Saturday, 19 October 2013


A selection from the literature on the 'Art of Government' from the philosophy of Greeko-Roman antiquity right up to the political-economy and asylum management of the 18th and 19th centuries.

It will be seen that in the writings of Plato an analogy is drawn between the composition of the state ('body politic') and the individual ('body natural'), so that whether he is talking about 'government' of the 'state' or 'self-government' the same structure is common to both: the division of the soul into an 'irrational element', 'worser part' of man, and 'rational element', 'better part' of man, and the subjection of the former by the latter. So, in terms of this analogy, the 'mob' in the state is likened to the 'unruly passions' in the individual, and the 'philosopher king' or 'ruling classes' are likened to the 'citadel of the mind' ('rational soul'). This basic structure, sketched out in the writings of Plato, proves remarkably persistent in the discourse on the art of governmening both selves and others over the centuries, though subject to modifications and elaborations.(which will become clear through the selection). Another figure whose lineaments Plato sketched out in broad outlines is that of the 'tyrannical character,' which would furnish the model of mans madness-- his 'bestial nature'-- for subsequent ages.

The asylum of the 18th and 19th century was a privaliged place for the development and perfection of the techniques of management,
a place where mans dream of the ideal society, the 'republic of the good', could be pursued without restrictions, and can thus be seen as a kind of 'society in minature.' The focus of the selection here will be on the changes which took place in the practices within the asylum around this time. 

A selection from the writings of the Taoist's on the 'Art of Government' will be included in the service of providing a kind of comparative perspective (a 'light by contrast').

Note: see also Foucault's lectures on 'Pychiatric Power' here

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