Foucault’s functional justice and its relationship to legislators and popular illegalism


  • Sylvain Lafleur Université de Montréal



Foucault, functional justice, catch-all strategy, spatial turn, police discretion, Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 (HR 347), UK Public Order Act


This article presents two of Foucault’s lesser known notions, “justice fonctionnelle" (functional justice) and “stratégie du pourtour” (strategy of the perimeter), in order to interrogate the role of legislators in regard to the policing of political dissent. This article contains three parts. First, I present the two lesser known notions referred to above. Then, I provide my understanding of the role of law for Foucault. Finally, in the third part, I explain how a consensual relationship between the police and legislators is established. I present briefly the work of Avrom Sherr (1989) and outline the contents of a recent U.S. anti-protest law (H.R. 347, or "Anti-Occupy Wall Street Law") which gives the police greater powers to redefine the legal nature of public space and to make arrests without having to show criminal intent (mens rea) on the part of protesters. My aim is to further think through the paradox that Foucault mentioned in his lectures on security societies: non-judicial methods used in security processes undermine the primacy of law but also lead to the overproduction of laws (inflation législative). 

Author Biography

Sylvain Lafleur, Université de Montréal

Sylvain Lafleur

Lecturer, communication studies

Université de Montréal



• Avrom Sherr. Freedom of Protest, Public Order and the Law, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989).

• Ben Golder & Peter Fitzpatrick, Foucault’s Law (New York: Routledge, 2009): 71.

• Gate Rottman, “How Big a Deal is H.R. 347, that 'Criminalizing Protest' Bill?" ACLU Blog:

• Government of the United States of America. “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Im-provement Act of 2011” (subsequently cited as HR347):

• James D. Faubion, "Lemon and milk", in Power, ed. «trans. Robert Hurley (New York: New Press, 1997)

• Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, ed. Michel Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2008)

• Michel Foucault: la justice et la police", Television interview, April 25th, 1977, Antenne 2. Director: Serge Moati; Producers: Jack Lang, Serge Moati, Jean Denis Bredin:

• Michel Foucault. "La stratégie du pourtour", in Dits et écrits II, 1976-1988 (Paris: Gallimard, 2001b), 794-797. [An English translation is available as "The Catch-all Strategy", International journal of the sociology of law16 (1988): 159-162. Translated by Neil Duxbury.]

• Michel Foucault. Histoire de la sexualité I. La volonté de savoir, (Paris: Gallimard, 1976)

• Michel Foucault. Naissance de la biopolitique (Paris: Gallimard-Seuil, 2004)

• Nikolas Rose and Mariana Valverde. “Governed by Law?”, Social Legal Studies, 7 issue 4 (1998): 542:

• Robert Justin Goldstein. Political Repression in 19th Century Europe, (Totowa: Barnes and Nobles Books, 1983)




How to Cite

Lafleur, S. (2018). Foucault’s functional justice and its relationship to legislators and popular illegalism. Foucault Studies, (24), 58–76.



Section in collaboration with Foucault Circle