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Also by Michel Foucault
Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the
Age of Reason
The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
The Archaeology of knowledge (and The Discourse on Language)
The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception
I, Pierre Riviere, having slaughtered tny mother, my sister, and trty
brother… A Case of Parricide iit the Nineteenth Century
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
The History of Sexuality, Volumes 1, 2, and j
Herculine Barbin, Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a
Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite
POWER/KNOWLEDGE
Selected Interviews and Other Writings
1972-1977
Michel Foucault
Edited by
COLIN GORDON
The Foucault Reader (edited ‘by Paul Rabinow)
Translated by
COLIN GORDON, LEO MARSHALL
JOHN MEPHAM, KATE SOPER

Pantheon BookS, New York
Two Lectures
5 TWO LECfURES

II
I

II
I
I
Lecture One: 7 January 1976
I have wanted.to speak to you of my desire to be finished
with , and to somehow terminate a series of researches that
.
have been our concern for some four or five years now, m
effect, frOm the date of my. arrival here, and which, 1 am
well aware, have met with increasing difficulties, both for
you and for myself. Though these researches were very
closely related to each other, they have failed to develop
into any continuous or coherent whole. They are fragmentary researches, none of which in the last analysis can be
said to have proved definitive, nor even to have led ~y­
where. Diffused and at the same time repetitive, they have
continually re-trod the same ground, invoked the same
themes, the same concepts etc.
You will recall my work here, such as it has been: some
brief notes on the history of penal procedure, a chapter or so
on the evolution and institutionalisation of psychiatry in the
nineteenth century, some observations on sophistry, on
Greek money, on the medieval Inquisition. I have sketched
a history of sexuality or at least a history of knowledge of
sexuality on the basis of the confessional practice of the
seventeenth century or the forms of control of infantile
sexuality in the eighteenth to nineteenth century. I have
sketched a genealogical history of the origins of a theory and
a knowledge of anomaly and of the various techniq”e~ that
relate to it. None of it does more than mark time. Repetitive
and disconnected, it advances nowhere. Since indeed it
never ceases to say the same thing, it perhaps says nothing.
It is tangled up into an indecipherable, disorganised
muddle. In a nutshell, it is inconclusive.
Still, I could claim that after all these were only trails to
be followed, it mattered little where they led; indeed, it was
important that they did not have a prede.termi~ed starting
point and destination. They were merely hnes laid down for
you to pursue or to divert elsewhere, for me to extend upon
79
or re-~es~gn as the case might be. They are, in the final
analySIS, Just fragments, and it is up to you or me to see
.what we can make of them. For my part, it has struck me
that I might have seemed a bit like a whale that leaps to the
surface of the water disturbing it momentarily with a tiny jet
of spray and lets it be believed, or pretends to believe or
wants to believe, or himself does in fact indeed believe ;hat
do,,:n in the depths where no one sees him any more; ~here
he IS no longer witnessed nor controlled by anyone, he
follows a more profound, coherent and reasoned trajectory.
Well, anyway, that was more or less how I at least conceived
the situation; it could be that you perceived it differently.
After all, the fact that the character of the work I have
prese~~ed to Y0’:l has ~een at the same time fragmentary,
repetlttve and dlscontmuous could well be a reflection of
something one might describe as a febrile indolence- a
typical affliction of those enamoured of libraries, documents, reference works, dusty tomes, texts that are never
r~ad, books that are no sooner printed than they are conSigned to the shelves of libraries where they thereafter lie
dormant to be taken up only some centuries later. It would
acc?rd all too well with the busy inertia of those who profess
an Idle knowledge, a species of luxuriant sagacity, the rich
hmud of the parVenus whose only outward signs are displayed i~ footnotes at the bottom of the page. It would
accord With all those who feel themselves to be associates of
one of the more ancient or more typical secret societies of
the West, those oddly indestructible societies unknown it
wou.ld. se.em to A~tiquity, which came into being with
Chn~t1anlty, most hkely at the time of the first monasteries,
at the periphery of the invasions, the fires and the forests: I
mean to speak of the great warm and tender Freemasonry of
useless erudition.
Howeyer, .it is not simply a taste for such Freemasonry
that has msplred my course of action. It seems to me that the
work we have done could be justified by the claim that it is
adeqlate to a restricted period, that of the last ten, fifteen,
at most twenty years, a period notable for two events which
for all they may not be really important are nonetheless to
my mind quite interesting.
