Tag Archives: Wacquant

Loïc Wacquant and the great confinement: the new Foucault?

Two weeks ago Loïc Wacquant was invited to the doctoral seminar of Humanities at the University of Luxembourg. Comment mettre Bourdieu au travail:  principes et illustrations sur le cas de la ville et la justice was the title of his presentation and he mainly presented the research he has realised during the last 15 years. For two hours, he quite brilliantly defended his arguments: he was moving at least as much as if he would still be in the ring1. From the beginning on, when Wacquant defined his research topic as being “the body, the ghetto and the penal state“, I wondered if the should rather present Foucault than Bourdieu. At least “the body” and “the penal state” are themes that I would rather relate to Foucault than to Bourdieu2. And this first impression was confirmed later on when he presented one of his major thesis i.e., that the reality of neoliberalism is not “less state” but the replacement of the welfare state by the punitive state. While listening to his very convincing argumentation, I thought that Loïc Wacquant finally proposes a story for the 21th century that is very close to the one Foucault presented for the 18th century, a narrative of the “great confinement“. I’m quite curious what historians will do with this sociological master narrative in the future3.


  1. Wacquant Loïc J. D, Body & soul : notebooks of an apprentice boxer, Oxford; New York, Oxford University Press, 2004. []
  2. From Surveiller et punir to the later work on biopolitics. []
  3. Graf Rüdiger et Priemel Kim C., « Zeitgeschichte in der Welt der Sozialwissenschaften. Legitimität und Originalität einer Disziplin », Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 59-4, 2011, p. 479–508. []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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