Foucault News

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

Dalgliesh, B. (2023). The idea of the university as a heterotopia: The ethics and politics of thinking in the age of informational capitalism. Thesis Eleven, 175(1), 81–107.

Drawing on struggles within academe between faculty that promote critical education and advocates of New Public Management (NPM) who endorse instrumental learning, I reimagine the university as a counter-space that positions it as a counter-power to informational capitalism. Initially, I outline its twin threats: ethical, as self-entrepreneurial academics are valorised by NPM; and political, with informationalisation conflating spaces of thinking. I then detail Scott Lash’s specific account of how the info-comm society negates critique. However, his monistic understanding of informationalisation means Lash’s alternative of Informationskritik risks subsumption by it. I therefore defer to Jacques Derrida’s idea of the university. To ensure the autonomy of the principle of reason in a world of info-comm flows, the university is a supplementary body to society, yet intimately linked to it by its critical reflexivity, which is on behalf of society. Because Derrida does not elaborate the requisite institutional architecture, I conclude with Michel Foucault’s notion of heterotopia as a quasi-illicit site that is different and other. Such an institutional design enables the university as a counter-space that is a bank of reason and an archive of its manifestation in social practices. It also upholds a space for thinking, which in the form of nominalist critical history proffers a counter-power to society as an informational homotopia.

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