Blogging Foucault’s most recently published lectures, Théories et institutions pénales. II

(Commentary on Theories et institutions pénale. Cours au Collège de France, 1971-1972. Paris: Seuil/Gallimard, 2015)

1st December, 1971

A continuing discussion of popular sedition in which the poorest resist levels of taxation beyond their thresh hold of endurance. Peasant and then town people joined the disturbances, though the urban participation was more sporadic. There were different motives and different strategies at different times, so that in the towns disturbances were directed at the militia and soldiers while in the countryside it was freedom of movement that was targeted.

Despite the variations, all the participations in sedition regarded themselves as part of one movement, that of those in bare feet (les Nu-pieds). The sedition largely, but not exclusively, targeted state representatives engaged in taxation whether through setting up the system, administering the system, benefitting from the contracting out of taxes to private individuals, or the judicial supervision of the system. The seditions was not therefore immediately directed against the rich in an undifferentiated kind of way.

Under this attack, the fiscal apparatus of the state lost social groups it was used to seeing as supporters. A large part of the nobility did not benefit from the system of state taxation in the way that the high nobility did. The bourgeoise (presumably merchants) were losers from the system because the taxation reduced exports and demand from sectors of the population whose incomes were reduced by taxation. The members of the parlements (local courts, full explanation given in the last post) lost from the tax system because it reduced their own rent from lands and because they exacted charges for judicial services, which were less easy to pay when taxes reduced the income of those who might use the courts.

This kind of conflict between state apparatus on one side and the aristocracy with the bourgeoisie on the other side goes back to the time of Philippe le Bel, that is Philip the Fair, King Philip IV who reigned from 1284 to 1305. The state had only intervened when it could rely on the support of some part of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. The system changed in the sixteenth century during the reign of Henry IV (reigned 1589 to 1610) in the stabilisation that followed the end of the Wars of Religion (that is wars between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots, 1562 to 1598).

Henry IV relied on the landowners  (aristocracy presumably) and bourgeoise economically and on the members of parlements for they money they gave to but their office. Until the early eighteenth century, state order rested on there elements. The first element was the that of of the agents of the king, themselves divided between the three areas of taxation, administration, and justice, a system that was in decline but still there. The second element was the citizen militia, the militias were controlled by the urban patricians. The third element was the parlement, which had divided, fractionalised and become autonomous with regard to different localities and functions since the time of Saint Louis. (That is King Louis IX, the Crusader king who reigned from 1226 to 1270, one of the main figures in the history of the medieval French state. It was Louis who instituted the parlement as a single central body within the system of royal justice). These three elements of order could of course be reinforced by the army.

The nobility, the bourgeoise as merchants and the bourgeoise as members of parlements (though this is also known as the nobility of the robe, that is aristocrats who were not in the army and might be related to the landowning military aristocracy or even overlap with it) were necessary to state defined order but were very liable to withdraw support from that order during the seventeenth century because of depressed economic circumstances.

The army was the institution most directly benefitting from the concentration of feudal rents via the royal system of taxation, so was the most reliable institution of state order, though as Foucault points out, it was were the aristocracy sought power, so perhaps hinting at divided interests for the aristocratic army officers. Foucault refers to a period from Richelieu to Louis XIV in France, where justice was armed, was clearly dependent on the army.

(Richelieu refers to Armand Jean du Plessis, 1585-1642, born into the lower aristocracy who became a Cardinal in the Catholic church and Duke of Richelieu. Rising in state service to become Chief Minister to Louis  XIII, he became one of the major actors in the development of the modern French state and a leading example of skill in early modern state craft. The emergence of an eighteenth century art of government is a major theme for Foucault and this account of government in the seventeenth century can be seen as part of the context for that. Richelieu died close in time to Louis XIII, opening the reign of the child king Louis XIV, during which France as reigned by Louis XIII’s widow Anne of Austria in co-operation with Richelieu’s acolyte Cardinal Mazarin. After Mazarin’s death in 1661, the now adult Louis XIV took complete power and established himself as -the model of an absolute European monarch until his death in 1715.)

