t o r y w h i c h w e find mainly in forms of historical narratives

28 January

1976

67

a b o u t ancient k i n g d o m s and great ancestorsmust p r o c l a i m right to


be something ancient; it must demonstrate the u n i n t e r r u p t e d

nature

of the right of the sovereign a n d , therefore, the i n e r a d i c a b l e force that


he still possesses in the present d a y . Genealogy must,

finally,

also

magnify the name of k i n g s a n d princes w i t h all the fame that w e n t


before them. G r e a t k i n g s found, then, the r i g h t of the sovereigns w h o
succeed them, and they t r a n s m i t t h e i r l u s t e r to the pettiness of t h e i r
successors. W e m i g h t call this the genealogical function of historical
narratives.
Then there is the memorialization function, which w e find not in
stories of a n t i q u i t y or in the resurrection of ancient k i n g s a n d heroes,
b u t in the a n n a l s and chronicles t h a t w e r e kept d a y b y d a y a n d y e a r
b y year throughout history itself. The a n n a l i s t s ' p r a c t i c e of p e r m a
n e n t l y recording h i s t o r y also s e r v e s to reinforce p o w e r . It too is a sort
of r i t u a l of p o w e r ; it s h o w s t h a t w h a t sovereigns a n d k i n g s do is never
pointless, futile, or petty, a n d never u n w o r t h y of b e i n g

narrated.

Everything they do can be, a n d deserves to be, spoken of a n d must


be remembered in perpetuity, w h i c h means that the slightest deed or
action of a k i n g can and m u s t be t u r n e d into a d a z z l i n g action a n d
an exploit. A t the same time, each of h i s decisions is inscribed in a
sort of law for his subjects a n d an obligation for his successors. H i s
t o r y , then, m a k e s things memorable a n d , by m a k i n g t h e m m e m o r a b l e ,
i n s c r i b e s deeds in a discourse t h a t constrains a n d i m m o b i l i z e s minor
actions in m o n u m e n t s t h a t w i l l t u r n t h e m to stone and r e n d e r t h e m ,
so to s p e a k , present forever. The t h i r d function of a history that i n
tensifies p o w e r is to p u t e x a m p l e s i n t o circulation. A n e x a m p l e is a
living l a w or a resuscitated law; it m a k e s it possible to judge the
present, a n d to m a k e it s u b m i t to a stronger l a w . A n e x a m p l e is, so
to s p e a k , g l o r y m a d e l a w ; it is the l a w functioning in the l u s t e r of a
name. It is because it associates the l a w a n d the luster w i t h a name
that an e x a m p l e has the force ofand functions asa sort of p u n c t u a l
element that helps to reinforce power.
B i n d i n g a n d d a z z l i n g , subjugating, subjugating by imposing o b l i
gations a n d intensifying the l u s t e r of force: it s e e m s to me t h a t these
are, v e r y schematically, the two functions that w e find in the v a r i o u s

68

"SOCIETY

MUST

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DEFENDED"

forms of history, as practiced b o t h in Roman civilization and in the


societies of the M i d d l e A g e s . Now, these t w o functions

correspond

v e r y closely to t w o aspects of power, as represented in religions, r i t


u a l s , a n d R o m a n legends, a n d more g e n e r a l l y in Indo-European leg
ends. In the Indo-European system of representing power,

power

a l w a y s has t w o aspects or two faces, a n d they are p e r p e t u a l l y con


j u g a t e d . On the one hand, the j u r i d i c a l aspect: p o w e r uses obligations,
oaths, c o m m i t m e n t s , and the l a w to bind; on the other, power has a
magical function, role, and efficacy: p o w e r dazzles, and power p e t r i
fies. J u p i t e r , t h a t e m i n e n t l y divine representative of power, the p r e
eminent

god

of

the

first

function

and

the

first

order

in

the

Indo-European tripartite system, is both the god w h o binds a n d the


god w h o h u r l s t h u n d e r b o l t s . W e l l , I believe that history, as it still
functioned in the M i d d l e A g e s , w i t h its a n t i q u a r i a n research, its d a y to-day chronicles, and its circulating collections of e x a m p l e s , w a s still
this same representation of p o w e r . It is not s i m p l y an i m a g e of p o w e r ,
but also a w a y of r e i n v i g o r a t i n g it. H i s t o r y is the discourse of power,
the discourse of the obligations p o w e r uses to subjugate; it is also the
d a z z l i n g discourse that p o w e r uses to fascinate, terrorize, a n d i m
mobilize. In a w o r d , p o w e r b o t h b i n d s a n d i m m o b i l i z e s , a n d is both
the founder a n d g u a r a n t o r of order; a n d h i s t o r y is precisely the d i s
course that intensifies and m a k e s more efficacious the t w i n functions
that guarantee order. In g e n e r a l terms, w e can therefore say that until
a very late stage in our society, history w a s the history of sovereignty,
or a history that w a s d e p l o y e d in the dimension and function of
sovereignty. It is a " J u p i t e r i a n " history. In that sense, there w a s still
a direct c o n t i n u i t y b e t w e e n the h i s t o r i c a l practice of the M i d d l e A g e s
and the history of the Romans, history as recounted by the Romans,
3

Livy's h i s t o r y or that of the early annalists. This means that medieval


historians never saw any difference, discontinuity, or break b e t w e e n
R o m a n history and their own history, the history they were recount
ing. The continuity between the historical practice of the M i d d l e A g e s
and that of Roman society runs deeper still to the extent that the
historical n a r r a t i v e s of the Romans, like those of the M i d d l e A g e s ,

28 January

1976

69

h a d a c e r t a i n political function. History w a s a r i t u a l that reinforced


sovereignty.
A l t h o u g h this is no more than a crude sketch, it does, I t h i n k ,
p r o v i d e a starting point for our attempt to reconstruct a n d c h a r a c
terize w h a t is specific about the new form of discourse that a p p e a r e d
precisely at the very end of the M i d d l e A g e s or, really, in the s i x
teenth a n d early seventeenth c e n t u r i e s . Historical discourse w a s no
longer the discourse of sovereignty, or even race, but a discourse about
races, about a confrontation

b e t w e e n races, about the race struggle

that goes on w i t h i n nations and w i t h i n laws. To that extent it is, I


t h i n k , a history that is the complete antithesis of the history of sov
ereignty, as constituted u p to that t i m e . This is the first non-Roman
or a n t i - R o m a n history that the W e s t had ever k n o w n . W h y is it a n t i R o m a n a n d w h y is it a counterhistory, c o m p a r e d to the r i t u a l of
sovereignty I w a s t e l l i n g you about a moment a g o ? For a n u m b e r of
reasons w h i c h w e can easily identify. First, because in this history
of races and of the permanent confrontation

that goes on between

races, beneath and t h r o u g h l a w s , w e see the a p p e a r a n c e , or rather the


d i s a p p e a r a n c e , of the implicit identification of people w i t h monarch,
and nation w i t h sovereign, that the history of sovereigntyand sov
ereignshad made apparent. Henceforth,

in this n e w t y p e of d i s

course a n d historical practice, sovereignty no longer binds e v e r y t h i n g


together into a u n i t y w h i c h is of course the u n i t y of the city, the
nation, or the State. Sovereignty has a specific (unction. It does not
bind; it enslaves. The postulate that the history of great men contains,
a fortiori, the history of lesser men, or that the history of the strong
is also the history of the weak, is r e p l a c e d by a p r i n c i p l e of hetero
geneity: The history of some is not the h i s t o r y of others. It w i l l be
discovered, or at least asserted, that the history of the Saxons after
their defeat at the Battle of Hastings is not the same as the history
of the N o r m a n s w h o w e r e the victors in that same battle. It will be
learned that one man's victory is another man's defeat. The victorv of
the Franks and Clovis must also be read, conversely, as the defeat,
enserfment, a n d enslavement of the G a l l o - R o m a n s . W h a t looks l i k e

70

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

right, l a w , or obligation from the point of v i e w of power looks l i k e


the a b u s e of p o w e r , violence, a n d exaction w h e n it is seen from the
v i e w p o i n t of the n e w discourse, just as it does w h e n w e g o over to
the other side. After all, the fact t h a t the l a n d is in the possession of
g r e a t feudal lords, a n d the fact that they are d e m a n d i n g all these taxes,
w i l l look to the defeated populations like acts of violence, confisca
tions, pillage, a n d w a r t a x e s that are being l e v i e d through violence.
A s a result, the g r e a t form of t h e g e n e r a l o b l i g a t i o n , w h o s e form w a s
intensified by a history t h a t magnified the g l o r y of the sovereign, i s
undone, a n d the l a w comes to be seen as a Janus-faced r e a l i t y : the
t r i u m p h of some means the s u b m i s s i o n of others.
In that sense, the history t h a t a p p e a r s at this point, or the history
of the race struggle, is a counterhistory. But I t h i n k it is also a counterhistory in a different a n d more i m p o r t a n t sense. Not only does this
counterhistory b r e a k u p the u n i t y of t h e sovereign l a w that imposes
obligations; it also b r e a k s the continuity of g l o r y , into the b a r g a i n . It
reveals that the l i g h t t h e famous d a z z l i n g effect of poweris not
something that petrifies, solidifies, a n d i m m o b i l i z e s the entire social
body, a n d t h u s k e e p s it in order; it is in fact a divisive l i g h t that
illuminates one side of the social body b u t leaves the other side in
shadow or casts it into the d a r k n e s s . A n d the history or counterhis
tory that is b o r n of t h e story of t h e race struggle w i l l of course speak
from the side that is in darkness, from w i t h i n the shadows. It w i l l be
the discourse of those w h o have no glory, or of those w h o have lost
it and w h o now find themselves, p e r h a p s for a timebut

probably

for a long timein d a r k n e s s a n d silence. W h i c h means that t h i s d i s


courseunlike the u n i n t e r r u p t e d ode in w h i c h p o w e r

perpetuated

itself, and g r e w stronger by d i s p l a y i n g its a n t i q u i t y a n d its geneal


o g y w i l l be a d i s r u p t i v e speech, an appeal: " W e do not have a n y
continuity b e h i n d us; w e do not have behind us the great a n d glorious
genealogy in w h i c h the l a w a n d p o w e r flaunt themselves in their
p o w e r a n d their glory. W e came out of the shadows, w e h a d no glory
and w e had no r i g h t s , and that is w h y w e are b e g i n n i n g to s p e a k a n d
to tell of our history." This w a y of s p e a k i n g related this type of d i s
course not so m u c h to the search for the great u n i n t e r r u p t e d j u r i s -

28 January
prudence

1976

71

of a long-established p o w e r , as to a sort of

prophetic

r u p t u r e . This also m e a n s that this n e w discourse is s i m i l a r to a certain


n u m b e r of epic, religious, or m y t h i c a l forms which, rather than t e l l i n g
of the u n t a r n i s h e d a n d uneclipsed g l o r y of the sovereign, endeavor to
formulate the misfortune of ancestors, e x i l e s , a n d servitude. It w i l l
e n u m e r a t e not so m u c h victories, as the defeats to w h i c h w e h a v e to
submit d u r i n g our long w a i t for the p r o m i s e d l a n d and the fulfillment
of t h e old promises that w i l l of course r e e s t a b l i s h both the r i g h t s of
old a n d the g l o r y that has been lost.
W i t h this new discourse of race s t r u g g l e , w e see the emergence of
something that, basically, is m u c h closer to the m y t h i c o - r e l i g i o u s d i s
course of the J e w s t h a n to the p o l i t i c o - l e g e n d a r y history of the
Romans. W e are m u c h closer to t h e Bible than to Livy, in a H e b r a i c b i b l i c a l form m u c h more than in the form of the annalist w h o r e c o r d s ,
d a y b y day, the history a n d t h e u n i n t e r r u p t e d g l o r y of p o w e r . I t h i n k
that, in general t e r m s , it m u s t not b e forgotten t h a t , at least from the
second half of the M i d d l e A g e s o n w a r d , the Bible w a s the great form
for the articulation of religious, moral, a n d political protests against
the p o w e r of k i n g s a n d the despotism of the church. L i k e the reference
to b i b l i c a l texts itself, t h i s form functioned, in most cases, as a protest,
a c r i t i q u e , a n d an oppositional d i s c o u r s e . In the M i d d l e A g e s , J e r u
s a l e m w a s a l w a y s a protest against all the Babylons that h a d come
b a c k to life; it w a s a protest against e t e r n a l Rome, against the R o m e
of t h e C a e s a r s , against the Rome t h a t shed the blood of the innocent
in the circus. The Bible w a s the w e a p o n of poverty a n d insurrection;
it w a s the w o r d that made men rise u p against the l a w a n d against
glory, against the unjust l a w of k i n g s a n d the beautiful glory of t h e
C h u r c h . To t h a t extent, it is not s u r p r i s i n g t h a t w e see, at the e n d
of the M i d d l e Ages, in the s i x t e e n t h c e n t u r y , in the p e r i o d of the
Reformation, a n d at the t i m e of the English Revolution, the a p p e a r
ance of a form of history t h a t is a direct challenge to the history of
sovereignty and k i n g s t o R o m a n h i s t o r y a n d that w e see a n e w
history that is a r t i c u l a t e d a r o u n d the g r e a t b i b l i c a l form of prophecy
a n d promise.
The historical discourse t h a t a p p e a r s at this point can therefore be

72

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

regarded as a counterhistory that challenges Roman history for this


reason: in this n e w historical discourse, the function of m e m o r y a c
quires a whole new meaning. In R o m a n - s t y l e history, the function of
memory w a s essentially to ensure that nothing w a s forgottenor in
other w o r d s , to preserve the l a w a n d p e r p e t u a l l y to enhance t h e luster
of p o w e r for so long as it e n d u r e d . The n e w history that now emerges,
in contrast, has to d i s i n t e r something that has been hidden, and w h i c h
has been hidden not only because it has been neglected, but because
it has been carefully, d e l i b e r a t e l y , a n d w i c k e d l y misrepresented. B a
sically, what the new history is t r y i n g to show is that power, the
mighty, the kings, a n d the l a w s have concealed the fact that they w e r e
born of the contingency a n d injustice of battles. After all, W i l l i a m the
C o n q u e r o r d i d not w a n t to be called "the conqueror," for he w a n t e d
to conceal the fact that the rights he exercised, or the violence he w a s
inflicting on England, w e r e the rights of conquest. He wanted to be
seen as t h e l e g i t i m a t e dynastic successor a n d therefore h i d t h e name
of "conqueror," just as Clovis, after all, w a n d e r e d around w i t h a
parchment in his hand to make people believe that he owed his roy
alty to the fact that he had been recognized as k i n g by some Roman
Caesar or other. These unjust a n d biased kings tried to m a k e it look
as though they w e r e acting on behalf of all a n d in the n a m e of all;
they certainly w a n t e d people to t a l k of their victories, b u t they did
not w a n t it to be k n o w n that their victories w e r e someone else's
defeats: "It w a s our defeat." The role of history will, then, be to show
that l a w s deceive, that k i n g s w e a r masks, that power creates illusions,
and that historians tell lies. This will not, then, be a history of con
tinuity, but a history of the d e c i p h e r i n g , the detection of the secret,
of the o u t w i t t i n g of the ruse, a n d of the reappropriation of a k n o w l
e d g e t h a t has been d i s t o r t e d or b u r i e d . It will decipher a t r u t h that
has been sealed.
I think, finally, that this history of the race struggle that appears
in the s i x t e e n t h a n d seventeenth centuries is a counterhistory in a
different sense too. It is a counterhistory in a s i m p l e r or more ele
m e n t a r y sense, but also in a stronger sense. The point is that, far from
being a ritual inherent in the exercise, deployment, and reinforcement

28 January

7 9 76

of power, it is not only a c r i t i q u e of p o w e r , but also an attack on it


and a demand. Power is unjust not because it has forfeited its noblest
examples, but quite simply because it does not belong to us. In one
sense, it can be said that this n e w history, like the old, is indeed an
attempt to speak of a right that survives the vicissitudes of time. But
its goal is not to establish the great, long j u r i s p r u d e n c e of a p o w e r
that has a l w a y s retained its r i g h t s , or to demonstrate t h a t p o w e r is
w h e r e it is, a n d that it has a l w a y s been w h e r e it is now. It is to
d e m a n d r i g h t s that have not been recognized, or in other w o r d s , to
declare w a r by declaring r i g h t s . Historical discourse of the Roman
type pacifies society, justifies power, a n d founds the orderor

the

o r d e r of the t h r e e ordersthat constitutes the social body. In contrast,


the discourse I a m t e l l i n g you about, a n d w h i c h is deployed in the
late sixteenth c e n t u r y , and w h i c h can be described as a b i b l i c a l - s t y l e
historical discourse, t e a r s society a p a r t a n d s p e a k s of l e g i t i m a t e r i g h t s
solely in order to declare w a r on l a w s .
I w o u l d l i k e to s u m all this u p by a d v a n c i n g a sort of hypothesis.
C a n w e not s a y that until the end of the M i d d l e Ages a n d p e r h a p s
beyond that point, w e h a d a h i s t o r y a historical discourse a n d p r a c
ticethat w a s one of the great d i s c u r s i v e r i t u a l s of sovereignty, of a
sovereignty that both revealed a n d constituted itself through history
as a unitary sovereignty that w a s l e g i t i m a t e , u n i n t e r r u p t e d , and d a z
zling. A n o t h e r history now b e g i n s to challenge it: the counterhistory
of d a r k s e r v i t u d e and forfeiture. This is the counterhistory of p r o p h
ecy a n d promise, the counterhistory of the secret k n o w l e d g e t h a t has
to be rediscovered and d e c i p h e r e d . This, finally, is the counterhistory
of the t w i n a n d s i m u l t a n e o u s declaration of w a r and of r i g h t s . R o m a n style history w a s basically profoundly

inscribed w i t h i n the

Indo-

European system of representing p o w e r , a n d of p o w e r ' s w o r k i n g s ; it


was certainly b o u n d u p w i t h the organization of the three orders, at
w h o s e p i n n a c l e stood the order of sovereignty, a n d it therefore r e
mained b o u n d u p w i t h a c e r t a i n domain of objects and c e r t a i n t y p e s
of

figureswith

legends about heroes a n d kingsbecause it w a s the

discourse of a Janus-faced sovereignty that w a s at once magical a n d


juridical. This history, b a s e d on a R o m a n model a n d Indo-European

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

functions, n o w finds itself being constrained by a b i b l i c a l , almost He


braic, history w h i c h , ever since the end of the M i d d l e A g e s , has been
the discourse of rebellion and prophecy, of k n o w l e d g e a n d of the call
for the violent overthrow of the order of things. U n l i k e the historical
discourse of Indo-European societies, this n e w discourse is no longer
bound up w i t h a ternary order, but w i t h a b i n a r y perception and
division of society and men; them and us, the unjust a n d the just, the
masters a n d those who must obey t h e m , the rich and the poor, the
mighty and those who have to work in order to live, those who invade
l a n d s a n d those who t r e m b l e before them, the despots and the groan
ing people, the men of t o d a y ' s l a w and those of the homeland of the
future.
It w a s in the m i d d l e of the M i d d l e A g e s that Petrarch asked what
I see as a fairly astonishing or at least fundamental question. He asked:
4

"Is there nothing more to history than the praise of R o m e ? " I think
that in a s k i n g this question, he characterized in a w o r d w h a t had
a l w a y s been the actual practice of history, not only in Roman society,
but also in the medieval society to w h i c h Petrarch himself belonged.
A few centuries after Petrarch, the West saw the appearance or b i r t h
of a h i s t o r y t h a t contained the v e r y opposite of the p r a i s e of Rome.
This w a s , by contrast, a history that sought to u n m a s k Rome as a new
Babylon, and w h i c h challenged Rome by demanding the lost rights
of J e r u s a l e m . A very different form of history and a historical d i s
course w i t h a very different function had come into being. One might
say that this history is the beginning of the end of

Indo-European

historicity, by w h i c h I mean the end of a certain Indo-European

mode

of t a l k i n g about and perceiving history. U l t i m a t e l y , w e might say that


a n t i q u i t y ended with the b i r t h of the great historical discourse on
race w a r a n d by a n t i q u i t y I mean that awareness of b e i n g in con
tinuity w i t h a n t i q u i t y that existed until the late M i d d l e Ages. The
M i d d l e A g e s was, obviously, u n a w a r e of b e i n g the M i d d l e Ages. But
it was also u n a w a r e , so to speak, that it w a s not, or w a s no longer,
a n t i q u i t y . Rome w a s still present, a n d functioned as a sort of per
manent a n d contemporary historical presence in the M i d d l e Ages.
Rome w a s perceived a s having been d i v i d e d into a thousand channels

28 January
that

flowed

1976

75

through Europe, but all these channels led, it w a s b e

lieved, b a c k to R o m e . It m u s t not be forgotten that all t h e national


( o r p r e n a t i o n a l ) political histories that w e r e being w r i t t e n at t h i s
t i m e a l w a y s took as t h e i r s t a r t i n g point a certain Trojan m y t h . A l l
the nations of Europe c l a i m e d to h a v e been b o r n of the fall of Troy.
Being born of the fall of Troy meant that all the nations, all the S t a t e s ,
a n d all the monarchies of Europe could c l a i m to be Rome's sisters.
The French monarchy, for instance, w a s supposed to be descended
from F r a n c u s , a n d the English m o n a r c h y from a certain B r u t u s . A l l
these great d y n a s t i e s c l a i m e d the sons of P r i a m as their ancestors, a n d
that g u a r a n t e e d a link of genealogical k i n s h i p w i t h ancient Rome. A s
late as the

fifteenth

century, a sultan of C o n s t a n t i n o p l e could w r i t e

to the doge of Venice: "But w h y should w e w a g e w a r on one another,


w h e n w e are brothers? It is well k n o w n that the T u r k s w e r e b o r n
of, or emerged from, the b u r n i n g of Troy, a n d that t h e y too a r e d e
scended from P r i a m . " It w a s , he s a i d , well k n o w n that the T u r k s w e r e
descended from T u r c u s , w h o , l i k e A e n e a s a n d Francus, w a s the son
of P r i a m . R o m e is, then, p r e s e n t w i t h i n the historical consciousness
of the M i d d l e A g e s , and there is no b r e a k b e t w e e n Rome a n d the
countless k i n g d o m s that w e see a p p e a r i n g from the fifth and s i x t h
centuries o n w a r d .
N o w what the discourse of race struggle w i l l reveal is precisely the
k i n d of break that w i l l relegate to a different world something that
w i l l come to look l i k e an a n t i q u i t y : w e have a new a w a r e n e s s of a
b r e a k that had not previously been recognized. The European

con

sciousness b e g i n s to notice events t h a t h a d previously been no more


t h a n m i n o r i n c i d e n t s w h i c h h a d basically not d a m a g e d the great u n i t y ,
the great strength,

the

great l e g i t i m a c y , and the

great, d a z z l i n g

strength of Rome. It b e g i n s to notice the e v e n t s w h i c h will [ t h e n ]


constitute Europe's real b e g i n n i n g s , i t s bloody beginnings. It b e g a n
w i t h conquest, w i t h the F r a n k i s h invasion and the N o r m a n invasion.
Something that

will be specifically i n d i v i d u a l i z e d as "the

Middle

A g e s " begins to appear [ a n d it w i l l be only in the early e i g h t e e n t h


c e n t u r y that historical consciousness w i l l isolate this phenomenon a n d
call it f e u d a l i s m ] . N e w characters appear: the Franks, the Gauls, a n d

76

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DEFENDED"

the C e l t s ; more general characters such as the peoples of the N o r t h


and the peoples of the South also b e g i n to appear; rulers and s u b
ordinates, the victors and the v a n q u i s h e d begin to appear. It is they
who now enter the theater of historical discourse and who now con
stitute its p r i m a r y reference. Europe becomes populated by memories
and ancestors whose genealogy it had never before w r i t t e n . A very
different historical consciousness emerges and is formulated

through

this discourse on the race struggle and the call for its revival. To that
extent, w e can identify the appearance of discourses on race w a r w i t h
a very different organization of time in Europe's consciousness, prac
tice, and even its politics. Having established that, I w o u l d to make
a certain number of comments.
First, I w o u l d like to stress the fact that it w o u l d be a m i s t a k e to
r e g a r d this discourse on race s t r u g g l e as belonging, rightfully a n d
completely, to the oppressed, or to say that it w a s , at least originally,
the discourse of the enslaved, the discourse of the people, or a history
that w a s claimed and spoken by the people. It should in fact be
immediately obvious that it is a discourse that has a g r e a t ability to
circulate, a g r e a t a p t i t u d e for metamorphosis, or a sort of strategic
polyvalence. It is t r u e that we see it taking shape, at least initially
perhaps, in the eschatological themes or myths that developed to
gether w i t h the popular movements of the second half of the M i d d l e
Ages. But it has to be noted t h a t w e very q u i c k l y i m m e d i a t e l y f i n d
it in the form of historical scholarship, popular fiction, a n d cosmobiological speculations. For a long time it w a s an oppositional d i s
course; c i r c u l a t i n g very q u i c k l y from

one oppositional

group

to

another, it w a s a critical instrument to be used in the struggle against


a form of power, but it was shared bv different enemies or different
forms of opposition to that power. W e see it being used, in various
forms, bv radical English t h o u g h t at the time of the

seventeenth-

century revolution. A few vears later, w e see the French aristocratic


reaction using it against the power of Louis XIV, and it has scarcely
been transformed at all. In the early nineteenth century, it w a s obviouslv bound up with the postrevolutionarv project of at last w r i t i n g
a history whose real subject is the peopled But a few years later, we

28 January

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77

can see it being used to disqualify colonized subraces. This is, then,
a mobile discourse, a polyvalent discourse. A l t h o u g h its origins he in
t h e M i d d l e Ages, it is not so m a r k e d by them that it can have only
one political meaning.
Second comment: Although this discourse speaks of races, a n d al
though the term " r a c e " appears at a very early stage, it is quite ob
v i o u s that the w o r d " r a c e " itself is not p i n n e d to a stable biological
m e a n i n g . A n d yet the w o r d is not completely free-floating. U l t i m a t e l y ,
it designates a c e r t a i n h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l divide. It is no doubt w i d e ,
but it is relatively s t a b l e . One might s a y a n d this discourse does
saythat t w o races exist w h e n e v e r one w r i t e s the history of t w o
g r o u p s w h i c h do not, at least to begin w i t h , have the same language
or, in many cases, the same religion. The two g r o u p s form a u n i t y
a n d a single polity only as a r e s u l t of w a r s , invasions, victories, a n d
defeats, or in other w o r d s , acts of violence. The only l i n k b e t w e e n
them is the link established by the violence of w a r . A n d finally, w e
can say t h a t two races exist w h e n there are t w o groups which, a l
t h o u g h they coexist, have not become m i x e d because of the differ
ences, d i s s y m m e t r i e s , a n d b a r r i e r s c r e a t e d by privileges, customs a n d
rights, the d i s t r i b u t i o n of wealth, or the w a y in which power is e x
ercised.
T h i r d comment: W e can, therefore, recognize that historical d i s
course h a s t w o great morphologies, t w o m a i n centers, a n d t w o p o l i t
ical functions. On the one h a n d , the Roman history of sovereignty;
on the other, the b i b l i c a l history of servitude a n d exiles. I do not
think that the difference b e t w e e n these t w o histories is precisely the
same as the difference b e t w e e n an official discourse and, let us say, a
rustic* discourse, or a discourse that is so conditioned by political
imperatives t h a t it is incapable of p r o d u c i n g a k n o w l e d g e . This h i s
tory, w h i c h set itself the task of d e c i p h e r i n g p o w e r ' s secrets and d e
mystifying it, d i d in fact p r o d u c e at least as much k n o w l e d g e as the
history that t r i e d to reconstruct the g r e a t u n i n t e r r u p t e d j u r i s p r u d e n c e
of power. I t h i n k t h a t w e m i g h t even go so far as to say t h a t it

*The manuscript has "scholarly" and "naive."

78

"SOCIETY

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removed a lot of obstacles, and that the fertile moments in the con
stitution of historical knowledge in Europe can, roughly, be situated
at the moment when the history of sovereignty suddenly intruded
upon the history of the race war. In the early seventeenth century in
England, for instance, the discourse that told of invasions and of the
great injustices done to the Saxons by the Normans intruded upon
all the historical work that the monarchist jurists were undertaking
in order to recount the uninterrupted history of the power of the
kings of England. It was the intersection between these two historical
practices that led to the explosion of a whole field of knowledge.
Similarly, when at the end of the seventeenth century and the begin
ning of the eighteenth, the French nobility began to write its gene
alogy not in the form of a continuity but in the form of the privileges
it once enjoyed, which it then lost and which it wanted to win back,
all the historical research that was being done on that axis intruded
upon the historiography of the French monarchy instituted by Louis
XIV, and there was once more a considerable expansion of historical
knowledge. For similar reasons, there was another fertile moment at
the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the history of the
people, of its servitude and its enslavement, the history of the Gauls
and the Franks, of the peasants and the Third Estate, intruded upon
the juridical history of regimes. So the clash between the history of
sovereignty and the history of the race war leads to a perpetual
interaction, and to the production of fields of knowledge and of
knowledge-contents.
Final remark: As a result ofor

despitethis interaction, the

revolutionary discourse of seventeenth-century England, and that of


nineteenth century France and Europe, was on the side ofI almost
said biblical historyon the side of history -as-demand, of history-asmsurrection. The idea of revolution, which runs through the entire
political workings of the West and the entire history of the West for
more than two hundred years, and whose origins and content are still,
as it happens, verv enigmatic, cannot, in my view, be dissociated from
the emergence and existence of this practice of counterhistory. After
all, what could the revolutionary project and the revolutionary idea

28 January

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79

possibly mean without this preliminary interpretation of the dissym


metnes, the disequilibriums, the injustice, and the violence that func
Hon despite the order of laws, beneath the order of laws, and through
and because of the order of laws? Where would the revolutionary
project, the revolutionary idea, or revolutionary practice be without
the will to rekindle the real war that once went on and which is still
going on, even though the function of the silent order of power is to
mask and smother it, and even though it is in its interest to do so?
Where would revolutionary practice, revolutionary discourse, and the
revolutionary project be without the will to reactivate that war thanks
to a specific historical knowledge? What would they become, if that
knowledge were not used as an instrument in the warthat waras
a tactical element in the real war that is being waged? What would
the revolutionary project and revolutionary discourse mean if the goal
w e r e not a certain, a final, inversion of relations of power and a
decisive displacement within the exercise of power?
The interpretation of dissymmetries, the rekindling of a war, the
reactivation of the warthere is more than this to the revolutionary
discourse that has constantly undermined Europe since at least the
end of the nineteenth century, but it is still an important

strand

within it, and it was shaped, defined, established, and organized in


the great counterhistory that began to speak of the race struggle at
the end of the M i d d l e Ages. After all, it should not be forgotten that
toward the end of h i s life, M a r x told Engels in a letter written in
1882 that "You know very well where we found our idea of class
struggle; we found it in the work of the French historians who talked
6

about the race struggle." The history of the revolutionary project and
of revolutionary practice is, I think, indissociable from the counterhistory that broke with the Indo-European form of historical prac
tices, which were bound up w i t h the exercise of sovereignty; it is
indissociable from the appearance of the counterhistory of races and
of the role played in the West by clashes between races. We might,
in a word, say that at the end of the M i d d l e Ages, in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, we left, or began to leave, a societv whose
historical consciousness was still of the Roman type, or which was

8o

SOCIETY

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BE

DEFENDED"

still centered on the rituals of sovereignty and its m y t h s , a n d that w e


then entered a society oflet's say it is of the modern t y p e ( g i v e n
that there is no other w o r d for it a n d that the w o r d " m o d e r n " is
devoid of m e a n i n g ) a society whose historical consciousness centers
not on sovereignty and the problem of its foundation, but on revo
lution, its promises, a n d its prophecies of future emancipation.
I t h i n k this provides us w i t h a s t a r t i n g point for

understanding

how and w h y historical discourse could become a new issue in the


m i d nineteenth c e n t u r y . A t the t i m e w h e n this discourse [ ] w a s
being displaced, translated, or converted into a revolutionary d i s
course, at the t i m e w h e n the notion of race struggle w a s about to be
replaced by that of class s t r u g g l e a n d in fact, w h e n I say "the m i d nineteenth c e n t u r y , " that's too late; it w a s in the first half of the
7

nineteenth century, as it w a s [ T h i e r s ] who transformed race struggle


into class struggleat the time when this conversion w a s going on,
it w a s in fact only natural that a t t e m p t s should be made by one side
to recode the old counterhistory not in terms of class, b u t in terms
of racesraces in the biological and medical sense of that term. A n d
it w a s at the moment w h e n a counterhistory of the revolutionary t y p e
w a s t a k i n g shape that another counterhistory began to t a k e shape
but it w i l l be a counterhistory in the sense that it a d o p t s a biologicomedical perspective and crushes the historical dimension that w a s
present in this discourse. You thus see the appearance of w h a t w i l l
become actual racism. This racism t a k e s over a n d reconverts the form
and function of the discourse on race struggle, but it distorts them,
a n d it w i l l be characterized by the fact that the theme of historical
w a r w i t h its battles, its invasions, its looting, its victories, a n d its
defeatswill be replaced by the postevolutionist theme of the struggle
for existence. It is no longer a battle in the sense that a w a r r i o r w o u l d
u n d e r s t a n d the term, but a struggle in the biological sense: the diflerentiation of species, natural selection, a n d the survival of the fittest
species. S i m i l a r l y , the theme of the b i n a r y society which is d i v i d e d
into t w o races or two g r o u p s w i t h different languages, l a w s , and so
on w i l l be replaced by t h a t of a society that is, in contrast, biologically
monist. Its only problem is this: it is threatened by a certain n u m b e r

28

January

1976

81

of heterogeneous e l e m e n t s w h i c h are not essential to it, which do not


divide the social body, or the living body of society, into t w o parts,
and w h i c h are in a sense accidental. Hence the idea that foreigners
have infiltrated this society, the theme of the deviants w h o are this
society's by products. The theme of the counter history of r a c e s w a s ,
finally, that the State w a s necessarily unjust. It is now inverted into
its opposite: the State is no longer an instrument that one race uses
against another: the State is, and must be, the protector of the integ
rity, the s u p e r i o r i t y , and the p u r i t y of the race. The idea of racial
purity, w i t h all its monistic, Statist, a n d biological implications: that
is w h a t replaces the idea of race s t r u g g l e .
I think that racism is born at the point when the theme of racial
p u r i t y replaces that of race struggle, and w h e n counterhistory b e g i n s
to be converted into a biological racism. The connection between r a
cism and antirevolutionary discourse and politics in the West is not,
then, accidental; it is not s i m p l y an additional ideological edifice t h a t
appears at a given m o m e n t in a sort of g r a n d antirevolutionary project.
A t the m o m e n t w h e n the discourse of race struggle w a s being t r a n s
formed

into

revolutionary

discourse,

racism

was

revolutionary

thought. Although they had their roots in the discourse of race s t r u g


gle, the revolutionary project and revolutionary propheticism
began to t a k e a very different

now

direction. Racism is, quite l i t e r a l l y ,

revolutionary discourse in an inverted form. A l t e r n a t i v e l y , w e could


put it this w a y : W h e r e a s the discourse of races, of the struggle be
tween races, w a s a w e a p o n to be used against the historico-political
discourse of Roman sovereignty, the discourse of race ( i n the s i n g u l a r )
w a s a way of t u r n i n g that w e a p o n against those w h o had forged it,
of using it to preserve the sovereignty of the State, a sovereignty whose
luster and vigor w e r e no longer g u a r a n t e e d by magico-juridical r i t u a l s ,
but by medico- normalizing techniques. Thanks to the shift from l a w
to norm, from races in the plural to race in the singular, from

the

emancipatory project to a concern with p u r i t y , sovereignty w a s able


to invest or take over the discourse ol race struggle and reutilize it
for its own strategy. S t a t e sovereignty t h u s b e c o m e s the imperative to
protect the race. It b e c o m e s both an alternative to and a w a y of

82

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b l o c k i n g the call for revolution that derived from the old discourse
of struggles, interpretations, d e m a n d s , and promises.
I w o u l d like, finally, to m a k e one more point. The racism that came
into b e i n g as a transformation of and an alternative to revolutionary
discourse, or the old discourse of race struggle, u n d e r w e n t t w o further
transformations in the t w e n t i e t h century. A t the end of the nineteenth
century, w e see the a p p e a r a n c e of w h a t might be called a State racism,
of a biological a n d centralized racism. A n d it w a s this theme that w a s ,
if not profoundly modified, at least transformed and u t i l i z e d in strat
egies specific to the t w e n t i e t h century. On the one hand, w e have the
N a z i transformation,

w h i c h t a k e s u p the theme, established at the

end of the nineteenth c e n t u r y , of a State racism that is responsible


for the biological protection of the race. This theme is, however, r e
w o r k e d a n d converted, in a sort of regressive mode, in such a w a y
that it is i m p l a n t e d in and functions w i t h i n the v e r y prophetic d i s
course from w h i c h the theme of race struggle once emerged. N a z i s m
w a s t h u s able to reuse a w h o l e popular, almost medieval, mythology
that a l l o w e d State racism to function w i t h i n an ideologico-mythical
landscape s i m i l a r to that of the p o p u l a r s t r u g g l e s w h i c h , at a given
moment, could support a n d m a k e it possible to formulate the theme
of race struggle. In the Nazi period, State racism w o u l d be accom
panied by a w h o l e set of elements and connotations such as, for e x
a m p l e , the struggle of a G e r m a n i c race w h i c h had, t e m p o r a r i l y , been
enslaved b y the European p o w e r s , the Slavs, the Treaty of Versailles,
a n d so o n w h i c h G e r m a n y h a d a l w a y s regarded a s its provisional
victors. It w a s also accompanied by the theme of the r e t u r n of the
hero, or heroes ( t h e r e a w a k e n i n g of Frederick, and of all the nation's
other g u i d e s and Fiihrers; the theme of the revival of an ancestral w a r ;
that of the a d v e n t of a new Reich, of the empire of the last d a y s w h i c h
w i l l e n s u r e the m i l l e n a n a n victory of the r a c e , but w h i c h also means
that the inevitable apocalypse and the inevitable last d a y s are nigh.
W e have then a Nazi reinscription or reinsertion of State racism in
the legend of w a r r i n g races.
In contrast to the Nazi transformation, you have a Soviet-style

28 January

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83

transformation w h i c h consists in doing, so to speak, just the opposite.


This is not a d r a m a t i c or t h e a t r i c a l transformation, b u t a s u r r e p t i t i o u s
transformation. It does not use the d r a m a t u r g y of l e g e n d s , a n d it is
diffusely "scientific." It consists in r e w o r k i n g the revolutionary d i s
course of social strugglesthe very discourse t h a t d e r i v e d so m a n y of
i t s e l e m e n t s from the old discourse of the race s t r u g g l e a n d a r t i c u
l a t i n g it w i t h the m a n a g e m e n t and the policing that ensure the h y
g i e n e of an orderly society. In Soviet S t a t e r a c i s m , w h a t revolutionary
discourse designated as the class enemy becomes a sort of biological
threat. So, w h o is the class enemy n o w ? Well, it's the sick, the deviant,
the m a d m a n . A s a result, the weapon that w a s once used in the
struggle against the class enemy ( t h e w e a p o n of w a r , or possibly the
d i a l e c t i c a n d c o n v i c t i o n ) i s n o w w i e l d e d b y a m e d i c a l police w h i c h
e l i m i n a t e s class e n e m i e s as though they w e r e racial e n e m i e s . W e have
then, on the one hand, the Nazi reinscription of State racism in the
old legend of w a r r i n g classes, a n d on the other, the Soviet r e i n s c r i p
tion of the class struggle w i t h i n the silent m e c h a n i s m s of a State
racism. A n d the hoarse songs of the races that clashed in b a t t l e s over
the lies of l a w s and k i n g s , a n d w h i c h w e r e after all the earliest form
of revolutionary discourse, become the a d m i n i s t r a t i v e prose of a State
t h a t defends itself in the n a m e of a social heritage t h a t has to be k e p t
pure.
So, the g l o r y a n d the infamy of the discourse of r a c e s in s t r u g g l e .
W h a t I have been t r y i n g to show you is that this is discourse t h a t
definitively detached u s from a historico-juridical consciousness cen
tered on sovereignty, a n d introduced us into a form of history, a form
of t i m e that can be both d r e a m e d of and k n o w n , both d r e a m e d of
a n d understood, a n d in w h i c h t h e question of p o w e r can no longer
be dissociated from t h a t of s e r v i t u d e , l i b e r a t i o n , a n d emancipation.
Petrarch a s k e d if there w a s a n y t h i n g more to history than the praise
of Rome. A n d w e a s k a n d this is no doubt t y p i c a l of our historical
consciousness a n d is no doubt b o u n d u p w i t h the a p p e a r a n c e of t h i s
counterhistory: "Is t h e r e a n y t h i n g more to history t h a n the call for
revolution, and the fear of r e v o l u t i o n ? " A n d let me s i m p l y a d d t h i s

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

question: "And what if R o m e once more c o n q u e r e d the r e v o l u t i o n ? "


So after these digressions, 1 w i l l try, b e g i n n i n g next time, to take
another look at certain aspects of the history of the discourse on races
from the seventeenth century to the early nineteenth and then the
t w e n t i e t h centuries.

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1-For Roman writers before Livy, the word "annals" referred to the ancient histories they
consulted. Annals are a primitive form of history in which events are related year by
year. The Annates Maximi drawn up by the Great Pontiif were published in eighty books
at the beginning of the second century B.C.
2. Foucault is obviously referring to the work of Georges Dumezil, and particularly to
Xtitra-V'aruna: Essai sur deux representations
indo-euwpe'ennes
de la souverainete (Paris: Gallimard, 1 9 4 0 ) (English translation by Derek Coleman: Mirta-Varuna: An Essay on Two
htdo-Eutvpean
Repnsentations
of Sovereignity [New York: Zone Books, 1 9 8 8 | ); Mythe et
Epopee (Pans: Gallimard), vol. 1: L'Ueo/ogie des trois jonctions dans les epopees des peuples indoeutvpeens, 1 9 6 8 ; vol. 2 : Types e'piques indo-eumpe'ens:
un heros, un sorrier, un rot, 1 9 7 1 ; vol. 3:
Histoires romaines, 1 9 7 3 .
3. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe condita tibri (books 1 - 9 , 2 1 - 4 5 , and half of the fifth decade have
survived).
4. "Quid est enim aliud omnis histona quam romana laus" ("History was nothing but the
praise of Rome"). Petrarch, Invectiva contra eum qui aledixit Italia (1373). It should be
pointed out that Petrarch's words are cited by Erwin Panofeky in his Renaissance
and
Renascences
in Western Art (London: Paladin, 1 9 7 0 ) , p. 1 0 (first edition, Stockholm:
Almqvist & Wiksell, 1 9 6 0 ; French translation: La Renaissance et ses avant-coureurs
dans Vart
d'Occident
[Pans: Flammanon, 1 9 7 6 ] , p. 2 6 ) .
5. From Mignet and the authors Foucault mentions in subsequent lectures to Michelet.
6 . The actual reference should in fact be to the letter on 5 March 1 8 5 2 , in which Marx
writes to J . Weydemeyer: "Finally, in vour place I should in general remark to the
democratic gentlemen that they would do better first to acquaint themselves with bour
geois literature before they presume to yap at the opponents of it. For instance, these
gentlemen should study the historical works of Thierry, Guizot, John Wade, and others
in order to enlighten themselves as to the past 'history of classes.' " In Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels, Selected Correspondence,
2 d ed. (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1 9 6 5 ) ,
p . 6 8 (German original: Karl Marx-Friedrich
Engels Gesamtausgabe,
Dritte abteilung,
Briefwechsel [Berlin: Diez, 1 9 8 7 ] , bd. 5, p. 75; French translation: K.. Marx and F. Engels,
Correspondance
[Paris: Editions sociales, 1 9 5 9 ] , vol. 3, p. 7 9 ) . Cf. Marx's letter of 27 July
1 8 5 4 to Engels, where Thierry is defined as "the father of the 'class struggle,'" Selected
Correspondence,
p. 8 7 (Gesuamtausgabe,
bd. 7, 1 9 8 9 , p. 130; Correspond ante, vol. 4, 1975,
pp. 1 4 8 - 5 2 ) . In the manuscript and obviously quoting from memory, M. Foucault writes:
"In 1 8 8 2 , Marx again said to Engels: 'The history of the revolutionary project and of
revolutionary practice is indissociable from this counterhistory of races, and the role it
played in political struggles in the West.' "
7. See in particular A. Thiers, Histoire de la Revolution francaisc, 1 0 vols. ( Pans, 1 8 2 3 - 1 8 2 7 ) ;
Histoire du Consulat et de I'Empire, 2 0 vols. (Pans, 1 8 4 5 - 1 8 6 2 ) .

five

4 FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6

i?

Answer

to a question

sovereignty.

royalists,

- The discourse

parliamentarians,

and political

OVER

on anti-Semitism.

historicism.

- Hobbes

on the Conquest

and Leveller?.
- What Hobbes

on war and
in England:

- The binary
wanted

to

*
^

schema

eliminate.

T H E L A S T W E E K or t w o , a c e r t a i n n u m b e r of q u e s t i o n s a n d

objections, some w r i t t e n a n d some oral, have been a d d r e s s e d to m e .


I w o u l d be q u i t e h a p p y to d i s c u s s these w i t h y o u , b u t it is difficult
in t h i s space a n d this c l i m a t e . In any case, y o u can come a n d see m e
in my office after the l e c t u r e if y o u have q u e s t i o n s to a s k me. B u t
there is one question I w o u l d l i k e to t r y to a n s w e r , first because I
have been asked it several t i m e s a n d second because I thought I h a d
a l r e a d y a n s w e r e d it in advance, b u t I have to conclude that m y e x
planations w e r e not sufficiently clear. I have been asked: " W h a t does
it mean to say that racism t a k e s off in the sixteenth or seventeenth
century, a n d to relate racism solely to t h e p r o b l e m s of the State a n d
sovereignty, w h e n it is w e l l k n o w n that, after a l l , r e l i g i o u s r a c i s m
( a n d r e l i g i o u s a n t i - S e m i t i s m in p a r t i c u l a r ) h a d been in existence
since the M i d d l e A g e s ? " I w o u l d therefore l i k e to go over something
I obviously d i d not e x p l a i n a d e q u a t e l y or clearly.
I w a s certainly not t r y i n g for one moment to trace the history of
racism in t h e general a n d t r a d i t i o n a l sense of the term. I do not w a n t

88

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to trace the history of w h a t it might have meant, in the West, to have


an awareness of belonging to a race, or of the history of the rites and
mechanisms that w e r e used to t r y to exclude, disqualify, or p h y s i c a l l y
destroy a race. I wasand in m y own v i e w , I amtrying to look at
the emergence in the West of a certain analysis ( a critical, historical,
and political a n a l y s i s ) of the State, its institutions and its p o w e r
mechanisms. This analysis was m a d e in binary terms: The social body
is not made u p of a p y r a m i d of orders or of a hierarchy, and it does
not constitute a coherent and unitary organism. It is composed of t w o
g r o u p s , and they are not only q u i t e distinct, b u t also in conflict. A n d
the conflictual relationship that exists between the two groups that
constitute the social body a n d shapes the State is in fact one of w a r ,
of permanent warfare. The State is nothing more than the w a y that
the w a r between the two groups in question continues to b e w a g e d
in a p p a r e n t l y peaceful forms. H a v i n g established that, I w o u l d like to
show how an analysis of this type is obviously articulated w i t h rev
olutionary hopes, an urgent call for rebellion, and also a politics of
rebellion or revolution. That, and not racism, is my basic problem.
It seems to me that there are reasonable historical grounds

for

saying that this way of m a k i n g a political analysis of p o w e r relations


( w h i c h are seen as relations of w a r b e t w e e n t w o races that coexist
w i t h i n a single s o c i e t y ) does not, or at least not in the first instance,
have a n y t h i n g to do w i t h the religious problem. You w i l l find that
this analysis w a s actually formulated, or w a s b e i n g formulated, at the
end of the sixteenth century a n d the b e g i n n i n g of the seventeenth. In
other w o r d s , the divide, the perception

of the w a r b e t w e e n races

predates the notions of social s t r u g g l e or class struggle, but it certainly


cannot be identified with a racism of, if you like, the religious t y p e .
It is true that I haven't t a l k e d about a n t i - S e m i t i s m . I intended to say
a bit about it last time, w h e n I w a s discussing this theme of the race
struggle in very general terms, but I did not have time. W h a t I t h i n k
w e can saybut I w i l l come b a c k to this lateris this: Insofar as it
is a religious a n d r a c i a l attitude, a n t i - S e m i t i s m had so l i t t l e influence
on the history I w a s t r y i n g to trace for you that it does not have to
b e taken into account until w e r e a c h the n i n e t e e n t h century. T h e old

4 February

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89

r e l i g i o u s - t y p e a n t i S e m i t i s m w a s r e u t i h z e d by S t a t e racism only in
the n i n e t e e n t h century, or at the p o i n t w h e n the State had to look
like, function, and present itself as the g u a r a n t o r of the integrity and
p u r i t y of the race, and had to defend it against the race or races that
w e r e infiltrating it, i n t r o d u c i n g harmful elements into its body, and
w h i c h therefore h a d to b e d r i v e n out for both political and biological
reasons. It is at this point that a n t i - S e m i t i s m develops, p i c k i n g u p ,
using, and t a k i n g from the old form of a n t i - S e m i t i s m all the energy
and a w h o l e m y t h o l o g y w h i c h h a d u n t i l t h e n been devoted solely
to the political analysis of the internal w a r , or the social w a r . A t this
point the J e w s came to be seen asand w e r e described asa race
that w a s present w i t h i n all races, a n d w h o s e biologically d a n g e r o u s
character necessitated a certain n u m b e r of mechanisms of rejection
a n d exclusion on the p a r t of the S t a t e . It is therefore, I think, t h e
r e u t i l i z a t i o n w i t h i n State racism of an a n t i - S e m i t i s m w h i c h h a d d e
veloped for other reasons t h a t g e n e r a t e d t h e t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y

phe

nomena of s u p e r i m p o s i n g the old mechanisms of a n t i - S e m i t i s m on


this critical and political analysis of the s t r u g g l e between races w i t h i n
a s i n g l e society. That is w h y I d i d not r a i s e either the p r o b l e m of
religious r a c i s m or the p r o b l e m of a n t i - S e m i t i s m in the M i d d l e A g e s .
I w i l l , on the other hand, try to t a l k about them w h e n I come to t h e
n i n e t e e n t h century. A s I h a v e a l r e a d y said, I am r e a d y to a n s w e r more
specific questions.
Today I w o u l d l i k e to t r y to look at how w a r began to emerge as
an a n a l y z e r of p o w e r relations at the end of the sixteenth a n d the
b e g i n n i n g of the seventeenth century. There is, of course, one n a m e
t h a t w e i m m e d i a t e l y encounter: it is t h a t of Hobbes, w h o does, at
first glance, appear to b e the m a n w h o s a i d t h a t w a r is b o t h the basis
of p o w e r relations and the p r i n c i p l e that e x p l a i n s them. A c c o r d i n g
to H o b b e s , it is not just a w a r that w e find b e h i n d order,

behind

peace, and beneath the l a w . It is not a w a r that presides over the


b i r t h of the great a u t o m a t o n w h i c h constitutes the State, the sover
eign, or Leviathan. It is the most general of all w a r s , and it goes on
at all times and in every dimension: "the w a r of every man against
every man."

H o b b e s does not s i m p l y claim that this w a r of every

90

"SOCIETY

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DEFENDED"

man against every man gives b i r t h to the State on the m o r n i n g w h i c h


is both real a n d fictionalon w h i c h Leviathan is born. It goes on even
w h e n the State has been constituted, a n d Hobbes sees it as a threat
that w e l l s u p in the State's interstices, at its limits and on its frontiers.
You will recall the three e x a m p l e s of p e r m a n e n t warfare that he cites.
H e says first that w h e n , even in a civil state, a man t a k e s a journey,
he locks h i s doors, because he k n o w s that thieves a r e p e r m a n e n t l y at
w a r w i t h those they rob.

H e then gives another example: in the

forests of A m e r i c a , there are still savage people w h o live in a condition


of w a r against one another.

