Foucault News

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

Matthew MacLellan, Identity politics, liberalism, and the democratizing power of biopolitics. Constellations. 2020; 1– 15.

DOI: 10.1111/1467-8675.12538

Democracy cannot be predicated exclusively on the universality of the law, since that universality is privatized ceaselessly by the logic of government action. (Jacques Rancière)

The separation of public from private is as crucial to the liberal state’s claim to objectivity as its inseparability is to women’s claim to subordination. (Catherine MacKinnon)

Men have dreamed of liberating machines. But there are no machines of freedom, by definition. (Michel Foucault)

1 INTRODUCTION
1.1 The identity politics critique

The contemporary liberal critique of identity politics features an unmistakable mark of antidemocratic reaction: the fear of political excess, the fear that too much of our social or private lives are becoming subject to the rigors of political scrutiny. In Political Tribes (2018), for instance, Amy Chua laments how a once legitimate concern for minority rights has now spread to even the most inconsequential of our social activities. “As a progressive Mexican American law student put it, if we allowed ourselves to be hurt by a [Halloween] costume, how could we manage the trauma of an eviction notice?’” (Chua, 2018, p. 187). The same concern over the excessive politicization of social life runs throughout Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s best‐selling The Coddling of the American Mind (2018): “students at many colleges today are walking on eggshells, afraid of saying the wrong thing [or] liking the wrong post” (p. 72). And in The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (2017), Mark Lilla is similarly unnerved about the increasingly dominant idea that “there are no spheres of life exempt from the struggle for power,” and how the realization of power’s ubiquity has turned “Left identitarians” into “buttoned‐up Protestant schoolmarms … parsing every conversation for immodest locutions” (2017, pp. 75, 91).
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