Foucault News

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

Fleming, P., Godfrey, R., Lilley, S.
Conceptualizing business logistics as an ‘apparatus of security’ and its implications for management and organizational inquiry
(2022) Human Relations

DOI: 10.1177/00187267221110458

Global commodity capitalism necessitates the fast and efficient movement of all manner of entities across the globe. Importantly, this commercial flow needs to be secured against the undocumented and unregulated flow of illegitimate people, finance and information, counterfeits, drugs, terror and other undesirables. The organizational practices of business logistics are central for achieving this objective. Yet they have received little attention in management and organization studies to date. We suggest a fruitful avenue is via Foucault’s notion of ‘biopower’ – particularly his less discussed concept (in management studies, at least) of an apparatus of security. This is useful for understanding the emergent organizational/management practices of security in the border spaces in which business logistics operate. If ‘Society Must Be Defended’, as Foucault ironically notes in his famous lecture series that introduces biopower, then so too must contemporary organizations and their net-like activities within the global economy. © The Author(s) 2022.

Author Keywords
apparatus of security; biopower; business logistics; Foucault; supply chains

Abela, M.
“A new direction? The “mainstreaming” of sustainability reporting”
(2022) Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

DOI: 10.1108/SAMPJ-06-2021-0201

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to analyse the current developments to “mainstream” and standardise sustainability reporting and the consequences of those changes. Those changes give rise to the colonisation of sustainability reporting through the adoption of financial reporting concepts.

Design/methodology/approach: This research draws on critical theory, particularly the work of Foucault, to understand the dynamics of accounting change. This approach provides an alternative to the current narrative that the concepts that underpin reporting are universal and timeless.

Findings: It is suggested that if the aim of mandatory sustainability reporting is to promote companies adopting sustainable business models, then it must properly reflect the context of the company. Both transactive and relationship information is critical to providing an account that can be used to judge the performance of the corporation beyond its production of short-term net positive cash flows.

Practical implications: The design of standard setting arrangements for sustainability reporting needs to recognise that it may be unhelpful to simply adopt financial reporting concepts for the purposes of directing corporate behaviour towards sustainable development.

Social implications: Continuing to adopt a view of the corporation as a nexus of contracts with no clear accountability to stakeholders is likely to stymie efforts to deal with the environmental and social crisis facing people and planet.

Originality/value: Whilst other works have considered the development of sustainability reporting, to the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the first study to consider the impacts of “mainstreaming” it within mandatory corporate reporting. © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Author Keywords
Accountability; Critical theory; Decision usefulness; Financial reporting; Objective of reporting; Sustainability reporting

Tim Christiaens (2022) Biomedical technocracy, the networked public sphere and the biopolitics of COVID-19: notes on the Agamben affair, Culture, Theory and Critique,
DOI: 10.1080/14735784.2022.2099919

Giorgio Agamben’s public interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic against emergency measures like lockdowns, obligatory vaccinations and the prescribed use of masks have been highly controversial. I argue that Agamben’s essays must be read as a modern prophecy of doom warning for the dangers of biomedical technocracy. Agamben marshals the sound of Old Testament prophets to shock his readers into critically rethinking their complacency with governmental norms. This warning is appropriate yet ill-phrased: Agamben presumes the dominant obstacle to genuine debate in the public sphere is a standardisation of discourse under the power of monopoly capital, whereas the opposite problem of too many divergent voices is more salient for today’s digitally networked public sphere. Furthermore, Agamben depicts a too strong contrast between scientifically informed technocratic government and democratic freedom, which leaves him blind for the democratic potential of the sciences themselves. I employ Ulrich Beck’s theory of the risk society and social movements to introduce more nuance into Agamben’s apocalyptic prophecy.

KEYWORDS: Agamben COVID-19 Illich risk society democratic biopolitics

Géraldine Mossière (2022). Religious Conversions and New Spiritual Economies. In: Mossière, G. (eds) New Spiritualties and the Cultures of Well-being. In Book Series: Religion, Spirituality and Health: A Social Scientific Approach, vol 6. Springer, Cham.

