Foucault News

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

Mitchell Dean, Foucault must not be defended, History and Theory, Volume 54, Issue 3, pages 389–403, October 2015

DOI: 10.1111/hith.10767

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This paper responds to and comments on many of the themes of the book under consideration concerning Foucault and neoliberalism. In doing so, it offers reflections on the relation between the habitus of the intellectual and the political contexts of action and engagement in the case of Foucault, and the strengths and weaknesses of his characterization of his work in terms of an “experimental” ethos. It argues that it is possible to identify his distinctive views on neoliberalism as a programmatic ideal, as a language of critique of the postwar welfare state, and as an element within actual political forces such as the French “Second Left” of the 1970s. It examines the legacy of Foucault in “governmentality studies” and argues for attentiveness to the different intellectual positions, and their potentially divergent political consequences, within this school of thought. It concludes by suggesting that the discussion currently taking place, and in part inaugurated by this book, might signal a change of his status in the humanities and social sciences today from “unsurpassable horizon” of critical thought to acknowledged classical thinker, with strengths and limitations, and a series of problems that might not be our own.



One thought on “Foucault must not be defended (2015)

  1. I read Foucault’s lectures on neoliberalism when they came out in English (2008). With the all the recent fuss I have gone back to them. Have I missed anything? Surely Foucault is presenting a running critique of neoliberalism without any value judgements but in the context of how power relations work through it? The insights seem to have become more relevant as time has gone on. Is the fuss no more than furthering the enterprise capital of academics?


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