Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Foucault, plague, defoe

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alan McKinlay


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


For Foucault, the experience of plague is a vital moment in the development of new techniques of power and ways of thinking about the social world. Plague compels city or state authorities to take extreme measures to control disease. Quarantine, of the home, the city, and the nation forces assessments of issues of state power, individual liberty and medical knowledge. The most important study of plague during this period was provided by Daniel Defoe's (1722) A journal of the plague year. Defoe's narrative style blurred the line between 'fact' and 'fiction', an authorial strategy similar to Foucault's. If quarantine marks the turn towards disciplinary power and knowledge in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, then its failure to check the cholera epidemic of 1832 signalled the shift toward 'biopower', the assumption by the state of pastoral as well as disciplinary roles to public health. The state's new role in preserving or improving the health of the population relied upon the steady accumulation of detailed empirical data. The administrator gradually displaced the author as the chronicler of disease, health and normality.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McKinlay A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Culture and Organization

Year: 2009

Volume: 15

Issue: 2

Pages: 167-184

ISSN (print): 1475-9551

ISSN (electronic): 1477-2760

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/14759550902925336


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric