Foucault News

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

Progressive Geographies

Perry Zurn, Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry – University of Minnesota Press, March 2021

Curiosity is political. Who is curious, when, and how reflects the social values and power structures of a given society. InCuriosity and Power, Perry Zurn explores the political philosophy of curiosity, staking the groundbreaking claim that it is a social force—the heartbeat of political resistance and a critical factor in social justice. He argues that the very scaffolding of curiosity is the product of political architectures, and exploring these values and architectures is crucial if we are to better understand, and more ethically navigate, the struggle over inquiry in an unequal world.

Curiosity and Powerexplores curiosity through the lens of political philosophy—weaving in Nietzsche, Foucault, and Derrida in doing so—and the experience of political marginalization, demonstrating that curiosity is implicated equally in the maintenance of societies and in their transformation. Curiosity…

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Progressive Geographies

Adam Kotsko, Agamben’s Philosophical Trajectory – Edinburgh University Press, September 2020

  • Focuses on Agamben’s intellectual development
  • Offers the first study of the complete Homo Sacer series
  • Takes into account Agamben’s recently-published memoir
  • Addresses the full range of Agamben’s thought on linguistics, poetics, politics and theology

Giorgio Agamben has emerged as one of the most perceptive and even prophetic political thinkers of his era. Now that he has completed his multi-volume Homo Sacer series – his career-defining work – Adam Kotsko, one of his leading translators, shows how Agamben’s political concerns emerged and evolved as he responded to contemporary events and new intellectual influences while striving to remain true to his deepest intuitions. Kotsko reveals the trajectory of Agamben’s work and shows us what it means to practice philosophy as a living, responsive discipline.

Adam Kotsko’s brilliant study provides a chronological and systematic reading of Giorgio Agamben’s writings that allows us…

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Ryan Dillon, Mark Morris, Denis Macshane
Mark Cousins: Architectural theorist who captivated experts and enthusiasts alike, Independent, 22 October 2020

(photo: Pichan Sujaritsatit)

For more than 30 years, Mark Cousins’s Friday evening lectures at the Architectural Association were the place to be, not only for those who worked and studied at the school in London, but for people from all walks of life. An intellectual and theoretician, he was much loved by students and staff alike; a constant presence in the spaces of the AA and always ready to engage in or instigate an impromptu conversation.

Cousins was widely recognised as one of the best minds amongst his contemporaries, and a brilliant speaker, whether sitting around a dinner table or standing behind a lectern delivering countless talks and lectures. Despite co-authoring (with Athar Hussein) Michel Foucault (1984), his only completed book, he was mostly unable to translate the copious notes he took on every book read, nor his own research and thinking into anything more than the occasional article.

In contrast to the Anglo-Saxon model of the intellectual and university teacher that is based on written output, Cousins functioned more like the academic French masters, who delivered talks to groups of students who were tasked with the recording and transcribing of speeches into printed texts suitable for distribution. His intellectual contribution lay in la parole, not la page ecrite. Like his Oxford contemporary and friend, Christopher Hitchens, Cousins was better known for his wit and fluent pause-less deconstruction of modernity rather than doorstop bricks of many pages.

Colman, A.
School leadership, school inspection and the micropolitics of compliance and resistance: Examining the hyper-enactment of policy in an area of deprivation
(2020) Educational Management Administration and Leadership

DOI: 10.1177/1741143219898479

This paper examines the influence of intense scrutiny from Ofsted on school leadership and policy enactment. Data was collected in a coastal area of deprivation, providing the setting for a detailed case study of school leadership in a state secondary school and a state primary school, both with recent or ongoing experience of intense scrutiny from Ofsted. Seventeen interviews were undertaken with staff involved in leadership roles. The analyses of data and discussion form an understanding of how policy is enacted in relation to the dual responsibility that school leaders negotiate between the local context at Seatown and Ofsted. This paper suggests that Ofsted forces a privileging of a compliant and consistent enactment of policy; a hyper-enactment of policy, that reduces the capacity of school leaders to address the significant social context of the school. Foucault’s work on self-disciplinary technologies provides insight into the micropolitical spaces which open up for some school leaders. The discussion on the micropolitics of compliance and resistance offers insight into the tensions pertinent to school leadership teams and explores issues relevant to those interested in policy and inspection activity, particularly those within areas of deprivation. © The Author(s) 2020.

