'A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason' by Michel Foucault (1961): 'The Great Confinement', 'The Correctional World', 'The Insane'

Statues of Melancholy and Raving Madness above the entrance of Bethlem Hospital at Moorfields (circa 1680).

A selection from the second chapter La grand renfermement ('The Great Confinement'), and the third chapter Le monde correctionnaire ('The Correctional World'), and Les insenses ('The Insane'), from Histoire de la folie by Michel Foucault (1961), which blends together both existing English translations (privaliging Howard's earlier translation of the abridged text over Kalfa's recent one of the complete text, using the latter to fill in the gaps-- and occassionally supply the deficiencies-- of the former).

  • For a selection from the opening chapter, Stultifera Navis ('The Ship of Fools'), see here.
  • For a selection from the chapter 'The Great Fear', see here.
  • For a selection from the chapter 'The Birth of the Asylum', see here.

Where proud Augusta, blest with long Repose,
Her ancient Wall and ruin'd Bulwark shows;
Close by a verdant Plain, with graceful Height
A stately Fabric rises to the Sight.
Yet, though its Parts all elegantly shine,
And sweet Proportion crowns the whole Design;
Though Art, in strong expressive Sculputre shown,
Consummate Art informs the breathing Stone;
Far other Views than these within appear,
And Woe and Horror dwell forever here.
For ever from the echoing Roofs rebounds
A dreadful Din of heterogeneous Sounds;
From this, from that, from ev'ry Quarter rise
Loud Shouts, and sullen Groans, and doleful Cries;
Heart-soft'ning Plaints demand the pitying Tear,
And Peals of hideous Laughter shock the Ear.

Thomas Fitzgerald, Bedlam: A Poem, 1733.

Hopital Royal de La Salpetriere  (Hôpital général de Paris)

The new Bethlem Hospital at Moorfields, designed by Robert Hooke, 1676

The Great Confinement

"Compelle Intrare" [Editors note: 'compel to enter', from Luke 14:12-24. This is the biblical passage which Saint Augustine invoked when furnishing a justification for the use of force against Heretics and Schismatics. In medieval thought, this expression is associated with the idea that 'outside the church (which is styled an ark) there is no salvation' (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus)]

By a strange act of force, the classical age was to reduce to silence the madness whose voices the Renaissance had just liberated, but whose violence it had already tamed [Kalfa's translation renders this passage: After defusing its violence, the Renaissance had liberated the voice of Madness. The age of reason, in a strange takeover, was then to reduce it to silence].
On the methodical path of his doubt, Descartes came across madness beside dreams and all the other forms of error. Might the possibility of his own madness rob him of his own body, in the manner in which the outside world occasionally disappears through an error of the senses, or in which consciousness sleeps while we dream?
How could it be denied that these hands or this whole body are mine? Unless perhaps I were to liken myself to madmen, whose brains are so damaged by the persistnt vapours of melancholia that they firmly maintain they are kings when they are paupers, or say they are dressed in purple when they are naked, or that their heads are made of earthenware or that they are pumpkins, or made of glass.
But Descartes does not evade the danger of madness in the same way that he sidesteps the possibility of dream or error. However deceptive they might be, the senses can only alter 'things that are barely perceptible, or at a great distance,' and however strong the illusion, there is still a residue of truth assuring him that he is 'sitting by the fire, wearing a dressing gown.' ... neither sleep peopled with images nor the clear consciousness that the senses are deceived can lead doubt to its most universal point: we might admit that our eyes can deceive us, and 'suppose that we are asleep,' but the truth will never slip away entirely into darkness.
Madness is an altogether different affair. If its dangers compromise neither the enterprise nor the essential truth that is found, this is... because I, when I think, cannot be considered insane. [...] ...it is an impossibility of being mad which is inherent in the thinking subject rather than the object of his thoughts. [...] ...one cannot suppose that one is mad, even in thought, for madness is precisely a condition of impossibility for thought: 'I would be thought equally mad.'
In the economy of doubt, there is a fundamental disequilibrium between on the one hand madness, and dreams and errors on the other. [...] Dreams and illusions are overcome by the very structure of truth, but madness is simply excluded by the doubting subject... . A specific decision has been taken since the Essays of Montaigne. When the latter went to meet Tasso, there was nothing to assure him that all thought was not haunted by the ghost of unreason. [...] ...what reason could make him a judge of madness?

Reason has taught me that if you condemn in this way anything whatever as definitely false and quite impossible, you are claiming to know the frontier and bounds of the will of God and the power of Nature our Mother; it taught me also that there is nothing in the whole world madder than bringing matters down to the measure of our own capacities and potentialities.

Man was never certain that he was not dreaming, and never sure that he was not mad: 'do we not often feel ourselves to be in contradiction with our own better judgement?'

Descartes by contrast has now acquired that certainty, and he grasps it firmly: madness, quite simply, is no longer his concern. ... as a way of thinking, madness implies itself, and thus excludes itself from his project. The perils of madness have been quashed by the exercise of Reason, and this new sovereign rules a domain where the only possible enemies are errors and illusions. ... madness is banished in the name of the man who doubts, and who is no more capable of opening himself to unreason than he is of not thinking or not being.

Montaigne's problematics of madness are thereby modified, in an almost imperceptible but nonetheless decisive manner. [...] Unreason in the sixteenth century... constantly posed a threat to the link between subjectivity and truth. The path taken by Cartesian doubt seems to indicate that by the seventeenth century the danger has been excluded, and that madness is no longer a peril lurking in the domain where the thinking subject holds rights over truth: and for classical thought, that domain is the domain of reason itself. Madness has been banished. While man can still go mad, thought, as the sovereign exercise carried out by a subject seeking the truth, can no longer be devoid of reason. A new dividing line has appeared, rendering that experience so familiar to the Renaissance - unreasonable Reason, or reasoned Unreason [i.e., as Kalfa put it in his introduction, 'human reason is madness compared to the reason of God, but divine reason appears as madness to human reason', or, 'the wisdom of men is folly in the eyes of God and divine wisdom is folly in the eyes of the world']-- impossible. Between Montaigne and Descartes an event has taken place, which concerns the advent of a ratio. But the advent of a ratio in the Western world meant far more than the appearance of a 'rationalism.' More secretly, but in equal measure, it also meant the movement whereby Unreason was driven underground, to disappear, indeed, but also take root.
And it is to that other aspect of the classical event that we must now turn our attention.
More than one sign gives it away, and they don't all come from a philosophical experience of knowledge.
It is common knowledge that the seventeenth century created enormous houses of confinement... . It is also recognized that absolute power made use of lettres de cachet and arbitrary measures of imprisonment; what is less familiar is the judicial conscience that could inspire such practices. Since Pinel, Tuke, Wagnitz, we know that madmen were subjected to the regime of this confinement for a century and a half, and that they would one day be discovered in the wards of the Hopital General, in the cells of prisons; they would be found mingled with the population of the workhouses or Zuchthausern. [...] It is within the walls of confinement that Pinel and nineteenth-century psychiatry would come upon madmen; it is there-- let us remember-- that they would leave them, not without boasting of having 'delivered' them. From the middle of the seventeenth century, madness was linked with this country of confinement, and with the act which designated confinement as its natural abode.
A date can serve as a landmark: 1656, the decree that founded, in Paris, the Hopital General.
This structure proper to the monarchical and bourgeois order of France... soon extended its network over the whole of France. An edict of the King, dated June 16, 1676, prescribed the establishment of an "hospital general in each city of his kingdom." [...] Over the entire face of France, hospital generaux were opened; on the eve of the Revolution, they were to be found in thirty-two provincial cities.
The phenomenon has European dimensions.
In England the origins of confinement are more remote. An act of 1575 covering both "the punishment of vagabonds and the relief of the poor" prescribed the construction of houses of correction, to number at least one per county. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, a general reorganization: a fine of five pounds was imposed on any justice of the peace who had not established one in the area of his jurisdiction; the houses were to install trades, workshops, and factories (milling, spinning, weaving) to aid in their upkeep and assure their inmates of work... . The development of these "bridewells" was not too considerable; often they were gradually absorbed by the prisons to which they were attached... . On the other hand, the workhouses were destined to greater success. [...] In 1697 several parishes of Bristol united to form the first workhouse in England... . [...] By the end of the eighteenth century, there were 126 of them.  
In several years, an entire network had spread across Europe. John howard, at the end of the eighteenth century, undertook to investigate it; in England, Holland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, he made pilgrimages to all the chief centres of confinement-- "hospitals, prisons, jails"-- and his philanthropy was outraged by the fact that the same walls could contain those condemned by common law, young men who disturbed their families' peace or who squandered their goods, people without profession, and the insane. Proof that even at this period, a certain meaning had been lost: that which had so hastily, so spontaneously summoned into being all over Europe the category of classical order we call confinement. In a hundred and fifty years, confinement had become the abusive amalgam of heterogeneous elements. Yet at its origin, there must have existed a unity which justified its urgency; between these diverse forms and the classical period that called them into being, there must have been a principle of cohesion we cannot ignore under the scandalous mask of the pre-Revolutionary sensibility. What, then, was the reality represented by this entire populatoin which almost overnight found itself shut up, excluded more severely than the lepers? [...] There must have formed, silently and doubtless over the course of many years, a social sensibility, common to European culture, that suddenly began to manifest itself in the second half of the seventeenth century; it was this sensibility that suddenly isolated the category destined to populate the places of confinement. To our eyes, the population designated to fill the space long left empty by lepers seems a strange amalgam, but what appears to us as a confused sensibility was evidently a clearly articulated perception to the mind of the classical age. It is this mode of perception which we must investigate in order to discover the form of sensibility to madness in an epoch we are accustomed to define by the privileges of Reason. The act which, by tracing the locus of confinement, conferred upon it its powers of segregation and provided a new homeland for madness, though it may be coherent and concerted, is not simple. It brings together into a complex unity a new sensibility to poverty and to the duties of assistance, new forms of reaction to the economic problems of unemployment and idleness, a new ethic of work, and also the dream of a city where moral obligation was joined to civil law, within the authoritarian forms of constraint.


