In “Society Must Be Defended” Foucault examines 17th century race war discourse not so much in order to understand 20th century racism or concepts of race but primarily because it constitutes an historical example of an attempt to think power without a head or king. This essay examines his account of race war discourse and the sources he used to construct it. It then takes issue with his claim that early race war discourse can be separated from 18th and 19th century racisms. Finally, it returns to the question of power and argues that the effect of the 1976 lecture series was to dislodge the sovereign model of power but also the model of power as war.

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Copyright © 2011, Queensland University of Technology. This article first appeared in Foucault Studies 12 (2011), 77-96.

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