From: "Stuart Elden" <stuartelden@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2004 09:06:24 -0000
I think you might be disappointed as to Foucault's knowledge of
utilitarianism as a movement. There is little more in this course than
elsewhere on this point. In Foucault's work as a whole, there are obviously
several references to Bentham, but I can think of few if any to the Mills.
Checking Dits et ecrits' index, the only reference to JS Mill is in "La
psychologie de 1850 a 1950", a brief mention of JS Mill's Logic (DE I, 122).
Janet Semple and Terence Ball have written about the relation of Foucault to
utilitarianism. There must be others as well - I read up on some of this
literature during my PhD/writing the book on Heidegger and Foucault, but
haven't looked at this for some time.
Aside from the obvious interest in these issues, why should Foucault write
about them? It seems to me that he is not that interested in utilitarianism
in itself, but more in a single idea, the Panopticon, and that only really
because it was so widely referenced in literature on hospital design. The
hospital/asylum architecture issue is where he came across it, it's where
that is talked about in this course, and Foucault makes it clear that he is
not seeing it as a model for a prison, or at least not _only_ as that. He
doesn't seem that interested in the other aspects of Bentham's proposed
scheme, with the more obviously utilitarian models of private ownership and
payment relating to the number of expected deaths against the actual deaths,
etc. He doesn't make a lot of why the Panopticon was never built as Bentham
envisaged in England, and why it was only really the architectural issues
that caught on elsewhere. Again, I used to be more familiar with these
issues than I am now.
I'm sure that you're right about the different perspectives within Bentham's
reception, and that if Foucault was trying to do something rigorous about
utilitarianism then he was at fault in not addressing them. But I think his
aim is somewhat different.
with regard to the case study of George III that you mention with respect to
Foucault's course, I'm wondering if it reveals more background knowledge on
Foucault's part regarding the Utilitarians than _Discipline and Punish_
seems to suggest. My own research as an intellectual historian working on
the period of George III and the Regency of George IV I'm aware that (what
we might now call) psychology (then discussed under the rubric of 'the
philosophy of mind') and the literary, epistenological, political, and
social significance of 'the imagination' were points of contention in this
period, with the Romantics on one side and the Utilitarians on the other (a
divide that J.S. Mill later tried to overcome, after liberalism had been
established in the 1830s). My impression of Foucault from texts such as D&P
is that his knowledge of the Utilitarians is restricted to Bentham, and that
he doesn't consider the processes of literary reproduction in which
Bentham's work produced its immediate effects (here I am thinking of the
works of James Mill, George Grote, and Charles Austin) or even how the
Bentham of the Panopticon period was transformed into the Philosophic
Radical of the Constitutional Code, but perhaps this lecture series might
reveal more depth in Foucault's research in this area. For example, he
doesn't discuss James Mill's essays (e.g., 'Education', 'Prisons and
Prison-Discipline') or books (e.g., _The History of British India_, _An
Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind_), even though these were the
main articulations of utilitarian thought in these areas during this period
and - especially the encyclopaedia articles mentioned and his work on
India - were works that both different significantly from Bentham's own
positions and framed the interpretation of Bentham's work in the period.
In any case I'd like to hear more about it, as no doubt would many others.