Author Keywords

deprivation; hyper-enactment of policy; micropolitics of compliance; micropolitics of resistance; policy enactment; school inspection; School leadership

Hartmann, E., Komljenovic, J.
The employability dispositif, or the re-articulation of the relationship between universities and their environment
(2020) Journal of Education Policy

DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2020.1725983

This paper focuses on how universities are increasingly made responsible for the employment of their students. Drawing on Governmentality Studies, we suggest framing this pressure as an employability dispositif. We join critical studies which link the employability imperative to a neo-liberal transformation of the higher education landscape. However, we criticise them for not paying enough attention to how the dispositif is put into practice by different universities and countries. As a consequence, they overlook important differences in terms of its institutionalisation. This contribution presents an overview of the dispositif’s variegation, based t on the findings of a survey with responses from 84 European universities in 26 European countries, which makes our study the most comprehensive in the field to date. Using an abductive approach, we aim, in addtion, to find explanations for the variegation. We show that a high youth unemployment rate has little explanatory power for the strength of the employability dispostif, in contrast to tuition fees and the country typology that we use and further develop. The dispositif is most advanced in Liberal Market Economies, indicating that universities in these countries seem to be on the way to becoming labour market institutions in their own right. © 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Foucault; Graduate employability; labour market; social media; university; varieties of capitalism

Borsò, V.
Bio-poetics and the dynamic multiplicity of bios: How literature challenges the politics, economics and sciences of life (2020) Numanities – Arts and Humanities in Progress, 12, pp. 17-32.

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-33738-4_2

This article questions the assumptions of Darwinian “biopoetics,” as well as the premises of Foucauldian biopolitics. While poetic Darwinism still searches for poetic patterns capable of perfecting humans, according to Foucault, bios is still dependent on external constraints (such as politics, economy, and other social factors), and these external determinations form the target of his critique. In searching for an onto-epistemology that goes beyond human exceptionalism while ensuring, within the entanglement of bios and poetics, that both bios and poetics are asserted in their own right, I propose the concept of “bio-poetics.” I will discuss this concept in the context of Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological, Donna Haraway’s “situated knowledge” and Roberto Esposito’s non-vitalistic and affirmative concept of “biopower.” According to recent theories of “New Materialism,” literature is a material practice that makes it possible to write life experiences that exceed life-forms. A bio-poetical reading challenges the economic politics of global capitalism, as shown in the example of Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah (2006/2007) and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (2004). In addition, I also intend to argue that visual and literary aesthetics understood as “aisthesis,” i.e., sensitive experience, intensity, and affective mode of thinking, is the realm where the dynamic multiplicity of life inscribes itself. Thus, an aesthetics of the sensible, as explored by Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean-Luc Nancy, Michel Serres, and Brian Massumi has political relevance, as Jacques Rancière has also argued. © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020.

Bernard E. Harcourt, Critique and Praxis, Columbia University Press

Critical philosophy has always challenged the division between theory and practice. At its best, it aims to turn contemplation into emancipation, seeking to transform society in pursuit of equality, autonomy, and human flourishing. Yet today’s critical theory often seems to engage only in critique. These times of crisis demand more.

Bernard E. Harcourt challenges us to move beyond decades of philosophical detours and to harness critical thought to the need for action. In a time of increasing awareness of economic and social inequality, Harcourt calls on us to make society more equal and just. Only critical theory can guide us toward a more self-reflexive pursuit of justice. Charting a vision for political action and social transformation, Harcourt argues that instead of posing the question, “What is to be done?” we must now turn it back onto ourselves and ask, and answer, “What more am I to do?”

Critique and Praxis advocates for a new path forward that constantly challenges each and every one of us to ask what more we can do to realize a society based on equality and justice. Joining his decades of activism, social-justice litigation, and political engagement with his years of critical theory and philosophical work, Harcourt has written a magnum opus.

Bernard E. Harcourt is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and professor of political science at Columbia University and a chaired professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. An editor of Michel Foucault’s work in French and English, Harcourt is the author of several books, including The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens (2018) and The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (2011). He is a social-justice litigator and the recipient of the 2019 Norman Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service Award from the New York City Bar Association for his longtime representation of death row prisoners.

Wade, F. “Judith Butler on the Violence of Neglect Amid a Health Crisis. A conversation with the theorist about her new book, The Force of Nonviolence, and the need for global solidarity in the pandemic World.” The Nation May 13 (2020).

Butler—who is the Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley—spoke to The Nation as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to reveal deep structural inequalities in many Western nations, bringing into sharper focus the words of the French philosopher Étienne Balibar, whose work she refers to in the book: “Our world is one marked by…the radical inequality of the forms and experiences of death itself.” The Trump administration’s response to the effects of the pandemic among low-income communities provided a lens through which to examine forms of nonphysical violence—in particular, those of neglect and discrimination—that Butler seeks to throw greater light on. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

—Francis Wade

Francis Wade: There is, as your book argues, a clear problem with the tendency to view violence as a physical act, for it ignores the more institutional forms of violence playing out right now in the US and beyond. What would the adoption of a wider view allow us to see?

Judith Butler: A single act cannot stand for repeated patterns or for structural or institutional forms of violence. The physical blow is most graphic and imaginable, and when violence takes that form, it is easier to find and hold the person accountable for its delivery. Accountability becomes more complex and no less urgent when the person who strikes the blow claims to be following an unjust police or prison policy or acting in the name of national security. And it is complex in another way but still no less urgent if whole populations are “left to die,” as Foucault put. Farmworkers crammed into small housing spaces and deprived of medical care are exposed to serious illness and death under the present conditions of pandemic. Something quite similar could be said about the population of Gaza, where confinement is imposed by force and where a slow genocide may well take place.


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