Volume 17, Issue 2, 2014
Special Project: Political Theory and Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration
Publicity and Politics
Foucault, the Prisons Information Group, and the Press
This essay argues that publicity is a necessary precondition for both politics and philosophy. Against the backdrop of the traditional dismissal of publicity as a leveling of difference, the author develops Foucault’s positive use of publicity in the Prisons Information Group as a technique of differentiation. The essay therefore proceeds in four parts: (1) it contextualizes the Prisons Information Group within Foucault’s life and work, (2) it identifies four specific modes of publicity utilized by the group, (3) it argues that, through these modes, Foucault embraces classically troublesome elements of publicity (like noise, superficiality, and anonymity) as expressly transformative, and (4) it develops a consequently positive account of Foucauldian leveling. The essay concludes that publicity involves the collective transmigration of thought, word, and deed requisite to both the political and philosophical life.