Biopolitics, ethics and subjectivation (Esthétiques)


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University of Nevada, Reno. Options 1 filter applied. Export this page: Choose a format.. Off-campus access. Using PhilPapers from home?

Create an account to enable off-campus access through your institution's proxy server. Be alerted of all new items appearing on this page. Editorial team. Add an entry to this list:. Gilles Deleuze in Continental Philosophy. Bestaat de kernactiviteit van de meester erin om zijn eigen kennis uit te leggen en over te dragen? Dit model is gestoeld op het volgende uitgangspunt: door een succesvolle of juist problematische onderwijspraktijk als voorbeeld te nemen kunnen we de theoretische principes articuleren die erin werkzaam zijn.

Dit schept de mogelijkheid om de focus van de van de praktijken naar de principes te verleggen. Hierdoor wordt de onderwijspraktijk op een nieuwe manier inzichtelijk en kunnen we haar theoretisch expliciteren. Education in Professional Areas. Philosophy of Education in Philosophy of Social Science. In the cloudy morning of Sunday 28 May, we sat beneath the Acropolis to have a coffee with the philosopher. The transcript of our conversation reflects the Political Theory in Social and Political Philosophy. Social and Political Philosophy.

Continental Philosophy. Poststructuralism in Continental Philosophy. Karl Marx in 19th Century Philosophy. Democracy in Social and Political Philosophy. This idea raises two interrelated problems. First, how are we to understand the type Secondly, what is the exact target of this negative action? What is the positivity that is under attack? In other words, what is at stake in matters of It is not intended, however, to be the definitive catalogue of his intellectual output. In the first instance, it does not include works and interviews published in languages other than French and English.

Some publications, particularly shorter works in French periodicals, have not been included, and a few of the more obscure publications listed below have been confirmed only through their appearance in secondary sources. Unpublished materials, This new collection of challenging literary studies plays with a foundational definition of Western culture: the word become flesh.

It is a millennial goal or telos toward which each text strives. That is what he, a valiant and good-humored companion A text is always a commencement, the word setting out on its excursions through the implausible vicissitudes of narrative and the bizarre phantasmagorias of imagery, Don Quixote's unsent letter reaching us through generous Balzac, lovely Rimbaud, demonic Althusser. The word is on its way to an incarnation that always lies ahead of the writer and the reader both, in this anguished democracy of language where the word is always taking on its flesh.

In its rejection of the system of representational hierarchies that had constituted belles-letters, "literature" is founded upon a radical equivalence in which all things are possible expressions of the life of a people. This book is not concerned with the use of Freudian concepts for the interpretation of literary and artistic works.

Rather, it is concerned with why this interpretation plays such an important role in demonstrating the contemporary relevance of psychoanalytic concepts. In order for Freud to use the Oedipus complex as a means for the interpretation of texts, it was necessary first of all for a particular notion of Oedipus, belonging to the Romantic reinvention of Greek antiquity, to have produced a The family is the site of exchange between individuality and collectivity, the relay through which all individuals have to pass in order to become members of the reproductive body politic.

Foucault begins to explore this in a way that remains almost exclusively focused on the production of the subject, its inner depth, and its desires through the mobilization of external apparatuses, or dispositifs. Lawrence D. Kritzman London: Routledge, , And it was clear that this problematic, of bio-politics, was over for him—it was finished. It is here that the lectures form such a formidable resource for tracing this long process of reorientation, where biopolitics and the problem of sexuality seem to take off in two different directions.

Foucault shows how Binswanger takes his cues from both Husserl and Freud, but only in order to transgress both of them towards a different conception of consciousness. While these discussions were to some extent forced on Foucault by the debate on postmodernity, which was singularly irrelevant to his work, they allowed him nonetheless to situate his own research in the wake of Weber and the Frankfurt School, which he had only rarely commented upon in his earlier writings.

When Foucault in Binswanger locates a dialectic between experience and institution, or between anthro- pology and social history, his question is whether we can unearth something like a shared historicity that would be a common root of these two modes of analysis, and bring together the subjective and objective in a third dimension that does not treat them as fixed forms, but can account for their mutual and conflicted emergence.

IV, It is here that Foucault once more encounters the later work of Heidegger and to a lesser extent Hegel , and the question of what it means for truth to have a history, without being simply reducible to empirical conditions, i. But listen, I had more things to say about the general framework of these analyses.

But it is too late now. So, thank you. It is indeed true that certain themes, like the problem of governing, recur regularly, although their significance seems to vary con- textually; other topics, like sexuality, suddenly return after long absences, as if all of these questions would co-exist at a deeper level, although not simply in a peaceful and thus mutually indifferent way, but as a series of unresolved tensions.

These remain just as pertinent, indicating that the question of interiority and individual experience, with which he began, by no means disappears, but is rather resituated within a more encompassing analysis of historical practices. What position, then, does biopolitics hold in this complex development? Security and freedom What is strikingly new in the —79 analysis of biopolitics, when compared to the preceding claims in The History of Sexuality, is the privileged status accorded to the liberal tradition.

