The Genesis of Foucault’s Genealogy of Racism: Accumulating Men and Managing Illegalisms

  • Alex Feldman
Keywords: Foucault, racism, race, Marx, illegalism, capital


Foucault’s contribution to the critical theorization of race and racism has been much debated. Most commentators, however, have focused on his most direct remarks on the topic, which are found in the first volume of the History of Sexuality and in the lecture course “Society Must Be Defended.” This paper argues that those remarks should be reread in light of certain moves Foucault makes in earlier lecture courses, especially The Punitive Society and Psychiatric Power. Although the earlier courses do not always explicitly address the theme of race, the concepts of the “accumulation of men” and the differential “management of illegalisms” developed in them immensely enrich Foucault’s outline of a genealogy of racism. They also permit a clarification of the problem to which the concept of “state racism” is an answer, and they provide the key for understanding the wider social conditions of state racism. The guiding thread linking these earlier courses to the later material is the problem of a genealogy of logics of enmity. At the same time, the earlier courses make explicit the link between these logics and the development of capitalist society.

Author Biography

Alex Feldman
Alex J. Feldman, PhDDepartment of PhilosophyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityPennsylvania, 


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