On the one hand, it has been a period characterised by
80
Power/Knowledge
what one might term the efficacy of disperse? and disco~­
tinuous offensives. There are a number of thmgs I have 10
mind here. I am thinking, for example, where it was a case
of undermining the function of psychiatric institutions, of
that curious efficacy of localised anti-psychiatric discourses.
These are discourses which you are well aware lacked and
still lack any systematic principles of. coordination o~ the
kind that would have provided or might today provide a
system of reference for them. I am thinking of .the. orig.inal
reference towards existential analysis or of certam dlfe~tI~nS
inspired in a general way by Marxism, such as Relchlan
theory. Again, I have in mind that strange. ~fficacy of t~e
attacks that have been directed against traditional morality
and hierarchy, attacks which again have no referenc~ except
perhaps in a vague and fairly distant way to Reich and
Marcuse. On the other hand there is also the efficacy of the
attacks upon the legal and penal system, some of. which had
a very tenuous connection with !he .general. and 10 any case
pretty dubious notion of class Ju~tIce,. whIle ot~ers had a
rather more precisely defined affiOlty with anarchist themes.
Equally, I am thinking of the efficacy of a book such as
L’Anti-Oedipe, which really has no other source of reference
than its own prodigious theoretical inventiveness: a book, or
rather a thing, an event, which has managed, even at the
most mundane level of psychoanalytic practice, to introduce
a note of shrillness into that murmured exchange that has
for so long continued uninterrupted between couch and
armchair.
I would say, then, that what has emerged in the. course. of
the last ten or fifteen years is a sense of the mcre~smg
vulnerability to criticism of things, institutions, practices,
discourses. A certain fragility has been discovered in the
very bedrock of existence-even, and. J?erhaps abo~e all,
in those aspects of it that are most familiar, most solid and
most intimately related to our bodies and to. our ~,,:erydaY
behaviour. But together with this sense of mstability and
this amazing efficacy of discontinuous, par!icular and local
criticism one in fact also discovers somethmg that perhaps
was not initially foreseen, something one mi~ht. describe. as
precisely the inhibiting effect of global, totalltarlan theOries.
It is not that these global theories have not provided nor
Two Lectures
81
continue to provide in a fairly consistent fashion useful tools
fo~ local resea~ch: Marxism and psychoanalysis are proofs of
thiS. But. I. believe these tools have only been provided on
the c?ndltlon that the theoretical unity of these discourses
was 10 some sense put in abeyance, or at least curtailed
divided, overthrown, caricatured, theatricalised or wha~
you will. In each case, the attempt to think in ierms of a
totality has in fact proved a hindrance to research. ‘
So, the main point to be gleaned from these events of the
last fifteen years, their predominant feature, is the local
character of criticism. That should not, I believe, be taken
to .mean
.. that .its. qualities
.
.are
. those of an obtuse ‘ naive or
prlf~l1tlve empmqsm; nor IS It a soggy eclecticism, an opportUOlsm that laps up any and every kind of theoretical
approach; nor does it mean a self-imposed ascetism which
taken by itself would reduce to the -worst kind of theoretical
impoverishment. I believe that what this essentially local
character of criticism indicates in reality·is an autonomous
non-centralised kind of theoretical production, one that is t~
say whose validity is not dependent on the approval of the
established regimes of tbought.
It is here that we touch upon another feature of these
events that has been manifest for some time now: it seems to
me that this local criticism has proceeded by means of what
one might te~ ‘.a r~tu!D of knowledge’. What I mean by
that phrase IS thiS: It IS a fact that we have repeatedly
encountered, at least at a superficial level, in the course of
most recent times, an entire thematic to the effect that it is
not theory but life that matters, not knowledge but reality.
not books but money etc.; but it also seems to me that over
and above, and arising out of this thematic there is something. else to which we are witness, and ~hich we might
descnbe ~s an insurrection of subjugated knowledges.
