Foucault News

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

William Davies, From Jurisdiction to Translation: Elite Power Under Advanced Neoliberalism, Pre-print of article to appear in Theory Culture & Society

The financial crisis, and associated scandals, created a sense of a juridical deficit with regard to the financial sector. Forms of independent judgement within the sector appeared compromised, while judgement over the sector seemed unattainable. Elites, in the classical Millsian sense of those taking tacitly coordinated, ‘big decisions’ over the rest of the public, seem absent. This article argues that the eradication of jurisdictional elites is an effect of neoliberalism, as articulated most coherently by Hayek. It characterises the neoliberal project as an effort to elevate ‘unconscious’ processes over ‘conscious’ ones, which in practice means elevating cybernetic, non-human systems and processes over discursive spheres of politics and judgement. Yet such a system still produces its own types of elite power, which come to consist in acts of translation, rather than judgment. Firstly, there are ‘cyborg intermediaries’: elites which operate largely within the system of codes, data, screens and prices. Secondly, there are ‘diplomatic intermediaries’: elites who come to narrate and justify what markets (and associated technologies and bodies) are ‘saying’. The paper draws on Lazzarato’s work on signifying vs asignifying semiotics in order to articulate this, and concludes by considering the types of elite crisis which these forms of power tend to produce.

elites, neoliberalism, finance, Hayek, capitalism, Lazzarato

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