The practice of confinement demonstrates a new reaction to poverty and indigence, a strange, novel form of pathos, a different relationship between mankind and all that can be inhuman in his existence. In the course of the sixteenth century, the figure of the pauper, and those who could not be responsible for their own existence, gradually assumed a role that the Middle Ages would have failed to recognise altogether.
The Renaissance had stripped poverty of what had previously been a positive, mystical charge. This came from a dual movement of thought that stripped Poverty of its absolute meaning, and stripped Charity of its value.  

To say that in Protestant countries the Reformation led to a progressive secularisation of Charity is something of a commonplace. But through this process of taking responsibility for the poor and unable, cities and states prepared the way to a new form of sensibility to poverty. 

After Calvin and Luther, poverty bore the marks of an immemorial punishment, and became, in the world of state-assisted charity, self-complacency and crime againast the good order of the state. From being the object of a religious experience and sanctified, poverty became the object of a moral conception that condemned it. The great houses of confinement were a clear result of that evolution. They were indeed the secularisation of charity, but in obscure fashion they were also the moral punishment of poverty. By different paths, and not without considerable difficulty, Catholicism too arrived at analogous results.   

One result of the Reformation had been the transformation of convents and monasteries into hospitals, and at the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church hoped to obtain a similiar result from its bishops. The Reformation Decree recommended that: 'the poor should be nourished by the example of good works, and anyone worthy of pity should be treated with paternal attention.' Shortly before the Council, one of the first entirely profane conceptions of charity in the history of the Catholic Church was put forward by Juan Luis Vives, in which he criticised private aid to the poor, and underlined the dangers of charity, which, he claims, supports evil, and the dangerous proximity between poverty and vice. [...] Vives recommended that magistrates should be nominated in every city, and that they should walk the streets and slums drawing up a register of the poor, and recording their lifestyles and moral outlook, so that the most recalcitrant could be locked up in houses of confinement and workhouses. [...] In 1607, a text appeared in France which was both pamphlet and manifesto, The Chimera, or the Spectre of Mendicity, demanding the creation of a hospital for the poor, where they might find 'life, clothes, a trade and punishment.'

But  Catholic thought was reluctant to change, as were the traditions of the Church. These collective forms of assistance met with initial resistance, as they appeared to downgrade the merit of an act of individual assistance, and removed the eminent dignity that was inherent to poverty. The Christian duty of charity was being turned into little more than a civic obligation, and poverty had simply become a crime against public order. [...] Before long, the Catholic world had adopted the mode of perception of poverty that had come to prevail in the world of Protestant thought. In 1657, Vincent de Paul gave his whole-hearted approval to the project to 'group together the poor in one place to look after them, instruct them and keep them occupied. This is a grand design.' [....] ...within the space of a few years, the Catholic Church in France had given its backing to the Great Confinement ordered by Louis XIV. [...] Catholics, following the example of the Archbiship of Tours, began to see the poor as 'the very dregs of the Republic, not on account of their physical poverty, which properly arouses compassion, but for their spiritual indigence, which is cause of revulsion'. 

On the one side was the realm of Good, where poverty submitted and conformed to the order that was imposed upon it, and on the other the realm of Evil, where poverty rebelled and tried to escape that order. The former accepted internment, and found its repose there; the latter resisted it, and thereby merited its condition.
This reasoning was expounded quite bluntly in
a text inspired by the Papal court in 1693, which was translated into French at the close of the century under the title La Mendicite abolie (Begging Vanquished). The author made a distinction therein between the good and bad poor, those of Christ and those of the Devil. Both bear witness to the usefulness of houses of confinement, the former because they gratefully accepted all that the authorities bestowed upon them, 'patient, humble, modest, content with their station and the assistance that the Bureau brings them, and thanking God for his providence.' The Devil's poor by contrast complained about the General Hospital, and the constraints that it imposed upon them. 'Enemies of good order, lazy, deceitful, lascivious and given over to drink, they speak no language other than that of the devil their father, and curse the Bureau's teachers and directors.' Therein lay the justification for depriving them of their freedom, a freedom for which they had no use other than the glorification of Satan. Confinement was thus doubly justified, in a movement of undecidable equivocation, both as reward and as punishment, according to the moral standing of the person on whom it was inflicted. Up until the close of the classical age, this ambiquity of the practice of confinement remained, its strange reversibility implying  that its meaning could alter in responce to the merits or faults of its victims. The good poor, the deserving, saw it as a gesture of assistance, and a good work from which they drew comfort, while the bad poor- precisely inasmuch as they were bad- turned the gesture into an act of repression. This opposition between the good and bad poor is essential for an understanding of the structure and meaning of confinement. The Hopital General classified them as such, and madness too was divided up in similiar fashion, so that it too, according to the moral standing it manifested, could fall under the categories of assistance or repression. All internees fell within the scope of this ethical valorisation, and before being objects of knowledge or pity, they were treated as moral subjects. 

But paupers could only be moral subjects in so far as they had ceased to be the invisible representatives of God on earth. [...] Since the creation of the General Hospital and the charitable bureaux, God no longer appeared in a poor man's rags. The fear of refusing a crust to Jesus dying of hunger underpinned a whole Christian mythology of Charity, and had given an absolute meaning to the whole grand medieval ritual of hospitality; but that fear, it emerged, was now ill-founded.

When a Charitable bureau has been set up in a town, Christ will no longer take the appearance of a poor man who, to maintain his lazy, idle life, refuses to submit to an order established by genuinely holy means for the relief of true poverty.

This time want really had lost its mystical sense. Nothing, in the suffering that it represented, now referred back to the miraculous, fugitive presence of a god. It was stripped of all power of manifestation.

This was the first of the great shackles with which the classical age was to bind madness. It is commonly noted that in the Middle Ages the madman was seen as a kind of holy person, because he was possessed. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the madman was sacred, then it was only in so far as, for medieval charity, he was associated with the obscure powers of poverty. More than any other, he exalted it. The mad were intimately connected with the poor, and the sign of the cross was shaved into their hair. In was under that sign that Tristan presented himself in Cornwall for the last time, safe in the knowledge that he would receive the charity offered to the poor. In the guise of a pilgrim of unreason, with his staff around his neck and the sign of the cross marked on his skull, he was sure to gain admittance to the King's castle... . 

If madness, in the seventeenth century, had become a secular affair, it was above all because poverty had been downgraded, and appeared now only on a moral horizon. The hospitality that had previously been reserved for the mad would henceforth only be found within the walls of a hospital, and it would be no different from the welcome reserved for the poor. [...] A new sensibility had come into being, no longer religious but social. A familiar figure on the human landscape of the medieval world, the madman had come from another world. Now he stood out on the background, a problem of 'police,' a matter of social order for individuals of the polity. Once, he was welcomed because he came from without; now he was excluded because he came from within, and the mad were forced to take their place alongside paupers, beggars and vagabonds. An ambiguous welcome awaited them, in the form of this public health measure that put them out of circulation: the mad still wandered, but no longer on the road of a strange pilgrimage-- they just troubled the order of the social space. Stripped of the rights and glory that had previously belonged to poverty, madness, with poverty and idleness, were suddenly no more than moments in the immanent dialectics of the state. 

Confinement, that massive phenomenon, the signs of which are found all across eighteenth-century Europe, is a "police" matter. Police, in the precise sense that the classical epoch gave to it... .

Before having the medical meaning we give it, or that at least we like to suppose it has, confinement was required by something quite different from any concern with curing the sick. What made it necessary was an imperative of labour. Our philanthropy prefers to recognize the signs of a benevolence toward sickness where there is only a condemnation of idleness. 
Let us return to the first moments of the "Confinement," and to that royal edict of April 27, 1656, that led to the creation of the Hopital General. From the beginning, the institution set itself the task of preventing "mendicancy and idleness as the source of all disorders." In fact, this was the last of the great measures that had been taken since the Renaissance to put an end to unemployment or at least to begging. In 1532, the Parlement of Paris decided to arrest beggars and force them to work in the sewers of the city, chained in pairs. [...] When Henri IV began the siege of Paris [1590], the city, which had less than 100,000 inhabitants, contained more than 30,000 beggars [Alistair Horne, in his Seven Ages of Paris: Portrait of a City (2003), puts the estimated population of Paris at the time of the siege at around 200,000]. An economic revival began early in the seventeenth century; it was decided to reabsorb by force the unemployed who had not regained a place in society; a decree of the Parlement dated 1606 ordered the beggars of Paris to be whipped in the public square, branded on the shoulder, shorn, and then driven from the city; to keep them from returning, an ordinance of 1607 established companies of archers at all the city gates to forbid entry to indigents. 