A n d even in our States of Europe, w h a t

are relations b e t w e e n States, if not those of two men " h a v i n g their


4

weapons pointed, a n d their eyes fixed on one a n o t h e r " ? So even w h e n


the State has been established, the threat of w a r is there: there is a
w a r in any case. Hence the problem: First, w h a t is this w a r that exists
before the State, a n d w h i c h the State is, in theory, destined to e n d ?
W h a t is t h i s w a r that the State h a s p u s h e d b a c k into prehistory, into
savagery, into its mysterious frontiers, but w h i c h is still g o i n g o n ?
A n d second, h o w does t h i s w a r give b i r t h to t h e S t a t e ? W h a t effect
does the fact that it w a s born of w a r have on the constitution of the
S t a t e ? W h a t stigmata does w a r leave on the body of the S t a t e once it
has been e s t a b l i s h e d ? These are the two q u e s t i o n s I w o u l d like [to
c o n s i d e r ] briefly.
W h a t , then, is this w a r , the w a r that Hobbes describes both as
g o i n g on before the State is established a n d as l e a d i n g to its consti
t u t i o n ? Is it a w a r that is b e i n g w a g e d by the s t r o n g against the w e a k ,
by the violent against the timorous, by the brave against c o w a r d s , by
the g r e a t against the common people, or by arrogant savages against
timorous s h e p h e r d s ? Is it a w a r that is a r t i c u l a t e d around u n m e d i a t e d
and natural differences? You k n o w that this is not at all the case in
Hobbes. The primitive w a r , the w a r of every m a n against every man,
is born of e q u a l i t y and t a k e s place in the element of that e q u a l i t y .
W a r is the i m m e d i a t e effect of nondifferences, or at least of insufficient
differences. Hobbes in fact says that if there w e r e great differences, if
t h e r e really w e r e obvious visible disparities b e t w e e n men, it is quite
obvious that the w a r w o u l d i m m e d i a t e l y come to an end. If there

4 February

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w e r e m a r k e d , visible, or great natural differences, then one of t w o


things w o u l d happen; either there really w o u l d be a clash b e t w e e n
the strong a n d the w e a k a n d t h a t clash or t h a t real w a r w o u l d i m
m e d i a t e l y end w i t h the v i c t o r y of the strong over the w e a k , a n d their
v i c t o r y w o u l d be definitive precisely because of the strength of the
strong; or there w o u l d be no real clash b e c a u s e , b e i n g aware of, seeing
a n d noting their own w e a k n e s s , the w e a k w o u l d s u r r e n d e r even b e
fore the confrontation began. If, s a y s Hobbes, m a r k e d natural differ
ences d i d e x i s t , t h e r e w o u l d therefore be no w a r because e i t h e r the
r e l a t i o n s h i p of force w o u l d be e s t a b l i s h e d from the outset by an initial
w a r that p r e c l u d e d the possibility of its continuation; or that r e l a
tionship of force w o u l d r e m a i n v i r t u a l , precisely because the w e a k
are timorous. If, then, there w e r e a difference, there w o u l d be no w a r .
5

Differences lead to peace. A n d w h a t happens in a state of nondifference or insufficient differencein a state in w h i c h w e can say that
differences do exist, but that they are tiny, e p h e m e r a l , minute, u n
stable, disorderly, and u n d i s t i n g u i s h e d ? W h a t happens in this a n a r c h y
of minor differences that c h a r a c t e r i z e s the state of n a t u r e ? Even a
man who is a l i t t l e w e a k e r than other men, than the other man, is
sufficiently s i m i l a r to the strongest man to realize t h a t he is strong
enough not to have to surrender. So the w e a k m a n never gives u p .
A s for t h e strong man, he is never strong enough not to be w o r r i e d
and, therefore, not to be constantly on his g u a r d . The absence of
natural differences therefore creates u n c e r t a i n t i e s , r i s k s , h a z a r d s , a n d ,
therefore, the w i l l to fight on both sides; it is the aleatory element in
the primal relationship of force t h a t creates the state of w a r .
But w h a t e x a c t l y is this state of w a r ? Even the w e a k m a n k n o w s
or at least t h i n k s t h a t

he is not far from being as strong as his

neighbor. A n d so he does not a b a n d o n all thought of w a r . But the


stronger manor at least the m a n w h o is a little stronger than the
othersknows, despite it all, t h a t he m a y be w e a k e r than the other,
especially if the other uses w i l e s , s u r p r i s e , or an alliance. So the w e a k
m a n w i l l not a b a n d o n all thought of w a r , a n d the otherthe stronger
m a n w i l l , despite his strength, try to avoid it. Now a man

who

wishes to avoid w a r can do so on only one condition: he must show

92

SOCIETY

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DEFENDED"

that he is ready to wage war, and is not p r e p a r e d to abandon all


t h o u g h t of w a r . A n d h o w can he demonstrate that he is not ready to
abandon all thought of w a r ? W e l l , [by a c t i n g ] in such a way that the
other, w h o is on the point of w a g i n g w a r , begins to doubt his own
s t r e n g t h a n d therefore abandons the idea; a n d the other man w i l l
abandon a l l thought of w a r only to the extent that he k n o w s t h a t the
first m a n is not p r e p a r e d to abandon the idea. So in the t y p e of
relations that a r e set in motion by t h e s e m i n u t e differences a n d these
aleatory confrontations w h e r e the outcome is uncertain, what does the
relationship of force consist of? Three series of elements are in play
from the outset. First, calculated presentations: my presentation of the
strength, of the other, my presentation of the other's presentation of
my strength, a n d so on. Second, e m p h a t i c a n d pronounced expressions
of w i l l : you m a k e it obvious that y o u w a n t w a r , you demonstrate that
you w i l l not abandon the idea of w a r . Third, you use m u t u a l l y intim
ldatory tactics: I am so afraid of w a g i n g w a r that I will feel safe only
if you are at least as afraid of w a r as Iand, insofar as that is possible,
more afraid of it than I. Which means, all in all, that the state Hobbes
is describing is not at all a brutish state of n a t u r e in which forces
clash d i r e c t l y w i t h one another. In Hobbes's state of p r i m i t i v e war,
the encounter, the confrontation, the clash, is not one b e t w e e n w e a p
ons or fists, or b e t w e e n savage forces that have been unleashed. There
are no b a t t l e s in Hobbes's p r i m i t i v e w a r , there is no blood and there
are no corpses. There are presentations, manifestations, signs, em
phatic expressions, wiles, a n d deceitful expressions; there are traps,
intentions disguised as their opposite, and worries disguised as cer
tainties. W e are in a theater where presentations are exchanged, in a
relationship of fear in w h i c h there are no time limits; we are not
really involved in a war. W h i c h means, u l t i m a t e l y , that the state of
bestial savagery in w h i c h living i n d i v i d u a l s devour one another can
in no w a y be the p r i m a r y characteristic of Hobbes's state of w a r . What
does characterize the state ot w a r is a sort ot u n e n d i n g diplomacy
between rivals w h o are naturally equal. W e are not at war; we are in
w h a t Hobbes specifically calls a state ot w a r . There is a text in which
he states: " W a r r e consisteth not in Battel onelv, or in the act of fight-

4 February

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93

ing; but in a tract of time, w h e r e i n the W i l l to contend by Battel is


0

sufficiently k n o w n . " The tract of time designates, then, the state a n d


not the battle, a n d w h a t is at s t a k e is not the forces themselves, b u t
the w i l l , a w i l l that is sufficiently k n o w n , or in other w o r d s [ e n d o w e d
w i t h ] a s y s t e m of representations a n d manifestations that is effective
within this field of p r i m a l diplomacy.
W e can therefore see h o w a n d w h y this stateand it is not a b a t t l e
or a d i r e c t clash of forces, but a c e r t a i n s t a t e of the i n t e r p l a y of
representationsis not a stage that m a n w i l l abandon forever once
the State is b o r n ; it is in fact a sort of p e r m a n e n t b a c k d r o p w h i c h
cannot not function, w i t h its elaborate w i l e s a n d its complex c a l c u
lations, once there is nothing to provide security, to establish differ
ences, and finally to give the strength to one side and not the other.
So, for Hobbes, it does not all b e g i n w i t h w a r .
But how does this state, which is not a state of w a r b u t a p l a y of
presentations that a l l o w s us, precisely, to avoid w a r , give b i r t h to t h e
S t a t e w i t h a capital Sto Leviathan a n d to s o v e r e i g n t y ? H o b b e s
a n s w e r s this second question by m a k i n g a distinction b e t w e e n t w o
categories of sovereignty: sovereignty b y i n s t i t u t i o n a n d sovereignty
by acquisition. A g r e a t deal has been said about sovereignty by i n
stitution, a n d Hobbes's analysis of sovereignty is u s u a l l y r e d u c e d to
that. Things a r e in fact more complicated t h a n that. Y o u have a com
monwealth by institution and a c o m m o n w e a l t h by a c q u i s i t i o n , and
two forms of sovereignty w i t h i n the latter. In all, w e therefore have
States by institution, States by acquisition, a n d the three types or
forms of sovereignty that shape those forms of power. Let us first look
at c o m m o n w e a l t h s by institution, w h i c h a r e the most familiar; it
w o n ' t t a k e long. W h a t is it that [ h a p p e n s ] in the state of w a r that
puts an end to that state of w a r in which, I repeat, it is not w a r but
the representation and threat of w a r that are in p l a y ? Well, men m a k e
decisions. But w h a t decisions? Not s i m p l y to transfer part of t h e i r
rights or their p o w e r s to someoneor to several people. T h e y do not
even decide, basically, to transfer their r i g h t s . On the contrary, they
decide to grant someoneor an assembly m a d e up of s e v e r a l people
the right to represent t h e m , fully a n d c o m p l e t e l y . This is not a re-

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

lationship in w h i c h something belonging to i n d i v i d u a l s is surrendered


or delegated; it is a representation of those i n d i v i d u a l s that is surren
dered or delegated. The sovereign w h o is so constituted will therefore
be equivalent to all those i n d i v i d u a l s . He will not simply have part
of their rights; he will a c t u a l l y take their place, and the w h o l e of their
power. A s Hobbes puts it, they appoint him "to beare their person."

A n d provided t h a t this d i s p l a c e m e n t does t a k e place, the i n d i v i d u a l s


w h o are presented in this w a y are present in their representatives;
and w h a t e v e r their representativeor in other w o r d s , the sovereign
does, they must do. Insofar a s he represents i n d i v i d u a l s , the sovereign
is an exact model of those very i n d i v i d u a l s . The sovereign is therefore
an artificial i n d i v i d u a l i t y , but also a real i n d i v i d u a l i t y . The fact that
this sovereign is a n a t u r a l l y i n d i v i d u a l monarch does not alter the
fact that he is an artificial sovereign; and w h e n an assembly is i n
volved, the sovereign r e m a i n s an i n d i v i d u a l i t y , even though a g r o u p
of i n d i v i d u a l s is involved. So m u c h for c o m m o n w e a l t h s by institution.
A s you can see, this m e c h a n i s m consists solely of the i n t e r p l a y b e
tween a will, a covenant, and

representation.

Let us now look at the other w a y in w h i c h commonwealths can


be established, at w h a t else can h a p p e n to this or that commonwealth.
9

Let's look at the mechanism of a c q u i s i t i o n . This is a p p a r e n t l y some


t h i n g very different, even the very opposite. In the case of common
wealths

by

acquisition,

it

seems

that

we

are

dealing

with

c o m m o n w e a l t h that is founded on relations of force that are at once


real, historical, and immediate. If w e are to understand this mecha
nism w e have to postulate the existence of not a p r i m i t i v e state of
w a r , but a real battle. Take a State that has already been constituted
in accordance w i t h the model I have just described, the model of
institution. Let us suppose that this State is attacked by another in a
w a r , w i t h real battles and decisions that are t a k e n by force of arms.
Let us suppose that one of the States that has been constituted in this
w a y is defeated by the other: its a r m y is defeated and scattered, and
its sovereignty is destroyed; the enemy occupies its land. W e are now
involved in what we were looking for from the start, or in other
words, a real w a r , w i t h a real battle and a real relationship of force.

4 February

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95

There are w i n n e r s and losers, and the losers are at the mercy of
the w i n n e r s , at their disposal. Let us n o w look at w h a t happens: the
v a n q u i s h e d are at the disposal of the victors. In other w o r d s , the
victors can kill t h e m . If they kill t h e m , the problem obviously goes
away: the sovereignty of the S t a t e d i s a p p e a r s s i m p l y because the i n
d i v i d u a l s w h o m a k e u p that S t a t e are dead. But w h a t h a p p e n s if the
victors spare the lives of the v a n q u i s h e d ? If they spare their lives, or
if the defeated are granted the t e m p o r a r y privilege of life, one of t w o
things may happen. Either they will rebel against the victors, or in
other w o r d s begin a n e w w a r and t r y to overthrow the relation of
forces, w h i c h takes u s b a c k to the real w a r that t h e i r defeat h a d , at
least for a t i m e , interrupted; either t h e y risk their lives, or do not
begin a new w a r a n d agree to w o r k for a n d obey the others, to s u r
r e n d e r their land to the victors, to pay t h e m taxes. Here we obviously
have a relationship of d o m i n a t i o n based e n t i r e l y u p o n w a r and the
prolongation, d u r i n g peacetime, of the effects of w a r . D o m i n a t i o n , you
say, and not sovereignty. But Hobbes does not say that: he says w e
are still in a relationship of sovereignty. W h y ? Because once the d e
feated have s h o w n a preference for life a n d o b e d i e n c e , t h e y m a k e t h e i r
victors their representatives a n d restore a sovereign to r e p l a c e the one
w h o w a s k i l l e d in the w a r . It is therefore not the defeat t h a t l e a d s to
the b r u t a l a n d illegal establishment of a society based upon d o m i
nation, slavery, a n d servitude; it is w h a t h a p p e n s d u r i n g the defeat,
or even after the battle, even after the defeat, and in a w a y , i n d e p e n
d e n t l y of it. It is fear, the renunciation of fear, and the renunciation
of the risk of death. It is this that introduces us into the o r d e r of
sovereignty and into a j u r i d i c a l regime: that of absolute power. The
will to prefer life to death: that is w h a t founds sovereignty, and it is
as juridical and l e g i t i m a t e as the sovereignty that w a s established
through the mode of institution a n d m u t u a l agreement.
S t r a n g e l y enough, Hobbes adds a third form of sovereignty to these
formsby acquisition and i n s t i t u t i o n a n d states that it is very s i m
i l a r to the institution b y acquisition t h a t a p p e a r s after the end of the
war, a n d after the defeat. T h i s t y p e of sovereignty is, he says, the t y p e
that b i n d s a child to i t s parents or, m o r e specifically, i t s m o t h e r . '

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Take, he says, a newborn child. Its parents ( i t s rather in a civil society,


or its mother in the state of n a t u r e ) could s i m p l y allow it to die, or
quite simply have it put to death. It cannot, in any case, live w i t h o u t
its parents, w i t h o u t its mother. A n d for years the c h i l d will, quite
spontaneously

and w i t h o u t

h a v i n g to express its w i l l other

than

through manifestations of its needs, its cries, its fear, a n d so on, obey
its parents, and do exactly w h a t it is told to do because its life de
pends upon her and her alone. She will enjoy sovereignty over it.
N o w Hobbes says that there is no essential difference b e t w e e n the
w a y a child consents to its mother's sovereignty in order to preserve
its o w n life ( w h i c h does not even involve an expression of the w i l l
or a c o n t r a c t ) a n d the w a y the defeated give t h e i r consent w h e n the
battle is over. W h a t Hobbes is t r y i n g to demonstrate is that the d e
cisive factor in the establishment of sovereignty is not the q u a l i t y of
the w i l l , or even its form or level of expression. Basically, it does not
matter if we have a knife to our throats, or if w h a t we w a n t is e x
plicitly formulated or not. For sovereignty to exist, there must be
and this is all there must bea certain radical w i l l that makes us
w a n t to live, even though w e cannot do so unless the other is w i l l i n g
to let us live.
Sovereignty is, therefore, constituted on the basis of a r a d i c a l form
of w i l l , b u t it counts for little. That w i l l is bound u p w i t h fear, and
sovereignty is never shaped from above, or in other w o r d s , on the
basis of a decision t a k e n by the strong, the victor or the parents.
Sovereignty is a l w a y s shaped from below, and by those w h o are afraid.
Despite the apparent differences b e t w e e n the t w o g r e a t forms of com
m o n w e a l t h ( a commonwealth of institution born of mutual a g r e e
ment, and a commonwealth

of acquisition born of a b a t t l e ) , the

m e c h a n i s m s at w o r k a r e at b o t t o m identical. No matter w h e t h e r w e
are t a l k i n g about a covenant, a battle, or relations between parents
and children, we a l w a y s find the same series: w i l l , fear, a n d sover
eignty. It is irrelevant whether the series is t r i g g e r e d by an i m p l i c i t
calculation, a relationship of violence, or a fact of nature; it is i r r e l
evant w h e t h e r it is fearthe knife at our throats, the w e e p i n g of a
childthat gives rise to a n e v e r - e n d i n g diplomacy. Sovereignty w i l l

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97

be constituted in a n y case. Basically, it is a s though, far from b e i n g


the theorist of the relationship b e t w e e n w a r a n d political power,
Hobbes w a n t e d to eliminate the historical reality of w a r , as though
he w a n t e d to e l i m i n a t e the genesis of sovereignty. A large part of the
discourse of Leviathan

consists in saying: It doesn't matter

whether

you fought or d i d not fight, w h e t h e r you w e r e beaten or not; in a n y


case, the mechanism that applies to you w h o have been defeated is
the same mechanism that w e find in the state of n a t u r e , in the con
s t i t u t i o n of a S t a t e , a n d t h a t w e also find, q u i t e n a t u r a l l y , in the most
tender a n d natural relationship of all: that b e t w e e n p a r e n t s and c h i l
dren. Hobbes t u r n s w a r , the fact of w a r a n d the relationship of force
that is actually manifested in the battle, into something that has noth
ing to do w i t h the constitution of sovereignty. The establishment of
sovereignty has nothing to do w i t h w a r . Basically, Hobbes's discourse
is a certain "no" to w a r . It is not really w a r that g i v e s birth to States,
a n d it is not really w a r that is t r a n s c r i b e d in relations of sovereignty
or that reproduces w i t h i n the civil p o w e r a n d its i n e q u a l i t i e s t h e
earlier d i s s y m m e t r i e s in the r e l a t i o n s h i p of force t h a t w e r e revealed
b y the very fact of the battle itself.
Hence the problem: To w h o m , to what, is this elimination of w a r
addressed, given that no previous theory of power had given w a r the
role that Hobbes so stubbornly denies i t ? Basically, w h a t adversary
is Hobbes addressing w h e n , in w h o l e sectionsin a w h o l e s t r a t u m , a
w h o l e line of itof his discourse he obstinately repeats: But in any
case, it does not matter w h e t h e r there w a s a w a r or not; the consti
tution of sovereignties has nothing to do w i t h w a r . I t h i n k that w h a t
Hobbes's discourse is addressing is not, if you l i k e , a specific or d e
t e r m i n a t e theory, or something that could be defined a s his adversary,
his p a r t n e r in polemic; nor is it s o m e t h i n g that could be defined as
the unspoken, unavoidable

problem

in Hobbes's

discourse, w h i c h

Hobbes is d o i n g all he can to t r y to a v o i d . A t the time w h e n H o b b e s


was w r i t i n g , there w a s in fact something that could be described not
as his partner in polemic, but as his strategic opposite number. In
other words, not so much a certain discursive content that had to be
refuted, a s a certain theoretical a n d political strategy that

Hobbes

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specifically w a n t e d to e l i m i n a t e and r e n d e r impossible. W h a t Hobbes


is trying, then, not to refute, but to e l i m i n a t e and render impossible
his strategic opposite n u m b e r i s a certain w a y of m a k i n g historical
k n o w l e d g e w o r k w i t h i n the political struggle. To be more specific,
Leviathan's strategic opposite n u m b e r is, I think, the political use that
was b e i n g made in political struggles of a certain historical k n o w l e d g e
p e r t a i n i n g to wars, invasions, pillage, dispossessions, confiscations,
robbery, exaction, and the effects of all that, the effects of all these
acts of w a r , all these feats of battle, and the real struggles that go on
in the laws a n d institutions that a p p a r e n t l y regulate power.
In a word, w h a t Hobbes w a n t s to eliminate is the Conquest, a n d
also the use that was b e i n g m a d e , in both historical discourse a n d
political practice, of the problem of the Conquest. Leviathan's i n v i s
ible a d v e r s a r y is the Conquest. T h a t enormous artificial man w h o
m a d e all the r i g h t - t h i n k i n g men of the l a w and philosophers tremble
so, that enormous silhouette in the frontispiece to Leviathan,

which

r e p r e s e n t s the k i n g w i t h his s w o r d r a i s e d a n d w i t h crosier in his


other hand, w a s basically a r i g h t - t h i n k i n g man. A n d that is basically
w h y even the philosophers w h o w e r e so critical of him really loved
him, and w h y even the most timorous are enchanted by his cynicism.
A l t h o u g h it seems to be p r o c l a i m i n g that w a r is e v e r y w h e r e from
start to finish, Hobbes's discourse is in fact saying q u i t e the opposite.
It is saying, w a r or no w a r , defeat or no defeat, Conquest or covenant,
it all comes down to the same thing: "It's w h a t you wanted, it is you,
the subjects, who constituted the sovereignty that represents you."
The p r o b l e m of the C o n q u e s t is therefore resolved. A t one level, it is
resolved by the notion of the w a r of e v e r y man against every man; at
another, it is resolved by the w i s h e s t h e legally valid w i l l e x p r e s s e d
by the frightened losers w h e n the battle w a s over. I think, then, that
Hobbes may well seem to shock, but he is in fact b e i n g reassuring:
he a l w a y s speaks the discourse of contracts and sovereignty, or in
other

words, the discourse of the State. After all, philosophy and

right, or philosophico-juridical discourse, would rather give the State


too much power than not enough power, and w h i l e they do criticize

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Hobbes for giving the State too much p o w e r , they are secretly grateful
to him for having w a r d e d off a certain insidious and barbarous enemy.
The enemyor rather the enemy discourse Hobbes is addressing
is the discourse that could be heard in the civil struggles that w e r e
t e a r i n g the State a p a r t in England at this t i m e . It w a s a discourse t h a t
spoke w i t h t w o voices. One w a s s a y i n g : " W e are the conquerors a n d
you are the v a n q u i s h e d . W e may w e l l be foreigners, b u t you are ser
v a n t s . " To w h i c h the other voice r e p l i e d : " W e m a y well h a v e been
conquered, b u t w e w i l l not r e m a i n c o n q u e r e d . This is our l a n d , a n d
you will leave it." It is this discourse of struggle and permanent civil
w a r t h a t Hobbes w a r d s off by m a k i n g all w a r s and conquests d e p e n d
u p o n a contract, a n d by thus r e s c u i n g the theory of the State. A n d
that is of course w h y the philosophy of right s u b s e q u e n t l y r e w a r d e d
Hobbes w i t h the senatorial title of "the father of political philosophy."
W h e n the S t a t e capitol w a s in danger, a goose w o k e u p the s l e e p i n g
philosophers. It w a s Hobbes.
H o b b e s devotes w h o l e sections of Leviathan

to a t t a c k i n g a discourse

( o r rather a p r a c t i c e ) w h i c h seems to me to have appearedif

not

for the first time, at least w i t h its essential dimensions and its political
virulencein England. This is p r e s u m a b l y the r e s u l t of a combination
of t w o phenomena. First, of course, the precocity of the bourgeoisie's
political struggle against the absolute monarchy on the one hand and
the aristocracy on the other. A n d then there is another phenomenon:
the sharp awarenesseven among the b r o a d p o p u l a r massesthat the
Conquest had produced a long-standing division, a n d that it w a s a
historical fact.
The presence of W i l l i a m ' s N o r m a n Conquest, which began at H a s
tings in 1 0 6 6 , had manifested itself and continued to do so in m a n y
different w a y s , in both i n s t i t u t i o n s and the historical e x p e r i e n c e of
political subjects in England. It manifested itself quite e x p l i c i t l y in
the r i t u a l s of p o w e r a s , until H e n r y VII, or in other words, until the
e a r l y sixteenth century, royal acts specifically s t a t e d that the king of
England

exercised his sovereignty by r i g h t of conquest. They de

scribed h i m as an heir to to the N o r m a n s ' r i g h t of conquest. That

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formula d i e d w i t h H e n r y VII. The presence of the Conquest

also

manifested itself in the practice of the law, as procedures and pro


ceedings took place in French, as did disputes b e t w e e n the lower
courts a n d the royal courts. Formulated from on high and in a foreign
language, the l a w w a s the stigmata of the foreign presence, the mark
of another nation. In legal practice, right w a s formulated in a foreign
language, and w h a t I w o u l d call the " l i n g u i s t i c sufferings" of those
w h o could not legally defend themselves in their own language were
c o m p o u n d e d by the fact that the l a w looked foreign. The practice of
the l a w w a s inaccessible in t w o senses. Hence the d e m a n d that a p
p e a r s so early in medieval England: " W e w a n t a l a w of our own, a
law that is formulated in our language, that is united from below, on
the basis of common law, as opposed to royal statutes." The Conquest
also manifested itself inI a m taking things somewhat at random
the presence of, the s u p e r i m p o s i t i o n of, and the conflict b e t w e e n t w o
heterogeneous sets of legends. On the one hand, w e have a set of
Saxon stories, w h i c h w e r e basically popular tales, mythical beliefs ( t h e
r e t u r n of K i n g H a r o l d ) , the cult of saintly k i n g s ( l i k e King E d w a r d ) ,
and popular tales of the Robin Hood t y p e ( a n d y o u k n o w that W a l t e r
Scottone of the great inspirations b e h i n d M a r x " d r e w on this m y
thology for Ivankoe"

and a n u m b e r of other novels w h i c h were of great

historical importance for the historical consciousness of the nineteenth


c e n t u r y ) . In addition to this m y t h o l o g i c a l - p o p u l a r set, w e also find a
set of aristocratic and quasi-monarchical legends that g r e w up around
the N o r m a n s and w h i c h w e r e reactivated in the sixteenth century, or
at the time w h e n Tudor absolutism w a s developing. They are mainly
about the legend of the A r t h u r i a n c y c l e . " This is obviously not exactly
a N o r m a n legend, but it is a non-Saxon legend. The Normans reac
tivated the old C e l t i c legends that lay b e n e a t h the Saxon s t r a t u m of
the population. These C e l t i c legends could b e quite naturally reacti
vated by the N o r m a n s a n d used to the advantage of the Norman
aristocracy and monarchy because of the m u l t i p l e relations that ex
isted b e t w e e n the N o r m a n s and the Bretons in their country of ori
ginand in Brittany. So w e have t w o powerful mythological sets that

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a l l o w e d England to dream of i t s past and i t s history in two completely


different w a y s .
W h a t is much more important than all this is that, in England, a
whole historical memory of rebellions, each of w h i c h had specific
political effects, signaled the p r e s e n c e a n d the effects of the Conquest.
C e r t a i n of these rebellions, such a s M o n m o u t h ' s Rebellion, which w a s
the first, w e r e no doubt racial in n a t u r e . " O t h e r s ( l i k e the rebellion
that e n d e d w i t h the signing of the M a g n a C a r t a ) p l a c e d checks on
royal p o w e r and introduced

specific measures to e x p e l

foreigners

( m o s t of w h o m w e r e , as it happens, Poitevins and A n g e v i n s rather


than N o r m a n s ) . W h a t w a s at stake w a s the right of the English p e o
ple, a n d t h a t right w a s b o u n d u p w i t h the need to expel foreigners.
There w a s , then, a whole series of elements that allowed major social
oppositions to be coded in the historical form of one race's conquest
a n d domination of the other. This coding, or at least the e l e m e n t s
that m a d e it possible, w a s very old. Even in the M i d d l e A g e s , w e find
phrases l i k e t h i s in the chronicles: "The nobles of this country are
descended from the Normans; men of l o w l y condition are the sons of
Saxons."

15

Because of the elements I have just e n u m e r a t e d , conflicts

political, economic, and j u r i d i c a l c o u l d , in other w o r d s , easily be


articulated, coded, and transformed into a discourse, into discourses,
about different races. A n d w h e n at the end of the sixteenth c e n t u r y
and the b e g i n n i n g of the seventeenth, there a p p e a r e d new political
forms of struggle b e t w e e n the bourgeoisie on the one hand a n d the
aristocracy and the monarchy on the other, it w a s , logically enough,
the vocabulary of race struggle that w a s used to describe [these con
flicts]. This t y p e of coding, or at least the elements that w e r e a v a i l a b l e
for this coding, came into p l a y quite n a t u r a l l y . I say "coding" because
the theory of races d i d not function a s a p a r t i c u l a r thesis about one
group v e r s u s another. The racial d i v i d e and the systematic opposition
between r a c e s w e r e in fact a sort of i n s t r u m e n t , both d i s c u r s i v e a n d
political, t h a t a l l o w e d both sides to formulate their own theses. In
seventeenth-century

England,

jundico-pohtical

discussions of

the

rights of the people and the rights of the sovereign u s e d the k i n d of

"SOCIETY

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vocabulary [ g e n e r a t e d ] b y the event of the Conquest, or the relation


s h i p that gave one race d o m i n i o n over the other, a n d of the vanq u i s h e d ' s rebellionor the p e r m a n e n t t h r e a t of r e b e l l i o n a g a i n s t the
victors. A n d so you w i l l find the theory of races, or the theme of
races, in the positions of both royal absolutism and the p a r l i a m e n
t a r i a n s or p a r l i a m e n t a r i s t s , a n d in the more e x t r e m e positions of the
Levellers and the Diggers.
A n effective formulation of the p r i m a c y of conquest a n d domina
tion can b e found i n w h a t I w o u l d call, in a w o r d , "the discourse of
the k i n g . " W h e n J a m e s I told the S t a r C h a m b e r that k i n g s sat on the
t h r o n e of G o d ,

16

he w a s obviously referring to the theologico-political

theory of divine right. But in his v i e w , his divine electionwhich


effectively meant that he o w n e d Englandhad b e e n prophesied and
g u a r a n t e e d by the N o r m a n v i c t o r y . A n d w h e n he w a s still only k i n g
of Scotland, J a m e s I s a i d t h a t because the N o r m a n s h a d t a k e n pos
session of England, the l a w s of the k i n g d o m w e r e established by
7

t h e m . ' This h a d two i m p l i c a t i o n s . First, it i m p l i e d that England had


b e e n t a k e n into possession, and t h a t all English l a n d s belonged to the
N o r m a n s and the leader of the Normans, or i n other w o r d s , the king.
It w a s insofar as he w a s the leader of the N o r m a n s that the k i n g w a s
effectively the o w n e r or p r o p r i e t o r of the land of England. Second, it
i m p l i e d that the different p o p u l a t i o n s over w h i c h sovereignty w a s
exercised did not enjoy the same right; r i g h t w a s the very m a r k of
N o r m a n sovereignty. It was established by the N o r m a n s

and, of

course, for t h e i r benefit. A n d w i t h a cunning that caused h i s adver


saries considerable embarrassment, the king, or at least those w h o
spoke the discourse of the king, used a v e r y strange but v e r y i m p o r
tant analogy. I t h i n k it w a s B l a c k w o o d w h o first formulated it in
1 5 8 1 , in a t e x t e n t i t l e d Apologia

pro regibus.

W h a t he says i s very cu

rious. "The situation of E n g l a n d at t h e t i m e of the N o r m a n Conquest


must in fact b e understood in the same w a y that w e now understand
A m e r i c a ' s situation v i s - a - v i s w h a t h a d y e t to be called the colonial
powers. The N o r m a n s a c t e d in E n g l a n d as people from E u r o p e are
now acting in A m e r i c a . " B l a c k w o o d d r e w a p a r a l l e l between W i l l i a m
the C o n q u e r o r a n d C h a r l e s V. H e said of C h a r l e s V: "He s u b d u e d a

4 February

W7b

part of the W e s t Indies by force, he left t h e defeated t o hold t h e i r


property not by emancipation, but in usufruct and subject to certain
obligations. W e l l , w h a t C h a r l e s V did in Americaand w e r e g a r d it
as perfectly legitimate as w e are doing the same thingis w h a t the
N o r m a n s a r e doing i n England, m a k e no mistake a b o u t i t . The N o r
m a n s a r e in England by the s a m e right that w e a r e in A m e r i c a , that
is, by the right of colonization."'

A t the end of the sixteenth century w e have, then, if not the first,
at least an early example of the sort of boomerang effect colonial
practice can have on t h e j u n d i c o - p o h t i c a l s t r u c t u r e s of t h e W e s t . It
should never be forgotten that while colonization, w i t h its t e c h n i q u e s
and its political and j u r i d i c a l weapons, obviously transported E u r o
p e a n models to o t h e r continents, it also had a considerable b o o m e r a n g
effect on the mechanisms of p o w e r in the West, and on the a p p a r a
tuses, institutions, and techniques of p o w e r . A w h o l e s e r i e s of colonial
models w a s brought back to the West, a n d the result w a s that the
W e s t could practice something r e s e m b l i n g colonization, or a n internal
colonialism, on itself.
That is how the theme of race conflict functioned in the discourse
of the king. A n d the same theme of the N o r m a n C o n q u e s t a r t i c u l a t e s
the a n s w e r the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s gave w h e n they challenged the d i s
course of t h e king. The w a y in w h i c h the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s refuted
the claims of royal absolutism w a s also a r t i c u l a t e d around this racial
d u a l i s m a n d the fact of the C o n q u e s t . The a n a l y s i s put forward b y
the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s and p a r h a m e n t a h s t s

begins, p a r a d o x i c a l l y , b y

disavowing t h e Conquest, or r a t h e r by w r a p p i n g the C o n q u e s t u p i n


a eulogy to W i l l i a m the C o n q u e r o r a n d h i s l e g i t i m a c y . They s a i d :
M a k e no mistake about itand here you can see how close w e a r e
to HobbesHastings, the battle, the w a r itself, none of that is i m
portant. Basically, W i l l i a m w a s indeed the l e g i t i m a t e king. A n d he
w a s the l e g i t i m a t e k i n g q u i t e simply because ( a n d a t this point they
e x h u m e d a n u m b e r of historical facts, some true and some f a l s e ) H a r
oldeven before the d e a t h of E d w a r d t h e Confessor, w h o had indeed
designated W i l l i a m as his successorhad s w o r n that he w o u l d

not

become king of England, but w o u l d s u r r e n d e r the throne or agree to

104

"SOCIETY

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let W i l l i a m ascend the t h r o n e of England. That could not have h a p


pened in any case: given that Harold died at the Battle of Hastings,
there w a s no legitimate successorassuming H a r o l d to have been l e
g i t i m a t e a n d the c r o w n therefore n a t u r a l l y reverted to W i l l i a m . A n d
so it t r a n s p i r e d t h a t W i l l i a m w a s not the c o n q u e r o r of England. He
inherited rights, not rights of conquest, b u t the r i g h t s of the existing
k i n g d o m of England. He w a s heir to a k i n g d o m that w a s bound b y
a certain n u m b e r of l a w s a n d also h e i r to a sovereignty that w a s
restricted by the l a w s of the Saxon regime. W h i c h means, according
to this analysis, that the v e r y t h i n g s that made W i l l i a m ' s monarchy
l e g i t i m a t e also restricted its power.
Besides, a d d the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s , if the C o n q u e s t had taken place
and if the Battle of Hastings had established a relation of p u r e d o m
ination b e t w e e n N o r m a n s a n d Saxons, the C o n q u e s t could not have
lasted. H o w do you e x p e c t t h e y s a y a few tens of t h o u s a n d s of
w r e t c h e d Normans, lost in the l a n d s of England, to have survived,
and to have established a n d a c t u a l l y maintained a permanent p o w e r ?
T h e y w o u l d s i m p l y h a v e been m u r d e r e d in their b e d s the n i g h t after
the battle. Now, at least in the early stages, there w e r e no major
rebellions, which basically proves that the v a n q u i s h e d d i d not really
regard themselves as having been v a n q u i s h e d and occupied b y the
victors; they effectively recognized the N o r m a n s as people w h o could
e x e r c i s e p o w e r . A n d t h a t recognition, those nonmassacres of the N o r
m a n s and this nonrebelhon, v a l i d a t e d W i l l i a m ' s monarchy. W i l l i a m ,
for his p a r t , h a d s w o r n an oath a n d had been c r o w n e d b y the a r c h
bishop of York: he h a d been g i v e n the c r o w n , and in the course of
that ceremony he had s w o r n to respect the l a w s w h i c h the chroniclers
described as good a n d ancient l a w s that w e r e accepted and a p p r o v e d .
W i l l i a m m a d e himself p a r t of the s y s t e m of the Saxon m o n a r c h y t h a t
existed before him.
In a t e x t e n t i t l e d Argumentum

anti-Noimannicum,

w h i c h is represen

tative of this thesis, w e find a frontispiece that provides a p a r a l l e l


w i t h the frontispiece to Leviathan.^

It depicts in s t r i p format a battle,

two bodies of a r m e d men ( o b v i o u s l y the N o r m a n s a n d the S a x o n s at


H a s t i n g s ) and, b e t w e e n the two, the corpse of King Harold: so the

4 February

1976

105

legitimate monarchy of Saxons is indeed a thing of the past. Above


this, a scene, in l a r g e r format, depicts W i l l i a m being crowned. But
the coronation is staged in this w a y : A statue called B r i t a n n i a is h a n d
ing W i l l i a m a piece of p a p e r on w h i c h w e can read "The excellent
and most famous L a w s of St E d w a r d . " King W i l l i a m is receiving his
c r o w n from the archbishop of York w h i l e another ecclesiastic is h a n d
ing h i m a p a p e r on w h i c h w e see the w o r d s "Coronation
T h i s is a w a y of s h o w i n g that W i l l i a m is not r e a l l y the

Oath."

2u

conqueror

he c l a i m e d to be, b u t the legitimate heir, an heir w h o s e sovereignty


is restricted b y the l a w s of England, the recognition given him b y
t h e church, and t h e oath he has s w o r n . W i n s t o n

Churchillthe

seventeenth-century o n e w r o t e in 1675 that W i l l i a m did not conquer


2

England: it w a s the English w h o conquered W i l l i a m . ' A n d it w a s ,


according to the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s , only after the transfer of S a x o n
p o w e r to the N o r m a n k i n g a perfectly l e g i t i m a t e transferthat

the

Conquest really began, or in other w o r d s , that all the dispossessions,


exactions, and abuses of the l a w began. The Conquest w a s the long
process of u s u r p a t i o n that began after the coming of the

Normans,

a n d it took the organized form of w h a t w a s at this very t i m e k n o w n


2

as " N o r m a n i s m " or the " N o r m a n y o k e , " ' or in other w o r d s , a p o l i t


ical regime t h a t w a s s y s t e m a t i c a l l y d i s s y m m e t r i c a n d s y s t e m a t i c a l l y in
favor of the N o r m a n monarchy a n d aristocracy. A n d a l l the rebellions
of the M i d d l e A g e s w e r e d i r e c t e d against N o r m a n i s m , not against
W i l l i a m . W h e n the l o w e r courts insisted on enforcing the

"common

l a w " in the face of royal statutes, they w e r e enlorcing the r i g h t s of


Parliament, w h i c h w a s the true heir to the Saxon tradition, a n d r e
s i s t i n g the a b u s e s of p o w e r c o m m i t t e d by the N o r m a n monarchy a n d
the " N o r m a n i s m " t h a t h a d developed after Hastings a n d the coming
of W i l l i a m . The contemporary struggle, t h a t of the seventeenth cen
t u r y , w a s a l s o an ongoing struggle against N o r m a n i s m .
Now w h a t w a s this old Saxon right, which as w e have seen w a s
accepted, both de jure and de facto, bv W i l l i a m and w h i c h , as w e
have also seen, t h e N o r m a n s a t t e m p t e d to smother or pervert in the
years following the C o n q u e s t ? The M a g n a C a r t a , the establishment
of P a r l i a m e n t , and the revolution of the seventeenth century w e r e all

"SOCIETY

106

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

attempts to reestablish Saxon right. W h a t w a s i t ? W e l l , it w a s a set


of Saxon laws. The major influence here w a s a jurist called Coke, w h o
claimed to have discoveredand w h o a c t u a l l y h a d

discovereda

t h i r t e e n t h - c e n t u r y m a n u s c r i p t that he c l a i m e d w a s a treatise on the


old Saxon l a w s .

23

It w a s in reality entitled The Mirrors

of Justice,

and

it w a s an account of a certain n u m b e r of practices of j u r i s p r u d e n c e ,


2

a n d of p u b l i c a n d private l a w in the M i d d l e Ages. '* C o k e made it


function as a treatise on S a x o n right. Saxon r i g h t w a s described as
being b o t h the primal and the historically authentichence the i m
portance of the m a n u s c r i p t r i g h t of the Saxon people, w h o elected
their leaders, h a d their o w n j u d g e s , * and recognized the p o w e r of the
k i n g only in time of w a r ; he w a s recognized a s a w a r t i m e leader, and
not as a king w h o exercised an absolute and u n c h e c k e d sovereignty
over the social b o d y . Saxon right w a s , then, a historical figure, and
attempts were madethrough

research into the ancient history of

rightto establish it in a h i s t o r i c a l l y accurate form. But at the same


time, t h i s Saxon right a p p e a r e d to be, and w a s described as, the very
expression of h u m a n reason in a state of nature. J u r i s t s such as Selden,
for e x a m p l e , pointed out that it w a s a wonderful r i g h t a n d very close
to h u m a n reason because in civil t e r m s it w a s more or less similar
to that of A t h e n s , a n d in m i l i t a r y terms, more or less s i m i l a r to that
of S p a r t a .

25

A s for the content of its religious a n d moral laws, the

Saxon State w a s said to have been similar to the l a w s of Moses, A t h


ens, and Sparta, but the Saxon State w a s of course the perfect State.
In a text p u b l i s h e d in 1647, w e read that "Thus the Saxons became
s o m e w h a t l i k e the J e w e s , d i v e r s from all other people; their l a w s
honourable for the King, easie for the subject; a n d their government
above all other hkest u n t o that of C h r i s t ' s Kingdome, whose yoke is
easie, and b u r t h e n l i g h t . "

20

A s you can see, the h i s t o n c i s m that w a s

b e i n g used to challenge the absolutism of the S t u a r t s t i p s over into a


foundational Utopia in w h i c h the theory of natural rights merged into
a positive historical model a n d the d r e a m of a sort of k i n g d o m of
God. A n d this Utopia of Saxon r i g h t , w h i c h h a d supposedly been

*The manuscript has "were their own judges."

4 February

1976

107

recognized b y t h e N o r m a n monarchy, w a s meant to provide t h e j u


ridical basis for t h e n e w r e p u b l i c that t h e p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s w i s h e d to
establish.
Y o u w i l l encounter the fact of the C o n q u e s t for a t h i r d t i m e , t h i s
t i m e in the r a d i c a l position of those w h o w e r e most o p p o s e d not only
to the m o n a r c h y b u t even to the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s , or in o t h e r w o r d s ,
in the more petit bourgeoisor more popular, if you l i k e d i s c o u r s e
of the Levellers, the Diggers, a n d so on. But t h i s time it is only i n
e x t r e m e cases that historicism t i p s over into the sort of Utopia of
natural r i g h t s I w a s t a l k i n g about a moment ago. W i t h the Levellers
w e find an almost literal version of the v e r y thesis of royal absolutism
itself. W h a t the Levellers will say is this: "The m o n a r c h y is perfectly
right to say that the invasion, defeat, a n d C o n q u e s t d i d t a k e place.
It's t r u e , the C o n q u e s t d i d t a k e place, a n d t h a t h a s to be our s t a r t i n g
point. But the absolute m o n a r c h y interprets the fact that the C o n
quest took p l a c e a s p r o v i d i n g a l e g i t i m a t e b a s i s for i t s right. W e , on
the other h a n d , i n t e r p r e t the fact t h a t the C o n q u e s t d i d t a k e p l a c e ,
a n d t h a t the S a x o n s r e a l l y w e r e defeated b y the N o r m a n s , as m e a n i n g
that the defeat m a r k e d , not the b e g i n n i n g s of rightabsolute right
b u t of a state of nonright that i n v a l i d a t e s all the l a w s a n d social
differences t h a t d i s t i n g u i s h the a r i s t o c r a c y , the p r o p e r t y r e g i m e , a n d
so on." A l l the l a w s that function in E n g l a n d m u s t be r e g a r d e d a s
t r i c k s , traps, a n d w i c k e d n e s s t h i s is J o h n W a r r ' s text The
and

Deficiency

11

of the Laws of England.

Corruption

The l a w s are t r a p s : t h e y do

nothing at all to restrict p o w e r . T h e y are the i n s t r u m e n t s of p o w e r .


T h e y a r e not m e a n s of g u a r a n t e e i n g the reign of justice, but w a y s of
promoting vested interests. T h e first objective of the revolution m u s t
therefore be the suppression of all p o s t - N o r m a n l a w s to the extent
that, either d i r e c t l y or indirectly, t h e y impose the " N o r m a n y o k e . "
Laws, s a i d L i l b u r n e , a r e m a d e b y c o n q u e r o r s .

28

T h e entire legal a p

p a r a t u s m u s t therefore be done a w a y w i t h .
Second, w e must a l s o do a w a y w i t h all the differences that set
the a r i s t o c r a c y a n d not just the aristocracy, but the aristocracy a n d the
king, w h o is a m e m b e r of the a r i s t o c r a c y a p a r t from the rest of the
people, because the relationship b e t w e e n the nobles a n d the king, a n d

108

''SOCIETY

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DEFENDED'

the people, is not one of protection, but simplv one of p l u n d e r and


theft. L i l b u r n e said that W i l l i a m and his successors " m a d e Dukes,
Earles, Barrons

and

Lords of their

fellow Robbers, R o g u e s a n d

T h i e v e s . " ^ It follows that today's property regime is still the w a r t i m e


regime of occupation, confiscation, and pillage. All property

rela

tionslike the entire legal systemmust therefore be looked at again,


from top to bottom. Property relations are completely i n v a l i d a t e d by
the fact of the Conquest.
Third, we havesay the Diggersproof that the government, the
l a w s , a n d property statutes are, basically, no more than a continuation
of the war, the invasion, a n d the defeat, because the people have
a l w a y s seen governments, l a w s , and property relations as effects of
the Conquest. The people have in a sense never ceased to denounce
p r o p e r t y as pillage, l a w s as exactions, a n d governments a s domination.
The proof is that they have never stopped r e b e l l i n g a n d for the
Diggers, rebellion is nothing but the obverse of the permanent w a r .
Laws, power, and government are the obverse of w a r . Laws, power,
a n d government are the obverse of the w a r they are w a g i n g against
us. Rebellion is therefore not the destruction of a peaceful svstem of
l a w s for some reason. Rebellion is a response to a w a r that the gov
ernment never stops waging. Government means their w a r against us;
rebellion is our w a r against them. Previous rebellions have, of course,
been unsuccessfulnot only because the N o r m a n s won, but because
the rich benefited from the N o r m a n svstem and treacherously sup
ported " N o r m a n i s m . " The rich became traitors, and the church be
came a traitor. A n d even those elements that the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s
claimed w o u l d restrict N o r m a n righteven the M a g n a C a r t a , Parlia
ment, and the practice of the courtsare all basicallv part of the
Norman

system of exactions. The onlv difference is that part of the

population now helps to run it: the most p r i v i l e g e d a n d rich section


of the population h a s betraved the Saxon cause and gone over to the
N o r m a n side. The a p p a r e n t concessions were in fact no more than
acts of treachery and ruses of war. Far from agreeing w i t h the parlia
m e n t a r i a n s that l a w s should be established to prevent roval absolut
ism from prevailing against the law, the D i g g e r s therefore say that a

4 February

1976

109

w a r d e c l a r e d in response to t h a t w a r must free us from all l a w s . The


civil w a r against N o r m a n p o w e r has to be fought to the end.
From t h i s point o n w a r d , the discourse of the Levellers will develop
along several very different lines, few of w h i c h w e r e very sophisti
cated. One w a s the t r u l y t h e o l o g i c a l - r a d i c a l l i n e w h i c h said, r a t h e r
l i k e the p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s : Bring b a c k the S a x o n l a w s : they are our
l a w s , and t h e y are fair because they are also the l a w s of nature. A n d
t h e n w e see the emergence of another form of discourse, w h i c h is
r a r e l y s p e l l e d out in so many w o r d s , and w h i c h says: T h e N o r m a n
r e g i m e is a regime of pillage and exaction, and it is the outcome of a
w a r , and w h a t do w e find beneath that r e g i m e ? In historical terms,
we h n d S a x o n l a w s . But w e r e n ' t the Saxon l a w s themselves the out
come of a w a r , a form of pillage and e x a c t i o n ? U l t i m a t e l y , w a s n ' t the
Saxon regime itself a regime of domination, just l i k e the N o r m a n
r e g i m e ? A n d shouldn't w e therefore go further s t i l l t h i s is the a r
0

gument w e find in certain Digger t r a c t s ' a n d say that any form of


p o w e r l e a d s to domination, or in other w o r d s , that there are no his
torical forms of power, w h a t e v e r they m a y be, that cannot be a n a l y z e d
in t e r m s of the dominion of some over o t h e r s ? This formulation

ob

viously r e m a i n s i m p l i c i t . W e find it being u s e d as a final a r g u m e n t ,


a n d it never r e a l l y gives rise to either a historical analysis or a co
herent political practice. Yet the fact r e m a i n s that you see here the
first formulation of the idea that any l a w , w h a t e v e r it m a y be, every
form of sovereignty, w h a t e v e r it m a y be, a n d a n y t y p e of

power,

w h a t e v e r it may be, h a s to be a n a l y z e d not in t e r m s of natural r i g h t


a n d the establishment of sovereignty, but in t e r m s of the

unending

movementwhich h a s no historical endof the shifting relations t h a t


m a k e some dominant over others.
The reason I have d w e l t so long on this English discourse about
the race w a r is that I think w e see here a binary schema, a certain
binary s c h e m a ; a n d for the first time, it functions in both a political
a n d a historical mode, both a s a program for political action and a s
a search for historical k n o w l e d g e . A s c h e m a t i c dichotomy
rich a n d poor no doubt a l r e a d y existed, a n d it d i v i d e d

between

perceptions

of society in the M i d d l e Ages, just a s it did in the Greek polls. But

no

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

this is the first time a b i n a r y schema became something more than a


way of a r t i c u l a t i n g a grievance or a demand, or of signaling a danger.
This w a s the first time that the b i n a r y schema that d i v i d e d society
into t w o w a s a r t i c u l a t e d w i t h national p h e m o n e m a such as language,
country of origin, ancestral customs, the density of a common

past,

the existence of an archaic right, and the rediscovery of old laws. This
was a b i n a r y schema that also made it possible to interpret a whole
n u m b e r of institutions, a n d t h e i r evolution over a long period of his
tory. It also m a d e it possible to a n a l y z e contemporary institutions in
t e r m s of confrontation

a n d in terms of a race w a r w h i c h w a s being

w a g e d both k n o w i n g l y and h y p o c r i t i c a l l y , b u t also violently. T h i s is,


finally,

a b i n a r y schema w h i c h justifies rebellion not s i m p l y on the

g r o u n d that the situation of the most w r e t c h e d has become intolerable


and that they have to rebel because they cannot m a k e their voices
h e a r d ( w h i c h w a s , if you like, the discourse of medieval r e b e l l i o n ) .
Here, now, we have a call for rebellion being formulated a s a sort of
absolute right: w e have a right to rebel not because we have not been
able to m a k e our voices heard, or because the p r e v a i l i n g order has to
be destroyed if w e wish to establish a fairer system of justice. The
justification for rebellion now becomes a sort of historical necessity.
It is a response to a certain social order. The social order is a w a r ,
and rebellion is the last episode that will put an end to it.
The logical and historical need for rebellion is therefore inscribed
w i t h i n a w h o l e historical a n a l y s i s that reveals w a r to be a permanent
feature of social relations. W a r i s both the w e b and the secret of
i n s t i t u t i o n s a n d s y s t e m s of power. A n d I think that this is Hobbes's
great adversary. Whole sections of Leviathan

are a d d r e s s e d to the op

ponents of any philosophico-juridical discourse that founds the sov


ereignty of the S t a t e . The reason w h y he w a n t s so much to eliminate
w a r is that

he w a n t e d , in a very specific and meticulous w a y , to

eliminate the t e r r i b l e problem of the Conquest of England, that pain


ful historical category, that difficult juridical category. He h a d to get
around the problem of the Conquest, w h i c h w a s central to all the
political discourses a n d p r o g r a m s of the first half of the seventeenth
century. That is w h a t he had to e l i m i n a t e . In more general terms, a n d

4 February

I 976

111

in the longer t e r m , w h a t h a d t o be e l i m i n a t e d w a s w h a t I w o u l d call


"political h i s t o n c i s m , " or the t y p e of discourse that w e see emerging
from the discussions I have been talking about, that is being formu
lated in certain of its most radical phases, and w h i c h consists in s a y
ing: Once w e b e g i n to t a l k about p o w e r relations, we are not t a l k i n g
about right, a n d w e are not t a l k i n g about sovereignty; w e are t a l k i n g
about domination, about an infinitely dense and m u l t i p l e domination
that never comes to an end. There is no escape from domination, a n d
there is therefore

no escape from

history. Hobbes's

philosophico

j u r i d i c a l discourse w a s a w a y of b l o c k i n g t h i s political h i s t o n c i s m ,
which w a s the discourse a n d the k n o w l e d g e t h a t w a s actually active
in the political struggles of the seventeenth century. Hobbes w a s t r y
ing to block it, just as the dialectical materialism of the

nineteenth

c e n t u r y blocked the discourse of political h i s t o n c i s m . Political h i s


tortcism

encountered

philosophico-jundical

two

obstacles. In

discourse

was

the

the

seventeenth

obstacle

that

century,
tried

to

disqualify it; in the nineteenth c e n t u r y , it w a s dialectical m a t e r i a l i s m .


