Foucault News

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

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Colin Gordon, A Note On “Becker On Ewald On Foucault On Becker” : American Neoliberalism And Michel Foucault’s 1979 Birth Of Biopolitics Lectures A conversation with Gary Becker, François Ewald, and Bernard Harcourt [1]

This is a response to a discussion linked to earlier on this blog: American Neoliberalism and Michel Foucault’s 1979 ‘Birth of Biopolitics’ Lectures (2012)

Full pdf of article

Opening paragraph

In 1991, I published a short account of Foucault’s 1978-9 lectures on governmentality, liberalism and neoliberalism, as part of my introduction to The Foucault Effect. This had been preceded by an earlier, briefer summary contained in an essay on Weber and Foucault, published in 1987. Since the publication of the lectures themselves in 2004 (in the original French) and 2007-8 (in excellent English translations),[2]  interest in their content has, very justifiably, continued to grow, while the need for those interested to rely on my highly condensed accounts and discussions has, for the most welcome of reasons, diminished. Access to the full texts of Foucault’s lectures allows everyone to form their own unmediated assessment of their merits and relevance – and also, if they so wish, to test the accuracy of early, interim bulletins of what they contain. I have done some retrospective checks myself, noting a number of important elements in the lectures, several of which are of continuing and growing interest in the light of subsequent developments, which my overview failed to adequately address.[3] But of course these lectures, including notably those on neoliberalism, are, just as much now as then, so prodigiously dense and rich in original insight that each re-reading of them leads one to notice, seemingly for the first time, further arresting and highly relevant insights.[4]

[1] Social Science Research Network. University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 614U of Chicago,Public Law Working Paper No. 401.

[2]             Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977—1978.  Edited by Michel Senellart, translated by Graham Burchell. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008; Michel Foucault,The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979: Lectures at the College De France, 1978-1979.  Edited by Michel Senellart, translated by Graham Burchell. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

[3] Colin Gordon, “Governmentality and the genealogy of politics”, Birkbeck College, 2011.

[4]             Two points which struck me anew while preparing these notes: that Foucault cites liberalism as historically crucial to the legitimation of new sovereign legitimacy not only in West Germany after 1945, but also in the American colonies after 1776; and that migration is discussed not only as a life-experience of several among the founders of neoliberalism, but also as itself a theme of neoliberal economic thinking.

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5 thoughts on “Colin Gordon, A Note On “Becker On Ewald On Foucault On Becker” (2013)

  1. Jeremy says:

    Reblogged this on Open Geography.


  2. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    Colin Gordon reflects on the discussion between Gary Becker, Francois Ewald and Bernard Harcourt on Foucault’s 1979 lecture course.


  3. stockerb says:

    Great take down of Harcourt


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