At the outset of Security, Territory, Population, Foucault explains this by analyzing the example of theft. Michel Senellart Paris: Seuil, , which however appeared too late to be taken into account here. This third solution is based on probabilities, on a calculus of cost. The problem it poses is how to attain an optimal balance.

Foucault cautions us against seeing these three models as a chronological development from the archaic to the modern, or as constituting a path towards increasing rationality, instead they are always co-present as complex structures where, in each case, one of the elements exercises dominance over the others. Thus, for example, security integrates the juridical and the disciplinary, but in a subordinate form, just as the jur- idical and the disciplinary contain the other moments.

Here it may suffice to point to a few basic traits. This is a circular model of power, where knowledge and the radiance of superiority emanate from the center outward, so that the economy, terri- tory, and sovereign power are coordinated and superimposed.

References - Digital Identities in Tension - Wiley Online Library

The second example is the city of Richelieu Foucault also mentions Oslo and, some- what enigmatically, Gothenburg, as other possible cases , which becomes the model for the disciplinary city. Built from scratch with the Roman military camp as its model, it provides us with a basic geometric figure that is then divided up into smaller subfigures. Discipline, Foucault says, is a radical construction of an idealized reality that runs parallel to everyday life. We can here see a significant shift from Discipline and Punish, where discipline was applied to physical bodies and operated through a segmentation and analysis of actual space: in the later lectures discipline becomes something ideal, which makes it possible to oppose it to a security that operates in the real.

The third example, which introduces security as a problem of urbanism, is Nantes, a city based on trade, with the possibility of economic growth as its guiding idea. The city becomes an instrument for controlling circulation in all its aspects; it is part of a larger network comprising the surrounding countryside as well as other cities, so that the possibility for future develop- ment is inscribed into the plan from the very start.

If discipline operated in an empty abstract space to be constructed from scratch, as in Richelieu, security could be said to work with a set of fluid conditions, constantly fluctuating quantities, and future probabilities. The task of security is to invent a multifunctional order, and to calculate the negative and positive outcome of any given measure; it does not apply to a fixed state, but relates to a series of future events. Sovereignty does not disap- pear, just as little as discipline would simply be displaced by security.

Discipline strives toward a regulation of details, whereas security at a certain level allows things to run their course. Discipline, Foucault says, divides things into licit and illicit, and to this extent it is based on a law that is to be increasingly specified. In law, order is what is supposed to remain once everything prohibited and disorderly has been removed, and this is intensified in discipline, since it also tells you what to do, which is why the convent can be taken as its ideal form. Deploying the apparatuses of security no longer means to exercise sover- eignty over subjects, but becomes what the Physiocrats called a physical process, within which exhaustive control no longer is an issue.

In this way, Foucault suggests—and here he once more significantly modifies his earlier theses—the Panopticon, in which the central tower and its possibility of continual inspection is what displaces the discontinuous violence of the sovereign, appears as an archaic rather than a modern model. In the apparatuses of security, the modus operandi is not panoptic surveillance; it is rather to take a step back and observe the nature of events—not in order to attain some immutable essence of things, but to ask whether they are advantageous or not, and how, moreover, one can find support in reality itself, making it possible to channel them in an appropriate direction.

Versions of liberalism In the following lectures, The Birth of Biopolitics, Foucault begins by summarizing his earlier investigations of eighteenth-century discourses, but then surprisingly makes a long jump, devoting the major part of the following to discussions of liberalism from the twentieth century, first focusing on German ordoliberalism, and then, after a shorter digression on France, on the neoliberal theory of the postwar Chicago School. It has often been noted that this is the only text the interviews apart where Foucault comments at any length on the present.

The shift of per- spective also has effects at a stylistic level, and Foucault has never come so close to writing history of ideas in a traditional sense; often he seems to be simply presenting us with a series of intellectual biographies, drawing on standard works, as if he were trying to complete an inventory of a field rather than providing his own interpretation. When he discusses the eighteenth century, there is always a framework derived from his earlier archeological and genealogical analyses, which can be enriched, reconstructed, and set in a new light, and the overlay of successive inter- pretations provides us with a sense of depth.

If we would explain this shift by situating the lectures as responses to their immediate context, the crisis of Marxism and the sudden visibility of neoliberal theories in France would be the most likely reference points. For some they are the result of a regrettable misreading of the stakes, which Foucault however soon corrected; for others they are the symptom of a political roman- ticism in the search of something absolutely other behind modern parliamentary demo- cracy, which has sometimes earned him the comparison to Heidegger in The catastrophic result of the ensuing events forced Foucault to reconsider these claims, Beaulieu suggests, which may account for the rather different tones in the —79 lectures.

The persistent idea of governmentality as a specifically modern phenomenon is probably due to the early separate publication of the lecture from Security, Territory, Population where Foucault introduces the topic; see Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller eds.


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As we noted earlier, when the idea of biopolitics was first introduced at the end of the first volume of The History of Sexuality in , the concept of population still seemed to hinge around the idea of a police-like control, a power exercised in a top-down manner through various decrees and administrative measures emanating from the state, which would be funda- mentally opposed to what is normally perceived as the basic tenet of liberal theory. On this level there is no contradiction, rather a strategic comple- mentarity, so that freedom the spontaneity of acting that must be left to itself and the deployment of apparatuses of security which themselves include and even multiply disciplinary technologies increase and reinforce each other: the individual can be discovered as the locus and source of rights and actions, as a new type of political subject that must be given a calculated latitude in order for there to be an increase in productivity.