Hobbes's

operation consisted in e x p l o i t i n g every possibilityeven

the most e x t r e m e p h i l o s o p h i c o - j u n d i c a l

discourseto silence the

discourse of political h i s t o n c i s m . W e l l , n e x t time I w o u l d l i k e to


both trace the history of this discourse of p o l i t i c a l h i s t o n c i s m and
praise it.

112

SOCIETY

Ml,'ST

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DEFENDED"

1. "During the Lime men live without a common Power 1 0 keep them all i n awe, thev are
in thai condition which is called W a r r e ; and such a w a r r e , as is ot everv man, against
everv man." Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard l u c k ( C a m b r i d g e : Cambridge Uni
versity Press, 1 9 9 1 ) . p. 8 8 . O n the bellum omnium contra omnes, see also Hobbes's Elementorum philosophiae secto tertia de cive ( P a r i s , 164,2) {French translation: Lr a'toyen, ou les
fondemenb de la politique [Paris: Flammarion, 1 9 8 2 ] ) .
2. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 8 9 .
3. Ibid., pp. 8 9 - 9 0 .
4. Ibid., p. 9 0 .
5. Ibid., pp. 8 9 - 9 0 .
6. Ibid., p. 88.
7. Throughout the following discussion, Foucault refers t o chapters 1 7 - 2 0 oi part 2 of
Leviathan ( "Of Common w e a l t h " ) .
8. Ibid., p. 1 2 0 .
9- Ibid., chapter 2 0 .
1 0 . Ibid.; d . De Ore, II, i x .
11. On Marx's reading of Scott, see Eleanor M a r x Aveling, "tCarl M a r x : lose Blutter," i n
Osterrekhixhe
Arbeiter-Kal under fur das Jahr lSQ5, pp. 51-54 (English translation: "Stray
Notes o n Karl M a r x , " in Reminiscences of Marx and Engels [Moscow: Foreign Languages
Publishing House, n.d. ]); F. Mehring, Karl Marx: Geschichte settles Lebens (Leipzig: Leipzigcr Buchbdruckerei Actiengesellschaft, 1 9 1 8 ) , vol. 15 (French translation: Karl Marx,
Histoire de .<u vie [Pans: Editions sociales, 1 9 8 3 J; English translation: Karl Marx: The Story
of His Life, tr. Edward Fitzgerald [London: Ailen and Unwin, 1 9 3 6 ] ) ; i. Berlin, Karl
Marx ( London: Butt r w o r t h , 1 9 3 9 ) , chap. 1 1 .
12. The action ot Ivanhoe ( 1819) is set in the England ot Richard t h e Lion-Hearted; the
France ot Louis X I p r o v i d e s the backdrop t o r Qucntin Durwurd { 1823). Ivanhoe is k n o w n
t o have influenced A. Thierrv and his theorv ot conquerors and conquered.
13. The reference is t o the evele of legendarv traditions and stones centered on the mvthical
figure ot the British sovereign A r t h u r , who led the Saxon resistance during the first half
ot the Kith centurv. These traditions and legends were first collected in the twelfth
centurv bv Geoffrey of M o n m o u t h i n his De origine et gestis regum Britanniae libri XII
( Heidelberg, I 6 8 ) and then bv Robert W a c e in Le Roman de Brut ( 1115 ) and the Roman
de Ron ( 1 1 6 0 - 1 1 7 4 ) . This is t h e so called Breton material that was r e w o r k e d bv Chretien
d e Troves i n Lancelot and Perceval in the second halt of the twelfth centurv.
l-'t. Gcotfrev ot Monmouth's account ot the historv of t h e British nation begins w i t h the
first conqueror, t h e Trojan Brutus. It traces British history from the Roman conquests
to the British resistance against the Saxon invaders and the decline of the Saxon kingdom.
This w i s one uf t h e most popular works o f rhe M i d d l e Ages, and introduced the A r
thurian legend into European literature.
15. In Lne manuscript, Foucault adds "Chronicle ot Gloucester."
1 6 . "Monarchac p r o p n e sunt judices, quibus juris dicendi potfstam p r o p n e commisit Deus.
Nam in chrono Dei sedent, unde oninis ea facultas denvata est." J a m e s I, Oratio habiia
in camera -Jullata J I O I 6 ] , in Opera edita a Jucabo Montacuta (Francoforti ad Moenum el
Lipsiae. 1C>89). p. 25 *> "Nihil est in t e r n s quod non s i t intra Monarchiae tastigium. Nec
enim solum Dei Vicari sunt Reges, deique throno insident: sed ipso Deo Deorum nom
1 iiea honoiantur." Oratori habita in comitis regni ad umenes ordines inpalatio albaulae j 1 6 9 0 j ,
in Opera edila. p. 2H5. On t h e "Divine Right ot tCings," d . Basilikon down, sive De institution?
prinapis, in Opera edita, pp. 6 3 - 8 S .
7

17. "Li quamquam in a i m regionibus mgentes regn sanguinis tactae sint mutationes, sceptn
junr ad novos Dominos jure belli translate; eadem tamen i l l i c cernitur in terram et
subditos potest at is regiae vis, quae apud nos, qui cominos numquam mutavimus. Quum

February

19 7 6

s p u n u s ille Normandicus cahdissimo cum e x e r a t u in Angliani transusset. quo, obsecro


nisi a r m o r u m et belli |ure Rex tact us est? At lllc lege;. Jedit, non aeccpit, et vetus jus.
et consuetudinem regni a n t i q u a v u . et avitis posscssionibu> oversis homines novos el
peregnnos lmposuit, >uae militiae comites; quemadniodum hodie pleraquc Anghae no
bilitas Normannicam prae se fen originem; et legis Normandieus siriptae ldiomatem
facilel trastantur am lorem, nihilomonis poesteri ejus sceptrum illud haelenus lacdtter
tenerunt, Nec hoc soli Normanno licuit: idem jus o m n i b u s tun, qui ante ilium victa
Anghae ges dederunt." James I, Jus liberae Monarthiae, sive De mutuis Regis liberi et populi
nascendi condition? illi subdittt offtdis [
), in Opera edita, p. 6 9 .
1 8 . "Carolus quintus imperator nostra memoria partem quandam occidentahum insularum,
veteribus ignotam, nobis Americae vocabulo non ita p n d e m auditam, vi subegit, victis
sua reliquit, non macipio. sed usu, nec eo quidem perpetuo, net gratuito, ac immuni
( quod Anglis obtigit Wilielmi nothi beneiicio ) sed in vitae tcmpus prestationi certa lege
locationis obligaia." A. Blackwood, Adoersus Georgii Buchanani dialogum, de jure regni apud
Scot us, pro regibus apologia, Pictacis, apud Pagaeum ( 1 S 8 l ) , p. 6 9 .
1 9 . Argumentum anti-Normdnnicum. or an Argument prvving, from atuietit histories and records, that
William, Duke of Normandy made no absolute conauest of England by the word, in the sense of our
modem writers (London, 1 6 8 2 ) . This w o r k had been wronglv attributed to Coke,
2 0 . For the illustration ol the frontispiece see "An Explanation of the Frontispiece" in
Aigumentum anti-Normanmcum, pp. 4 H.
21- W . S. Churchill, Divi Britannia, bang a remark upon the lives of all the Kings of this Isle, from
the year of the world 2 8 5 5 unto the year of grace 1660 (London, 1 6 ~ 5 ), M s . 1 8 9 - 1 9 0 .
22. The theory ol the "Norman yoke" ( or "Norman bondage") had been popularized in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries bv political w r i t e r s ( Blackwood, et cetera^, by the
"Elizabethan Chroniclers" ( Holinshed, Speed, Daniel, et cetera), bv the Societv ol A n
tiquarians ( Selden, Harrison, a n d Nowell ), and bv jurists ( Coke, et cetera). Their goal
was to "glonfv the pre Norman past" that existed bet ore Lne invasion and Conquest.
2.1. "1 have a verv auntienl and learned treatise of the Lawes ol this kingdom wherebv this
Realme was governed about 1 1 0 0 years past, of the title and subject ol which booke the
author shal tel Y O U himself in these w o r d s . Which summarv 1 have intituled 'The M i r r o r s
of Justice,' according to the vertues and substances embeiltes which I have observed, and
which have ben used bv holy customs since the time ol K.ing A r t h u r and C. [ . . . ] In
this booke in effect appeareth (he whole frame of the ,iuntiem common Lawes of this
Rcalme." F. Coke. La Neuf me Part des Reports de S. Edva Coke ( London, 1 6 U ) , "Lectori/To
the Reader," fol.
unpagmated. CI. La Huctieme Part de raports de S. Ldv. Coke ( London,
1 6 0 2 ), preface. Jul. 9 - 1 7 ; La Dix.me Part des Reports de S. Edv, Coke ( London, 1 6 1 4 ) preface,
tol. 1-48. contains an exposition of "the national! Lawes ol our native country." It should
be noted that C o k e also refers to The Mirrors of Justice in his Institutes. See in particular
The Fourth Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England ( L o n d o n ) , chaps. 7, 11, H, 2 5 , but
especially The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England ( London. 1 6 4 2 ) , pp. 5 - 7 8 .
2 1. The iXMirors of Justice was originally written m French in the late fourteenth c e n t u r v ,
probablv bv Andrew Horn. The Friglish translation ol 1 6 4 6 made the text a basic point
of reference for all s u p p o r t e r s both parliamentarians and radical revolutionaries - o l
"common law."
25. Foucault is probablv referring to An Historical discourse of the Uniformity of Governments of
England. The Ttrst Part, 2 vols. ( London. l 6 C I edited hv Nathaniel Bacon in the basis
of J o h n Selden's manuscripts ( sec An Historical and Political Discourse of the Laws and
Government of England ... collected from some manuscript notes of John SelJtn .. . by Nathaniel
Bacon [London. 1 6 8 9 J ). Sclden >avs of the Saxons that ''their [udiciai were verv suitable
to the Athenian, but their nnluarv more like the Lacr domiman" ( p . fS; cf. chapters V
ii)- See also Seidell's Analccton anglobrilanniom libri duo ( Francoturn, 1 6 1 S ) and Jani An
glo rum in Opera omnia latina et angfica (London. F 2 6 ), vol. 2.
;

2 6 . AJI Hisioriuil

Discourse,

pp. 112-M.

27. J o h n W a r r . The Corruption and Deficiency id tht Laws of England ( London. 1 6 H 9 ) , p. I- "The
laws of England are lull of tricks, doubts and t o n i r a r v 10 themselves; lor thev were

114

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

invented and established by the Normans, which were oi all nations the most quarrel
some and most fallacious in contriving of controversies and suits." Cf. ibid., chaps. 2 and
\ See also Administration Civil and spiritual in Two Treatises (London, 1648), I, xxxvn. It
should be noted that Warr's phrase is cited in part in Christopher Hill, Puritanism and
Revolution (London: Seeker & Warburg, 1 9 5 8 ) , p. 78.
28. See in particular John Lilburne, The Just Man's Justification (London, 1 6 4 6 ) , pp. 11-13; A
Discourse betwixt John Lilburne, close prisoner in the tower of London, and Mr. Hugfi Peters
(London, 1649); England's Birth-right Justified against all arbitrary usurpation (London, 1645);
Regail tyrannic Discovered (London, 1647); England's New Chains Discovered (London, 1648).
Most of the Levellers' tracts are collected in W. Haller and G. Davies, ed., The
levellers
Tracts, 1647-1653 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944).
29. Regail tyrranie, p. 8 6 . The attribution of this tract to Lilburne is uncertain; R. Overton
probably collaborated on it.
30. The best known of the Digger texts, to which Foucault may be referring here, are the
anonymous manifesto Light Shining in Buckinghamshire
( 1 6 4 8 ) and More Light Shining in
Buckinghamshire
( 1 6 4 9 ) . Cf. G Winstanley et ah, To his Excellency the Lord Fairfax and the
Counsell of Warre the brotherly request of thos that are called diggers sheweth (London, 1 6 5 0 ) ;
G. Winstanley, Fire in the Bush (London, 1 6 5 0 ) ; The Law of Freedom in a Platform, or True
Magistracy
Restored (London, 1 6 5 2 ) . See also G. H. Sabine, ed., The Works of Gerrard
Winstanley, with an Appendix of Documents Relating to the Digger Movement (Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University Press, 1941).

SIX

11

Stories
heredity.

FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6

about origins.

- The Trojan myth.

- "Franco-Gallia."

- Invasion,

right. - National dualism.


prince.

- Boulainvilliers's

intendant,

"Etatde

and the knowledge


of history.

history,

- The knowledge
la France."

of the aristocracy.

- History

- France's
and public
of the

- The clerk, the

\
<

~ A new subject

and constitution.

"

I A M G O I N G T O begin w i t h a story that started to circulate in France


at the b e g i n n i n g , or almost the b e g i n n i n g , of the M i d d l e A g e s a n d
that w a s still in circulation d u r i n g the Renaissance. It tells h o w the
French are descended from the Franks, a n d s a y s that the F r a n k s t h e m
selves w e r e Trojans w h o , having left T r o y u n d e r the l e a d e r s h i p of
P r i a m ' s son K i n g Francus w h e n the city w a s set on fire, i n i t i a l l y found
refuge on the b a n k s of the Danube, then in G e r m a n y on the b a n k s
of the R h i n e , a n d finally found, or rather founded, their h o m e l a n d in
France. I am not i n t e r e s t e d in w h a t this s t o r y m i g h t have meant in
the M i d d l e A g e s , or in the role t h a t m i g h t h a v e been p l a y e d b y the
legend of the w a n d e r i n g s of the Trojans a n d of the founding of the
fatherland. I s i m p l y w a n t to look at t h i s issue: it is after all astonishing
that this story should have been picked u p and gone on c i r c u l a t i n g
1

in an era like the Renaissance. Not because of the fantastic character


of the d y n a s t i e s or historical facts to w h i c h it refers, but b a s i c a l l y
because this legend completely e l i d e s both Rome a n d Gaul. It elides
the Gaul that w a s the e n e m y of Rome, the Gaul that i n v a d e d Italy

114

''SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

invented and established by the Normans, which were ot all nations the most quarrel
some and most fallacious in contriving of controversies and suits." Cf. ibid., chaps. 2 and
}. See also Administration Civil and spiritual in Two Treatises (London, 1648), I, xxxvu. It
should be noted that Warr's phrase is cited in part m Christopher Hill, Puritanism and
Revolution ( London: Seeker & Warburg, 1 9 5 8 ) , p. 78.
28. See in particular John Lilburne, The Just Man's justification (London, 1 6 4 6 ) , pp. 11-13; A
Discourse betwixt John Lilburne, close prisoner in the tower of London, and Mr. Hugh Peters
(London, l6-i9); England's Birth-right Justified against all arbitrary usurpation (London, 1645);
Regall tyrannic Discovered ( London, 1647); England's New Chains Discovered ( London, 1648).
Most of the Levellers' tracts are collected in W. Haller and G. Da vies, ed., The Levellers'
Tracts, 1647-1653 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944)29. Regall tynanie, p. 86. The attribution of this tract to Lilburne is uncertain; R. Overton
probably collaborated on it.
30. The best known of the Digger texts, to which Foucault may be referring here, are the
anonymous manifesto Light Shining in Buckinghamshire
( 1 6 4 8 ) and More Light Shining in
Buckinghamshire
( 1 6 4 9 ) . Cf. G. Winstanley et al., To his Excellency the Lord Tairfax and the
CounselloJ
Warn the brotherly request ofthos that are called diggers sheweth (London, 1 6 5 0 ) ;
G. Winstanley, Fire in the Bush (London, 1 6 5 0 ) ; The Law of freedom in a Platform, or True
Magistracy
Restored (London, 1652). See also G. H. Sabine, ed.. The Works of Gerrard
Winstanley, with an Appendix of Documents Relating to the Digger Movement (Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University Press, 1941).

SIX

11

Stories
heredity.

right.
prince.

about origins.

- The Trojan myth.

- "Franco-Gallia."

- Invasion,

- National dualism.
- Boulainvilliers's

intendant,
&

FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6

of history.

history,

- The know/edge

"Etat de la France."

and the knowledge

of the aristocracy.

- History

- France's

'I

and public

'

of the

- The clerk, the


- A new

and constitution.

subject
*

I A M G O I N G TO b e g i n w i t h a story that s t a r t e d to circulate in France


at the beginning, or almost the b e g i n n i n g , of the M i d d l e A g e s a n d
that w a s still in circulation d u r i n g the Renaissance. It tells how the
French are descended from the Franks, a n d s a y s that the F r a n k s t h e m
selves w e r e Trojans w h o , h a v i n g left Troy u n d e r the l e a d e r s h i p of
P r i a m ' s son King Francus w h e n the c i t y w a s set on fire, i n i t i a l l y found
refuge on the b a n k s of the D a n u b e , t h e n in G e r m a n y on the b a n k s
of the R h i n e , a n d finally found, or rather founded, their h o m e l a n d in
France. I am not i n t e r e s t e d in w h a t t h i s s t o r y m i g h t have m e a n t in
the M i d d l e A g e s , or in the role t h a t m i g h t have been p l a y e d by the
legend of the w a n d e r i n g s of the Trojans a n d of the founding of the
fatherland. I s i m p l y w a n t to look at t h i s i s s u e : it is after all astonishing
that this story s h o u l d have been p i c k e d up a n d gone on circulating
1

in an era like the Renaissance. Not because of the fantastic character


of the d y n a s t i e s or historical facts to w h i c h it refers, but basically
because this legend completely elides both Rome and Gaul. It e l i d e s
the G a u l t h a t w a s the enemy of Rome, the G a u l t h a t invaded Italy

116

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

and laid siege to Rome; it also elides the Roman colony of Gaul,
Caesar, and i m p e r i a l Rome. A n d as a result, it elides an entire Roman
l i t e r a t u r e , even though it w a s perfectly well known at this time.
I don't think w e can understand w h y this Trojan story elides Rome
unless w e stop regarding this tale of origins as a tentative history that
is still tangled up w i t h old beliefs. It seems to me that, on the con
trary, it is a discourse w i t h a specific function. Its function is not so
much to record the past or to s p e a k of origins as to speak of right,
to speak of power's right. Basically, the story is a lesson in public
right. It c i r c u l a t e d , I think, as a lesson in public right. A n d it is
because it is a lesson in p u b l i c right that there is no mention of Rome.
But Rome is also present in a displaced form, l i k e a double outline
or a t w i n : Rome is there, but it is there in the w a y that an image is
there in a mirror. To say that the Franks are, like the Romans, refugees
from Troy, and t h a t France and Rome are in some sense two branches
that g r o w from the same trunk, is in effect to say two or three things
that are, I believe, important in both political and j u r i d i c a l terms.
To say that the Franks are, like the R o m a n s , fugitives from Troy
means first of all that from the day that the Roman State ( w h i c h was,
after all, no more than a brother, or at best an older b r o t h e r ) van
ished, the other brothersthe younger brothersbecame its heirs by
v i r t u e of the right of peoples. Thanks to a sort of natural right that
was recognized by all, France w a s the heir to the empire. A n d that
means t w o things. It means first of all that the rights and p o w e r s the
k i n g of France enjoys over his subjects are inherited from those the
R o m a n emperor enjoyed over his subjects; the sovereignty of the king
of France is of the same tvpe as the sovereignty of the Roman emperor.
The k i n g ' s right is a R o m a n right. A n d the legend of Troy is a way
of using pictures to illustrate, a w a y of illustrating, the principle that
was formulated i n the M i d d l e A g e s , mainly by Boutillier w h e n he
said that the k i n g of France w a s an emperor in his k i n g d o m . ' This is
an important thesis, you know, because it is basically the historicomvthical counterpart to the way that roval power developed through
out the M i d d l e A g e s by modeling itself on the Roman i m p e n u m and

7 7 February

1976

117

reactivating t h e i m p e r i a l rights that w e r e codified in the era of J u s


tinian.
To say that France is the heir to the e m p i r e is also to say that
because France is Rome's sister or cousin, France has the same r i g h t s
as Rome itself. It is to say that France is not part of some universal
monarchy w h i c h , after the e m p i r e , d r e a m e d of reviving the Roman
Empire. France is just as i m p e r i a l as all the R o m a n Empire's other
descendants; it is just as i m p e r i a l as the G e r m a n Empire, a n d is in
no sense subordinate to any G e r m a n i c Caesar. N o bond of vassalage
can l e g i t i m a t e l y m a k e it part of the H a p s b u r g monarchy and therefore
subordinate it to the great d r e a m s of a universal monarchy that it w a s
p r o m o t i n g at this time. That is w h y , in these conditions, Rome has
to b e e l i d e d . But the R o m a n G a u l of Caesar, the G a u l that w a s col
onized, also h a d to b e e l i d e d , as it m i g h t suggest that G a u l and the
h e i r s of the G a u l s had once been, or m i g h t be, subordinate to an
e m p i r e . The F r a n k i s h invasions, w h i c h b r o k e from w i t h i n the conti
n u i t y w i t h the R o m a n Empire, also had to be e l i d e d . The i n t e r n a l
continuity that existed b e t w e e n the R o m a n i m p e r i u m and the French
m o n a r c h y p r e c l u d e d d i s r u p t i v e invasions. But France's

nonsubordi-

nation to the e m p i r e a n d to the e m p i r e ' s heirs ( a n d especially the


u n i v e r s a l m o n a r c h y of the H a p s b u r g s ) also i m p l i e d that France's s u b
ordination to ancient R o m e h a d to d i s a p p e a r . R o m a n G a u l therefore
had to disappear. France, in other words, had to be an other Rome
"other" in the sense of b e i n g independent

of Rome while still re

m a i n i n g Rome. The k i n g ' s absolutism w a s therefore a s valid in France


as it h a d been in R o m e . That, b r o a d l y speaking, w a s the function of
the lessons in p u b l i c r i g h t that we can find in the reactivation, or the
p e r p e t u a t i o n , of this Trojan m y t h o l o g y until late in the Renaissance,
or in other w o r d s d u r i n g a period w h i c h w a s very familiar w i t h
Roman texts about Gaul, about R o m a n Gaul.
It is s o m e t i m e s said it w a s the W a r s of R e l i g i o n that a l l o w e d these
old mythologies ( w h i c h w e r e , in m y v i e w , a lesson in p u b l i c r i g h t )
to be swept a w a y a n d that first introduced the theme of what Au
1

g u s t i n T h i e r r y w o u l d later call "national d u a l i t y , " or the theme, if

118

"SOCIETY

you

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

l i k e , of the two hostile g r o u p s that constitute the

permanent

s u b s t r a t u m of the State. 1 do not think this is entirely accurate. Those


w h o say that it was the W a r s of Religion that made it possible to
t h i n k in terms of a national d u a l i t y are referring to Francois Hotman's
text Franco-Gallia,

w h i c h w a s p u b l i s h e d in 1573.' A n d the title does

seem to indicate that the author w a s t h i n k i n g in terms of some sort


of national d u a l i t y . In this text, Hotman in fact takes up the Germanic
thesis that w a s c i r c u l a t i n g in the H a p s b u r g Empire at the time and
w h i c h was, basically, the e q u i v a l e n t to, the counterpart

to, or the

homologue of the Trojan thesis that w a s c i r c u l a t i n g in France. The


Gemanic thesis, w h i c h had been formulated on a n u m b e r of occasions,
a n d notably by someone called Beatus R h e n a n u s , states: " W e Germans
are not Romans; w e are G e r m a n i c . But because of the imperial form
we have i n h e r i t e d , w e are Rome's natural a n d legal heirs. N o w the
Franks w h o i n v a d e d Gaul were, like us, Germans. W h e n they invaded
Gaul, they c e r t a i n l y left their native Germany, b u t on the one h a n d
a n d to the extent that they w e r e G e r m a n , they r e m a i n e d German.
They therefore r e m a i n e d w i t h i n our i m p e n u m ; and as, on the other
hand, they i n v a d e d a n d occupied Gaul, a n d defeated the Gauls, they
q u i t e n a t u r a l l y e x e r c i s e d i m p e r i u m or imperial power over the land
they had conquered and colonized, and, being German, they w e r e
q u i t e e n t i t l e d to do so. Gaul, or the land of the G a u l s t h a t is n o w
France, is therefore a s u b o r d i n a t e p a r t of the universal monarchv of
the H a p s b u r g s for t w o reasons: right of c o n q u e s t and victory, and the
Germanic origins of the F r a n k s . "

This, curiously but up to a point naturallv, is the thesis that Fran


cois Hotman picks u p and reintroduces into France in 1 5 7 3 . From that
point on, and until at least the b e g i n n i n g of the seventeenth centurv,
it w a s to enjoy considerable p o p u l a r i t y . H o t m a n t a k e s up the G e r m a n
thesis and s a y s : "The Franks w h o , at some point, did invade Gaul and
establish a new monarchv, are not Trojans, but Germans. They de
feated the Romans and drove them out." This is an almost literal
reproduction of R h e n a n u s ' s Germanic thesis. 1 say "almost" because
there is after all a difference, and it is of fundamental

importance:

11 February

7 9 76

119

H o t m a n does not sav that the Franks defeated the Gauls; he savs that
thev defeated the Romans."
H o t m a n ' s thesis is certainly verv important because it introduces,
at much the same time that we see it appearing in England, the basic
theme of the invasion ( w h i c h is both the cross the jurists have to
bear and the k i n g ' s n i g h t m a r e ) that results in the death of some States
a n d the birth of others. All the j u r i d i c o political debates w i l l revolve
around this theme. Henceforth, and given this basic discontinuity, it
is obvious that it is no longer possible to recite a lesson in p u b l i c
right w h o s e function is to guarantee the u n i n t e r r u p t e d nature of the
genealogy of k i n g s and their power. From n o w on, the g r e a t problem
in p u b l i c r i g h t will be the problem of w h a t Etienne Pasquier, who
w a s one of H o t m a n ' s followers, calls "the other succession,"

or in

other w o r d s : W h a t happens w h e n one State succeeds a n o t h e r ? W h a t


happensand w h a t becomes of public right and the power of k i n g s
w h e n States do not succeed one another as [a result of] a sort of
continuity

that nothing i n t e r r u p t s , but

because they are born, go

t h r o u g h a phase of might, t h e n fall into decadence, and finally v a n i s h


c o m p l e t e l y ? Hotman certainly raises the p r o b l e m of the t w o foreign
nations t h a t e x i s t w i t h i n the State*but I do not t h i n k that the
p r o b l e m he raises is a n y different, or verv different, from t h a t of the
cyclical nature and precarious existence of S t a t e s . A n d b e s i d e s , in
general t e r m s , no a u t h o r w r i t i n g at the time of the Wars of R e l i g i o n
accepted the

idea t h a t there

w a s a dualityof race, o r i g i n s , or

n a t i o n s w i t h i n the monarchy. It was impossible because, on the one


hand, the s u p p o r t e r s of a single r e l i g i o n w h o obviously b e l i e v e d in
the principle of "one faith, one law, one k i n g " c o u l d not at the same
time demand

religious u n i t y and accept that there w a s a d u a l i t y

w i t h i n the nation; on the other hand, the thesis of those who w e r e


a r g u i n g the case for religious choice or freedom

of conscience w a s

a c c e p t a b l e only if thev said, "Neither freedom of consciousness, nor


the possibility of religious choice, nor even the existence of t w o re

* T h e m a n u s c r i p t h a s "the p r o b l e m of t h e t w o foreign nations that e x i s t e d m France.'

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ligions w i t h i n the body of a nation can in any circumstances com


promise the unitv of the State." So no matter w h e t h e r one adopted
the thesis of religious unity or supported the possibility of freedom
of consciousness, the thesis of the unity of the State w a s reinforced
t h r o u g h o u t the W a r s of Religion.
W h e n H o t m a n told his story, he w a s saying something very dif
ferent. It w a s a w a y of o u t l i n i n g a j u r i d i c a l model of government, as
opposed to the Roman absolutism that the French monarchy w a n t e d
to reconstruct. The story of the Germanic origins of the invasion is a
way of saying: "No, it is not true, the king of France does not have
the right to exercise a R o m a n - s t y l e i m p e r i u m over his people." Hotman's p r o b l e m is therefore not the disjunction b e t w e e n t w o hetero
geneous e l e m e n t s w i t h i n the people; it is the problem of how to place
internal restrictions on monarchic power." Hence the w a y he tells the
story w h e n he says: "The G a u l s and the G e r m a n s w e r e in fact orig
inally fraternal peoples. They settled in t w o neighboring regions, on
either side of the Rhine. W h e n t h e G e r m a n s entered Gaul, they w e r e
in no sense foreign invaders. They were in fact almost g o i n g home, or
at least to visit their b r o t h e r s .

What did 'foreigner' mean to the

G a u l s ? The foreigners were the Romans, w h o imposed, through in


vasion a n d w a r ( t h e w a r described by C a e s a r ) ,

1 0

a political regime:

that of absolutism. Those foreigners established something foreign in


Gaul: the R o m a n i m p e r i u m . The Gauls resisted for centuries, b u t in
w a y s that brought t h e m little success. In t h e fourth or fifth century,
their G e r m a n i c brothers began to w a g e a w a r , a n d it w a s a w a r of
liberation fought on behalf of their G a u l i s h brothers. The G e r m a n s
therefore did not come as invaders, but as a fraternal people w h i c h
w a s helping a brother people to tree itself from its i n v a d e r s , and it
was the R o m a n s who w e r e the i n v a d e r s . " " So the R o m a n s w e r e driven
out a n d the Gauls were set free. They a n d their G e r m a n i c brothers
make up a single nation, w h o s e constitution and basic l a w s a s the
jurists of the period w e r e beginning to put itwere the basic laws of
G e r m a n i c society. This meant that the people w h o r e g u l a r l y gathered
on the C h a m p de M a r s a n d in the Mav assemblies was sovereign. It
meant the sovereignty of a people w h i c h elects its k i n g as it pleases

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a n d deposes h i m w h e n necessary; t h e sovereignty of a people w h o is


r u l e d only b y magistrates w h o s e functions are temporary a n d w h o are
a l w a y s accountable to the council. This w a s the Germanic constitution
that the k i n g s u b s e q u e n t l y violated in order to construct the abso
lutism to w h i c h the French monarchy of the sixteenth century bore
2

witness.' It is t r u e that the s t o r y told by H o t m a n i s not designed to


establish a d u a l i t y . On the contrary, it is i n t e n d e d to establish very
strong ties of Germanic-French

unity, Franco-Gaulish or

Franco-

Gallic u n i t y , as he p u t s it. H e i s a t t e m p t i n g to establish a profound


u n i t y a n d at the same t i m e to e x p l a i n , in the form of a sort of story,
how the present r e p r o d u c e s the past. It is clear that the R o m a n i n
vaders H o t m a n is t a l k i n g about are the equivalent, t r a n s p o s e d into
the past, of the R o m e of the pope a n d h i s clergy. The fraternal G e r m a n
l i b e r a t o r s a r e o b v i o u s l y the reformed r e l i g i o n from across the R h i n e ;
a n d the u n i t y of the k i n g d o m a n d the sovereignty of the people is
t h e political p l a n for a constitutional monarchy t h a t w a s s u p p o r t e d
by m a n y of the Protestant circles of the d a y .
H o t m a n ' s discourse is important because it e s t a b l i s h e d what w o u l d
d o u b t l e s s become a definitive l i n k b e t w e e n the project of r e s t r i c t i n g
royal absolutism a n d the rediscovery, in the past, of a certain specific
historical model w h i c h at some moment established the reciprocal
r i g h t s of the k i n g a n d his people, a n d w h i c h w a s s u b s e q u e n t l y for
gotten and violated. In the sixteenth century a connection began to
be established among r e s t r i c t i n g the right of the monarchy, recon
structing a past model, a n d r e v i v i n g a basic but forgotten constitution;
these are, I t h i n k , the t h i n g s that are b r o u g h t together in H o t m a n ' s
discourse, a n d not a d u a l i s m . T h e G e r m a n i c thesis w a s o r i g i n a l l y
Protestant in o r i g i n . But it soon began to circulate not only in Prot
estant circles but also in Catholic circles, w h e n ( u n d e r the r e i g n of
Henri III a n d especially at the t i m e of H e n r i IV's conquest of p o w e r )
C a t h o l i c s s u d d e n l y t u r n e d against royal absolutism a n d when it w a s
in their interest to restrict royal power. A l t h o u g h this p r o - G e r m a n i c
thesis is Protestant in origin, you w i l l therefore also find it in the
work of Catholic historians such a s J e a n du Tillet, J e a n de Serres, a n d
so on." From the end of the first t h i r d of the seventeenth century,

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this thesis w i l l b e the object of an attempt, if not to disqualify it, at


least to get a r o u n d this G e r m a n i c origin, the G e r m a n i c element,
w h i c h monarchic p o w e r found u n a c c e p t a b l e for t w o reasons. It w a s
unacceptable in t e r m s of the exercise of p o w e r and p u b l i c right, and
the European policy of R i c h e l i e u a n d Louis X I V also m a d e it u n a c
ceptable.
A n u m b e r of w a y s w e r e used to get a r o u n d the idea that France
h a d been founded b y G e r m a n s . T w o w e r e of p a r t i c u l a r importance.
One w a s a sort of r e t u r n to the Trojan m y t h , w h i c h w a s reactivated
in the m i d - s e v e n t e e n t h century. M o r e important still w a s the foun
dation a n d i n t r o d u c t i o n of an absolutely n e w thesis, w h i c h w a s to be
of fundamental importance. This is the t h e m e of w h a t I w o u l d call
r a d i c a l " G a l l o - c e n t r i s m . " The G a u l s , w h o m H o t m a n had described as
i m p o r t a n t partners in this prehistory of the French monarchy, were
in a sense an inert matter or s u b s t r a t u m : they w e r e people who had
been defeated a n d occupied, a n d who h a d to b e l i b e r a t e d by outsiders.
But from the seventeenth century o n w a r d , these G a u l s became the
p r i n c i p l e or, so to speak, the motor of history. T h a n k s to a sort of
inversion of p o l a r i t i e s a n d values, the Gauls b e c a m e the first or fun
damental element, a n d the Germans came to be described as a mere
extension of the Gauls. The Germans are no more than an episode in
the history of the Gauls. This is the thesis that you find in people
1

such as A u d i g i e r ' a n d Tarault. '' A u d i g i e r , for e x a m p l e , s t a t e s that t h e


Gauls w e r e the fathers of a l l the p e o p l e s of Europe. A certain k i n g
of Gaul called A m b i g a t e found himself w i t h a nation so rich, so
w e a l t h y , so plethoric, and with such a s u r p l u s population that he had
to l i q u i d a t e part of it. He therefore sent one of his n e p h e w s to Italy
a n d another, one Sigovege, to G e r m a n y . This w a s the b e g i n n i n g of a
sort of expansion a n d colonization, a n d the French nation b e c a m e the
w o m b of all the other peoples of E u r o p e ( a n d even peoples outside
Europe). A n d so, says A u d i g i e r , the French nation h a d "the same
origins as all that w a s most terrible, most courageous, a n d most g l o
rious, in other w o r d s the V a n d a l s , the Goths, the B u r g u n d i a n s , the
English, the Herules, the S i h n g a l s , the Huns, the Gepidae, the A l a n s ,

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123

the Quadi, t h e Hurons, the Ruffai, the T h u n n g i a n s , t h e Lombards,


the T u r k s , the Tatars, the Persians, a n d even the

Normans."

1(i>

So the Franks w h o i n v a d e d Gaul in the fourth a n d fifth centuries*


w e r e simply the offspring a sort of p r i m i t i v e Gaul; they were simply
Gauls w h o w e r e eager to see their own country once more. For them,
l i b e r a t i n g a Gaul that h a d been enslaved or l i b e r a t i n g their defeated
b r o t h e r s w a s not the issue. W h a t w a s at issue w a s a deep nostalgia,
a n d also a desire to enjoy a flourishing G a l l o - R o m a n civilization. The
cousins, or the prodigal sons, w e r e going home. But when they w e n t
home, the certainty d i d not s w e e p a w a y the R o m a n r i g h t that h a d
been i m p l a n t e d in Gaul; on the contrary, they reabsorbed it. They
r e a b s o r b e d R o m a n Gaulor a l l o w e d themselves to be reabsorbed into
it. The conversion of C l o v i s proves that the ancient Gauls, w h o had
become G e r m a n s a n d F r a n k s , readopted the values a n d the political
a n d r e l i g i o u s s y s t e m of the R o m a n Empire. A n d if, at the t i m e of
their return, the F r a n k s did h a v e to fight, it w a s not against the Gauls
or even the Romans ( w h o s e v a l u e s they w e r e a b s o r b i n g ) ; it w a s
against the B u r g u n d i a n s a n d the Goths ( w h o , being A r y a n s , w e r e
h e r e t i c s ) , or against the Saracen infidels. That is w h o m they w a g e d
w a r on. A n d in order to r e w a r d the w a r r i o r s w h o h a d fought

the

Goths, B u r g u n d i a n s , and Saracens, their k i n g s g r a n t e d them fiefs. The


origins of w h a t , at this time, h a d yet to be called feudalism can t h u s
b e traced b a c k to a w a r .
This fable m a d e it possible to assert the native character of t h e
G a u l i s h population. It also made it possible to assert that Gaul had
1

natural frontiersthose described by Caesar. " Establishing those same


frontiers w a s also the political objective of the foreign policy of R i
chelieu and Louis XIV. The purpose of this tale w a s also not only to
erase all racial differences, but above all to erase any heterogeneity
b e t w e e n G e r m a n i c right and R o m a n right. It had to be demonstrated
that the G e r m a n s had renounced their own r i g h t in order to adopt

*The manuscr.pt has -fifth and s.xth centuries," wh>ch corresponds to the actual date of the
conquest.

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

the j u n d i c o - p o h t i c a l system of the Romans. A n d finally, the fiefs and


prerogatives of the nobility h a d to be shown to derive not from the
basic or a r c h a i c rights of that same nobility, but simply from the will
of a k i n g w h o s e p o w e r a n d absolutism p r e d a t e d the organization of
feudalism itself. The point of all this w a s , a n d this is my last point,
to lay a French claim to the universal monarchy. If G a u l w a s what
Tacitus c a l l e d the vagina
Germany ) ,

1 8

nationum

( h e w a s in fact referring mainly to

and if Gaul w a s i n d e e d the womb of all nations, then to

w h o m s h o u l d the universal monarchy revert, if not to the monarch


w h o h a d i n h e r i t e d the l a n d of France?
There are obviously many v a r i a t i o n s on this schema, but I will not
go into them. The reason w h y I have told this rather long story is
that I w a n t e d to relate it to w h a t w a s happening in England at the
same t i m e . There is at least one point in common, and one basic
difference, b e t w e e n w h a t w a s being s a i d in E n g l a n d about the origins
a n d foundations of the English monarchy, a n d w h a t w a s being said
in the m i d - s e v e n t e e n t h century about the foundations of the French
monarchy. The common featureand I t h i n k it is importantis that
invasion, w i t h its forms, motifs, a n d effects, became a historical prob
lem to the e x t e n t that it involved an important politico-juridical issue.
It is u p to the invasion to define the nature, rights, and limits of
monarchical power, it is up to the history of the invasion to define
the role of royal councils, assemblies, a n d sovereign courts. It is up
to the invasion to define the respective roles of the nobility, the rights
of the n o b i l i t y , royal councils, a n d the people, as opposed to the king.
In short, the invasion is being asked to define the very p r i n c i p l e s of
p u b l i c right.
At the very t i m e w h e n Grotius, Pufendorf, and Hobbes were trying
to g r o u n d the r u l e s that constitute the just State in natural law, a
w i d e - r a n g i n g contrapuntal historical investigation w a s getting under
w a y into the origins a n d v a l i d i t y of the rights that were actually being
e x e r c i s e d a n d it w a s looking at a historical event or, if you like, at
a slice of history that w a s , m both juridical and political terms, the
most sensitive region in the entire history of France. I refer, roughly
speaking, to the period b e t w e e n M e r o v i u s a n d C h a r l e m a g n e , or be-

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t w e e n t h e fifth a n d t h e ninth centuries. It has a l w a y s b e e n said ( e v e r


s i n c e the seventeenth c e n t u r y ) t h a t t h i s is the l e a s t - k n o w n p e r i o d .
Least k n o w n ? Perhaps. But definitely the most w i d e l y studied. Be
t h a t a s it m a y , n e w figures, n e w t e x t s , a n d n e w p r o b l e m s nowand,
I think, for the first t i m e b e g i n to a p p e a r on the horizon of the
history of France, whose purpose h a d u n t i l now been to establish the
r o y a l i m p e r i u m ' s c o n t i n u i t y of p o w e r , a n d w h i c h spoke only of Tro
jans and Franks. The new figures were M e r o v i u s , C l o v i s , C h a r l e s M a r tel, C h a r l e m a g n e , a n d Pipin; the n e w t e x t s were by Gregory of T o u r s '

a n d C h a r l e m a g n e ' s c a r t u l a r i e s . N e w customs appear: the C h a m p d e


M a r s , t h e M a y g a t h e r i n g s , the r i t u a l of c a r r y i n g k i n g s s h o u l d e r - h i g h ,
and so on. Events occur: the b a p t i s m of C l o v i s , the B a t t l e of Poitiers,
the coronation of C h a r l e m a g n e ; w e also have symbolic anecdotes such
as the story of the vase of Soissons, in w h i c h w e see King C l o v i s
renouncing his c l a i m , a c k n o w l e d g i n g t h e r i g h t s of h i s w a r r i o r s , a n d
t h e n taking his revenge later.
All this gives us a new historical landscape, and a new s y s t e m of
reference w h i c h c a n be understood only to t h e extent that there is a
very close correlation b e t w e e n this new material and political d i s c u s
sions about public right. History a n d public right in fact go h a n d in
hand. There is a strict correlation between the problems posed by
p u b l i c right a n d the delineation of t h e historical

fieldand

"history

a n d public r i g h t " will in fact r e m a i n a set phrase u n t i l the end of the


eighteenth century. If you look at h o w history, a n d the pedagogy of
history, w a s a c t u a l l y taught until w e l l after the eighteenth c e n t u r y
a n d even in the t w e n t i e t h , you w i l l find that it is public r i g h t that
you are being told about. I don't k n o w w h a t school textbooks look
like t h e s e d a y s , but it is not so long ago t h a t the history of France
began w i t h the history of the G a u l s . A n d the expression "our a n c e s
tors the G a u l s " ( w h i c h m a k e s us laugh because it w a s taught

to

A l g e r i a n s a n d A f r i c a n s ) h a d a very specific meaning. To say "our


ancestors the G a u l s " w a s , basically, to formulate a proposition that
meant something in the theory of constitutional l a w a n d in the p r o b
lems raised by public right. Detailed accounts of the Battle of Poitiers
also h a d a very specific m e a n i n g to the e x t e n t that it w a s precisely

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not t h e w a r b e t w e e n the Franks a n d t h e Gauls, but the w a r b e t w e e n


the Franks and the Gauls a n d i n v a d e r s of a different race a n d religion
that a l l o w e d the origins of feudalism to b e traced b a c k to something
other than an internal conflict b e t w e e n Franks a n d Gauls. A n d the
story of the Soissons vasewhich, I think, crops u p in all the history
books a n d w h i c h is still taught todaywas certainly studied very
seriously throughout the w h o l e of the seventeenth century. The story
of the Soissons vase tells the story of a p r o b l e m in constitutional law:
w h e n w e a l t h w a s first d i s t r i b u t e d , w h a t w e r e the rights of the king,
and w h a t w e r e the rights of h i s w a r r i o r s , and possibly of the nobility
( i n the sense that the nobility were originally w a r r i o r s ) ? W e thought
that w e were l e a r n i n g history; but in the nineteenth century, and
even the t w e n t i e t h , history books w e r e in fact textbooks on public
right. W e w e r e learning about public right and constitutional l a w by
looking at pictures from history.
So, first point: the a p p e a r a n c e in France of this n e w historical field,
w h i c h is q u i t e s i m i l a r ( i n t e r m s of its m a t e r i a l ) to w h a t w a s hap
p e n i n g in England at the time w h e n the theme of the invasion was
b e i n g reactivated in discussions of the p r o b l e m of the

monarchy.

There is, however, one basic difference between England and France.
In England, the Conquest a n d the N o r m a n / S a x o n racial d u a l i t y was
h i s t o r y ' s essential point of articulation, w h e r e a s in France there was,
u n t i l t h e end of t h e seventeenth century, no heterogeneity w i t h i n the
body of t h e nation. T h e w h o l e system of a fabled k i n s h i p between
the G a u l s a n d the Trojans, the Gauls a n d the Germans, a n d then the
G a u l s and the Romans, a n d so on, made it possible to guarantee both
a continuous transmission of p o w e r a n d the unproblematic homoge
neity of the body of the nation. Now it is precisely that homogeneity
that w a s shattered at the end of the seventeenth century, not by the
s u p p l e m e n t a r y or differential theoretical, or theoretico- mythological,
edifice I w a s t a l k i n g about just now, but by a discourse w h i c h is, I
believe, absolutely new in terms of its functions, its objects, and its
effects.
The introduction of the t h e m e of national dualism w a s not a re
flection or expression of either the civil or social wars, the religious

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struggles of the Renaissance, or the conflicts of the Fronde. It w a s a


conflict, an a p p a r e n t l y lateral p r o b l e m or something that has usually
and, I think, w r o n g l y , as you w i l l seebeen described as a r e a r g u a r d
action, and it m a d e it possible to c o n c e p t u a l i z e t w o things that had
not previously been i n s c r i b e d in either history or p u b l i c right. One
w a s the p r o b l e m of w h e t h e r or not the w a r b e t w e e n hostile g r o u p s
really does constitute the s u b s t r u c t u r e of the State; the other w a s the
problem of w h e t h e r political p o w e r can be r e g a r d e d both as a product
of that w a r and, u p to a point, its referee, or whether it is u s u a l l y a
tool, the beneficiary of, and the d e s t a b i l i z i n g , partisan element in that
war. T h i s is a specific a n d l i m i t e d p r o b l e m , but it is, I t h i n k , also an
essential problem because it l e a d s to t h e refutation of the i m p l i c i t
thesis t h a t the social body is homogeneous ( w h i c h w a s so w i d e l y
accepted that it d i d not h a v e to b e f o r m u l a t e d ) . H o w ? W e l l , because
it raises w h a t I w o u l d call a p r o b l e m in political pedagogy: W h a t
must the prince k n o w , w h e r e and from w h o m must he a c q u i r e his
k n o w l e d g e , and w h o is qualified to constitute the k n o w l e d g e of the
p r i n c e ? To b e more specific, this w a s q u i t e s i m p l y the i s s u e of how
the due d e Bourgogne s h o u l d b e e d u c a t e d . A s you k n o w , this raised
i n n u m e r a b l e problems for a w h o l e host of reasons ( I am t h i n k i n g not
just of his e l e m e n t a r y education, as he w a s a l r e a d y an a d u l t at the
t i m e of the events I w i l l b e t a l k i n g a b o u t ) . W h a t w a s at s t a k e w a s
the body of information about the State, the government, a n d the
country needed b y the man w h o w o u l d , in a few y e a r s or after t h e
death of Louis X I V , b e called u p o n to l e a d t h a t State, t h a t govern
ment, and that country. W e are therefore
10

maque,

not t a l k i n g about

Tele-

but about the enormous report on t h e state of France that

Louis X I V ordered his a d m i n i s t r a t i o n a n d his i n t e n d a n t s or s t e w a r d s


to produce for his heir and grandson, the due de Bourgogne. It w a s
a survey of France ( a general s t u d y of the situation of the economy,
institutions, and customs of F r a n c e ) , and it w a s i n t e n d e d to constitute
the k n o w l e d g e of the king, or the k n o w l e d g e that w o u l d a l l o w him
to r u l e .
So Louis X I V a s k e d his intendants for these reports. W i t h i n a few
months, they were assembled and ready. The due de Bourgogne's

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entouragean entourage made u p of the very kernel of the nobiliary


opposition, or of nobles w h o w e r e critical of Louis X l V ' s regime b e
cause it h a d eroded their economic m i g h t and political p o w e r r e
ceived this report a n d a p p o i n t e d someone called B o u l a i n v i l h e r s to
present it to the due de Bourgogne. Because it w a s so enormous, they
commissioned him to abridge it, a n d to explain or interpret it: to
recode it, if you like. Boulainvilhers filleted or a b r i d g e d these enor
mous reports, and s u m m a r i z e d t h e m in t w o large volumes. Finally,
he w r o t e a preface and a d d e d a n u m b e r of critical comments a n d a
discourse: this w a s an essential c o m p l e m e n t to the enormous a d m i n
istrative task of providing a description and analysis of the State. The
discourse is rather curious, as B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s tried to shed l i g h t on
the current state of France by w r i t i n g an essay on the ancient gov
e r n m e n t s of France down to the t i m e of H u g h C a p e t .

21

Boulainvilliers's t e x t is an a t t e m p t to p u t forward theses favorable


to the n o b i l i t y a n d his later w o r k s also deal w i t h the same p r o b l e m .

