Foucault News

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

“Do Not Ask Me Who I Am” Foucault and neoliberalism, The Point Magazine, June 2 2021

We just can’t seem to shake Foucault. The French philosopher, loathed or loved, has not dimmed in significance since his death of AIDS in 1984. In many ways the patron saint of contemporary humanistic inquiry, Michel Foucault’s work remains a source of both inspiration and frustration to scholars today. Conservatives, in turn, have long enjoyed propping him up as a left-wing bogeyman. In a delightfully vitriolic review for The New Criterion in 1993, Roger Kimball seethed, “the celebration of [Foucault’s] intellectual perversions by academics continues to be a public scandal.” More recently, Liz Truss, the U.K. international trade secretary and minister for women and inequalities, caused a stir when she claimed that since the 1980s, schools have made “no space for evidence” because they instead teach ideas with “roots in postmodernist philosophy—pioneered by Foucault” in which “truth and morality are all relative.”

But not everyone on the left is rushing to defend the thinker. In spite of his reputation as a progressive icon, Foucault has always had an at best contentious relationship with leftist politics. Jürgen Habermas, another philosophical great of his generation, once called Foucault a “young conservative,” attacking what he perceived to be Foucault’s rejection of modernity. Jean-Paul Sartre pilloried him as “the last barricade the bourgeoisie can still erect against Marx.”

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