Chaput, C., Hanan, J.S.
Economic Rhetoric as Taxis: Neoliberal governmentality and the dispositif of freakonomics
(2014) Journal of Cultural Economy. Article in Press.
This essay expands the rhetoric of economics conversation started by economist Deirdre McCloskey. Through a close engagement with Michel Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France from 1975 to 1979, concerning the dual problematics of liberalism and biopolitics, we argue for theorizing economic rhetoric as a governmental problem of order, or taxis, which arranges value among divergent subjects beyond the dichotomies of material/cultural and global/local. This approach toward rhetoric, we further contend, takes as its strategic form what Foucault and Agamben have called a dispositif. We demonstrate this premise through a case study of Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s notion of freakonomics, suggesting that it can be understood as a rhetorical dispositif working within the broader political rationality of neoliberal governmentality. We end by gesturing toward a rhetoric of the common as an alternative to the dispositif of freakonomics.
agency; biopolitics; freakonomics; neoliberalism; rhetoric of economics