Foucault against the Foucauldians? On the problem of the neoliberal state
(2021) Thesis Eleven
The survival of neoliberal forms of governance after their apparent repudiation during the Global Financial Crisis is a problem that continues to generate significant scholarly controversy. One of the most influential accounts of the survival of neoliberalism in the crisis draws on Michel Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics to claim that states intervening to support financial markets during the crisis was simply the neoliberal system working as expected. Returning to Foucault’s original text, I argue this account constitutes a systematic misreading because it treats Foucault as having developed an instrumentalist theory of the neoliberal state, a possibility Foucault explicitly rejected. I suggest that the reasons that led Foucault to reject an instrumentalist theory of the state remain just as relevant today, and accordingly argue for a return to Foucault’s methodological decision to treat neoliberalism not as a theory of state but as a discourse which constructs a novel bio-political governmentality. © The Author(s) 2021.
discourse; Foucault; governmentality; neoliberalism; state