Blogging Foucault’s most recently published lectures, Théories et institutions pénales. I

The last volume of Michel Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France to be edited has now appeared in print. The volume comprises the lectures he gave in the academic session of 1971 to 1972, that is the second year of his appointment. The volume name is Théories et institutions pénales, and like the other volumes was published by Seuil in collaboration with Gallimard in May of this year. It is of course most obviously connected with Discipline and Punish (Surveiller et punir) amongst the books that Foucault completed and published in his own lifetime.

I’ll be blogging the recent published volume as ‘Penal Theories and Institutions’ lecture by lecture in order to help present Foucault’s work here to an Anglophone audience and generally contribute to the circulation of the ideas contained. An English translation of the volume should be appearing from Palgrave Macmillan sometime within the next two years in the series of Foucault’s Collège de France lectures edited by Arnold I. Davidson and translated by Graham Burchell.

How many lectures I cover in one post, or how many posts I take to cover one lecture will depend on how long the published text is and how much I am inspired to add detail and commentary beyond a basic summary.

24th November, 1971. 

Foucault announces the intention to discuss the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The method will be avoid a point of departure in legislation of penal institutions. He will discuss them in their combined function as systems of repression. These systems have a double aspect, which is that they both repress and are repressed. They are systems which respond to the strategic intentions within relations of force. They are system which put instruments at the disposition of a force which enable to the force to destroy another force, or enfeeble, isolate or disarm the force. ,

The heading of simple principle appears under which Foucault mentions that placing the analysis of the penal in systems of repression enables him to avoid the following ways of thinking about the penal: moral terms of good and evil, sociological terms of deviance and integration, psychological terms of delinquency.

In taking the analysis of systems of repression as the point of departure, it is possible to see how the terms above have a history in which they appear and are reformulated. Foucault now moves onto some seventeenth century events, which are presumably the beginning of the history of systems of repression, along with the other terms which are best understood as products of that history, rather than as terms assumed in order to understand that history.

Foucault begins the account of historical events with popular uprisings in Normandy (northwestern France) in the 1620s and 30s. These are in response both to government activities and economic hardship. However, the illegality was not confined to the unprivileged classes, but included some aristocrats and members of the bourgeoisie resisting state authority, particularly with regard to taxation, and sometimes resorting to violence. Members of a parlement refused to register an edict and marched through the town in full regalia, both calming the local population which had been engaged in violent disorder and giving those who had been involved in violence some protection.

It is necessary to interrupt the exposition of Foucault’s lecture here and explain what a parlement is. It was an important institution in medieval and early modern France, lasting up to the French Revolution. Not only is understanding what it is key to understanding French history of that time it was where two major French writers served, Michel de Montaigne in the sixteenth century and Montesquieu in the eighteenth century.

The parlement of course changed in nature over its long history, but it was always a court in which local notables served as judges and which combined the judicial function with two other functions: registration of royal edicts, which made it the last moment in the legislative process and which they sometimes stretched to include a right to remonstrance or complaint; a sometimes linked role as a representative body for the locality, or region, which might be accepted by the common people as representing them, even though they had no role in appointing it.

It is a particularly French institution, but the intersection of judicial, legislative, and political roles expresses something about the nature of judicial institutions in all times and places for Foucault. There was a time when English language writers would refer to the parlement as a parliament, which risked confusion with the British Parliament, though that can be revealing with regard to the overlapping history of representative, legislative, and judicial bodies.

Foucault’s account here refers to the city of Rouen in Normandy, where he says the parlement  demanded mediation from someone directly representing the king, above the agents sent to them, and that even after the restoration of order the parlement did not ensure the reconstitution of the tax gathering offices which had been physically damaged and morally undermined by riots. Riots in which there was evidently collaboration between local notables, responsible for enforcing royal administration and law, and members of the less privileged classes against the agents of the monarchy.

