Foucault News

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

Rockhill, G., De León, J.P.
Materialist deconstruction, anticolonial geographies, and the limits of genealogy: An interview on counter-history of the present
(2019) Philosophy Today, 63 (1), pp. 217-235.

DOI: 10.5840/philtoday2019613263

In this wide-ranging interview, Gabriel Rockhill discusses his most recent book, Counter-History of the Present, in the broader context of his research to date on aesthetics, politics and history, as well as its relationship to important interlocutors like Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Rancière, Jacques Derrida, Frantz Fanon and Simone de Beauvoir. He explains the similarities and important differences between genealogy and counter-history, and he elucidates how his work performs a materialist deconstruction that contests the idealist logocentrism operative in purely textualist modes of interpretation. The interview also develops an account of “radical geography” that calls into question culturalist spatial imaginaries, which plague certain forms of decolonial theory that diminish or efface social stratification and class conflict. The discussion thereby contributes to the development of a new model for critical social theory with an internationalist perspective, which seeks to weave these conceptual innovations into a rigorous and radical materialism.


Yesterday I finished year 1969 in Dits et Écrits v. 1, the chronological collection of Foucault’s writings. The year’s set of writings almost literally ends with an analogy between the method of Foucault and that of his former teacher, Merleau-Ponty.

Recall that 1969 is the year Archaeology of Knowledge is published. It is also the year in which Foucault notes in an interview (“Michel Foucault explique son dernier livre”) that “this word archaeology embarrasses me a bit” (“Ce mot ‘archéologie’ me gêne unpeu“) because it ably suggests two things that Foucault does not intend: a search for an origin (archè) and a digging down to uncover what has been hidden away. Foucault says that, on the contrary, “I am attempting to render visible what is invisible only by being too much on the surface of things” (“je tente de renre visible ce qui n’est invisible…

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Jane O’Grady, Sir Roger Scruton obituary, The Guardian, 15 January 2020

Philosopher, writer and political thinker with controversial views on education, hunting and architecture

Roger Scruton, who has died of lung cancer aged 75, was a philosopher and a controversial public intellectual. Active in the fields of aesthetics, art, music, political philosophy and architecture, both inside and outside the academic world, he dedicated himself to nurturing beauty, “re-enchanting the world” and giving intellectual rigour to conservatism.

He wrote more than 50 books, including perceptive works on Spinoza, Kant, Wittgenstein and the history of philosophy, and four novels, as well as columns on wine, hunting and current affairs, and was a talented pianist and composer.

Matthew McManus, On Mourning for One’s Enemies: Remembering Sir Roger Scruton, Merion West, 16 January 2020

Scruton could even be eminently generous to intellectual opponents he felt were worthy of respect, as in this telling paragraph discussing the work of Michel Foucault and Richard Rorty:

“Foucault’s approach reduces culture to a power-game, and scholarship to a kind of refereeing in the endless “struggle” between oppressed and oppressing groups. The shift of emphasis from the content of an utterance to the power that speaks through it leads to a new kind of scholarship, which bypasses entirely questions of truth and rationality, and can even reject those questions as themselves ideological.

The pragmatism of the late American philosopher Richard Rorty is of similar effect. It expressly set itself against the idea of objective truth, giving a variety of arguments for thinking that truth is a negotiable thing, that what matters in the end is which side you are on. If a doctrine is useful in the struggle that liberates your group, then you are entitled to dismiss the alternatives.

Whatever you think of Foucault and Rorty, there is no doubt that they were intelligent writers and genuine scholars with a distinctive vision of reality. They opened the way to fakes but were not fakes themselves.”

This is a far more nuanced take than the legions of empty takedowns on Foucaultian theory and post-modern Neo-Marxism one sees today.

