Foucault News

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

Screens of Power: Ideology, Domination, and Resistance in Informational Society (paperback)
by Timothy W. Luke
With a Foreword by Ronald J. Deibert
Telos Press, Coming December 1, 2020. New edition. First published in 1989

This new edition of Screens of Power: Ideology, Domination, and Resistance in Informational Society, first published in 1989, reintroduces the innovative critique of informational culture, politics, and society outlined by Timothy W. Luke in Telos and other publications during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Working with insights derived from the Frankfurt School, Christopher Lasch, Michel Foucault, Guy Debord, and Jean Baudrillard, Luke maps out decisive conflicts and contradictions that leading modern economies and societies faced during the Cold War. At stake here is how to organize effectively the challenging political, social, and cultural transitions from industrial to informational institutions, practices, and values—a far-reaching transformation that continues to unfold today. The original edition has influenced research in the fields of visual studies, sociology, rhetorical analysis, politics, mass communications, government, information studies, economics, and cultural studies. During the COVID-19 pandemic of the 2020s, far more people are reconfiguring key aspects of their everyday life to flow across billions of screens. As they connect through the signs and systems of application platforms, computer networks, data centers, and software servers, this new edition highlights the significance of Luke’s original explorations of the politics behind informatics as well as Telos‘s ongoing project of developing “a critical theory of the contemporary.”

Gordon Hull, Foucault on Public Opinion, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 29 October 2020

If you’re like me, you spend too much time – way too much time – these days looking at polling data.  I ran across some interesting remarks by Foucault on opinion yesterday, which I’ll share here as a technique of distraction.  He makes them in the context of a 1976 conversation with J. P. Barou and Michelle Perrot (whose work on resistance to disciplinary power he favorably cites near the end of the conversation) that was published as the preface to an edition of Bentham’s Panopticon writings.  It appears as “L’oeil du pouvoir” (D&E #195, pp. 190-207 in my 2 volume edition) and is translated in Foucault Live (=FL).   For context, then, the conversation appears in the year after Discipline and Punish.  It covers a range of topics, including Foucault’s own path to discovering the panopticon (initially via hospital architecture, which had the dual need to see patients and keep them physically separated to avoid the spread of disease).

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Special Issue: Foucault Before the Collège de France, Theory, Culture and Society, Online November 17, 2020

Special issue Co-edited by Stuart Elden, Daniele Lorenzini and Orazio Irrera

Foucault on Raymond Roussel: The Extralinguistic Outside of Literature
Azucena G. Blanco

Foucault’s Critique of the Human Sciences in the 1950s: Between Psychology and Philosophy
Elisabetta Basso

Foucault and the History of Anthropology: Man, before the ‘Death of Man’
Arianna Sforzini

Foucault as Translator of Binswanger and von Weizsäcker
Stuart Elden

Foucault in Hamburg. Notes on a One-Year Stay, 1959–60
Rainer Nicolaysen

Matthew J. Dennis, Cultivating Our Passionate Attachments
Routledge Published September 14, 2020

Does a flourishing life involve pursuing passionate attachments? Can we choose what these passionate attachments will be? This book offers an original theory of how we can actively cultivate our passionate attachments.

The author argues that not only do we have reason to view passionate attachments as susceptible to growth, change, and improvement, but we should view these entities as amenable to self-cultivation. He uses Pierre Hadot’s and Michel Foucault’s accounts of Hellenistic self-cultivation as vital conceptual tools to formulate a theory of cultivating our passionate attachments. First, their accounts offer the conceptual resources for a philosophical theory of how we can cultivate our passionate attachments. Second, the exercises of self-cultivation they focus on allow us to outline a practical method though which we can cultivate our passionate character. Doing this brings out a significantly new dimension to the role of the passionate attachments in the flourishing life and offers theoretical and practical accounts of how we can cultivate them based on the Hellenistic conception of self-directed character change.

Cultivating Our Passionate Attachments will be of interest to advanced students and scholars working in virtue ethics, moral philosophy, and ancient philosophy.

With thanks to Progressive Geographies for this reference

The Public Intellectual Series So Far, Cassandra Voices
David Langwallner, November 7 2020

The Public Intellectual Series offers inter-disciplinary journalism, focusing on relevant authors and subject-matters crucial to negotiating our current age of extremes. We avoid specialisation, demystifying topics to provide readers with access to a broad view on contemporary challenges. Our aim is to contribute to a revival in the idea of the public intellectual, which we consider a necessary ingredient in a healthy body politic.

A public intellectual is a generalist, who brings together disparate strands of knowledge with a view to placing events in context. At one level this is a Sisyphean task, but throughout the ages intellectuals have faced the same challenges as today, forcing heavy objects up steep hills only to see them roll down again the following day.

The news media focus on the particular and the immediate sensationalism of soundbites, or the bric-a-brac of our existences, which occludes a wider field of vision.

In authoring this series as a lawyer I have strengths but also weaknesses. I studied history and lectured on the philosophy of law for many years. I read widely and as a mongrel – half-Irish-half-Austrian, now resident in London, and formerly a student in the London School Of Economics and Harvard University in the U.S. – I am lucky to have enjoyed a wide variety of cultural, educational and workplace settings.
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Michel Foucault is the acceptable face of postmodernism, in that his focus is on empirical – adopting historical methods, not absurd generalisations. In that sense he is truth-seeking and many of the ideas stand up to serious scrutiny. He seems to have anticipated the mass surveillance society now upon us in the Covid-19 panopticon, with ever more extreme and intrusive regulation of our intimate behaviours.
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A new global psychiatric power? Intro (2020), Psypolitics blog
by Federico Soldani – 6th Nov 2020

More than one year ago I presented the talk “Are we witnessing the emergence of a new global psychiatric power?” at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London, in the summer of 2019.