For the first time purely negative measures of exclusion were replaced by a measure of confinement; the unemployed person was no longer driven away or punished; he was taken in charge, at the expense of the nation but at the cost of his individual liberty. Between him and society, an implicit system of obligation was established: he had the right to be fed, but he must accept the physical and moral constraint of confinement. 
It is this entire, rather undifferentiated mass at which the edict of 1657 is aimed: a population without resources, without social moorings, a class rejected or rendered mobile by new economic developments. 

Throughout Europe, confinement  had the same meaning, at least if we consider its origin. It constituted one of the answers the seventeenth century gave to an economic crisis that affected the entire Western world... . Even England, of all the countries of Western Europe the least dependent on the system, had to solve the same problems. [...] In 1622 appeared a pamphlet, Grievous Groan for the Poor... which, emphasizing the danger, condemns the general negligence: "Though the number of the poor do daily increase, all things yet worketh for the worst in their behalf; ...many of these parishes turneth forth their poor, yea, and their lusty labourers that will not work... to beg, filch, and steal for their maintenance, so that the country is pitifully pestered with them." It was feared that they would overrun the country, and since they could not, as on the Continent, cross the border into another nation, it was proposed that they be "banished and conveyed to the New-found Land... ." In 1630, the King established a commission to assure the rigorous observance of the Poor Laws. That same year, it published a series of "orders and directions"; it recommended prosecuting beggars and vagabonds, as well as "all those who live in idleness and will not work for reasonable wages or who spend what they have in taverns."

But outside of the periods of crisis, confinement acquired another meaning. Its repressive function was combined with a new use. It was no longer merely a question of confining those out of work, but of giving work to those who had been confined and thus making them contribute to the prosperity of all. [...] Let us not forget that the first houses of confinement appear in England in the most industrialized parts of the country: Worcester, Norwich, Bristol... .

When the Hopital General was created in Paris, it was intended above all to suppress beggary, rather than to provide an occupation for the internees. It seems, however, that Colbert, like his English contemporaries, regarded assistance through work as both a remedy to unemployment and a stimulus to the development of manufactories. [...] "All the poor who are capable to working must, upon work days, do what is necessary to avoid idleness, which is the mother of all evils, as well as to accustom them to honest toil and also to earning some part of their sustenance."

During the entire eighteenth century, the economic significance Colbert wanted to give  the Hopital General continued to recede; that center of forced labour would become a place of priviliged idleness. "What is the source of the disorders at Bicetre?" the men of the Revolution were again to ask. And they would supply the answer that had already been given in the seventeenth century: "It is idleness. What is the means of remedying it? Work."

In this first phase of the industrial world, labour... was regarded... as a general solution, an infallible panecea, a remedy to all forms of poverty. Labour and poverty were located in a simple opposition, in inverse proportion to each other. As for that power, its special characteristic, of abolishing poverty, labour- according to classical thought- possessed it not so much by its productive capacity as by a certain force of moral enchantment. [...] Since the Fall, man had accepted labour as a penance and for its power to work redemption. It was not a law of nature which forced man to work, but the effect of a curse. The earth was innocent of that sterility in which it would slumber if man remained idle:
the earth has not sinned, and if she is cursed, it is on account of the fallen men who work to render her plentiful: the earth gives no useful fruit, even the most necessary, other than through the continual arduous efforts of man. Bossuet.

The obligation to work was not linked to any confidence in nature; and it was not even through an obscure loyalty that the land would reward man's labour. The theme was constant among Catholic thinkers, as among the Protestants, that labour does not bear its own fruit. Produce and wealth were not found at the term of a dialectic of labour and nature. Here is Calvin's admonition: "Nor do we believe, according as men will be vigilant and skillful, according as they will have done their duty well, that they can make their land fertile; it is the benediction of God which governs all things." And this danger of a labour which would remain sterile if God did not intervene in His infinite mercy is acknowledged in turn by Bossuet: "At each moment, the hope of the harvest and the unique fruit of all our labours may escape us; we are at the mercy of the inconstatnt heavens that bring down rain upon the tender ears." This precarious labor to which nature is never obliged to respond—save by the special will of' God—is nonetheless obligatory in all strictness... . The poor man who, without consenting to "torment" the land, waits until God comes to his aid, since He has promised to feed the birds of the sky, would be disobeying the great law of Scripture: "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Does not reluctance to work mean "trying beyond measure the power of God," as Calvin says? [...] If it is true that labor is not inscribed among the laws of nature, it is enveloped in the order of the fallen world. This is why idleness is rebellion—the worst form of all, in a sense: it waits for nature to be generous as in the innocence of Eden, and seeks to constrain a Goodness to which man cannot lay claim since Adam. Pride was the sin of man before the Fall; but the sin of idleness is the supreme pride of man once he has fallen, the absurd pride of poverty. In our world, where the land is no longer fertile except in thistles and weeds, idleness is the fault par excellence. In the Middle Ages, the great sin, radix malorum omnium, was pride, Superbia. According to Johan Huizinga, there was a time, at the dawn of the Renaissance, when the supreme sin assumed the aspect of Avarice, Dante's cicca cupidigia. All the seventeenth-century texts, on the contrary, announced the infernal triumph of Sloth: it was sloth which led the round of the vices and swept them on. Let us not forget that according to the edict of its creation, the Hopital General must prevent "mendicancy and idleness as sources of all disorder." Louis Bourdaloue echoes these condemnations of sloth, the wretched pride of fallen man: "What, then, is the disorder of an idle life? It is, replies Saint Ambrose, in its true meaning a second rebellion of the creature against God." Labor in the houses of confinement thus assumed its ethical meaning: since sloth had become the absolute form of rebellion, the idle would be forced to work... . 
It was in a certain experience of labor that the indissociably economic and moral demand for confinement was formulated. Between labor and idleness in the classical world ran a line of demarcation that replaced the exclusion of leprosy. The asylum was substituted for the lazar house, in the geography of haunted places as in the landscape of the moral universe. The old rites of excommunication were revived, but in the world of production and commerce. [...] The nineteenth century would consent, would even insist that to the mad and to them alone be transferred these lands on which, a hundred and fifty years before, men had sought to pen the poor, the vagabond, the unemployed.

In the workshops in which they were interned, they distinquished themselves by their inability to work and to follow the rhythms of collective life. [...] Until the Renaissance, the sensibility to madness was linked to the presence of imaginary transcendences. In the classical age, for the first time, madness was perceived through a condemnation of idleness and in a social immanence guaranteed by the community of labour. This community acquired an ethical power of segregation, which permitted it to eject, as into another world, all forms of social uselessness. It was in this other world, encircled by the sacred powers of labour, that madness would assume the status we now attribute to it. If there is, in classical madness, something which refers elsewhere, and to other things, it is no longer because the madman comes from the world of the irrational and bears its stigmata; rather, it is because he crosses the frontiers of bourgeois order of his own accord, and alienates himself outside the sacred limits of its ethic.
In fact, the relation between the practice of confinement and the insistence on work is not defined by economic conditions; far from it. A moral perception sustains and animates it. When the Board of Trade published its report on the poor in which it proposed the means "to render them useful to the public," it was made quite clear that the origin of poverty was neither scarcity of commodities nor unemployment, but "the weakening of discipline and the relaxation of morals." [...] ...the Hopital does not have the appearance of a mere refuge for those whom age, infirmity, or sickness keeps from working; it will have not only the aspect of a forced labour camp, but also that of a moral institution responsible for punishing, for correcting a certain moral "abeyance"... . The Hopital General has an ethical status. It is this moral charge which invests its directors, and they are granted every judicial apparatus and means of repression: "They have power of authority, of direction, of administration, of commerce, of police, of jurisdiction, of correction and punishment"; and to accomplish this task "stakes, irons, prisons, and dungeons" [Regulations of the Hopital General, articles XII and XIII] are put at their disposal. 

The prisoner who could and who would work would be released, not so much because he was again useful to society [i.e., in a utalitarian sense], but because he had again subscribed to the great ethical pact of human existence. ...the measure of their zeal in the first activities makes it possible to "judge their desire to reform." [...] ...every fault "will be punished by reduction of gruel, by increase of work, by imprisonment and other punishments customary in the said hospitals, as the directors shall see fit." It is enough to read the "general regulations for daily life in the House of Saint-Louis de la Salpetriere" to understand that the very requirement of labour was instituted as an exercise in moral reform... , which reveals, if not the ultimate meaning, at least the essential justification of confinement.
An important phenomenon, this invention of a site of constraint, where morality castigates by means of administrative enforcement. For the first time, institutions of morality are established in which an astonishing synthesis of moral obligation and civil law is effected. The law of nations will no longer countenance the disorder of hearts. To be sure, this is not the first time in European culture that moral error, even in its most private form, has assumed the aspect of a transgression against the written or unwritten laws of the community. But in this great confinement of the classical age, the essential thing—and the new event—is that men were confined in cities of pure morality, where the law that should reign in all hearts was to be applied without compromise, without concession, in the rigorous forms of physical constraint. Morality permitted itself to be administered like trade or economy.
Thus we see inscribed in the institutions of absolute monarchy- in the very ones that long remained the symbol of its arbitrary power- the great bourgeois, and soon republican, idea that virtue, too, is an affair of state, that decrees can be published to make it flourish, that an authority can be established to make sure it is respected. The walls of confinement actually enclose the negative of that moral city of which the bourgeois conscience began to dream in the seventeenth century; a moral city for those who sought, from the start, to avoid it, a city where right reigns only by virtue of a force without appeal- a sort of sovereignty of good, in which intimidation alone prevails and the only recompense of virtue (to this degree its own reward) is to escape punishment. In the shadows of the bourgeois city is born this strange republic of the good which is imposed by force on all those suspected of belonging to evil. This is the underside of the bourgeoisie's great dream and great preoccupation in the classical age: the laws of the State and the laws of the heart at last identical.

