Roundtable with Judith Revel and Sandro Chignola

Sorvegliare e punire. L’eredità di Michel Foucault nella cultura contemporanea

“Laser”, RSI Rete Due (March 24, 2010). Produced by Brigitte Schwarz

Listening track

[00:00-03:31] To launch the roundtable on Discipline and Punish, the bulletin of cultural events “Foglio Volante” broadcast a brief interview with Daniele Lorenzini on the relevance of the late Foucault’s thought and on the “materiali foucaultiani” project.

[00:00-02:52] Roundtable. First reading: the torture of Robert-François Damiens. [02:53-05:39] Presentation of the broadcast and guests, Judith Revel and Sandro Chignola. [05:40-07:38] The path that led Foucault from his work on madness to the study of criminality and delinquency: a difficult journey to reconstruct linearly. We can say that Foucault “passed” from a mechanism of clear-cut inclusion/exclusion to an analysis that underlines disciplinary inclusion and the social diffusivity of power. [07:39-08:33] The role of the study on prisons and on surveillance devices in Foucault's work. In Foucault's work there is a constant effort of periodization, a permanent determination of an object, and a specific geography and chronology. [08:34-10:13] Second reading: the birth of the Groupe d’information sur les prisons (GIP). [10:14-15:06] The role of the GIP in the genesis of Discipline and Punish and the complete work of Foucault. “Secularization” of philosophy: philosophy is a “journalistic” (in Nietzsche’s sense of the word) elaboration of the actualité, and the GIP constituted the connection between Foucault’s political militancy and the construction of the figure of a “specific” intellectual. The GIP represented a real shift for the Foucault of the 60s: there was the recognition of the singularity of a power relationship in a given situation and the understanding of the fact that there is no power without a subject (or subjects) who fight(s) against it and resist(s). [15:07-22:08] The shift, between the 17th and 18th centuries, from punishment to surveillance: the formation of a new exercise of power (disciplinary, normative) and a different organization of space and social time. Political rationality changes and becomes “economic”, and the prison is one of the mechanisms through which people are transformed and adapted to the new rationality of the market. [22:09-25:10] The innovative role of Foucault in the analysis of power mechanisms: (1) power is not “singular”, but on the contrary there is a multiplicity of power relationships; (2) the “historicization” of this multiplicity of power relationships; (3) in every power relationship, we are not completely on one side or the other: we are always and at the same time objects and subjects of power. [25:11-26:39] The relevance of Foucaultian thought: we do not have to treat Foucault as a “classic” of philosophy. On the contrary, we have to prolong his philosophical “attitude” and consider his work as a toolbox, an inventory of strategic gestures and analytic tools that still ask to be put to work in the philosophical problematization of our actualité. [26:40-27:47] Conclusion.

Keywords: madness, crime, power, prison, actualité, resistance.

We want to thank infinitely the RSI Rete Due, and particularly Brigitte Schwarz, who gave us the permission to publish this material. To listen to the roundtable “Sorvegliare e punire” directly on the RSI Rete Due web site, click here. To listen to the interview with Daniele Lorenzini, click here.

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