After the initial summaries of the preceding lecture courses, Foucault then makes a leap into the twentieth century, as if to demonstrate the continued relevance of his earlier discussion; the transition however remains some- what abrupt, and whether the move into the present is an aside that leads him astray, or in fact provides the ultimate verification of the earlier historical analyses, is a matter of dispute. After the war, ordoliberalism would become a fundamental source for the postwar Wirtschaftswunder, especially in its emphasis on the interplay of market and legal and insti- tutional structures.

On this point it can be contrasted with the later Chicago school, which would opt for a much more pervasive and radical market perspective, encompassing in principle all strands of life. The market is however as such a fragile construct, which is why it needs support from state institutions, above all in settling legal conflicts, but also in many other ways: in fact, rather than a state reduced to an absolute minimum, the ordo- seems like a more apt object of study than Anglo-Saxon liberalism, especially in the way it attempts to balance the need for individual agency and centralized political systems by a whole gamut of highly technical governmental strategies.

For a discussion of the emergence of the Swedish system in this perspective, see Helena Mattsson and Sven- Olov Wallenstein eds. Accordingly, in this variant, neoliberalism becomes a permanent critique of any state activity from the point of view of economic rationality. Liberalism must be a general style of thought, analysis, and imagination. Even though Foucault stressed that different modes of power overlap, Lemke suggests that there is a tendency to see sovereignty, discipline, and governmentality as steps in a gradual rationalization of government, which reduces the persistence of violence and repression in contemporary politics, as well as the role of expressive and emotional factors.

Failure can in this sense be taken not as a clash with reality, but as the very condition of existence for such programs as Foucault shows to be the case with the prison system in the nineteenth century. Finally, the focus on the territorially sovereign nation state, and particularly Western liberal societies, tends to under- estimate global developments and exclude thereby the possibility for the theory itself to be altered by the inclusion of non-Western cases.

All of these problems notwithstanding, Lemke however locates a specific strength of governmentality studies in their very heterogeneity and diversity. He concludes by suggesting that the above problems can be overcome by a closer connection to postcolonial theory, gender studies, and science and technology studies. Johanna Oksala discusses neoliberal governmentality as a specific political ontology.

The Birth of Biopolitics, she argues, should be interpreted neither as an historical account of the rise of neoliberalism nor as an instance of ideology critique, but rather as an analysis of how neoliberalism constructs a particular kind of reality, with a particular regime of truth, with its own modes of power and subjectivity. Neoliberal governmentality must be seen as both a continuation and intensification of earlier biopolitics—the health of the markets implies the health of the population—and, along with a new way of exercising power, it also produces a new type of subject, with an entrepreneurial relation to the self, extending throughout all the spheres of experience.

Catherine Mills notes how the increasingly divergent accounts of bio- politics threaten to dilute its critical power. Mills suggests that there are conceptions of life within contemporary theoretical biology that may be productively utilized. This viewpoint places her in opposition to Giorgio Agamben, for whom all biological conceptions of life as necessarily part of a political order. Human environments may effectively be social, nonetheless vital and social norms—while both inseparable and qualitatively different—continually condition one another.

Julian Reid too is committed to an ontology of life as a condition for an affirmative biopolitics, but approaches it from the point of view of war, retur- ning to Nietzsche as a source for a conception of life as constituted by conflict. War, Reid suggests, cannot be evacuated from an understanding of life, the problem is rather how we can play different conceptions of war against each other in order to find a way to resist neoliberal versions of biopolitics. Life is becoming, and truths are created in a perpetual war with error, and Reid here rather looks towards the interpretation proposed by Deleuze as a way to understand biopolitics in an active way.

The crisis of Fordism and the welfare state, he suggests, is the crisis of a specific scale, i.


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  4. In a development that began in the later phases of CIAM, in Team X, and in the theories of Aldo van Eyck—and was further intensified in the burgeoning globalization and the deconstruction of the welfare state in the s— scalar levels started to be understood less as bounded entities and more as in-between realms or interstitial spaces, often being understood as sites of political struggle. Helena Mattsson discusses the corporate takeover of the production of public spaces, and how architectural boundaries between interiority and exteriority, public space and workplace, are increasingly transformed into a pervasive transparency.

    These are assemblages geared towards the production of a public, a public that, precisely, is seen more as consumers of a spectacle. These neurological redistributions continue today, but with different means, such as research on an expanded idea of sound and noise, in the context of music. It is a difference of opinion that also comes across in their radically divergent interpretations of Greek democracy.

    Muhammad Ali Nasir on Biopolitics, Thanatopolitics and the Right to Life

    The ques- tion is if these self-defining claims can give rise to political subjectivation, or if they simply reiterate positions within a consensual order. Faubion ed. The publication of the collection The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality from was, in this respect, a significant event. It also made available articles by researchers directly affiliated with Foucault Defert, Ewald and Donzelot , bringing them together with Anglophones, such as Colin Gordon, Graham Burchell and Ian Hacking. In the following years a great number of studies were published, mostly focusing on the rise of neo-liberal forms of government.