Is this not the dream that seems to have haunted the founders of the house of confinement in Hamburg? One of the directors is to see that "all in the house are properly instructed as to religious and moral duties. . . . The schoolmaster must instruct the children in religion, and encourage them, at proper times, to learn and repeat portions of Scripture. He must also teach them reading, writing and accounts, and a decent behaviour to those that visit the house. He must take care that they attend divine service, and are orderly at it."[John Howard, The State of the Prisons in England and Wales (London, 1784), p. 73] In England, the workhouse regulations devote much space to the surveillance of morals and to religious education. [...] Hamburg or Plymouth, Zuchthausern and workhouses—throughout Protestant Europe, fortresses of moral order were constructed... . 

In Catholic countries, the goal is the same but the religious imprint is a little more marked, as the work of Saint Vincent de Paul bears witness. "...Experience convinces us only too unhappily that the source of the misrule triumphant today among the young lies entirely in the lack of instruction and of obedience in spiritual matters, since they much prefer to follow their evil inclinations than the holy inspiration of God and the charitable advice of their parents." [Sermon cited in Pierre Collet, Vie de saint Vincent de Paul (Paris, 1818).] Therefore the pensioners must be delivered from a world which, for their weakness, is only an invitation to sin, must be recalled to a solitude where they will have as companions only their "guardian angels" incarnate in the daily presence of their warders: these latter, in fact, "render them the same good offices that their guardian angels perform for them invisibly: namely, instruct them, console them, and procure their salvation." In the houses of La Charite, the greatest attention was paid to this ordering of life and conscience, which throughout the eighteenth century would more and more clearly appear as the reason d'etre of confinement.

All these prisons of moral order might have borne the motto which Howard could still read on the one in Mainz: "If wild beasts can be broken to the yoke, it must not be despaired of correcting the man who has strayed." For the Catholic Church, as in the Protestant countries, confinement represents, in the form of an authoritarian model, the myth of social happiness: a police whose order will be entirely transparent to the principles of religion, and a religion whose requirements will be satisfied, without restrictions, by the regulations of the police and the constraints with which it can be armed. There is, in these institutions, an attempt of a kind to demonstrate that order may be adequate to virtue. In this sense, "confinement" conceals both a metaphysics of government and a politics of religion; it is situated, as an effort of tyrannical synthesis, in the vast space separating the garden of God and the cities which men, driven from paradise, have built with their own hands.

Confinement was an institutional creation peculiar to the seventeenth century. [...] ...in the history of unreason, it marked a decisive event: the moment when madness was perceived on the social horizon of poverty, of incapacity for work, of inability to integrate with the group; the moment when madness began to rank among the problems of the city. The new meanings assigned to poverty, the importance given to the obligation to work, and all the ethical values that are linked to labor, ultimately determined the experience of madness and inflected its course.

A sensibility was born which had drawn a line and laid a cornerstone, and which chose only to banish. The concrete space of classical society reserved a neutral region, a blank page where the real life of the city was suspended; here, order no longer freely confronted disorder, reason no longer tried to make its own way among all that might evade or seek to deny it. Here reason reigned in the pure state, in a triumph arranged for it in advance over a frenzied unreason. Madness was thus torn from that imaginary freedom which still allowed it to flourish on the Renaissance horizon. Not so long ago, it had floundered about in broad daylight: in King Lear, in Don Quixote. But in less than a half-century, it had been sequestered and, in the fortress of confinement, bound to Reason, to the rules of morality and to their monotonous nights.

Chapter 3

The Correctional World


The fact that the internees of the eighteenth century bear a resemblance to our modern vision of the asocial is undeniable, but it is above all a question of results [alt trans. 'this is of the order of results'], as the character of the marginal was produced by the gesture of segregation itself.

Through this gesture, something inside man was placed outside of himself, and pushed over the edge of our horizon. It is the gesture of confinement, in short, which created alienation.

Once the Great Confinement had come into being across Europe, who exactly was to be found inside the walls of the these cities of exile that sprang up at the gates of towns?

From 1650 to the time of Tuke, Wagnitz and Pinel, the Brothers of Saint John of god, the Congregationists of Saint Lazarus, the Guardians of Bethlem, Bicetre and the Zucchthauser recited the litanies of confinement in their lengthy registers: 'debauched', 'imbecile', 'prodigal', 'infirm', 'of unsound mind', 'libertine', 'ungrateful son', 'dissolute father', 'prostitute', 'insane', and so forth. No attempt was made to discriminate bewteen them, and all were cast into the same abstract dishonour.

To us, the differences are clear, and the undistinguishing consciousness that mixes them together looks like ignorance. [...] But it is not to our knowledge that we should refer to understand what we take to be ignorance: rather we must examine that experience, to understand the terms in which it thought of itself, and what it could articulate of it.

...confinement did not simply play the negative role of exclusion, but also had a positive organizing role. [...] It brought together in one field characters and values where preceeding cultures had seen no resemblance... . [...] Confinement was merely the visible phenomenon on the surface of [a] deeper process, and an integral part of the whole of classical culture. ... creating a uniform world of Unreason.

From the earliest months of the great confinement, the veneral had their place in the Hopital General. [...] The Hopital General was... to admit the 'corrupted', but not without formality: a debt had to be paid to public morality, and patients had to be prepared on the path of punishment and penance for their return to the communion from which sin had caused their expulsion.

Originally, veneral sufferers had been treated no differently from victims of the other great ills, like the 'hunger, plague and other blights' that in the view expressed by Maximilian in the 1495 Diet of Worms had been sent by God to punish mankind. Such suffering was of universal value, and in no way a sentence meted out for any particular act.

Veneral disease had lost its apocalyptic character, and became instead a local marker of guilt.

This 'therapeutic' demonstrates a rich tapestry of fantasy, and above all a profound complicity between medicine and morality, which give their full meaning to these purification practices. For the classical age, veneral disease was less a sickness than an impurity to whcih physical symptoms are correlated. Accordingly, medical perception is ruled by ethical perception, and on occasion even effaced by it. The body must be treated to remove the contagion, but the flesh must be punished, for it is the flesh that attaches us to sin. Mere corporal punishment was not enought: the flesh was to be pummelled and bruised, and leaving painful traces was not to be feared, as good health, all too frequently, transformed the human body into another opportunity for sinful conduct. The sickness was to be treated, but the good health that could lead to temptation was to be destroyed.

Alas, I am not in the least surprised that a saint like Bernard constantly feared perfect health among his brothers: he knew where it led, if the flesh was not mortified in the manner of the apostles, and reduced to servitude through fasting and prayers.

By inventing the space of confinement in the imaginary geometry of its morality, the classical age found a homeland and a place of redemption for sins of the flesh and faults committed against reason.

It is strange that rationalism authorised this confusion between punishment and remedies, this quasi-identity between the act of punishment and the act that cures. It supposes a certain treatment at the junction of medicine and morality that was both an anticipation of the torments of eternal damnation and an attempt to bring the patient back to health. The key element is the ruse in medical reasoning that does good while inflicting pain.

Human constraints come to the assistance of divine justice by striving to render it unnecessary. Repression thus becomes doubly efficacious, as it cures the body and purifies the soul. In that manner, confinement made possible the whole panopoly of moral treatments, of therapeutic punishments...

In an important sense, confinement and the whole police structure that surrounded it served to control a certain order in family structures, which was at once a social regulator and a norm of reason. Family and its requirements became one of the essential criteria of reason, and it was above all in its name that confinement was demanded and obtained.

In the nineteenth century, conflicts between individuals and their families became a private affair, and took on the allure of a psychological problem.

It is still true today that our scientific and medical knowledge of madness rests implicitly on the prior constitution of an ethical experience of unreason.

The Reformation and the ensuing religious struggles made blasphemy a more relative matter, and the line of profanation was no longer an absolute frontier [editors note: the Reformation abolished the crime of Heresy, through the 'liberty of conscience' movement, but made possible moral insanity].

The difference between madness and impiety was imperceptible, or there was at least a practical equivalence between the two that justified confinement.

A whole new ambiguous region was thus coming into being,... a somewhat undifferentiated region where impiety, irreligion, and disorders of the mind and heart all reigned supreme. It was neither profanation nor pathology, but a region between their confines, with meanings that were reversible, but invariably subject to an ethical condemnation. This region, halfway between the sacred and the morbid, was characterized above all by a fundamental ethical refusal, and formed the bedrock of what the classical age referred to as unreason.

Western Culture, such as it has evolved over the course of the last three centuries, has founded a science of man by turning the previously sacred into the moral.

The once-demonic practice of witchcraft was now treated as a diffuse sort of impiety, a moral failing... .

...magic is stripped of the efficacious power of sacrilege: it is no longer profanation, but is reduced instead to mere trickery. Its power is illusion, both in the sense that it is devoid of reality and in that it blinds the weak-willed and the feeble-minded. If it still belonged to the realm of evil, it was no longer due to the manner in which its action demonstrated dark transcendental powers, but because it took its place in a system of errors that had its dupes and artisans, its illusionists and its gullible public. Witchcraft was on occasion the vehicle for real crimes, but in itself it was no longer a criminal gesture or a sacreligious action. Severed from its sacred power, it became little more than a vector for malicious intent, an illusion of the mind at the service of unquiet hearts. It was no longer judged according to its profanatory illusions, but according to what unreason it revealed.
This was an important change.


