Stuart Elden's book Foucault's Last Decade published
Stuart Elden’s book Foucault’s Last Decade has just been published by Polity Press.
The book is a study of the work Foucault conducted between 1974 and his death in 1984. In 1974, Foucault began writing the first volume of his History of Sexuality, developing work he had already begun to present in his Collège de France lecture courses. In that first volume, published in late 1976, Foucault promised five further volumes, and indicated some other studies he intended to write. But none of those books actually appeared, and Foucault’s work – which we can now closely track from his courses – went in very different directions. At the very end of his life, two further volumes of the History of Sexuality were published, and a fourth was close to completion. In contrast to the originally planned thematic treatment, the final version was a much more historical study, returning to antiquity and early Christianity.
The Paris courses, other lectures, shorter publications, and related materials – some collaborative and some unpublished – are used in this book to provide an intellectual history of this final project of Foucault’s career. Research for this book was conducted in archives in France and California, and the account shows how Foucault’s pursuit of a problem led him to rework the project in both scope and shape. The book is broadly chronological, and shows how all of Foucault’s concerns in this period – from race to confession, from governmentality to neoliberalism – are all, in various ways, connected to the project on sexuality or, as he reconceived it, on the relation between truth and subjectivity.
The book is partnered with a second study, on the period immediately preceding the last decade, tracing how Foucault moved from The Archaeology of Knowledge to Discipline and Punish. That book, Foucault: The Birth of Power, is forthcoming with Polity in early 2017, and it analyses Foucault’s early Collège de France courses in relation to his political activism and research on health, madness and discipline.