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Battling Bonaparte after Waterloo: re-enactment, representation and 'The Napoleon bust business'

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Publication date25/09/2015
Host publicationTracing War in British Enlightenment and Romantic Culture
EditorsNeil Ramsey, Gillian Russell
Place of PublicationHoundmills
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781137474308
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In his Collège de France lectures of 1975–6, translated and published in Great Britain in 2003 as Society Must be Defended, Michel Foucault examines what he sees as the continuation of war in peacetime society, inverting Carl von Clausewitz’s famous dictum that ‘War is the continuation of politics with the admixture of other means’ to argue the opposite, that ‘politics is the continuation of war by other means’.1 In these lectures, Foucault explores the idea that even what is conventionally regarded as peacetime society is structured in all its aspects and operations by conflict, asserting that:

"we have to interpret the war that is going on beneath peace; peace itself is coded war…. We really do have to become experts on battles, because the war has not ended, because preparations are still being made for the decisive battles, and because we have to win the decisive battle. In other words, the enemies who face us still pose a threat to us, and it is not some reconciliation or pacification that will allow us to bring the war to an end." (p. 51)

Throughout this lecture series, Foucault tests this model of power as ‘war’ on a range of historical examples and social structures, looking at ideas of class, civil, and race conflict. Though he would abandon the war metaphor as a mode of analysis once the lecture series was complete, his thinking is characteristically suggestive in its speculation that war is not terminated by victories or treaties but continues to occupy a key function in peacetime.