    During the s and s, many radical intellectuals became increasingly dissatisfied with classical Marxist forms of analysis and critique. In the s and s neoliberal programs and market-driven solutions increasingly replaced Fordist and welfarist modes of government in many countries. These radical transformations called for new theoretical instruments and analytical tools to account for their historical conditions of emergence. I will address three problems in parti- cular: first, the idea of a historical succession of sovereignty, discipline and government, prominent in the literature on governmentality; second, some limitations in the analysis of programs and the role of failure in studies of governmentality; and third the question of how politics, materiality and space are conceived in this research perspective.

    Building on this idea, there has been a tendency in the governmentality literature to use the notion of governmentality as a historical meta-narrative that leads from state reason, via classical liberalism and the welfare state, to contemporary neoliberal forms of government. The problem is that such a conception of technology tends toward a certain form of idealism and therefore is com- pletely inadequate as a way of understanding how technologies change over time and how they interact with one another.

    As Pat O'Malley rightly concludes, technologies like actuarism vary in accordance with different historical and spatial contexts—as well as in light of specific articulations with other technologies and programs. The displacement of one technology of power by another cannot be measured in abstract terms or by an im- manent logic of gradual improvement and progress.

    By adhering to a rather abstract concept of rationality, studies of governmentality have tended to neglect the political significance of expressive and emotional factors in favor of conscious calcu- lations and elaborated concepts. The thesis of a continuous rationalization of power is not only wrong because it obscures the enduring significance of repression and violence in contemporary forms of rule. David Garland has stressed that the governmentality literature tends not to distinguish adequately between the concept of agency and the concept of freedom. In fact we have a triangle: sovereignty, discip- line, and governmental management.

    Consequently, studies of governmentality not only have to assume a plurality of rationalities and technologies, they also have to understand them to be plural, messy and contradictory. Inda ed. By contrast, work on governmentality focuses on the projects and programs of government, on rationalities and technologies rather than on their outcomes and effects. Rather, studies of governmentality have examined governmental programs as empirical facts, insofar as they shape and transform the real by providing specific forms of representing and intervening in it.

    While it has rarely been disputed that studies of governmentality focus on programs, it is the way such programs have been analyzed that has given rise to a number of problems. First, some authors have tended to treat pro- grams as closed and coherent entities, as achievements and accomplish- ments rather than as projects and endeavors. They have often explicated in what ways programs have successfully obscured political alternatives, obstructing resistance and opposition. Joseph Pearson New York: Semiotext e , , While this reading rightly subverts the idea of a closed and coherent program or idealized scheme—in the stress that it places on the fragility and the dynamic aspect of government—the focus on failure is nonetheless somewhat ambivalent.

    For many studies of governmentality contestation is not part of the programs— and its role remains purely negative and limited to resistance. As a con- sequence, the constructive and not only obstructive role of struggles, and the ways in which opposition and rule interact, tend not to be analyzed. To contrast rationalities and technologies of government does not trace any clash between program and reality, the confrontation of the world of discourse and a field of practices.

    The relations between rationalities and technologies, programs and institutions, are much more complex than a simple application or transfer. The difference between the envisioned aims of a program and its actual effects does not refer to the distance between the purity of the program and the messy reality, but, rather, to different layers of reality. Moreover he takes into account that actors respond to changing outcomes, calculating and capitalizing upon them and integrating them into their future conduct.

    In his genealogy of the prison Foucault does not confront program and reality, nor does he frame the problem in terms of functionality. The institutionalization of the prison in the nineteenth century produced an entirely unforeseen effect which had nothing to do with any kind of strategic ruse on the part of some meta- or trans-historic subject con- ceiving and willing it. This effect was the constitution of a delinquent milieu [ The prison operated as a process of filtering, concentrating, professionalizing and circumscribing a criminal milieu.

    From about the s onward, one finds an immediate re-utilization of this unintended, negative effect within a new strategy which came in some sense to occupy this empty space, or transform the negative into a positive. The delinquent milieu came to be re-utilized for diverse political and eco- nomic ends, such as the extraction of profit from pleasure through the organization of prostitution. This is what I call the strategic completion remplissement of the apparatus. Political strug- gles cannot be confined to the expression of a contradictory logic or an antagonistic relation; they have their own dynamics, temporalities and techniques.

    Since the criteria of judging both failure and success are an integral part of rationalities, they cannot be regarded as external yardsticks. While Fou- cault considered himself a political intellectual—actively engaged with the 37 Andrew Barry, Political Machines, 6. This distancing from critique shows itself when such studies routinely remain at the descrip- tive level of analyzing rationalities and technologies. While some seek to redefine and combine governmentality and neo-Marxist concepts,44 others appear to locate themselves explicitly within a post-Marxist tradition.

    In extreme cases, studies of governmentality might even contribute to an affirmative reading of governmental rationalities. It is perfectly possible to emphasize that the study of governmental rationalities and social history are different kinds of inquiry, requiring specific tools of analysis, without one being privileged over the other or one separated from another. Rather than confronting them, it seems more fruitful to investigate their co-production and dynamic interactions and therefore to examine empirically how programs are constituted, transformed and contested.

