What is a “history of the present”? On Foucault’s genealogies and their critical preconditions

David Garland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this article Michel Foucault’s method of writing a “history of the present” is explained, together with its critical objectives and its difference from conventional historiography. Foucault’s shift from a style of historical research and analysis conceived as “archaeology” to one understood as “genealogy” is also discussed, showing how the history of the present deploys genealogical inquiry and the uncovering of hidden conflicts and contexts as a means of re-valuing the value of contemporary phenomena. The article highlights the critical observations of present-day phenomena from which a history of the present begins, paying particular attention to Foucault’s concept of “dispositif” and his method of problematization. Foucault’s analyses of Bentham’s Panopticon, of the disciplinary sources of the modern prison, and of the technology of confession are discussed by way of illustration.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)365-384
    Number of pages20
    JournalPunishment and Society
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 27 2014


    • Foucault
    • archaeology
    • dispositif
    • genealogy
    • history of the present
    • problematization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Law


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