By Bernard E. Harcourt — revised July 20, 2021
“The book’s two editors were able to read an advanced copy of this book review and did not find anything to object to.”
— Thibault Le Texier, advance copy of book review of La Société d’exposition (Paris: Seuil, 2020).
This is incorrect.
One of my editors at the Éditions du Seuil declined to respond to Thibault Le Texier because he was suspicious. Harassed by unsolicited emails by Le Texier, my editor simply refused to respond or answer any of his questions.
Another one of my editors, the editorial director of the Éditions du Seuil, did respond to Le Texier out of politeness and told him that she did not agree with his criticism of my book.
For my part, I generously answered his questions and asked him not to use people’s private correspondence in a book review.
And yet, Le Texier then revised his book review to state that “The book’s two editors were able to read an advanced copy of this book review and did not find anything to object to.”
That is again inaccurate.
Le Texier writes, of me, in his review essay, that “this book review would misfire if it gave the impression that he is an evil man.”
An “evil man”?
Le Texier does not know me and has never met me, and yet he takes the liberty to tell the world—in a negative pregnant—that I am not “an evil man”? And he takes the liberty to send all this to my book editors?
These sharp practices deserve an immediate response. This is not just an academic matter.
How does one respond?
At first, claiming that he was writing a book review for the French review of political science, the Revue française de science politique, Thibault Le Texier sent me several unsolicited e-mails asking me numerous questions about the new French edition of my book La Société d’exposition, which had just appeared at the Éditions du Seuil less than three weeks earlier on January 9, 2020, to favorable press reviews.
I generously responded to Le Texier—whom I did not know personally—with detailed answers. He asked me about the influence on my work of Sheldon Wolin (my advisor at Princeton University), and I explained how formative Wolin had been to my thinking. He asked me about the cuts we made to the French edition, and I explained that I took out a highly technical chapter with too many graphs and too much data that had already been published in French in a collected volume with the press of the Collège de France. He asked friendly questions and I responded generously to someone I did not know—a young colleague, I assumed.
About ten days later, unexpectedly, the editorial director at the Édition du Seuil wrote me to ask whether I had modified the thesis of my book in later work. I was perplexed. She explained that Thibault Le Texier had been repeatedly asking my other editor why he had published a book that I had repudiated in my subsequent work, The Counterrevolution, published with Basic Books in 2018. Again, I was puzzled, but I explained to the editorial director that I had in no way repudiated the thesis of La Société d’exposition and that, instead, it formed the very basis of that next book: the expository society, which creates the possibility of total information awareness, is the very foundation and condition of possibility of the counterinsurgency paradigm of governing that I develop in The Counterrevolution. The editorial director then replied to me that she had told Le Texier that she did not agree with his assessment of my book. My other editor added that he was being harassed by email by Le Texier and would not respond.
Then, two days later, out of nowhere, on February 12, 2020, Le Texier sends my editors and me a lengthy (9,000-word) scathing review of my book. Le Texier’s review called the book “superficial,” “surreal,” and “expired” (“périmé”). Remarkably, in his book review, Le Texier actually cited the words of the editorial director who had written to him that she believed the analyses in the book were by no means out-of-date.
It was only then that I did a quick check and learned that Le Texier achieved notoriety for criticizing Professor Philip Zimbardo’s famous Stanford Prison Experiment. Le Texier wrote a book titled The History of a Lie (Histoire d’un mensonge), published in April 2018, that is a detailed and lengthy critique of Zimbardo’s renowned experiment.
Nevertheless, still thinking that we were on collegial terms, I sent Le Texier on February 14, 2020, detailed comments on his book review responding point-by-point to his critiques. To which he followed up with a revised draft.
But his revised draft was even more problematic. At that point, I realized this is not just a collegial disagreement or an academic matter. I had to respond immediately and in the open.
1/ Re. my editors
In my reactions to Le Texier regarding his book review, I emphasized repeatedly that, among colleagues, one should not use private correspondence and communications.
Despite that, Le Texier’s revised his draft to read:
His editor at the Éditions du Seuil, [here he names of one of my editors], refused to respond to my e-mails, and [here he names another one of my editors with her position as editorial director], who had the amiability to respond, did not desire that her comment on the book be cited. These two editors were able to read a very advanced copy of this book review and found nothing to object to.
This is not correct. It is not accurate to state that my editors “found nothing to object to” in the book review—or to intimate that one of my editors agreed with him.
Even putting aside that Le Texier repeatedly e-mailed the editors of my book to criticize me and my research—I have never heard of this kind of behavior before in the academy—what he is writing is demonstrably incorrect.
2/ From “evil man” to “bad man”
In my reactions to Le Texier, I asked him how he could feel entitled to tell the reader that I am not “an evil man”—“un mauvais homme”—especially given that he does not know me and has never met me.
In response, he decided to revise his book review.
He changed the words “mauvais homme” (evil man) to read “méchant homme” (bad man).
So he retains the negative pregnant, but just qualifies me more accurately! He now writes:
“B. Harcourt has very generously responded to my questions, and this book review would misfire if it gave the impression that he is a bad man.”
3/ The analysis
In response to Le Texier’s claim that my book is “superficial” because I chose to discuss Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus rather than Carl Jung or Freud, I explained to him that many scholars would have serious reservations about invoking Jung or Freud today.
“I would not turn to Carl Jung,” I responded to Le Texier. “We can have a disagreement about that without you calling me superficial.” I added, I think accurately, that “Many people would think it is superficial to use Jung.”
Le Texier decided to revise the book review.
