Foucault on the Chain of Ideas as the Tool of Domination

“When you have thus formed the chain of ideas in the heads of your citizens, you will then be able to pride yourselves on guiding them and being their masters. A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly by the chain of their own ideas; it is at the stable point of reason that he secures the end of the chain; this link is all the stronger in that we do not know of what it is made and we believe it to be our own work; despair and time eat away the bonds of iron and steel, but they are powerless against the habitual union of ideas, they can only tighten it still more; and on the soft fibres of the brain is founded the unshakable base of the soundest of Empires.”

— Joseph Servan (1741-1808; a French general and minister of war), quoted by Michel Foucault in his Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1995: 102-3).

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