Chapter 4

The Insane

The following are some examples taken at random from entries on confinement registers for those of ‘unsound mind’: ‘obstinate plaintiff’, ‘has obsessive recourse to legal procedures’, ‘wicked cheat’, ‘man who spends days and nights deafening others with his songs and shocking their ears with horrible blasphemy’, ‘bill poster’, ‘great liar’, ‘gruff, sad, unquiet spirit’. [...] What these formulae indicate are not so much sicknesses as forms of madness perceived as character faults taken to an extreme degree, as though in confinement the sensibility to madness was not autonomous, but linked to a moral order where it appeared merely as a disturbance. Reading through the descriptions next to the names on the register, one is transported back to the world of Brant and Erasmus, a world where madness leads the round of moral failings, the senseless dance of immoral lives.

It is almost as though, paradoxically, rationalism could conceive of a form of madness where reason itself was not affected, but where the madness was apparent from the moral disorder of a life and an evil will. For in the final analysis, madness was a question of the quality of the will more than it was of the integrity of reason.

We are on the way here to what the nineteenth century would term ‘moral madness’, but what is even more important is the emergence of the theme of a form of madness that rests entirely on ‘bad’ will... .

Madness and crime were not mutually exclusive, but neither were they confused in one nebulous concept. They were linked within the same consciousness, treated equally reasonably, according to individual circumstances, with either prison or hospital.

There was no mutually exclusive relation between madness and crime, but rather an implication that bound them together. [...] Here
we find ourselves at the opposite extreme from the fundamental rule of law that states, ‘true madness excuses anything’.6 In the world of confinement, madness neither explains nor excuses anything... .
Of a slanderer who is mad, we would say that his slander is a form of delirium, as we have become accustomed to considering madness to be a sort of ultimate, innocent truth about man: but in the seventeenth century... in frenzy, one of the most common entries on the confinement register, wickedness was never explained away by the violence of madness, but was taken together with it to form a kind of unity of totally unchained evil.

For men of the law, madness essentially attacked the faculty of reason, and altered the will, thus making it innocent... . The essential issue therefore was to ascertain the reality and degree of the madness in question. The deeper the insanity, the more innocent the subject’s will. [...] By contrast, in the world of confinement, it mattered little if the faculty of reason had been affected or not; if that was the case, and the will was thought to be enslaved, then it was in any case an example of the bending of the will, which was never wholly innocent... . [...] There is an obscure connection between madness and evil, where the evil is no longer the swarming chaos that lies beneath the surface of the world as it was at the time of the Renaissance, but the individual power given to man in his will. Madness, thus, takes root in the world of morality.


But madness was something other than the pandemonium of all the faults and crimes committed against morality.

Taken in its simplest form, and seen from the outside, confinement would seem to indicate that... a clear dividing line was drawn at the level of the social institutions themselves. From some points of view, confinement looks like a successful exorcism. But the moral perception of madness that can be discerned in the forms that confinement took... proves that unreason in the classical age was not expelled to the margins of reasonable consciousness sure of its power, but rather that the opposition it presented to reason took place in a space of freedom and choice. The indifference to any rigorous distinction between moral failings and madness indicates a deeper region in the classical consciousness, that of a decisive option, akin to a more essential, more responsible form of will within the subject. Obviously, that consciousness is never made explicit in the literature of confinement and its justifications. But it did not remain silent throughout the seventeenth century. Philosophical thought gave it one formulation that allows it to be approached from another angle.
The decision by which Descartes, in the progression of doubt, side-stepped the possibility that he was mad was noted above. While other forms of error and illusion encircled the region of certainty,... madness was excluded without a trace... . Madness was simply of no use in the process of doubt's movement towards truth. The time has come now for us to ask why, and to see whether Descartes turned away from the problem because of its insurmountable nature, or whether this refusal of madness as an instrument of doubt has meaning on the level of the history of culture-- revealing a new status accorded to unreason in the classical world. It would seem that if madness does not appear in the economy of Descartes' doubt, it is because it is simultaneously always present and always excluded from the doubting project and the will that controls it from the outset. The path that leads from the initial project of reason to the first foundations of science runs alongside a precipice of madness. What stops it tumbling into that abyss is an ethical decision made at the outset, a resolute will to stay awake and to do nothing other than 'devote [oneself] solely to the search for truth'. Reason is perpetually threatened by the temptation to fall asleep or to give in to illusions, and the solution is to reiterate constantly the need to fix one's eyes on the truth:

a kind of laziness brings me back to normal life. I am like a prisoner who is enjoying an imaginary freedom while asleep; as he begins to suspect that he is asleep, he dreads being woken up, and goes along with the pleasant illusion as long as he can. In the same way, I happily slide back into my old opinions and dread being shaken out of them.

Madness can be brushed aside on the path of doubt, as doubt, in so far as it is methodical, is wrapped in the will to stay awake, which at every instant is a refusal of the temptations that madness offers.  ...the will to doubt has already excluded the involuntary charms of unreason and the Nietzschean possibility of the mad philosopher. Well before the Cogito, there is an archaic implication of the will and of the choice between reason and unreason. Classical reason does not encounter ethics at the end of the quest, in the shape of moral laws; ethics, as a choice made against unreason, are present from the earliest moment of a concerted thought process, and indefinitely prolonged throughout the process of reflection, indicating the path of a freedom that is the very initiative of reason.
In the classical age, reason is born inside the space of ethics. And it is doubtless that which lends such an unusual style to the recognition-- or non-recognition-- of madness at that time. All madness hides an option, in the same way that all reason is the result of a freely accomplished choice. That much is discernible in the insistent imperative of Cartesian doubt; but the choice itself, the constitutive movement of reason where unreason is freely excluded, is apparent throughout Spinoza's thought, and the unfinished efforts of the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. Reason asserts itself first of all as a decision made against the unreason of the world, in the clear consciousness of the 'hollowness and futility of everything that is ordinarily encountered in daily life.' The quest should therefore be for a good 'whose discovery and acquisition would afford... a continuous and supreme joy, to all eternity.' Spinoza is postulating a sort of ethical wager, which is won when it is discovered that the exercise of freedom is accomplished in the concrete fullness of reason, which, by its union with nature taken in its totality, is access to a higher form of nature. 'What that nature is we shall show...; namely, the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of Nature.' The freedom of the wager culminates in a unity where it disappears as a choice to reappear as a necessity of reason. That final step, however, is only possible against a backdrop of conquered madness, and madness appears as a constant peril until the end. In the nineteenth century, reason attempts to situate itself in relation to unreason on the grounds of positive necessity, and not in the free space of choice. From that moment on the refusal of madness was no longer an ethical exclusion, but a distance that had already been granted. It was no longer necessary for reason to divide itself from madness, but to recognise itself as always anterior to it, even if it does on occasion lose its way within it.

It took a ‘moral’ consciousness, such as the term was understood in the nineteenth century, to object to the inhuman treatment the mad had received in the previous age-- or to be amazed that they had not been treated in hospital at a time when so many physicians were writing learned treatises about frenzy, melancholy and hysteria. [...] It was a source of indignation that ‘innocent’ men had been treated as ‘guilty’. That did not mean that madness had at last found a human status, nor that the evolution of mental pathology was emerging for the first time from its barbarous prehistory, but it did indicate that man’s originary relation to madness had changed, and that madness was seen as mere reflection on the surface of the self, as an accidental sickness. And from that new point of view, it suddenly seemed inhuman to leave the insane to rot in gaols and houses of confinement, as men no longer understood that for men of the classical age the possibility of madness was contemporaneous with a choice constitutive of reason, and consequently of man himself. So much so that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there had been no question of treating madness in a ‘humane’ manner, for by its nature it was inhuman, forming the other option in a choice whereby man could gain the free exercise of his rational nature.


FROM the creation of the Hopital General, from the opening, in Germany and in England, of the first houses of correction, and until the end of the eighteenth century, the age of reason confined. It confined the debauched, spendthrift fathers, prodigal sons, blasphemers, men who "seek to undo themselves," libertines. And through these parallels, these strange complicities, the age sketched the profile of its own experience of unreason.

Yet it must not be forgotten that the "insane" had as such a particular place in the world of confinement. Their status was not merely that of prisoners. In the general sensibility to unreason, there appeared to be a special modulation which concerned madness proper, and was addressed to those called, without exact semantic distinction, insane, alienated, deranged, demented, extravagant.