By subjugated knowledges I mean two things: on the one
hand, I am referring to the historical contents that have
been buried and disguised in a functionalist coherence or
form~l systemisation. Concretely, it is not a semiology of
the hfe of the asylum, it is not even a sociology of delinq~e.n~y, that has made it possible to produce an effective
cntl~lsm o~ the asylum and likewise of the prison, but rather
the ImmedIate emergence of historical contents. And this is
I
82
Power/ Knowledge
I h historical contents allow us to
simply because on y t eft t of conflict and struggle that
rediscover. the ruat~ra~~c~~:alistor systematising thought
the order Impose YS b’
t d knowledges are thus those
is designed to ~ask. u Juga e hich were present but disblocs of ~is~oncal kn~wI~tg;’~tionalist and systematising
guised wlthm t.he ~ .y. _ which obviously draws upon
theory and WhICh cntlclSm
,
h ~ been able to reveal.
scholarshlp- a
d 1 believe that by subjugated kn~wOn the other han ,
something else, somethmg
ledges one shou!d understan~’fferent namely, a whole set
which in a sense IS altogether~.
alifted as inadequate to
of knowledges, that h~ve beeenab::ted: naive knowledges,
their task or msufficle~tlyh’ I rchy beneath the required
also believe that it is
located low d,o~n on t ~ t~~~ty
level of cogmtlon or SClen f thes~ low-ranking knowledges,
through the r~-emergence~irectly disqualified knowledges
these unqualified, even. .
tient of the ill person, of
(such as that of the psychlat~~~11:1 and’marginal as they are
that of the delinquent etc.),
the nurse, of the docto r . P
to the knowledge of med l~meld call a popular knowledge
and which involve what w~~, far from being a general
(Ie savoir des gens) It~OUg~~t :: on the contrary a particucommonsense ~now e ge’l d e a differential knowledge
lar, local, reglOn~1 .know e ti~h owes its force only to the
incapable of, unam!’11tr ~nQ w sed by everything surroundhars~ness Wlt~ ~hlCh It 1~ ~&rre-appearance of t~is k~ow­
ing It-that It IS throug I k wledges these dIsqualified
ledge, of these local. ~,pu ar n~rms its ~ork.
knowledges, that C~ltlCISm perfk.ind of paradox in the desire
f subjugated knowledges
However, th~re IS a strange
to assign to thIS same c:te~o~eo products of meticulous,
and on the other hand
what are on the one an
erudite, exact h~storical know~~d~hiCh have no common’
local and spec~c kno~led;e fashion allowed to fall into
meaning and WhICh are m so t effectively and explicitly,”
disuse whe~ever the Y are ~o11 it seems to me that our,
e
maintain~d m themseIves’ t fifteen years have in effec~~
l
critical dlScour.ses of t~~ fa~ce in this association bet~ee ”
discovered then essentla f 0 d’tion and those disqualifi
the buried. knowhledgfe~~o:[:dglesand sciences.
from the hlerarc Y 0
i
Two Lectures
83
In the two cases- in the case of the erudite as in that of
the disqualified knowledges- with what in fact were these
buried, subjugated knowledges really concerned? They
were concerned with a historical know/edge of struggles. In
the specialised areas of erudition as in the disqualified,
popular knowledge there lay the memory of hostile encounters which even up to this day have been confined to the
,
margins of knowledge.
What emerges out of this is something one might call a
genealogy, or rather a multiplicity of genealogical researches, a painstaking rediscovery of struggles together
with the rude memory of their conflicts. And these genealogies, that are the combined product of an erudite
Imowledge and a popular knowledge, were not possible and
could not even have been attempted except on one condition, namely that the tyranny of globalising discourses
with their hierarchy and all their privileges of a theoretical
avant-garde was eliminated.
Let us give the term genealogy to the union of erudite
knowledge and local memories which allows us to establish
a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this
knowledge tactically today. This then will be a provisional
definition of the genealogies which I have attempted to
compile with you over the last few years.
You are well aware that this research activity, which one
can thus call genealogical, has nothing at all to do with an
opposition between the abstract unity of theory and the
concrete multiplicity of facts. It has nothing at all to do with
a disqualification of the speculative dimension which
opposes to it, in the name of some kind of scientism, the
rigour of well established knowledges. It is not therefore via
an empiricism that the genealogical project unfolds, nor
even via a positivism in the ordinary sense of that term.