But instead of revising his claim that my book is superficial, he replaced Carl Jung with Erich Fromm.
As if the switch from Jung to Fromm now establishes the superficiality of choosing to discuss Deleuze and Guattari!
In reaction to Le Texier’s dismissal of my other book, The Illusion of Free Markets (Harvard University Press, 2011)—yes, he critiques all three of my last books in his review of the French edition of Exposed—I responded to him that he should not disparage a lengthy research monograph “in 6 words.”
In response, Le Texier revised his book review.
He added one citation, and one only.
He referred the reader to James Q. Whitman’s critical review of The Illusion of Free Markets in the Harvard Law Review, without mentioning my own lengthy rebuttal to Whitman in the same journal, solicited by the journal editors to respond to Whitman, published alongside Whitman’s review in the Harvard Law Review Forum. Nor did he mention any of the favorable reviews and treatments of the book. Among those, there were many reviews in French. There was a forum of four essays on the book, with my response, in La Vie des idées. There was another favorable review in Champs Pénal in French.
In other words, there were a lot of reviews discussing my 2011 book, including reviews written in French and more accessible for his French readers, and yet Le Texier chose only to cite the one critical review without any reference to my rebuttal.
That is a motivated, selective choice to cite the only negative review without even referring the reader to the rebuttal or other essays.
In scholarship, there is a dedicated locution, “but see,” for scholars to even-handedly guide the reader. But not here…
I will stop here. There is more, but I will stop here.
 Thibault Le Texier, “Penser la surveillance au-delà de Foucault,” revised draft book review of La Société d’exposition, dated February 2020, received on February 14, 2020 (on file with author; hereinafter “revised book review”), p. 24 (« Ces deux éditeurs ont pu lire une version très avancée de cet article et n’ont rien trouvé à lui objecter ») (my translation; emphasis added).
 Thibault Le Texier, “Penser la surveillance au-delà de Foucault,” draft book review of La Société d’exposition, dated February 2020, received on February 12, 2020 (on file with author; hereinafter “book review”), p. 14 (« B. Harcourt a très gentiment répondu à mes questions, et cette recension serait ratée si elle donnait l’impression que c’est un mauvais homme ») (my translation; emphasis added).
 Thibault Le Texier first e-mailed me unsolicited on January 28, 2020, with four questions. See E-mail from Thibault Le Texier dated Tuesday, January 28, 2020, at 6:34 AM. After my generous responses, he followed up with a second e-mail asking me two more questions on Wednesday, January 29, 2020. See E-mail from Thibault Le Texier dated Tuesday, January 28, 2020, at 12:33AM. I responded and then followed up with a third response to update one of his questions about the press responses to the book. See E-mails from Bernard E. Harcourt dated January 30, 2020, at 9:23 AM and January 30, 2020 at 2:27PM.
 Bernard E. Harcourt, Gouverner, échanger, sécuriser: Les big data et la production du savoir numérique, in Big data et traçabilité numérique: Les sciences sociales face à la quantification massive des individus, eds. Pierre-Michel Menger and Simon Paye (Paris: Collège de France, 2017). https://books.openedition.org/cdf/4995.
 E-mail correspondence dated February 10, 2020 at 6:28 AM.
 E-mail correspondence dated February 10, 2020 at 8:32 AM.
 E-mail correspondence dated February 10, 2020 at 1:34 PM.
 E-mail correspondence dated February 10, 2020 at 3:50 PM.
 E-mail from Thibault Le Texier dated Wednesday, February 12, 2020, at 8:34 AM.
 Thibault Le Texier, “Penser la surveillance au-delà de Foucault,” draft book review of La Société d’exposition, dated February 2020, received on February 12, 2020 (on file with author; hereinafter “book review”).
 Thibault Le Texier, “Penser la surveillance au-delà de Foucault,” revised draft book review of La Société d’exposition, dated February 2020, received on February 14, 2020 (on file with author; hereinafter “revised book review”), p. 23-24 (« Son éditeur au Seuil, [nom], a en revanche refusé de répondre à mes emails, et [nom], directrice éditoriale du département Sciences humaines au Seuil, qui a eu l’amabilité de me répondre, n’a pas souhaité que ses propos sur le livre soient cités. Ces deux éditeurs ont pu lire une version très avancée de cet article et n’ont rien trouvé à lui objecter ») (my translation; emphasis added).
 Le Texier, book review, p. 14.
 Le Texier, revised book review, p. 23 (emphasis added).
 Le Texier, revised book review, p. 23 (« B. Harcourt a très gentiment répondu à mes questions, et cette recension serait ratée si elle donnait l’impression que c’est un méchant homme ») (my translation; emphasis added).
 Bernard E. Harcourt, “On the American Paradox of Laissez Faire and Mass Incarceration. Responding to James Q. Whitman, The Free Market and the Prison,” 125 HARV. L. REV. F. 54 (2012) available at https://harvardlawreview.org/2012/03/on-the-american-paradox-of-laissez-faire-and-mass-incarceration/; for other reviews of the book, see https://www3.law.columbia.edu/bharcourt/illusion-free-markets.html.
 See the forum in La Vie des idées from June 2011 acccessible here: https://laviedesidees.fr/Derriere-les-barreaux-du.html.
 Sacha Raoult, « Bernard E. Harcourt, The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order », Champ pénal/Penal field, Vol. IX | 2012, mis en ligne le 23 mai 2012, available at https://journals.openedition.org/champpenal/8349.
### Posted on February 17, 2020 at 2:37 PM EST ###
### Revised on July 20, 2021 at 9:37 PM EST ###