Sovacool, B.K., Brisbois, M.-C.
Elite power in low-carbon transitions: A critical and interdisciplinary review (2019) Energy Research and Social Science, 57, art. no. 101242,

DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2019.101242

Modern energy systems have tended towards centralized control by states, and national and multinational energy companies. This implicates the power of elites in realizing low-carbon transitions. In particular, low-carbon transitions can create, perpetuate, challenge, or entrench the power of elites. Using a critical lens that draws from geography, political science, innovation studies, and social justice theory (among others), this article explores the ways in which transitions can exacerbate, reconfigure or be shaped by “elite power.” It does so by offering a navigational approach that surveys a broad collection of diverse literatures on power. It begins by conceptualizing power across a range of academic disciplines, envisioning power as involving both agents (corrective influence) and structures (pervasive influence). It then elaborates different types of power and the interrelationship between different sources of power, with a specific focus on elites, including conceptualizing elite power, resisting elite power, and power frameworks. The Review then examines scholarship relevant to elite power in low-carbon transitions—including the multi-level perspective, Michel Foucault, Antonio Gramsci, Anthony Giddens, Karl Marx, and other contextual approaches—before offering future research directions. The Review concludes that the power relations inherent in low-carbon transitions are asymmetrical but promisingly unstable. By better grappling with power analytically, descriptively, and even normatively, socially just and sustainable energy futures become not only more desirable but also more possible.

Author Keywords
Climate justice; Energy justice; Energy transitions; Political economy

Taylor C. (2013) The Discourses of Climate Change. In: Cadman T. (eds) Climate Change and Global Policy Regimes. International Political Economy. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Climate change has been represented in a variety of ways. These representations have enacted their own discursive formations, which people discuss and act upon at local, national and global scales. Climate change was initially discussed within scientific disciplines and represented within a technical discourse. As it became popularised, through environmental organisations and the media, governments and intergovernmental bodies began to frame climate change within specific discursive formations, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (KP). These gave rise to forms of governance and discourse that have attained an almost hegemonic status, where climate change was framed within an overall neo-liberal governmental framework and network. As discursive formations of climate change were moved from science to government, they were transformed from a technical to a technocratic discourse. Institutional distance was created, resulting in the exclusion of other stakeholders and alternative discourses. Governance structures became elitist and exclusionary. The framing of climate change within global and national economic frameworks became the point of entry for stakeholders in climate change discussions.

Climate Change Ecological Modernisation Amazonian Rainforest Carbon Cycle Model Institutional Distance

Yusoff, Kathryn. “Biopolitical Economies and the Political Aesthetics of Climate Change.” Theory, Culture & Society 27, no. 2–3 (March 2010): 73–99.

As environments and their inhabitants undergo a multitude of abrupt changes due to climate, in the aesthetic field there has been a hardening of a few representational figures that stand in for those contested political ecologies. Biodiversity loss and habitat change can be seen to be forcing an acceleration of archival practices that mobilize various images of the ‘play of the world’, including the making of star species to represent planetary loss, and the consolidation of other species into archives implicitly organized around the category of their destruction. The first section of this article looks at Jacques Rancière’s concept of political aesthetics in order to extend an argument about the importance of aesthetics in multispecies living beyond a concentration on practices per se and into a more excessive engagement articulated by Georges Bataille. I argue that aesthetics must be considered as part of the practice of politics and a space that configures the realm of what is possible in that politics. This is to suggest aesthetics as a form of ethics or an ‘aesthetics of existence’, as Foucault put it. The conclusion considers how a biopolitical aesthetic comes into being through such archival practices, and asks what aesthetic shifts would make the ‘play of the world’ more present in its absences.

aesthetics, animality, Georges Bataille, climate change, ethics, Jacques Rancière

Catherine Malabou’s lecture “Philosophy and the Outside” – 2019-08-21

Catherine Malabou, Professor of Philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS. Saas-Fee, Switzerland. August 3rd, 2018. Public open lecture for the students of the Division of Philosophy, Art & Critical Thought.

