“recorded on cassette tapes, transcribed and published as a text, first appearing in Portugese, and translated back into French”

How surprising the events of May 1968 must have seemed to Michel Foucault is suggested by a remark made to his life-long partner Daniel Defert in January of that year, following his nomination for a faculty position at the University of Paris Nanterre. “Strange how these students speak of their relations with profs in terms of class war.” Interpretations of this remark will reveal a lot about one’s received image of the late philosopher. Among figures of the New Left he had earned a reputation as an anti-Marxist for disparaging public comments about Jean-Paul Sartre, and the apparent heresies of Les mots et les choses (1966). A younger generation of left-leaning intellectuals, activists, and agitators, exposed only to later portraits of the radical philosopher – the author of Discipline and Punish (1974), megaphone in hand, rubbing shoulders with Sartre and other ultra-gauchistes at protests in the streets of Paris – will probably find the confession disconcerting. Is it possible that he was taken off guard by the political sparks that would set alight le mouvement du 22 mars? He did, after all, arrive in Paris post festum, participating in some of the final rallies at the Sorbonne in late June.

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