Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Foucault Essential Works Volume 1
on 7 September 2013
Ignore the previous reviewer who seems oblivious to the value that this collection of mostly previously unpublished (in English) work holds. The first third of the book collects together in chronological order all the end of year summaries Foucault produced of his lectures at the College De France between 1971 and 1982. As far as I know he didn't produce them for the courses ending in 83 and 84. These provide a useful resource for charting the trajectory of his thought during these years, and are especially helpful as the full transcripts of several of these lecture courses are yet to be published in English.
The best reason to buy this collection in my view is however the inclusion of several interviews and lectures from late in the French philosophers life that really serve to bring together much of his later work on "technologies of the self" and reconcile them with his writings on power, government and discipline. Of particular note are two chapters titled respectively `The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom', and `What is Enlightenment'. The latter in which Foucault reinterprets Kant's classic essay of the same name while associating himself with the project of critical philosophy (albeit with a distinctive Foucauldian spin). The former chapter helps to dispel the still widely held view that Foucault was a philosopher of "docile bodies" who left little room for agency and freedom in his theories of subjectivity.
The book also collects together several magazine interviews Foucault gave including `Friendship as a Way of Life', which goes some way to clarifying his thoughts on homosexuality and the possibility of a homosexual form of life which he conceived primarily along the lines of friendship. One would not necessarily consider all the material collected here as obviously writing on ethics. Much of it covers familiar ground dealing with relations of power, the constitution of the subject, and bodies of knowledge; but what these works really serve to do is to highlight the point that Foucault repeatedly made in his late work which was that of the inseparability of power, knowledge, and ethics from each other into discrete domains of analysis. The one always reciprocally entails the others and must be addressed as a whole in the examination of concrete practices and (as he puts it) problematizations of experience. There is much else to recommend in this volume which like the other two in the series is a valuable addition to Foucault's collected works in English.