Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976” as Want to Read:
Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976

(Cours au Collège de France/Lectures at the Collège de France #5)

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  2,242 ratings  ·  71 reviews
An examination of relations between war and politics

From 1971 until his death in 1984, Michel Foucault taught at the Collège de France, perhaps the most prestigious intellectual institution in Europe. Each year, in a series of 12 public lectures, Foucault sought to explain his research of the previous year. These lectures do not reduplicate his published books, although
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2003 by Picador (first published 1992)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Society Must Be Defended, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Society Must Be Defended

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,242 ratings  ·  71 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976
Jul 20, 2014 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.

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
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013, theory
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
Jul 05, 2011 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
Casey James
Aug 21, 2013 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 ...more
Sara-Maria Sorentino
Sep 28, 2008 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 ...more
Nov 04, 2007 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.
Patrick Devitt
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Violence and the Law (Summer 2018) at The New School
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, theory, nonfiction
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 ...more
Feb 07, 2011 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
Jan 29, 2016 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
Reginald Simms
Mar 30, 2015 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
Jan 15, 2013 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
David McGrogan
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the deepest and strangest work of political philosophy of the last 50 years, which defies all attempts at summary. Whether discussing Hobbes, Charlemagne, or Hitler, Foucault never fails to offer a perspective that is completely original. What I haven't noticed being mentioned by other reviewers, though, is how good a read these lectures are - of all the collected volumes of his lectures, I find these by far the most enjoyable and entertaining: listening to him in full flow in ...more
Joshua Garrett
Aug 11, 2010 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.
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Collège de France is the country's most prestigious research institution, but unlike other universities it does not give out any degrees. Academics who are given chairs are able to pursue their own research, with the only requirement being that they periodically give lectures - open to the public - on the progress of their research. It from this podium, at perhaps the height of his celebrity, that Foucault delivers a series of lectures in 1975 to a standing-room only Parisian public ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
In this series of lectures, Foucault shows how discourses of truth – here, specifically or especially historical truth – constitute claims upon, and justifications of, political power. Beginning with the 17th-century democratic ferment surrounding the English Civil War, and reappearing around a century later with a French aristocratic reaction in the years leading up to the Revolution, there appeared a historico-political theory which sought to both analyze history and explain contemporary power ...more
Michael A.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it
My first dive into Foucault! A bit heady for me. Probably requires a decent background in French history to fully understand what he's talking about. However, his notion of power and how no one really has it and it flows through networks is interesting, as was his notion of biopower in the last lecture. One thing sort of bugged me though. Towards the end he says

"This play [the sovereign right to kill and the mechanisms of biopower to this paroxysmal point] is in fact inscribed in the workings of
L.W. Henderson
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This work really changed my way of viewing war and the techniques that those in power will use to continue it. The only bad part of this book is that it is transcription of lectures and Foucault tends to go on tangents at times. Sometimes you're not sure of his overall point until right at the end. Other than that very thought provoking.
Was really only interested in this book as a stepping stone toward Mbembe's work on necropolitics. I don't like Foucault all that much, but this was better to read than some of his other works. Also I still don't understand how socialism can be "racist" against the bourgeoisie lol.
May 12, 2011 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
Sep 20, 2014 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
Sep 01, 2014 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 ...more
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Reading Foucault one can see why French intellectuals and philosophers in particular have such a high reputation. This is a series of lectures given between 1975 -76 at the College de France during a turbulent period in recent history which prompts Foucault to examine the questions of power relations, racism, biopower, and the role of war in politics and politics in war - among others.

That being said there are no answers, that is not the role that Foucault has taken on - he is not a polemicist,
Matthew Balliro
Feb 11, 2010 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
Aug 05, 2011 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 ...more
Feb 19, 2008 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 ...more
Jim Mcmanus
Aug 03, 2008 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 ...more
Jan 26, 2015 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 ...more
Alex Lewis
Jul 13, 2015 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
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
  • Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
  • Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
  • Writing and Difference
  • The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media
  • Difference and Repetition
  • Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays
  • The Practice of Everyday Life
  • Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings
  • Aesthetics and Politics
  • The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection
  • German Ideology
  • Empire
  • Foucault
  • Truth and Method
  • The Concept of the Political
  • Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud
  • Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life
See similar books…
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," but before he was Professor at University of Tunis, Tunisia, and then Professor at University Paris VIII. He lectured at several different Universities over the world as at the University at Buffalo, the University of California, ...more

Other books in the series

Cours au Collège de France/Lectures at the Collège de France (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • Lectures on the Will to Know: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1970-1971, & Oedipal Knowledge
  • The Punitive Society: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1972-1973
  • Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973-1974
  • Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974-1975
  • Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-1978
  • The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège 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
  • The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1982–1983
“[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.” 6 likes
“It was a matter of showing by what conjunctions a whole set of practices-- from the moment they became coordinated with a regime of truth––was able to make what does not exist (madness, disease, delinquency, sexuality), nonetheless become something, something however that continues not to exist. That is to say, what I would like to show is not how an error––when I say that which does not exist becomes something, this does not mean showing how it is possible for an error to be constructed––or how an illusion could be born, but how a regime of truth and therefore not an error, makes something that does not exist able to become something. It is not an illusion because it is a set of practices, real practices, which establish it and thus imperiously marks it out in reality... The point of all these investigations concerning madness, disease, delinquency, sexuality, and what i am talking about now, is to show how the coupling of a set of practices and a regime of truth from an apparatus (dispotif) of knowledge-power that effectively marks out in reality that which does not exist and legitimately submits it to the division between true and false. 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.” 2 likes
More quotes…