excerpt from “Space, Knowldege, and Power” by Michel Foucault.

Q: Do you see any particular architectural projects, either in the past or the present, as forces of liberation or resistance?

A: I do not think that it is possible to say that one thing is of the order of “liberation” and another is of the order of “oppression.” There are a certain number of things that one can say with some certainty about a concentration camp, to the effect that it is not an insturument of liberation, but one should still take into account – and this is not generally acknowledged – that, aside from torture and execution which preclude any resistance, no matter how terrifying a given system may be, there always remain the possibilities of resistance, disobedience and oppositional groupings.

On the other hand, I do not think that there is anything that is functionally – by its very nature – absolutely liberating.  Liberty is a practice. So there may, in fact, always be a certain number of projects whose aim is to modify some constraints, to loosen, or even to break them, but none of these projects can, simply by its nature, assure that people will have liberty automatically, that it will be established by the project itself. The liberty of men is never assured by the institutions and laws intended to guarantee them. This is why almost all of these laws and institutions are quite capable of being turned around – not because they are ambiguous, but simply because “liberty” is what must be exercised.

Q: Yet people have often attempted to find utopian schemes to liberate people, or to oppress them.

A: Men have dreamed of liberating machines.  But there are no machines of freedom, by definition.  This is not to say that the exercise of freedom is completely indifferent to spatial distribution,  but it can only function when there is a certain convergence; in the case of divergence or distortion, it immediately becomes the opposite of that which had been intended.  The panoptic qualities of Guise could perfectly well have allowed it to be used as a prison.  Nothing could be simpler.  It is clear that, in fact, the Familistere may well have served as an instrument for discipline and a rather unbearable group pressure.”

 

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