INTERVIEW, Bernard Harcourt: «La société numérique repose sur la folle divulgation de nous-mêmes», Libération
Par Sonya Faure, Recueilli par — 10 janvier 2020


Scrutés par les algorithmes, bombardés par les «recommandations», nous sommes pistés, ciblés, exposés. A notre corps défendant, vraiment ? Professeur de droit à Columbia University et directeur d’études à l’Ehess, Bernard E.Harcourt s’est longtemps penché sur le système pénal américain et sur le fantasme de la justice à vouloir prédire les crimes à venir. Le chercheur américain s’intéresse désormais à la surveillance numérique et aux nouveaux rapports de pouvoir qu’elle institue. Pour ce spécialiste de Foucault, les expressions désormais convenues de «société Big Brother», de «panopticon» ou «d’Etat de surveillance» ne suffisent plus à penser l’actualité. Elles manquent toutes le moteur de l’ère numérique : notre participation enthousiaste à son fonctionnement. C’est ce que le juriste appelle la «société d’exposition», qui donne son titre à son livre tout juste paru au Seuil. Foucault avait pourtant prévenu : «Ne tombez pas amoureux du pouvoir.»

Matt McManus, Marx vs Foucault: Reflections on History and Power, Aero, August 29, 2019

Karl Marx and Michel Foucault are two of the most cited critical theorists in the world today, simultaneously revered or reviled, depending on who you talk to. Their work has been subjected to countless appraisals and debunkings and has met with everything from overzealous acceptance through well-reasoned critique to parodic and bad faith misinterpretations. One of the more interesting recent developments has been the tendency to conflate their thinking, and to present Foucault as essentially carrying on the Marxist tradition by other means. The most well known exponent of this position is Jordan Peterson. Drawing on books like Stephen Hicks’ Explaining Post-Modernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (critiqued here), in Peterson’s lecture series and 12 Rules for Life, he makes the claim that Marxism was morally bankrupt by the 1960s, once the horrors of the Soviet Union had become widely known and accepted. Rather than abandon the cause, postmodern theorists like Foucault decided to repackage the Marxist framework to sell old wine in new bottles. Where Marx had focused on class oppression, Foucault generalized the oppressor/oppressed binary to claim that power impacted all areas of human life, not just economic and political relations. Therefore what was needed was a total critique of Western civilization and ways of life, which would leave nothing standing, and open the door to a new form of communism or socialism. While Peterson’s account has largely been dismissed as fantastic, even by critics of Foucault and postmodernism like Slavoj Zizek, it has garnered considerable popular support.

Davide Panagia, “On the Political Ontology of the Dispositif,” Critical Inquiry 45, no. 3 (Spring 2019): 714-746.

DOI: 10.1086/702613

At an otherwise unnoteworthy moment during his 18 January 1978 lecture at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault stumbles just when he is about to resume his discussion of the “apparatuses of security” (dispositifs de sécurité). In both the English and French edition of the lecture, the interruption is footnoted in the text. Apparently, Foucault had bumped into the microphone of the device recording his lecture. As he recovers and before resuming his discussion he says this: “I am not against any apparatuses [les appareils], but I don’t know—forgive me for saying so—I’m just a bit allergic.” The English doesn’t render what’s notable in the comment because English is unable to mark the lexical shift, given that the translation of dispositif is, conventionally, “apparatus.” There are two (or more) different terms in French, but we tend to only use apparatus in English. But by 1978 Foucault had fully adopted and adapted the language of the dispositif to discuss the technical media of discipline, security, and governmentality, and he had done so—I will argue—by making an explicit political and aesthetic decision to replace the conceptual architecture and term apparatus (appareil) with dispositif. In the following, I reconstruct this shift and its political and aesthetic stakes.


Davide Panagia is a political and cultural theorist and professor of political science at University of California, Los Angeles. His research and teaching focus on aesthetics and politics. Rancière’s Sentiments (2018) is his most recent book

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