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The plague and the Panopticon: Camus, with and against the total critiques of modernity

Version 2 2024-06-13, 09:45
Version 1 2016-05-23, 13:19
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-13, 09:45 authored by M Sharpe
Albert Camus's 1947 novel La Peste and 1948 drama L'État de Siège, allegories of totalitarian power using the figure of the plague (Part I), remarkably anticipate Foucault's celebrated genealogical analyses of modern power (Part II). Indeed, reading Foucault after Camus highlights a fact little-remarked in Discipline and Punish: namely, that the famous chapter on the 'Panopticon' begins by analysing the measures taken in early modern Vincennes following the advent of plague. Part III argues that, although Camus was cited as an inspiration by the nouveaux philosophes, he does not accept the reactionary motif of the total bankruptcy of the modern cultural and political worlds as hopelessly implicated in the totalitarian crimes. Indeed, Part IV highlights how Camus defends modern, descriptive scientific rationality against its totalitarian appropriations, alongside 'the power of passion, doubt, happiness, and imaginative invention' - positions which Part V suggests as Camus's continuing poignancy and relevance in the period after post-structuralism (Camus, 1952: 301).

History

Journal

Thesis eleven

Volume

133

Pagination

59-79

Location

London, Eng.

ISSN

0725-5136

eISSN

1461-7455

Language

eng

Publication classification

C Journal article, C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2016, Sage

Issue

1

Publisher

Sage