In this chapter, I transpose the concept of moral economies into the domain of contemporary spiritualities, building on Fassin and Rudnyckyj. My aim is to understand the production, distribution, circulation and use of existential quests and dynamics as they are embodied in the experiences, practices and operations, exerted by subjects upon themselves as paths of transcendence. Drawing on fieldwork conducted among new Muslims in France and the Canadian province of Quebec, I explore how this economy of the self draws on devices borrowed from popular psychology, thus leading to the psychologization of the religious realm (Altglas V: From Yoga to Kabbalah. Oxford University Press, 2014). I focus on the spiritual economies that contribute to the production of believing subjects, taking as a paradigmatic example the case of converts to Islam who commit themselves to the construction of their own Muslim subjectivity. Following Foucault, I study the “hermeneutics of the self” to which new Muslims commit themselves, and I examine the techniques and ethics underlying this relationship of the self to the self and to others, as well as the operations they carry out to reconfigure subjectivities. I thus introduce new dimensions to the notion of spiritual economy, and specifically to those aspects involving the self, and the organic assemblage and articulation of the subject’s components. I demonstrate how conversions to Islam are part of spiritual economies that revolve around two perspectives: the role of “emotional coaches” who support new Muslims and present themselves as virtuosos and spiritual specialists; and the techniques employed in making spirituality, including tools from popular psychology and personal development. © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

Author Keywords
Conversions; Islam; Moralities; Psychology; Self; Spiritual economies

Schwendtner, T.
The Genealogy of Nietzsche – From a Phenomenological Perspective
(2022) Philobiblon, 27 (1), pp. 145-174.

DOI: 10.26424/philobib.2022.27.1.07

According to Foucault, the purpose of the Nietzschean genealogy is not to “restore an unbroken continuity”, on the contrary, it is to show dispersion, error, accident, “to follow the complex course of descent”. Contrary to this view, the present study emphasises that Nietzsche’s genealogy, cannot be seen as reconstructions of fragmented little stories, but a large-scale experiment that tells the transcendental history of European humanity, while employing a pluralistic diversity of approaches, primarily the naturalist-psychologist and the metaphysical-historico-philosophical perspective. Nietzsche gave a psychologist explanation of how man became a metaphysical being.

Author Keywords
Foucault; Genealogy; morality; Nietzsche; phenomenology; transcendental history

Szreter, S.
How Seriously Should we Take Universal Basic Income?
(2022) Political Quarterly

DOI: 10.1111/1467-923X.13169

Is universal basic income (UBI) a policy idea whose time has come? Recent historical scholarship now enables us to comprehend the twentieth century evolution of this and similar ideas. UBI is intriguing in having vociferous backers drawn both from the libertarian right—such as, notably, Milton Friedman in the form of his negative income tax proposal—but also from the emancipation-embracing left—such as Michel Foucault and Phillipe Van Parijs. In this review, scepticism is expressed about whether UBI can seriously help to address issues of inequality, as opposed to preventing the poverty that liberal market economies tend insistently to generate.

Author Keywords
equality; Michel Foucault; Milton Friedman; poverty; UBI

Call for Papers: Special Issue “Foucault, Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Sustainability” for the journal Sustainability

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section “Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability“.

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 September 2022
Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue invites contributions that use aspects of Michel Foucault’s broad authorship to analyze the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as well as related concepts like Corporate Sustainability and ESG. Today, CSR has become a ubiquitous, self-evident business concept in the global economy, and yet critics often claim that its progressive promises of transforming capitalism remain unfulfilled. Some scholars argue that CSR’s radical potential has been washed out in step with its appropriation by mainstream corporate business management—a process through which CSR has become “de-radicalized” (Shamir, 2004). When CSR emerged in the 1950s, an explicit link was forged between social morality and ethics, on the one hand, and corporate business practice, on the other. However, after Milton Friedman’s argument in 1970 that CSR is justifiable only based on economic performance, the emphasis on morality receded during the following decades (Brooks, 2010). Some critical scholars trace CSR’s historical development, while others describe the notion’s more recent integration into corporatist culture broadly.

