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Lectures at the College de France, 1975-76: Society Must Be Defended (Lectures at the Collège de France)

4.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,533 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews

An examination of the relation between war and politics, by one of the twentieth century’s most influential thinkers

From 1971 until 1984 at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault gave a series of lectures ranging freely and conversationally over the range of his research. In Society Must Be Defended, Foucault deals with the emergence in the early seventeenth century of a
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2003 by Picador (first published January 1st 1992)
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Aug 09, 2014 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
In the things I am presently concerned with, the moment when that which does not exist is inscribed in reality, and when that which does not exist comes under a legitimate regime of the true and false, marks the birth of this dissymmetrical bipolarity of politics and the economy. Politics and the economy are not things that exist, or errors, or ideologies. They are things that do not exist and yet which are inscribed in reality and fall under a regime of truth dividing the truth and the false.

Casey James
Feb 02, 2014 Casey James rated it it was amazing
"Politics is war by other means". Foucault attempts to see if the concept of "war" can be used to analyze of power relations. He argues that the juridical theory of sovereignty masks the war going on between conflicting forces, groups, classes, races, religions, etc and explores how people began to see the history of power as being a history of war. He uses the history of France written by Boulainvilliers for much of this and locates the birth of the discourse of social war (and even class strug ...more
A lot to grapple with here, and I will do so below more for my memory in writing a dissertation than anything else, so be warned!

I love that this book starts out with Foucault's critique of Marx -- there must be more out there I haven't found in terms of that critique, but this really helped me think through the distinctions as it has always seemed to me that the two could well complement each other. I suppose they still can if broken into pieces and rejoined, but I have a much better sense of h
Jan 29, 2014 Troy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theory, read-in-2013
This is the way to read Foucault. I want to read ALL of the lectures. So readable, so clear. Nothing at all like his published books and even more interesting than his interviews, which are usually pretty great. This book is somewhere between listening to Foucault think out loud and having him relate a very consistent and constrained argument. As usual for him, this is about power and knowledge.

This book opens with a bit about how power is projected through discipline (in fact, in the beginning
Sep 28, 2008 Sara-Maria rated it it was amazing
in these lectures, foucault speaks of history, power, war, race (one of the few outright discussions of this from him, i've come to understand), sovereignty, biopolitics and their relations. this is done with an impressive clarity, although in the mid to late lectures, i was at a loss in trying to follow the minutiae of european history in which most of his research on these matters germinate. recommended especially if one wants to understand his influence on postcolonial scholarship. he is awfu ...more
Feb 04, 2016 Mario rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Society must be defended" is a shining example of how a philosophical essai can be entertaining while being thougt-provoking. I would add that the sheer quantity of concepts for which Foucault proposes a critical perspective, is itself entertaining. If it exists a downside to this book is its capability to excite the reader's braincells and push him/her out of focus and into endless personal speculations about contemporary society.
Foucault reverses the Clausewitzian notion of "War as continuat
May 05, 2008 Tosh rated it really liked it
A series of lectures that Foucault gave at the College de France, which ironically enough I am right by that location. Beautiful spot I might add. Here he examines power through a historical perspective. One of the reasons why I like this book is that i get a visual picture of the man in front of an audience by reading this book. It's like a movie for the mind.
Aug 01, 2011 sologdin rated it really liked it
Shelves: leftwing-theory
A decent place to make a run at Foucault, this one is by far his most accessible.

Basic object of the lecture series is his "inversion of Clausewitz," i.e., the thesis that politics is the continuation of warfare by other means. I suppose the question would accordingly be whether warfare, or technique derived from warfare, is the basic engine of history, or, at least the presentation or reactivation of history.

There is very little discussion of military doctrine or military history--more signific
May 09, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read 'Society Must Be Defended' on four different trains and in three different stations. It's a good book for a long journey, as it turns out. I hadn't previously read any Foucault, but I'd heard that he writes/lectures engagingly. That's certainly what I found; compared to some other political theorists (I'm looking at you, Žižek) his writing is clear and fluid. 'Society Must Be Defended' is a transcription of a series of lectures that Foucault gave in 1976. Amusingly, the lectures were so p ...more
Aug 12, 2010 Thirsty rated it really liked it
I cannot say that I "get" everything that Foucault is discussing, but I love the way that my mind is prevented from setting up camp in well worn thought grooves by his provocation. I appreciate the challenge and embrace the new found perspectives. My only critique of the book/lectures is that he focuses almost exclusively on English and French historical/counter historical discourse. I would love to see these ideas applied more broadly both culturally and historically.
Reginald Simms
Apr 09, 2015 Reginald Simms rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." ~Mao Zedong

