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    Life, language, law: the invention of dangerous classes

    John-Richards, Serene (2020) Life, language, law: the invention of dangerous classes. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    In 1667, Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, the first Lieutenant General of the Paris police, led his officers and commissioners to destroy the last remaining Cour des Miracles. Late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century literature described this space as one of debauchery and criminality. The inhabitants of the Cour were said to have no faith or law, pledging allegiance to a separate King and speaking their own language and jargon. Stories abound of their unique mode of life; characterised by a lack of purpose, idleness, and a refusal to work. This thesis investigates how the inhabitants of the Cour des Miracles came to be known as the dangerous classes, whose conduct, and mode of life, elicited horror of the sensibilities among Frenchmen and women. Inspired by Agamben’s method of a philosophical archaeology, we bring to light the historical, juridical and philosophical elements of this history and (re)read their significance in light of the broader question of the mode, or form of life. The analysis is divided into three parts, the first examines the epistemological construction of a ‘science of Man’ and eventual emergence of the human sciences, the second is a detailed engagement with Agamben’s philosophy of life and language, and the third a retelling of the Grand Bureau des Pauvres [1541-1791], the Cour des Miracles, and the Great Confinement. These three parts are connected by an underlying thread. Each concern techniques of governing and administering life, of managing conduct and behaviour. From the knowledge of the statistical sciences which facilitates biopolitical techniques of intervention and governance, to the anthropological machine designed to distance Man from the animal, to the paradigm of the office which, in dividing being from action, seeks to manage and instil proper modes of conduct among human beings. However, we find that the attempts to appropriate the improper necessarily fail: the improper, lalangue, and the unthought persist as shadows.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: This thesis is not currently available for public use. Date of PhD award confirmed as 2020 by registry.
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2020 10:03
    Last Modified: 20 Apr 2022 09:55


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