Foucault News

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

Davidson-Harden, A.
What is social sciences and humanities research ‘Worth’? Neoliberalism and the framing of social sciences and humanities work in Canada (2013) Policy Futures in Education, 11 (4), pp. 375-386.

Further info

This article offers a critique of the discursive politics represented in attempts to frame social sciences and humanities work in the mould of neoliberal knowledge capitalism. The critique offered is inspired by Foucault’s critical thought on neoliberalism and an interpretation of ‘neoliberal governmentality’ that flows from his Collège de France lectures on ‘the birth of biopolitics’. As a launching point, a particular document is explored – a 2008 report from a private consulting firm called the Impact Group, commissioned by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (the benefactor of the postdoctoral research fellowship from which this present inquiry emerges). The author explores here the significance of how a deeply economic-reductionist – or, in the author’s terms, neoliberal – way of looking at social sciences and humanities work can find utterance in a context of a hegemonic discourse of what the author (and others) terms ‘neoliberal knowledge capitalism’. As one particular – if dominant at present – ‘regime of truth’ in Foucault’s terms, this discourse represents well the imperatives of neoliberalism, which are construed here as imperialistic and colonising. From a neoliberal perspective, anything and everything in society ought to be perceived as a commodity, to be privatised, bought and sold, and considered solely within a framework of utility towards driving ‘economic growth’ in the most raw and disembedded sense of market relations, working over and above, and outside any category of critical comment or influence. This trend, in turn, is put under scrutiny here towards suggesting the necessary political task of interrupting this particular regime of truth and asserting others based on frames of reference and value not associated with a narrow, myopic neoliberalism, but rather with forms of knowledge socialism.

DOI: 10.2304/pfie.2013.11.4.375 (wrong doi)

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