Frédéric Gros

Penser avec Foucault les nouvelles formes de peines et de guerre

Listening track

[00:00-11:10] After Frédéric Worms’s introduction to the Journée d’études, Gros speaks about his experience as editor of the Michel Foucault’s last courses at the Collège de France, in which he identifies a system of writing that is less about writing a book than a speech. [11:11-16:33] The first theme of Gros’ exposition concerns the political problematization of obedience. During the 20th century, the object of scandal is obedience more than totalitarianism in itself, as attested by the words of Eichmann in Jerusalem : «I am not responsible, I did nothing but obey». [16:34-23:45] This dissociation between responsibility and obedience is inscribed in the framework of the Foucaultian genealogy of the modern subject, in which Gros finds two great matrices of subjectification. The first is military: Gros shows how, after the so-called “military revolution”, bodies are increasingly ordered according to a principle of perfect docility. This matrix of obedience generates an important political model for thinking about the birth of the State, which can be considered not only from a juridical point of view but also from the point of view of the laborer and the soldier. [23:46-28:10] The second matrix, the religious one, is characterized in Foucault’s work by the relevance of the Christian practices of confession and aveu, where the subject has to verbalize his desire in order to start the search for a personal identity. Gros explains that the themes of sexuality, desire and the search for an identity are fundamental to the construction of the subjectivity that functions in the framework of obedience: «It is at the moment when I search for my most intimate self that I am only obeying more strongly the other». [28:11-33:05] From this follows both the great importance Foucault assigned to psychology and, in contrast, the important he attached to the ethical constitution of the Greek subject, since in this case it is not a matter of introspection but self-mastery. This constitutes not only a matrix of subjectification, but it also implies an alternative political relationship, where obedience, as the reverse of command, goes hand in hand with an assumption of responsibility. [33:06-36:30] Then, Gros discusses new forms of punishment and the changes in current penal discourse. First, in the 1970s, penal questions revolved around the figure of the delinquent as the product of prison. Secondly, facing this situation, Foucault pointed out how, beginning in the 19th century, the judgement of a crime involved an evaluation of the personality of the delinquent. [36:31-39:25] Gros then analyzes two shifts in current penal discourse. The first concerns the relationship between psychiatric expertise and the judgement of a crime: the condemned subject is understood less through a psychopathology of perversion than through a Lacanian psychoanalysis in which the subject is a subject of the law and of the symbolic. [39:26-44:50] The second change concerns the recognition of the victims of crime and their suffering, together with a new instance of legitimation that aims to reconstruct any identity undermined by crime. [44:51-48:15] Finally, Gros touches on the question of contemporary warfare after the end of the Cold War, when peace between States was maintained in a Hobbesian way through the fear of war. Through Foucault, we can reflect on the transformation of the general economy of violence, which is now impossible to read through the dialectic of peace and war or the lens of the State. The scene of contemporary warfare is increasingly characterized by the relevance of the double register of security and threat, by the presence of actors who practice a violence different from the violence of the State, and by news images of the victims of war. [48:16-01:11:24] Discussion.

Keywords: obedience, (military) discipline, confession, penal psychiatry, crime, war.

The authorisation for embedding this video comes from the ENS Savoirs en multimédia, which has all the rights on it and which we want to thank infinitely. In particular, here you can find the intervention by Gros.

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