From: François Gagnon <francois.gagnon.1@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 09:19:07 -0400
First, I quite agree with you that it would be a very good thing if the
imprisonment of people for drug offenses would stop. But the question of what
should or not be done is not the point I would like to submit: the main point I
would like to raise concerns your analysis of the political situation, namely
the idea that the 'war on drugs' is 'solely perpetuated by the government'.
I have to admit that it is is disturbing for me because your formulation seems
to equate government and State. And if I read and appreciate Foucault's
thought, it is - amongst other things - because he suggests to us that
government (a way to organise the field of of possibilities of actions of
others and self) is not a simple matter - and certainly not one reducible to
State action. And, therefore, that we should analyse it differently... for the
State is certainly (still) a powerful force having effects in the field of
drugs today - but it is certainly not the only one (think of all the
'self-help' books, the private detox centers, the...) and should probably be
seen as the endpoint rather than the starting point of the dispositif that is
actively engaged in managing the relation between people and drugs.
To follow up more directly on the discussion raised by the others on prisons,
in my opinion the discussion raises difficulties if one focuses on the
technology itself, on the rates of imprisonment, on the number of people in
there, etc. Certainly, the larger and larger volume of people in there is a
part of the logic of the system (at least in the US, since in Canada - if I'm
not mistaken - the numbers seem quite stable). But the diagram in which the
prison functions seems to me to have changed quite a bit since Foucault's
'Discipline and Punish'. And if we follow Foucault and Deleuze, the technology
itself needs to be analysed as part of a dispositif that stretches far beyond
it. Indeed, Foucault studied the Prison - but in relation to the development of
a disciplinary complex and all the while said that what he had 'cartographed
was what we were not anymore. Recalling this, Deleuze tempted to give a hint as
where we might be looking by saying that we were living in control societies -
that is, societies characterized mainly by continuous surveillance and open
'places' (milieux ouverts), contrasting it with the discipline's closed spaces
and discontinuous modes of action. He gave examples: closed schools as opposed
to 'continuous formation' (formation continue); maufacture vs enterprise, etc.
In the wake of the 'new technologies' (for example, the device that lets the
managers of the prison system (le braceleet electronique) know where the
prisonners are all the time outside of the prison), is this a fruitful route to
follow for an analysis? I don't know and I've written too much!
> I recall a similar lecture by Angela Davis at Stanford last year. She
> discussed how Cuba is "better" than the US -- quite disturbing if you ask
> In regards to prisons, I think the solution is simple. The majority of
> inmates is a result of the "war on drugs", which, mind you, is perpetuated
> solely by the government to instil fear on the people and to maintain
> There would be no need to build new prisons if the war on drugs was ended.
> The gov't does not want to lose this control, but until this happens we will
> see new communities being built not to provide for new families, but for
> individuals who use natural plants for recreational use.
> Solution = stop this foolish "war on drugs" ... get gov't out of the
> business, the business of selling fear!
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Étudiant au Doctorat
Département de Communication
Université de Montréal
(514)343-6111 poste 1464