Foucault News

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

Bresnihan, P. Revisiting neoliberalism in the oceans: Governmentality and the biopolitics of ‘improvement’ in the Irish and European fisheries
(2019) Environment and Planning A, 51 (1), pp. 156-177.

DOI: 10.1177/0308518X18803110

Foucault’s account of the emergence of biopolitics in the late 18th century helps frame the political economy of ‘improvements’ as an environmental project linked to the well-being of the population. Since the 1970s, biopolitical concerns have shifted towards non-human populations and the reproduction of natural resources and ecosystems. This has become evident in the European fisheries, where after decades of exploitation greatly intensified since the 1960s, the extractive demands of the fishing industry have caught up with the reproductive capacities of most commercially targeted fish stocks. This contradiction has given rise to a new political economy of ‘improvements’ that seeks to sustain the biological health of commercially targeted fish populations while maintaining an economically profitable fishing industry. Central to this transition is the active role that fishers are expected to play in sustainably managing the fish stocks they exploit while adapting to ‘green’ market opportunities. Tradeable quota systems, eco-accreditation schemes and community-based resource management have all emerged as managerial strategies for inciting the active participation of fishers in this ‘common’ project of sustainable development. Drawing on Foucault’s perspective of governmentality, this paper argues that these strategies represent distinct but overlapping apparatuses of neoliberal governmentality that are representative of broader tendencies within environmental governance today. © The Author(s) 2018.

Author Keywords
Biopolitics; environmental governance; fisheries; governmentality; neoliberalism

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