Lost for nearly 30 years, an interview has recently surfaced on YouTube between Michel Foucault and Dutch anarchist Fons Elders. The interview was conducted before Foucault’s debate with Noam Chomsky, which was moderated by Elders. Elders, some may recall, paid Foucault partially in hash for the debate and tried to compel Foucault to appear in a red wig.
The history of the video is as interesting as the footage itself. Lionel Claris, who worked with Elders to translate the video into English, reports that interview broadcasted to Dutch TV in 1971 was all but lost after the station caught fire. The 15 minutes in the YouTube video is all that remains of an interview that reportedly last over an hour. This video is the version edited by the Dutch TV station to omit Elder’s questions, and thus only contains Foucault speaking with some untranslated Dutch filler on Foucault. The interview takes place in Foucault’s apartment in Paris on Rue de Vaugirard. Claris writes that he found the footage by chance, while doing undergraduate research at Hampshire College.
The transcript of the interview was retained, however, and published in the 2012 book “Freedom and Knowledge.” Fons Elder has posted part of that book for free online here. It can also be purchased from his website.
In the interview, Foucault discusses his work in “Madness and Civilization” and ties it to his greater project. He goes on to talk about knowledge and truth, the subject and societal tolerance. “The universality of our knowledge,” Foucault explains, “has been acquired at the cost of exclusions.”