    It also refers to a more comprehensive reality that includes the material environment and the specific arrangements and technical networks that relate the human and the non-human. This conceptual shift not only makes it possible to extend the territory of government, multiplying the elements and the relations it consists of; it also initiates a reflexive perspective that takes into account the diverse ways in which the bound- aries between the human and the non-human world are negotiated, enacted and stabilized. Furthermore, this theoretical stance makes it possible to analyze the sharp distinction drawn between, on the one hand, the natural and technical from the social on the other, as itself a distinctive instrument and effect of governmental rationalities and technologies.

    Furthermore, there exist some innovative projects to combine science and technology studies and an analytics of government: see e. The Birth of Biopolitics, 2. While this theoretical perspective has been extremely helpful in displacing the idea of the state as the natural and coherent center of power so as to study the plural and heterogeneous character of governmental rationalities and technologies, it is mostly the territorially sovereign nation state that serves as the implicit or explicit frame of reference in the govern- mentality literature.

    Research Directions

    There is rarely any consideration given to how trans- formations of government on a national level are linked up with inter- national developments or to how the appearance of new actors on a global or European scale is paralleled by a shift of the competences of the nation state. Furthermore, the approach does not appear to account for the new role of transnational alliances in Nongovernmental Organizations.

    As James Ferguson and Akhil Gupta rightly stress, it is necessary to extend an analytics of government to include modes of government constituted on a transnational and global scale. Collier eds. Not only has the nation state been the privileged reference for studies of governmentality, the analysis has also focused on very specific exemplars: Western liberal demo- cracies. Conclusion Many of the deficits and blind spots described above have been discussed for a long time in the literature on governmentality. There is a kind of paradox here. Studies of govern- mentality have received considerable attention among scholars, since they possess a high degree of diagnostic potential for a critical analysis of the present; but it is exactly the immense attention they receive that seems to undermine their analytical and critical potential.

    Crampton, and Elden Stuard eds. Although some writers have made it clear that neoliberalism is a highly specific rationality […], a marked tendency has been to regard it as a more or less constant master category that can be used both to understand and to explain all manner of political programs across a wide variety of settings. The first is a tendency to canonize, systematize, and normalize this theoretical perspective in a man- ner that is to its own detriment.

    Authors writing under the rubric of governmentality have followed different theoretical paths, and they have chosen a large variety of empirical objects and addressed highly diverse questions. There is no single theoretical program or general ap- proach, and there can be no such thing, since governmentality is not a model or framework of explication but a distinctive critical perspective and a style of thought. The reader already seems to know in advance what he or she is going to read.

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    As a result, any surprising insights derived from the empirical data and material are effectively ruled out. This theoretical trivialization is paralleled by a syste- matic overvaluation of the concept. While Foucault always formed his analytical instruments in relation to the historical objects he was concretely studying madness, delinquency, sexuality etc.

    For such isolationism generates the problem that only a few or marginal references in this literature exist to other important forms of contemporary theory, like for example science and technology studies, post-colonial theory and gender studies. Taking up these theoretical traditions, so as to reflect upon governmentality, does not have to result in some kind of gen- eral theory, nor does it mean harmonizing different theoretical accounts by ignoring the tensions between them. The productivity of governmentality studies and its critical potential rests on whether or not it is possible to integrate innovative concepts and ideas and concomitantly to open up new research methods and lines of questioning.

    The collapse of the Bretton Woods system in meant that in a floating currency system it was no longer possible to control capital flows or financial markets. These economic and political decisions taken by key actors took the world eco- nomy in a new direction. The goal of a pervasive welfare state with the objective of full employment was systematically replaced with the objective of creating an institutional framework that supported free domestic markets, free international trade and individual entrepreneurial conduct.

    Even though the actual process of implementing these objectives has varied widely in different parts of the world and has in many countries been only partial, on the level of historical and economic facts it is possible to identify a worldwide neoliberal turn in the s. Rather than being the achievement of a few key actors, it was rooted in much deeper structural and systemic changes in our conception of the political and the practices of governing.

    It is my contention that in order to engage in any kind of critical evaluation of neo- liberalism it is important to study it on this level, too. It is to be understood 1 For some recent empirical accounts of the spread of neoliberalism, see e. Alfredo Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnston eds. My aim in this paper is to argue that a Foucauldian ontology of the present provides a valuable and original set of tools for such a philosophical critique of neoliberalism.

    I will show that the political ontology of neo- liberalism can be effectively explicated along the three axes of power, know- ledge and subjectivity, which Foucault considered central to any critical inquiry into our present. Specifically, I will focus on his lectures on neo- liberalism, The Birth of Biopolitics, delivered at the College de France in — It was strongly linked to the critique of Nazism and, after the War, to post-war reconstruction.

    The other, American form, was the neoliberalism of the Chicago School, which, while deriving from the former, was in some respects more radical. As Foucault describes his objective in the first lecture, his interest is in the construction of reality: the focus in his research is to understand the coupling of a set of practices with a regime of truth in order to follow the effects of its inscription on reality BB, His philosophical claim, in essence, is that neoliberalism functions as an apparatus of knowledge and power: it constructs a particular kind of social and political reality.