What it really does is to entertain the claims to attention of
local, discontinuous, disqualified, illegitimate knowledges
against the claims of a unitary body of theory which would
filter, hierarchise and order them in the name of some true
.knowledge and some arbitrary idea of what constitutes a
ience and its objects. Genealogies are therefore not
sitivistic returns to a more careful or exact form of
ience. They are precisely anti-sciences. Not that they
:
84
Power/Knowledge
vindicate a lyrical right to ignorance or non-knowledge: it is
not that they are concerned to deny knowledge o~ that t~ey
esteem the virtues of direct cognition and base the If practice
upon an immediate experience that escapes encapsulation in
knowledge. It is not that with which we are concerned. We
are concerned, rather, with the insurrection of knowleclges
that are opposed primarily not to the contents, metho~s. or
concepts of a s~ience, but to t~e ~ffe~ts of the ce~tra.hs1Qg
powers which are linked to the IOstltutIon and functionlOg of
an organised scientific discourse within a society such ~s
ours. Nor does it basically matter all that much that thiS
institutionalisation of scientific discourse is embodied in a
university, or, more generally, in an educational apparatus,
in a theoretical-commercial institution such as psychoanalysis or within the framework of reference that is provided by a political system such as Marxisn:t; for it is reall.y
against the effects of the power of a discourse that ..s
considered to be scientific that the genealogy must wage ItS
struggle.
To be more precise, I woulcl remind you how numerous
have been those who for many years now, probably for
more than half a century, have questionecl whether Marxism
was, or was not, a science. One might say that the same
issue has been posed, and continu~s to be posed, in. the case
of psychoanalysis, or even worse, 10 that of,th~ se~lo.logy of
literary texts. But to all these demands of: Is It or IS It not a
science?’, the genealogies or the genealogists would reply:
‘If you really want to know, the fault lies in your very
determination to make a science out of Marxism or psychoanalysis or this or that study’. If we have any objection
against Marxism, it lies in the fact that it could effectively be
a science. In more detailed terms, I would say that even
before we can know the extent to which something such as
Marxism or psychoanalysis can be ~ompared to a scien~ific
practice in its everyday functioning, ItS rules of construction,
its working concepts, that even before we can pose t~e
question of a formal and structural analogy between Mar~lst
or psychoanalytic discourse, it is surely necessary to questlo.n
ourselves about our aspirations to the kind of power that IS
presumed to accompany such a science. It is surely the
following kinds of question that would need to be posed:
Two Lectures
85
What .types of knowledge do you want to disqualify in the
very lOstant of your demand: ‘Is it a science’? Which
spe~king, discoursing subjects-which subjects of expenence and knowledge-do you then want to ‘diminish’
w~en you ~ay: ‘I who conduct this discourse am conducting a
SCientific discourse, and I am a scientist’? Which theoreticalpolitica.l avant garde do you want to enthrone in Qrder to
I~olate It from a~l the discontinuous forms of knowledge that
Circulate abOl,Jt It? When I see you straining to establish the
scientificity. of Marxism I do not really think that you are
demonstratmg once and for all that Marxism has a rational
structure and that therefore its propositions are the outcome
of verifiable .procedures; for me you are doing something
altogether different, ‘you are investing Marxist discourses
anc~ fhose who uphold them with the effects of a power
which the West since Medieval times has attributed to
~ience and has reserved for those engaged in scientific
dJscourse.
By comparison, then, and in contrast to the various
projects which aim to inscribe knowledges in the hierarchical
order of power associated with science, a genealogy should
be seen as a kind of attempt to emancipate historical
lmowledges “from [email protected] subjection, to render them, that is,
Capable of opposition and of struggle against the coercion of
a theoretical, unitary, formal and scientific discourse. It is
based on a reactivation of local knowledges- of minor
knowledges, as Deleuze might call them-in opposition to
the scientific hierarchisation of knowledges and the effects
i~trinsic to their power: this, then, is the project of these
disordered and fragmentary genealogies. If we were to
characte.rise it in two terms, then ‘archaeology’ would be the
apJ?~opnate methodology of this analysis of local discurSJVltJeS, and ‘genealogy’ would be the tactics whereby, on
the .basis of the descriptions of these local discursivities, the
subjected knowledges which were thus released would be
brought into play.
So m~ch can be said by way of establishing the nature of
the project as a whole. I would have you consider all these
fragments of research, all these discourses, which are simultaneously both superimposed and discontinuous, which I
have continued obstinately to pursue for some four or five
!;
I
r
r
I·:
I
1:
1
I.
I
86
Power/Knowledge
years now, as elements of these genealogies which have
been composed-and by no means by myself alone-in the
course of the last fifteen years. At this point, however, a
problem arises, and a question: why not continue to pursue
a theory which in its discontinuity is so attractive and
plausible, albeit so little verifiable? Why not continue to
settle upon some aspect of psychiatry. or of th~ theory ?f
sexuality etc.? I,t is true, one could contmue (and 10 a certam
sense I shall try to do so) if …
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