Whether CSR will play a significant transformative role in addressing the urgent issues of our time is an open and decisive question; such issues include global climate change, deforestation, growing social inequality, corporate economic crime, ensuring healthy labor conditions, respecting the rights of children, women, ethnic and sexual minorities, etc. We hence wish to approach CSR from a broad perspective, which means that, apart from research focused on CSR specifically, we welcome articles on a range of related themes exemplified at the end of this call. The field of possible contributions is thus wide-ranging. The theme of the Special Issue requires that contributing authors engage in some way with Foucault’s historical work, his analytical frameworks, his concepts, or his approach to critique. CSR can be situated at the intersection of politics, economics, and morality. How the concept evolves and is implemented results from power struggles over competing knowledge claims. Given that Foucault is the major thinker of the interplay of power and knowledge, he should offer untapped resources for grasping the complexities of involved in modern CSR. Let us briefly sketch out how select avenues in Foucault’s work is of potential relevance for themes related to CSR listed above.

Overall, Foucault’s thinking can help to inquire into the set of institutions, discourses, and techniques that make up the conditions of possibility for corporations and individuals’ CSR-practice. First, Foucault’s genealogical method (Foucault, 1984) works by tracing how present institutions and governance principles, for example, CSR, emerged from past struggles, political strategies, and accidental events. From a genealogical perspective, the pragmatism of the modern CSR discourse can be better grasped by recovering CSR’s historical conditions of emergence. Genealogy takes as its basic premise that history is a site of evolving struggle, including struggles over divergent interpretations, which the development of the CSR discourse clearly displays. Studies of struggles around definitions of sustainability, accountability, transparency, and more would be pertinent for this Special Issue.

Second, studies of CSR inspired by Foucault may inquire into the dynamic interplay between power and resistance. Foucault insisted that power is always “reversible”, since resistance against (capitalist) power can itself begin to constitute a new form of domination, and hence, no concept is intrinsically progressive or liberating. Studies following this premise could examine how demands, notions, and initiatives (such as CSR or ESG) which respond to the negative effects of capitalist production either succeed in forging new policies and business practices or, conversely, become co-opted by the capitalist order, becoming integral to that order itself.

Third, Foucault analyzed neoliberalism in his 1979 lecture series (2008), focusing on two forms of neoliberalism: German post-war liberalism and the liberalism of the Chicago School. Of particular relevance to contemporary debates on CSR is the arguments by American neo-liberals that redefined the social sphere as understandable through economic principles. They advanced the idea that the efficient work of rational–economic action in a system of competition requires limited governmental intervention, which is an idea that echoes in arguments for corporations’ and consumers’ voluntary responsibility and argues against legal intervention into business practices. How neoliberal assumptions, concepts, and models are mobilized in debates over the legitimate extent and enforceability of CSR principles is another relevant question for this Special Issue.

Fourth, Foucault’s late authorship in the early 1980s, often termed his “ethical turn”, took him back to techniques of self-formation in Greco-Roman antiquity. There, Foucault discovered a “technical” notion of ethics less defined by submission to universal moral codes and instead focused more on the self’s work upon the self. Foucault’s “ethical turn” in the early 1980s hardly signified a departure from political issues, but a re-conception of politics as an ethical politics. Ethics is political, argued Foucault, in the sense that our self-fashioning involves what we are willing to accept or want to change in ourselves as well as in our circumstances: “[T]here is no first or final point of resistance to political power other than in the relationship one has to oneself” (Foucault, 2005: 252). Perhaps, the urgent issues of our time call for developing another form of ethics rather than models rooted in legal frameworks and Christian morality. The emergence of responsible consumers, climate conscious youths, “freeganism”, and dumpster diving could be analyzed with inspiration from Foucault’s work on ethics and self-formation.

Fifth, and finally, the concept of “the dispositive” has recently been introduced into Foucauldian scholarship as a highly promising analytical resource. A dispositive is defined as a historical configuration, which connects a series of discursive and non-discursive elements such as laws, practices, and techniques (Foucault, 1980). It designates a propensity in knowledge production and governmental practice, as well as a “dispositionality” in how institutions emerge and transform. The concept opens for analyzing how our practices, for example, risk assessments or divestment decisions, are conditioned by dispositives, that is, frameworks constituted by practices, techniques, and knowledge modalities. Foucault (2007) suggested that the dispositives of law, discipline, and security have been particularly important as responses to thorny governmental problems such as crime, infectious diseases, and labor unrest. Current problems such as climate change, environmental degradation, and extreme inequality could be analyzed as straddling between these deep-rooted frameworks of calculation and intervention.