    News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

    We have come to understand the world around us in a distinctive way through the matrix of neoliberalism, and this framework delimits our political ration- ality as well as our implicit self-understanding. My argument proceeds in three stages, following the three axes of knowledge, power and subjectivity. In the first part I claim that neoliberal- ism can be viewed as an extreme form of the liberal regime of truth regulating our current governmentality. All references to these lectures are designated in the text as BB.

    Yet, they also have their own distinctive features. Foucault argued that the Chicago School was more radical in its expansion of the economic to the social, ultimately eliding the difference between them. See e. BB, In the final part I discuss the particular form of subjectivity—the homo economicus—it produces. Making his thought relevant today would therefore require constructing a productive dialogue with contemporary Marxism.

    This, in turn, would mean acknowledging his affinities with certain of its core tenets—such as the persistence of class struggle—rather than viewing his relationship with Marxism as a wholesale rejection. A traditional Marxist response would explain the hegemony of neo- liberalism in terms of class antagonism. David Harvey, for example, argues in his influential analysis that the neoliberal turn was a deliberate and highly successful attempt to restore the power and the wealth of the upper classes. By capturing the ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests were able to protect and restore their position.

    It was the genius of neoliberal theory to provide a benevolent mask full of wonderful-sounding words such as freedom, liberty, choice and rights to hide the grim realities of this restoration of naked class power, locally as well as transnationally. We also have to rejuvenate class politics: class is not a meaningless or defunct category, but must remain the central conceptual weapon in the struggle against neoliberal hegemony.

    Foucault was deeply suspicious of the notion of ideology. For him, the key philosophical question did not consist in drawing a line between what falls within the category of scientificity or truth and what comes under the suspicious label of ideology. He wanted to identify the political effects of truth and how they were produced historically. On the other hand, he also wanted to analyze the regimes of truth: the conditions that made it possible to utter true statements about governance or the economy, for example.

    In the US, for example, the share of the national income taken by the top one percent of income earners fell from a pre-war high of 16 to less than eight percent by the end of the Second World War, and stayed close to that level for nearly three decades. The wealth that is now concentrated in the upper echelons of society has returned to a level that has not been seen since the s. Colin Gordon, trans. Before explicitly turning to neoliberal governmentality, Foucault begins his lectures by tracing a line of investigation back to the eighteenth century.

    He shows how a new liberal form of governmental reason began to be formulated, reflected upon and outlined around the middle of the century, and how it found its theoretical expression and formulation in political eco- nomy. Through him the modern conception of the economy emerged as a separate sphere of society as well as an autonomous object of scientific knowledge in political history, and this was a highly significant develop- ment in terms of our conception of good government and, more generally, of our understanding of the political. Foucault argues that with the development of political economy a new principle for limiting governmental rationality was established.

    While up to that point the law had functioned as an external limitation on excessive government, the new principle—political economy—was internal to the very rationality of government. This meant that government had to limit itself not because it violated the liberty or the basic rights of men, but in order to ensure its own success. Up until the middle of the eighteenth century there had been a multitude of imposed economic practices such as tax levies, customs charges and manufacturing regulations. All these were conceived as the exercise of sovereign or feudal rights, the maintenance of customs, or techniques for preventing urban revolt.

    With the birth of a new governmental rationality based on political economy the meaning of all these economic practices profoundly changed, however. From the middle of the eighteenth century it became possible to establish a reasoned, reflected coherence between them by means of intelligible mechanisms. This, in turn, made it possible to judge them as good or bad, not in terms of some legal or moral principle, but in terms of truth: propositions were subject to the division between the true and the false. According to Foucault, govern- mental activity thus entered into a new regime of truth BB, It was also a site of distributive justice: the rules of the market ensured that the poorest could also buy things.

    Entry into a new regime of truth in the middle of the eighteenth century meant that the market no longer appeared, or had to be, a site of jurisdiction. The spontaneity was such that attempts to modify the mecha- nisms would only impair and distort them. The market thus became a site of truth—it allowed natural mechanisms to appear, and these permitted the formation of the right conditions for its proper functioning BB, The market also essentially constituted the site of the veridiction of governmental practice: a good government now functioned according to truth rather than justice.

    This meant that limiting its reach also became increasingly a question not of rights, but of utility. Limiting the exercise of power by public authorities was no longer formulated in terms of the traditional problems of law or revolutionary questions concerning original rights and how the individual could assert them over and against any sovereign.

    From the beginning of the nineteenth century the key questions addressed to government were: Is it useful? For what purpose is it useful? This is an extremely important moment in the history of govern- 11 In addition to the two characteristics of the liberal art of government—the market as the site of truth and the limitation of governmentality by the calculus of utility— Foucault takes up a third feature: the globalization of the market as an objective. Until the middle of the eighteenth century economic activity was seen as competition over limited resources: there was only a certain amount of gold in the world, so as one state became enriched its wealth had to be deducted from the wealth of others.