In its most general form, confinement is explained, or at least justified, by the desire to avoid scandal. It even signifies thereby an important change in the consciousness of evil. The Renaissance had freely allowed the forms of unreason to come out into the light of day; public outrage gave evil the powers of example and redemption. [...] Until the seventeenth century, evil in all its most violent and most inhuman forms could not be dealt with and punished unless it was brought into the open. The light in which confession was made and punishment executed could alone balance the darkness from which evil issued. In order to pass through all the stages of its fulfillment, evil must necessarily incur public avowal and manifestation before reaching the conclusion which suppresses it.
Confinement, on the contrary, betrays a form of conscience to which the inhuman can suggest only shame. There are aspects of evil that have such a power of contagion, such a force of scandal that any publicity multiplies them infinitely. Only oblivion can suppress them. [...] Beyond the dangers of example, the honor of families and that of religion sufficed to recommend a subject for a house of confinement. [...] Even late in the eighteenth century, Malesherbes would defend confinement as a right of families seeking to escape dishonor. "That which is called a base action is placed in the rank of those which public order does not permit us to tolerate. ... It seems that the honor of a family requires the disappearance from society of the individual who by vile and abject habits shames his relatives." Inversely, liberation is in order when the danger of scandal is past and the honor of families or of the Church can no longer be sullied. [...] All those forms of evil that border on unreason must be thrust into secrecy. Classicism felt a shame in the presence of the inhuman that the Renaissance had never experienced.
Yet there is one exception in this consignment to secrecy: that which is made for madmen.8 It was doubtless a very old custom of the Middle Ages to display the insane. In certain of the Narrturmer in Germany, barred windows had been installed which permitted those outside to observe the madmen chained within. They thus constituted a spectacle at the city gates. [...] As late as 1815, if a report presented in the House of Commons is to be believed, the hospital of Bethlehem exhibited lunatics for a penny, every Sunday. [...] The only extenuation to be found at the end of the eighteenth century was that the mad were allowed to exhibit the mad, as if it were the responsibility of madness to testify to its own nature.

"Let us not slander human nature. The English traveler is right to regard the office of exhibiting madmen as beyond the most hardened humanity. We have already said so. But all dilemmas afford a remedy. It is the madmen themselves who are entrusted in their lucid intervals with displaying their companions, who, in their turn, return the favor. Thus the keepers of these unfortunate creatures enjoy the profits that the spectacle affords, without indulging in a heartlessness to which, no doubt, they could never descend."6
Here is madness elevated to spectacle above the silence of the asylums, and becoming a public scandal for the general delight. Unreason was hidden in the silence of the houses of confinement, but madness continued to be present on the stage of the world—with more commotion than ever. [...] Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, and to the indignation of Royer-Collard, madmen remained monsters—that is, etymologically, beings or things to be shown.
Confinement hid away unreason, and betrayed the shame it aroused; but it explicitly drew attention to madness, pointed to it. [...] Yet there is nothing in common between this organized exhibition of madness in the eighteenth century and the freedom with which it came to light during the Renaissance. In the Renaissance, madness was present everywhere and mingled with every experience by its images or its dangers. During the classical period, madness was shown, but on the other side of bars; if present, it was at a distance, under the eyes of a reason that no longer felt any relation to it and that would not compromise itself by too close a resemblance. Madness had become a thing to look at: no longer a monster inside oneself, but an animal with strange mechanisms, a bestiality from which man had long since been suppressed.

On the other hand, when the insane were particularly dangerous, they were constrained by a system which was doubtless not of a punitive nature, but simply intended to fix within narrow limits the physical locus of a raging frenzy. Sufferers were generally chained to the walls and to the beds. [...] Samuel Tuke, in his Report on the Condition of the Indigent Insane, gives the details of a complicated system devised at Bethlehem to control a reputedly dangerous madman: he was attached by a long chain that ran over the wall and thus permitted the attendant to lead him about, to keep him on a leash, so to speak, from outside; around his neck had been placed an iron ring, which was attached by a short chain to another ring; this latter slid the length of a vertical iron bar fastened to the floor and ceiling of the cell. When reforms began to be instituted at Bethlehem, a man was found who had lived in this cell, attached in this fashion, for twelve years.

William (James) Norris chained in Bedlam

When practices reach this degree of violent intensity, it becomes clear that they are no longer inspired by the desire to punish nor by the duty to correct. The notion of a "resipiscence" [Editors note: 'come to one's senses'] is entirely foreign to this regime. But there was a certain image of animality that haunted the hospitals of the period. Madness borrowed its face from the mask of the beast. Those chained to the cell walls were no longer men whose minds had wandered, but beasts preyed upon by a natural frenzy: as if madness, at its extreme point, freed from that moral unreason in which its most attenuated forms are enclosed, managed to rejoin, by a paroxysm of strength, the immediate violence of animality. This model of animality prevailed in the asylums and gave them their cagelike aspect, their look of the menagerie.

This, to be sure, is a whole security system against the violence of the insane and the explosion of their fury. Such outbursts are regarded chiefly as a social danger. But what is most important is that it is conceived in terms of an animal freedom. The negative fact that "the madman is not treated like a human being" has a very positive content: this inhuman indifference actually has an obsessional value: it is rooted in the old fears which since antiquity,
and especially since the Middle Ages, have given the animal world its familiar strangeness, its menacing marvels, its entire weight of dumb anxiety. Yet this animal fear which accompanies, with all its imaginary landscape, the perception of madness, no longer has the same meaning it had two or three centuries earlier: animal metamorphosis is no longer the visible sign of infernal powers, nor the result of a diabolic alchemy of unreason. The animal in man no longer has any value as the sign of a Beyond; it has become his madness, without relation to anything but itself: his madness in the state of nature. The animality that rages in madness dispossesses man of what is specifically human in him; not in order to deliver him over to other powers, but simply to establish him at the zero degree of his own nature. For classicism, madness in its ultimate form is man in immediate relation to his animality, without other reference, without any recourse.
The day would come when from an evolutionary perspective this presence of animality in madness would be considered as the sign— indeed, as the very essence—of disease. In the classical period, on the contrary, it manifested the very fact that the madman was not a sick man (Editors note: c.f. Nietzsche, in his Geneology of Morals, on 'civilized man' as a 'sick animal'). Animality, in fact, protected the lunatic from whatever might be fragile, precarious, or sickly in man. The animal solidity of madness, and that density it borrows from the blind world of beasts, inured the madman to hunger, heat, cold, pain. It was common knowledge until the end of the eighteenth century that the insane could support the miseries of existence indefinitely. There was no need to protect them; they had no need to be covered or warmed. [...] This ability of the insane to endure, like animals, the worst inclemencies was still a medical dogma for Pinel... . [...] Madness, insofar as it partook of animal ferocity, preserved man from the dangers of disease; it afforded him an invulnerability, similar to that which nature, in its foresight, had provided for animals. Curiously, the disturbance of his reason restored the madman to the immediate kindness of nature by a return to animality.
This is why, at this extreme point, madness was less than ever linked to medicine; nor could it be linked to the domain of correction. Unchained animality could be mastered only by discipline and brutalizing.

Through animality, madness does not join the great laws of nature and of life, but rather the thousand forms of a bestiary. But unlike the one popular in the Middle Ages, which illustrated, in so many symbolic visages, the metamorphosis of evil, this was an abstract bestiary... . Evil is freed from all that... wealth of iconographic fauna..., to preserve only a general power of intimidation: the secret danger of an animality that lies in wait and, all at once, undoes reason in violence and truth in the madman's frenzy.

From the start, Western culture has not considered it evident that animals participate in the plenitude of nature, in its wisdom and its order: this idea was a late one and long remained on the surface of culture; perhaps it has not yet penetrated very deeply into the subterranean regions of the imagination. In fact... it becomes evident that the animal belongs rather to an anti-nature, to a negativity that threatens order and by its frenzy endangers the positive wisdom of nature. [...] Why should the fact that Western man has lived for two thousand years on his definition as a rational animal necessarily mean that he has recognized the possibility of an order common to reason and to animality? [...] Independently of what Aristotle really meant, may we not assume that for the West this "rational animal" has long been the measure of the way in which reason's freedom functioned in the locus of unreason, diverging from it until it constituted its opposite term? [...] In the classical age,... the practices that concern the insane bear sufficient witness to the fact that madness was still thought of as the counter-natural violence of the animal world.

In any case, it was this animality of madness which confinement glorified, at the same time that it sought to avoid the scandal inherent in the immorality of the unreasonable.

[check Kalfa's translation, p. 151]

