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Open Access Foucault Revisited

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Janet Semple wrote that Panopticon was the only book by Jeremy Bentham that Michel Foucault had ever read. It follows that Bentham scholars have considered Foucault's Discipline and Punish as both a critical and an incomplete analysis of Bentham's thought. The recent 2004 edition of Foucault's unpublished lectures at the College de France and the 2006 seminal paper by Christian Laval, a French Bentham scholar from the Centre Bentham, give grounds for reappraising received ideas on the relationship between Foucault and Bentham. Foucault's understanding of Bentham clearly goes beyond concepts of surveillance to focus on the idea of governance; the latter is more in tune with contemporary Bentham studies. Concepts used by Foucault in his lectures, such as that of 'frugal/frugality' not only derive from Bentham's writings but are more relevant to an analysis of Bentham's philosophy than the corresponding concept 'economical/economy' used by contemporary scholars. Over the years, Foucault seems to have moved on from an incomplete and therefore inaccurate knowledge of Bentham to a deeper understanding of his work. This paper not only challenges Bentham scholars' prejudices against Foucault's analysis but also aims at overcoming received ideas about Bentham's philosophy among the French academic community.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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  • Dedicated to the life and writings of the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the Journal aims to provide a forum for debate and discussion of all aspects of Bentham studies and utilitarianism.  This is an Open Access journal, available under Creative Commons licencing - for more information please see individual articles.

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