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Foucault on individuality

March 22, 2011

“For a long time ordinary individuality – the everyday individuality of everybody – remained below the threshold of description.  To be looked at, observed, described in detail, followed from day to day by an uninterrupted writing was a privilege.  The chronicle of a man, the account of his life, his historiography, written as he lived out his life formed part of the rituals of his power. The disciplinary methods reversed this relation, lowered the threshold of describable individuality and made of this description a means of control and a method of domination.  It is no longer a monument for future memory, but a document for possible use.”[1]

“The turning of real lives into writing is no longer a procedure of heroization; it functions as a procedure of objectification and subjection.  The carefully collated life of mental patients or delinquents belongs, as did the chronicle of kings or the adventures of the great popular bandits, to a certain political function of writing; but in a quite different technique of power.”[2]


[1] 191 Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish; The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. Penguin Books: London

[2] 192 Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish; The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. Penguin Books: London

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