After the seventeenth century, unreason in its widest sense was no longer considered to teach anything much at all. That perilous reversibility of reason which was still so close for the Renaissance was to be forgotten, and its scandals were to disappear. The great theme of the madness of the Cross, which belonged so intimately to the Christian experience of the Renaissance, began to disappear in the seventeenth century, despite Jansenism and Pascal. Or rather, it subsisted, but changed and somehow inverted its meaning. It was no longer a matter of requiring human reason to abandon its pride and its certainties in order to lose itself in the great unreason of sacrifice [editors note:
recall the words of Pseudo-Dionysius 'Unitive wisdom is unreasonable, insane and foolish']. When classical Christianity speaks of the madness of the Cross, it is merely to humiliate false reason and bring the eternal light of the truth out into the open: the madness of God-in-man's-image is simply a wisdom not recognized by the men of unreason who live in this world: "Jesus crucified... was the scandal of the world and appeared as nothing but ignorance and madness to the eyes of his time." But the fact that the world has become Christian, and that the order of God is revealed through the meanderings of history and the madness of men, now suffices to show that "Christ has become the highest point of wisdom." The scandal of Christian faith and Christian abasement, whose strength and value as revelation Pascal still preserved, would soon have no more meaning for Christian thought except perhaps to reveal in these scandalized consciences so many blind souls: "Do not despair, if the cross which has brought the universe into submission to you is the madness and scandal of proud spirits.' Christian unreason was relegated by Christians themselves into the margins of a reason that had become identical with the wisdom of God incarnate. After Port-Royal (i.e., 1660), men would have to wait two centuries-- until Dostoievsky and Nietzsche-- for Christ to regain the glory of his madness, for scandal to recover its power as revelation, for unreason to cease being merely the public shame of reason.
But at the very moment Christian reason rid itself of the madness that had so long been a part of itself, the madman, in his abolished reason, in the fury of his animality, received a singular power as a demonstration: it was as if scandal, driven out of that superhuman region where it related to God and where the Incarnation was manifested, reappeared, in the plenitude of its force and pregnant with a new lesson, in that [infernal] region where man has a relation to nature and to his animality. [...] The Cross is no longer to be considered in its scandal; but it must not be forgotten that throughout his human life Christ honored madness, sanctified it as he sanctified infirmity cured, sin forgiven, poverty assured of eternal riches. Saint Vincent de Paul reminds those assigned to tend the mad within the houses of confinement that their "rule in this is Our Lord who chose to be surrounded by lunatics, demoniacs, madmen, the tempted and the possessed." These men ruled by the powers of the inhuman constitute, around those who represent eternal Wisdom, around the Man who incarnates it, a perpetual occasion for glorification: because they glorify, by surrounding it, the wisdom that has been denied them, and at the same time give it a pretext to humiliate itself, to acknowledge that it is granted only by grace. Further: Christ did not merely choose to be surrounded by lunatics; he himself chose to pass in their eyes for a madman, thus experiencing, in his incarnation, all the sufferings of human misfortune. Madness thus became the ultimate form, the final degree of God in man's image, before the fulfillment and deliverance of the Cross: "O my Savior, you were pleased to be a scandal to the Jews, and a madness to the Gentiles [1. Corinthians, 1: 23]; you were pleased to seem out of your senses, as it is reported in the Holy Gospel that it was thought of Our Lord that he had gone mad. Dicebant quoniam in furorem versus est [Mark 3: 21. "they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."] His Apostles sometimes looked upon him as a man in anger, and he seemed such to them, so that they should bear witness that he had borne with all our infirmities and all our states of affliction, and to teach them and us as well to have compassion upon those who fall into these infirmities." [  ] Coming into this world, Christ agreed to take upon himself all the signs of the human condition and the very stigmata of fallen nature; from poverty to death, he followed the long road of the Passion, which was also the road of the passions, of wisdom forgotten, and of madness. And because it was one of the forms of the Passion-- the ultimate form, in a sense, before death-- madness would not become, for those who suffered it, an object of respect and compassion.
To respect madness is not to interpret it as the involuntary and inevitable accident of disease, but to recognize this lower limit of human truth, a limit not accidental but essential. As death is the limit of human life in the realm of time, madness is its limit in the realm of animality, and just as death had been sanctified by the death of Christ, madness, in its most bestial nature, had also been sanctified. [...] Madness is the lowest point of humanity to which God submitted in His incarnation, thereby showing that there was nothing inhuman in man that could not be redeemed and saved; the ultimate point of the Fall was glorified by the divine presence: and it is this lesson which, for the seventeenth century, all madness still taught.
We see why the scandal of madness could be exalted... . The scandal of unreason produced only the contagious example of transgression and immorality; the scandal of madness showed men how close to animality their Fall could bring them; and at the same time how far divine mercy could extend when it consented to save man. For Renaissance Christianity, the entire instructive value of unreason and of its scandals lay in the madness of the Incarnation of God in man. For classicism, the Incarnation is no longer madness; but what is madness is this incarnation of man in the beast, which is, as the ultimate point of his Fall, the most manifest sign of his guilt; and, as the ultimate object of divine mercy, the symbol of universal forgiveness and innocence regained. [...] Does not the Church's solicitude for the insane during the classical period, as it is symbolized in Saint Vincent de Paul..., or in the Brothers of Charity, all those religious orders hovering over madness and showing it to the world-- does this not indicate that the Church found in madness a difficult but an essential lesson: the guilty innocence of the animal in man? The is the lesson to be read and understood in its spectacles, in which it exalted in the madman the fury of the human beast.

All these phenomena, these strange practices woven around madness, these usages which glorify and at the same time discipline it, reduce it to animality while making it teach the lesson of the Redemption, put madness in a strange position with regard to unreason as a whole. In the houses of confinement, madness cohabits with all the forms of unreason which envelop it and define its most general truth; and yet madness is isolated, treated in a special manner, manifested in its singularity as if, though belonging to unreason, it nonetheless traversed that domain by a movement peculiar to itself, ceaselessly referring from itself to its most paradoxical extreme.


Kalfa's trans. adds more text here

We have now got in the habit of perceiving in madness a fall into a determinism where all forms of liberty are gradually suppressed;... madness threatens modern man only with that return to the bleak world of beasts and things, to their fettered freedom. But it was not against this horizon of nature that the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries recognized madness, but rather against the backdrop of unreason. Madness was... a freedom raging among the monstrous forms of animality. [...] For classical man, madness was not the natural condition, the human and psychological root of unreason; it was only unreason's empirical form; and the madman, tracing the course of human degradation to the frenzied nadir of animality, disclosed that underlying realm of unreason that menaced man and enveloped-- at a tremendous distance-- all the forms of his natural existence. It was not a question of tending toward a determinism, but of being swallowed up by an endless night. More than any other mode of thinking-- more so than our positivism, to be sure-- classical rationalism was on guard against the subterranean peril of unreason, that threatening space of an absolute freedom.

It is true to say that the Cogito, 'I think therefore I am', is an absolute beginning, but it should not be forgotten that the evil genius has preceded it. And the evil genius is not just the symbol that sums up in a systematic way the dangers of... images from dreams and errors of the senses. Half-way between man and God, the evil genius has an absolute meaning: he is both the possibility of unreason and the sum of all its powers. More than the refraction of human finitude, it designates the peril that beyond man might prevent him in a definitive manner from reaching the truth... . The brilliant light of the truth of the Cogito should not be allowed to obscure the shadow of the evil genius, nor to obfuscate its perpetually threatening power; until the existence and the truth of the outside world have been secured, he haunts the whole movement of Descartes' Meditations. [...] For the classical age, it [unreason] was... the domain where reason will have to assert itself.

What the fall of man was to sin, so was madness to the other faces of unreason.

There lies the major paradox of the classical experience of madness. Madness was caught up and enveloped in the moral experience of an unreason that was proscribed by internment in the seventeenth century, but it was also linked to the experience of an animal unreason that formed the absolute limit of the incarnation of reason, and the scandal of the human condition. [...] Yet... there is this singular experience of madness [in the classical age] which holds together the whole domain of unreason, as though in a flash of lightning: based on an ethical choice and yet indissolubly linked to the fury of the animal world. Positivism never really solved the dilemma, even if it did simplify it. It placed the theme of the innocent, animal side of madness within a theory where mental alienation was seen as a pathological mechanism of the natural world, while simultaneously keeping the mad confined in the manner invented by the classical age, thereby maintaining them-- without admitting as much-- with the power of instruments for moral constraint and for the mastering of unreason.
The positivist psychiatry of the nineteenth century, like our own, may no longer have used the knowledge and practices handed on from the previous age, but they secretly inherited the relationship that classical culture as a whole had set up with unreason. ...it was thought that madness was purely being studied from the point of view of an objective pathology; but despite those good intentions, the truth was that madness was still haunted by an ethical view of unreason, and the scandal of its animal nature.

Part Two


For the western consciousness, madness has always welled up simultaneously at multiple points, forming a constellation that slowly shifts from one form to another, its face perhaps hiding an enigmatic truth. Meaning here is always fractured.

It can happen that some concepts or a certain arrogance of knowledge mask this primary dispersion in a superficial manner; one example is the effort the modern world makes to only speak of madness in the serene, objective terms of mental illness, blotting out its pathetic values in the hybrid meanings of pathology and philanthropy. But the meaning of madness for any age, our own included, can never be covered entirely by the theoretical unity of a project: it lies instead in its torn presence.

...the same forms of consciousness recur, obstinately irreducible. 

1 A critical consciousness of madness, which identifies madness and designates it against a backdrop of all that is reasonable, ordered and morally wise. This consciousness is wholly invested in its own judgement, even before any concepts have been worked out, and it does not so much define as denounce. Madness is experienced as an opposition that is immediately felt, a blatant aberration... . From this still initial starting point, the consciousness of madness is self-assured, that is, confident that it itself is not mad. ...in the absence of a fixed point of reference, madness could equally be reason, and the consciousness of madness... a strategy that belongs to madness itself:

Men on a river, on a vessel afloat
Oft see the land move, not their boat.

This critical consciousness claims to be so rigorous as to carry out a radical self-critique, and to risk all in an absolute combat whose outcome is uncertain, while secretly ensuring its own survival in advance, recognising its own rationality in the simple fact of accepting the risk. ...reason's engagement is total in this simple and reversible opposition to madness... . 

2 It ['A practical consciousness of madness'] emerges as a concrete reality in the existence and the norms of a group. But more than that, it is given as a choice, an inescapable choice as one is either in one group or the other, within or without. But this choice is indeed a false one, as only those who are inside the group have the right to decide who is to be considered an outsider, accusing them of having made the choice to be there. The merely critical consciousness that those outsiders have somehow deviated rests on the consciousness that they have chosen a different path, and there it finds its justification... . This is not the troubled consciousness of being engaged in the difference and homogeneity of madness and reason, but rather the consciousness of the difference between madness and reason, a consciousness only possible inside the confines of the homogeneity of a group considered to be the breaers of the norms of reason. Although it is social, normative and has a solid base from the outset, this practical consciousness of madness is still dramatic, and while it implies solidarity inside the group, it also demonstrates the urgency of the partition. 

