In the Jesuit colleges, one still found an organization that was at once binary and unified; the classes, which might comprise up to two or three hundred pupils, were subdivided into groups of ten; each of these groups, with its 'decurion,' was placed in a camp, Roman or Carthaginian; each 'decury' had its counterpart in the opposing camp. The general form was that of war and rivalry; work, apprenticeship and classification were carried out in the form of the joust, through the confrontation of two armies; the contribution of each pupil was inscribed in this general duel; it contributed to the victory or a defeat of a whole camp; and the pupils were assigned a place that corresponded to the function of each individual and to his value as a combatant in the unitary group of his 'decury' (Rochemonteix, 51ff). It should be observed moreover that this Roman comedy made it possible to link, to the binary exercises of rivalry, a spatial disposition inspired by the legion, with rank, hierarchy, pyramidal supervision. One should not forget that, generally speaking, the Roman model, at the Enlightenment, played a dual role: in its republican aspect, it was the very embodiment of liberty; in its military aspect, it was the ideal schema of discipline. The Rome of the eighteenth century and of the Revolution was the Rome of the Senate, but it was also that of the legion; it was the Rome of the Forum, but it was also that of the camps. Up to the empire, the Roman reference transmitted, somewhat ambiguously, the juridical ideal of citizenship and the technique of disciplinary methods.Foucault makes this suggestion--one of those aperçus which make it easy to see why he is so admired--and then leaves it at that. It interrupts the flow of the narrative, to be sure, and in general Foucault is not very fond of the "A was influenced by B's ideas on X" style of intellectual history. There's no real reason why a history of discipline should delve into the pervasive Roman posturing of the eighteenth century, or, indeed, into its implications for "citizenship." Yet it might nevertheless be worth asking whether something connects the two in any integral way.
- Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Contractarian-republican citizenship appears in Discipline and Punish primarily as the abstract foil to the material functioning of disciplinary apparatuses. It is what "loses," or at least ends up irrelevant, in the carceral system. One Roman antecedent, in other words, ends up driving out the other. In some ways, this is a fine argument--aesthetically, these two modulations of the Roman heritage seem to contradict one another, and when they are appealed to it is usually in radically different registers.
If, however, we follow a line of thinking first sketched out by Michael Warner in the early '90s, it becomes possible to identify a different sort of link. Warner suggests that the public sphere, with all its implicitly and explicitly Roman rhetorical tropes, was founded upon a principle of surveillance (of public figures, state agencies, etc.). The Foucauldian word-choice is never followed up on, but the meaning is actually quite closely related. Not only does the public sphere employ the same sorts of investigative techniques as other disciplinary apparatuses, it also depends on classification, constructions and dispositions of space, and particularly a sort of panopticism.
Of course, the number of categories at the disposal of the public sphere was limited, principally to the various permutations of the tyranny/liberty (and, in spatial terms, East/West) opposition. The Roman model, in both the case of the camp and that of the public sphere, was only an imperfect prototype for a coming carceral system. In the political sense, that system was democracy as it was built and imagined by late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth-century Europeans and Americans. The melding of the public-sphere and political-juridical apparatuses meant that the policing function of the former became generalized to every level of society, distributed as much within state agencies as within those of "civil society." The discourse of the civic, which is effectively the only constant ideological foundation of modern democracies, conceives of the citizen as constantly monitoring and shaping the activities of the government and of politicians; the very same rhetoric needed only slight modification to become applicable to the Soviet party-state. (Naturally, political delinquency serves very much the same function as Foucault's delinquency: it is a conceptual space in which various threatening political actors are enclosed in order to make them useful to the dominant political order).
I've tried out the exercise above not because I think Foucauldian interpretations of politics are either novel or fashionable, but because I think the internal structure of his ideas is appealing in a way that transcends his subject matter. The decline of Foucauldian scholarship over the past decade (which has proceeded despite the English publication of his brilliant and under-mined lectures) has not been a very thoughtful process; too often the questions we flatter ourselves with asking in a new way (about materiality, for instance, which seems to be the topic du jour) have already been asked by Foucault. I look forward to the day, ten or twenty years hence, when we'll be able once again to lean on his work without askance glances.