22

He c r i t i c i z e s the sale of c r o w n offices, w h i c h w o r k e d to the d i s a d


vantage of the impoverished nobility; he protests a g a i n s t the tact that
the nobility has been dispossessed of its right of jurisdiction, and of
the profits that w e n t w i t h it; he insists that the nobility has a right
to sit in the Conseil du roi; he is critical of the role p l a y e d by the
intendants in the administration of the provinces. But the most i m
portant feature of B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s ' s t e x t , and of this recoding of the
reports [ p r e s e n t e d ] to the king, is the protest against the tact that
the k n o w l e d g e given to the king, a n d then to the prince, is a k n o w l
edge manufactured by the a d m i n i s t r a t i v e machine itself. It is a protest
against the fact that the k i n g ' s k n o w l e d g e of his subjects has been
completely colonized, occupied, prescribed, and defined by the State's
k n o w l e d g e about the State. The problem is as follows: M u s t the k i n g ' s
k n o w l e d g e of his k i n g d o m a n d his subjects be isomorphic w i t h the
State's k n o w l e d g e of the S t a t e ? M u s t the bureaucratic, fiscal, eco
nomic, a d m i n i s t r a t i v e , and j u r i d i c a l expertise that is r e q u i r e d to run
the monarchy be reinjected into the prince by all the information he
is being given, a n d which w i l l allow him to g o v e r n ? Basically, the
problem is as follows: Because the prince exercises his arbitrarv and

/ J February
unrestricted

(976

129

will over an a d m i n i s t r a t i o n that is completely in his

hands a n d completely at his disposal, the administration, or the great


a d m i n i s t r a t i v e a p p a r a t u s the king had given the monarchy, is in a
sense w e l d e d to to the prince himself: they are one a n d the same.
T h a t is w h y it is impossible to resist him. But the prince ( a n d the
prince's p o w e r m e a n s t h a t he and the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n are one and the
s a m e ) must, w h e t h e r he likes it or not, be persuaded to b e c o m e p a r t
of the same body as his a d m i n i s t r a t i o n ; he must be w e l d e d to it by
the k n o w l e d g e that the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n r e t r a n s m i t s to him, but this
t i m e from above. The a d m i n i s t r a t i o n a l l o w s the k i n g to rule the coun
try at w i l l , and subject to no restrictions. A n d conversely, the a d
ministration rules the king t h a n k s to the q u a l i t y and n a t u r e of the
k n o w l e d g e it forces upon him.
I t h i n k that the target of B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s a n d those a r o u n d him at
this timeand the target of those who came after h i m in the m i d seventeenth century ( l i k e the comte de B u a t - N a n ^ a y " ) or M o n t l o 2

s i e r ' ( w h o s e problem w a s much more complicated because he w a s


writing, in the e a r l y Restoration period, against the i m p e r i a l a d m i n
i s t r a t i o n ) t h e real target of all the historians connected to the nob i h a r v reaction is the mechanism of p o w e r - k n o w l e d g e t h a t h a d b o u n d
the a d m i n i s t r a t i v e a p p a r a t u s to S t a t e a b s o l u t i s m since the seventeenth
century. I t h i n k it is as t h o u g h a nobility that had been impoverished
and to some e x t e n t e x c l u d e d from the e x e r c i s e of p o w e r had e s t a b
lished as the p r i m e goal of its offensive, of its counteroffensive,

not

so much the d i r e c t a n d i m m e d i a t e r e c o n q u e s t of its p o w e r s , a n d not


the recuperation of its w e a l t h ( w h i c h w a s no d o u b t now forever b e vond its r e a c h ) , as an important link in the system of p o w e r that the
nobilitv had a l w a y s overlooked, e v e n at the t i m e w h e n it w a s at the
height of its might. The strategic position that the nobility overlooked
h a d been physically occupied bv the church, by c l e r k s and m a g i s
trates, and then by the bourgeoisie, the a d m i n s t r a t o r s , and even the
financiers who collected indirect taxes. The position that had to be
reoccupied as a priority, or the strategic objective Boulainvilhers now
set the nobility, and the precondition for any possible revenge, w a s
not what was, in the vocabulary of the court, termed "the

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"SOCIETY

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of the k i n g . " W h a t had to b e r e g a i n e d and occupied w a s now the


king's k n o w l e d g e . It w a s the k n o w l e d g e of the king, or a certain
k n o w l e d g e shared by k i n g and nobility: an i m p l i c i t l a w , a m u t u a l
commitment

between the king and h i s aristocracy. W h a t h a d to be

done w a s to r e a w a k e n b o t h the nobles' memory, w h i c h h a d become


carelessly forgetful,

and the monarch's memories, w h i c h h a d been

carefullyand p e r h a p s w i c k e d l y b u r i e d , so as to reconstitute

the

l e g i t i m a t e k n o w l e d g e of the k i n g , w h i c h w o u l d provide legitimate


foundations for a l e g i t i m a t e government. W h a t is r e q u i r e d is therefore
a c o u n t e r k n o w l e d g e , a whole p r o g r a m of work that w i l l take the form
of absolutely n e w historical research. I say c o u n t e r k n o w l e d g e because
B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s and his successors i n i t i a l l y define this new k n o w l e d g e
and these new methods in negative terms by contrasting it w i t h two
scholarly k n o w l e d g e s , w i t h the two k n o w l e d g e s that are the t w o faces
( a n d p e r h a p s also the two p h a s e s ) of a d m i n i s t r a t i v e k n o w l e d g e . At
this t i m e , the great enemy of the new k n o w l e d g e the nobility wishes
to use to get a n e w g r i p on the k n o w l e d g e of the king, the knowledge
that has to be got r i d of, is j u r i d i c a l k n o w l e d g e . It is the knowledge
of the court, of the prosecutor, the jurisconsult, and the c l e r k of the
court or grejfier.

For the nobility, t h i s was i n d e e d a hateful knowledge,

for this was the k n o w l e d g e that had t r i c k e d them, that had dispos
sessed them b y using a r g u m e n t s they d i d not understand, that had
s t r i p p e d t h e m , w i t h o u t their b e i n g able to r e a l i z e it, of their rights
of jurisdiction and then of their very possessions. But it w a s also a
hateful k n o w l e d g e because it w a s in a sense a circular knowledge
w h i c h d e r i v e d k n o w l e d g e from k n o w l e d g e . W h e n the k i n g consulted
greffiers

and jurisconsults about his rights, w h a t a n s w e r could he ob

tain, if not a k n o w l e d g e established from the point of v i e w of the


judges and prosecutors he himself had c r e a t e d ? The king
quite n a t u r a l l y finds

therefore

that it contains eulogies to his own

power

( t h o u g h they may also conceal the subtle w a y s in w h i c h power has


been u s u r p e d by the prosecutors and gejjiers).

At all events, a circular

knowledge. A k n o w l e d g e in which the k i n g will encounter only the


image of his own absolutism, w h i c h reflects b a c k at h i m , m the form

11 February

1976

131

of right, a l l the u s u r p a t i o n s the k i n g h a s committed [ a g a i n s t ] his


nobility.
The n o b i l i t y w a n t s to use another form of k n o w l e d g e against the
k n o w l e d g e of the greffier:

history. A history whose n a t u r e will a l l o w

it to get outside r i g h t , to get b e h i n d r i g h t a n d to s l i p into its i n t e r


stices. O n l y , t h i s history w i l l be u n l i k e any p r e v i o u s history, a n d it
w i l l not be a pictorial or d r a m a t i z e d account of the development of
p u b l i c right. O n the contrary, it w i l l a t t e m p t to attack p u b l i c r i g h t
at the roots, to reinsert the i n s t i t u t i o n s of p u b l i c r i g h t into an older
n e t w o r k of deeper, more solemn, a n d more essential commitments. It
w i l l u n d e r m i n e the k n o w l e d g e of the greffier,

in w h i c h the k i n g finds

nothing b u t eulogies to h i s o w n absolutism ( o r in other w o r d s , the


praise of Rome a g a i n ) , b y t a p p i n g historic reserves of e q u i t y . W h a t
ever the history of right may say, c o m m i t m e n t s that were not w r i t t e n
d o w n , fidelities that w e r e never recorded in w o r d s or t e x t s , have to
be revived. Theses that have been forgotten have to reactivated, a n d
the noble blood that h a s been s p i l l e d on behalf of the k i n g has to b e
r e m e m b e r e d . It h a s t o be d e m o n s t r a t e d that t h e v e r y edifice of right
even its most valid institutions, its most explicit a n d w i d e l y recog
nized ordinancesis the product

of a whole series of i n i q u i t i e s ,

injustices, abuses, dispossessions, b e t r a y a l s , a n d infidelities c o m m i t t e d


by r o y a l power, w h i c h reneged on its c o m m i t m e n t to the n o b i l i t y ,
a n d b y the robins or l e g a l s m a l l fry w h o u s u r p e d both the p o w e r of
the n o b i l i t y a n d , p e r h a p s w i t h o u t r e a l l y r e a l i z i n g it, royal p o w e r .
The history of r i g h t w i l l therefore be a denunciation of b e t r a y a l s ,
and of all the b e t r a y a l s that w e r e b o r n of the b e t r a y a l s . The g o a l of
this history, whose v e r y form i s a challenge to the k n o w l e d g e of the
clerks a n d j u d g e s , is to m a k e the prince see u s u r p a t i o n s of w h i c h he
is u n a w a r e and to restore to h i m a s t r e n g t h , a n d the memory of bonds,
even though it w a s i n his interest to forget t h e m a n d to let them be
forgotten. History w i l l be the w e a p o n of a nobility that has been
b e t r a y e d and h u m i l i a t e d , a n d it w i l l use it against the k n o w l e d g e of
the c l e r k s , w h i c h a l w a y s e x p l a i n s contemporary events in terms of
contemporary events, p o w e r i n t e r m s of p o w e r , a n d the l e t t e r of the

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law in t e r m s of the w i l l of the king and vice versa. The form of this
history w i l l be profoundly a n t i j u n d i c a l , and, going beyond w h a t has
been w r i t t e n down, it w i l l d e c i p h e r and recall w h a t lies

beneath

e v e r y t h i n g that has fallen into abeyance, and denounce the blatant


hostility concealed by this k n o w l e d g e . That is the iirst great adversary
of the historical k n o w l e d g e the nobility w a n t s to create so a s to reocc u p y the k n o w l e d g e of the king.
The other great adversary is the k n o w l e d g e not of the judge or the
clerk, but of the intendant: not le greffe
but le bureau

( t h e c l e r k of the court's office)

( t h e office of the i n t e n d a n t ) . This too is hateful k n o w l

edge. A n d for symmetrical reasons, as it w a s the k n o w l e d g e of the


i n t e n d a n t s that a l l o w e d them to eat into the w e a l t h and p o w e r of the
nobles. This too is a k n o w l e d g e that can dazzle the k i n g and hood
w i n k him, as it is thanks to t h i s k n o w l e d g e that the king can impose
his might, c o m m a n d obedience, and ensure that taxes are collected.
This is an a d m i n i s t r a t i v e k n o w l e d g e , and above all a q u a n t i t a t i v e eco
nomic k n o w l e d g e : k n o w l e d g e of actual or potential wealth, k n o w l e d g e
of tolerable levels of t a x a t i o n and of useful taxes. The nobility wants
to use another form of u n d e r s t a n d i n g against the k n o w l e d g e of the
i n t e n d a n t s a n d le bureau:

history. This time, however, it is a history

of wealth and not an economic history. This is a history of the d i s


placement of w e a l t h , of exactions, theft, sleight of hand, embezzle
ment, impoverishment,

a n d ruin. This, then, is a history that digs

beneath the problem of the production of w e a l t h so as to demonstrate


that it w a s ruination, debt, and abusive accumulations that created a
certain state of w e a l t h that is, u l t i m a t e l y , no more than a combination
of crooked deals done by a k i n g w h o was a i d e d and abetted by the
bourgeoisie. The analysis of w e a l t h w i l l , then, be challenged by a
history of how the nobles w e r e ruined by endless w a r s , a history of
how the church t r i c k e d them into giving it gifts of land and money,
a history of how the bourgeoisie got the nobility into debt, and a
history of how royal t a x - g a t h e r e r s ate into the income of the nobles.
The two great discourses that the history of the nobility is trying
to challengethat of the courts and that of le bureaudo

not share

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133

the same chronology. The struggle against juridical knowledge w a s


probably at its height, or more active and more intense, in B o u l a i n vilhers's day, or in other w o r d s , b e t w e e n the late seventeenth a n d the
early eighteenth centuries; the s t r u g g l e against economic k n o w l e d g e
was probably much more violent in the m i d - e i g h t e e n t h century, or
at the time of the Physiocrats ( P h y s i o c r a c y w a s B u a t - N a n c a y ' s great
a d v e r s a r y ) . " W h e t h e r it i s the k n o w l e d g e of intendants, of le

bureau,

economic k n o w l e d g e , the k n o w l e d g e of c l e r k s a n d courts, what is at


issue is the k n o w l e d g e that is constituted as the State talks to itself,
a n d w h i c h has been r e p l a c e d b y a n o t h e r form of k n o w l e d g e . Its g e n
eral profile is that of history. The history of w h a t ?
U p to this point, history h a d n e v e r been a n y t h i n g more than the
history of p o w e r as told by p o w e r itself, or the history of p o w e r t h a t
p o w e r h a d m a d e people tell: it w a s the history of power, a s recounted
by p o w e r . The history that the n o b i l i t y now b e g i n s to use against the
State's discourse about the State, and p o w e r ' s discourse about power,
is a discourse that will, 1 believe, destroy the very w o r k i n g s of h i s
torical k n o w l e d g e . It is at this point, I think, that w e see the b r e a k
downand this is importantof both the close relationship b e t w e e n
the narrative of history on the one h a n d and, on the other hand, the
exercise of power, its ritual reinforcement and the picture-book for
mulation of p u b l i c right. W i t h B o u l a m v i l h e r s a n d t h e reactionary
nobility of the late eighteenth century, a new subject of history ap
pears. This means t w o things. On

the one hand, there is a new

speaking subject: someone else begins to speak in history, to recount


history; someone else b e g i n s to say " 1 " a n d " w e " as he recounts his
tory; someone else begins to tell the story of his o w n history; someone
else begins to r e o r g a n i z e the past, events, rights, injustices, defeats,
and victories around himself a n d his own destiny. The subject w h o
speaks in history is therefore d i s p l a c e d , but the subject of history is
also displaced in the sense t h a t the v e r y ob|ect of the narrative is
modified: its subject, in the sense of its theme, or object, if vou like.
The modification of the first, e a r l i e r or d e e p e r element now a l l o w s
rights, institutions, the monarchy, a n d even the land itself to be d e -

SOCIETY

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fined in relation to this n e w subject. T h i s subject t a l k s about events


that occur b e n e a t h the State, that ignore right, and that are older and
more profound than institutions.
So w h a t is t h i s n e w subject of history, w h i c h i s b o t h the subject
that s p e a k s in the historical n a r r a t i v e a n d w h a t the historical narrative
is talking about, this new subject that appears w h e n w e get a w a y
from the State's j u r i d i c a l or a d m i n i s t r a t i v e discourse about the State?
It i s w h a t a h i s t o r i a n of the period calls a "society." A society, b u t
in the sense of an association, g r o u p , or body of i n d i v i d u a l s governed
by a statute, a society made u p of a certain number of i n d i v i d u a l s ,
and w h i c h has its o w n m a n n e r s , customs, a n d even its own l a w . The
something that begins to speak in history, that s p e a k s of history, and
of w h i c h history w i l l speak, is w h a t the vocabulary of the day called
a "nation."
A t t h i s t i m e , t h e nation is b y no means something t h a t is defined
by its territorial unity, a definite political morphology, or its system
atic subordination to some i m p e r i u m . The nation has no frontiers, no
definite system of p o w e r , and no State. T h e nation circulates b e h i n d
frontiers a n d institutions. The nation, or r a t h e r "nations," or in other
w o r d s the collections, societies, g r o u p i n g s of i n d i v i d u a l s w h o s h a r e a
status, mores, customs, and a certain p a r t i c u l a r l a w i n the sense of
regulatory statutes rather than Statist l a w s . History w i l l be about this,
about these elements. A n d it is those elements that w i l l begin to
speak: it is the nation that b e g i n s to speak. The nobility i s one nation,
as distinct from the many other nations that circulate w i t h i n the State
and come into conflict w i t h one another. It is this notion, this concept
of the nation, that w i l l give rise to the famous revolutionary problem
of the nation; it w i l l , ol course, give rise to the basic concepts of
nineteenth-century nationalism. It w i l l also give rise to the notion of
race. And, finally, it will g i v e rise to the notion of class.
Together w i t h t h i s new subject of historya subject that speaks
in a history a n d a subject of w h i c h history s p e a k s w e also have the
appearance of a new domain of objects, a new frame of reference, a
w h o l e field of processes that had previously been not just obscure,
but totally neglected. All the obscure processes that go on at the level

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135

w h e r e g r o u p s come into conflict b e n e a t h the S t a t e a n d through the


l a w rise to the surface a n d become h i s t o r y ' s p r i m a r y t h e m a t i c . This
is the d a r k history of alliances, of g r o u p r i v a l r i e s a n d of interests that
a r e m a s k e d or b e t r a y e d ; the history of the u s u r p a t i o n of rights, of the
displacement of fortunes; the history of fidelities and betrayals, the
h i s t o r y of e x p e n d i t u r e , exactions, debts, t r i c k e r y , and of t h i n g s t h a t
have been forgotten, a n d of s t u p i d i t y . T h i s i s also a k n o w l e d g e w h o s e
methodology is not the r i t u a l reactivation of the acts that

founded

power, b u t the systematic i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of i t s evil intentions and the


recollection of e v e r y t h i n g t h a t it h a s s y s t e m a t i c a l l y forgotten.

Its

method is the p e r p e t u a l denunciation of t h e evil t h a t h a s b e e n done


in h i s t o r y . T h i s is no longer the g l o r i o u s h i s t o r y of p o w e r ; it i s the
h i s t o r y of its l o w e r depths, its w i c k e d n e s s , a n d i t s b e t r a y a l s .
T h i s n e w discourse ( w h i c h h a s , then, a n e w subject a n d a n e w
frame of r e f e r e n c e ) i n e v i t a b l y b r i n g s w i t h it w h a t m i g h t b e called
a n e w pathos, a n d it is completely different from t h e g r e a t cere
monial r i t u a l t h a t still obscurely a c c o m p a n i e d the discourse of h i s t o r y
w h e n it w a s t e l l i n g those stories a b o u t Trojans, G e r m a n s , a n d so on.
H i s t o r y no l o n g e r h a s the ceremonial character of s o m e t h i n g t h a t
reinforces p o w e r , b u t a n e w pathos w i l l m a r k w i t h i t s splendor a
school of thought that w i l l , b r o a d l y s p e a k i n g , b e c o m e French r i g h t w i n g thought. W h a t I mean b y this is, first, an almost erotic passion for
historical k n o w l e d g e ; second, the s y s t e m a t i c perversion of i n t e r p r e t i v e
understanding; t h i r d , relentless denunciations; fourth, the a r t i c u l a t i o n
of history a r o u n d something r e s e m b l i n g a plot, an a t t a c k on the State, a
coup d'etat or an assault on the State or against the State.
W h a t I h a v e been t r y i n g to show y o u is not exactly w h a t is k n o w n
as "the history of i d e a s . " I h a v e not so m u c h been t r y i n g to s h o w you
h o w the nobility used historical discourse to e x p r e s s either its d e
m a n d s or its misfortunes, as to show how a c e r t a i n instrument of
struggle w a s a c t u a l l y forged in the s t r u g g l e s that took place around
the w o r k i n g s of p o w e r s t r u g g l e s w i t h i n p o w e r a n d a g a i n s t p o w e r .
That instrument

is a k n o w l e d g e , a n e w ( o r at least p a r t l y n e w )

k n o w l e d g e : the n e w form of history. The recall of history in this form


is basically, I t h i n k , the w e d g e that the n o b i l i t y w i l l try to d r i v e

136

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

b e t w e e n the k n o w l e d g e of the sovereign a n d the expertise of the


administration, and it w i l l do so in order to disconnect the absolute
will of the sovereign from the absolute docility of his administration.
It is not because they are odes to the freedoms of old that the d i s
course of history, the old story about Gauls and G e r m a n s , or the
long tale of Clovis a n d C h a r l e m a g n e , become

instruments

in the

struggle against absolutism; it is because they disconnect a d m i n i s t r a


tive p o w e r - k n o w l e d g e . That is w h y this type of discoursewhich was
o r i g i n a l l y n o b i l i a r y and r e a c t i o n a r y w i l l b e g i n to circulate, w i t h
many modifications and many conflicts over its form, precisely w h e n
ever a political g r o u p w a n t s , for one reason or another, to attack the
hinge that connects power to k n o w l e d g e in the w o r k i n g s of the ab
solute State of the a d m i n i s t r a t i v e m o n a r c h y . A n d that is w h y you
quite n a t u r a l l y find this type of discourse ( a n d even its formulations)
on both w h a t m i g h t be called the R i g h t a n d the Left, in both the
n o b i l i a r y reaction a n d in texts p r o d u c e d by revolutionaries before or
after 1 7 8 9 . Let me just quote you one text about an unjust king, about
the king of w i c k e d n e s s and b e t r a y a l s : "What punishment"at

this

point, the author is addressing Louis X V I " d o you think befits such
a barbarous man, this w r e t c h e d h e i r to a h e a p of p l u n d e r ? Do you
t h i n k that God's l a w does not apply to y o u ? Or are you a man for
w h o m e v e r y t h i n g must be r e d u c e d to y o u r g l o r y a n d s u b o r d i n a t e d to
y o u r satisfaction? A n d w h o are y o u ? For if y o u are not a God, you
are a monster!" This w a s not w r i t t e n by M a r a t , but by Buat-Nangay,
w h o w a s w r i t i n g to Louis X V I in 1 7 7 8 .

26

Ten y e a r s later, this w o u l d

be r e p e a t e d w o r d for w o r d b y the revolutionaries.


You u n d e r s t a n d w h y , a l t h o u g h this n e w type of historical k n o w l
edge, t h i s new type of discourse, a c t u a l l y d i d p l a y t h i s

important

political role and did act as the hinge b e t w e e n the administrative


m o n a r c h y ' s power and its k n o w l e d g e , royal power had to t r y to b r i n g
it u n d e r its control. J u s t as this discourse c i r c u l a t e d from R i g h t to
Left, from the n o b i l i a r y reaction to a b o u r g e o i s revolutionary project,
so royal p o w e r t r i e d to a p p r o p r i a t e or control it. A n d so, from 1 7 6 0
o n w a r d , we begin to see royal powerand this proves the political
value, the vital political issue that is at stake in this historical k n o w l -

11 February

1976

e d g e t r y i n g to organize this historical k n o w l e d g e by, so to speak,


r e i n t r o d u c i n g it into the play b e t w e e n k n o w l e d g e a n d power, b e t w e e n
a d m i n i s t r a t i v e p o w e r a n d the e x p e r t i s e to w h i c h it gave rise. From
1 7 6 0 o n w a r d w e see the emergence of i n s t i t u t i o n s t h a t w e r e roughly
equivalent to a m i n i s t r y of history. The process began in about 1 7 6 0 ,
w i t h the establishment of a B i b l i o t h e q u e de finances, w h i c h h a d to
s u p p l y H i s M a j e s t y ' s m i n i s t e r s w i t h the reports, information,

and

clarifications t h e y needed. In 1763, a D e p o t de chartes w a s established


for those w h o w a n t e d to s t u d y the history a n d public r i g h t of France.
In 1781, the t w o i n s t i t u t i o n s w e r e m e r g e d to form a B i b l i o t h e q u e de
legislationnote the

terms

c a r e f u l l y d ' a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , histoire

et

droit p u b l i c . A s l i g h t l y later text states t h a t this l i b r a r y is i n t e n d e d


for H i s M a j e s t y ' s m i n i s t e r s , those w h o are responsible for d e p a r t m e n t s
of the general a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , and for the scholars a n d jurisconsults
w h o h a d been a p p o i n t e d b y the chancellor or keeper of the seals a n d
w h o w e r e p a i d at H i s M a j e s t y ' s expense to w r i t e books a n d other
w o r k t h a t w e r e of use to legislators, h i s t o r i a n s , a n d the p u b l i c .

27

This m i n i s t r y of history h a d an official in c h a r g e of it. H i s name


w a s J a c o b - N i c o l a s M o r e a u , and it w a s he, together w i t h a few col
l a b o r a t o r s , w h o a s s e m b l e d the h u g e collection of medieval a n d p r e medieval d o c u m e n t s on w h i c h h i s t o r i a n s such as A u g u s t i n T h i e r r y
a n d Guizot w o u l d w o r k in the e a r l y n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y .

28

A t the time

of its c r e a t i o n at l e a s t , the m e a n i n g of t h i s institutionof this m i n i s t r y


of h i s t o r y i s q u i t e clear: A t the t i m e w h e n the political confronta
tions of the eighteenth century centered on a historical discourse, or,
more specifically, at a d e e p e r level, at the t i m e w h e n historical k n o w l
e d g e w a s indeed a w e a p o n in the struggle against the absolute mon
a r c h y ' s a d m i n i s t r a t i v e - s t y l e k n o w l e d g e , the m o n a r c h y w a n t e d , so to
speak, to recolonize that k n o w l e d g e . The creation of the ministry of
history w a s , if vou like, a concession, a first tacit acceptance on the
part of the k i n g that there d i d indeed exist historical material that
might, perhaps, reveal the basic l a w s of the k i n g d o m . It w a s the first
tacit acceptance of a sort of constitution, ten vears before the Estates
General. So, a first concession on the part of royal power, a first tacit
acceptance that something might slip b e t w e e n its power a n d its ad-

138

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

ministration: the constitution, basic l a w s , the representation of the


people, a n d so on. But at the same time, historical k n o w l e d g e was
reinstalled, in an a u t h o r i t a r i a n way, in the very place w h e r e attempts
h a d been made to use it against absolutism. That k n o w l e d g e w a s a
weapon in the struggle to reoccupy the k n o w l e d g e of the prince, a n d
it w a s placed b e t w e e n his power a n d the e x p e r t i s e a n d w o r k i n g s of
the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n . A m i n i s t r y of history was established b e t w e e n the
prince a n d the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n as a w a y of reestablishing the link, of
m a k i n g history part of the w o r k i n g s of monarchic p o w e r a n d its a d
ministration. A m i n i s t r y of history w a s created b e t w e e n the k n o w l
edge of the prince a n d the expertise of his administration, a n d in
order to establish, b e t w e e n t h e king a n d h i s administration, in a con
trolled w a y , the u n i n t e r r u p t e d t r a d i t i o n of the monarchy.
That is more or less w h a t I w a n t e d to s a y to you about the estab
lishment of this new t y p e of historical k n o w l e d g e . I w i l l try to look
later at the w a y in w h i c h t h i s k n o w l e d g e l e d to the emergence w i t h i n
t h i s element of the struggle b e t w e e n nations, or in other w o r d s what
w i l l become the race struggle a n d the class struggle.

1 1 February

1976

139

1. There are at least fifty accounts of the Trojan origins of the French, from the PseudoFrdegaire's Historia Francoium (727) to Ronsard's Franciade (1572). It is unclear whether
Foucault is referring to this tradition as a whole, or to a specific text. The text in question
may be the one referred to bv A. Thierry in his Recti du temps merovingiens, precede de
considerations sur I'histoire de France (Paris, 1 8 4 0 ) , or in other words Les Grandes
Chroniques
de Saint-Denis (which were written in the second half of the twelfth centurv, published
by Paulin Paris in 1836, and reprinted by J . Viard in 1 9 2 0 ) . Many of these stones can
be consulted in Dom. M. Bouquet, Recueil des historiens de Gaule et de la France (Pans,
1739-1752), vols. 2 and 3.
2. "Know that he is an emperor in his kingdom, and that he can do all and as much as
imperial right permits" (J. Boutilher, Somme rurale, oule Grand Coutumier general de pratiques
civiles [fourteenth century] [Bruges, 1479]). The 1611 edition of this text is cited by A.
Thierry, Considerations sur I'histoire de France.
3. Thierry, p. 41 (1868 ed.).
4. F. Hotman, Franco-Gallia (Geneva, 1573) (French translation: La Gaule franchise [Cologne,
1574], reprinted as La Gaule francaise [Pans: Fayard, 1 9 8 1 ] ) .
5. Cf. Beati Rhenani Rerum Germanicorum lihri tres (Basel, 1531). The edition published in Ulm
in 1 6 9 3 should also be consulted; the commentary and notes added by the members of
the Imperial Historical College provide a genealogy and eulogy of the "Europa corona"
of the Hapsburgs (BeatiRhenani
lihri tres Institutionem Rerum Historici Imperialis scopum illustratarum [Ulm, 1 6 9 3 ] , and especially pp. 5 6 9 - 6 0 0 . See also the commentaries appended
to the Strasbourg edition: Argentaton, 1 6 1 0 ) .
6. Cf. Hotman, Franco-Gallia,
chapter 4, "De ortu Francorum, qui Gallia occupata. eius
nomen in Francia, vel Francogalliam mutarunt" ( p p . 40-52 of the 1576 ed.).
7. Etienne Pasquier, Recherxhes de la France, 3 vols. (Pans 1560-1567). Pasquier studied
under Hotman.
8. Cf. Hotman, Franco-Gallia,
p. 54: "Semper reges Franci h a b u e r u n t . . . non tyrannos, aut
camefices: sed liberatis suae custodes, praefectos, tutores sibi constituerunt."
9. Ibid., p. 62.
1 0 . Julius Caesar, Commentariide
hello gallico; see especially books 6 , 7, and 8.
11. Hotman, Franco-Gallia,
pp. 55-62.
12. Cf. ibid., p. 65i, where Hotman describes "the continuity of the powers of the council"
through the various dynasties.
13.Jean du Tillet, Les Manoires et rechenhes (Rouen, 1578); Recueil des Roys de France (Pans,
1 5 8 0 ) ; Remonstrance ou Advertissement
a la noblesse tant du parti du Roy que des rebelles (Pans,
1585)- Jean de Serres, Memoires de la troisieme guerre civile, et des dernieis troubles de la France
(Pans, 1 5 7 0 ) ; lnventaire general de I'histoire de la France (Pans, 1597).
14. P- Audigier, De torigt'ne des Francois etde leur empire (Pans, 1676).
15.J--E. Tarault, Annales de France, avec les alliances, genealogies, conquetes,fondations
e'cclesiasttques
et civiles en tune et tautre empire et dans les rvyaumes etrangtrs, depuis Pharamond jusqu'au roi
Louis trti^eme (Pans, 1635).
16. P. Audigier, De I'origt'ne des Francois, p. 3.
17. Caesar, De Bella gallico, book 1, p. 1.
18. It was in fact Bishop Ragvaldson who, speaking of the question of the "fabrication of
the human race" at the Council of Basel in 1434, described Scandinavia as humanity's
original cradle. He based his claim on the fourth-century chronicle of Jordams: "Hac
lgitur Scandza insula quasi officina gentium aut certe velut vagina nationum...
Gotthi
quondam memorantur egressi" (De origine actibusque Getarum in Monumanta
Germaniae
Historic a, Auctvrum anttquissimorum,
vol. 5, part 1 (Berolim, 1882), pp. 53-258 (quotation
from p. 6 0 ) . A far-reaching debate on this question began after the rediscovery of Tacitus's De origine et situ Gomaniae,
which was published in 1472.

''SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

19- Gregoire de Tours, Historia Francorum ( 5 7 5 - 5 9 2 ) (Paris, 1692).


20. Fenelon, Les Aventures de Telemaque (Pans, 1 6 9 5 ) .
21. The reference is to Etat de la Frame dans lequel on vait tout ce que regarde le gouvernement
ecclesiastique, le militaire, la justice, les finances, le commerre, les manufactures, le nomb/e des habitants,
et en general tout ce qui peut faire comprendre a fond cette monarchic; extrat't des memoires dresses
par les intendants du royaume, par ordre du ray Louis XIV a la sollicitation de Monseigneur le due
de Bourgpgie, pere de Louis XV a present regnant. Avec des Memoires historiques sur I'ancient
gouvemment
de cette monarchic jusqu'a Hugues Capet, par M. le comte de Boulainvilliers,
2 vols,
in folio (London, 1727). In 1728, a third volume appeared under the title Etatde la France,
contenant XIV lettres sur les anciens Parlemens de France, avec I'histoire de ce royaume depuis le
commencement de la monarchic jusqu'a Charles VIII. On y a joint des Me oires presented a M le
due d'Orle'ans (London, 1728).
m

22. Foucault is alluding to those of Boulamvilliers's historical works that deal with French
political institutions. The most important are: Me oire
sur la noblesse du wiaume de France
fait par le comte de Boulainvilliers
(1719; extracts are published in A. Devyver, Le Sange'pure.
Les prejuges de race che^ les gentilhommes francais de VAntien Regime [Brussels: Editions de
1'Universite, 1973], pp. 5 0 0 - 4 8 ) ; Memoire pour la noblesse de France contre les Dues et Pairs,
s.1. (1717); Memoires pre'sente's a Mgr. le due d Orleans,
Regent de France (The Hague/Am
sterdam, 1727); Histoire de I'ancient gouvemment de la France avec quator^e lettres historiques sur
les Parlements ou Etats Ge'neraux, 3 vols. (The Hague/Amsterdam, 1727) (this is an abridged
and revised edition of the Memoires);
Traite sur I'origine et les droits de la noblesse ( 1 7 0 0 ) ,
in Continuation des memoires de litterature et d'histoire (Pans, 1 7 3 0 ) , vol. 9 , pp. 3 - 1 0 6 ( r e
published, with numerous modifications, as Essais sur la noblesse contenant une dissertation
sur son origiiie et abaissement, par le feu M. le Comte de Boulainvilliers,
avec des notes historiques,
critiques et politique s [Amsterdam, 1732]); Abrege chronologique de Vhistorie de France, 3 vols.
(Pans, 1733); Histoire des anciens parlemans de France ou Etats Ge'neraux du royaume (London,
1737).
m

23. The historical writings of L. G. comte de Buat-Nancay include Les Origines ou tAncient
Gouvernement de la France, de l* Italic, de I'Al/emagtje (Paris, 1757 ); Histoire ancienne
despeuples
de I'Europe, 12 vols. (Paris, 1772); Elements de la politique, ou Recerche sur les vrais principes de
I'economie sociale (London, 1773); Les Maximes du gpuvernement monarxhique pour servir de suite
aux elements de la politique (London, 1778).
24. Of the many works by F. de Reynaud, comte de Montlosier, only those that relate to
the problems raised by Foucault in his lecture will be mentioned here: De la monarchic
francaise
depuis son etablisscment fusqu'd nos jours, 3 vols. (Pans, 1814); Memoires sur la Re
volution francaise, le Consulat VEmpirc, la Restauration et les principaux evenements qui Vont suivie
(Pans, 1 8 3 0 ) . On Montlosier, see the lecture of 10 March below.
25. See L. G. comte de Buat-Nancay, Remarques d'un Franc_ais, ou Examen impartial du litre de
M. Necker sur les finances (Geneva, 1785).
26. L. G. comte de Buat-Nanqay, Les Maximes du gpuvernement monarchique, pp. 286-87.
27. On this question, see J . N. Moreau, Plan des travaux littercdres ordonnes par Sa Majeste pour
la rechetxhe, la collection et Vemploi des monuments d'histoire et du droit public de la monarchic
francaise (Pans, 1782).
28. Cf. J . N. Moreau, Principes de morale, de politique et de droit public puises dans I'histoire de notre
monarchic, ou discourse sur I'histoire de France, 21 vols. (Pans, 177^-1789).

seren

18

Nation

and nations.

FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6

- The Roman conquest.

decadence

of the Romans.

- Boulainvilliers

Germans.

- The Soissons

vase. - Origins

right, and the language


generalizations
institutions

- Grandeur

on the Jreedom
offeudalism.

of State. - Boulainvilliers:

about war: law of history


of war, the calculation

of forces.

and
of the

Church,

three

and law of nature, the


- Remarks on war.

L A S T T I M E , I T R I E D to show you h o w the n o b i l i a r y reaction w a s

bound up w i t h , not exactly the invention of historical discourse, b u t


r a t h e r the shattering of a p r e e x i s t i n g historical discourse w h o s e func
tion h a d until then been to sing t h e praises of Rome, as Petrarch puts
it.

U n t i l then, historical discourse h a d been inferior to t h e State's

discourse about itself; i t s function w a s to demonstrate t h e State's


r i g h t , to establish its sovereignty, to recount its u n i n t e r r u p t e d g e n e
alogy, a n d to use heroes, exploits, a n d d y n a s t i e s to i l l u s t r a t e the l e
gitimacy of p u b l i c right. The d i s r u p t i o n of t h e praise of Rome in the
late seventeenth a n d early e i g h t e e n t h centuries came a b o u t in t w o
w a y s . One the one hand, w e h a v e the recollection, the reactivation,
of the fact of t h e invasion, w h i c h , as y o u w i l l remember,

Protestant

historiography h a d already used as a n a r g u m e n t against royal abso


lutism. The evocation of t h e invasion introduced a major b r e a k in
time: the Germanic invasion of the fourth to fifth centuries negates
right. This is the moment w h e n p u b l i c right is destroyed, the moment
w h e n the hordes flooding out of G e r m a n y put a n end to R o m a n

140

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

19. Gregoire de Tours, Histona francorum (575-592) (Pans, 1692).


20. Fenelon, Les Aventures de Telemaque (Pans, 1695).
21. The reference is to Etal de la France dans lequel on to it tout ce que regarde le gouvernement
e'cclesiastique, le militaire, la justice, les finances, le commerce, les manufactures, I enombre des habitants,
et en general tout ce qui peut [aire comprendre a jond cette monarchic; extrait des memoires dresses
par les intendants du royaume, par ordre du my Louis XIV a la sollicitation de Monseigneur le due
de Bourgpgne, pere de Louis XV a present regpant. Avec des Memoires historiques sur Vancient
gouvernment de cette monarchic jusqu'a Hugues Capet, par M. le comte de Boulainvilliers,
2 vols,
in folio (London, 1727). In 1728, a third volume appeared under the title Etatde la France,
contenant XIV lettres sur les anciens Parlemens de France, avec l histoire de ce royaume depuis le
commencement de la monarchic jusqu'a Charles VIII. On y a joint des Memoires presenters a M le
due d*Orleans (London, 1728).
f

22. Foucault is alluding to those of Boulainvilliers's historical works that deal with French
political institutions. The most important are: Memoire sur la noblesse du roiaume de France
fait par le comte de Boulainvilliers
(1719; extracts are published in A. Devyver, Le Sangepure.
Les prejuges de race chevies
gentilhommes francais de VAncien Regime [Brussels: Editions de
l'Universite, 1973], pp. 500-48); Memoire pour la noblesse de France contre les Dues et Pairs,
s. 1. (1717); Memoires presenter a Mgr. le due d Orleans, Regent de France (The Hague/Am
sterdam, 1727); Histoire de I'ancient gouvernment de la France avec quator%e lettres historiques sur
les Parlements ou Etats Gencraux, 3 vols. (The Hague/Amsterdam, 1727) (this is an abridged
and revised edition of the Memoires);
I'raite sur I'origine et les droits de la noblesse (1700),
in Continuation
des memoires de litte'rature et d'histoire ( P a n s , 1730), vol. 9, pp. 3-106 ( r e
published, with numerous modifications, as Essais sur la noblesse contenant une dissertation
sur son on'gine et abaissement, par le feu M. le Comte de Boulainvilliers,
avec des notes historiques,
critiques et politiques [Amsterdam, 1732]); Abre'ge ch ronologique de Vhistoric de France, 3 vols.
(Pans, 1733); Histoire des anciens parlemans de France ou Etats Ge'neraux du royaume (London,
f

1737).
23. The historical writings of L. G. comte de Buat-Nancay include Les Origines ou I'Ancient
Gouvernement de la France, de I'ltalie, de I'AJlemagne ( Pans, 1757 ); Histoire ancienne
despeuples
de I'Europe, 12 vols. (Pans, 1772); Elements de la politique, ou Recerche sur les vrais principes de
I'economie sociale (London, 177)); Les Maximes du gouvernement munarchique pour servir de suite
aux elements de la politique (London, 1778).
24. Of the many works by F. de Reynaud, comte de Montlosier, only those that relate to
the problems raised by Foucault m his lecture will be mentioned here: De la monarchic
francaise
depuis son etablissement jusqu'a nos jours, 3 vols. (Pans, 1814); Memoires sur la Re
volution francaise, le Consulat l Empire, la Restauration et les principaux evenements qui I'ont suivie
(Pans, 1830). On Montlosier, see the lecture of 10 March below.
25. See L. G. comte de Buat Nan<;ay, Remarques d'un Fran^ais, ou Examen impartial du litre de
M. Necker sur les finances (Geneva, 178s).
26. L. G. comte de Buat-Nanc.ay, Les Maximes du gouvernement monatvhique, pp. 286-87.
27. On this question, see J. N. Moreau, Plan des travaux litteraires ordonnes par Sa Majeste pour
la recherche, la collection et I'em plot' des monuments d'histoire et du droit public de la monarchic
francaise (Paris, 1782).
28. Cf. J. N. Moreau, Principes de morale, de politique et de droit public puise's dans i'histoire
denotre
monaixhie, ou discourse sur I'histoirc de France. 21 vols. (Pans, 177~-1789).
f

seven

18

Nation

and nations.

FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6

- The Roman conquest.

decadence

of the Romans.

- Boulainvilliers

Germans.

- The Soissons

vase. - Origins

right, and the language


generalizations
*

institutions

- Grandeur

on the freedom
offeudalism.

of State. - Boulainvilliers:

about war: law of history


of war, the calculation

and
of the

Church,

three

and law of nature, the

of forces.

- Remarks on war.

L A S T T I M E , I T R I E D to s h o w you h o w the n o b i l i a r y reaction w a s

b o u n d u p w i t h , not e x a c t l y the invention of historical discourse, b u t


r a t h e r the shattering of a p r e e x i s t i n g h i s t o r i c a l d i s c o u r s e w h o s e l u n c tion h a d until then been to sing t h e praises of R o m e , as Petrarch p u t s
it.

Until then, historical discourse h a d been inferior to the State's

discourse about itself; its function w a s to d e m o n s t r a t e the State's


right, to e s t a b l i s h its sovereignty, to recount its u n i n t e r r u p t e d g e n e
alogy, a n d to use heroes, e x p l o i t s , a n d d y n a s t i e s to i l l u s t r a t e the l e
g i t i m a c y of p u b l i c right. T h e d i s r u p t i o n of t h e praise of R o m e in the
late seventeenth a n d early eighteenth centuries came about in t w o
w a y s . O n e the one h a n d , w e have the recollection, the reactivation,
of the fact of the invasion, which, as y o u will remember,

Protestant

historiography h a d a l r e a d y used as an a r g u m e n t against royal abso


lutism. The evocation of the invasion introduced a major b r e a k in
time: the Germanic invasion of the fourth to fifth centuries negates
right. This is the moment when p u b l i c right is destroyed, the moment
w h e n the hordes flooding out of G e r m a n y put an e n d to R o m a n

"SOCIETY

142

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

absolutism. The other break, the other d i s r u p t i v e p r i n c i p l e w h i c h


is, I t h i n k , more i m p o r t a n t i s the i n t r o d u c t i o n of a n e w subject of
history, b o t h in the sense that the historical narrative a c q u i r e s a new
domain of objects, a n d in the sense that a n e w subject b e g i n s to speak
in history. History is no longer the State t a l k i n g about itself; it is
something else t a l k i n g about itself, a n d the something else that speaks
in history a n d t a k e s itself a s the object of its own historical n a r r a t i v e
is a sort of n e w entity k n o w n as the nation. " N a t i o n " is, of course,
to be understood in t h e broad sense of the term. I w i l l t r y to come
b a c k to t h i s point, as it is this notion of a nation that generates or
g i v e s rise to notions l i k e n a t i o n a l i t y , race, a n d class. In the eighteenth
century, this notion still has to be understood in a very b r o a d sense.
It is t r u e that you can find in the Encyc/opedie

w h a t I w o u l d call a

Statist definition of the nation because the encyclopedists give four


c r i t e r i a for the existence of the nation.

First, it must be a great m u l

t i t u d e of men; second, it must b e a g r e a t m u l t i t u d e of men i n h a b i t i n g


a defined country; t h i r d , this defined country must be circumscribed
by

frontiers; fourth, t h e m u l t i t u d e of m e n w h o h a v e settled inside

those frontiers must obey the same l a w s a n d the s a m e government.


So w e have here a definition of the nation w h i c h , so to speak, settles
the nation w i t h i n the frontiers of the State on the one hand, a n d
w i t h i n the v e r y form of the S t a t e on the other. This i s , I t h i n k , a
p o l e m i c a l definition w h i c h w a s intended, if not to refute, at least to
r u l e out the b r o a d definition that p r e v a i l e d at this time, and w h i c h
we

can find b o t h in texts p r o d u c e d b y the n o b i l i t y a n d in texts

p r o d u c e d by the bourgeoisie. A c c o r d i n g to this definition, the nobility


w a s a nation, a n d the bourgeoisie w a s also a nation. A l l this w i l l be
of vital importance d u r i n g the R e v o l u t i o n , and especially in Sieyes's
5

t e x t about the T h i r d Estate, w h i c h I w i l l try to discuss. But this


v a g u e , fluid, shifting notion of the nation, this idea of a nation that
does not stop at the frontiers but w h i c h , on the contrary, is a sort of
mass of i n d i v i d u a l s w h o move from one frontier to another,

through

States, b e n e a t h States, a n d at an infra-State level, persists long into


the

nineteenth

Thierry,* Guizot,

centuryin,
s

a n d others.

for

instance,

the

work

of

Augustin

18 February

7976

W e have, then, a new subject of history, and I w i l l try to show


you how a n d w h y it w a s the n o b i l i t y t h a t introduced into the great
Statist organization of historical discourse this d i s r u p t i v e principle:
the nation a s subject-object of the n e w history. But w h a t w a s this
n e w history, w h a t did it consist of, and h o w d i d it become established
in the early eighteenth c e n t u r y ? I t h i n k t h a t the reasons w h y t h i s
n e w t y p e of history is d e p l o y e d in the discourse of the French nobility
become clear if w e compare it w i t h the n a t u r e of the English problem
in the s e v e n t e e n t h century, or about one h u n d r e d years earlier.
In the England of the late s i x t e e n t h a n d early seventeenth centuries,
b o t h the p a r l i a m e n t a r y opposition and the p o p u l a r opposition

had,

b a s i c a l l y , to solve a relatively s i m p l e problem. They h a d to d e m o n


strate t h a t t h e r e w e r e b o t h t w o conflicting systems of r i g h t and t w o
n a t i o n s in the English monarchy. On the one hand, there w a s a system
of r i g h t corresponding to the N o r m a n nation: the aristocracy and the
monarchy w e r e , so to speak, l u m p e d together. T h i s nation

brought

w i t h it an absolutist system of right, and it imposed it through

the

violence of the invasion. So: monarchy a n d aristocracy ( a b s o l u t i s t t y p e r i g h t a n d i n v a s i o n ) . That system h a d to be challenged by a s


serting the s y s t e m of Saxon right: the r i g h t to basic freedoms, w h i c h
just h a p p e n e d to be the r i g h t of the e a r l i e s t i n h a b i t a n t s and, at t h e
s a m e time, the r i g h t t h a t w a s being d e m a n d e d b y the poorest, or at
least b y those w h o d i d not b e l o n g to either the r o y a l family or a r i s
tocratic families. So, t w o g r e a t systems. A n d the older and more l i b
e r a l system h a d to prevail over the n e w s y s t e m t h a t h a d t h a n k s to
the invasionintroduced absolutism. A s i m p l e problem.
A c e n t u r y later, or at the end of the s e v e n t e e n t h and the b e g i n n i n g
of the eighteenth centuries, the French nobility w a s obviously faced
w i t h a much more c o m p l e x p r o b l e m because it had to fight on t w o
fronts. On the one hand, against the monarchy and its usurpations of
power; on the other, a g a i n s t the T h i r d Estate, w h i c h w a s t a k i n g ad
v a n t a g e of the absolute monarchy so as to t r a m p l e on the rights of
the nobility and to use them to its o w n advantage. So, a s t r u g g l e on
two fronts, b u t it cannot be w a g e d in the same w a y on both fronts.
In its s t r u g g l e against the absolutism of the monarchy, the nobility

" S O C I E T Y

M U S T

B E

D E F E N D E D "

asserts its right to the basic freedoms w h i c h were supposedly enjoyed


by the G e r m a n i c or Frankish people w h o i n v a d e d France at some
point. So, in its s t r u g g l e against the monarchy, the nobility claims
freedoms. But in the struggle against the T h i r d Estate, the nobility
lays claim to the u n r e s t r i c t e d r i g h t s granted to it by the invasion. On
the one h a n d , or in the struggle against the T h i r d Estate, it must, in
other w o r d s , be a n absolute victor w i t h u n r e s t r i c t e d r i g h t s ; on the
other hand, or in the struggle against the monarchy, it has to lay
claim to an almost constitutional right to basic freedoms. Hence the
c o m p l e x i t y of the p r o b l e m and hence, I t h i n k , the infinitely more
sophisticated nature of the analysis that w e find in Boulainvilliers,
c o m p a r e d to the analysis w e find a few decades earlier.
But I w a n t to t a k e B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s s i m p l y as an e x a m p l e , because
there w a s in fact a w h o l e nucleus, a w h o l e n e b u l a of noble historians
who b e g a n to formulate their theories in the second half of the sev
enteenth
1670),

c e n t u r y ( t h e comte d'Estaing b e t w e e n about 1 6 6 0 and


and they w e n t on doing so u n t i l the comte de B u a t - N a n c a y

and possibly the comte de M o n t l o s i e r ( w h o w a s w r i t i n g at the time


of the R e v o l u t i o n ) , the Empire, and the Restoration. Boulainvillers
p l a y s an i m p o r t a n t role because it w a s B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s who t r i e d to
retranscribe the reports produced by the intendants for the due de
Bourgogne, a n d w e can therefore take him as a point of reference and
as a representative figure who can, provisionally, stand for all the
others.

How does B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s m a k e his a n a l y s i s ? First question:

W h a t did the Franks find when they entered G a u l ? They obviously


did not find the lost homeland to w h i c h they w a n t e d to return be
cause of its w e a l t h and civilization ( a s the old historico-legendary
story of the twelfth century w o u l d have it when it described the
Franks as Gauls who h a d left their h o m e l a n d and then decided to go
back to it at some p o i n t ) . The Gaul described by Boulainvilliers is
by no means a happy, almost A r c a d i a n Gaul w h i c h had

forgotten

C a e s a r ' s violence a n d h a d h a p p i l y merged into a n e w l y constituted


unity. W h e n they entered Gaul, the Franks found a land that had
been conquered. A n d the fact that it had been conquered meant that
Roman absolutism, or the kingly or i m p e r i a l right that had been

1 8 February

1976

145

established by t h e Romans, w a s not a right that h a d been acclimatized


to Gaul; it w a s not accepted, a n d d i d not fit in w i t h either the land
or the people. This right w a s the result of the conquest; Gaul h a d
been subjugated. The right that prevailed there w a s in no sense a
consensual sovereignty; it w a s the result of domination. A n d it is the
very mechanism of that domination, w h i c h lasted throughout the R o
man occupation, that B o u l a i n v i l h e r s is trying to isolate by identifying
a number of phases.
W h e n the R o m a n s first entered Gaul, their i m m e d i a t e priority w a s
obviously to disarm the w a r r i o r aristocracy, w h i c h had been the only
m i l i t a r y force to put up any real opposition; they d i s a r m e d the a r i s
tocracy a n d h u m i l i a t e d it in both political a n d economic t e r m s b y ( o r
at least at the same t i m e a s ) artificially r a i s i n g up the common people
and, according to B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s , using the idea of equality to seduce
them. In other w o r d s , a device t y p i c a l of all despotisms ( a n d w h i c h
h a d , as it h a p p e n s , been d e v e l o p e d in the R o m a n R e p u b l i c from A l a r
ms to C a e s a r ) w a s used to convince inferiors t h a t a l i t t l e more e q u a l
ity for t h e m w o u l d do t h e m more good than much greater freedom
for all. A n d the result of this " e q u a h t a n z a t i o n " w a s a despotic gov
ernment. In the same w a y , the R o m a n s m a d e Gaulish society more
egalitarian by h u m b l i n g the n o b i l i t y , raising up the common people,
and establishing their own C a e s a r i s m . This w a s the first phase, a n d
it ended w i t h C a l i g u l a ' s systematic massacre of the former

Gaulish

nobles w h o had resisted both the Romans and their characteristic


policy of humiliation. W e then see the Romans creating the nobility
they needed. T h i s w a s not a m i l i t a r y n o b i l i t y w h i c h m i g h t have
opposed thembut

an a d m i n i s t r a t i v e nobility that w a s designed to

help them organize a Roman Gaul and, above all, to assist them w i t h
all the dishonest t r i c k s they w o u l d use to p l u n d e r the w e a l t h of G a u l
and to ensure that the t a x system w o r k e d in t h e i r favor. So a new
nobility was created, and it w a s a civilian, j u r i d i c a l , and a d m i n i s t r a t i v e
nobility characterized, first, by its acute, sophisticated, a n d masterly
u n d e r s t a n d i n g of Roman right, and second, by its k n o w l e d g e of the
Roman language. It was its k n o w l e d g e of the language and its u n d e r
s t a n d i n g of right that a l l o w e d a new nobility to emerge.