The ever-perilous freedom of dialogue is muted in this partition. All that remains is the calm certainty that madness should be reduced to silence. It is an ambiguous form of consciousness, serene in the confidence that it is the keeper of the truth, but worried at recognising the obscure power of madness. Against reason, madness now seems disarmed, but in the struggle against order, and against all that reason can show of itself in the laws of men and things, it reveals itself to have strange powers. It is that order that the consciousness of madness feels to be under threat, together with the partition that it operates. But from the outset, the risk is limited, even falsified-- no real confrontation will take place. Instead, what is exercised is the absolute right, with no compensation, that the consciousness of madness grants itself from the outset, by considering itself to be homogeneous with the group and with reason itself. Ceremony wins over debate, and what this consciousness of madness demonstrates is not the dangers of a real struggle between madness and reason, but only the immemorial rites of an exorcism.

3 An enunciatory consciousness of madness... allows for immediate pronouncements... : 'this man is mad'. Here there is no question of qualifying or disqualifying madness, but only of pointing at it as a kind of substantive existence... . Mandess here has a simple, obstinate and immobile existence, and no identification of its quality or judgement on its nature is required. [...] However simple it may be, this consciousness is not pure: it experiences a perpetual backwards movement, as it at once supposes and proves that it is not madness through the simple fact that it is an immediate consciousness of it. Madness is only there, present and designated as an irrefutable self-evident truth, as long as the consciousness that designates it has already rejected it, having defined itself in a relation of opposition towards it. [...] However free of prejudice it might be, however distant from all forms of constraint and oppression, it remains a way of having taken control of madness already. Its refusal to qualify madness always supposes a certain qualitative consciousness of itself as something other than madness, and it is a simple perception only in so far as it is this surreptitious opposition: 'If others had not been foolish, we should be so', said William Blake.

4 An analytical consciousness of madness... . [...] Since long ago... madness disguises most of its powers and truths in the unfamiliar, but it is in this analytical consciousness that it rejoins the tranquillity of the familiar. [...] It is this form of consciousness that founds the possibility of an objective knowledge of madness.
Each of these forms of consciousness is self-sufficient, and supportive of all the others. A solidarity due to the secret reliance of each upon the others: there can be no knowledge of madness, however objective its pretensions, however much it claims to rest exclusively on scientific knowledge, that does not, despite everything, suppose the prior movement of a critical debate, where reason confronted madness, facing it both as a simple opposition and in the peril of immediate reversibility. This knowledge also supposes a practical partition as an ever-present virtuality structural to its horizon, whence the group confirms and reinforces its values by this exorcism of madness. Inversely, it can also be said that there is no critical consciousness of madness that does not attempt to found itself or surpass itself in an analytical knowledge that would quell the disquiet of the debate, where the risks would be under control and the distances would be definitely established.

The third is not of the order of knowledge, but of recognition, like the mirror in the Neveu de Rameau... , always at bottom a reflection on itself even when it thinks it examines the other, or any otherness within the self. What it keeps at a distance, in its immediate enunciation, in this purely perceptive discovery, was its deepest secret, and in the simple existence of madness, which is there like an object offered and disarmed, it unknowingly recognises the familiarity of its own pain. In the analytical consciousness of madness, the drama is appeased, and the dialogue silenced. Gone are the ritual and the lyricism, as phantasms acquire their own truth. The perils of the counter-natural become the signs of a nature, and techniques of suppression are all that is called for where once horror was invoked.

Ever since the tragic experience of the insane disappeared with the Renaissance, each historical figure of madness has implied the simultaneity of these four forms of consciousness.

If we were to adopt a long timescale, from the Renaissance to modern times, it is probable that a vast movement would be discernible, where the dominant consciousness of madness moved from critical forms to analytical ones. The sixteenth century privileged the dialectical experience of madness, and more than any other period was open to all that was infinitely reversible between reason and the reason of madness, to all that was close, familiar and akin in the presence of a madman, and to the aspects of his existence that allowed illusion to be denounced so that the ironic light of truth might shine forth. Brant, Erasmus, Louise Labé, Montaigne, Charron and finally Régnier all share a common concern, a critical vivacity and the same consolation in the smiling embrace of madness. ‘That reason is thus a strange beast’, noted Régnier.

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries by contrast centred their interrogation on the analytical consciousness of madness... . [...] And yet the Nietzschean critique, all the values invested in the partitions operated by the asylums and the great process of experimentation that Artaud, following Nerval, ruthlessly carried out on his self, are proof enough that all the other forms of consciousness are still present at the heart of our culture. The fact that their only formulation now is a lyrical one is not proof that they are dying away, nor that they are merely the prolongation of an existence that knowledge has long surpassed, but demonstrates quite simply that when kept in the shadows they still flourish in the
most original and free forms of language. Their power of contestation is perhaps more vigorous as a result.
In the classical age, on the other hand, the dominant experience of madness was of partition, dividing the two autonomous domains of madness. One side saw the critical and practical consciousness of madness, and the other the forms of knowledge and recognition. A whole region became isolated, grouping together the practices and decisions through which madness was denounced and offered for exclusion. All elements within it that were uncomfortably close to reason, and which threatened reason by a derisive similarity, were violently separated and rigorously reduced to silence. Such were the perilous dialectics of the reasonable consciousness, such the salutary partition contained in the gesture of confinement. The importance of confinement lies not in its value as a new institutional form, but in the manner in which it summarises and demonstrates one of the two halves of the classical experience of madness, where the dialectical concern of consciousness and the ritualised partition of society are organised into the coherence of a social practice. In the other region, by contrast, madness becomes manifest, attempting to voice its truth and denounce its situation, and express itself through all of its possible forms, looking for a nature and a positive mode of presence in the world.

This division without appeal made the classical age an age of the understanding for the existence of madness. There was no possibility of dialogue, no confrontation between a practice that mastered all that went against nature and reduced it to silence, and a form of knowledge that tried to decipher the truths of nature. The gesture that expelled all that man would not recognise remained outside the discourse in which a truth comes to knowledge. The different forms of experience developed to their own ends, the one in a practice without commentary, the other in a discourse without contradiction. Entirely excluded on one side, entirely objectified on the other, madness was never made manifest on its own terms, in its own particular language. It was not alive with contradiction but rather lived split between the two terms of a dichotomy. For as long as the Western world was entirely devoted to the age of reason, madness remained subject to the division of understanding.

Therein, no doubt, lies the reason for the profound silence that gives the madness of the classical age the appearance of sleep: such was the force of the feeling of obviousness that surrounded these concepts and protected them from each other. Perhaps no other age was ever so insensitive to the pathetic nature of madness, despite the profound gash in the fabric of life at the time.

And yet astonishing coincidences do appear repeatedly on all sides. When examined carefully, these two rigorously separated domains show some very close structural analogies.

Its ['unreason'] secret coherence stretches out beneath the great divide that we have just evoked; for unreason is both the reason for the division and the reason for the unity that is to be found on both sides of the divide. Unreason is the explanation for the presence of the same forms of experience on both sides of the divide, but also for the fact that they are only ever found on one side and on the other. The unreason of the classical age is that unity and that division all at once.

Chapter 1

The Madman in the Garden of Species

There is in madness an essential aptitude for mimicking reason, which in the end masks its own unreasonable content, or rather, the wisdom of nature is so profound that it manages to use madness as another path for reason, making it a short-cut to wisdom... : 'The order that nature wished to establish in the world follows its own course: all that can be said is that everything that nature does not obtain from our reason, it obtains through our madness.' [  ]
The nature of madness is also at the same time its useful wisdom; its raison d'etre is to... be consubstantial with it [reason] so that the two form an indissoluble text, where all that can be discerned are nature's ends: the madness of love is necessary for the preservation of the species, the delirium of ambition is required for the good order of political bodies, and insane greed is necessary for wealth to be created. Such individual, egotistical disorders are part of a greater wisdom, whose order surpasses individuals: 
The madness of men being of the same nature, they are all the better suited to each other to strengthen the bonds that make up human society, as can be seen from this desire for immortality, false glory and many other principles that underlie so much that goes on in the world. [ ]

 Madness in Bayle and Fontenelle takes a similar  role to the one played by sentiment, according to Malebranche, in fallen nature [Editors note: or desire in Galen's Demiurge (c.f History of Sexuality Vol. 3?)]-- an involuntary vivacity that goes straight to a point that reason will take much longer to attain by indirect and arduous paths. Madness is the side of order that goes unperceived, which ensures that man, despite himself, is the instrument of a wisdom whose end he does not understand [Editors note: these themes constantly recur, from Mandeville, Montesquieu, Smith, Hegel, right up to the third volume of Von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious]. [...] And it masks a profound, collective reason that masters time itself. Since the seventeenth century, madness had undergone an imperceptible shift in the order of reasons. Previously on the side of the 'reasoning that banished reason', it had now slipped into the position of a silent reason that expedites the slow rationality of reasoning, smudging its well-ordered lines and risking its way beyond its ignorance and apprehensions. The nature of madness was to be a secret reason, existing only through and for reason, having no presence in the world other than the one granted it in advance by reason, already alienated within it.

Next Chapter The Great Fear can be found here.