Decapitating Power

  • Ladelle McWhorter University of Richmond


In “Society Must Be Defended” Foucault examines 17th century race war discourse not so much in order to understand 20th century racism or concepts of race but primarily because it constitutes an historical example of an attempt to think power without a head or king. This essay examines his account of race war discourse and the sources he used to construct it. It then takes issue with his claim that early race war discourse can be separated from 18th and 19th century racisms. Finally, it returns to the question of power and argues that the effect of the 1976 lecture series was to dislodge the sovereign model of power but also the model of power as war.

Author Biography

Ladelle McWhorter, University of Richmond
Ladelle McWhorter is the author of Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization (Indiana, 1999), Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy (Indiana, 2009), and more than two dozen articles on Foucault, Bataille, Irigaray, and race theory. With Gail Stenstad, she edited a revised and greatly expanded second edition of her 1992 anthology Heidegger and the Earth: Essays in Environmental Philosophy, which was issued by Toronto University Press in 2009. She holds the James Thomas Chair in Philosophy and is also a Professor of Environmental Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia.
Special Issue on Foucault and Race