146

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

This description m a k e s it possible to dispel the old seventeenthcentury m y t h of a h a p p y a n d A r c a d i a n R o m a n Gaul. The

refutation

of that myth w a s obviously a w a y of t e l l i n g the king of France: If you


claim the r i g h t s of Roman absolutism, you are not l a y i n g claim to
basic a n d essential r i g h t over the l a n d of Gaul, b u t to a specific and
p a r t i c u l a r history whose t r i c k s are not especially honorable. You are
at least inscribing yourself w i t h i n a mechanism of subjugation. W h a t
is more, this Roman absolutism, w h i c h w a s established thanks to a
certain number of m e c h a n i s m s of domination, w a s finally overthrown,
s w e p t a w a y and defeated by the Germansand

that had less to do

w i t h the contingencies of a m i l i t a r y defeat than w i t h an inevitable


internal decay. This is the starting p o i n t for the second section of
Boulainvilliers's a n a l y s i s t h e m o m e n t w h e n he analyzes the real ef
fects of Rome's dominion over Gaul. W h e n they entered Gaul, the
Germans ( o r F r a n k s ) found a c o n q u e r e d land that w a s the m i l i t a r y
a r m a t u r e of Gaul.* The Romans n o w h a d no one to defend t h e m from
invasions from across the R h i n e . Given t h a t they no l o n g e r h a d a
n o b i l i t y , they h a d to turn to mercenaries in order to defend the Gaul
ish l a n d they were occupying. These mercenaries were not fighting
their own cause, or to defend their o w n land, but for money. The
existence of a m e r c e n a r y army, of a paid army, obviously i m p l i e s a
very high level of taxation. Gaul therefore h a d to supply not only
mercenaries b u t also the means to pay them. This h a d t w o effects.
First, a considerable increase in taxes p a i d in cash. Second, an increase
in the amount of money in circulation or, as w e w o u l d say today,
devaluation. This leads to t w o things: M o n e y loses its value because
it has been d e v a l u e d and, curiously enough, because it becomes in
creasingly scarce. The l a c k of money t h e n leads to a d o w n t u r n
business and to general impoverishment.

in

It is this state of general

desolation that p r o v i d e s the context for the Frankish conquest

or

w h i c h , rather, makes it possible. G a u l ' s v u l n e r a b i l i t y to a Frankish

*"that was the military armature of Gaul" does not figure m the manuscript, which reads,
"a country ruined by absolutism."

18 February

1976

invasion is b o u n d u p w i t h the fact that the country w a s in ruins, and


the e x p l a n a t i o n for that is the existence of m e r c e n a r y armies.
I w i l l come b a c k later to this t y p e of analysis. But the interesting
t h i n g about i t a n d this should be pointed out s t r a i g h t a w a y i s that
B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s analysis is a l r e a d y very different from the analyses
w e find only a few decades e a r l i e r , w h e n t h e question that w a s b e i n g
r a i s e d w a s e s s e n t i a l l y t h a t of p u b l i c r i g h t , or in other w o r d s : D i d
R o m a n absolutism, a n d its s y s t e m of r i g h t , s u r v i v e t h e F r a n k i s h i n
v a s i o n ? D i d the Franks abolish, l e g i t i m a t e l y or o t h e r w i s e , a sover
eignty of the R o m a n t y p e ? That, b r o a d l y s p e a k i n g , w a s the historical
problem that w a s b e i n g r a i s e d in the seventeenth century. For B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , t h e p r o b l e m is no longer w h e t h e r R o m a n r i g h t d i d or d i d
not still exist, or w h e t h e r one r i g h t h a d t h e r i g h t to r e p l a c e another.
Those p r o b l e m s are no longer being posed. The problem is u n d e r
s t a n d i n g the i n t e r n a l reasons for the defeat, or in other w o r d s , u n
d e r s t a n d i n g in w h a t sense the R o m a n government

( l e g i t i m a t e or

otherwise; that is not the p r o b l e m ) w a s logically a b s u r d or p o l i t i c a l l y


contradictory. The famous problem of t h e g r a n d e u r a n d decadence of
the Romans, w h i c h w i l l b e c o m e one of t h e great cliches of t h e h i s
torical or political l i t e r a t u r e of the eighteenth c e n t u r y ,

10

a n d to w h i c h

M o n t e s q u i e u " w i l l r e t u r n long after B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , has a very precise


m e a n i n g . W h a t i s , for the first t i m e , t a k i n g shape h e r e is a n analysis
of the economico-pohtical type. A n e w model is t a k i n g shape, a n d
the problem is no longer simply t h e p r o b l e m of the negation of r i g h t ,
of the c h a n g e of right, or of the transformation of an absolutist right
into a G e r m a n i c - t y p e right. That is the first set of analyses that can
be found in B o u l a i n v i l h e r s . I am s y s t e m a t i z i n g it all a bit, but

I'm

just t r y i n g to save time.


To move on from the p r o b l e m of Gaul a n d the Romans, the second
problem, or the second set of problems, w h i c h I w i l l t a k e as an e x
ample of B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s analyses, is the p r o b l e m he raises w i t h re
g a r d to the Franks: Who are these Franks w h o came to G a u l ? This
is the other side of the p r o b l e m I w a s just talking about: Whence the
strength of these people w h o , although they were uncouth, b a r b a r o u s ,

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

and relatively few in number, could actually invade Gaul a n d destroy


the most powerful e m p i r e that history had k n o w n until t h e n ? It is
the strength of the Franks and the w e a k n e s s of the Romans t h a t have
to be e x p l a i n e d . To b e g i n w i t h t h e strength of the Franks: T h e y en
joyed something the Romans b e l i e v e d they had to do w i t h o u t : the
existence of a w a r r i o r aristocracy. The w h o l e of Frankish society was
organized a r o u n d its w a r r i o r s , w h o , although they w e r e b a c k e d u p
by a w h o l e series of people w h o w e r e serfs ( o r at least servants d e
p e n d e n t on c l i e n t s ) , w e r e basically the F r a n k i s h people itself, as the
G e r m a n people consists essentially of Leute or kudes,

or people who

are all m e n - a t - a r m s , or the v e r y opposite of mercenaries. W h a t is


more, these m e n - a t - a r m s or aristocratic w a r r i o r s elect their king, but
his only function is to settle d i s p u t e s and juridical problems in peace
time. Its k i n g s are civil magistrates, and nothing more than that. What
is more, these k i n g s are chosen by the general consent of g r o u p s of
leudes,

or groups of men-at a r m s . It is only in times of w a r w h e n a

strong organization and one power a r e neededthat

they elect a

l e a d e r , and his l e a d e r s h i p obeys very different p r i n c i p l e s and is a b


solute. The leader is a w a r l o r d who is not necessarily the king of civil
society b u t w h o may, in certain circumstances, become its king. Some
one such as Clovisof [ . . . ] historical importance w a s both civil
judge, the civilian magistrate w h o h a d been chosen to resolve d i s p u t e s ,
a n d w a r l o r d . A t all events, w h a t w e h a v e h e r e is a society in w h i c h
p o w e r is minimal, at least in peacetime; it follows t h a t freedom is
maximal.
Now, w h a t is this freedom that is enjoyed by the members of this
w a r r i o r a r i s t o c r a c y ? It is c e r t a i n l y not freedom in the sense of inde
pendence, nor is it the freedom that, basically, allows one to respect
others. The freedom enjoyed by these G e r m a n i c w a r r i o r s w a s essen
tially the freedom of egoism, of greeda t a s t e for battle, conquest,
and p l u n d e r . The freedom

of these warriors is not the freedom of

tolerance a n d equality for all; it is a freedom t h a t can be exercised


only through domination. Far from being a freedom based upon re
spect, it is, in other w o r d s , a freedom based upon ferocity. A n d w h e n
he traces the etymology of the w o r d Franc, B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s follower

18 February

197b

Freret s a y s t h a t it c e r t a i n l y does not mean "free" in the sense in w h i c h


w e n o w u n d e r s t a n d the word; essentially, it m e a n s " ferocious," Jerox.
The w o r d franc
ferox;

has e x a c t l y the same connotations as the Latin w o r d

according to Freret, it has all its favorable a n d

m e a n i n g s . It means "proud, i n t r e p i d , h a u g h t y , c r u e l . "

12

unfavorable

Here w e h a v e

the b e g i n n i n g s of the famous g r e a t p o r t r a i t of the " b a r b a r i a n " w h i c h


w e will go on finding until the late nineteenth century and, of course,
in Nietzsche, [for w h o m ] freedom w i l l be equivalent to a ferocity
defined a s a taste for p o w e r a n d d e t e r m i n e d g r e e d , an i n a b i l i t y to
serve others, a n d constant desire to subjugate others; " u n p o l i s h e d and
r o u g h m a n n e r s , a hatred of R o m a n names, t h e Roman l a n g u a g e a n d
R o m a n customs. Brave lovers of freedom, bold, fickle, faithless, eager
5

for gain, i m p a t i e n t , restless,"*' et cetera. These are the e p i t h e t s B o u l a i n v i l h e r s a n d h i s successors u s e to d e s c r i b e this n e w great b l o n d
b a r b a r i a n w h o , t h a n k s to t h e i r t e x t s , m a k e s h i s solemn e n t r y into
European historyI mean into European h i s t o r i o g r a p h y .
This portrait of the g r e a t blond ferocity of the G e r m a n s m a k e s it
possible to e x p l a i n , first of a l l , h o w , w h e n these Frankish w a r r i o r s
came to Gaul, they s i m p l y could not a n d w o u l d not be a s s i m i l a t e d
into the G a l l o - R o m a n s and, more specifically, w h y they c o m p l e t e l y
refused to s u b m i t to t h i s i m p e r i a l r i g h t . T h e y w e r e much too free, by
w h i c h I mean too p r o u d , too arrogant, a n d so on, not to prevent t h e i r
w a r l o r d from b e c o m i n g a sovereign in t h e R o m a n sense of the w o r d .
T h e i r freedom m a d e t h e m far too intent on conquest a n d d o m i n a t i o n
not to seize the l a n d of G a u l for themselves on an i n d i v i d u a l b a s i s .
T h e F r a n k i s h victory therefore d i d not m a k e t h e i r w a r l o r d the o w n e r
of the l a n d of Gaul, b u t each of h i s w a r r i o r s benefited, d i r e c t l y a n d
in his o w n right, from the victory a n d conquest. Each w a r r i o r claimed
for himself a piece of the land of Gaul. These are the distant b e g i n
nings of feudalism; I w i l l omit the d e t a i l s of B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s analysis,
as they are so complicated. Each w a r r i o r a c t u a l l y seized a piece of
land; the k i n g o w n e d only his o w n l a n d , a n d therefore h a d no Romans t y l e r i g h t of s o v e r e i g n t y over the w h o l e of the land of Gaul. Because

*Quotation marks in the manuscript.

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they had become i n d e p e n d e n t and i n d i v i d u a l landowners, there was


no reason for t h e m to accept a king who ruled over them and who
w a s , in some sense, the heir to the Roman emperors.
This is the b e g i n n i n g of the story of the vase of Soissonsagain, I
should say the historiography of the vase of Soissons. W h a t is the
s t o r y ? You p r o b a b l y read it in y o u r school textbooks. It w a s made
up by B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , his predecessors, and his successors. They all
b o r r o w e d the story from Gregory of Tours, a n d it became one of the
cliches of their i n t e r m i n a b l e h i s t o r i c a l discussions. W h e n , after some
14

b a t t l e or otherI can't remember w h i c h C l o v i s w a s sharing out


the booty, or rather p r e s i d i n g as a civilian magistrate over the sharing
out of the booty, you k n o w , w h e n h e saw a certain vase, he said, "I
w a n t that," b u t a w a r r i o r got up a n d said: "You don't have any right
to that vase. You might w e l l be k i n g , b u t you w i l l share the booty
w i t h the rest of us. You have no p r e e m p t i v e rights, you have no prior
or absolute right over the spoils of war. A l l the victors have an a b
solute right to the spoils of w a r : they have to be shared out, a n d the
k i n g has no p r e e m i n e n t right." This is the first phase of the story of
the vase of Soissons. W e will look later at the second.
B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s description of a G e r m a n i c community

therefore

allows him to explain w h y Germans completely rejected the Roman


organization of p o w e r . But it also allows h i m to e x p l a i n how and why
a small n u m b e r of poor people were able to conquer and hold the
rich a n d populous land of Gaul. Once again, the comparison to En
g l a n d is interesting. You will recall that the English were faced w i t h
exactly the same p r o b l e m : H o w w a s it that s i x t y thousand N o r m a n
warriors succeeded in settling in and holding England? Boulainvilhers
h a s the same problem. A n d this is how he resolves it. He says this:
The reason w h y the Franks w e r e able to survive in the l a n d they had
conquered is that the first precaution they took w a s not only not to
give the Gauls arms, but to confiscate their weapons. W h i c h left a
m i l i t a r y caste that w a s both clearly differentiated from other castes
a n d quite isolated from the rest of the country. It w a s a m i l i t a r y caste,
and it w a s purely Germanic. The Gauls no longer h a d any weapons,
but on the other hand, they w e r e left in actual possession of their

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lands, precisely because warfare was the only occupation of the G e r


mans or Franks. The Franks fought, and the Gauls remained on their
land and farmed it. T h e y w e r e merely r e q u i r e d to p a y certain taxes
to allow the Germans to c a r r y out their m i l i t a r y functions. The taxes
were certainly not light, but they were much less onerous than the
t a x e s the Romans h a d tried to levy. They were much less onerous
because they w e r e , in q u a n t i t a t i v e terms, lower, but above all because,
when the R o m a n s d e m a n d e d monetary t a x e s to pay their mercenaries,
the peasants could not pay them. They w e r e now being a s k e d only
for t a x e s that w e r e p a i d in k i n d , and they could a l w a y s pay them. To
that extent, there w a s no longer any hostility b e t w e e n the peasant
Gauls, w h o w e r e m e r e l y b e i n g asked to pay t a x e s in kind, and the
w a r r i o r caste. W e therefore have a h a p p y and stable Frankish Gaul
w h i c h is m u c h less impoverished than R o m a n Gaul w a s at the end
of the R o m a n occupation. A c c o r d i n g to B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , the F r a n k s
and the Gauls lived h a p p i l y side b y side. Both w e r e free to enjoy
w h a t they h a d in peace: the Franks w e r e h a p p y because the i n d u s
trious Gauls provided for their needs, and the Gauls w e r e h a p p y
because the Franks gave them security. W e h a v e here the sort of
nucleus

of

what

Boulainvilliers dreamed

up:

feudalism

as

the

historico-juridical system characteristic of society, of European s o c i


eties from the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries d o w n to almost the
fifteenth.

U n t i l B o u l a i n v i l h e r s a n a l y z e d it, this system of feudalism

had been identified b y neither h i s t o r i a n s nor jurists. Such w a s the


climate of the j u r i d i c o - p o l i t i c a l u n i t y of feudalism: a contented m i l i
t a r y caste s u p p o r t e d

and fed by a peasant population that p a i d it

taxes in k i n d . That, so to speak, was the climate of t h e j u r i d i c o p o l i t i c a l unity of feudalism.


I w o u l d also like to isolate the t h i r d set of facts t h a t B o u l a i n v i l h e r s
analyzes, b e c a u s e t h e y a r e important. I refer to the sequence of events
w h e r e b y the n o b i l i t y , or rather the w a r r i o r aristocracy, that had set
tled in France g r a d u a l l y lost most of its w e a l t h and p o w e r and, u l
timately, found

itself b e i n g held in check by monarchical

power.

B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s a n a l y s i s is r o u g h l y a s follows: The k i n g of the F r a n k s


w a s originally a t e m p o r a r y k i n g in t w o senses. On the one hand, he

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w a s a p p o i n t e d w a r l o r d only for the d u r a t i o n of the w a r . The absolute


character of his power lasted, therefore, only so long as the w a r itself.
On the other h a n d , and to the extent that he w a s a civil magistrate,
he did not necessarily have to belong to one p a r t i c u l a r d y n a s t y . There
w a s no right of succession, a n d he had to be elected. N o w this sov
ereign, w h o w a s a t e m p o r a r y king in two senses, g r a d u a l l y became
the p e r m a n e n t , h e r e d i t a r y , a n d absolute monarch w i t h whom most
European m o n a r c h i e s a n d especially the French m o n a r c h y w e r e fa
m i l i a r . How did this transformation come a b o u t ? First, because of the
conquest itself, because of its m i l i t a r y success. Because a small a r m y
had settled in an i m m e n s e country w h i c h could be assumed, at least
at first, to be hostile to it. It w a s therefore natural that the Frankish
army s h o u l d r e m a i n on a w a r footing in the Gaul it h a d just occupied.
A s a result, the m a n w h o h a d been w a r l o r d only for the d u r a t i o n of
the w a r became b o t h w a r l o r d a n d civilian l e a d e r . The v e r y fact of the
occupation k e p t the m i l i t a r y organization intact. It w a s kept intact,
but not w i t h o u t problems, not w i t h o u t difficulties, a n d not w i t h o u t
rebellions on the part of the Franks themselveson the part of Frank
ish w a r r i o r s w h o did not agree that a m i l i t a r y dictatorship should b e
m a i n t a i n e d i n p e a c e t i m e . In order to r e t a i n h i s p o w e r , the k i n g w a s
therefore obliged to turn to mercenaries, and he found them either
among the v e r y Gaulish people w h o should have been left disarmed,
or among foreigners. For all these reasons, the w a r r i o r aristocracy
b e g a n to find itself being squeezed b e t w e e n a monarchic p o w e r that
w a s trying to preserve its absolute character, a n d the Gaulish people,
w h o w e r e g r a d u a l l y b e i n g asked by the monarch himself to support
his absolute p o w e r .
W h i c h b r i n g s us to the second episode in the story of the Soissons
vase. This is the moment w h e n C l o v i s , who could not stomach being
told not to touch the vase, w a s r e v i e w i n g a m i l i t a r y parade a n d no
ticed the w a r r i o r w h o had told him not to touch the said vase. Taking
his great a x , the good C l o v i s smashed the w a r r i o r ' s skull in, telling
him: " R e m e m b e r the Soissons vase." Here w e have the precise mo
ment at w h i c h the man w h o should have been nothing more than a
civilian m a g i s t r a t e C l o v i s h o l d s on to the m i l i t a r y form

of his

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power, but uses it to settle a civil d i s p u t e . The absolute monarch is


b o r n at the moment w h e n the m i l i t a r y form of p o w e r a n d d i s c i p l i n e
b e g i n s to organize civilian right.
The second a n d more significant operation that a l l o w s civil power
to t a k e an absolutist form is as follows: On the one hand, then, the
civil p o w e r appeals to the people of G a u l to recruit a b a n d of m e r
cenaries. B u t another alliance is also formed, a n d this t i m e it is a n
alliance b e t w e e n royal p o w e r a n d the o l d G a u l i s h aristocracy. This i s
h o w B o u l a m v i l h e r s a n a l y z e s it. H e says: W h e n the Franks came,
w h i c h strata of the p o p u l a t i o n of G a u l w e r e w o r s t affected? It w a s
not so much the peasants ( w h o s e m o n e t a r y t a x e s were

transformed

into taxes in k i n d ) , as the G a u l i s h aristocracy, w h o s e l a n d s w e r e , of


course, confiscated b y the G e r m a n a n d F r a n k i s h w a r r i o r s . It w a s t h i s
aristocracy t h a t w a s effectively dispossessed. It suffered as a r e s u l t , so
w h a t d i d it d o ? G i v e n that it no longer h a d its l a n d s a n d that the
R o m a n State no longer e x i s t e d , there w a s only one refuge left; its only
r e m a i n i n g s h e l t e r w a s the c h u r c h . The G a u l i s h aristocracy therefore
took refuge in the church. It not only d e v e l o p e d the a p p a r a t u s of the
church; it also used the church to increase a n d e x p a n d its influence
over the people b y p u t t i n g a w h o l e system of beliefs into c i r c u l a t i o n .
It w a s also the church t h a t a l l o w e d it to improve its k n o w l e d g e of
L a t i n , and t h i r d , it w a s in the church that it s t u d i e d R o m a n l a w , a n d
that w a s a n absolutist form of l a w . W h e n the Frankish sovereigns h a d
to rely on the s u p p o r t of the people i n t h e i r struggle against the
Germanic aristocracy a n d at the same t i m e to found a State ( o r at
least a m o n a r c h y ) of the Roman t y p e , what better allies c o u l d t h e y
hope to find t h a n these m e n w h o h a d such influence o v e r the p e o p l e
on the one h a n d , a n d w h o , because they spoke L a t i n , w e r e so familiar
with R o m a n l a w , on the other? The G a u l i s h aristocrats, the G a u l i s h
nobility who h a d t a k e n refuge in the church, q u i t e n a t u r a l l y became
the n a t u r a l allies of the n e w monarchs once t h e y b e g a n to establish
t h e i r absolutism. A n d so the State, w i t h its Latin, its R o m a n l a w , a n d
its legal k n o w l e d g e , became the g r e a t a l l y of the absolute monarchy.
So you see, B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ascribes g r e a t importance to w h a t m i g h t
be t e r m e d the language of k n o w l e d g e s , or the l a n g u a g e - k n o w l e d g e

"SOCIETY

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DEFENDED"

system. He shows how the w a r r i o r aristocracy w a s completely b y


passed by the a l l i a n c e b e t w e e n the monarchy a n d the people, a n d that
alliance w a s based on the State, Latin, and a k n o w l e d g e of the law.
Latin became the language of the State, the language of knowledge,
and the language of the law. The nobility lost its p o w e r to the extent
that it belonged to a different l i n g u i s t i c system. The nobility spoke
G e r m a n i c l a n g u a g e s a n d did not u n d e r s t a n d Latin. Which meant that
when the n e w system of right w a s b e i n g established b y ordinances in
Latin, it did not even u n d e r s t a n d w h a t w a s h a p p e n i n g to it. A n d it
understood so l i t t l e a n d it w a s so i m p o r t a n t that it did not under
standthat the church on the one hand, and the k i n g on the other,
did all they could to ensure that the nobility r e m a i n e d in the dark.
B o u l a i n v i l h e r s traces the whole history of how the nobility w a s ed
u c a t e d by s h o w i n g that the reason the church p l a c e d such emphasis
on the afterlife, w h i c h it described as the sole reason for being in this
w o r l d , w a s basically that it w a n t e d to convince the w e l l - e d u c a t e d that
nothing that h a p p e n e d in this w o r l d w a s of any importance, and that
t h e i r true destiny lay in the n e x t world. A n d so it w a s that

the

G e r m a n s , w h o had been so eager to possess a n d to dominate, the


g r e a t blond w a r r i o r s w h o had b e e n so a t t a c h e d to the present, w e r e
g r a d u a l l y transformed into a r c h e t y p a l k n i g h t s and archetypal crusad
ers w h o took no interest in w h a t w a s going on on their own lands
and in their o w n country, a n d w h o found themselves dispossessed of
t h e i r fortune and t h e i r p o w e r . The Crusadesthose great p i l g r i m a g e s
into the b e y o n d w e r e , in B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s v i e w , an expression or
manifestation of w h a t h a p p e n e d w h e n this n o b i l i t y ' s attention w a s
fully concentrated on the next world. W h a t w a s happening in this
world, or in other words, on their lands, w h i l e they were in J e r u s a
l e m ? The king, the church, a n d the old G a u l i s h aristocracy w e r e
m a n i p u l a t i n g the Latin laws that w o u l d dispossess t h e m of their lands
and their rights.
Hence B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s callfor w h a t ? Essentiallyand this runs
throughout the whole of his w o r k h e does not, like the
historiographers

(and

popular

historiographers)

of

parlementaire
seventeenth-

century England, call for a rebellion on the p a r t of nobles w h o h a r e

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been dispossessed of t h e i r r i g h t s . W h a t the nobility is being invited


to do is, essentially, to open u p its k n o w l e d g e , to reopen its o w n
m e m o r y , to become a w a r e a n d to recuperate both expertise and
k n o w l e d g e . This is w h a t B o u l a i n v i l h e r s is i n v i t i n g the nobility to do
in the first instance: "You w i l l not r e g a i n power if you do not regain
the status of the k n o w l e d g e s of w h i c h you have been dispossessed
or which, rather, you have never t r i e d to possess. The fact is that you
have a l w a y s fought without realizing that there comes a point w h e n
the real b a t t l e , or at least the battle w i t h i n society, is no longer fought
w i t h weapons, but w i t h k n o w l e d g e . " O u r ancestors, says Boulainvilhers, took a perverse p r i d e in not k n o w i n g w h o they w e r e . Their
constant a b i l i t y to forget w h o they w e r e seems to have b o r d e r e d on
i m b e c i l i t y or b e w i t c h m e n t . G a i n i n g a n e w self-awareness and tracing
the sources of k n o w l e d g e and m e m o r y means denouncing all the m y s
tifications of history. If it reinserts itself into the w e b of k n o w l e d g e ,
the nobility can become a force once more, and can establish itself as
the subject of history. So if it w i s h e s to become a historical force, that
implies that it must, in the first instance, a c q u i r e a new self-awareness
and reinsert itself into the order of k n o w l e d g e .
Those are some of the themes I have identified in the voluminous
w o r k s of Boulainvilhers, a n d they a p p e a r to me to introduce a t y p e
of a n a l y s i s that w i l l be of fundamental importance for all historicopohtical a n a l y s e s from the seventeenth c e n t u r y until the present day.
W h y are these a n a l y s e s i m p o r t a n t ? First, because of the g e n e r a l pri
macy they accord to w a r . But I t h i n k that the really i m p o r t a n t t h i n g
a b o u t them, g i v e n t h a t the p r i m a c y accorded to w a r b y these analyses
takes the form of the relationship of w a r , is the role B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s
g i v e s to that relationship of w a r . N o w I t h i n k that in order to use
w a r as a general social a n a l y z e r in the w a y that he does, B o u l a i n v i l h e r s
has to generalize w a r in three successive or superimposed w a y s . First,
he g e n e r a l i z e s it w i t h respect to the foundations of right; second, he
generalizes it w i t h respect to the battle form; and third, he generalizes
it w i t h respect to the fact of the invasion and a second

phenomenon

that is the invasion's corollary: rebellion. I w o u l d like to look a little


at these three generalizations.

1 5

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First, g e n e r a l i z a t i o n of w a r w i t h respect to right and the founda


tions of right. In the earlier analyses of the French parlementaires

of

t h e seventeenth century and the English p a r l i a m e n t a r i a n s of the same


period, war is a sort of d i s r u p t i v e episode that s u s p e n d s and overturns
right. W a r is the ferryman who makes it possible to move from one
system of r i g h t to another. In B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , w a r does not play that
role; war does not d i s r u p t right. W a r in fact completely conceals right,
and even n a t u r a l right, to such an e x t e n t that right becomes unreal,
abstract, and, in a sense, fictive. B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s advances three argu
m e n t s to prove that war has completely concealed right, to such an
extent that right becomes no more than a useless abstraction. He
argues this in three w a y s . He first speaks in the historical mode and
says that you can study history as long as you l i k e , and in any w a y
that you l i k e , but you will never discover any natural rights. Natural
rights do not e x i s t in any society, no matter w h a t it may b e . W h e n
historians t h i n k they find in Saxon or C e l t i c society a sort of little
outcrop, a l i t t l e island of natural right, they are completely mistaken.
No matter w h e r e w e look, we find only either w a r itself ( b e n e a t h the
French, w e find the Frankish invasion; b e n e a t h the Gallo-Romans, we
find the R o m a n i n v a s i o n ) or the i n e q u a l i t i e s that result from w a r s
and violence. The Gauls, for e x a m p l e , w e r e d i v i d e d into aristocrats
and nonaristocrats. W e also find an aristocracy and a people among
the M e d e s and the Persians. W h i c h obviously goes to prove that be
hind

that

division there w e r e struggles, violence, and w a r s . And

w h e n e v e r w e see the differences b e t w e e n the aristocracy and the peo


ple diminishing, w e can be s u r e that the State is about to s i n k into
decadence. Once t h e i r

aristocracies became decadent, Greece

and

Rome lost their status and even ceased to exist as States. Inequality
is e v e r y w h e r e , violence creates i n e q u a l i t i e s e v e r y w h e r e , and w a r s are
e v e r y w h e r e . No society can last w i t h o u t this sort of w a r l i k e tension
b e t w e e n an aristocracy and the popular masses.
This same idea is now a p p l i e d at the theoretical level. Boulainvil
h e r s says: It is of course conceivable that a sort of p r i m i t i v e freedom
did exist before there w a s any domination, any power, any war, or
any

servitude, but such freedom i s conceivable only if there is no

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relationship of domination b e t w e e n any of the i n d i v i d u a l s concerned.


A freedom

in w h i c h everyone, in w h i c h every i n d i v i d u a l i s the

equal of every other i n d i v i d u a l , this freedom-equality

combination

can, in reality, only be something that has no force a n d no content.


B e c a u s e . . . w h a t i s freedom? Freedom obviously does not consist in
b e i n g prevented from t r a m p l i n g on someone else's freedom, because
at that point it ceases to be freedom. The first criterion that defines
freedom is the a b i l i t y to deprive others of their freedom. W h a t w o u l d
b e the point of b e i n g free and w h a t , in concrete t e r m s , w o u l d it m e a n ,
if one could not t r a m p l e on the freedom of others? That i s the p r i m a r y
expression of freedom. A c c o r d i n g to B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , freedom is the
direct opposite of e q u a l i t y . It is something that is enjoyed t h a n k s to
difference, domination, a n d w a r , t h a n k s to a w h o l e system of relations
of force. A freedom that cannot b e t r a n s l a t e d into a n o n e g a h t a n a n
relationship of force can only be a freedom that it i s w e a k , impotent,
a n d abstract.
This idea is now a p p l i e d in b o t h historical a n d theoretical t e r m s .
B o u l a i n v i l h e r s s a y s ( a n d once again, I a m b e i n g v e r y s c h e m a t i c ) : Let
us accept the fact that n a t u r a l right d i d a c t u a l l y exist at some point,
that at the founding moment of h i s t o r y t h e r e d i d e x i s t a r i g h t t h a t
m a d e people both free a n d e q u a l . The w e a k n e s s of t h i s freedom is
such that, precisely because it is an abstract, fictive freedom w i t h no
real content, it w i l l i n e v i t a b l y b e defeated b y the historical force of a
freedom that functions as n o n e q u a h t y . And w h i l e it is true that some
t h i n g r e s e m b l i n g t h i s n a t u r a l freedom, t h i s e g a l i t a r i a n freedom or t h i s
natural r i g h t , d i d e x i s t s o m e w h e r e or at some point, it w a s p o w e r l e s s
to resist the l a w of history, w h i c h s t a t e s that freedom is strong, v i g
orous, and meaningful only w h e n it is the freedom of the few a n d
w h e n it e x i s t s at the expense of others, only w h e n a society can
guarantee an essential n o n e q u a h t y .
The e g a l i t a r i a n l a w of n a t u r e i s w e a k e r than the n o n e g a h t a n a n l a w
of history. It is therefore natural that the e g a l i t a r i a n l a w of n a t u r e
should have given w a y o n a permanent basisto the n o n e g a h t a n a n
l a w of history. It w a s because it w a s primal that n a t u r a l right w a s
not, as the jurists claim, foundational; it w a s foreclosed b y the greater

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vigor of history. The l a w of history is a l w a y s stronger than the l a w


of nature. This is w h a t B o u l a i n v i l h e r s is a r g u i n g w h e n he says that
history finally created a n a t u r a l l a w that m a d e freedom and equality
a n t i t h e t i c a l , a n d that this natural l a w is stronger than the l a w in
s c r i b e d in w h a t is k n o w n as natural right. The fact that history is
stronger than n a t u r e e x p l a i n s , u l t i m a t e l y , w h y history has completely
concealed nature. W h e n history b e g i n s , n a t u r e can no longer speak,
because in the w a r b e t w e e n history a n d nature, history a l w a y s has
the upper hand. T h e r e is a relationship of force b e t w e e n n a t u r e a n d
history, a n d it is definitely in history's favor. So n a t u r a l right does
not exist, or exists only insofar as it has been defeated: it is a l w a y s
h i s t o r y ' s great loser, it is "the other" ( l i k e the Gauls w h o lost to the
Romans, l i k e the Gallo Romans w h o lost to the G e r m a n s ) . History
is, if you l i k e , G e r m a n i t y , as opposed to n a t u r e . So, a first g e n e r a l i
zation: R a t h e r than d i s t u r b i n g or i n t e r r u p t i n g it, w a r conceals history
completely.
Second g e n e r a l i z a t i o n of w a r w i t h respect to the b a t t l e form: A c
c o r d i n g to B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , it i s t r u e that c o n q u e s t s , invasions, a n d the
b a t t l e s that are lost a n d won do establish a relationship of force; b u t
the relationship of force that finds its expression in the battle w a s ,
basically, a l r e a d y established, and it w a s established b y

something

other than e a r l i e r battles. So w h a t is it that establishes the relation


ship of force and ensures that one nation will w i n the b a t t l e a n d that
the other w i l l lose i t ? Well, it is the nature and organization of m i l
itary i n s t i t u t i o n s ; it is the a r m y ; it is m i l i t a r y institutions. T h e s e are
important because, on the one hand, they obviously m a k e it possible
to w i n victories, b u t also because, on the other hand, they also m a k e
it possible to a r t i c u l a t e society as a whole. A c c o r d i n g to B o u l a i n v i l hers, the important t h i n g , t h e t h i n g t h a t m a k e s w a r both the starting
point for an analysis of society a n d the deciding factor in social or
ganization, is the problem of m i l i t a r y organization or, q u i t e s i m p l y ,
this: W h o has the w e a p o n s ? The organization of the G e r m a n s w a s
essentially based u p o n the fact that somethe leudeshad

weapons

a n d that others d i d not. The characteristic feature of the regime of


F r a n k i s h Gaul w a s that it took the precaution of taking the G a u l s '

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w e a p o n s from t h e m a n d reserving t h e m for t h e Germans ( w h o , b e


cause t h e y w e r e m e n - a t - a r m s , h a d to b e s u p p o r t e d by t h e G a u l s ) .
Things began to change for the worse w h e n the l a w s governing the
social d i s t r i b u t i o n of w e a p o n s become confused, when the Romans
began to employ mercenaries, w h e n the Frankish k i n g s o r g a n i z e d m i
litias, a n d w h e n P h i l i p A u g u s t u s began to u s e foreign k n i g h t s , a n d so
on. From t h i s point o n w a r d , the s i m p l e organization that a l l o w e d the
G e r m a n s , a n d only t h e G e r m a n s , or t h e w a r r i o r aristocracy to o w n
w e a p o n s , c o l l a p s e d in confusion.
The p r o b l e m of who has the w e a p o n s is of course b o u n d u p w i t h
certain technical problems, a n d it is in that sense t h a t it can provide
the s t a r t i n g point for a general a n a l y s i s of society. K n i g h t s , for e x
a m p l e , are s y n o n y m o u s w i t h lances and heavy armor but also with a
n u m e r i c a l l y small army of rich men. " A r c h e r , " in contrast, is synon
ymous w i t h light armor and a large army. A s w e can see, this p o i n t s
to a whole series of economic and institutional problems. If there is
an a r m y of k n i g h t s , a heavy a n d n u m e r i c a l l y s m a l l a r m y of k n i g h t s ,
the p o w e r s of the k i n g are o b v i o u s l y l i m i t e d , as a k i n g cannot afford
such an expensive a r m y of k n i g h t s . The k n i g h t s themselves will be
obliged to pay for their own u p k e e p . A n army of foot soldiers, in
contrast, is a numerically large a r m y , and a king can afford such an
a r m y . Hence the growth of royal p o w e r , but hence too the increase
in taxation. So you see, t h i s time it is not because it t a k e s the form
of an invasion that w a r leaves i t s m a r k on t h e social body; it is b e
cause, t h r o u g h the i n t e r m e d i a r y of m i l i t a r y i n s t i t u t i o n s , it has general
effects on the civil o r d e r as a w h o l e . It is therefore no l o n g e r the
simple d u a l i t y b e t w e e n i n v a d e r s and i n v a d e d or victors a n d v a n
q u i s h e d , the memory of the B a t t l e of Hastings or of the

Frankish

invasion, t h a t serves as social a n a l y z e r . It is no longer the s i m p l e


binary mechanism t h a t p u t s the seal of w a r on the entire social body;
it is a w a r that begins before the b a t t l e a n d continues after it is over.
It is w a r insofar a s it is a w a y of w a g i n g w a r , a w a y of p r e p a r i n g for
and organizing war. W a r in the sense of the d i s t r i b u t i o n of w e a p o n s ,
the n a t u r e of the weapons, fighting techniques, the recruitment a n d
payment of soldiers, the taxes e a r m a r k e d for the army; w a r as an

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internal institution, and not the r a w event of a battle. This is the


operator in B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s analyses. H e succeeds in w r i t i n g the h i s
tory of France because he constantly traces t h e connecting t h r e a d that,
b e h i n d the b a t t l e a n d b e h i n d t h e invasion, b r i n g s into b e i n g the m i l
i t a r y institution a n d , g o i n g b e y o n d the m i l i t a r y i n s t i t u t i o n , all the
c o u n t r y ' s i n s t i t u t i o n s a n d its w h o l e economy. W a r is a g e n e r a l econ
omy of weapons, an economy of a r m e d people a n d d i s a r m e d people
w i t h i n a g i v e n State, a n d w i t h a l l the i n s t i t u t i o n a l a n d economic series
t h a t derive from that. It is this formidable generalization of w a r , as
o p p o s e d to w h a t it still meant for the historians of the seventeenth
century, t h a t g i v e s B o u l a i n v i l h e r s the important dimension I a m t r y
ing to show you.
The t h i r d a n d final g e n e r a l i z a t i o n of w a r that w e find in B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s ' s analysis is m a d e not w i t h respect to the fact of the battle
but w i t h respect to the invasion-rebellion system. Invasion a n d r e
b e l l i o n w e r e the t w o main elements that w e r e i n t r o d u c e d to r e d i s
cover t h e w a r t h a t goes on w i t h i n societies ( i n , for e x a m p l e , the
English h i s t o r i o g r a p h y of t h e seventeenth c e n t u r y ) . Boulainvilliers's
problem is not then simply to discover w h e n the invasion took place,
or w h a t t h e effects of the invasion w e r e ; nor does it s i m p l y consist in
s h o w i n g w h e t h e r there w a s or w a s not a rebellion. W h a t he w a n t s to
show is h o w a certain relationship of force, w h i c h h a d been revealed
by t h e battle and t h e invasion, w a s g r a d u a l l y , a n d for obscure reasons,
inverted. T h e p r o b l e m of t h e English historiographers w a s that they
h a d to look e v e r y w h e r e , at all institutions, so as to find out w h e r e
the strong ( t h e N o r m a n s ) were, a n d w h e r e the w e a k ( t h e S a x o n s )
w e r e . B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s ' s problem is to discover how the strong became
w e a k , a n d how the w e a k became strong. The g r e a t e r part of h i s a n a l
ysis is devoted to the p r o b l e m of t h e transition from strength to
w e a k n e s s , a n d from w e a k n e s s to strength.
Boulainvilliers begins to a n a l y z e a n d describe this change b y look
ing at w h a t m i g h t b e called the determination of the internal mech
anisms of the inversion, a n d e x a m p l e s are easily found. W h a t w a s it
that a c t u a l l y m a d e the Frankish aristocracy so strong at the b e g i n n i n g
of w h a t w a s soon to become k n o w n as the M i d d l e A g e s ? It w a s the

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fact t h a t , having i n v a d e d a n d o c c u p i e d G a u l , the Franks themselves


d i r e c t l y a p p r o p r i a t e d the land. They w e r e therefore landowners in
their own r i g h t , and they were therefore in receipt of taxes in k i n d
t h a t e n s u r e d both t h a t the p e a s a n t p o p u l a t i o n r e m a i n e d q u i e t a n d
t h a t the k n i g h t s r e m a i n e d strong. A n d it w a s p r e c i s e l y this, or in
other w o r d s , the source of t h e i r s t r e n g t h , that g r a d u a l l y became the
p r i n c i p l e of t h e i r w e a k n e s s . Because the nobles lived on t h e i r separate
estates, and because the t a x system financed t h e i r ability to m a k e w a r ,
they became s e p a r a t e d from the k i n g t h e y h a d created, a n d w e r e
preoccupied only w i t h w a r a n d w i t h fighting a m o n g themselves. A s
a result, they neglected e v e r y t h i n g that h a d to do w i t h

education,

instruction, l e a r n i n g Latin, a n d a c q u i r i n g e x p e r t i s e . A l l these t h i n g s


w o u l d l e a d to their loss of p o w e r .
If, conversely, y o u t a k e the e x a m p l e of the G a u l i s h a r i s t o c r a c y , it
could not have b e e n w e a k e r t h a n it w a s at the b e g i n n i n g of t h e F r a n k lsh invasion: every Gaulish l a n d o w n e r h a d b e e n dispossessed of e v e r y
thing. A n d , in historical t e r m s , t h e i r v e r y w e a k n e s s became the source
of t h e i r s t r e n g t h , t h a n k s to an i n e v i t a b l e development. The fact that
they had b e e n d r i v e n off their land a n d into the a r m s of the church
gave them influence over the people, b u t also an u n d e r s t a n d i n g of
r i g h t . A n d that g r a d u a l l y put t h e m i n a position to g r o w closer to
t h e king, to become advisers to the k i n g , a n d therefore to get t h e i r
hands on a political p o w e r a n d an economic w e a l t h t h a t h a d p r e v i
ously e l u d e d them. The form a n d the elements t h a t constituted

the

w e a k n e s s of the G a u l i s h aristocracy w e r e also, from a certain point


o n w a r d , the v e r y t h i n g s t h a t a l l o w e d it to reverse the situation.
The problem B o u l a i n v i l h e r s is a n a l y z i n g is therefore not w h o won
and w h o lost, but w h o became strong a n d w h o became w e a k . W h y
d i d the strong become w e a k , a n d w h y d i d the w e a k become s t r o n g ?
History, in other w o r d s , now looks essentially l i k e a calculation of
forces. Insofar a s a description of the m e c h a n i s m s of relations of force
is r e q u i r e d , w h a t will be the inevitable outcome of this a n a l y s i s ? The
conclusion that the simple dichotomy b e t w e e n victors a n d v a n q u i s h e d
is no longer strictly pertinent to the description of this w h o l e process.
Once the strong become w e a k a n d the w e a k become strong, there w i l l

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be new oppositions, new divisions, and a new distribution of forces:


the w e a k will form alliances among themselves, and the strong w i l l
try to form a l l i a n c e s w i t h some a n d against others. W h a t w a s still, at
the time of the invasion, a sort of p i t c h e d battle in w h i c h armies
fought a r m i e s F r a n k s against Gauls, a n d N o r m a n s against Saxons
these great national masses will be d i v i d e d and transformed by m u l
tiple channels. A n d w e w i l l see the emergence of a d i v e r s i t y of strug
gles, shifting front lines, conjunctural

alliances, and more or less

p e r m a n e n t g r o u p i n g s : monarchical p o w e r w i l l form an alliance w i t h


the old G a u l i s h nobility, and they w i l l have the support of the people;
the tacit u n d e r s t a n d i n g that existed b e t w e e n the Frankish w a r r i o r s
and the peasants w i l l b r e a k down when the impoverished Frankish
w a r r i o r s increase their d e m a n d s a n d demand higher taxes; a n d so on.
U n t i l the seventeenth century, historians h a d b a s i c a l l y taken the great
confrontation of the invasion as their model; this little system of s u p
port n e t w o r k s , alliances, a n d internal conflicts w i l l now, so to speak,
develop into a form of g e n e r a l i z e d warfare.
Until the seventeenth century, a w a r w a s essentially a w a r be
tween one mass a n d another mass. For his part, Boulainvilhers makes
the relationship of w a r part of every social relationship, subdivides it
into thousands of different channels, a n d reveals w a r to be a sort of
p e r m a n e n t state that exists b e t w e e n g r o u p s , fronts, and tactical units
as they in some sense civilize one another, come into conflict w i t h
one another, or on the contrary, form alliances. There are no more
m u l t i p l e a n d stable great masses, but there is a m u l t i p l e w a r . In one
sense, it is a w a r of every man against every man, but it is obviously
not a w a r of every man against every man in the abstract

andI

t h i n k u n r e a l sense in which Hobbes spoke of the w a r of every man


against every man when he tried to demonstrate that it is not the
w a r of every man against every man that is at w o r k in the social
body. W i t h B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s , in contrast, w e have a g e n e r a l i z e d w a r
that p e r m e a t e s the entire social b o d y and the entire history of the
social body; it is obviously not the sort of w a r in w h i c h individuals
fight i n d i v i d u a l s , but one in w h i c h groups fight groups. A n d it is, I

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t h i n k , t h i s g e n e r a l i z a t i o n of w a r that is characteristic of B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s ' s thought.


I w o u l d l i k e to end b y s a y i n g this. W h a t does this threefold g e n
eralization of w a r l e a d to? It l e a d s to this. It is t h a n k s to this that
B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s reaches a point that the h i s t o r i a n s of r i g h t [ . . . ] * For
those h i s t o r i a n s w h o identified h i s t o r y w i t h public r i g h t , w i t h the
State, w a r w a s therefore essentially a disruption of r i g h t , an enigma,
a sort of dark mass or r a w event that had to be accepted as such, and
not, c e r t a i n l y not, a p r i n c i p l e of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y . There w a s no question
of that; on the contrary, it w a s a d i s r u p t i v e p r i n c i p l e . Here, in con
trast, w a r t u r n s the very disruption of r i g h t into a g r i d of i n t e l l i g i
bility, a n d m a k e s it possible to d e t e r m i n e the force r e l a t i o n s h i p that
a l w a y s u n d e r p i n s a certain r e l a t i o n s h i p of right. Boulainvilliers can
thus integrate events such as w a r s , invasions, a n d c h a n g e w h i c h w e r e
once seen s i m p l y a s n a k e d a c t s of v i o l e n c e i n t o a w h o l e l a y e r of
contents and prophecies that covered society in i t s entirety ( b e c a u s e ,
as w e have seen, they affect r i g h t , the economy, t a x a t i o n , religion,
beliefs, education, the s t u d y of l a n g u a g e s , a n d j u r i d i c a l i n s t i t u t i o n s ) .
A history t h a t takes a s its s t a r t i n g p o i n t the fact of w a r itself a n d
m a k e s its a n a l y s i s in terms of w a r can r e l a t e all these t h i n g s w a r ,
religion, politics, manners, a n d charactersand can therefore act as a
p r i n c i p l e that allows us to u n d e r s t a n d history. A c c o r d i n g to B o u l a i n villiers, it is w a r that m a k e s society i n t e l l i g i b l e , a n d I t h i n k that the
same can b e said of all historical d i s c o u r s e . W h e n I speak of a g r i d
of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y , I am obviously not s a y i n g t h a t w h a t B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s
said is true. One could p r o b a b l y even d e m o n s t r a t e that e v e r y t h i n g he
said w a s false. I am s i m p l y s a y i n g that it could be d e m o n s t r a t e d . W h a t
w a s said in the seventeenth century a b o u t the Trojan o r i g i n s of the

*The recording breaks down at this point. The manuscript explicitly states: "In one sense,
it is analogous to the juridical problem: How does sovereignty come into being? But this
time, the historical narrative is not being used to illustrate the continuity of a sovereignty
that is legitimate because it remains within the element of right from beginning to end. It
is being used to explain how the specific institution, or the modern historical figure, of the
absolute state was born of intersecting relations of force that became a sort of generalized
war among nations."

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Franks, or about how they e m i g r a t e d a n d left France under the lead


e r s h i p of a certain Sigovege at some point and then returned, cannot
b e s a i d to have a n y t h i n g to do w i t h our r e g i m e of truth and error.
In our terms, it is neither true nor false. The g r i d of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y
established by Boulainvilliers, in contrast, does, I think, establish a
certain regime, a certain division b e t w e e n truth and error, that can
be a p p l i e d to B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s ' s own discourse a n d that can say that
his discourse is w r o n g w r o n g as a w h o l e and wrong about the de
t a i l s . Even that it is all w r o n g , if you l i k e . The fact remains that it is
this grid of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y that has been established for our historical
discourse.
The other thing I w o u l d l i k e to stress is that by m a k i n g the force
r e l a t i o n s h i p i n t e r v e n e a s a sort of w a r that is constantly going on
w i t h i n society, B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s w a s a b l e to recuperatethis time in
h i s t o r i c a l termsthe w h o l e k i n d of analysis t h a t w e find in M a c h i avelli. But for M a c h i a v e l l i , the relationship of force w a s essentially
d e s c r i b e d as a political t e c h n i q u e that had to be put in the h a n d s of
the sovereign. The relationship of force now becomes a historical ob
ject that someone other than the sovereignsomething l i k e a nation
( l i k e the aristocracy or, at a later stage, the bourgeoisie)can locate
a n d d e t e r m i n e w i t h i n its own history. The relationship of force, w h i c h
w a s once an essentially political object, becomes a historical object,
or r a t h e r a historico-political object, because it is by a n a l y z i n g this
relationship of force t h a t the nobility, for example, can acquire a new
self-awareness, recover its k n o w l e d g e , a n d once more become a po
litical force w i t h i n the field of political forces. When, in a discourse
such as Boulainvilliers's, this relationship of force ( w h i c h w a s in a
sense the exclusive object of the P r i n c e ' s p r e o c c u p a t i o n s ) became an
object of k n o w l e d g e for a g r o u p , a nation, a minority, or a class, it
became possible to constitute a historico-political field, and to make
history function w i t h i n the political struggle. This is how the orga
nization of a historico political field begins. A t this point, it all comes
together: History functions

w i t h i n politics, a n d politics is used to

calculate historical relations of force.


One further

remark. As you can see, this is the origin of the idea

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t h a t w a r is basically historical d i s c o u r s e ' s t r u t h - m a t r i x . "Historical


discourse's t r u t h - m a t r i x " means this: W h a t philosophy or right w o u l d
have us believe n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g , t r u t h does not begin, or t r u t h a n d
t h e Logos d o not begin, w h e n violence ceases. On the contrary, it
b e g a n w h e n the n o b i l i t y s t a r t e d to w a g e its political w a r against both
the T h i r d Estate a n d the m o n a r c h y , a n d it w a s in this w a r a n d by
t h i n k i n g of history in t e r m s of w a r t h a t s o m e t h i n g resembling w h a t
w e n o w k n o w as historical discourse c o u l d establish itself.
P e n u l t i m a t e remark: You are familiar w i t h the cliche that says that
classes in the ascendancy are the b e a r e r s of universal v a l u e s a n d the
p o w e r of rationality. A n awful lot of effort has gone into t r y i n g to
demonstrate that it w a s the b o u r g e o i s i e that invented history, because
history isas e v e r y o n e k n o w s r a t i o n a l a n d because the b o u r g e o i s i e
of the eighteenth century, b e i n g a r i s i n g class, b r o u g h t w i t h it both
u n i v e r s a l i t y a n d rationality. W e l l , I t h i n k that if w e look at t h i n g s a
l i t t l e more closely, w e have an e x a m p l e of a class that, precisely b e
cause it w a s decadent and had b e e n dispossessed of i t s political and
economic power, w a s a b l e to establish a certain historical r a t i o n a l i t y
that w a s then taken u p b y the b o u r g e o i s i e a n d then the proletariat.
But I w o u l d not say that it w a s because it w a s decadent that

the

French aristocracy invented history. It w a s precisely because it w a s


w a g i n g a w a r that it w a s a b l e to t a k e w a r as an object, w a r b e i n g at
once the starting point for the discourse, the condition of possibility
for the emergence of a historical discourse, a frame of reference, a n d
the object of that discourse. W a r w a s both this discourse's s t a r t i n g
point a n d w h a t it w a s t a l k i n g about.
One last r e m a r k , finally. The reason C l a u s e w i t z could say one day,
a hundred

y e a r s after B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s a n d , therefore, t w o

hundred

years after the English historians, that w a r w a s the continuation of


politics by other means is that, in t h e seventeenth century, or at the
b e g i n n i n g of the eighteenth, someone w a s able to a n a l y z e politics, t a l k
about politics, a n d demonstrate that politics is the continuation of
w a r by other means.

