Foucault News

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

Bürger, J., Laguna-Tapia, A.
Individual homogenization in large-scale systems: on the politics of computer and social architectures
(2020) Palgrave Communications, 6 (1), art. no. 47.

DOI: 10.1057/s41599-020-0425-4

Open access

One determining characteristic of contemporary sociopolitical systems is their power over increasingly large and diverse populations. This raises questions about power relations between heterogeneous individuals and increasingly dominant and homogenizing system objectives. This article crosses epistemic boundaries by integrating computer engineering and a historicalphilosophical approach making the general organization of individuals within large-scale systems and corresponding individual homogenization intelligible. From a versatile archeological-genealogical perspective, an analysis of computer and social architectures is conducted that reinterprets Foucault’s disciplines and political anatomy to establish the notion of politics for a purely technical system. This permits an understanding of system organization as modern technology with application to technical and social systems alike. Connecting to Heidegger’s notions of the enframing (Gestell) and a more primal truth (anfänglicheren Wahrheit), the recognition of politics in differently developing systems then challenges the immutability of contemporary organization. Following this critique of modernity and within the conceptualization of system organization, Derrida’s democracy to come (à venir) is then reformulated more abstractly as organizations to come. Through the integration of the discussed concepts, the framework of Large-Scale Systems Composed of Homogeneous Individuals (LSSCHI) is proposed, problematizing the relationships between individuals, structure, activity, and power within large-scale systems. The LSSCHI framework highlights the conflict of homogenizing system-level objectives and individual heterogeneity, and outlines power relations and mechanisms of control shared across different social and technical systems. © 2020, The Author(s).

Anton Oleinik, The politics behind how governments control coronavirus data
The Conversation (Canada), June 5, 2020

COVID-19 has affected almost every country around the globe. The World Health Organization has confirmed cases in 216 countries and territories, a total that represents more than 85 per cent of 251 entities recognized by the United Nations. Yet each government has responded differently to the coronavirus pandemic — including how data on the disease have been shared with each country’s citizens.

The selectiveness with which governments release information about the number of confirmed cases and the deaths caused by the coronavirus suggest techniques of “bio-power” may be at play.

French philosopher Michel Foucault invented the concept of bio-power in his lectures at the Collège de France in 1977-78. He defined bio-power as a “set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy, of a general strategy of power.”

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‘I Drove this Exact Truck’ How the War on Terror Came Back to Haunt America
Iain Overton
Byline Times, 4 June 2020

Iain Overton reports on how US counter-terrorism equipment is being deployed at home with an inevitable rise in militarisation, mortality and force over-reach

n Wednesday 4 February 1976, the French academic Michel Foucault addressed his students at the Collège de France in the Latin Quarter on Paris’s South Bank. The title of his lecture was provocative: ‘Society must be defended’.

In his talk, the social theorist turned his focus onto the thorny issue of colonialism. He explained how colonies were often the testing ground for a series of legal, political or social experiments, and the results of these experiments often rebounded, over time, back to the colonisers. He called it the ‘boomerang effect’ and outlined how the systems and application of power were “brought back to the West, and the result was that the West could practice something resembling colonization, or an internal colonialism, on itself.”

In essence, violence had a habit of eventually contaminating the very countries that exported it.

It is an observation that could easily be made when witnessing the lines of police officers in the United States at the moment. We see, nightly, lines of black-booted and heavily shoulder-padded white men facing down black protestors. They arrive in armoured vehicles, they often wear camouflage, don bullet-proof vests, strap on gas masks and carry M4 rifles. The term ‘warrior cops’ is all too apt, if it wasn’t so heroic.

Such images point to an uncomfortable truth that, in an age of healthcare shortages, you never see An American riot policeman without adequate protective equipment.

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Ojala, A.-L.
Being an athlete and being a young person: Technologies of the self in managing an athletic career in youth ice hockey in Finland
(2020) International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 55 (3), pp. 310-326.

DOI: 10.1177/1012690218801303

Engaging in youth sports is a major investment, and it requires choosing and balancing between an athlete’s life and other practices and ways of life important to adolescents. In this Foucauldian year-long ethnographic study on Finnish 18–20-year-old elite male ice hockey players I consider an athletic career as a moral question and examine what aspects of their behaviour are affected when these players submit to the external and internal control they encounter when advancing themselves and their careers, and how they problematize the codes that govern their actions. The players expressed six modes of subjection altogether that were important to cultivation of the self: exercising, nutrition, rest, motivation, player role and emotions. The processes of cultivation were strongly guided by coaches and well internalized by the players. However, the hockey players were also young people with interests and choices quite different from a disciplined athletic life, and the coaches also helped in the construction of these spheres. I propose in this study that these spheres may be important in managing the training load and the career pressure that athletes necessarily face during the ‘investment years’ (15+) in sport. © The Author(s) 2018.