The overdue transcript, with this introduction and brief comments, subdivided in thirteen parts will be published over the next few months on PsyPolitics.

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Of note, some of the themes above discussed in 2019 such as power and biopolitics, as ideated by Michel Foucault, are now prominently presented in the medical literature about the 2020 pandemic, including an editorial of a few days ago on the British medical journal The Lancet by its historical editor Sir Richard Horton‘COVID-19 – a crisis of power’.

Foucault 1970s and 1980s lectures are cited and public health is put in relation to the global crisis of power: “We continue to live in this era of governmentality, where individual actions are shaped by power that claims its legitimacy in scientific truthPublic health developed amid these social and political currents.” “The growing importance of health to industrial societies led to the valorisation of doctors and the growth of medical science. An alliance formed between medicine and the state—“a politico–medical hold on a population”.

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Ottavio Marzocca, Biopolitics for beginners. Knowledge of life and government of people, Mimesis International, 2020

The term biopolitics can be fully understood only within the context of modern forms of governing society. From this perspective, the development of modern medical knowledge, the re-organization of the hospital as a health institution, the growing attention to issues related to population, and the rise of biological knowledge can be connected with the influence of economic rationality on the most important political strategies. In this book, the crucial role that the family has played throughout the history of biopolitics is also explored explaining how it is firstly a place of government of life as well as a means to extend various forms of biopower to the whole society. By analysing the works of key figures in the debate on biopolitics – such as Agamben, Negri, Esposito, Rose, Cooper, among others – this volume offers a systematic examination of this notion also in relation to the current ecological crisis and the pandemic of Covid-19, addressing fundamental problems of political thought and referring to great thinkers such as Foucault and Arendt, Plato and Aristotle.

Ottavio Marzocca teaches Ethical Political Philosophy and Ethics and Politics of the Common World at the University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro’ (Italy). He has published, among other books: Perché il governo: Il laboratorio etico-politico di Foucault (2007); Il governo dell’ethos: La produzione politica dell’agire economico (2011); Il mondo comune: Dalla virtualità alla cura (2019); Foucault ingovernabile: Dal bios all’ethos (2017).

Thomas Corbin and JP Deranty, Foucault on the centrality of work. OnWork Newsletter, 2 November 2020

In recent weeks, our research has focused on Michel Foucault’s contribution to debates on work. Throughout his immense corpus, Foucault never ceased to take work as a central object of his analyses. The History of Madness for instance begins with an alternative account of the new value that work started to take on early in the 17th century, with a shift in the fundamental ethos justifying the condemnations of idleness. These are crucial pages to elaborate an alternative Foucauldian version of the “work ethic” hypothesis. Similarly, in Psychiatric Power, Foucault continues his historical analysis of work into the 18th century, now focusing specifically on “work discipline” and the rising emphasis on the control and management of workers time. The attention and significance Foucault gives to work in his writings is striking and gains yet more weight when we consider his corpus as a whole, over the entire span of his thinking life.

We have collated 84 citations throughout Foucault’s oeuvre in which work is significantly discussed. These citations are organised by publication and complement a collection of a further 133 citations from the secondary literature.

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Richard Horton,
Offline: COVID-19—a crisis of power, The Lancet, COMMENT| VOLUME 396, ISSUE 10260, P1383, OCTOBER 31, 2020

DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32262-5

Open access

COVID-19 is about the politics of the body. In a series of lectures and essays in the 1970s and early 1980s, Michel Foucault (who died in 1984) argued that the discipline of public health emerged with the birth of capitalism in the 18th century. The body came to be understood as an instrument of economic production, of labour power, and so became a subject of significant political interest. Medicine and public health were endorsed as tools to enhance these productive forces, to ensure that people were fit for work. The priority given to the body as an important determinant of mercantilist prosperity ran parallel with a further historical turn—the meaning of government. The idea of government began with the narrow objective of retaining jurisdiction over a defined territory. But in the 18th century, European governments incorporated the idea of economy into their practice. Economy then referred to the family. Advances in statistical measurement brought attention to an entirely new concept for governments to consider—that of population. Governments switched their focus from families to populations as the units on which their political economies depended. Population became, according to Foucault, “the ultimate end of government”.
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Sally McGrane A Guaranteed Monthly Check Changed His Life. Now He Sends Out 650, New York Times, November 6 2020

Michael Bohmeyer’s website, “My Basic Income,” has given randomly selected people almost $1,200 a month for a year to see if it improves their lives. His answer: Yes.

Enjoying life is no trivial matter for the slight, serious Mr. Bohmeyer, whose experimental, grass-roots platform has thus far given more than 650 randomly-selected people 1,000 euros a month, around $1,165, for a year, no strings attached, just to test a thesis. Namely, that what people need to thrive in a rapidly changing world is not more money, but more security, and that an unconditional basic income — a monthly sum to cover living expenses that, if implemented, would be paid by the government and received by everyone — could enable this.

The idea has resonated in Germany, a wealthy country that spends about a third of its G.D.P. on a robust social welfare system. In the six years since Mr. Bohmeyer first called for donations “My Basic Income” has raised about €8 million, thanks to 140,000 or so private donations of sums as low as a couple of euros a month.
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He started reading the French philosopher Michel Foucault and reflecting on his own life. “Who am I, how do I want to live? What do I need for a good life?” he said. “Hard questions, but it’s totally cool if you have the chance to ask them.”

He noticed other changes, as well: His relationship with his partner improved. He was more patient with his 2-year-old daughter. His chronic stomach cramps went away. He started to wonder if a basic income, like the one he had, could help other people find more balance and equanimity in their lives, too.
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See also the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) site.

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