    According to the new liberal art of government expressed by Adam Smith and the Physiocrats, competition under conditions of freedom could only mean that everybody profited. Competition in a free market would lead to maximum profit for the seller and, simul- taneously, minimum expense for the buyer. This was not the start of colonization or imperialism, but heralded a new type of global calculation in European governmental practice: a new form of global rationality BB, A global market was thus set as an objective, even in this period. He is rather arguing that governmental activity entered into a new regime of truth that conditioned what kind of claims could be reasonably made about it.

    This transformation was decisive for our current understanding of politics. It meant that all the questions formerly posed by the art of governing had to be reconfigured in order for us to be able to answer them in terms of truth or falsehood. At one time these amounted to the question: Am I governing in proper conformity to moral, natural, or divine laws?

    And now the question will be: Am I governing at the border between…the maximum and minimum fixed for me by the nature of things? To sum up its essential features, it became possible, for the first time in history, to make scientific truth claims about economics and good governance. One of the most important ontological tenets of economic lib- eralism and neoliberalism is the doctrine of economic neutrality: economic facts are objective, universal and politically neutral. Political decisions have to be based on economic truths, which in themselves are understood to be politically neutral. He argues 17 that politically relevant decisions are increasingly made in institutions and contexts that are defined as economic and that are therefore outside of democratic decision-making.

    Democracy is restricted through the defining of various governance institutions and the issues they deal with as economic and using the doctrine of economic neutrality to produce a dichotomy between the economic and the political spheres. All possible market distortions had to be avoided to ensure the correct formation of prices, because only correct pricing effectively guided resource allocation towards efficiency, equity and stability. This meant that once something was defined as an economic question—such as the magnitude of the income gap between the rich and the poor—it was moved out of the political realm, which was understood as a realm that could cause needless interference in accordance with a set of political commitments and moral principles.

    Economic truths, on the other hand, could not be argued against politically without falling into irrationality. This idea has reorganized our political ontology in carving out an autonomous realm of economy free of political interference. From a Foucauldian perspective the rise of neoliberalism must be understood as the culmination of a historical development that redrew the ontological bound- ary between economy and politics.

    Under neoliberal governmentality the autonomy of the economic sphere places strict limits on the realm of politics, such that economic knowledge must fundamentally guide and con- dition political power. In terms of political resistance this means that the essential philosophical task is not to reveal the hidden truth about neoliberal economic theory and policy.

    More fundamentally, it is to ask, how has politics become a domain in which it is possible to make scientifically true claims about an increasing number of issues? Neoliberalism cannot be reduced to just another political belief that one is at liberty to adopt or discard. When it is understood as the extreme articulation of liberal governmentality it forms the current conditions for formulating political beliefs as such. This means that the Left has not been duped by dubious ideological pro- paganda into accepting neoliberal economic policies: it has been defeated by truth.

    As a consequence, areas defined as economic or financial have been increasingly insulated from democratic parliamentary control. Although the insulation of some policy-making areas from democratic control and accountability is necessary and beneficial to the overall func- tioning of democracy, the danger is that the domain of democratic politics will become excessively narrow.

    Power Some commentators have contended that the biopolitical societies, which began to take shape in the seventeenth century and crystallized in the extended welfare states of the s and s, have since collapsed: neo- liberal hegemony has brought the era of biopolitics to an end. Biopolitical care in the form of a tight control of populations has ceased to exist and globalization has proceeded largely without any biopolitical considerations for the health and happiness of individuals or populations.

    The fact that it has become the hegemonic model even in countries which traditionally had strong welfare states shows that its underlying values, at least in Europe, are not so much libertarian, but utilitarian. The neoliberal economic argument has won in the governmental game of truth organized according to the undisputed, biopolitical value of life: the aim of good governance is the maximal material wellbeing of the population.

    Only economic growth, a continuous increase in productivity, can deliver higher living standards for everybody and thus ensure the best care of life. My claim is that the rise of neoliberalism has meant that while the means for achieving this aim may have changed, the biopolitical end of maximal life has nonetheless remained the same. The very title suggests that the lectures were intended as an elaboration of the topic.

    However, their actual content appears to have nothing to do with biopolitics, and concerns economic 13 See e. Ojakangas argues that the fact that the era of biopolitics is coming to an end precisely at the moment when the nation-state is coming to an end suggests that the exercise of biopolitics presupposes sovereignty, if not de jure then at least de facto. A quick look at the index reveals that the word biopolitics occurs in only four instances, and in two of these the context is an apology for the fact that Foucault had spent too long on other topics and had not been able to talk about it.

    In the first lecture Foucault introduces biopolitics as the general topic of the series and gives a general characterization of its relationship to liberalism: the governmental regime of liberalisms must form the frame- work for understanding biopolitics. In the course summary he again apologizes for the fact that the course ended up being devoted entirely to what should have been the introduction. He insists again, however, that biopolitical issues could not be understood as separate from the framework of political rationality within which they appeared and took on their intensity.

    In the name of what and according to what rules can it be managed? BB, The demands of biopolitics thus posed a theoretical challenge to liberal governmentality, and biopolitics and liberalism formed a historical inter- section: they were linked de facto, not de jure. Nevertheless, Foucault argues that liberalism fundamentally determined the specific form that biopolitics assumed in Western societies.