Author Keywords
athletic career; discipline; Foucault; ice hockey; youth sports

Index Keywords
adolescent, adult, article, career, case report, clinical article, Finland, hockey player, human, human experiment, ice hockey, investment, male, morality, motivation, nutrition, rest, young adult, youth sport

Esmonde, K., Jette, S.
Assembling the ‘Fitbit subject’: A Foucauldian-sociomaterialist examination of social class, gender and self-surveillance on Fitbit community message boards
(2020) Health (United Kingdom), 24 (3), pp. 299-314.

DOI: 10.1177/1363459318800166

The rise of fitness-tracking devices such as the Fitbit in personal health and wellness is emblematic of the use of data-gathering health and fitness technologies by institutions to create a surveillance regime. Using postings on Fitbit community message boards and the theoretical frames of Michel Foucault and sociomaterialist scholars, the goal of this article is to analyse the experiences of those who choose to self-track using a Fitbit and the constellation of barriers and facilitators (human and non-human) related to social class and gender that enable and constrain one’s ability to use a Fitbit as intended. First, we examine the social class assumptions of Fitbit as a risk management tool in the workplace, illustrating what elements must come together – both human and non-human – to create an environment that enables walking throughout the workday to combat the risks of sedentary work. Second, we explore the ways that Fitbit users ‘confessed’ to their past inactivity and how gendered home labour differently enables and constrains some of the users’ abilities to act on their confessions. Ultimately, one’s ability to engage in the idealized use of the Fitbit in the minds of its users, or what we term the ‘Fitbit subject assemblage’, is structured by numerous material and social factors that must be taken into account when examining the mechanics of power in fitness tracking. © The Author(s) 2018.

Author Keywords
fitness tracking; Foucault; quantified self; sociomaterialisms; surveillance

Index Keywords
article, female, gender, human, human experiment, male, mechanics, risk management, social aspect, social class, walking, working time, workplace

Paul B. Preciado, Learning from the virus, ArtForum, May/June 2020

Open access

IF MICHEL FOUCAULT had survived AIDS in 1984 and had stayed alive until the invention of effective antiretroviral therapy, he would be ninety-three years old today. Would he have agreed to confine himself in his apartment on rue de Vaugirard in Paris? The first philosopher of history to die from complications resulting from the acquired immunodeficiency virus left us with some of the most effective tools for considering the political management of the epidemic—ideas that, in this atmosphere of rampant and contagious disinformation, are like cognitive protective equipment.

The most important thing we learned from Foucault is that the living (therefore mortal) body is the central object of all politics. There are no politics that are not body politics. But for Foucault, the body is not first a given biological organism on which power then acts. The very task of political action is to fabricate a body, to put it to work, to define its modes of production and reproduction, to foreshadow the modes of discourse by which that body is fictionalized to itself until it is able to say “I.”
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Paul B. Preciado is a philosopher, a curator, and a trans activist. An Apartment on Uranus: Chronicles of the Crossing, a collection of his columns between 2013 and 2018 for Libération and other media outlets, was published in 2019 by Semiotext(e).

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.

Hofvenschioeld, E., Khodadadi, M.
Communication in futures studies: A discursive analysis of the literature
(2020) Futures, 115, art. no. 102493,

DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2019.102493

Open access

Communication is recognised as an essential part of futures work and yet research on the topic appears to be sporadic. This paper presents the results of a comprehensive literature review on communication in futures studies and offers four contributions to the field. Firstly, as no known overview of literature on communication within futures studies was found, an extensive literature review was carried out to assess and understand the current state of research on communication within the futures field. Secondly, after the identified publications were analysed using a Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis, six general discourses are proposed. Based on these discourses, a preliminary taxonomy of the literature is developed, which acts as a framework to support a general understanding of the work done on communication in the futures field. The third contribution is a recommendation for the definition of communication in futures studies, which is based on the literature review results and communication theory. And lastly, based on the framework, areas that have little or no published work are highlighted and constructive suggestions are given for further research. © 2019

Author Keywords
Communication; Discourse analysis; Foucault; Futures; Narrative

Index Keywords
communication, future prospect, literature review, publishing, research work

Reis, Diego dos Santos. Michel Foucault, a gestão dos ilegalismos e a razão criminológica neoliberal. Revista de Filosofia Aurora (PUC-PR), v. 32, n. 55 (2020).

DOI: 10.7213/1980-5934.32.055.AO07

Open access

O presente artigo busca analisar de que modo os problemas da segurança e da economia das punições passam a ser centrais no cálculo político-econômico da racionalidade neoliberal. Como propõe Michel Foucault em seu curso Nascimento da Biopolítica, de 1979, a tecnologia de governo neoliberal conceberia o aparato estatal como “efeito móvel de um regime de governamentalidades múltiplas”. É o enfoque econômico, portanto, que permitirá pôr à prova a eficácia da ação governamental, a partir da avaliação do custo-benefício das intervenções na esfera do mercado e da sociedade, conforme a proposição dos teóricos neoliberais. Essa crítica mercantil direciona-se ao que é concebido como “dispêndio” das ações econômicas do poder público, dado que o mercado se torna “uma espécie de tribunal econômico permanente em face do governo”, como sugere Foucault. Nesse cenário, no qual se ampliam as demandas punitivas, a eficiência de atuação do sistema de justiça criminal dos Estados será medida pela avaliação do mercado e da economia, tendo em vista os seus efeitos. Tratar-se-á, então, de refletir sobre o funcionamento do poder punitivo em moldes econômicos, isto é, pela via da problematização dos custos da delinquência e dos modos de torná-los o menos dispendioso possível e com a máxima eficiência.