Starting with the the idea of history and the narratives of different perspectives in power, Foucault has advanced that idea from the juridical to the disciplinary. The disciplinary regime is there to administer knowledge and the effects of that knowledge, in essence, different groups can trot out different narratives/histories as the truth. This truth becomes what is known and in itself contains the power as i
Jan 27, 2015 Rj rated it it was amazing
Tony bought a copy of one of Foucault's lectures at the College de France, Society Must be Defended and I must admit I had forgotten how much I enjoyed his writing style and his intelligence. I had assumed over the intervening years that my devotion to him was based on some sweet romantic fling that had long since petered out. But no. On reading the lectures I find him as engaging as ever and excited to see how he crafted his ideas in the lectures first into public speeches and second into his l ...more
Dec 03, 2014 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: the-state
To decide who will live and who will die

[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns and in 2013 posted revenues for $74 billion and $274 million profits. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the company's sites]
Aug 08, 2013 Shawn rated it it was amazing
Michel Foucault's "Lectures" series is a collection of lectures given at the College De France from 1971 to 1984. They have been recently translated and published, but for whom, that I am not quite sure.

I absolutely loved reading this particular lecture series, "Society Must be Defended". The major themes Foucault discusses are Race and War, and their causal relations. As an American reader, my initial interpretation of the word Race hinge on the US interpretation: skin color. But Foucault, and
Jacques le fataliste et son maître
In questo corso tenuto da Foucault al Collège de France nel 1976 si trova una stimolante disamina di teorie storiche e di analisi sociali formulate nel corso del Seicento, Settecento ecc. in Inghilterra e Francia. Di ognuno di questi discorsi storici è svelata la funzionalità rispetto ai concreti interessi politici del pensatore che l’ha enunciato.

Riporto alcuni brani, credo chiarificatori, dal riassunto del corso preparato dallo stesso Foucault.
«A partire da quando, e come, si è cominciato a im

Apr 29, 2011 Scribe rated it it was amazing
Foucault is always hard to get into, but once you eventually get a grip of the assumptions and definitions he comes in with, the ideas he presents and the stories he describes are mindblowing. I borrowed this from the local library and read it over a couple of months - but have now ordered my own copy.

There is a loose agenda in this series of lectures, but it's not always very precisely defined, coherent, or entirely thoroughly backed up. But what Foucault does well - as in Discipline and Punis
Oct 08, 2014 Leland rated it it was amazing
I was baffled that Picador began its Lectures series with the publication of this volume - it seemed such an arbitrary choice. Why not simply publish the Lectures in chronological order? Also - why put so much of the supplemental material at the end of the book - the contextual information in "Situating the Lectures..."? There are excellent reasons for the choices and it soon becomes clear that Foucault was summarizing his recent work while considering new avenues, while acting as his own "popul ...more
Alex Lewis
Jul 27, 2015 Alex Lewis rated it it was amazing
Excellent piece of philosophy from the great thinker Michel Foucault. Foucault's challenge of the state (capitalist/socialist/etc.) may seem crazy from a distance, but the set ups of his theories are so thorough and well supported that you almost cannot question his arguments. Foucault effectively argues that biopower and state racism are not merely problems concerning fascist or capitalist states, but are present and can be applied in socialist states and Marxists theorists as well. It may help ...more
Martinus Benders

