Foucault News

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

Letting Go of Neo-Liberalism (with some help from Michel Foucault)
Faculty seminar

Professor Terry Flew
Professor of Media and Communication,
Creative Industries Faculty,
Queensland University of Technology,
Brisbane, Australia

12pm-2pm Wednesday 24th November 2010
Z2-315 CI Precinct QUT Kelvin Grove


Neo-liberalism has become one of the boom concepts of our time. From its original reference point as a descriptor of the economics of the “Chicago School” such as Milton Friedman, or authors such as Friedrich von Hayek, neo-liberalism has become an all-purpose descriptor and explanatory device for phenomena as diverse as Bollywood weddings, standardized testing in schools, violence in Australian cinema, and the digitization of content in public libraries. Moreover, it has become an entirely pejorative term: no-one refers to their own views as “neo-liberal”, but it rather refers to the erroneous views held by others, whether they acknowledge this or not. Neo-liberalism as it has come to be used, then, bears many of the hallmarks of a dominant ideology theory in the classical Marxist sense, even if it is often not explored in these terms.

This presentation will take the opportunity provided by the English language publication of Michel Foucault’s 1978-79 lectures, under the title of The Birth of Biopolitics, to consider how he used the term neo-liberalism, and how this equates with its current uses in critical social and cultural theory. It will be argued that Foucault did not understand neo-liberalism as a dominant ideology in these lectures, but rather as marking a point of inflection in the historical evolution of liberal political philosophies of government. It will also be argued that his interpretation of neo-liberalism was more nuanced and more comparative than the more recent uses of Foucault in the literature on neo-liberalism. It will also look at how Foucault develops comparative historical models of liberal capitalism in The Birth of Biopolitics, arguing that this dimension of his work has been lost in more recent interpretations, which tend to retro-fit Foucault to contemporary critiques of either U.S. neo-conservatism or the “Third Way” of Tony Blair’s New Labour in the UK.

Biographical note

Terry Flew is Professor of Media and Communication in the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology (QUT). He is the author of New Media: An Introduction (OUP, 2008 – third edition) and Understanding Global Media (Palgrave, 2007). He has also been published in leading international academic journals such as International Journal of Cultural Policy, Television and New Media, Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, Media, Culture and Society and International Journal of Cultural Studies. He has been First Chief Investigator on an ARC Linkages-Project into citizen journalism in Australia from 2006 to 2009, with industry partners including the Special Broadcasting Service, Cisco Systems Australia, and The National Forum. He is First Chief Investigator on an ARC Discovery-Project on Creative Suburbia, with researchers from QUT and Monash University. He is a Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, and was President of the Australian and New Zealand Communications Association during 2009-2010. His forthcoming book is The Creative Industries, Culture and Policy (Sage, 2011).

Please RSVP to Kate Simmonds by Monday 22nd November 2010

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