Review: How a California acid trip made Michel Foucault a neoliberal
by Jonathan Russell Clark, Los Angeles Times. 24 May 2021
Review of The Last Man Takes LSD: Foucault and the End of Revolution By Mitchell Dean and Daniel Zamora, Verso, 2021
In 1978 and 1979, the French philosopher Michel Foucault gave a series of lectures on neoliberalism, the set of economic doctrines focused on free market enterprise, limited government and individual autonomy. Foucault wasn’t interested in the nitty-gritty of actual governing. “I have not studied and do not want to study,” he announced in the first lecture, “the development of real governmental practice.” Rather, he was interested in “the art of government.”
A book based on these lectures, “The Birth of Biopolitics,” wouldn’t be published in English until 2008, smack dab in the middle of a historic financial crisis clearly caused by neoliberalism. It was, for his legacy, unfortunate timing. Foucault’s dalliance with the dominant ideology challenged his saintly academic reputation, and numerous articles attempted to defend him against his own late-life transformation. But the consequences were clear, whatever small part he played: Not long after his lectures, Thatcher and Reagan unleashed neoliberalism on the world, and we are still picking through the rubble today.