In 1784 philosophy acquired a new dimension when the philosopher Emmanuel Kant asked: What is enlightenment, what is our present made of? But asking ourselves what our actuality is, has, in our own age, become Nietzsche's question. This volume, compiled by Sylvère Lotringer from a series of lectures that Foucault gave in Europe and America between 1978 and 1984, when he was writing The History of Sexuality, is to that question. As Lotringer notes, "Michel Foucault got interested in Kant very early on. He wrote his dissertation on Kant's anthropology. But until the 1960s/70s, Foucault never referred to Kant, only to Nietzsche, the philosopher who established a diagnosis of the present.
Foucault's examination of Kant's "what is Enlightenment" is the most "American" moment of Foucault's thinking. It is in America that he realized the necessity of tying down his own reflection to that of the Frankfurt School. Foucault's discussion of "modernity" is a response to Benjamin's work on Baudelaire, which he discovered while teaching in Berkeley in 1983/84." Foucault discovered the School of Frankfurt rather late in life and contrasts the School of Frankfurt's notion of power as control with his own, more fluid and positive notion of power. This book is still unpublished in France.