For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

On The Government of the Living: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1979-1980

by Foucault, M (2014)


With these lectures Foucault inaugurates his investigations of truth-telling in the ethical domain of practices of techniques of the self. How and why, he asks, does the government of men require those subject to power to be subjects who must tell the truth about themselves?

Key Passage

A practical consequence of this conception of the preparation for baptism in Tertullian— and here I refer you to chapter 6 of De paenitentia, which, together with De baptismo, is the most important text for understanding all this: “the sinner,” he says, in this time of preparation for baptism, “must lament his sins even before the time of pardon,” for, he says, and this is the text I was just talking about, “the time of repentance ( pénitence ) is that of periculi i and metus , danger and fear. To those who are about to enter the water, I do not deny the effectiveness of God’s benefit, but to attain it one must work, put oneself to the task”— well, “ elaborandum est”: one must work, make the effort. What is this labor? It is what Tertullian calls [at the beginning of the next chapter] * “ paenitentiae disciplina,” the discipline of repentance ( pénitence ). (p.128)


Foucault, Foucauldian, Truth, Government, Postmodern, Poststructuralism


On the Government of the Living, Foucault Citations

Links to Reference



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