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Book Chapter - On Campus Only

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“Law," and its related concept of “right” (droit), occupies an ambivalent location within Foucault’s thought. On the one hand, Foucault never self-consciously prioritized law as an object of analysis in and of itself or offered an account of the law on the same level he approached other concepts. Moreover, throughout the mid- to late 1970s, in his published books, seminar courses, public lectures, and interviews, Foucault offered a concept of power explicitly distinguished from the law. Linked with sovereign and juridical power, the law would have to be displaced as the dominant framework for understanding modern force relations. On the other hand, Foucault’s oeuvre is replete with references and engagements with the law ( loi),and with various laws and rights ( droits). Law is always in the foreground of his historical accounts of madness, punishment, and sexuality. In interviews, he spoke at length on the legal reforms of prisons and sexual practices (EPPC, 178–210, 271–285; EFL, 279–292). His interest in Kant, especially in his attention to the concepts of critiqueand enlightenment, gravitated around notions of autonomy and the possibility of self-legislation within the context of obedience (EPT, 41–82, 97–120). His early literary dialogue with Maurice Blanchot playfully depicts the law as inescapably mutable, elusive, and as “the shadow toward which every gesture necessarily advances” (EFB, 35).

Recommended Citation

Dilts, Andrew. “Law” in The Foucault Lexicon, edited by Leonard Lawlor and John Nale, 243-250. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.