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

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

15th December, 1971

Picking up from a post of 1st September.

The crushing of the seventeenth Normandy revolts focused on Caen and Rouen was both severe and lenient, legal and savage. Pierre Séguier (senior legal official of King Louis XIII, working in practice for Cardinal Richelieu who was the king’s chief minister and the real head of government, in which role he was famously the model of early modern statecraft) referred to the armed justice of the king. He was drawing on ideas of vigour and justice in medieval political theory and on a well established idea that the royal army was an instrument of justice. However, the combination of the apparatus of justice and the apparatus of repression, their  articulation, was new.

The strategy of armed justice was intermittent and variable, and no less important in understanding the repressive apparatus of the state, and the formation of the relevant institutions. In Normandy armed force came first in breaking the revolts and was followed by ‘justice’ (the operation of state courts). There was a tendency for greater leniency over time, but the courts were also part of the violent repression in the early part of the process, if coming into operation a bit later than the state army.

Foucault refers to the differences between Aquitaine and Normandy. In Aquitaine the governor put down revolt with his own troops, which were available because of the proximity of the border with Spain (Spain and France were principle antagonists in a struggle for the status of leading state in Europe for a large part of the seventeenth century, a classic inter-state power struggle of early modern Europe). In Normandy, the army comes in as an more external factor since there are no large permanent garrisons in this area less sensitive from the point of view of war (though England across the English Channel was also an often antagonistic power). The use of the army in putting down internal revolt in an area away from the threat of invasion showed its importance for the policing, political control and internal repression aspects of the state.

Without troops in  Normandy both the central state and the local notables in the form of the aristocracy, bourgeoisie and members of parlements (local courts with a representative function), were unable to benefit from the centralisation of feudal rents practiced by the state apparatus of that period. This role of the royal army already existed in the Middle Ages, what was new was that was it now clear that the high aristocracy could not mobilise sufficient organised force to play the part it used to in ensuring that rents were paid. Centralised state force was now applied to the privileged as well as the poor in the region. It was now clear that the taxes necessary to pay for war could only be raised by centralised force, not the feudal aristocracy, there was a new role of the central state including its army.

The state was now in conflict with the parlements which as local centres of power had become divided from the financiers. A council of state in which financiers were present was now directing enforcement of authority agains the traditional local source of authority in the parlements, now divided from another source of local authority, the financiers. The council of state served the financiers in sending armed justice to Normandy, in a unified political-military intervention in which the tactics were guided by the need to maintain two separations. That is the separation between town and countryside; the separation between poor and privileged classes.

The dependence of the state on a centralised form of feudal rents meant that the biggest danger to it was of an alliance of the poor and the bourgeois against feudalism, both of whom had reasons to regard feudalism, or at least its impact on them, as parasitic. The military and political operations to separate town and country were associated with the separation between poor and bourgeois. The revolt in Aquitaine showed the dangers of rural and urban rebels coming together and reinforcing each other. The armed operation in Normandy served a political purpose in the tactics and strategy of power. Capitalism was growing in the interstices of feudalism, so that the armed operations both prevented a bourgeois-popular resistance to feudalism and maintained the conditions for this growth of capitalism.

There was a highly violent imposition of order without justice (without the presence of judges and courts) which then gives way to the normal functioning of civil order without a complete end to the violence used to destroy the revolts. In the repression of the revolt, the state upheld a hierarchy as described with regard to its supremacy over local notables and the poor, disguised in theatre. In the theatre, armed force was sent to Normandy to punish the enemies of the king, outlaws and external enemies who could be exposed to unlimited violence.

The more normal agents of civil order such as judges and bishops reappear promising submission to the king and the punishment of his enemies. However, this did not suit Séguier as the agent of royal power, who did not want a collective submission of the people as offered by the Archbishop of Rouen. This would mark the king as external to the people, Séguier wanted royal power inserted as what belonged within the community to separate between the guilt and the innocent, rather than accepting a generalised submission to a king now cast an external force.


2 thoughts on “Blogging Foucault’s most recently published lectures, Théories et institutions pénales. V

  1. Pingback: , since | Progressive Geographies

  2. Pingback: Barry Stocker on Foucault’s Théories et institutions pénales lecture course | Progressive Geographies

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