Gestão dos ilegalismos; Governamentalidade neoliberal; Segurança; Subjetividade; Michel Foucault

Gregg Lambert, The Elements of Foucault, University of Minnesota Press | 152 pages | May 2020
Posthumanities Series, volume 55
ISBN 978-1-5179-0878-2 | paper | $23.00
ISBN 978-1-5179-0877-5 | cloth | $92.00

A new conceptual diagram of Foucault’s original vision of the biopolitical order

The history around the critical reception of Michel Foucault’s published writings is troubled, according to Gregg Lambert, especially in light of the controversy surrounding his late lectures on biopolitics and neoliberal governmentality. In this book, Lambert’s unique approach distills Foucault’s thought into its most basic components to more fully understand its method and its own immanent rules of construction.

The Elements of Foucault presents a critical study of Foucault’s concept of method from the earlier History of Sexuality, Volume 1, to his later lectures. Lambert breaks down Foucault’s post-1975 analysis of the idea of biopower into four elements: the method, the conceptual device (i.e., dispositif), the grid of intelligibility, and the notion of “milieu.” Taken together, these elements compose the diagram of Foucault’s early analysis and the emergence of the neoliberal political economy. Lambert further delves into how Foucault’s works have been used and misused over time, challenging the periodization of Foucault’s later thought in scholarship as well as the major and most influential readings of Foucault by other contemporary philosophers—in particular Gilles Deleuze and Giorgio Agamben.

The Elements of Foucault is the first generally accessible, yet rigorous and comprehensive, discussion of lectures and major published works of Foucault’s post-1975 theory of biopower and of the major innovation of the concept of dispositif. It is also the first critical work to address the important influence of French philosopher Georges Canghuilhem on Foucault’s thought.

Gregg Lambert is Dean’s Professor of Humanities at Syracuse University and Distinguished International Scholar at Kyung Hee University, South Korea. He is founding director of the Syracuse University Humanities Center and the Society for the Study of Biopolitical Futures. Lambert is author of thirteen books, most recently In Search of a New Image of Thought: Gilles Deleuze and Philosophical Expressionism and Philosophy after Friendship: Deleuze’s Conceptual Personae (both from Minnesota).

“In this provocative and highly original text, Gregg Lambert challenges the standard view that Michel Foucault’s works are discontinuous by showing that Foucault does not leave his past ideas behind, but rather incorporates them into new constellations as he confronts new problems. By introducing a fourth element—milieu—into Foucault’s analysis of biopower to supplement the elements of method, dispositif, and grid of intelligibility, Lambert’s self-described mutation of biopower will be required reading for any serious Foucault scholar.”

Alan D. Schrift, author of Twentieth-Century French Philosophy: Key Themes and Thinkers

“Gregg Lambert’s study of Michel Foucault’s work from the formulation of the concept of discipline to the notion of biopower demonstrates the inadequacy of interpretations that offer either an evolutionary or devolutionary reading of its movement. He shows that, at every step, Foucault both retains and sets aside concepts elaborated in previous texts and does so in a purely provisional manner, subject to perpetual revision. Lambert takes us beyond the too obvious periodizations into which Foucault’s work is so often divided and allows us to see the complexity and unevenness that give some of his most important contributions their singular power.
— Warren Montag, Occidental College

Cielemęcka, O.
Forest futures: biopolitics, purity, and extinction in Europe’s last ‘pristine’ forest
(2020) Journal of Gender Studies, 29 (1), pp. 63-75.

DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2019.1691981

This article examines how the ideological and material aspects of ‘purity’ play out in the environmental conflict in the Białowieża Forest that took place in Poland in 2017. I consider how ‘purity’ informs not only environmental politics but also organizes biopolitical regimes that normalize the hegemonic understanding of nation, identity, and gender. In the context of environmental change and species extinction, I pick up on Foucault’s reflection on purity and its decisive role in biopolitical societies, as it divides lives into those worth preserving and those without a future. Against such divisions, I search for ways to imagine and enact ways of surviving together: I look at the Białowieża Forest as a human-nonhuman ecology in which nature’s lively impurity inspires the affinities running between environmental actions and feminist struggles for more just futures. © 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Białowieża Forest; Environmental change; gender; nationalism; purity; reproductive politics

Index Keywords
article, ecology, environmental change, female, feminism, forest, gender, human, human experiment, male, organization, Poland, running, species extinction

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