    As I argued in the previous section, what characterizes liberal govern- mentality is the idea that there can be no sovereign in economics. Economic rationality is not only surrounded by, but also founded on the fundamental unknowability of the totality of the economic process: the invisible hand is invisible precisely because there can be no totalizing sovereign view. The 14 See e. Therefore, if we analyze politics at the level of political ontology, we find that the erosion of sovereign power, which is now often attributed to globalization, already began in the eighteenth century.

    The eighteenth century crucially saw the emergence of new economic experts whose task it was to tell the government the truth about the natural mechanisms that it had to manipulate or respect. The economists of the time were able to explain, for example, that the movement of the population to where wages were highest was a law of nature BB, It is my contention that neoliberal governmentality is thus not contrary to modern biopolitical governmentality; rather, their rationalities are deeply interwoven and compatible in the sense that they both rely on expert power.

    Liberal governmentality effected a shift to a regime of truth that emphasized the limitation of government according to truth, at the expense of a juridical framework, and paved the way for a modern biopolitical society of experts and managers of life at the expense of sovereignty. Many of the biopolitical techniques and regulations that proliferated throughout the nineteenth century were implemented by the State. Biopolitics has historically developed in tandem with the modern nation- state, but it has also retained relative independence from it.

    It has developed and spread not only in welfare states, but also in substate and transnational institutions and contexts: welfare funds, private institutions and insurance companies, for example. The rapid reduction of the state in conjunction with the rise of neoliberalism has not led to the disappearance of bio- political rationality. On the contrary, neoliberalism can be seen as its new hegemonic form.

    It has effectively eroded the domain that is considered internal to a sovereign community and thus has questioned the power of sovereignty as such. At the same time, it has correspondingly expanded the domain of the economic and this way extended and strengthened the rationality of biopower. The methods and techniques of biopolitics have dramatically changed with the rise of neoliberalism, however. In my view this lecture is highly revealing of the stakes involved in his enquiry into liberal and neoliberal forms of governmentality.

    The transition to the neoliberal model was literally happening in front of his eyes as he was delivering his lectures. The reasons for the liquidation of these previous forms of economic priority towards the end of the s were connected to the serious economic crisis that had hit the country at the beginning of the decade, and attributed by economic experts to insufficiently rationalized economic decisions BB, This neoliberal turn in France had a dramatic effect on social policy. The arguments that the neoliberal economists advanced at the time have become all too familiar to us in recent decades: due to extensive social security labor is more expensive and work moves to countries such as China where labor power is cheap.

    International competition is distorted to the detriment of countries with the most extensive social insurance cover. This is again a source of rising unemployment. All are worse off. Social justice can never be the aim of successful economic policy. He noted that its diffusion in France had taken place on the basis of a strongly state- centered, interventionist and administrative governmentality in the context of an acute economic crisis.

    This meant that it involved a whole range of specific features and difficulties BB, However, they must be decoupled so that the economic process is not disrupted or damaged by social mechanisms, and so that moreover the social mechanism has a limitation, a purity as it were, such that it never intervenes in the economic process as a disruption BB Economy is a game and the essential role of the state is to set the rules and to ensure that they are duly followed, but it must never interfere with the game itself.

    The rules must be such that the economic game is as active as possible and consequently to the advantage of the greatest number of people. There must be only one supplementary and unconditional rule: it must be impossible for any of the players to lose everything and thus be unable to continue playing. This is a safety clause for the player, a limiting rule that changes nothing in the course of the game itself, but which pre- vents someone from ever dropping totally and definitely out of it BB, Such a system is understood as the only guarantee that the economic mechanisms of the game—the mechanisms of competition and enterprise— will be allowed to function for the rest of society.

    A society formalized on the model of competitive enterprise will be able to exist above the threshold of absolute poverty: everybody will have to be an enterprise for themselves and their families. Below the threshold there will an assisted, floating and liminal population, which for an economy that has abandoned the objective of full employment will be a constant reserve of manpower that can be drawn on if need be, but which can also be returned to its assisted status if necessary BB, Hence, the only point of contact between the economic and the social is the rule of safeguarding players from being excluded from the game.

    Below a given level of income the state must pay an additional amount, even if it means giving up the idea that society as a whole owes services such as health and education to each of its members, and even if it also means reintroducing an imbalance between the poor and others, between those who are receiving aid and those who are not BB, It is based on a completely different social ontology: society is an economic 17 Foucault notes that social benefits are thus not meant to modify the causes of poverty.

    They will never function on that level, only on the level of their effects. The contrast to a socialist policy is clear: a socialist policy is a policy of relative poverty, the aim being to alter the gap between the incomes of the wealthiest and the poorest. Relative poverty does not figure in any way in the objectives of neoliberal social policy. The only issue is absolute poverty, the threshold below which people are deemed not to have an adequate income to ensure that they have sufficient consumption BB, Foucault argues that the principle behind the neoliberal understanding of the political community is an in- verted social contract: all those who want the social contract and virtually or actually subscribe to it form part of society until such a time as they cut themselves off from it.

    In the neoliberal conception of society as an eco- nomic game there is no one who originally insisted on being part of it, and consequently it is up to society and the rules of the game imposed by the state to ensure that no one is excluded from it BB,

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