166

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

1. See the lectures of 28 January and 11 February above.


2. "Collective word used to designate a considerable quantitv of people inhabiting a certain
expanse of territory, contained wilhin certain limits, and obedient to the same govern
ment." "Nation" in Encyclopedie, ou Dktionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers
(Lucques, 1758), vol. 11, pp. 2 9 - 3 0 .
3. E.-J. Sieyes, Qu'est-ce que le Tiers-Etat? On Sieves, see the lecture of 1 0 March below.
4. On Augustin Thierry, see the lecture of 1 0 March below.
5. On Francois Guizot, see the lecture of 10 March below.
6. Joachim, comte d'Estaing, Dissertation sur la noblesse
d'extraction.
7. On Buat-Nanc.ay, see the lecture of 1 0 March below.
8. On Montlosier, see the lecture of 1 0 March below.
9 . The analysis of Boulamvilliers's historical work undertaken by Foucault in this lecture
(and the next) is based upon the texts already mentioned in notes 21-22 to the lecture
of 11 February and, more specifically, on Memoires de I'histoire du gouvernement de la France^
in Etat de la Fixtnce . . . ; Histoire de tancien gouvernment de la France ; Dissertation
sur la
noblesse franqaise servant de Preface aux Memoires de la maison de Croi et de Boulainvilliers,
in
A. Devyer, Le Sang e'pure...;
Memoires presented d Mgr le due
d'Orle'ans....
1 0 . This literature begins with Machiavelli, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, written
1513-1517 (Florence, 1531); continues with Bossuet, Dtscoun sur I'histoire universale (Paris,
1 6 8 1 ) , E. W. Montagu, Reflections on the Rise and Fall of the Ancient Republics (London,
1759), and A. Ferguson, The History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic
(London, 1783); and ends with Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire, 6 vols. (London., 1776-1778).
11. Charles-Louis de Montesquieu, Considerations
sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de
leur decadence (Amsterdam, 1734)12. N. Freret, De I'origine des Francois et de leur etablissement dans la Gaule, in Oeuvres completes
(Paris, 1 7 9 6 - 1 7 9 9 ) , vol. % an VII. p. 2 0 2 .
13. Cf. F. Nietzsche, Zar Genealogie der Moral: eine Streitschrift (Leipzig, 1887), Erste Abhandlung: "Gut und Bose," "Gut und Schlecht," 11; Zweite Abhandlung: "Schuld," "Schlechtes Gewissen und Verwandtes," 1 6 , 17, 18. See also Morgenrote:
Gedanken uber die
moralischen vorutheile (Chemnitz, 1881), Zweite Buch 112. (French translations: Gene'alope
de la morale. Vn ecrit polemique [Pans: Gallimard, 1971] and Aumre. Pense'es sur les prej'ttge's
moraux [Pans: Gallimard, 1 9 7 0 ] ; English translations by Francis Golffmg, The Genealogy
of Morals, in The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals [New York: Doubleday,
1 9 5 6 ] , and by R.J, Hollmgdale, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality
[Cam
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1 9 8 2 J ) . Cf. the quotation from Boulainvilhers in
Devyer, Le Sang epure . . . . p. 5 0 8 : "they were great lovers of freedom, bold, fickle, un
faithful, avid for gain, restless and impatient: this is how the ancient authors describe
them."
14. The reference is to the defeat of the Roman Syganus and the capture of Soissons in 4 8 6 .

eight

25

Boulainvilliers
continuum.
central

and the constitution

- Historicism.
administration

Enlightenment

- Philosophy

of a

- Tragedy
of history.

and the genealogy

operations
effects.

FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6

of disciplinary
and science.

historico-political

and public

right.

- The problematic
of knowledges.
knowledge

and

- Disciplining

- The
of the

- The four
their
knowledges.

W H E N I T A L K E D T O you about B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s , I w a s certainly not


t r y i n g to prove to y o u that s o m e t h i n g r e s e m b l i n g history b e g a n w i t h
h i m , because, after all, t h e r e is no reason to say t h a t h i s t o r y began
w i t h B o u l a i n v i l h e r s rather t h a n w i t h , for e x a m p l e , the s i x t e e n t h century j u r i s t s w h o collated the monuments of p u b l i c right, w i t h the
parlementaires

w h o , throughout the seventeenth century, searched the

archives a n d j u r i s p r u d e n c e of t h e State to discover w h a t the basic


l a w s of the k i n g d o m m i g h t b e , or w i t h the B e n e d i c t i n e s , w h o h a d
been great collectors of c h a r t e r s even since the late s i x t e e n t h c e n t u r y .
W h a t w a s in fact established by B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s in the e a r l y e i g h t e e n t h
century wasI t h i n k a histonco-political field. In w h a t sense? First,
in this sense: By t a k i n g the nation, or rather nations, as his object,
B o u l a m v i l h e r s w a s able to dig b e n e a t h institutions, events, k i n g s a n d
their p o w e r , a n d to a n a l y z e something else, n a m e l y those societies, as
they w e r e called at the time, that w e r e b o u n d together by interests,
customs, a n d l a w s . By t a k i n g them as his object, he changed two
things. One the one hand, he began to write ( a n d I think it w a s the

166

SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

1. See the lectures of 28 January and 11 Februarv above.


2. "Collective word used to designate a considerable quantitv of people inhabiting a certain
expanse of territory, contained within certain limits, and obedient to the same govern
ment." "Nation" in Encyclopedic,
on Dictionnaire
raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers
(Lucques, 1758), vol. 11, pp. 29-30.
3. E.-J. Sieves, Qu'est<e que le Tiers-Etat? On Sieves, see the lecture of 1 0 March below,
4. On Augustin Thierry, see the lecture of 10 March below.
5. On Franqois Guizot, see the lecture of 10 March below.
6. Joachim, comte d'Estaing, Dissertation sur la noblesse d extraction.
7. On Buat Nancay, see the lecture of 1 0 March below.
8. On Montlosier, see the lecture of 1 0 March below.
9. The analysis of Boulainvilhers's historical work undertaken by Foucault in this lecture
(and the nextj is based upon the texts already mentioned in notes 21-22 to the lecture
of 11 Februarv and, more specifically, on Memoires de Vhistoire du gouvernement de la France,
in Etat de la France,..;
Histoire de Vancien gpuvemment
de la France...;
Dissertation sur la
noblesse franchise servant de Preface aux Memoires de la maison de Croi et de Boulainvilliers,
in
A. Devyer, Le Sang epure ...; Memoires presentes a Mgr le due
d'Orleans....
10. This literature begins with Machiavelli, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, written
1513-1517 (Florence, 1531); continues with Bossuet, Discours sur Thistoitt universelle (Paris,
1681), E, W. Montagu, Reflections on the Rise and Fall of the Ancient Republics (London,
1759), and A. Ferguson, The History of the Prvgress and Termination of the Roman Republic
(London, 1783); and ends with Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire, 6 vols, (London, 1776-1778).
11. Charles Louis de Montesquieu, Considerations
sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de
leur decadence (Amsterdam, 1734).
12. N. Freret, De I'ort'gine des Franqais et de leur e'tablissement dans la Gaule, in Oeuvrts completes
(Paris, 1796-1799), vol. 5, an VII, p. 2 0 2 ,
13. Cf. F. Nietzsche, Zur Genealogie der Moral: eine Streitschrift (Leipzig, 1887), Erste Abhandlung: "Gut und Bose," "Gut und Schlecht," 11; Zweite Abhandlung: "Schuld," "Schlechtes Gewissen und Verwandtes," 16, 17, 18. See also Morgenrote:
Gedanken uber die
moralischen vorutheile (Chemnitz, 1881), Zweite Buch 112. (French translations: Gene'alogie
de la morale. Un e'erit polemique [Paris: Galhmard, 1971] and Aurore. Pensees sur les prijuge's
moraux [Paris: Galhmard, 1 9 7 0 ] ; English translations by Francis Golfflng, The Genealogy
of Morals, m The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals [New York: Doubleday,
19561, and by R.J. Hollingdale, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality [Cam
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1 9 8 2 ] ) . Cf. the quotation from Boulainvilhers in
Devyer, Le Sang epure'...,
p. 5 0 8 : "they were great lovers of freedom, bold, fickle, un
faithful, avid for gain, restless and impatient: this is how the ancient authors describe
them."
I^i. The reference is to the defeat of the Roman Svgarius and the capture of Soissons in 486,

eight

25

Boulainvilliers
continuum.
central

and the constitution

~ Historicism.
administration

Enlightenment

- Tragedy
of history.

and the genealogy

operations
effects.

FEBRUARY 1 9 7 6

~ Philosophy

of disciplinary
and science.

of a

historico-politkal

and public

right. - The

~ The problematic
of knowledges.
knowledge

and

- Disciplining

of the

- The

four

their
knowledges.

W H E N 1 T A L K E D T O y o u about B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , I w a s certainly not


t r y i n g to prove to y o u that something r e s e m b l i n g history b e g a n w i t h
him, because, after all, there is no reason to say that history b e g a n
w i t h Boulainvilhers r a t h e r than w i t h , for e x a m p l e , the s i x t e e n t h century jurists w h o collated the m o n u m e n t s of p u b l i c right, w i t h the
pariementaires

w h o , t h r o u g h o u t the seventeenth century, searched t h e

archives a n d j u r i s p r u d e n c e of the State to d i s c o v e r w h a t the basic


l a w s of the k i n g d o m m i g h t be, or w i t h the Benedictines, w h o h a d
been great collectors of charters e v e n since t h e l a t e sixteenth c e n t u r y .
W h a t w a s in fact established b y Boulainvilliers in the early e i g h t e e n t h
c e n t u r y wasI thinka historico-pohtical field. In w h a t sense? First,
in this sense: By t a k i n g the nation, or r a t h e r nations, a s h i s object,
B o u l a i n v i l h e r s w a s able to d i g b e n e a t h institutions, events, k i n g s and
their power, a n d to a n a l y z e something else, namely those societies, as
they w e r e called at the time, that were bound together by interests,
customs, a n d l a w s . By t a k i n g t h e m as his object, he c h a n g e d t w o
things. One the one hand, he b e g a n to w r i t e ( a n d I t h i n k it w a s t h e

168

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

first t i m e this had h a p p e n e d ) the history of subjects, or in other


words, to look at p o w e r from the other side. H e thus began to give
a historical status to something that w o u l d , w i t h M i c h e l e t in the
nineteenth c e n t u r y , become the history of t h e people or the history
of peoples.' H e discovered a certain form of, history that existed on
the other side of the p o w e r r e l a t i o n s h i p . But he a n a l y z e d this new
form of history not as though it w e r e an inert substance, b u t as a
forceor forces; power itself w a s no more than one of those forcesan
u n u s u a l k i n d of force, or t h e strangest of all the forces that w e r e
fighting

one another w i t h i n the social body. P o w e r is the p o w e r of

the little group that exercises it b u t has no force; and yet, u l t i m a t e l y ,


this p o w e r becomes the strongest force of a l l , a force that no other
force can resist, except violence or rebellion. W h a t B o u l a i n v i l h e r s w a s
discovering w a s that history should not be the history of p o w e r , but
the h i s t o r y of a monstrous, or at least strange, couple whose enigmatic
nature coufcl not exactly be r e d u c e d or understood by a n y j u r i d i c a l
fiction: the couple formed by the p r i m a l forces of the people, a n d the
force that h a d finally been constituted by something that h a d no force,
but that w a s p o w e r .
By d i s p l a c i n g the a x i s , the center of g r a v i t y , of his a n a l y s i s , Boul a i n v i l h e r s d i d something important. First, because he defined the
p r i n c i p l e of w h a t m i g h t be called the relational character of power:
p o w e r is not something that can be possessed, a n d it is not a form of
might; p o w e r is never a n y t h i n g more than a relationship that can,
a n d must, be studied only b y looking at the interplay between the
t e r m s of that relationship. One cannot, therefore, w r i t e either the
history of k i n g s or the history of peoples; one can w r i t e the history
of w h a t constitutes those opposing terms, one of w h i c h is never in
finity, and the other of w h i c h is never zero. By w r i t i n g that history,
by defining the relational character of power, a n d b y a n a l y z i n g it in
h i s t o r y , B o u l a i n v i l h e r s w a s c h a l l e n g i n g a n d this, I think, is the other
side of w h a t he w a s doingthe juridical model of sovereignty w h i c h
had, u n t i l then, been the only w a y of t h i n k i n g of the relationship
b e t w e e n people and monarch, or b e t w e e n the people and those w h o
govern. Boulainvilhers describes the phenomenon

of p o w e r not in

2 5 February

1976

169

juridical terms of sovereignty but in historical terms of domination


a n d the p l a y of relations of force. A n d he places the object of his
historical analysis w i t h i n that field.
In doing so, in t a k i n g as h i s object a p o w e r t h a t w a s essentially
relational a n d not a d e q u a t e to the j u r i d i c a l form of sovereignty, and
by defining a field of forces in w h i c h t h e p o w e r - r e l a t i o n s h i p comes
into play, B o u l a i n v i l h e r s is t a k i n g as his object the historical k n o w l
e d g e that M a c h i a v e l h a n a l y z e d , b u t

only in p r e s c r i p t i v e strategic

termsor in terms of a strategy seen only through the eyes of power


2

and the P r i n c e . You might object that M a c h i a v e l h did not just g i v e


the Prince a d v i c e w h e t h e r it is serious or ironic is a different q u e s
tionabout h o w to manage a n d o r g a n i z e p o w e r , and that the text of
The Prince

itself is full of historical references. You might say t h a t

M a c h i a v e l h also w r o t e the Discorsi.

B u t for M a c h i a v e l h , h i s t o r y is not

the d o m a i n in w h i c h he a n a l y z e s p o w e r relations. For M a c h i a v e l h ,


history is s i m p l y a source of e x a m p l e s , a s o r t of collection of j u r i s
p r u d e n c e or of tactical models for t h e e x e r c i s e of p o w e r . For M a c h lavelh, history s i m p l y records r e l a t i o n s of force a n d the calculations
to w h i c h they gave rise.
For B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , on the other h a n d ( a n d this, I think, is the
important p o i n t ) , r e l a t i o n s of force a n d the p l a y of p o w e r a r e the
v e r y stuff of history. H i s t o r y e x i s t s , events occur, and t h i n g s t h a t
happen can a n d must b e r e m e m b e r e d , to the e x t e n t that r e l a t i o n s of
p o w e r , relations of force, a n d a c e r t a i n p l a y of p o w e r operate in r e
lations among men. A c c o r d i n g to B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , historical n a r r a t i v e s
and political calculations have e x a c t l y the same object. Historical nar
ratives and political calculations m a y not have the same goal, but t h e r e
is a definite c o n t i n u i t y in w h a t they a r e t a l k i n g a b o u t , and in w h a t
is at s t a k e in both n a r r a t i v e a n d calculation. In B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , w e
therefore findfor the first time, I t h i n k a h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l

con

t i n u u m . One could also say, in a s l i g h t l y different sense, that Bou


l a i n v i l h e r s opens u p a h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l field. Let me e x p l a i n . A s I
have already told y o u a n d I t h i n k t h i s is of fundamental i m p o r t a n c e
if w e a r e to u n d e r s t a n d B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s s t a r t i n g pointhe w a s t r y i n g
to m a k e a c r i t i q u e of the k n o w l e d g e of the intendants, of the sort of

170

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

analysis a n d the projects for government t h a t the intendants or, more


generally, the monarchical g o v e r n m e n t w a s constantly d r a w i n g u p for
p o w e r ' s benefit. It is t r u e that B o u l a i n v i l h e r s w a s a radical opponent
of this k n o w l e d g e , but h e challenges it by r e i m p l a n t i n g it w i t h i n his
o w n discourse, and by using for h i s own ends the very analyses that
w e find in the k n o w l e d g e of the i n t e n d a n t s . H i s goal w a s to confiscate
it and to use it against the system of the absolute monarchy, w h i c h
w a s b o t h t h e b i r t h p l a c e a n d the field of a p p l i c a t i o n of this a d m i n i s
t r a t i v e k n o w l e d g e , this k n o w l e d g e of the intendants, and this eco
nomic k n o w l e d g e .
A n d basically, w h e n B o u l a i n v i l h e r s a n a l y z e s the historical evolu
tion of a w h o l e series of specific relations b e t w e e n , if you like, m i l i t a r y
organization and taxation, he is s i m p l y acclimatizing, or using for his
o w n historical analyses, the v e r y form of relationship, the t y p e of
i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y a n d the model of relations that h a d been defined b y
a d m i n i s t r a t i v e k n o w l e d g e , fiscal k n o w l e d g e , and t h e k n o w l e d g e of the
intendants. When, for example, B o u l a i n v i l h e r s explains the relation
b e t w e e n the e m p l o y m e n t of mercenaries a n d increased taxation, or
b e t w e e n the debts of the p e a s a n t r y and the i m p o s s i b i l i t y of m a r k e t i n g
the produce of the land, he is simply raising the issues raised by the
intendants a n d financiers of the reign of Louis X I V , b u t he is doing
so w i t h i n the historical dimension. You w i l l find e x a c t l y the same
speculations in the w o r k of people such as, for e x a m p l e , Boisguilbert'
a n d V a u b a n . ' The relation between r u r a l indebtedness a n d

urban

p r o s p e r i t y w a s another important topic of discussion t h r o u g h o u t the


late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. W e find, then, the
same mode of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y in b o t h the k n o w l e d g e of the i n t e n d a n t s
a n d Boulainvilhers's historical analyses, b u t he is the first to m a k e
t h i s type of relation function in the domain of historical n a r r a t i v e . In
other w o r d s , B o u l a i n v i l h e r s m a k e s w h a t had until then been no more
t h a n S t a t e m a n a g e m e n t ' s p r i n c i p l e of r a t i o n a l i t y function as a p r i n
ciple for u n d e r s t a n d i n g history. T h a t a c o n t i n u i t y has been established
between historical narrative and the management of the State is, I
believe, of vital importance. It is the use of the State's model of man
agerial rationality as a g r i d for the speculative u n d e r s t a n d i n g of h i s -

25 February
t o r y t h a t establishes t h e

histonco-pohtical

1976

continuum.

171

And

that

continuum now m a k e s it possible to use the same vocabulary and the


same g r i d of i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y to s p e a k of history a n d to a n a l y z e the
m a n a g e m e n t of the S t a t e .
I t h i n k , finally, that B o u l a i n v i l h e r s establishes a historico-pohtical
c o n t i n u u m to the extent that, w h e n he w r i t e s history, he has a specific
a n d definite project: h i s specific goal is restore to the nobility both a
m e m o r y it has lost a n d a k n o w l e d g e t h a t it has a l w a y s neglected.
W h a t B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s is t r y i n g to do by g i v i n g it back its memory a n d
its k n o w l e d g e is to g i v e it a n e w force, to reconstruct the nobility as
a force w i t h i n the forces of t h e social field. For B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , b e g i n
n i n g to speak in the d o m a i n

of history, r e c o u n t i n g a history, is

therefore not s i m p l y a m a t t e r of d e s c r i b i n g a r e l a t i o n s h i p of force, or


of r e u t i h z i n g on behalf of, for e x a m p l e , t h e n o b i l i t y a calculation of
i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y that h a d p r e v i o u s l y b e l o n g e d to t h e government. H e is
doing so in order the modify the v e r y disposition and the

current

e q u i l i b r i u m of the r e l a t i o n s of force. H i s t o r y does not s i m p l y a n a l y z e


or i n t e r p r e t forces: it modifies t h e m . The v e r y fact of having control
over, or the fact of b e i n g r i g h t in the order of h i s t o r i c a l k n o w l e d g e ,
in short, of t e l l i n g the t r u t h about history, therefore e n a b l e s him to
occupy a decisive strategic position.
To sum all t h i s u p , w e can say that the constitution of a historicop o h t i c a l field is an e x p r e s s i o n of the fact t h a t w e h a v e gone from a
history whose function w a s to establish r i g h t b y recounting the e x
ploits of heroes or k i n g s , their b a t t l e s a n d their w a r s a n d so on, t h a t
w e have gone from a history that established r i g h t b y telling the story
of w a r s to a history that continues the w a r b y deciphering the w a r
a n d the s t r u g g l e t h a t are going on w i t h i n all the institutions of r i g h t
a n d peace. History t h u s becomes a k n o w l e d g e of struggles t h a t is
d e p l o y e d a n d t h a t functions w i t h i n a field of struggles; there is n o w
a l i n k b e t w e e n the p o l i t i c a l fight a n d historical k n o w l e d g e . A n d w h i l e
it is no d o u b t t r u e t h a t confrontations have a l w a y s been a c c o m p a n i e d
b y recollections, memories, a n d v a r i o u s r i t u a l s of m e m o n a h z a t i o n , I
t h i n k that from the eighteenth century o n w a r d a n d it is at this point
t h a t p o l i t i c a l life a n d p o l i t i c a l k n o w l e d g e b e g i n to be i n s c r i b e d in

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society's real strugglesstrategy, or the element of calculation inher


ent in such struggles, will be a r t i c u l a t e d w i t h a historical k n o w l e d g e
that takes the form of the interpretation a n d analysis of forces. W e
cannot u n d e r s t a n d the emergence of this specifically modern d i m e n
sion of politics unless w e u n d e r s t a n d how, from the eighteenth cen
t u r y o n w a r d , historical k n o w l e d g e becomes an element of the struggle:
it is b o t h a d e s c r i p t i o n of struggles a n d a weapon in the struggle.
H i s t o r y gave us the idea that w e are at war; a n d w e w a g e w a r through
history.
H a v i n g e s t a b l i s h e d that, let me m a k e t w o points before w e go b a c k
to the w a r that is w a g e d throughout the history of peoples. M y first
point concerns h i s t o r i c i s m . Evervone k n o w s of course that historicism
is the most dreadful thing in the w o r l d . A n y philosophy w o r t h y of
the name, any t h e o r y of societv, anv self-respecting epistemology that
has anv claim to distinction obviously has to struggle against the plat
itudes of h i s t o r i c i s m . No one w o u l d d a r e to a d m i t to b e i n g a historlcist. A n d it can, I t h i n k , easily be d e m o n s t r a t e d t h a t ever since the
nineteenth centurv, all the great philosophies h a v e , in one w a y or
another, been antihistoricist. One could also, I t h i n k , demonstrate that
all the h u m a n sciences survive, or perhaps even exist, only because
they are a n t i h i s t o n c i s t .

One could also demonstrate that w h e n his

tory, or the historical d i s c i p l i n e , has recourse to either a philosophy


of historv or a j u r i d i c a l a n d moral ideality, or to the h u m a n sciences
( a l l of w h i c h it finds so e n c h a n t i n g ) , it is trying to escape its latal
and secret penchant for historicism.
But w h a t is this historicism t h a t everyonephilosophy, the h u m a n
sciences, h i s t o r y i s so suspicious of? W h a t is this historicism that
has to be w a r d e d off at all cost, a n d that philosophical, scientific, and
even political m o d e r n i t y have a l w a y s t r i e d to w a r d off? W e l l , I t h i n k
t h a t historicism is nothing other than w h a t I have just been t a l k i n g
about: the l i n k , the unavoidable connection, between w a r a n d history,
a n d conversely, between historv and war. No matter how far b a c k it
goes, h i s t o r i c a l k n o w l e d g e n e v e r finds nature, r i g h t , order, or peace.
H o w e v e r far back it goes, historical k n o w l e d g e discovers only an
u n e n d i n g war, or in other w o r d s , forces that relate to one another

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a n d come into conflict w i t h one another, a n d t h e events in w h i c h


r e l a t i o n s of force are decided, b u t a l w a y s in a provisional w a y . H i s
tory encounters nothing b u t w a r , b u t h i s t o r y can never r e a l l y look
d o w n on this w a r from on high; h i s t o r y cannot get a w a y from w a r ,
or discover its basic l a w s or impose l i m i t s on it, q u i t e s i m p l y b e
cause w a r itself supports t h i s k n o w l e d g e , r u n s t h r o u g h t h i s k n o w l
e d g e , a n d d e t e r m i n e s this k n o w l e d g e . K n o w l e d g e is never a n y t h i n g
more than a w e a p o n in a w a r , or a tactical d e p l o y m e n t w i t h i n that
w a r . W a r is w a g e d throughout historv, a n d t h r o u g h the history that
tells the history of w a r . A n d history, for its part, can never do a n y
thing more than i n t e r p r e t

the w a r it is w a g i n g or that is b e i n g

w a g e d t h r o u g h it.
W e l l , then, I t h i n k it is t h i s essential connection b e t w e e n historical
k n o w l e d g e a n d the p r a c t i c e of w a r i t is t h i s , g e n e r a l l y speaking, that
constitutes the core of historicism, a core that both is i r r e d u c i b l e a n d
a l w a y s has to be sanitized, because of a n idea, w h i c h has been in
circulation for the last one thousand or t w o t h o u s a n d y e a r s , a n d w h i c h
m i g h t be d e s c r i b e d a s " p l a t o n i c " ( t h o u g h w e s h o u l d a l w a y s be w a r y
of b l a m i n g poor old Plato for e v e r y t h i n g w e w a n t to b a n i s h ) . It is an
idea that is p r o b a b l y b o u n d u p w i t h the w h o l e W e s t e r n o r g a n i z a t i o n
of k n o w l e d g e , namely, the idea that k n o w l e d g e a n d t r u t h cannot not
belong to the register of o r d e r a n d peace, t h a t k n o w l e d g e a n d t r u t h
can never b e found on the side of violence, disorder, a n d w a r . I t h i n k
t h a t the i m p o r t a n t t h i n g ( a n d w h e t h e r it is or is not platonic is of
no i m p o r t a n c e ) about this idea t h a t k n o w l e d g e a n d t r u t h cannot b e
l o n g to w a r , a n d can o n l y belong to order a n d peace, is that

the

modern State has now r e i m p l a n t e d it in w h a t w e might call the e i g h


teenth c e n t u r y ' s " d i s c i p h n a n z a t i o n " of k n o w l e d g e s . A n d it is this idea
t h a t m a k e s historicism unacceptable to u s , t h a t m e a n s t h a t w e cannot
accept s o m e t h i n g l i k e an indissociable c i r c u l a r i t y b e t w e e n historical
k n o w l e d g e a n d the w a r s t h a t it t a l k s about a n d w h i c h at the s a m e
t i m e go on in it. So t h i s is the p r o b l e m , a n d t h i s , if y o u l i k e , is our
first task: W e m u s t t r y to be historicists, or in other w o r d s , t r y to
analyze this perpetual a n d unavoidable r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n the w a r
that is recounted b y history a n d the history t h a t is t r a v e r s e d b y the

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w a r it is recounting. A n d it is along these lines that I w i l l now try


to go on w i t h the little story of the Gauls and the Franks that I
started to tell.
So m u c h for m y first r e m a r k , for my first e x c u r s u s on h i s t o n c i s m .
To move on to the second: an objection can b e m a d e . There m i g h t be
a n o t h e r w a y of a p p r o a c h i n g the theme I touched upon a moment ago,
or in other words the d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n of k n o w l e d g e s in the eigh
teenth centurv. If w e make history, the history of the w a r s that go
on throughout history, the great discursive a p p a r a t u s that m a k e s pos
sible the eighteenth-century c r i t i q u e of the State, a n d if w e m a k e the
h i s t o r y / w a r relationship the precondition for the emergence of "pol
i t i c s " [ . . . ] the function of o r d e r w a s to reestablish a continuity in
its discourse.*
[ A t the time when the jurists were e x p l o r i n g the archives in an
a t t e m p t to discover the basic l a w s of the k i n g d o m , a historians' history
w a s t a k i n g shape, and it w a s not power's ode to itself. It should not
be forgotten that in the seventeenth century, and not only in France,
t r a g e d y w a s one of the g r e a t r i t u a l forms in w h i c h public right w a s
d i s p l a y e d a n d in w h i c h its p r o b l e m s w e r e discussed. W e l l , S h a k e
speare's " h i s t o r i c a l " t r a g e d i e s are t r a g e d i e s about right a n d the king,
and they are essentially centered on the p r o b l e m of the u s u r p e r and
dethronement, of the murder of k i n g s and the b i r t h of the new b e i n g
w h o is constituted by the coronation of a king. H o w can an i n d i v i d u a l
use violence, intrigue, murder, and w a r to a c q u i r e a p u b l i c might that
can bring about the reign of peace, justice, order, a n d h a p p i n e s s ? H o w
can illegitimacy produce l a w ? A t a time w h e n the theory and history
of right are t r y i n g to w e a v e the unbroken continuity of public might,
S h a k e s p e a r e a n t r a g e d y , in contrast, d w e l l s ]

on the w o u n d , on the

repeated injury that is inflicted on the body of the k i n g d o m w h e n


kings d i e violent deaths and w h e n i l l e g i t i m a t e sovereigns c o m e to the
throne. I t h i n k that Shakespearean tragedy is, at least in terms of one
of its a x e s , a sort of ceremony, a sort of r e m e m o r i a l i z a t i o n of the

*It is difficult to establish the meaning on the basis of the tape recording. The first eighteen
pages of the manuscript were m fact moved to the end in the lecture itself.

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problems of public right. The same could be said of French tragedy,


of t h a t of C o r n e i l l e and, of course, especially R a c i n e . Besides, in g e n
eral terms, isn't G r e e k tragedy too a l w a y s , essentially, a tragedy about
r i g h t ? I t h i n k that there is a fundamental, essential k i n s h i p b e t w e e n
t r a g e d y and r i g h t , b e t w e e n tragedy a n d p u b l i c r i g h t , just as t h e r e is
probably an essential k i n s h i p b e t w e e n the novel and the p r o b l e m of
the norm. Tragedy and r i g h t , the novel a n d the norm: perhaps w e
should look into all this.
Be that a s it may, tragedy is a sort of representation of p u b l i c r i g h t ,
a politico-juridical representation of public might, in seventeenthcentury France too. There is, however, one differenceand this ( g e
n i u s a s i d e ) is w h e r e it basically differs from S h a k e s p e a r e . On the one
hand, French classical tragedy usually d e a l s only w i t h a n c i e n t k i n g s .
This coding is no doubt a matter of political p r u d e n c e . But after a l l ,
it s h o u l d not b e forgotten that one of the reasons for this reference
to a n t i q u i t y is this: In seventeenth-century France, a n d e s p e c i a l l y u n
der Louis X I V , monarchic right w a s , b e c a u s e of its form a n d even the
continuity of its history, d e p i c t e d as b e i n g d i r e c t l y descended from
the monarchies of a n t i q u i t y . W e find the s a m e t y p e of power a n d the
7

same t y p e of monarchy in A u g u s t u s a n d N e r o , or even P y r r h u s , t h a t


w e find w i t h Louis X I V . It is the s a m e m o n a r c h y in both substantive
and j u r i d i c a l terms. On the other hand, French classical tragedy con
tains a reference to a n t i q u i t y , but w e can also see the presence of an
i n s t i t u t i o n that a p p e a r s to restrict in some w a y the t r a g i c p o w e r s of
tragedy, a n d to m a k e it t i p over i n t o a theater of g a l l a n t r y a n d i n
trigue: the presence of the court. A n c i e n t tragedy, a n d courtly t r a g e d y .
But w h a t is the court, if notand this is d a z z l i n g l y obvious in the
case of Louis X I V y e t another lesson in public r i g h t ? The court's
essential function is to constitute, to o r g a n i z e , a space for the d a i l y
a n d permanent d i s p l a y of royal p o w e r in all its splendor. The court
is basically a k i n d of p e r m a n e n t r i t u a l operation that begins again
every day and requalifies a man w h o gets up, goes for a w a l k , eats,
has his loves and his passions, and w h o is at the same t i m e t h a n k s
to all that, because of all that, and because none of all that is e l i m i
nateda sovereign. The specific operation of court ritual a n d court

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ceremonial is to make his love affairs sovereign, to make h i s food


sovereign, to m a k e his levee a n d his going-to-bed ritual sovereign.
A n d w h i l e the court constantly requahfies his daily routine as sov
ereign in the person of a monarch w h o is the very substance of mon
archy, tragedy does the same t h i n g in reverse; t r a g e d y undoes and, if
you like, recomposes w h a t court r i t u a l establishes each day.
W h a t is the point of classical t r a g e d y , of Racinian t r a g e d y ? Its
functionor at least one of its a x e s i s to constitute the underside of
the ceremony, to show the ceremony in s h r e d s , the moment w h e n the
sovereign, the possessor of p u b l i c m i g h t , is g r a d u a l l y b r o k e n d o w n
into a man of passion, a man of a n g e r , a man of vengeance, a man of
love, incest, a n d so on. In t r a g e d y , the problem is w h e t h e r or not
s t a r t i n g from t h i s decomposition of the sovereign into a man of p a s
sion, the s o v e r e i g n - k i n g can be reborn a n d recomposed: the death a n d
resurrection of the body of the k i n g in the heart of the m o n a r c h . That
is the p r o b l e m ( a n d it is much more j u r i d i c a l than p s y c h o l o g i c a l )
that is posed b y Racinian tragedy. In that sense, you can well u n d e r
stand that w h e n Louis X I V a s k e d R a c i n e to be h i s historiographer,
he w a s simply being true to the tradition of w h a t the historiography
of the monarchy had been u n t i l then, or in other words, an ode to
power itself. But he is also a l l o w i n g Racine to go on performing the
function he h a d p l a y e d w h e n he w r o t e h i s t r a g e d i e s . He w a s basically
a s k i n g him to w r i t e , as a historiographer, the fifth act of a h a p p y
t r a g e d y , or in other w o r d s , to trace the rise of the p r i v a t e manthe
courtier w h o h a d a heartto the point w h e r e he becomes at once
w a r l o r d , monarch, a n d the holder of sovereignty. Entrusting h i s h i s
toriography to a tragic poet d i d not d i s t u r b the order of r i g h t , nor
d i d it betray h i s t o r y ' s old function of establishing r i g h t , of establishing
the r i g h t of the sovereign State. It m a r k e d t h a n k s to a necessity that
is b o u n d u p w i t h the absolutism of the k i n g a r e t u r n to the purest
a n d most e l e m e n t a r y function of royal historiography in an absolute
monarchy. It must not be forgotten that as a result of a sort of strange
lapse into archaism, the absolute monarchy made the ceremony of
p o w e r an intense political moment, or that the court, w h i c h w a s one
of p o w e r ' s ceremonies, w a s a daily lesson in public right, a d a i l y

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demonstration of public right. W e can now u n d e r s t a n d w h y Racine's


appointment

a l l o w e d the history of the k i n g to take on its purest

form and, in a sense, its magico-poetic form. The history of the k i n g


could not but become p o w e r ' s ode to itself. So absolutism, court cer
emonial, manifestations of public right, classical t r a g e d y , a n d the h i s
t o r i o g r a p h y of the king: I t h i n k they are all p a r t of the same thing.
Excuse my speculations about Racine a n d historiography. Let's s k i p
a c e n t u r y ( t h e very c e n t u r y t h a t began w i t h B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s ) a n d t a k e
the e x a m p l e of the last of the absolute monarchs a n d the last of his
historiographers: Louis X V I and J a c o b - N i c o l a s M o r e a u , the distant
successor to Racine, of w h o m I have a l r e a d y said a few w o r d s , as he
w a s the minister of history a p p o i n t e d by Louis X V I t o w a r d the end
of the 1 7 8 0 s . W h o w a s M o r e a u , compared to R a c i n e ? This is a d a n
gerous p a r a l l e l , but you might be s u r p r i s e d w h o comes off w o r s e .
M o r e a u is the s c h o l a r l y defender of a k i n g w h o , obviously, n e e d e d to
be defended on a n u m b e r of occasions d u r i n g h i s lifetime. M o r e a u
certainly p l a y e d the role of defender w h e n he w a s appointed in the
1 7 8 0 s a t the v e r y time w h e n the r i g h t s of the monarchy w e r e being
attacked in the name of history, and from very different directions
not only by the nobility, but also bv the parlementaires

a s well as the

bourgeoisie. T h i s w a s the precise moment w h e n h i s t o r y became the


discourse t h a t every "nation"in quotation marksor at least e v e r y
order or every class u s e d to lay claim to its right; this is the moment
w h e n , if you l i k e , history became the general discourse of political
struggles. It w a s at t h i s point, then, that a ministry of history w a s
created. A n d at this point, you w i l l ask me: Did history really escape
the State, given that, a h u n d r e d years after Racine, we see the emer
gence of a historiographer who h a d at least equally close links w i t h
p o w e r of the State because he a c t u a l l y d i d , a s I have just s a i d , have
a m i n i s t e r i a l or at least a d m i n i s t r a t i v e function?
So w h a t w a s t h e point of creating t h i s central ministry to a d m i n
ister h i s t o r y ? Its purpose w a s to arm the k i n g for the political battle
insofar as he w a s , after all, no more than one force among others, a n d
was being a t t a c k e d bv other forces. It p u r p o s e w a s also to attempt to
impose a sort of enforced peace on those historico political s t r u g g l e s .

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Its purpose w a s to code this discourse on history once a n d for all,


and in such a w a y t h a t it could be i n t e g r a t e d into the practice of the
State. Hence the tasks w i t h w h i c h M o r e a u w a s e n t r u s t e d : collating
the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n ' s documents, m a k i n g them available to the a d m i n
istration itself ( b e g i n n i n g w i t h the financial a d m i n i s t r a t o r s a n d then
the o t h e r s ) , a n d , finally, opening u p these documents, this storehouse
of documents, to the people w h o w e r e being p a i d by the k i n g to carry
8

out this research. Quite apart from the fact that M o r e a u is not R a
cine, that Louis X V I is not Louis XIV, and that all this is far removed
from the ceremonial description of the crossing of the Rhine, w h a t is
the difference b e t w e e n M o r e a u a n d R a c i n e , b e t w e e n the old histori
o g r a p h y ( w h i c h w a s , in a sense, at its purest in the late seventeenth
c e n t u r y ) a n d the k i n d of history the State begins to take in h a n d a n d
b r i n g u n d e r its control in the late eighteenth c e n t u r y ? Can w e say
that history ceases to be the State's discourse about itself, once we
have, p e r h a p s , left court h i s t o r i o g r a p h y ? Can w e say that w e are now
involved w i t h an a d m i n i s t r a t i v e - t y p e h i s t o r i o g r a p h y ? I think that
there is a considerable difference b e t w e e n the two things, or in any
case that it has to be measured.
So, a n o t h e r n e w e x c u r s u s , if y o u w i l l a l l o w me. The

difference

between w h a t might be called the history of the sciences a n d the


genealogy of k n o w l e d g e s is that the history of sciences is essentially
located on an a x i s that i s , r o u g h l y speaking, the cognition-truth axis,
or at least the a x i s that goes from the structure of cognition to the
demand for truth. U n l i k e the history of the sciences, the genealogy of
k n o w l e d g e s is located on a different a x i s , namely the discourse-power
a x i s or, if y o u like, the discursive practice-clash of power a x i s . N o w
it seems to me that if w e applv it to w h a t is for a w h o l e host of
reasons the p r i v i l e g e d period of the eighteenth century, to this domain
or this region, the genealogy of k n o w l e d g e must

firstbefore

it does

a n y t h i n g e l s e o u t w i t the problematic of the Enlightenment. It h a s to


o u t w i t w h a t w a s at the t i m e described ( a n d w a s still described in
the nineteenth a n d t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r i e s ) as the progress of e n l i g h t
enment, the struggle of k n o w l e d g e against i g n o r a n c e , of reason against
chimeras, of e x p e r i e n c e against prejudices, of reason against error, and

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so on. A l l this has been described as, or s y m b o l i z e d by, light g r a d u a l l y


d i s p e l l i n g d a r k n e s s , a n d it is this, I t h i n k , t h a t w e have to get r i d of
[on the c o n t r a r y , ] w h e n w e look at the e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y w e have
to see, not this r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n d a y and night, k n o w l e d g e a n d
ignorance, but something v e r y different: an immense a n d m u l t i p l e
b a t t l e , b u t not one b e t w e e n k n o w l e d g e a n d i g n o r a n c e , but an i m
mense a n d m u l t i p l e b a t t l e b e t w e e n k n o w l e d g e s in the p l u r a l k n o w l
e d g e s t h a t are in conflict b e c a u s e of t h e i r v e r y morphology, because
they are in the possession of enemies, a n d because t h e y h a v e i n t r i n s i c
power-effects.
I w i l l t a k e one or t w o e x a m p l e s that w i l l , for a moment, t a k e us
a w a y from history. T a k e the p r o b l e m of technical or technological
k n o w l e d g e . It is often s a i d that the e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y w a s the century
that s a w the emergence of technical k n o w l e d g e s . W h a t a c t u a l l y h a p
pened in the e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y w a s quite different. First of a l l , w e
have the p l u r a l , polymorphous, m u l t i p l e , a n d dispersed existence of
different

knowledges, which existed w i t h their

differencesdiffer

ences defined by geographical regions, by the size of the w o r k s h o p s


or factories, a n d so on. The differences among themI am s p e a k i n g
of technological e x p e r t i s e , r e m e m b e r w e r e defined by local catego
ries, education, a n d the w e a l t h of their possessors. A n d these k n o w l
edges w e r e s t r u g g l i n g against one another, w i t h one a n o t h e r , in a
society where k n o w i n g the secret b e h i n d technological k n o w l e d g e w a s
a source of w e a l t h , and in w h i c h the m u t u a l i n d e p e n d e n c e of these
k n o w l e d g e s also made i n d i v i d u a l s i n d e p e n d e n t . So m u l t i p l e k n o w l
e d g e , k n o w l e d g e - a s - s e c r e t , k n o w l e d g e functioning a s w e a l t h a n d a s
a guarantee of i n d e p e n d e n c e :

technological k n o w l e d g e

functioned

w i t h i n this p a t c h w o r k . N o w , as both the p r o d u c t i v e forces a n d eco


n o m i c d e m a n d developed, the price of these k n o w l e d g e s rose, a n d the
struggle b e t w e e n t h e m , the need to delineate t h e i r i n d e p e n d e n c e a n d
the need for secrecy intensified a n d b e c a m e , so to s p e a k , more tense.
At the s a m e t i m e , w e s a w the development of processes t h a t a l l o w e d
bigger, more g e n e r a l , or more i n d u s t r i a l i z e d k n o w l e d g e s , or k n o w l
edges t h a t c i r c u l a t e d more easily, to a n n e x , confiscate, a n d t a k e over
smaller, more p a r t i c u l a r , more local, a n d more artisanal k n o w l e d g e s .

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There w a s a sort of immense economico-political struggle around or


over these k n o w l e d g e s , their dispersal, or their heterogeneity, an i m
mense struggle over the economic inductions and power-effects
were bound

that

up with the exclusive o w n e r s h i p of a k n o w l e d g e , its

dispersal a n d its secret. W h a t has been called the development of


technological k n o w l e d g e in the eighteenth century has to be thought
of in t e r m s of a form of m u l t i p l i c i t y , a n d not in terms of the t r i u m p h
of l i g h t over d a r k n e s s or of k n o w l e d g e over ignorance.
N o w , the State will intervene, either directly or i n d i r e c t l y , in these
attempts at annexation, which a r e also a t t e m p t s at generalization, in
four main w a y s . First, by e l i m i n a t i n g or disqualifying w h a t m i g h t be
termed useless and irreducible l i t t l e k n o w l e d g e s that are expensive in
economic t e r m s : e l i m i n a t i o n a n d disqualification, then. Second, b y
n o r m a l i z i n g t h e s e k n o w l e d g e s ; t h i s makes it possible to fit t h e m to
gether, to m a k e t h e m communicate w i t h one another, to b r e a k d o w n
the b a r r i e r s of secrecy and technological and geographical boundaries.
In short, this m a k e s not only k n o w l e d g e s , b u t also those w h o possess
them, interchangeable. The normalization of dispersed knowledges.
T h i r d operation: the hierarchical classification of k n o w l e d g e s a l l o w s
t h e m to become, so to speak, interlocking, starting w i t h the most
p a r t i c u l a r and

material k n o w l e d g e s , which are also

subordinated

k n o w l e d g e s , and ending w i t h the most general forms, w i t h the most


formal k n o w l e d g e s , which are also the forms that envelop and direct
k n o w l e d g e . So, a hierarchical classification. A n d finally, once a l l this
has been done, a fourth operation becomes possible: a p y r a m i d a l cen
t r a l i z a t i o n that allows these k n o w l e d g e s to be controlled, w h i c h en
sures that they can be selected, and both that the content of these
k n o w l e d g e s can be t r a n s m i t t e d u p w a r d from the bottom, and that
the overall directions and the g e n e r a l organizations it wishes to p r o
mote can be t r a n s m i t t e d d o w n w a r d from the top.
The tendency to organize technological k n o w l e d g e s brings w i t h it
a w h o l e series of practices, projects, and i n s t i t u t i o n s . The
for e x a m p l e . The Encyclopedic

Encyclopedic

is usually seen only in terms of its po

litical or ideological opposition to the m o n a r c h y a n d at least one form


of C a t h o l i c i s m . Its interest in technology is not in fact a reflection of

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some philosophical m a t e r i a l i s m ; it is a c t u a l l y an attempt to homo


g e n i z e technological k n o w l e d g e s , a n d

it is at once political a n d

economic. The g r e a t studies of handicraft methods, metallurgical tech


niques, and m i n i n g t h e g r e a t s u r v e y s that w e r e m a d e b e t w e e n the
m i d d l e a n d the end of the eighteenth centurycorresponded to this
a t t e m p t to n o m a l i z e technical k n o w l e d g e s . The e x i s t e n c e , foundation,
or development of grandes

ecoles such as the Ecole des M i n e s a n d the

Ecole Ponts et Chaussees, and so on, m a d e it possible to establish


both q u a n t i t a t i v e a n d q u a l i t a t i v e levels, b r e a k s a n d strata b e t w e e n
these different k n o w l e d g e s , and t h a t a l l o w e d t h e m to b e a r r a n g e d into
a h i e r a r c h y . A n d finally, the corps of inspectors w h o , t h r o u g h o u t the
k i n g d o m , advised a n d counseled people on how to develop a n d use
these different k n o w l e d g e s ensured that k n o w l e d g e w a s centralized.
I h a v e t a k e n the e x a m p l e of technical k n o w l e d g e s , b u t the s a m e could
b e said of medical k n o w l e d g e . T h r o u g h o u t the w h o l e second half of
the eighteenth century w e see a huge effort b e i n g m a d e to homogenize,
normalize, classify, a n d centralize m e d i c a l k n o w l e d g e . H o w

could

medical k n o w l e d g e b e given a form a n d a content, how could h o


mogeneous l a w s b e imposed u p o n the practice of h e a l t h c a r e , how
could r u l e s be imposed u p o n the populationnot so much to m a k e
it share this k n o w l e d g e , as to m a k e it find it a c c e p t a b l e ? A l l this led
to t h e creation of hospitals, dispensaries, a n d of the Societe r o y a l e de
medecine, the codification of t h e medical profession, a huge p u b l i c
hygiene campaign, a huge c a m p a i g n to i m p r o v e the h y g i e n e of n u r s
lings and children, and so on.

A l l these projectsand I have cited only two e x a m p l e s b a s i c a l l y


had four goals: selection, normalization, hierarchicalization, a n d cen
tralization. These a r e the four o p e r a t i o n s that w e see at w o r k in a
fairly d e t a i l e d study of w h a t w e call d i s c i p l i n a r y p o w e r .

10

The e i g h

teenth century w a s the century w h e n k n o w l e d g e s were d i s c i p l i n e d ,


or w h e n , in other w o r d s , the i n t e r n a l organization of e v e r y k n o w l e d g e
became a discipline w h i c h had, in its own field, c r i t e r i a of selection
that a l l o w e d it to eradicate false k n o w l e d g e or n o n k n o w l e d g e . W e
also h a v e forms of normalization a n d homogenization of k n o w l e d g e contents, forms of hierarchicahzation, a n d an internal organization

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that could c e n t r a l i z e k n o w l e d g e s around a sort of d e facto a x i o m a t i zation. So every k n o w l e d g e w a s organized into a discipline. These
k n o w l e d g e s t h a t had been d i s c i p h n a r i z e d from w i t h i n were then a r
r a n g e d , m a d e to communicate w i t h one another, redistributed, and
organized into a hierarchy w i t h i n a sort of overall field or overall
d i s c i p l i n e t h a t w a s k n o w n specifically as science. Science in the sin
g u l a r did not e x i s t before the eighteenth century. Sciences existed,
k n o w l e d g e s existed, and philosophy, if y o u like, existed. Philosophy
w a s , precisely, the organizational system, the system t h a t a l l o w e d
k n o w l e d g e s to communicate w i t h one anotherand to t h a t e x t e n t it
could p l a y an effective, real, and operational role w i t h i n the d e v e l
o p m e n t of technical k n o w l e d g e s . The d i s c i p h n a r i z a t i o n of k n o w l
e d g e s , and its p o l y m o r p h o u s s i n g u l a r i t y , now l e a d s to the emergence
of a p h e n o m e n o n a n d a constraint t h a t is now an integral p a r t of our
society. W e call it "science." A t the same time, and for the same
reason, philosophy loses its foundational a n d founding role. Philoso
phy no longer has any real role to play w i t h i n science and the pro
cesses of k n o w l e d g e . A t the same t i m e , and for the s a m e reasons,
mathesisor

the project of a universal science that could serve as both

a formal instrument for every science and a rigorous foundation

for

all sciencesalso disappears. Science, defined as a general domain, as


the d i s c i p l i n a r y p o l i c i n g of k n o w l e d g e s , takes over from both p h i l o s
ophy a n d mathesis.

From now on, it w i l l raise specific p r o b l e m s r e l a t i n g

to the d i s c i p l i n a r y policing of k n o w l e d g e s : p r o b l e m s of classification,


p r o b l e m s of h i e r a r c h i c a h z a t i o n , p r o b l e m s of proximity, and so on.
A belief in the progress of reason w a s the eighteenth c e n t u r y ' s only
awareness of this far-reaching change in the d i s c i p h n a r i z a t i o n

of

k n o w l e d g e s a n d the subsequent e l i m i n a t i o n of both the philosophical


discourse o p e r a t i n g w i t h i n science and the sciences' internal
for a mathesis.

project

I think, however, t h a t if w e can g r a s p w h a t w a s going

on b e n e a t h w h a t is called the progress of reasonnamely the disciphnarization

of p o l y m o r p h o u s

and heterogeneous

knowledgeswe

w i l l b e able to u n d e r s t a n d a certain n u m b e r of things. First, the a p


pearance of the university. Not of course in the strict sense, as the
universities had their function, role, and existence long before this.

