Scheider, Marshall (2020) “Economies of Security: Foucault and the Genealogy of Neoliberal Reason,”
Gettysburg Social Sciences Review: Vol. 4 : Iss. 1 , Article 2.
Michel Foucault is well-known for his theorizations of institutional power, normativity, and biopolitics. Less well-known is the fact that Foucault developed his analysis of biopolitics in and through his historical investigation of neoliberalism. Today, while critique of neoliberalism has become a commonplace of humanities discourse, and popular resistance to neoliberalization rocks the southern hemisphere, it remains unclear that the historical specificity of neoliberalism is well-understood. In particular, the relation between classical liberalism and neoliberal governance remains murky in popular debate. As Foucault powerfully illustrates, this relation is far from clear-cut, and neoliberalism is not reducible to a simple extension of the logic of a free market. This paper follows Foucault in tracing the historical emergence of neoliberalism from the classical liberalism of the late seventeenth through early nineteenth century, attending to the continuities, as well as the radical discontinuities between these political forms. Because neoliberalism characterizes the governmental and economic reason and practice of late-modernity, recalling Foucault’s erudite analysis prepares us to understand and engage the social, political, and economic conjunctures reverberating throughout the world today.