Kierkegaard as Philosopher of the Novel

My latest post at the group blog New APPS

The idea of a fully articulated philosophy of the novel does not really get going until Georg Lukács wrote Theory of the Novel during World War One, though it was not published until 1921 by which time Lukács’ political world view had changed. There may be some large scale work on the philosophy of the novel I have missed before Lukács, but there is nothing which has lasted as a point of reference.

Of course there is important work on the philosophy of the novel before Lukács in remarks by Friedrich Schlegel (as well as other Romantic ironists), G.W.F. Hegel, and F.W.J. Schelling. Going back further there is some work which indirectly addresses the novel. The New Science of Giambattista Vico is the most obviously relevant since he gives great importance to epic, particularly those attributed to Homer. Not only are there ways in which the novel is the continuation of the epic that give Vico relevance: the way in which Vico places the epic in the context of a transition from heroic-aristocratic world to legal-democratic world sets up thinking about the novel and might have been influenced by the early modern evolution of the novel as a literary form.

For the rest click here.

From the Comments: The Contribution of American Allies to Pax Americana

A comment at Notes On Liberty has been promoted to a post with some comments by the blog owner Brandon Christensen

Notes On Liberty

Dr Stocker answers my concerns about free-riding and rent seeking with this gem:

Good points Brandon. On the rent seeking, I think you are broadly correct, but I would offer two qualifications. European nations/the EU often foot a lot of the bill/take on associated civilian tasks where America has taken military action, so that the US is not subsidising the defence and security needs of Europe quite as much as it might seem. So for example, in the Yugoslav breakup led to US military operations and a comparatively passive role for Europe, but a lot of the afterwork was taken on by Europe and there is no point in military intervention without work on building civil society to create long term security and stability. Going back a bit further to the first Gulf War/expulsion of Saddam from Kuwait, Germany and Japan did pay a lot towards the cost in…

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Myths of Sovereignty and British Isolation, 20. Concluding Remarks

Me at the group blog Notes On Liberty

Notes On Liberty

This series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16i, 16.ii17, 18, 19) has explored a number of ways in which those who support a very sovereign United Kingdom completely separate from the European Union, and even other European institutions like the European Court for Human Rights, which is attached to the Council of Europe rather than the European Union, are attached to unsupportable ideas about the separateness and superiority of England, Britain or the UK.

What Britain’s past was does not prove anything about where it should be now with regard to European institutions, but it is at least possible to say that claims according to which Britain has always stood apart from Europe are false, and so is…

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Myths of Sovereignty and British Isolation XIX, Charters and Constitutions

Reblogging my latest post at the group blog Notes On Liberty, 19th and penultimate in a series on Britain and Europe

Notes On Liberty

The last post discussed the historical role of law. This post finally delivers the promise to discuss constitutions and charters. The sovereigntist Eurosceptic position in Britain standardly includes an elevation of Magna Carta into the greatest document ever in human liberty or, in more moderate versions of this position, certainly the greatest since it was issued in 1215 and the fount of all worthwhile liberties ever since: blessing Britain and countries which might be considered off shoots, like the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (the ‘Anglosphere’), with a unique appreciation of liberty and parliamentary democracy.

While Magna Carta is of course a remarkable document and the moment it was issued was a remarkable historical moment, these claims are a distortion. It was a Latin document issued under duress during civil war conditions, the duress applied to the king by barons, at a time when the the English aristocracy and…

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Myths of Sovereignty and British Isolation XVIII: Laws, Juridification and the Administrative State

My latest post at the group blogs Notes On Liberty

Notes On Liberty

The last post focused on the distinction between civil and common law, with regard to Britain’s position as a common law country in contrast with the civil law tradition of the rest of Europe. The promise at the end was to move onto laws, charters, and constitutions in this post. However, I have found it necessary to discuss the idealisation of common law further and look at how a large part of this looks back to a world which is lost, regardless of predominant legal system as societies have roughly speaking moved from customary law to ‘juridification’ (state centred comprehensive law penetrating all social relations), and then the world we live in now of the administrative state.

The British sovereigntist and Eurosceptic position tends to emphasise a supposed unique British exception from the statist rationalism of civil law, in the ‘common sense’ of the accumulation of law arising from judicial…

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