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183

B u t from t h e end of t h e eighteenth a n d b e g i n n i n g of the nineteenth


centuries onwardthe Napoleonic university w a s established at p r e
cisely this timewe see the emergence of something like a sort of
great uniform a p p a r a t u s of k n o w l e d g e s , w i t h its different stages, its
different extensions, its different levels, and its pseudopodia. The u n i
v e r s i t y ' s p r i m a r y function is one of selection, not so much of people
( w h i c h i s , after a l l , basically not very i m p o r t a n t ) as of k n o w l e d g e s .
It can play this selective role because it has a sort of de factoand
de juremonopoly, w h i c h means that any k n o w l e d g e that is not b o r n
or s h a p e d w i t h i n t h i s sort of institutional fieldwhose l i m i t s a r e in
fact relatively fluid b u t w h i c h consists, r o u g h l y s p e a k i n g , of the u n i
v e r s i t y a n d official r e s e a r c h b o d i e s t h a t a n y t h i n g t h a t exists outside
it, any k n o w l e d g e t h a t e x i s t s in t h e w i l d , any k n o w l e d g e t h a t is b o r n
e l s e w h e r e , is a u t o m a t i c a l l y , a n d from the outset, if not a c t u a l l y e x
cluded, disqualified a priori. That the a m a t e u r scholar ceased to e x i s t
in the eighteenth a n d nineteenth centuries is a w e l l - k n o w n fact. So
the university has a selective role: it selects k n o w l e d g e s . Its role is to
distinguish b e t w e e n q u a l i t a t i v e and q u a n t i t a t i v e levels of k n o w l e d g e ,
a n d to d i s t r i b u t e k n o w l e d g e s accordingly. Its role is to teach, w h i c h
means respecting the b a r r i e r s that e x i s t b e t w e e n the different floors
of the university a p p a r a t u s . Its role is to homogenize k n o w l e d g e s by
establishing a sort of scientific c o m m u n i t y w i t h a recognized status;
its role is to o r g a n i z e a consensus. Its role i s , finally, to use, either
d i r e c t l y or i n d i r e c t l y , State a p p a r a t u s e s to c e n t r a l i z e k n o w l e d g e . W e
c a n now u n d e r s t a n d w h y something r e s e m b l i n g a university, w i t h i t s
ill-defined extensions a n d frontiers, s h o u l d have emerged a t t h e b e
g i n n i n g of the nineteenth century, or in o t h e r w o r d s a t the v e r y t i m e
when

this

disciphnanzation

of k n o w l e d g e s , this organization

of

k n o w l e d g e s into d i s c i p l i n e s , w a s g o i n g on.
T h i s also a l l o w s us to u n d e r s t a n d a second phenomenon, or w h a t
m i g h t be termed a change in the form of dogmatism. You see, once
the mechanism, or the internal d i s c i p l i n e of k n o w l e d g e s , includes con
trols, a n d once those controls are exercised by a p u r p o s e - b u i l t a p
p a r a t u s ; once w e have this form of controlyou must

understand

t h i s w e can do a w a y w i t h w h a t w e m i g h t call the orthodoxy of

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statements. This old o r t h o d o x y w a s costly, for this p r i n c i p l e , w h i c h


functioned a s a r e l i g i o u s or ecclesiastical mode of functioning, h a d
r e s u l t e d in the condemnation a n d exclusion of a certain n u m b e r of
statements t h a t w e r e scientifically t r u e a n d scientifically productive.
The d i s c i p l i n e , the d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n of k n o w l e d g e s established in the
eighteenth century, w i l l replace that orthodoxy, which a p p l i e d to
s t a t e m e n t s themselves a n d sorted those that w e r e a c c e p t a b l e out from
those that w e r e unacceptable, w i t h something else: a control that a p
plies not to the content of statements themselves, to their conformity
or nonconformity to a certain t r u t h , but to the r e g u l a r i t y of e n u n c i
ations. The problem is now: W h o is s p e a k i n g , are they qualified to
speak, at w h a t level is the statement situated, w h a t set can it be

fitted

into, a n d how and to w h a t extent does it conform to other forms a n d


other typologies of k n o w l e d g e ? This a l l o w s a liberalism that i s , if not
boundless, at least more b r o a d - m i n d e d in terms of the content of
statements and, on the other hand, more rigorous, more comprehen
siveand has a m u c h g r e a t e r w i n g areaat the level of enunciatory
procedures. A s a result, a n d as y o u might have deduced, statements
could rotate much more q u i c k l y , and truths became obsolete much
more quickly. A s a result, a number of epistemological obstacles could
be removed. J u s t as an orthodoxy that concentrated on the content of
statements h a d become an obstacle to the r e n e w a l of the stock of
scientific k n o w l e d g e s , so, in contrast, d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n at the level of
enunciations a l l o w e d the stock to be r e n e w e d much more q u i c k l y .
W e move, if you like, from the censorship of s t a t e m e n t s to the d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n of enunciations, or from orthodoxy to w h a t I w o u l d
call "orthology," to a form of control that is now exercised on a
d i s c i p l i n a r y basis.
Right! I've s t r a y e d a w a y from the point w i t h all this. W e h a v e been
s t u d y i n g , looking at h o w the d i s c i p l i n a r y t e c h n i q u e s of power,

11

taken

at their most subtle or e l e m e n t a r y level, taken at the level of i n d i v i d


ual bodies, succeeded in c h a n g i n g the political economy of p o w e r , and
modified its apparatuses; w e have also seen how d i s c i p l i n a r y tech
niques of p o w e r applied to bodies not only led to an accumulation of
k n o w l e d g e , b u t also identified possible domains of k n o w l e d g e . W e

2 5 February

1976

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t h e n saw how t h e application of d i s c i p l i n e s of power to bodies could


extract from those subjugated bodies something like a soul-subject,
an "ego," a psyche, et cetera. I tried to look at all this last y e a r . " I
t h i n k that we now have to study the emergence of a different

form

of disciplining, of d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n , w h i c h is contemporary w i t h the


first b u t w h i c h a p p l i e s to k n o w l e d g e s a n d not bodies. A n d it can, I
t h i n k , be d e m o n s t r a t e d that t h i s d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n of k n o w l e d g e s r e
s u l t e d in b o t h the removal of certain epistemological obstacles a n d a
n e w form, a n e w r e g u l a r i t y in the proliferation of disciplines. It can
be d e m o n s t r a t e d that this d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n established a new mode
of relationship b e t w e e n p o w e r a n d k n o w l e d g e . It can, finally, be d e m
onstrated t h a t the d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n of k n o w l e d g e s gave rise to a n e w
constraint: no longer the constraint of t r u t h , b u t the constraint of
science.
A l l this is t a k i n g us a w a y from the historiography of the k i n g ,
Racine, a n d M o r e a u . W e could pick u p the analysis ( b u t I will not
do so n o w ) a n d show t h a t at the v e r y moment w h e n history, or
historical discourse, w a s e n t e r i n g a g e n e r a l field of conflict, history
found itself, for different reasons, in the same position as the technical
k n o w l e d g e s I w a s t a l k i n g about a moment ago. These technological
k n o w l e d g e s , their dispersal, their v e r y morphology, their localized
n a t u r e , and the secrecy that s u r r o u n d e d them w e r e b o t h an issue a n d
an i n s t r u m e n t in an economic struggle and a political s t r u g g l e . The
S t a t e intervened in the struggle t h a t these technological k n o w l e d g e s
w e r e w a g i n g against one another: its function or role w a s to d i s c i p l i n a r i z e t h e m , or in other w o r d s , to select a n d homogenize k n o w l e d g e s ,
and to arrange them into a h i e r a r c h y . For v e r y different reasons, his
torical k n o w l e d g e entered a field of s t r u g g l e s and battles at m u c h the
same time. Not for directly economic reasons, b u t for reasons per
taining to a struggle, a political s t r u g g l e . W h e n historical k n o w l e d g e ,
w h i c h h a d until t h e n been part of the discourse that the State or
power pronounced

on itself, w a s enucleated from t h a t p o w e r , a n d

became an instrument

in the political struggle that lasted for

the

w h o l e e i g h t e e n t h century, the State attempted, in the same w a y and


for the same reason, to take it in hand a n d d i s c i p l i n a n z e it. The

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establishment, at the end of the eighteenth century, of a m i n i s t r y of


history, the establishment of the great repository of archives that was
to become the Ecole des C h a r t e s in the nineteenth century, w h i c h
more or less coincided w i t h the establishment of the Ecole des M i n e s
a n d the Ecole d e s Ponts et Chausseesthe Ecole des Ponts et C h a u s sees is a l i t t l e different, not that it mattersalso corresponds to the
d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n of k n o w l e d g e . Royal p o w e r ' s objective w a s to d i s
cipline historical k n o w l e d g e , or historical k n o w l e d g e s , and thus to
establish a State k n o w l e d g e . The difference b e t w e e n this a n d tech
nological k n o w l e d g e is that insofar as history w a s indeedI think
an a n t i - S t a t e k n o w l e d g e , there w a s a p e r p e t u a l confrontation b e t w e e n
the history that h a d been d i s c i p l i n a r i z e d by the State and that h a d
become the content

of official teaching, and the history that was

b o u n d u p w i t h struggles because it w a s the consciousness of subjects


involved in a s t r u g g l e . D i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n d i d not defuse the confron
tation. W h i l e it can be said that the d i s c i p l i n a r i z a t i o n introduced in
the eighteenth c e n t u r y w a s b r o a d l y effective and successful in the
realm of technology, where historical k n o w l e d g e is concerned, disciplinarization did occur, b u t it not only failed to block the non-Statist
history, the decentered history of subjects in struggle, but a c t u a l l y
made it stronger t h a n k s to a w h o l e set of struggles, confiscations, a n d
mutual challenges. A n d to that extent, you a l w a y s have t w o levels of
historical k n o w l e d g e and consciousness, and the two levels obviously
drift further a n d further apart. But the g a p b e t w e e n the two never
prevents either of them from existing. So w e have on the one h a n d a
k n o w l e d g e that has effectively been d i s c i p l i n a r i z e d to form a historical
discipline, a n d on the other hand, a historical consciousness that is
polymorphous, divided, and combative. It is s i m p l y the other side,
the other face of a political consciousness. I w o u l d like to try to say
a little a b o u t these things by looking at the end of the eighteenth
century a n d the beginning of the nineteenth.

25 February

7976

187

I.Jules Michelet, Le Peuple (Paris, 1 9 4 6 ) .


2. Niccolo Machiavelh, II Principe (Rome, 1532); Discorsi sopra la prima deca di tito Livio, op.
at.; Dell'arte della guerra ( Florence, 1521); htoriefiorentini(
Florence, 1531). There are manv
French translations of II Principe (English translation by George Bull: The Prince [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1 9 6 1 ] ) . The other texts referred to may be consulted in E. Bar
inou, ed., Machiavel, Oeuvres completes (Pans: Bibliotheque de la Plei'ade, 1952); this is a
revised and updated version of J. Guiraudet's old translations ( 1 7 9 8 ) . English translation
by Leslie J . Walker: The Discourse of Nkcolo Machiavel/i
(London: Routledge and Kegan
Paul, 1 9 5 0 ) . Foucault discusses Machiavelli in "Oranes et singulatim" ( 1 9 8 1 ) and "The
Political Technology of Individuals," and in his lecture "On Governmentality"; cf. note
13 to the lecture of 21 January above.
3. Pierre le Pesant de Boisguilbert, Le Detail de la France (s.1, 1 6 9 5 ) ; Factum de la France
( 1 7 0 7 ) , m Economistes financiers du XVIIIe siecle (Paris, 1843); Testament politique de M. de
Vauban, Marechal
de France, 2 vols. (s.1. 1707); Dissertation
sur la nature des richesses, de
Vargent et des tributs (Paris, n.d.).
4- Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban, Methode generate et facile pourfaire le de'nombrement des peu pies
(Paris, 1 6 8 6 ) ; Pvjet d'une dixme royale (s.1. 1 7 0 7 ) .
5. On the antihistoncism of contemporary knowledge, see in particular chapter 4 of Les
Mots et les choses (English translation: The Order of Things).
6. The passage in brackets has been reconstructed from Foucault's manuscript.
7. Characters in, respectively, Corneille's Cinna and Racine's Britannkus and
Andromaque.
[Trans.]
8. The results of the enormous task undertaken by Moreau will be found in his F*rincipes
de morale, de politique, et de droit public; for examples of the criteria used bv Moreau in
preparation for this work, and for its history, see also his Plan des travaux litte'raires ordonnes
par Sa Majeste.
9- On the procedures of normalization in medical knowledge, the reader is referred to
Naissance de la clinique: une axhe'ologie du regard medical (Pans: PUF, 1 9 6 3 ) (English trans
lation bv Alan Sheridan: Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology
of Medical F*reception [London:
Tavistock, 1973]); the lecture given by Foucault in Brazil in 1974 on the history or
medicine, "El nacimento de la medicine social" ("La Naissance de la medicine sociale,"
Dits et ecrits, vol. 3, pp. 207-27); "Incorpoacion del hospital en la tecnologia moderna"
("L'incorporation de I'hopital dans la technologie moderne," in Dits et ecrits, vol. 3,
pp. 5 0 8 - 2 1 ) ; and the analysis of medical policing made in "La Politique de la sante au
XVIIIe siecle," in Dits et ecrits, vol. 3, pp. 13-27 (English translation: "The Politics of
Health in the Eighteenth Century," in Power/Knowledge,
pp. 1 6 6 - 8 2 ) ; and "La Politique
de la sante au XVIIIe siecle," in Dits et ecrits, vol. 3, pp. 725-41.
10. On disciplinary power and its effects on knowledge, see in particular Suweiller et punir:
Naissance
de la prison (Pans: Gallimard, 1975)- English translation by Alan Sheridan:
Discipline and Finish: The Birth of the Prison (London: Allen Lane, 1977).
11, See in particular the lectures given at the College de France in 1971-1972: Theories et
institutions pe'nales, and in 1972-1973: La socie'te punitive, forthcoming.
12. Michel Foucault, Les Anormaux: Cours au College de France, 7974-7975 (Pans: Gallimard
and Le Seuil, 1 9 9 9 ) .

nine

Tactical generalisation
Revolution,
barbarian.
historical
field

MARCH

1976

of historical

knowledge.

and cyclical
- Three ways

discourse.

discourse

barbarism:

of method:

the

of the bourgeoisie.

during the Revolution.


gothic

- The savage

of filtering

- Questions

and the antihistoricism

historical

history.

Constitution,
and the
tactics of
epistemological

- Reactivation

- Feudalism

of

and the

novel.

L A S T T I M E , I S H O W E D y o u how a h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l d i s c o u r s e , or a

h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l field, took shape a n d w a s constituted around t h e


n o b i l i a r y reaction of t h e early e i g h t e e n t h century. I w o u l d n o w l i k e
to move to a different point in time, or in other w o r d s , to a r o u n d t h e
French Revolution a n d to a moment w h e r e w e can, I t h i n k , g r a s p t w o
processes. W e can see, on t h e one hand, h o w this discourse, w h i c h
was o r i g i n a l l y b o u n d u p w i t h t h e n o b i l i a r y reaction, b e c a m e g e n e r
alized not so much, or not only, i n the sense that is became, so to
s p e a k , the regular or canonical form of historical discourse, b u t to t h e
extent t h a t it became a tactical i n s t r u m e n t t h a t could b e u s e d not
only by the nobility, b u t ultimately in v a r i o u s different strategies. In
t h e course of t h e eighteenth century, a n d subject to a certain n u m b e r
of modifications at t h e level of its basic propositions, historical d i s
course e v e n t u a l l y became a sort of d i s c u r s i v e w e a p o n that could be
used b y all t h e adversaries present w i t h i n t h e political field. In short,
I w o u l d l i k e to show y o u h o w t h i s historical i n s t r u m e n t must not b e
seen as the ideology o r an ideological product of t h e nobility or i t s

190

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

class position, a n d that w e are not dealing w i t h an ideology here; w e


are d e a l i n g w i t h something else. W h a t I am t r y i n g to identify i s w h a t
might, if y o u l i k e , be t e r m e d a discursive tactic, a d e p l o y m e n t of
k n o w l e d g e a n d p o w e r w h i c h , insofar as it is a tactic, is transferable
a n d e v e n t u a l l y becomes the l a w governing the formation of a k n o w l
e d g e and, at the same time, the g e n e r a l form of the political battle.
So the discourse on history i s g e n e r a l i z e d , b u t in a tactical sense.
The second process w e see t a k i n g shape at the t i m e of the Revolution
is the w a y in w h i c h this tactic is d e p l o y e d in three directions w h i c h
c o r r e s p o n d to t h r e e different b a t t l e s a n d p r o d u c e three r a t h e r different
tactics: One is centered on nationalities, a n d is therefore essentially in
continuity w i t h the p h e n o m e n a of l a n g u a g e and, therefore, philology;
the second centers on social classes, v i e w s economic domination as the
central phenomenon, a n d is therefore closely r e l a t e d to political econ
omy; the t h i r d direction, finally, is centered on neither nationalities nor
classes, but upon race, a n d v i e w s biological specification a n d selection
as the central phenomenon; t h e r e is, then, a c o n t i n u i t y b e t w e e n this
historical discourse a n d the biological problematic. Philology, political
economy, biology. Language, labor, life.' W e will see all this b e i n g
reinvested in or r e a r t i c u l a t e d around t h i s historical k n o w l e d g e and
the tactics that are b o u n d up w i t h it.
The first t h i n g I w o u l d l i k e to t a l k to y o u about today is therefore
this tactical g e n e r a l i z a t i o n of historical k n o w l e d g e ; how w a s it dis
p l a c e d from its p l a c e of b i r t h t h e nobiliary reaction of the early
e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y a n d how did it become an instrument that could
be used in all the political struggles of the late e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y ,
no m a t t e r how w e look at t h e m ? O u r first q u e s t i o n concerns the
reasons for this tactical polyvalence: H o w a n d w h y d i d such a par
ticular i n s t r u m e n t , such a s i n g u l a r discourse w h i c h sang the praises
of i n v a d e r s , become a g e n e r a l i n s t r u m e n t to be used in the political
tactics a n d confrontations of the eighteenth c e n t u r y ?
I t h i n k the e x p l a n a t i o n is something along these lines. Boulainvil
h e r s m a d e national d u a l i t y h i s t o r y ' s p r i n c i p l e of intelligibility. Intel
l i g i b i l i t y m e a n t t h r e e t h i n g s . B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s w a s p r i m a r i l y interested
in Bnding the initial conflict ( b a t t l e , w a r , conquest, invasion, et cet

3 March

1976

191

e r a ) , the n u c l e u s of w a r from w h i c h he c o u l d d e r i v e all the other


b a t t l e s , struggles, a n d confrontations because they w e r e either its d i
rect effects or the result of a series of d i s p l a c e m e n t s , modifications, or
reversals of the r e l a t i o n s h i p of force. So, a sort of great genealogy of
the struggles that go on in all the v a r i o u s conflicts recorded by h i s t o r y .
H o w c o u l d he find the b a s i c s t r u g g l e , trace the strategic t h r e a d r u n
ning through all these b a t t l e s ? The historical i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y that B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s w a n t e d to s u p p l y a l s o meant that he not only h a d to locate
t h a t basic kernel of w a r a n d the w a y in w h i c h e v e r y conflict d e r i v e d
from it; he also h a d to t r a c e the b e t r a y a l s , the u n n a t u r a l alliances, the
ruses t h a t w e r e u s e d on all s i d e s , all t h e negations of right, all t h e
i n a d m i s s i b l e calculations, and a l l the unforgivable l a p s e s of m e m o r y
t h a t m a d e possible this transformation, a n d , at the same time, the
w a t e r i n g d o w n of t h a t relationship of force a n d t h a t basic

confron

tation. He had to u n d e r t a k e a sort of g r e a t e x a m i n a t i o n of h i s t o r y


( " w h o ' s to b l a m e ? " ) a n d therefore t r a c e not only the strategic t h r e a d ,
b u t also the linesometimes sinuous b u t never brokenof

ethical

divisions t h a t r u n s through history. Historical i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y also h a d


a t h i r d meaning; it m e a n t g e t t i n g b e y o n d these tactical d i s p l a c e m e n t s
and all these historico-ethical m i s a p p r o p r i a t i o n s in o r d e r to d e m o n
strate t h a t a certain relationship of force w a s b o t h right a n d fair.
B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s w a s concerned w i t h the t r u e r e l a t i o n s h i p of forcein
t h e sense that he had to rediscover a relationship of force that w a s
not ideal but

real, a n d that had, in this case, been recorded

and

inscribed by history in the course of a decisive ordeal by strength:


the Frankish invasion of Gaul. A r e l a t i o n s h i p of force, then, that w a s
historically t r u e a n d historically real and which w a s , secondly, a good
relationship of force because it could b e extricated from all the d i s
tortions to w h i c h b e t r a y a l s a n d v a r i o u s d i s p l a c e m e n t s h a d subjected
it. The theme of his search for historical i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y w a s this: to
rediscover a state of affairs that w a s a state of force in i t s primal
Tightness. A n d you w i l l find that B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s a n d his successors
formulate t h i s project v e r y clearly. B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , for e x a m p l e , said:
W e have to r e l a t e our m o d e r n customs to their t r u e origins, discover
the p r i n c i p l e s of the nation's common r i g h t , and then look at w h a t

192

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

has changed over t i m e . A few y e a r s later, B u a t - N a n c a y w o u l d say that


if w e can u n d e r s t a n d the primitive spirit of government, w e w i l l b e
able to l e n d a n e w vigor to certain l a w s , m o d e r a t e those l a w s that
are so vigorous as to shift the balance, a n d reestablish harmony and
social relations.
This project of a n a l y z i n g the i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y of history therefore i m
plies three tasks: finding the strategic thread, t r a c i n g the t h r e a d of
ethical divisions, a n d reestablishing the r e c t i t u d e of w h a t m i g h t be
called t h e "constituent point" of politics a n d history, or the constit
uent moment of t h e k i n g d o m . I say "constituent point" or "constit
uent moment" so as to t r y to avoid, w i t h o u t erasing it altogether, the
w o r d "constitution." A s you can see, it is indeed a matter of consti
tution; the point of s t u d y i n g history is to reestablish the constitution,
but not at all in the sense of a n e x p l i c i t body of l a w s that w e r e
formulated at some g i v e n moment. Nor i s the goal to rediscover a
sort of foundational

j u r i d i c a l convention w h i c h , at some point

in

timeor a r c h i t i m e h a d b e e n established b e t w e e n t h e k i n g , t h e sov


ereign, a n d his subjects. The p o i n t i s to rediscover something that has
its o w n consistency a n d its own historical situation, a n d it is not so
much of the order of t h e l a w as of the order of force, not so m u c h of
the order of the w r i t t e n w o r d as of the order of an e q u i l i b r i u m . This
something is a constitution, b u t almost in the sense that a doctor
w o u l d u n d e r s t a n d that term, or in other w o r d s , in the sense of a
relationship of force, an e q u i l i b r i u m a n d i n t e r p l a y of proportions, a
stable d i s s y m m e t r y or a congruent

i n e q u a l i t y . When

eighteenth-

century doctors e v o k e d t h e notion of "constitution," they w e r e t a l k i n g


2

about all these t h i n g s . W e can see t h i s idea of a "constitution"in


both the m e d i c a l a n d the m i l i t a r y sensetaking shape in the historical
l i t e r a t u r e r e l a t i n g to the n o b i l i a r y reaction. It designates both a r e
lationship of force b e t w e e n good a n d evil, a n d a r e l a t i o n s h i p of force
b e t w e e n adversaries. If w e are able to u n d e r s t a n d and reestablish a
basic relationship of force, w e w i l l be able to get back to this con
stituent point. W e h a v e to establish a constitution, a n d w e w i l l not
g e t b a c k to t h a t constitution by reestablishing the l a w s of old, b u t
t h a n k s to s o m e t h i n g r e s e m b l i n g a revolutiona revolution in the

3 March

1976

193

sense of a transition from night to d a y , from the l o w e s t p o i n t to t h e


highest p o i n t . From B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s o n w a r d a n d t h i s i s , I t h i n k , the
i m p o r t a n t pointit is the l i n k i n g t o g e t h e r of the t w o notions of con
stitution a n d revolution t h a t m a k e s this possible. So long as historicojundical

literature,

parlementaires,

which

had

essentially been

written

by

the

understood " c o n s t i t u t i o n " to mean essentially the basic

l a w s of the k i n g d o m , or i n other w o r d s , a j u r i d i c a l a p p a r a t u s or some


thing of the order of a convention, it w a s obvious that t h e r e t u r n of
t h e constitution meant s w e a r i n g a n oath to reestablish the l a w s that
h a d been revealed. Once "constitution" no l o n g e r meant a j u r i d i c a l
a r m a t u r e or a set of l a w s , b u t a r e l a t i o n s h i p of force, i t w a s q u i t e
obvious t h a t such a r e l a t i o n s h i p of force could not be reestablished
on the b a s i s of nothing; it could be reestablished only w h e n t h e r e
existed something r e s e m b l i n g a cyclical historical pattern, or at least
something t h a t allowed history to revolve a r o u n d itself a n d b r o u g h t
it b a c k to its starting point. Y o u can therefore see h o w t h i s m e d i c o m i l i t a r y i d e a of a constitution, or i n other w o r d s , a r e l a t i o n s h i p of
force, r e i n t r o d u c e s s o m e t h i n g r e s e m b l i n g a cyclical philosophy of h i s
tory, or at least the i d e a that the d e v e l o p m e n t of h i s t o r y i s c i r c u l a r .
A n d w h e n I s a y that his idea "is i n t r o d u c e d , " I a m really s a y i n g that
it is reintroduced at the point w h e r e the old m i l l e n a r i a n t h e m e of
the return of the past intersects w i t h an a r t i c u l a t e d historical k n o w l
edge.
This philosophy of history as philosophy of cyclical time b e c o m e s
possible from t h e eighteenth c e n t u r y o n w a r d , or i n other w o r d s , once
the t w o notions of a constitution a n d a r e l a t i o n s h i p of force b e c o m e
established. W i t h B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , w e seeI t h i n k for t h e first t i m e
the i d e a of a cyclical h i s t o r y a p p e a r i n g w i t h i n a n a r t i c u l a t e d historical
discourse. Empires, s a y s B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s , rise and fall into decadence
d e p e n d i n g on h o w the l i g h t of the sun shines upon t h e i r t e r r i t o r y . '
The revolution of the sun, and the r e v o l u t i o n of history: a s you can
see, the two t h i n g s are now l i n k e d . So w e h a v e a pair, a l i n k among
three things: constitution, revolution, and cyclical history. That, if you
like, is one aspect of the tactical instrument that B o u l a i n v i l h e r s per
fected.

194

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

Second aspect: W h e n he is looking for the constituent

point

w h i c h is both good and t r u e w h a t is Boulainvilliers t r y i n g to do? It


is q u i t e obvious t h a t he refuses to look for that constituent point in
the l a w , b u t

he also refuses to find it in nature: a n t i j u n d i c a l i s m

( w h i c h is w h a t I have just been telling you a b o u t ) , b u t also n a t u r a l


ism. The great adversary of Boulainvilliers and his successors is nature,
or natural man. To put it a different w a y , the great adversary of this
t y p e of a n a l y s i s ( a n d B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s ' s a n a l y s e s will become i n s t r u
mental a n d tactical in this sense t o o ) is, if you like, n a t u r a l m a n or
the savage. " S a v a g e " is to be understood in two senses. The savage
noble or o t h e r w i s e i s the n a t u r a l man w h o m the jurists or theorists
of right d r e a m e d u p , the natural man w h o existed before society e x
isted, w h o e x i s t e d in order to constitute society, a n d w h o w a s the
element around w h i c h the social body could be constituted. W h e n
they look for the constituent point, B o u l a i n v i l h e r s a n d his successors
are not t r y i n g to find this savage who, in some sense, exists before
the social body. The other thing they are t r y i n g to w a r d off is the
other aspect of the savage, that other natural man or ideal element
d r e a m e d u p by economists: a man w i t h o u t a past or a history, w h o
is motivated only by self-interest and w h o exchanges the p r o d u c t of
his labor for another product. W h a t the histonco-pohtical discourse
of B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s and his successors is t r y i n g to w a r d off is both the
savage w h o emerges from his forests to enter into a contract and to
found society, and the savage Homo economicus

whose life is devoted to

e x c h a n g e a n d barter. The combination of the savage and exchange is,


I t h i n k , basic to juridical thought, and not only to eighteenth-century
theories of r i g h t w e constantly find the savage-exchange couple from
the e i g h t e e n t h - c e n t u r y theory of r i g h t to the anthropology of the
nineteenth and t w e n t i e t h centuries. In both the juridical thought of
the eighteenth century and the anthropology of the nineteenth and
t w e n t i e t h centuries, the savage is essentially a man w h o exchanges.
He is the exchanger: he exchanges rights and he exchanges goods.
Insofar as he exchanges rights, he founds society and sovereignty. In
sofar as he exchanges goods, he constitutes a social body which is, at
the same time, an economic body. Ever since the eighteenth century,

3 March

1976

195

the savage has been the subject of an e l e m e n t a r y exchange. Well, the


h i s t o r i c o - p o l i t i c a l discourse i n a u g u r a t e d by Boulainvilhers creates a n
other figure, and he is the a n t i t h e s i s of the savage ( w h o w a s of great
importance in e i g h t e e n t h - c e n t u r y juridical t h e o r y ) . This new figure
is just as e l e m e n t a r y as the savage of the j u r i s t s ( w h o were soon
followed by the a n t h r o p o l o g i s t s ) but is constituted on a very different
basis: he is the b a r b a r i a n .
The b a r b a r i a n is the opposite of the savage, but in w h a t sense?
First, in this sense: The savage is b a s i c a l l y a savage w h o lives in a
state of savagery together with other savages; once he enters a relation
of a social k i n d , he ceases to be a savage. The b a r b a r i a n , in contrast,
is someone w h o can be understood, characterized, and defined only
in relation to a civilization, a n d b y the fact that he exists outside it.
There can be no b a r b a r i a n unless an island of civilization exists some
w h e r e , unless he lives outside it, a n d u n l e s s he fights it. A n d

the

b a r b a r i a n ' s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h that speck of c i v i l i z a t i o n w h i c h the


b a r b a r i a n despises, and w h i c h he w a n t s i s one of hostility a n d per
m a n e n t warfare. The b a r b a r i a n cannot e x i s t w i t h o u t the civilization
he is t r y i n g to destroy a n d a p p r o p r i a t e . The b a r b a r i a n is a l w a y s the
m a n w h o s t a l k s the frontiers of States, the man w h o stumbles into
the city w a l l s . U n l i k e the savage, the b a r b a r i a n does not emerge from
some natural b a c k d r o p to w h i c h he belongs. He appears only w h e n
civilization a l r e a d y exists, a n d only w h e n he is in conflict w i t h it. He
does not m a k e his entrance into history by founding a society, b u t by
p e n e t r a t i n g a civilization, setting it a b l a z e and destroying it. I t h i n k
that the first point, or the difference b e t w e e n the b a r b a r i a n a n d the
savage, is this r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h a civilization, a n d therefore w i t h a
history that a l r e a d y exists. There can be no b a r b a r i a n w i t h o u t a p r e
e x i s t i n g history: the history of the c i v i l i z a t i o n he sets a b l a z e . W h a t is
more, and

u n l i k e the

savage, the b a r b a r i a n

is not

a vector

for

exchange. The b a r b a r i a n is essentially the vector for something very


different from exchange: he is the vector for domination. Unlike the
savage, the b a r b a r i a n t a k e s possession a n d seizes; his occupation is
not the p r i m i t i v e cultivation of the land, but plunder. His relationship
w i t h p r o p e r t y is, in other w o r d s , a l w a y s secondary: he a l w a y s seizes

196

"SOCIETY

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DEFENDED"

existing property; s i m i l a r l y , he m a k e s other serve h i m . He makes


others cultivate his land, tend his horses, p r e p a r e his w e a p o n s , and
so on. His f r e e d o m is based solely upon the freedom others have lost.
A n d in his r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h power, the b a r b a r i a n , u n l i k e the savage,
never s u r r e n d e r s his freedom. The savage is a man who has in his
hands, so to speak, a p l e t h o r a of freedom w h i c h he s u r r e n d e r s in
order to protect his life, his security, his property, and his goods. The
b a r b a r i a n never gives up his freedom. A n d w h e n he does a c q u i r e a
power, a c q u i r e a king or elect a chief, he certainly does not do so in
order to d i m i n i s h his o w n share of r i g h t but, on the contrary, to
increase his s t r e n g t h , to become an even stronger p l u n d e r e r , a stronger
thief and rapist, and to become an invader who is more confident of
his own strength. The b a r b a r i a n establishes a p o w e r in order to i n
crease his o w n i n d i v i d u a l s t r e n g t h . For the b a r b a r i a n , the model gov
ernment

is, in other w o r d s , necessarily a m i l i t a r y government, and

certainly not one that is based upon the contracts and transfer of civil
rights that characterize the savage. The t y p e of history established by
B o u l a i n v i l h e r s in the eighteenth c e n t u r y is, I think, that of the figure
of the b a r b a r i a n .
So

we

can

well

understand

why,

in

modern

jundico-

anthropological t h o u g h t a n d even in t o d a y ' s bucolic and A m e r i c a n


Utopiasthe savage is, despite it all and even t h o u g h it has to be
a d m i t t e d that he has done a few bad things and has a few faults,
a l w a y s the noble savage. Indeed, how could he not be noble, given
that his specific function is to exchange and to givein accordance
w i t h his o w n best interests, obviously, but in a form of reciprocity in
w h i c h we can, if you like, recognize the acceptableand juridical
form of goodness? The b a r b a r i a n , in contrast, has to be b a d

and

w i c k e d , even if we have to admit that he does have certain qualities.


He has to be full of arrogance a n d has to be inhuman, precisely be
cause he is not the m a n of nature and exchange; he is the man of
history, the m a n of pillage and fires, he is the man of domination. "A
proud, b r u t a l people, w i t h o u t a homeland, and w i t h o u t l a w s , " said
M a b l y ( w h o was, as it happens, very fond of b a r b a r i a n s ) ; "it tolerates
atrocious acts of violence because they are regarded as being publicly

3 March
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1976

197

The soul of the b a r b a r i a n is great, noble, and proud, but

it is a l w a y s associated w i t h treachery and c r u e l t y ( a l l this is in M a b l y ) . S p e a k i n g of barbarians, Bonneville said: " [ T ] h e s e adventurers


l i v e d only for w a r . . . the s w o r d w a s t h e i r right and they exercised it
without remorse."

A n d M a r a t , another great a d m i r e r of barbarians,

described them as "poor, uncouth, w i t h o u t trade, without arts, b u t


free."

The b a r b a r i a n as natural m a n ? Y e s and no. No, in the sense

t h a t he is a l w a y s b o u n d u p w i t h a h i s t o r y ( a n d a p r e e x i s t i n g h i s t o r y ) .
T h e b a r b a r i a n a p p e a r s against a b a c k d r o p of history. A n d if he is
related to nature, said B u a t - N a n c a y ( w h o w a s getting at his closest
enemy, n a m e l y M o n t e s q u i e u ) , it is becausewell, w h a t is the nature
of t h i n g s ? "It is the relationship b e t w e e n the sun and the m u d it
dries, between the thistle and the d o n k e y that feeds on it."

W i t h i n this h i s t o n c o - p o h t i c a l field w h e r e k n o w l e d g e of w e a p o n s
is constantly b e i n g used as a political instrument, the g r e a t tactics
that are developed in the eighteenth c e n t u r y can, I think, be c h a r
acterized b y the w a y t h e y use the four elements present in B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s analysis: constitution, revolution, b a r b a r i s m , a n d domination.
The p r o b l e m is basically this: H o w can w e establish the best possible
fit b e t w e e n unfettered b a r b a r i s m on the one h a n d , and the e q u i h b
r i u m of the constitution w e are t r y i n g to rediscover on the o t h e r ?
H o w c a n w e arrive at the right balance of forces, a n d h o w c a n w e
m a k e use of the violence, freedom, a n d so on t h a t the b a r b a r i a n b r i n g s
w i t h h i m ? In other w o r d s , w h i c h of the b a r b a r i a n ' s characteristics do
w e have to retain, a n d w h i c h do we have to reject, if we a r e to g e t a
fair constitution to w o r k ? W h a t is there in b a r b a r i s m that w e can
make use of? Basically, the problem is that of filtering of the b a r b a r i a n
and b a r b a r i s m : how can b a r b a r i a n domination be so

filtered

as to

bring about the constituent r e v o l u t i o n ? It is this problem, and the


different solutions to t h e problem of the need to filter b a r b a r i s m so
as to b r i n g about the constituent revolution, that will

defineboth

in the field of historical discourse a n d in this historico-political iield


the tactical positions of different g r o u p s a n d the different interests of
the n o b i l i t y , m o n a r c h i c power, or different

t e n d e n c i e s w i t h i n the

bourgeoisie. It w i l l define w h e r e the center of the battle lies.

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I t h i n k that in the eighteenth century, this whole set of historical


discourses is o v e r s h a d o w e d by this problem: not revolution or b a r
barism, but revolution and b a r b a r i s m , or the economy of b a r b a r i s m
in the revolution. A text someone gave me the other day as I w a s
leaving the lecture, if not proves, at least confirms my belief that this
is the case. It is a text by R o b e r t Desnos, and it shows perfectly how,
r i g h t up to the t w e n t i e t h century, the p r o b l e m of revolution or b a r
8

b a r i s m I almost s a i d socialism or b a r b a r i s m i s a false problem, and


that the real p r o b l e m is revolution and barbarism. I take as my w i t n e s s
this text b y R o b e r t Desnos, w h i c h appeared, I assume, in La
surrealisteI

Revolution

d o n ' t know because no reference is given here. Here is

the text. Y o u ' d t h i n k it w a s straight from the eighteenth century.

H a v i n g come from the s h a d o w y East, the men w h o had b e e n


civilized c o n t i n u e d the same w e s t w a r d m a r c h a s A t t i l a , T a m b u r l a i n e a n d so m a n y other famous men. A n y man w h o can be
described as " c i v i l i z e d " w a s once a b a r b a r i a n . They w e r e , i n
other w o r d s , t h e bastard sons of t h e adventurers of t h e night,
or those the enemy ( t h e Romans, the G r e e k s ) had corrupted.
D r i v e n a w a y from the shores of the Pacific and the slopes of the
H i m a l a y a s , a n d unfaithful

to t h e i r mission, they now

found

themselves facing those w h o drove them out in the not so distant


times of the invasions. Sons of Kalmouk, g r a n d s o n s of the Huns,
if you just s t r i p p e d off the robes b o r r o w e d from a w a r d r o b e in
A t h e n s or Thebes, the b r e a s t p l a t e s collected in S p a r t a and
Rome, you w o u l d look a s y o u r fathers looked on their l i t t l e
horses. A n d you N o r m a n s w h o w o r k the l a n d , w h o fish for
sardines and who d r i n k cider, just get back on those flimsy boats
that traced a long w a k e b e y o n d the A r c t i c Circle before they
reached these d a m p fields and these w o o d s that teem w i t h game.
M o b , recognize your master! You thought you could flee it, flee
that O r i e n t that drove you a w a y by vesting you w i t h the right
to destroy w h a t you could not preserve, a n d now that you have
traveled around the world, you find it snapping at y o u r heels
again. I beg you, do not imitate a dog trying to catch its tail:

3 March

1976

199

you w o u l d be r u n n i n g after the West forever. Stop. Say some


t h i n g to e x p l a i n your mission to us, g r e a t oriental a r m y , you
w h o have now become The

Westerners.

Right, in an attempt to resituate in concrete terms the various


historical discourses and political tactics from w h i c h t h e y derive, B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s a l l at once introduces into h i s t o r y the great blond b a r b a r
ian, the juridical a n d historical fact of the invasion, the a p p r o p r i a t i o n
of l a n d s and the enslavement of men, and, finally, a very l i m i t e d r o y a l
p o w e r . Of all the important a n d i n t e r r e l a t e d features that constitute
the fact of b a r b a r i s m ' s i r r u p t i o n into history, w h i c h have to be e l i m
i n a t e d ? W h i c h h a v e to be r e t a i n e d so a s to e s t a b l i s h the right r e l a
t i o n s h i p of force t h a t w i l l u p h o l d the k i n g d o m ? I w i l l look at the
t h r e e great models that w e r e used to filter b a r b a r i s m . There w e r e
m a n y others in the eighteenth century; I w i l l t a k e these e x a m p l e s
because they w e r e , in political terms, a n d p r o b a b l y in epistemological
terms too, the most important, and because each of them corresponds
to a very different political position.
The first w a y of filtering it is the most v i g o r o u s , the most absolute,
a n d it tries to allow no aspect of the b a r b a r i a n into history: this
position is an attempt to show that the French m o n a r c h y is not d e
scended from some G e r m a n i c invasion w h i c h brought it to France or
w h i c h , in some sense, gave b i r t h to it. It a t t e m p t s to s h o w t h a t the
n o b i l i t y ' s ancestors w e r e not conquerors from across the R h i n e a n d
that the privileges of the n o b i l i t y t h e p r i v i l e g e s t h a t placed it b e
tween the sovereign and other subjectswere e i t h e r g r a n t e d to it later
or w e r e usurped b y it in some obscure w a y . In a w o r d , the point is
not to relate the privileged nobility to the b a r b a r i a n horde

that

founded it, but to avoid the issue of the horde, to m a k e it d i s a p p e a r


and to leave the nobility in abeyanceto make it look like both a
late and an artificial creation. This thesis is, of course, the thesis of
the monarchy, a n d you will find it in a w h o l e series of historians from
Dubos' to M o r e a u . "
W h e n articulated a s a basic proposition, t h i s thesis gives roughly
this: The F r a n k s s a y s Dubos and then M o r e a u a r e at bottom s i m p l y

200

"SOCIETY

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DEFENDED"

a myth, an illusion, something that w a s created from scratch by Boul a i n v i l h e r s . The Franks never e x i s t e d , w h i c h q u i t e clearly means that
the invasion never took place at all. So w h a t did h a p p e n ? There w e r e
invasions, but they w e r e the w o r k of others: the B u r g u n d i a n s invaded,
a n d the Goths invaded, a n d the R o m a n s could do nothing about it.
A n d it w a s in the face of these invasions that the R o m a n s appealedas
alliesto a small p o p u l a t i o n that had some m i l i t a r y v i r t u e s . They
w e r e of course the Franks. But the Franks w e r e not greeted as i n v a d
ers, as great b a r b a r i a n s w i t h a p r o p e n s i t y for p l u n d e r a n d domination,
but as a small p o p u l a t i o n of useful allies. A s a result, they i m m e d i a t e l y
received the r i g h t s of c i t i z e n s h i p ; not only w e r e they i m m e d i a t e l y
m a d e G a l l o - R o m a n citizens; t h e y w e r e also g r a n t e d the i n s t r u m e n t s
of political power ( a n d in this connection, D u b o s recalls that C l o v i s
w a s , after all, a R o m a n c o n s u l ) . So there w a s neither an invasion nor
a conquest, b u t there w a s i m m i g r a t i o n a n d there w a s an alliance.
There w a s no invasion, but it cannot even be said that there w a s a
Frankish people, w i t h its own legislation or customs. First, there w e r e
quite s i m p l y too few of them, says Dubos, for t h e m to able to treat
the Gauls "as T u r k to M o o r "

12

a n d to force them to adopt t h e i r habits

a n d customs. Being lost in the midst of the Gallo-Roman masses, they


could not even preserve their o w n habits. So they l i t e r a l l y dissolved.
A n d besides, how could they fail to be dissolved into this G a l l o R o m a n political a p p a r a t u s , given that they really h a d no u n d e r s t a n d
ing of either a d m i n i s t r a t i o n or g o v e r n m e n t ? D u b o s even claims that
their art of w a r had been b o r r o w e d from the Romans. Be that as it
may, the F r a n k s w e r e careful not to destroy the m e c h a n i s m s of w h a t
D u b o s calls the a d m i r a b l e a d m i n i s t r a t i o n of R o m a n Gaul. D u b o s says
that the Franks did not alter the n a t u r e of a n y t h i n g in R o m a n Gaul.
Order t r i u m p h e d . So the Franks w e r e absorbed and their k i n g s i m p l y
r e m a i n e d , so to speak, at the pinnacle of, on the surface of, a G a l l o R o m a n edifice that could scarcely be p e n e t r a t e d by a few i m m i g r a n t s
of Germanic origin. So the king alone remained at the pinnacle of the
edifice, precisely because he w a s a king w h o had the Caesarian rights
of the R o m a n emperor. There w a s , in other words, no b a r b a r i a n - t y p e
aristocracy, as B o u l a i n v i l h e r s believed. The a b s o l u t e monarch

ap-

i March

1976

201

p e a r e d i m m e d i a t e l y . A n d it w a s several centuries l a t e r that the break


occurred, that something like the invasion's analogue took place, b u t
it w a s a sort of invasion from w i t h i n . '

A t this point, D u b o s ' s analysis moves on to the e n d of the C a r o h n g i a n period and the b e g i n n i n g of the C a p e t i a n period, w h e r e he
detects a w e a k e n i n g of the central p o w e r , of the C a e s a r - l i k e absolute
p o w e r that the M e r o v i n g i a n s i n i t i a l l y enjoyed. The officers appointed
by the king, on the other hand, i l l e g i t i m a t e l y a c q u i r e d more a n d more
power; they t r e a t e d e v e r y t h i n g that came w i t h i n their a d m i n i s t r a t i v e
remit as t h o u g h it w e r e their fief, as though it w e r e their own p r o p
erty. A n d so it w a s that this decomposition of central power gave
b i r t h to something k n o w n as feudalism. A s y o u can see, this feudalism
w a s a late phenomenon, and it w a s related not to the invasion, b u t
to the destruction from w i t h i n of central p o w e r . It w a s an effect, a n d
it had the same effects a s an invasion, but it w a s an invasion t h a t w a s
l a u n c h e d from w i t h i n b y people w h o h a d u s u r p e d a p o w e r t h a t h a d
been delegated to t h e m . "The d i s m e m b e r i n g of sovereignty a n d the
transformation of offices into seigneuries"I a m c i t i n g a t e x t by D u bos"had v e r y s i m i l a r effects to a foreign invasion, created a d o m i
neering caste b e t w e e n the k i n g a n d the people, a n d t u r n e d Gaul i n t o
a l a n d that really had been c o n q u e r e d . "

D u b o s rediscovers e l e m e n t s

t h a t were, according to B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , typical of w h a t happened at


the t i m e of the Franksinvasion, conquest, a n d dominationbut

he

sees t h e m as internal phenomena dueor correlativeto the birth of


an aristocracy. A n d as you see, it w a s an aristocracy that w a s artificial,
a n d completely p r o t e c t e d from, c o m p l e t e l y i n d e p e n d e n t of, the Frank
ish invasion and the b a r b a r i s m that came w i t h it. A n d so the s t r u g g l e s
against this conquest began: s t r u g g l e s against this u s u r p a t i o n and t h i s
invasion from w i t h i n . T h e monarch a n d the t o w n s w h i c h h a d retained
the freedom of the R o m a n municipes

w i l l fight side by side against the

feudal lords.
In the discourse of Dubos, M o r e a u , and all the monarchist histo
r i a n s , you have a c o m p l e t e inversion of B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s d i s c o u r s e , but
they also transform it in one i m p o r t a n t sense. The focus of the h i s
torical analysis is displaced from the fact of the invasion and the early

202

"SOCIETY

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DEFENDED"

M e r o v i n g i a n s to t h i s other fact: the b i r t h of feudalism and the first


C a p e t i a n s . You can also seeand this is importantthat the invasion
of the nobility is a n a l y z e d not as the effect of a m i l i t a r y invasion and
of the i r r u p t i o n of barbarism, b u t a s the result of u s u r p a t i o n

from

w i t h i n . The fact of the conquest is still there, b u t it i s s t r i p p e d of its


barbarian context and the right-effects that might have r e s u l t e d from
the m i l i t a r y victory. The nobles are not b a r b a r i a n s , but t h e y are
crooks, political crooks. Here w e have the first position, the first tac
ticaland inverteduse that is made of B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s discourse.
Now for another, different w a y of filtering b a r b a r i s m . The goal of
t h i s different t y p e of discourse i s to dissociate a Germanic

freedom,

or in other w o r d s , a b a r b a r i a n freedom, from the exclusive n a t u r e of


the p r i v i l e g e s of t h e aristocracy. Its goal i s , in other wordsand

to

this extent, this thesis, this tactic r e m a i n s very close to B o u l a i n v i l hers'sto

go on l a y i n g claim to the freedoms

the b a r b a r i a n s and

Franks b r o u g h t to France b y resisting the Roman absolutism of the


monarchy. The h a i r y b a n d s from across the R h i n e did indeed enter
Gaul, and they d i d bring their freedoms w i t h them. These h a i r y b a n d s
w e r e not, however, b a n d s of G e r m a n w a r r i o r s w h o m a d e u p the n u
cleus of an aristocracy that remained an aristocracy w i t h i n the body
of G a l l o - R o m a n society. Those w h o flooded in w e r e certainly w a r r i o r s ,
but they w e r e also a whole people in a r m s . The political and social
form that w a s introduced into Gaul w a s not that of an aristocracy
but, on the contrary, that of a democracy, that of the w i d e s t possible
democracy. You w i l l find t h i s thesis in M a b l y , " in B o n n e v i l l e ,
even in M a r a t , in Les Chaines de I'esclavage.

10

and

So, the b a r b a r i a n democracy

of the Franks, w h o know no form of aristocracy, and w h o k n o w only


an e g a l i t a r i a n people of s o l d i e r - c i t i z e n s . " A proud, b r u t a l people w i t h
no homeland and no l a w , " said M a b l y ,

17

and e v e r y citizen-soldier had

only his booty to live on, b u t w o u l d not tolerate any k i n d of p u n i s h


ment. There is no consistent a u t h o r i t y over this people, no rational
or constituted authority. A n d according to M a b l y , it w a s this b r u t a l ,
b a r b a r i a n democracy that w a s established in Gaul. A n d its establish
ment w a s the basis, the starting point for a s e r i e s of processes. The
avidity and egoism of the b a r b a r i a n Franks, w h i c h were v i r t u e s w h e n

3 March

T976

203

it w a s a matter of crossing t h e R h i n e a n d invading Gaul, become vices


once they settled there: the F r a n k s are no long interested in a n y t h i n g
b u t looting a n d pillage. They neglect both the e x e r c i s e of p o w e r a n d
the y e a r l y M a r c h or M a y g a t h e r i n g s w h i c h placed p e r m a n e n t controls
on r o y a l p o w e r . T h e y allow the k i n g to do as he likes, and they a l l o w
a monarchy, w h i c h h a s absolutist tendencies, to establish itself over
them. A n d according to M a b l y , the c l e r g y t h o u g h this w a s p r e s u m
ably a reflection of its i g n o r a n c e a n d not its c u n n i n g i n t e r p r e t s G e r
m a n i c c u s t o m s in t e r m s of R o m a n right: they believe themselves to
b e t h e subjects of a monarchy, w h e n t h e y a r e in fact t h e body of a
republic.
The sovereign's officer-officials also a c q u i r e more and more p o w e r .
A n d so w e begin to move a w a y from t h e general d e m o c r a c y that
Frankish b a r b a r i s m had brought w i t h it, and t o w a r d a system w h i c h
is b o t h monarchic and aristocratic. This i s a slow process, and t h e r e
is a moment of reaction. This occurs w h e n C h a r l e m a g n e , w h o felt
increasingly dominated and threatened by the aristocracy, once more
t u r n s for s u p p o r t to the people h i s predecessors h a d neglected. C h a r
l e m a g n e reestablishes the C h a m p de M a r s and the M a y g a t h e r i n g s ;
he allows everyone, i n c l u d i n g n o n w a r n o r s , to attend the assemblies.
For a brief m o m e n t w e h a v e , then, a r e t u r n to G e r m a n i c democracy,
and the slow process that l e a d s to the d i s a p p e a r a n c e of democracy
b e g i n s again after t h i s brief interlude. T w i n figures now appear. On
the one hand, that of a monarchy, [ t h e monarchy of H u g h C a p e t ] .
H o w does the monarchy succeed in establishing itself? It can d o so
to the extent that the aristocrats reject b a r b a r i a n and Frankish d e
mocracy a n d agree to choose a k i n g w h o has increasingly absolutist
tendencies; on the other h a n d , the C a p e t i a n s r e w a r d the nobles for
having consecrated H u g h Capet king by p u t t i n g them in charge of
the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n and turning the offices w i t h w h i c h they had been
entrusted into fiefs. T h e complicity b e t w e e n the nobles w h o created
the k i n g and the k i n g w h o created feudalism t h u s g i v e s b i r t h to the
t w i n figures of a m o n a r c h y and an aristocracy, and they d o m i n a t e a
barbarian democracy. G e r m a n i c democracy is thus the starting point
for a twofold process. The aristocracy a n d the a b s o l u t e monarchy w i l l

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of course e v e n t u a l l y come into conflict, but it must not b e forgotten


that, b a s i c a l l y , they are twin sisters.
T h i r d type of discourse, third type of analysis, and, at the same
time, t h i r d tactic. This is the most subtle tactic and, in historical
terms, the most successful, even t h o u g h , at the time of its formulation,
it had m u c h less impact than the theses of Dubos or M a b l y . The goal
of this t h i r d tactical operation is to make a distinction b e t w e e n two
forms of b a r b a r i s m : the b a r b a r i s m of the G e r m a n s w i l l become the
b a d b a r b a r i s m from w h i c h w e have to be freed; and then there is a
good b a r b a r i s m , or the b a r b a r i s m of the Gauls, which is the only real
source of freedom. This performs t w o important operations: on the
one h a n d , freedom a n d Germanitv, which h a d been l i n k e d together
by B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , are dissociated; on the other, Romanity and abso
lutism are dissociated. W e w i l l , in other w o r d s , find in Roman Gaul
elements of the freedom w h i c h , as all previous theses had more or
less accepted, had been imported by the Franks. Broadly speaking,
M a b l y a r r i v e d at his thesis by transforming B o u l a i n v i l h e r s ' s thesis:
German freedoms were destroyed democratically. B r e q u i g n y ,
sal,

19

18

Chap-

a n d others arrive at this new thesis by intensifying a n d displac

ing the sort of passing comment D u b o s made w h e n he said that the


k i n g and then the t o w n s , w h i c h had resisted feudal usurpation, r e
belled against feudalism.
The B r e q u i g n y - C h a p s a l thesis, w h i c h w i l l , because it is so impor
tant, become that of the bourgeois h i s t o r i a n s of the nineteenth century
( A u g u s t i n Thierry, G u i z o t ) , basically consists in s a y i n g that

there

w e r e two tiers to the political system of the R o m a n s . At the level of


central government, of the great Roman administration, w e are, of
courseat least from the time of the e m p i r e o n w a r d d e a l i n g w i t h
an absolute power. But the Romans left the Gauls to enjoy their own
primal freedoms. A s a result, Roman Gaul w a s indeed in one sense
part of a great absolutist e m p i r e , but it w a s also permeated or pen
etrated by a whole series of pockets of freedom: the Gaulish or C e l t i c
freedoms of old. The Romans left them alone, a n d they c o n t i n u e d to
function in the t o w n s , or in the famous munkipes

of the Roman Empire

w h e r e the archaic freedoms, the ancestral freedoms of the Gauls and

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the C e l t s , continued to function in forms t h a t w e r e , a s it happens,


more or less borrowed from the old R o m a n city. Freedom is therefore
a phenomenon

that is compatible w i t h R o m a n absolutism ( a n d this

is, I t h i n k , the first t i m e this argument a p p e a r s in these historical


a n a l y s e s ) ; it is a Gaulish phenomenon, but it is above all an u r b a n
phenomenon. Freedom belongs to the towns. A n d it is to the precise
extent that it belongs to the t o w n s that freedom can s t r u g g l e a n d
become a political force. The t o w n s will of course be destroyed w h e n
the F r a n k i s h a n d G e r m a n i c invasions t a k e place. But, b e i n g n o m a d i c
peasants or at least b a r b a r i a n s , the Franks and G e r m a n s neglect the
t o w n s and settle in the countryside. So the t o w n s , w h i c h w e r e ne
glected by the F r a n k s , are r e b u i l t a n d enjoy a new prosperity at this
point. W h e n feudalism is established at the end of the r e i g n of the
C a r o h n g i a n s , the g r e a t secular-ecclesiastical lords w i l l of course t r y
to get t h e i r h a n d s on the r e c o n s t i t u t e d w e a l t h of the cities. But at
this point, the t o w n s , w h i c h had g r o w n historically strong t h a n k s to
their wealth and their freedoms, but t h a n k s also to the fact that they
formed a c o m m u n i t y , a r e able to struggle, resist, and rebel. Hence all
the great rebellious movements t h a t d e v e l o p in the free t o w n s d u r i n g
the r e i g n of the first C a p e t i a n s . A n d they eventually forced both royal
power and the aristocracy to respect t h e i r r i g h t s and, to a certain
extent, their l a w s , t h e i r t y p e of economy, their forms of life, their
customs, and so on. This h a p p e n e d

in the

fifteenth

and s i x t e e n t h

centuries.
So you see, this time we have a thesis w h i c h , much more

than

p r e v i o u s theses a n d even more than M a b l y ' s thesis, will become the


thesis of the T h i r d Estate, because this is the first t i m e that the history
of the t o w n , the history of u r b a n

institutions, and the history of

wealth and its political effects could be articulated within a historical


analysis. T h i s history creates, or at least begins to create, a T h i r d
Estate that is a product not merely of the concessions g r a n t e d by the
k i n g , b u t of its o w n e n e r g y , its w e a l t h , its t r a d e , a n d of a h i g h l y
sophisticated u r b a n l a w that is in part borrowed from R o m a n l a w ,
but w h i c h is also articulated w i t h the freedom of old, or in other
w o r d s , the Gaulish b a r b a r i s m of old. From this point o n w a r d , and

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for the first time, a Romanity w h i c h , in the historical a n d political


thought of the eighteenth century, had a l w a y s been tinged w i t h a b
solutism and had a l w a y s been on the side of the king, now becomes
tinged with l i b e r a l i s m . A n d far from being the theatrical form in
w h i c h royal p o w e r reflects its history, R o m a n i t y w i l l , thanks to the
analyses I a m discussing, become an issue for the bourgeoisie itself.
The bourgeoisie w i l l be able to recuperatein the form of the GalloRoman municepsa

R o m a n i t y that supplies, so to speak, its letters of

nobility. The G a l l o - R o m a n m u n i c i p a l i t y is the Third Estate's nobility.