In this Special Issue, we wish to apply a broad perspective on CSR, inspired by Michel Foucault and his extensive historical and conceptual authorship, including subsequent governmentality studies. We seek contributions that not only focus on corporations’ social contributions to the wider society but also address related themes such as accountability, corporate sustainability, risk management, ESG standards, divestment, investor–company relations, transparency, green-washing, the use of “soft law” and self-regulation, responsible consumerism, labor conditions, the protection of minorities, climate change, the environmental impact of business, risk management, new compliance principles, and more. We invite work that addresses the following themes as well as the suggestions mentioned above (the list is by no means exclusive):

  • Genealogical studies can trace how the CSR discourse has emerged and evolved in different regions, sectors, and national contexts;
  • Inquiries into struggles around how CSR should be defined, which social actors clash in such struggles, and how CSR proponents draw on concepts and normative premises derived from economics, jurisprudence, moral philosophy, environmental science, and more;
  • Analysis of how “transparency” is produced as a discursive object in relation to CSR, Corporate Sustainability, and ESG, including which accounts and issues are regarded as relevant information;
  • Discourse analyses can explore how “sustainability principles” are defined in the CSR discourse and how CSR principles and Corporate Sustainability are designed particularly in regard to environmental factors;
  • ESG could be analyzed as an extension or competitor concept for CSR, e.g., it could be examined how the CSR discourse affects ESG discussions and targets, and vice versa. The effects of ESG could be compared to its declared targets, and which role ESG plays for the moral image of the investor and for the balance of power between investors and joint-stock companies could be explored;
  • Studies of the techniques that establish criteria used by CSR and ESG rating agencies in their assessment processes, including criteria for what should be measured and how to measure it;
  • Inquiries into the recent debates on the inclusivity of CSR and ESG concepts, including their social aspects, such as class, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and gender;
  • Studies of the dispositives that condition what can essentially be defined as CSR, “sustainable” versus “unsustainable” investments, “divestment”, “good governance”, and firms’ “socially responsible performance”;
  • Research on the uses of financial models and technologies used in the management of risk and uncertainty related to environmental disruption, catastrophes, and scarcity.


Brooks, S. (2010) ‘CSR and the Strait-Jacket of Economic Rationality’, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 30(11/12): 604–17.

Foucault, M. (2005) The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France 1981–1982, trans. Graham Burchell. New York: Picador.

Foucault, M. 2007. Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foucault, M. (2008) Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979.New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foucault, M. (1980) ‘The Confession of the Flesh’. In Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977, edited by Colin Gordon, pp. 194-240. New York: Pantheon Books.

Shamir, R. (2004) ‘The De-Radicalization of Corporate Social Responsibility’, Critical Sociology 33(3): 669–89.

Prof. Dr. Kaspar Villadsen
Guest Editor
Johannes Lundberg
Guest Editor Assistant

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI’s English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Foucault discourse
  • power/knowkedge
  • CSR
  • ESG
  • corporate sustainability
  • accountability
  • divestment
  • risk management
  • environmental crises

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Kaspar Villadsen E-Mail Website

Guest Editor

Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark
Interests: Michel Foucault; state/civil society; critical organization studies; welfare state; health promotion


Johannes Lundberg E-Mail Website
Guest Editor Assistant
Department of Philosophy and History of Ideas, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark
Interests: michel foucault; intellectual history of political economy; financial theory; ESG investments

Nguyet Nguyen, M.
Navigating academic mentorship as active, knowing, and moral subjects
(2022) Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 30 (4), pp. 434-453.

DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2022.2091196

Drawing on Foucault’s governmentality, this study examines five academic mentors’ narratives of their experiences in a Vietnamese university. The data collected through semi-structured interviews show how the participants responded to the government’s, the institution’s and cultural influences on their mentoring practice. They were able to form their own judgment, knew of the institution mentoring’s failings and reformed the discourses through which they were positioned. They downplayed the hierarchy in the relationship, negotiating their culturally and socially constructed patronage role and reporting power. By embracing the resistance discourse, they shaped themselves as active, knowing, and moral subjects. The ‘gaze’ from the government, institution, and culture, however, created a level of assimilation and prevented them from disturbing the mainstream mentoring. The study additionally advances knowledge of academic mentoring and Vietnamese HE governance. © 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Academic mentoring; discourse; Foucault; governmentality; Vietnamese higher education policy

27/11/1967 – Rai Teche. Intervista a Michel Foucault in occasione della pubblicazione in italiano di «Les mots et les choses, une archéologie des sciences humaines», 1966 («Le parole e le cose. Un’archeologia delle scienze umane», trad. it. 1967). “Archeologica” è infatti la procedura con la quale Foucault tenta di ricostruire le condizioni di possibilità, la struttura entro cui il sapere e le sue manifestazioni si presentano nella storia.

“Archeologo dei saperi”, saggista letterario, professore al Collège de France, tra i grandi pensatori del XX° secolo, Foucault è l’unico intellettuale a realizzare il progetto storico-genealogico propugnato da Friedrich Nietzsche allorché segnalava che, nonostante ogni storicismo, continuasse a mancare una storia della follia, del crimine e del sesso. I lavori di Foucault si concentrano sull’analisi delle prigioni, degli ospedali, delle scuole e di altre grandi organizzazioni sociali. L’interesse per la dimensione autoritaria e costrittiva di tutte le forme organizzate di potere conduce Foucault alla pubblicazione di «Sorvegliare e punire», opera del 1975 che si concentra in maniera specifica sul ruolo sociale e sul significato filosofico del carcere. Il pensiero di Foucault può dunque considerarsi un’attenta lettura dell’attualità, con particolare interesse per le implicazioni fra potere e sapere, sessualità e cura di sé. Il sapere, con la sua evoluzione storica, sembra infatti condurre a nuove forme di asservimento dell’individuo, piuttosto che indirizzarlo verso una graduale emancipazione. Le opere di Foucault costituiscono dunque una critica aperta ed una messa in guardia ancora valida rispetto a questa cancellazione, non sempre manifesta, delle libertà dell’uomo.

From one of the comments on an earlier posting of this video

L’incontro è avvenuto a Milano nel 1968, organizzato da Eco e da Enzo Melandri, che è il primo degli intervistatori in questo breve video. Una foto dell’incontro è stata inserita nella riedizione Quodlibet di “La linea e il circolo” di Enzo Melandri. Eco e Melandri scommisero una birra su come Foucault avrebbe pronunciato “episteme”: alla francese, secondo Melandri, o alla greca, secondo Eco (vinse Melandri). L’incontro non fu organizzato per caso: Melandri, assieme a Celati, Calvino, Carlo Ginzburg, e altri, lavoravano al progetto di una rivista incentrata sul concetto di “archeologia”, che purtroppo non andò in porto (sia Celati che Calvino hanno scritto un saggio che ruota attorno all’archeologia: si tratta dei materiali di discussione del progetto). Inoltre, Melandri stava scrivendo “La linea e il circolo”, nel quale si confronta anche con Foucault.
Sarebbe interessante sapere da dove proviene questo video, e se è disponibile una verione più lunga.

Mora-Rioja, A.
The horror of death: A Foucauldian reading of power relations in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now
(2022) Philologica Canariensia, 28, pp. 55-70.

DOI: 10.20420/Phil.Can.2022.467

Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness (1899) addresses the brutality underlying Europe’s colonisation of Africa. Its film adaptation, Apocalypse Now (1979), shows the US Army’s radical practices in the Vietnam War. A comparative study of power relations on both works will help understand the workings of power in extreme sociopolitical circumstances devoid of a democratic environment. This article analyses both cultural products under the theoretical framework of Michel Foucault’s writings on power. Three conceptual nuclei where power relations emanate are scrutinised independently: imperialism and the resulting local resistance; internal hierarchies in colonial organisations; and the role of gender. The analysis shows that absolute power is intolerable, death its ultimate limit, and confession its main liberating mechanism. © 2022 Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. All rights reserved.

Author Keywords
Apocalypse Now; film adaptation; Foucault; Heart of Darkness; power

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