A rather detailed series of lectures mainly about the role of war and language in the formation of the modern State. Not an easy read, but some of Foucaults arguments are really important to grasp if one wants to understand history. That's why I think the book is important to read - to obtain a more clear image of the processes that are involved in nation building.
Aug 01, 2014 Rachel rated it it was ok
For most of the book I was slogging. I mean once in a while there'd be a really cool idea, but then I'd realize it was in the context of a debate about whether it was the aristocracy or the bourgeoise who had "invented history" and I would be like Really, this is how I'm spending my time? But the very last lecture finally emerged from medieval France and got into biopolitics and socialism and whatnot and suddenly I understood all the references and just as suddenly and perhaps not coincidentally ...more
Tristan Laing
The most dangerous text of Foucault's to be released since his death. Warning: the discourse analysis in this book may cause you to radically rethink the way you conceptualize the history of race and racism.
Matthew Balliro
Apr 03, 2010 Matthew Balliro rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
A fascinating read through and through, but difficult at times. I tried to keep in mind that this is a series of lectures, not a book, and hoped to take the digressions and side-steps in mind. But when you're on page 40 of 50 describing power relations during the Norman Conquest (more like BOREman Conquest, amirite?), things start to drag. I think this would've read a lot better as a small, polished tract. But, of course, there's plenty of great insight and some mind-blowing connections in here. ...more
Jim Mcmanus
Dec 25, 2008 Jim Mcmanus rated it really liked it
This book is very challenging to read, understand, and process. I came away with a humility arising from realizing how superficial so much of my "knowledge" is. Foucault's deconstructionism is a demanding master. It does not allow you to pick and choose. Comfort levels be damned. War, power, and racism - war as a way of cleansing the Other, and at the same time cleansing Self. This is probably not the best way to become introduced to Foucault's thought - a series of lectures he gave at The Colle ...more
Sean A.
May 19, 2014 Sean A. rated it really liked it
Foucault's use of history surprisingly reminds me of a very French and very nuanced "history-from-below" type of project ala Howard Zinn. Also the earliest usage that I've encountered of the phrase "social-war". Foucault goes balls deep into continental historical details and comes to an admittedly confused multiplicity of conclusions. There is a war that bifurcates history (not the class war per se, but a raw true state of war) as well as the gauzy present but his analysis is quite academic and ...more
Aug 05, 2011 John rated it really liked it
I found this one a bit slower going than the other volumes of lectures. I felt as though in this series Foucault introduced a large number of threads, many of which would only be resolved in subsequent years (and some of which, I think, would never be resolved at all). I don't know if reading them out of order helped or hurt; I did have a couple of "so THAT'S what he meant" moments, but also felt at times that what I was reading would have made little sense if I didn't know what was coming in th ...more
Feb 19, 2008 Jerome rated it really liked it
Foucault's lectures are really great - very accessible, he plays with ideas and explores them, often retracing his steps or qualifying previous assertions. This collection is his main reflection on politics, and he makes some fairly provocative claims regarding race war as historico-political discourse, as an anti-sovereignty discourse, in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. This is the seminar in which Foucault built his arguments around biopolitics - which, incidentally, came prior to his co ...more
Renata Limon
Jun 19, 2014 Renata Limon rated it it was amazing
The best.
Leonard Houx
Apr 23, 2013 Leonard Houx rated it really liked it
In an attempt to provide a non-juridical account of power, Foucault gave this lecture series at the College de France - touching on the for origins of history, racism, disciplinary society, and biopolitics. As it is a lecture series, it makes for more accessible reading than his writings. I read it to get a context of his idea of biopolitics, but was most rewarded by his account of the origins of racism, which was fascinating and not all what I expected.
Cody Django
Dec 10, 2008 Cody Django rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic introduction to Foucault. It's captures the methodologies of his early work while teasing out the theme of power which was the major force of his later work. further, it's a collection of lectures he gave, so there is something more.. personal, as well as ..diagnostic about what you read; it is vis-a-vis society itself, as it exists, not as it can be found in history.
Jessica Zu
Mar 30, 2014 Jessica Zu rated it it was amazing
read relevant chapters. will definitely come back to this book. an awesome read!
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Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought," and lectured at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.

Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences and the prison sys
More about Michel Foucault...

Other Books in the Series

Lectures at the Collège de France (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Lectures on the Will to Know (Lectures at the Collège de France, 1970-1971)
  • Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the College de France, 1973-74
  • Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France, 1974-75
  • Lectures at the College de France, 1977-78: Security, Territory and Population
  • The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978-1979
  • On The Government of the Living: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1979-1980
  • Subjectivité et vérité. Cours au Collège de France 1980-1981
  • The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981-82
  • Lectures at the College de France, 1982-83: The Government of Self and Others
  • The Courage of Truth: Lectures at the College de France 1983-84 (Government of Self & Others 2)

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“[L]et us say that we are obliged to produce the truth by the power that demands truth and needs it in order to function: we are forced to tell the truth, we are constrained, we are condemned to admit the truth or to discover it.” 4 likes
“Lo que también me parece interesante y durante mucho tiempo representó un problema para mí es que, una vez más, no encontramos simplemente en el plano del Estado socialista ese mismo funcionamiento del racismo, sino también en las diferentes formas de análisis o proyectos socialistas, a lo largo de todo el siglo XIX, y, me parece alrededor de esto: en el fondo, cada vez que un socialismo insistió, sobre todo, en la transformación y paso del Estado capitalista al Estado socialista (en otras palabras, cada vez que buscó el principio de la transformación en el nivel de los procesos económicos), no necesitó el racismo, al menos en lo inmediato. En cambio, en todos los momentos en que el socialismo se vio obligado a insistir en el problema de la lucha, la lucha contra el enemigo, la eliminación del adversario dentro mismo de la sociedad capitalista; cuando se trata por consiguiente, de pensar el enfrentamiento físico con el adversario de clase en la sociedad capitalista, el racismo resurgió, porque era la única manera que tenía un pensamiento socialista , que de todas formas estaba muy ligado al tema del biopoder, de pensar la razón de matar al adversario. Cuando se trata simplemente de eliminarlo económicamente, de hacerle perder sus privilegios , el racismo no hace falta . Pero desde el momento en que hay que pensar que vamos a estar frente a frente, y que será preciso combatirlo físicamente, arriesgar la vida y procurar matarlo, el racismo es necesario” 1 likes
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