A n d it is this municipality, this autonomy, a n d this form of m u n i c i p a l
freedom that the T h i r d Estate w i l l d e m a n d . All this must, of course,
be seen in the context of the debate that took place in the eighteenth
century around, precisely, municipal freedoms and autonomy. I refer
2

you, for e x a m p l e , to a text by Turgot t h a t dates from 1776. But you


can also see that on the eve of the Revolution, R o m a n i t y can also lose
all the monarchist and absolutist connotations it h a d h a d throughout
the eighteenth century. A liberal Romanity becomes possible, and
even those who are not monarchists or absolutists can revert to it.
Even the b o u r g e o i s can revert to R o m a n i t y . A n d as you k n o w , the
Revolution w i l l have no hesitation in doing so.
The other important thing about the discourse of B r e q u i g n y , C h a p sal, and the rest of them is that it a l l o w s , you see, the historical field
to be g r e a t l y e x t e n d e d . W i t h the English historians of the seventeenth
century, a n d w i t h B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s too, w e basically start with the small
nucleus of the invasion, w i t h the few decades, or at most the century,
d u r i n g w h i c h the b a r b a r i a n hordes flooded into Gaul. So you see, we
have a g r a d u a l extension of the field. W e have seen, for instance, the
importance M a b l y ascribes to a figure such as C h a r l e m a g n e ; w e have
also seen how D u b o s e x t e n d e d the historical analysis to i n c l u d e the
early C a p e t i a n s and feudalism. W i t h the analyses of B r e q u i g n y , C h a p sal, and others, the domain of historically useful a n d politically pro
d u c t i v e k n o w l e d g e can, on the one hand, b e e x t e n d e d u p w a r d , a s it
now goes back to the m u n i c i p a l organization of the Romans and,
u l t i m a t e l y , to the ancient freedoms of the Gauls and the Celts. On
the other hand, history can be e x t e n d e d d o w n w a r d to include all the

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struggles, all the urban r e b e l l i o n s which, ever since the beginning of


feudalism, led to the emergence, or at least the partial emergence, of
the bourgeoisie a s an economic and political force in the fifteenth a n d
sixteenth centuries. The field of historical and political debate now
covers one a n d a half thousand y e a r s of history. The j u r i d i c a l a n d
historical fact of the invasion has now been completely shattered, a n d
w e are now dealing w i t h an i m m e n s e field of g e n e r a l i z e d s t r u g g l e s
covering fifteen h u n d r e d y e a r s of history a n d involving a great v a r i e t y
of actors: kings, the nobility, the clergy, soldiers, r o y a l officers, the
T h i r d Estate, the bourgeoisie, the peasants, the townspeople, a n d so
on. T h i s i s a h i s t o r y that t a k e s as its s u p p o r t institutions such a s
Roman freedoms, m u n i c i p a l freedoms, the church, education, trade,
language, a n d so on. A g e n e r a l explosion in the field of history; a n d
it is in this precise field that the h i s t o r i a n s of the nineteenth century
w i l l b e g i n their w o r k .
You m i g h t ask: W h y all the d e t a i l s , w h y locate these different t a c
tics within the field of h i s t o r y ? It is true that I could quite s i m p l y
have moved directly on to A u g u s t i n T h i e r r y , Montlosier, a n d all the
o t h e r s w h o u s e d this i n s t r u m e n t a t i o n of k n o w l e d g e to t r y to t h i n k
about the revolutionary p h e n o m e n o n . I l i n g e r e d over this for

two

reasons. First, for methodological reasons. A s you have seen, one can
v e r y easily, from B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s o n w a r d , t r a c e the constitution of a
historical and political discourse whose domain of objects, p e r t i n e n t
elements, concepts, a n d methods of analysis are all closely i n t e r r e l a t e d .
The eighteenth c e n t u r y saw the formation of a sort of historical d i s
course w h i c h w a s common to a w h o l e series of historians, even though
their theses, hypotheses, and political d r e a m s were very different. One
can q u i t e easily, a n d w i t h o u t a n y b r e a k s at a l l , trace the e n t i r e net
w o r k of basic propositions that s u b t e n d each t y p e of analysis: all the
transformations t h a t t a k e u s from a history t h a t [ p r a i s e s ] the F r a n k s
( s u c h as M a b l y , such as D u b o s ) to the very different history of F r a n k ish democracy. One can q u i t e easily move from one of these histories
to the n e x t b y identifying a few very simple transpositions at the level
of their basic propositions. W e have then all these historical d i s
courses, and they form a very closely woven w e b , no matter w h a t

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their historical theses or political objectives may be. Now the fact that
this epistemic web is so t i g h t l y woven certainly does not mean that
everyone is t h i n k i n g along the same lines. It is in fact a precondition
for not t h i n k i n g along the same lines or for t h i n k i n g along different
lines; and it is that w h i c h m a k e s the differences politically pertinent.
If different subjects are to be able to s p e a k , to occupy different tactical
positions, and if they are to be able to find themselves in mutually
adversarial positions, there has to be a tight field, there h a s to be a
very t i g h t l y woven n e t w o r k to r e g u l a r i z e historical k n o w l e d g e . A s the
field of k n o w l e d g e becomes more regular, it becomes increasingly pos
sible for the subjects w h o s p e a k w i t h i n it to be d i v i d e d along strict
lines of confrontation, a n d it becomes increasingly possible to make
the contending discourses function as different tactical units w i t h i n
overall strategies ( w h i c h are not s i m p l y a matter of discourse and
t r u t h , but also of power, status, a n d economic i n t e r e s t s ) . The tactical
reversibility of the discourse is, in other w o r d s , directly proportional
to the homogeneity of the field in w h i c h it is formed. It is the reg
u l a r i t y of the epistemological field, the homogeneity of the discourse's
mode of formation, that a l l o w s it to be used in struggles that are
extradiscursive. That, then, is the methodological reason w h y I em
phasized that the different discursive tactics are distributed across a
historico-political field that is coherent,
woven.

regular, and very tightly

21

I also stress it for a second reasona factual reasonpertaining to


w h a t happened at the time of the Revolution. W h a t I mean is this:
Leaving aside the last form of discourse that I have just been telling
you about ( B r e q u i g n y or C h a p s a l ) , you can see that, basically, those
w h o had the least interest in investing their political projects in his
tory were of course the people of the bourgeoisie or the T h i r d Estate,
because going b a c k to a constitution or d e m a n d i n g a return to some
thing r e s e m b l i n g an e q u i l i b r i u m of forces i m p l i e s in some w a y that
you k n o w w h e r e you stand in that e q u i l i b r i u m of forces. N o w it w a s
quite obvious that the T h i r d Estate or the bourgeoisie could scarcely,
at least u n t i l the m i d d l e of the M i d d l e A g e s , identify itself as a h i s
torical subject w i t h i n the play of relations of force. So long as history

5 March

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209

concentrated on the M e r o v i n g i a n s , the C a r o l i n g i a n s , the Frankish i n


v a d e r s , or e v e n C h a r l e m a g n e , how c o u l d it find anything relating to
t h e T h i r d Estate or t h e b o u r g e o i s i e ? W h i c h is w h y , whatever has been
s a i d to the c o n t r a r y , the b o u r g e o i s i e w a s , in the eighteenth century,
certainly the class that w a s most hostile, most resistant to history. In
a profound sense, it w a s the aristocracy that w a s historical. The mon
arch w a s historical, a n d so too w e r e the parlement'aires.

But for a long

time, the bourgeoisie remained antihistoncist or, if you like, a n t i h i s tonc.


The antihistoric character of the bourgeoisie manifests itself in t w o
w a y s . First, throughout the w h o l e of the first half of the eighteenth
century, the bourgeoisie tended to be in favor of an enlightened d e s
potism, or in other w o r d s , of a w a y of m o d e r a t i n g monarchical power
that w a s not grounded in history but in the restrictions imposed by
k n o w l e d g e , philosophy, technology, and a d m i n i s t r a t i o n . A n d t h e n in
the second half of the eighteenth century, and especially before the
Revolution, the bourgeoisie t r i e d to escape the a m b i e n t

histoncism

by d e m a n d i n g a constitution w h i c h w a s precisely not a re-constitution


a n d w h i c h w a s essentially, if not antihistorical, at least ahistorical.
Hence, as you can u n d e r s t a n d , the recourse to n a t u r a l right, the re
course to something like the social contract. The Rousseauism of the
bourgeoisie at the end of the e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y , before and d u r i n g
the Revolution, w a s a direct response to the h i s t o n c i s m of the other
political subjects w h o were fighting in the field of theory a n d histor
ical analysis. Being a Rousseauist, a p p e a l i n g to the savage and a p
pealing to the contract, w a s a w a y of escaping an entire landscape
that had been defined bv the b a r b a r i a n , his history, and his relation
ship w i t h civilization.
T h i s a n t i h i s t o n c i s m of the bourgeoisie obviously d i d not r e m a i n
unchanged, a n d it w a s no obstacle to a complete r e a r t i c u l a t i o n of
history. You will see t h a t at the moment w h e n the Estates General
w e r e called, the registers of g r i e v a n c e s are full of historical references,
but the most important

are, of course, those made by the nobility

itself. A n d w h e n the bourgeoisie in its turn reactivated a whole series


of historical k n o w l e d g e s , it w a s simplv responding to the m u l t i p l e

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references that had been made to the capitulars, to the Edict of Piste,

22

and to the practices of the Merovingians and the Carolingians. It was


a sort of polemical reply to the multiplicity of historical references
you find in the nobility's register of grievances. And then you have a
second reactivation of history, which is probably more important and
more interesting. I refer to the reactivation, during the Revolution
itself, of a certain number of moments or historical forms that function
as, if you like, the splendors of history. Their reappearance in the
Revolution's vocabulary, institutions, signs, manifestations, festivals
made it possible to visualize it as a cycle and a return.
So the juridical Rousseauism that had long been its main theme
led, in some sense, to the reactivation of two great historical forms
during the Revolution. On the one hand, you have the reactivation
of Rome, or rather of the Roman city, or in other words, of an archaic
Rome that was both republican and virtuous, rather than the GalloRoman city with its freedoms and its prosperity. Hence the Roman
festival, or the political rituahzation of a historical form which, in
constitutional or basic terms, derived from those freedoms. The other
figure to be reactivated is that of Charlemagne; w e have seen the role
Mably gave him and how he became the point where Frankish and
Gallo-Roman
summoned

freedoms

merged; Charlemagne was the man

the people to the Champ

who

de Mars. Charlemagne as

sovereign-warrior, but also as the protector of trade and the towns.


Charlemagne as both Germanic king and Roman emperor. Right from
the beginning of the Revolution, a whole Carolingian dream unfolds,
and it goes on unfolding throughout the Revolution, but much less
has been said about it than about the Roman festival. The festival
held on the Champ de Mars on 14 J u l y 1 7 8 9 is a Carolingian festival;
it takes place on the Champ de Mars itself, and it permits the reconstitution or reactivation of a certain relationship between the people
gathered there and their sovereign. And the modality of that rela
tionship is Carohngian. That kind of implicit historical vocabulary is
at least present in the festival of 14 July 1 7 8 9 . The best proof of that
is that in June 1 7 8 9 , or a few weeks before the festival, someone in
the Jacobin Club demanded that in the course of the festival, Louis

3 March

1976

211

X V I should forfeit the title of king, that the title of king should be
replaced by that of emperor, that w h e n he passed by, the cry should
not be "Long live the king!" but "Louis the Emperor!" because the
man who is emperor "imperat sed not regit": he commands but does not
govern, because he is an emperor and not a king. According to this
project, Louis X V I should return from the Champ de Mars with the
imperial crown on his head.

23

A n d it is of course at the point where

the Carolingian dream ( w h i c h is not very well k n o w n ) and the Ro


man dream meet that we find the Napoleonic empire.
The other form of historical reactivation that we find in the Rev
olution is the execration of feudalism, or of what Antraigues, a noble
who had rallied to the bourgeoisie, called "the most terrible scourge
that heaven, in its anger, could have visited upon a free nation."

24

Now, this execration of feudalism takes several forms. First, a straight


forward inversion of Boulainvilhers's thesis, or the invasion thesis.
And so you find texts which saythis one is by Abbe Proyart: "Lis
ten, you Frankish gentlemen. We outnumber you by a thousand to
one; we have been your vassals for long enough, now you become our
vassals. It pleases us to come into the heritage of our fathers."

25

That

is what Abbe Proyart wanted the Third Estate to say to the nobility.
And in his famous text on the Third Estate, to which I will come
back next time, Sieyes said: "Why not send them all back to the forests
of Franconia, all these families that still make the insane claim that
they are descended from a race of conquerors, and that they have
inherited the right of conquest?"

26

And in either 1 7 9 5 or 1 7 9 6 1

can't rememberBoulay de la M e u r t h e said, after the mass emigration


of the nobility: "The emigres represent the last vestiges of a conquest
from which the French nation has gradually liberated itself."

27

What you see taking shape here will be just as important in the
early nineteenth century: the French Revolutionand the political
and social struggles that went on during itare being reinterpreted
in terms of the history of races. And it is no doubt this execration of
feudalism that supplies the context for the ambiguous celebration of
the gothic that we see appearing in the famous medieval novels of the
revolutionary period, in those gothic novels that are at once tales of

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terror, fear, and mystery, and political novels. They are a l w a y s about
the abuse of p o w e r and exactions; they are fables about unjust sov
ereigns, pitiless and bloodthirsty seigneurs, arrogant priests, and so
on. The gothic novel is both science fiction a n d politics fiction: politics
fiction

in the sense that these novels essentially focus on the abuse of

power, and science fiction in the sense that their function is to re


activate, at the level of the imaginary, a w h o l e k n o w l e d g e about feu
dalism, a w h o l e k n o w l e d g e about the gothica k n o w l e d g e that has,
basically, a g o l d e n age. It w a s not l i t e r a t u r e and it w a s not the imag
ination that introduced the themes of the gothic and feudalism at the
end of the e i g h t e e n t h century, and they w e r e neither new nor reno
vated in a n y absolute sense. They were in fact inscribed in the order
of the i m a g i n a r y to the precise extent that the gothic and feudalism
h a d been a n issue in w h a t was now a h u n d r e d - y e a r - l o n g struggle at
the level of k n o w l e d g e a n d forms of power. Long before the

first

gothic novel, almost a century before it, there had been a r g u m e n t s


over w h a t the feudal lords, their fiefs, their powers, and their forms
of domination meant in both historical a n d political terms. The w h o l e
of the e i g h t e e n t h century w a s obsessed w i t h the p r o b l e m of feudalism
at the level of right, history, and politics. And it w a s only at the time
of the Revolutionor a hundred years after all that w o r k had been
done at the level of k n o w l e d g e and the level of politicsthat there
was

finally

a t a k i n g up again of these themes, at the level of the

imaginary, in these science-fiction and politics-fiction novels. It was


in this domain, therefore, that you had the gothic novel. But all this
has to be situated in the context of the history of k n o w l e d g e and of
the political tactics that it m a k e s possible. A n d so, next time, I will
talk to y o u about history as a r e w o r k i n g of the Revolution.

3 March

1976

21}

1. This is obviously a reworking and genealogical reformulation of the fields of knowledge


and forms of discursivity that Foucault discusses in "archaeological" terms in Les Mots
et les choses (The Order of Things).
2. The medical doctrine of "constitution" has a long history, but Foucault is presumably
referring to the anatomo-pathological theory that was formulated in the eighteenth cen
tury on the basis of the work of Sydenham, Le Brun, and Bordeu, and which was further
developed in the first half of the nineteenth century by Bichat and the Pans school. See
Naissance de la clinique (Birth of the C/m/c).
3- In his discussion of the "decline" and "decadence" of ancient Rome in his Essai sur la
noblesse de Trance contenant une dissertation sur son origine et abaissement (which was probably
written in about 1 7 0 0 , and which was published in 1730 in his Continuation des memoires
de littemtwe,
vol. 1 0 ) , Boulainvilhers accepts that decadence is "the common destiny of
all States that exist for a long time," and then adds: "The world is the plaything of a
continuous succession; why should the nobility and its privileges be an exception to the
general rule?" Nevertheless, he remarks of this succession that "One of our children will
no doubt pierce the darkness in which we live and restore its ancient luster to our
name" (p. 85)- A contemporary version of the idea of a cycle is also to be found in G. B.
Vico's Scien^a nuova (Naples, 1725 ) In his Astrvlogie mondiale of 1711 (which was published
by Renee Simon in 1 9 l 9 ) , Boulainvilhers formulates what might be called the preHegelian idea of "the transfer of monarchies from one country or nation to another."
This, according to Boulainvilhers, involves an "order" in which "nothing is ever fixed,
because no society will endure forever and because the greatest and most feared empires
are subject to destruction by the same means as those who created them; other societies
will be born of them, will wear them down by force and persuasion, will conquer the
old societies and subdue them in their turn" (pp. 141-42).
z

4- "A proud, brutal people without a homeland and without laws . . . The French could
even tolerate atrocious acts of violence on the part of their chief because, for them, they
were in keeping with public morals." G. B. de Mably, Observations sur Vhistoin de Trance
(Paris, 1823), chap. 1, p . 6 (first ed., Geneva, 1765).
5-N. de Bonneville, Histoire de fEurope moderne depuis tirruption
des peuples du Nord dans
I'Empire rvmain jusqu'a la paix de 7735 (Geneva, 1 7 8 9 ) , vol. 1, part 1, p. 2 0 . The quotation
ends: "The sword was their right, and they exercised it without remorse, as though it
were a natural right."
6. "Poor, uncouth, without trade, without art, without industry, but free." Les Chaines de
I'esclavage.
Ouvrage destine a de'velopper les noirs attentats des princes contre le peuple (chapter
entitled "Des vices de la constitution politique"), an I (reprinted: Paris: LJnion generale
des editions, 1 9 8 8 ) , p. 30.
7. C. L.G. comte du Buat-Nancay, Elements de la politique, vol. 1, book 1, chaps. 1-11, "De
J'egalite des hommes." W e have been unable to trace this quotation (if it is a quotation),
but this could be its context.
8. Foucault is alluding to the study group which, from 1948 onward, began to gather around
Cornelius Castoriadis and which began to publish Socialisme ou barbaric in 1 9 4 9 . The
journal ceased publication in 1 9 6 5 , with issue 4 0 . LJnder the leadership of Castoriadis
and Claude Lefort, this group of dissident Trotskyists, activists, and intellectuals (who
included Edgar M o n n , Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean Laplanche, and Gerard Genette)
developed such themes as the critique of the Soviet regime, the question of direct de
mocracy, and the critique of reformism.
9- Robert Desnos, "Description d'une revoke prochaine," La Revolution surrealist?, no. 3,
April 1 9 2 5 , p. 25; reprinted in La Revolution surre'aliste ( 1 9 2 4 - 1 9 2 9 ) (Paris, 1975 [facsimile
edition]).

214

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

1 0 . J . - N . Dubos, Histoire critique de Ntahlissement de la monarchicfrancaise


dans les Gaules (Pans,
1734).
11. J.-N. Moreau, Lemons de morale, de politique et de droit public, puise'es dans Vhistoire del a monarchic
(Versailles, 1773); Expose historique des administrations populaires aux plus anciennes epoques de
notre monarchic (Paris, 1 7 8 9 ) ; Defense de notre constitution monarchique franchise, precede'e de
I'Histoire de toutes nos assemblies nationales ( Pans, 1789).
12. An old expression meanjng "to treat someone as the Turks treat the Moors." Dubos
writes: "I ask the reader to pay particular attention to the natural humor or the inhab
itants or Gaul, who, in the absence or any proof to the contrary, have never been regarded
in any century as being stupid or cowardly: as we shall see, it is impossible tor a handful
of Franks to treat the one million Romans living in Gaul de turc a Maure." Histoire critique,
vol. 4. book 6, pp. 212-13.
13. For Dubos's critique of Boulainvilliers, see ibid., chaps. 8 and 9.
14. It seems that only the last sentence is a direct quotation. Having spoken of the usurpation
of royal offices and of how the commissions granted to the dukes and counts were
converted into hereditary dignities, Dubos writes: "It was at this time that the Gauls
became a conquered land." Ibid., book 4, p. 2 9 0 (1742 ed.).
15. G.-B. de Mably, Observations sur I'kistoire de France.
16. N. de Bonneville, Histoire de I'Europe moderne depui* I'irruption des peuples du Nord.
17. Mably, Observations,
p. 6.
18. L. G. O. F. de Brequigny, Diplomata, chartae, epistolae et alia monumenta ad resJranciscas
spectantia (Pans, 1679-1783); Ordonnances des rot's de France de la troisieme race (Pans, vol. 11,
1769, vol. 12, 1776).
19. J.-F. Chapsal, Discours sur la feodalite et I'allodia/ite, suivi de Dissertations sur le france-alleu des
coutumes d'Auvergne,
du Bourbonnais, du Nivernois, de Champagne (Pans, 1791).
2 0 . R. J . Turgot, Memoire sur les municipalites (Paris, 1776).
21. This passage makes a significant contribution to the debates and controversies provoked
by the concept of the episteme, which Foucault elaborates in Les Mots et les choses and
then reworks in L'Arche'ologie du savoir, part 4, chap. 6.
22. A council held in Pistes (or Pistres) in 8 6 4 under the influence of Archbishop Hincmar.
Its resolutions are known as the Edict of Pistes. The organization of the monetary system
was discussed, the destruction of castles built by seigneurs was ordered, and several
towns were given the right to mint coins. The assembly put Pipin II of Aquitaine on
trial and declared that he had forfeited his position.
23. The reference is to a motion put to the Jacobin Club on 17 June 1789. Cf. F.-A. Aulard,
La Societe des jacobins (Paris, 1 8 8 9 - 1 8 9 7 ) , vol. 1, p. 15324. E. L. H. L., comte d'Antraigues, Memoires sur la constitution des Etats provinciaux (Vivarois,
1788), p. 61.
25. L. B. Proyart, Vie du Dauphin pere de Louis XV (Paris and Lyon, 1872), vol. 1, pp. 357-58,
cited in A. Devyer, Le Sang epure, p. 370.
26. E.-J. Sicyes, Qu'est-ce que le Tiers-Etat, chap. 2, pp. 10-11. In the original, the sentence
begins: "Why shouldn't it [the Third Estate) . . . "
27. A. J . Boulay de la Meurthe, Rapport presentt Ie 25 Vende'miaire an VI au Conset'l des CinqCents sur les mesures d'ostracisme, d'exil, d expulsion les plus convenables aux principes de justice et
de liberie, et les plus propres a consolider la republique, cited in A. Devyer, Le Sange'pure, p. 415.

ten

10

it

The political

Revolution:

f
I

historical

reworking
Sieyes.

discourse.

domination

MARCH

1976

of the idea of the nation during the

- Theoretical

implications

- The new history's

and totalization.
Thierry.

grids of

- Montlosier

- Birth of the

and effects on

and

intelligibility:
Augustin

dialectic.

I T H I N K T H A T IN trie eighteenth century it w a s essentially, a n d


almost e x c l u s i v e l y , the discourse of history t h a t m a d e w a r the p r i
mary, a n d almost exclusive, a n a l y z e r of political relations. The d i s
course of history, then, a n d not the discourse of right a n d not the
discourse of political t h e o r y ( w i t h its contracts, its savages, its men
of the p r a i r i e s a n d the forests, its s t a t e s of n a t u r e a n d its w a r of every
man against every man, a n d so o n ) . It w a s not that; it w a s the d i s
course of history. So I w o u l d now l i k e to show you how, in a r a t h e r
paradoxical w a y , the element of w a r , w h i c h a c t u a l l y constituted h i s
torical i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y in the e i g h t e e n t h century, w a s from the Revo
lution o n w a r d g r a d u a l l y , if not

e l i m i n a t e d from

the

discourse of

history, at least reduced, restricted, colonized, settled, scattered, civ


ilized if you like, and u p to a point pacified. T h i s is because it w a s ,
after all, history ( a s w r i t t e n by B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , or B u a t - N a n c a y , not
that it m a t t e r s ) that conjured u p the great threat: the great danger t h a t
we w o u l d be caught up in a w a r w i t h o u t end; the great d a n g e r that
all our relations, w h a t e v e r they might be, w o u l d a l w a y s be of the
order of domination. A n d it is this twofold threata w a r w i t h o u t

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

1 0 . J . - N . Dubos, Histoire critique de I'e'tablissement

DEFENDED"

de la monarchic franqaise

dans les Gaules (Paris,

1734).
11. J . - N . Moreau, Ltcpns de morale, de politique et dedwit public, puise'es dans t histoire dela monarchic
(Versailles, 1773); Expose hi storique des administrations popul aires aux plus anciennes epoques de
notre monanhie
(Pans, 1 7 8 9 ) ; Defense de notre constitution monajxhique franchise, pre'cede'e de
I'Histoire de toutes nos assemblies nationales (Pans, 1 7 8 9 ) .
12. An old expression meaning "to treat someone as the Turks treat the Moors/* Dubos
writes: "I ask the reader to pay particular attention to the natural humor of the inhab
itants of Gaul, who, in the absence of any proof to the contrary, have never been regarded
in any century as being stupid or cowardly: as we shall see, it is impossible for a handful
of Franks to treat the one million Romans living in Gaul de tun d Maure." Histoire critique,
vol. 4, book 6, pp. 212-13.
13. For Dubos's critique of Boulainvilliers, see ibid., chaps. 8 and 9 .
14. It seems that only the last sentence is a direct quotation. Having spoken of the usurpation
of royal offices and of how the commissions granted to the dukes and counts were
converted into hereditary dignities, Dubos writes: "It was at this time that the Gauls
became a conquered land." Ibid., book 4, p. 2 9 0 (1742 ed.).
15- G. B. de Mably, Observations sur I'histoire de France.
16. N. de Bonneville, Histoire de I'Europe moderne depuh I'irruption des peuples du Nord.
17. Mably, Observations,
p. 6.
18. L. G. O. F. de Brequigny, Diplomata, chartae, epistolae et alia monumenta ad res franciscas
spectantia (Pans, 1679-1783); Ordonnances
des wis de France de la tnineme race (Paris, vol. 11,
1 7 6 9 , vol. 12, 1776).
19-J.-F. Chapsal, Discours sur la fe'odalite et I'allodialite, suivi de Dissertations sur lefrance-alleu
des
coutumes d'Auvergne, du Bourbonnais,
du Nivernois, de Champagne (Pans, 1791).
20. R.-J. Turgot, Memoire sur les municipalites (Pans, 1776).
21. This passage makes a significant contribution to the debates and controversies provoked
by the concept of the episteme, which Foucault elaborates in Les Mots et les choses and
then reworks in LArche'ologie
du savoir, part 4, chap. 6.
22. A council held in Pistes ( or Pistres) in 864 under the influence of Archbishop Hincmar.
Its resolutions are known as the Edict of Pistes. The organization of the monetary system
was discussed, the destruction of castles built by seigneurs was ordered, and several
towns were given the right to mint coins. The assembly put Pipin II of Aquitaine on
trial and declared that he had forfeited his position.
23. The reference is to a motion put to the Jacobin Club on 17 June 1789. Cf. F. A. Aulard,
La Societe des jacobins (Pans, 1 8 8 9 - 1 8 9 7 ) , vol. 1, p. 15324. E. L. H. L., comte d'Antraigues, Me'moires sur la constitution des Etats prvvinciaux (Vivarois,
1 7 8 8 ) , p. 61.
25. L. B. Proyart, Vie du Dauphin pere de Louis XV (Pans and Lyon, 1872), vol. 1, pp. 357-58,
cited in A. Devyer, Le Sang epure, p. 370.
26. E.-J. Sieyes, Qu'est-ce que le Tiers-Etat, chap. 2, pp. 10-11. In the original, the sentence
begins: "Why shouldn't it [the Third Estate] . . . "
27. A. J. Boulay de la Meurthe, Rapport presente le 25 Vendemiaire an VI au Conseil des CinqCents sur les mesures d'ostracisme, d'exil, d'expulsion les plus convenables aux principes de justice et
de liberie, et les plus prvp/es d consolider la republique, cited in A. Devyer, Le Sang epure, p. 415-

ten

10

The political
Revolution:
historical

!
^

reworking
Sieyes.

discourse.

domination

MARCH

of the idea of the nation during the

- Theoretical

implications

- The new history's

and totalisation.
Thierry.

1976

- Montlosier

- Birth of the

and effects on

grids of
and

intelligibility:
Augustin

dialectic.

I T H I N K T H A T I N the eighteenth c e n t u r y it was essentially, a n d


almost exclusively, the discourse of history t h a t m a d e w a r the p r i
m a r y , and a l m o s t exclusive, a n a l y z e r of political r e l a t i o n s . The d i s
course of history, then, and not the d i s c o u r s e of r i g h t a n d not the
discourse of political t h e o r y ( w i t h its contracts, its savages, its m e n
of the p r a i r i e s a n d the forests, its states of n a t u r e a n d i t s w a r of every
m a n against every m a n , and so o n ) . It w a s not that; it w a s the d i s
course of h i s t o r y . So I w o u l d now l i k e to show you h o w , in a r a t h e r
paradoxical w a y , the element of w a r , w h i c h a c t u a l l y constituted h i s
torical i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y in the e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y , w a s from the R e v o
lution o n w a r d g r a d u a l l y , if not e l i m i n a t e d from

the discourse of

history, at least reduced, restricted, colonized, settled, scattered, civ


ilized if you l i k e , a n d u p to a point pacified. This is because it w a s ,
after all, history ( a s written b y B o u l a i n v i l h e r s , or B u a t - N a n c a y , not
t h a t it matters ) that conjured u p the great threat: the great danger t h a t
we w o u l d be caught u p in a w a r w i t h o u t end; the great danger t h a t
all our relations, whatever they m i g h t be, w o u l d a l w a y s be of the
order of domination. A n d it is this twofold threata w a r w i t h o u t

216

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

end as the basis of history and the relationship of domination as the


e x p l a n a t o r y element in historythat w i l l , in the historical discourse
of the nineteenth century, be lessened, b r o k e n down into regional
threats and transitory episodes, and retranscribed in the form of crises
and violence. What is more important still is, I think, the fact that
this danger is, essentially, destined to fade a w a y in the end, not in
the sense that w e w i l l achieve the good and true e q u i l i b r i u m that the
e i g h t e e n t h - c e n t u r y historians w e r e t r y i n g to find, but in the sense
that reconciliation w i l l come about.
I do not think that this inversion of the problem of w a r w i t h i n the
discourse of history is an effect of its transplantation or, so to speak, of
the fact that a dialectical p h i l o s o p h y took control. I t h i n k that w h a t oc
curred

w a s something

like

an internal

dialecticalization, a self-

dialecticalization of historical discourse, and that there is an obvious


connection b e t w e e n this and its embourgeoisement. The p r o b l e m we
have to u n d e r s t a n d is this: How, after this displacement (if not d e c l i n e )
of the role of w a r w i t h i n historical discourse, does the relationship of
w a r w h i c h has been mastered w i t h i n historical discoursereappear,
but this time w i t h a negative role, w i t h a sort of external r o l e ? Its role
is no longer to constitute h i s t o r y but to protect and preserve society,
w a r is no longer a condition of existence for society a n d political rela
tions, b u t the precondition for its survival in its political relations. At
this point, we see the emergence of the idea of an internal w a r that de
fends society against t h r e a t s born of and in its own body. The idea of so
cial w a r makes, if you l i k e , a great retreat from the historical to the
biological, from the constituent to the medical.
Today I am g o i n g to t r y to describe the process of the autodialecticalization, and therefore the embourgeoisement, of history, of
historical discourse. Last time, I t r i e d to show you how and w h y , in
the historico-political field that was constituted in the eighteenth cen
tury, it w a s u l t i m a t e l y the bourgeoisie that w a s in the most difficult
position, that found it most difficult to use the discourse of history
as a w e a p o n in the political fight. I w o u l d now like to show y o u how
certain obstacles w e r e removed. This c e r t a i n l y did not occur because
the bourgeoisie at some point somehow a c q u i r e d a history or recog-

70

March

7976

217

n i z e d i t s o w n history, b u t a s a result of something v e r y specific: the


r e w o r k i n g i n p o l i t i c a l a n d not historical termsof the famous notion
of the "nation," which the aristocracy h a d made both the subject and
the object of h i s t o r y in the eighteenth century. It w a s that role, that
political r e w o r k i n g of the nation, of the i d e a of the nation, that led
to the transformation

that made a new type of historical discourse

possible. A n d I will t a k e S i e y e s ' s famous text on the T h i r d Estate as,


if not e x a c t l y a s t a r t i n g point, an e x a m p l e of t h i s transformation. A s
you know, the text asks three questions: "What is the Third Estate?
Everything. W h a t has it been u n t i l now in the political o r d e r ? N o t h
ing. W h a t is it a s k i n g to be? To become s o m e t h i n g in that

order."

The t e x t is both famous and h a c k n e y e d , but if w e look at it a l i t t l e


more closely, it does, I t h i n k , b r i n g a b o u t a n u m b e r of essential t r a n s
formations.
S p e a k i n g of the nation, you k n o w in general t e r m s ( I am g o i n g
over things I have a l r e a d y said in order to s u m m a r i z e t h e m ) that the
absolute m o n a r c h y ' s thesis w a s that the nation d i d not exist, or at
least that if it d i d exist, it did so only to the extent that it found its
condition of possibility, and its substantive unity, in the person of the
king. The nation did not exist s i m p l y because there w a s a g r o u p , a
crowd, or a m u l t i p l i c i t y of i n d i v i d u a l s i n h a b i t i n g the same l a n d ,
speaking the same language, a n d o b s e r v i n g the same c u s t o m s and the
s a m e l a w s . T h a t is not w h a t m a k e s a nation. W h a t m a k e s a nation is
the fact that there exist i n d i v i d u a l s who, insofar as they exist a l o n g
side one another, are no more than i n d i v i d u a l s a n d do not even form
a u n i t . But they do all h a v e a certain i n d i v i d u a l relationshipboth
j u r i d i c a l a n d p h y s i c a l w i t h the real, living, a n d b o d i l y person of the
king. It is the b o d y of the king, in his p h y s i c o - j u n d i c a l r e l a t i o n s h i p
w i t h each of his subjects, that c r e a t e s the b o d y of the nation. A jurist
of the late e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y said: "Every p a r t i c u l a r subject r e p r e
sents only a single i n d i v i d u a l to the k i n g . " * The nation does not

T h e manuscript has "the king represents the entire nation and" before "everv particular."
The reference for the quotation is given as "P. E. Leraontev, Ckurrcs, Paris, vol. V, 1 8 2 9
p. 15."

218

"SOCIETY

MUST

BE

DEFENDED"

constitute a body. The nation in its e n t i r e t y resides in the person of


the king. And the n o b i l i a r y reaction derived a m u l t i p l i c i t y of nations
( w e l l , at least t w o ) from this n a t i o n w h i c h is in a sense merely a
juridical effect of the b o d y of the king, and w h i c h is real only because
of the u n i q u e and i n d i v i d u a l r e a l i t y of the king. The nobiliary reaction
then

establishes relations of w a r and

domination

between

those

nations; it makes the k i n g a n i n s t r u m e n t that one nation can use to


w a g e w a r on and dominate another. It is not the k i n g w h o constitutes
the nation; a nation acquires a king for the specific purpose of fighting
other nations. A n d the history w r i t t e n by the nobiliary reaction made
those relations the w e b of historical i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y .
W e find a v e r y different definition of the nation in Sieyes, or rather
a double definition. On the one hand, a j u r i d i c a l state. Sieyes says
that if a nation is to exist, it must have t w o things: a common l a w
2

and a l e g i s l a t u r e . So much for the j u r i d i c a l state. This initial defini


tion of the nation ( o r rather this first set of essential preconditions
for the existence of a n a t i o n ) demandsbefore

we can s p e a k of a

nationmuch less than w a s d e m a n d e d by the definition advanced by


the absolute monarchy. The nation does not, in other w o r d s , need a
k i n g in order to exist. It is not even necessary for there to be a
government. Provided that it is e n d o w e d w i t h a common l a w because
there is an agency that is qualified to establish laws, the nation exists
even before any government is formed, even before the sovereign is
born, and even before power is delegated. That agency is the legis
lature itself. So the nation is m u c h less than w h a t w a s r e q u i r e d by
the absolute monarchy's definition. But in another sense, it is much
more than what w a s required b y the nobiliary reaction's definition.
According to that definition, and according to history as w r i t t e n by
Boulainvilhers, all that was r e q u i r e d for the nation to exist were men
who were b r o u g h t together by certain interests, and who had a certain
number of things in common, such as customs, habits, and possibly a
language.
If there is to be a nation, there must, according to Sieyes, be explicit
laws, and agencies to formulate them. The l a w - l e g i s l a t u r e couple is

TO March

J9V6

219

the formal precondition for the existence of a nation. This is, however,
only the first stage of the definition. If a nation is to survive, if its
l a w is to be applied and if its legislature is to be recognized ( n o t only
abroad, or by other nations, but a l s o w i t h i n the nation itself), if its
survival a n d prosperity a r e to be not only a formal precondition for
its juridical existence, but also a historical precondition for its e x i s
tence in history, then there must be s o m e t h i n g else, other precondi
tions. Sieyes now t u r n s his attention to these other preconditions.
They are in a sense the substantive preconditions for the existence of
the nation, and Sieyes d i v i d e s t h e m into t w o groups. T h e first are
w h a t he c a l l s " w o r k s , " or first, a g r i c u l t u r e ; second, handicrafts a n d
i n d u s t r y ; t h i r d , t r a d e ; and, fourth, the l i b e r a l arts. But in a d d i t i o n to
these " w o r k s , " there must also be w h a t he c a l l s "functions": the a r m y ,
5

justice, the church, and the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n . " W o r k s " and "functions";


w e w o u l d no doubt use the more accurate terms "functions"

and

" a p p a r a t u s e s " to describe these t w o sets of historical p r e r e q u i s i t e s for


nationhood. The important point is, however, that it is at this level of
functions and apparatuses that the nation's historical conditions of e x
istence are defined. By defining t h e m at this level, a n d by i n t r o d u c i n g
historical conditions as jundico-formal preconditions for nationhood,
Sieyes i s , I t h i n k ( a n d t h i s is the first t h i n g that has to be pointed o u t ) ,
reversing the direction of all previous analyses, no matter w h e t h e r they
adopted the monarchist thesis or took a Rousseauist line.
Indeed, so long as the j u r i d i c a l definition of the nation p r e v a i l e d ,
w h a t w e r e the e l e m e n t s a g r i c u l t u r e , commerce, i n d u s t r y , et cetera
that Sieyes isolates as the substantive preconditions for the existence
of t h e n a t i o n ? They w e r e not a precondition for the nation's existence;
on the c o n t r a r y , they w e r e effects of the nation's existence. It w a s
precisely w h e n men, or i n d i v i d u a l s s c a t t e r e d across the surface of the
l a n d , on the e d g e s of the forests or on the p l a i n s , decided to develop
their a g r i c u l t u r e , to t r a d e and to be able to have economic r e l a t i o n s
w i t h one another, t h a t they gave themselves a l a w , a S t a t e , or a gov
ernment. In other w o r d s , all these functions w e r e in fact effects of the
juridical constitution of the nation, or at least its consequences. It w a s

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only w h e n the juridical constitution of the nation w a s an established


fact that these functions could be deployed. Nor w e r e apparatuses
such as the army, justice, and the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n preconditions

for

the existence of the nation; they w e r e , if not effects, at least its in


struments a n d guarantors. It w a s only w h e n the nation had

been

constituted that it could a c q u i r e things l i k e an a r m y or a system of


justice.
So you see, Sieyes inverts the analysis. His w o r k s and functions, or
these functions and a p p a r a t u s e s , exist before the nationif not in
historical terms, at least in terms of conditions of existence. A nation
can exist as a nation, and can enter history and survive through h i s
tory, only if it is capable of c o m m e r c e , a g r i c u l t u r e , and handicrafts;
only if it has i n d i v i d u a l s w h o are capable of forming an a r m y , a
magistrature, a church, and an administration. This means that a
group of i n d i v i d u a l s can always come together and can a l w a y s give
itself l a w s and a legislature; it can give itself a constitution. If that
group of individuals does not have the capacity for commerce, h a n d
icrafts, and a g r i c u l t u r e , or the ability to form an a r m y , a magistrature,
and so on, it w i l l never, in historical terms, be a nation. It might be
a nation in j u r i d i c a l terms, but never in historical terms. A contract,
a law, or a consensus can never really create a nation. Conversely,
it is perfectly

possible

for

a group

of i n d i v i d u a l s to

have

the

w h e r e w i t h a l , the historical ability to develop w o r k s , to exercise func


tions, w i t h o u t ever h a v i n g been given a common law and a l e g i s l a t u r e .
Such people would, in a sense, be in possession of the substantive and
functional

elements of the nation; they are not in possession of its

formal elements. Thev are capable of nationhood,

but they w i l l not

be a nation.
On the basis of this, it is possible to a n a l y z e a n d Sieyes does
a n a l y z e w h a t he thought w a s going on in France at the end of the
eighteenth century. A g r i c u l t u r e , commerce, handicrafts, and the l i b
eral arts do exist. W h o fulfills these various functions? The Third
Estate, and only the T h i r d Estate. W h o runs the a r m y , the church,
the administration, and the system of j u s t i c e ? W e do of course find

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1976

221

people belonging to t h e aristocracy in important positions, b u t ac


cording to Sieyes, it is the T h i r d Estate that r u n s nine out of ten of
these a p p a r a t u s e s . On the other h a n d , the T h i r d Estate, w h i c h has
assumed responsibility for the nation's substantive conditions of e x
istence, has not been given the formal status of a nation. There are
no common l a w s in France; there is a series of l a w s , some a p p l i c a b l e
to the nobility, some to the T h i r d Estate, and some to the clergy. No
c o m m o n l a w s . No l e g i s l a t u r e either, because l a w s a n d ordinances a r e
1

established b y w h a t Sieyes calls an " a u l i c " system,' meaning a c o u r t l y


system, or a r b i t r a r y r o y a l p o w e r .
This analysis has, I t h i n k , a n u m b e r of implications. Some are o b
v i o u s l y of an i m m e d i a t e l y political o r d e r . T h e y are i m m e d i a t e l y p o
litical in this sense: the point is, y o u see, t h a t France is not a nation,
because it lacks the formal, j u r i d i c a l preconditions for

nationhood:

common l a w s and a l e g i s l a t u r e . A n d yet there is " a " nation in France,


or in other w o r d s , a g r o u p of i n d i v i d u a l s w h o have the potential
capacity to ensure the s u b s t a n t i v e a n d historical existence of the na
tion. These people supply the historical conditions of existence of both
a nation a n d the n a t i o n . H e n c e the c e n t r a l formulation of Sieyes's text,
w h i c h cannot be understood

unless w e q u i t e specifically see it in

terms of its p o l e m i c a l e x p l i c i t l y p o l e m i c a l r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the


theses of B o u l a i n v i l l i e r s , B u a t - N a n c a y , a n d the rest of them: "The
T h i r d Estate is a c o m p l e t e nation."

The formula means this: T h i s

concept of n a t i o n , w h i c h the aristocracy w a n t e d to reserve for a g r o u p


of individuals whose only assets were common customs a n d a common
s t a t u s , is not e n o u g h to describe the historical r e a l i t y of the nation.
But, on the other hand, the Statist e n t i t y constituted b y the k i n g d o m
of France is not really a nation to the e x t e n t that it does not e x a c t l y
coincide w i t h the historical conditions that are necessary and suffi
cient to constitute a nation. Where, then, are w e to find the historical
core of a nation that can become "the" n a t i o n ? In the T h i r d Estate,
and only in the T h i r d Estate. The T h i r d Estate is in itself the historical
precondition for the existence of a nation, b u t that nation should, by
r i g h t s , coincide w i t h the State. The T h i r d Estate is a nation. It con-

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tains the constituent elements of a nation. Or, to translate the same


propositions differently: " A l l that is national is ours," says the Third
Estate, "and all that is ours is the nation."

Sieyes d i d not invent this political formula, and he w a s not alone


in formulating it, b u t it obviously becomes the m a t r i x for a whole
political discourse w h i c h , as you w e l l know, is still not

exhausted

today. The m a t r i x of this political discourse displays, I think, two


characteristics. First, a certain new relationship between p a r t i c u l a r i t y
and u n i v e r s a l i t y , a certain relationship w h i c h is precisely the opposite
of that w h i c h characterized the discourse of the nobiliary reaction.
What, basically, did the nobiliary reaction do? It extracted from the
social body constituted by the k i n g and his subjects, it extracted from
the monarchic u n i t y , a certain s i n g u l a r right that w a s sealed in blood
and asserted by victory: the s i n g u l a r right of the nobles. A n d

it

claimed, whatever the constitution of the social body that surrounded


it, to reserve the absolute and singular privilege of that right for the
nobility; it extracted, then, this p a r t i c u l a r right from the totality of
the social body and made it function

in its singularity. A n d

now,

something quite different is b e g i n n i n g to be said. It is b e g i n n i n g to


be said that, on the contrarv ( a n d this is w h a t the T h i r d Estate w i l l
s a y ) : " W e are no more than one nation among other i n d i v i d u a l s . But
the nation that w e constitute is the only one that can effectively con
stitute the nation. Perhaps w e are not, in ourselves, the totality of the
social body, but w e are capable of guaranteeing the totalizing function
of the State. We are capable of Statist u n i v e r s a l i t y . " A n d so, and this
is the second characteristic of this discourse, w e have an inversion of
the temporal

axis of the demand. The demand

will no longer be

a r t i c u l a t e d in the name of a past right that w a s established by either


a consensus, a victory, or a n invasion. The demand can now be artic
u l a t e d in terms of a potentiality, a future, a future that is immediate,
w h i c h is a l r e a d y present in the present because it concerns a certain
function of Statist universality that is already fulfilled by " a " nation
w i t h i n the social body, and w h i c h is therefore d e m a n d i n g that its
status as a single nation must be effectively recognized, and recognized
in the juridical form of the State.

7 0 March

7976

22}

So m u c h , if y o u l i k e , for the political implications of this t y p e of


analysis and discourse. It has theoretical implications too, a n d they
are as follows. You see, w h a t , in these conditions, defines a nation is
not its archaism, its ancestral nature, or its relationship w i t h the past;
it is its r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h something else, w i t h the State. This means
several things. First, t h a t the nation is not essentially specified by its
relations w i t h other nations. W h a t characterizes "the" nation is not a
horizontal r e l a t i o n s h i p with other groups ( s u c h as other nations, hos
tile or e n e m y n a t i o n s , or the nations w i t h w h i c h it is j u x t a p o s e d ) .
W h a t does characterize the n a t i o n i s , in contrast, a vertical r e l a t i o n
ship b e t w e e n a b o d y of i n d i v i d u a l s w h o are capable of constituting a
State, and the actual existence of the State itself. It is in terms of this
vertical n a t i o n / S t a t e a x i s , or this Statist p o t e n t i a l i t y / S t a t i s t r e a l i z a
tion axis, that the nation is to be c h a r a c t e r i z e d and situated. This also
m e a n s that w h a t constitutes the strength of a nation is not so m u c h
its physical vigor, its m i l i t a r y a p t i t u d e s , or, so to speak, its b a r b a r i a n
intensity, w h i c h is w h a t the noble historians of the early e i g h t e e n t h
century w e r e t r v i n g to describe. W h a t does constitute the strength of
a nation is now s o m e t h i n g like its capacities, its potentialities, a n d
t h e y a r e all organized a r o u n d the figure of the State: the greater a
nation's Statist capacity, or the greater its potential, the stronger it
will be. W h i c h also means that the defining characteristic of a nation
is not r e a l l y its dominance over other nations. The essential function
a n d the h i s t o r i c a l role of the n a t i o n is not defined b y its a b i l i t y to
exercise a r e l a t i o n s h i p of domination over other nations. It is s o m e
thing els