Foucault News

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

Schubert, Karsten. (2021). The Christian Roots of Critique. How Foucault’s Confessions of the Flesh Sheds New Light on the Concept of Freedom and the Genealogy of the Modern Critical Attitude. Le Foucaldien, 7, 2. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/lefou.98

Abstract
Finally published 34 years after his death, Foucault’s book Confessions of the Flesh sheds new light on the debate about freedom and power that shaped the reception of his works. Many contributors to this debate argue that Foucault’s theory of power did not allow for freedom in the ‘genealogical phase,’ but that he corrected himself and presented a solution to the problem of freedom in his later works, especially through his reflection on ancient ethics and technologies of the self in volumes two and three of History of Sexuality, as well as the concept of parrhesia. In contrast to this view, I argue that Confessions of the Flesh shows that a concept of freedom as self-critical hermeneutics that aims at identifying a foreign power within the subject was only developed in Foucault’s analysis of Christian practices of penance and confession. This interpretation of Confessions of the Flesh opens a new field of inquiry into the genealogy of critique and both the repressive and emancipative effects of truth-telling and juridification.

Keywords: freedom, critique, church fathers, Christianity, sexuality, power, genealogy of critique

Karsten Schubert, Biopolitics of COVID-19: Capitalist Continuities and Democratic Openings, Interalia. A Journal of Queer Studies, Issue 16 2021
https://doi.org/10.51897/interalia/OAGM9733

Open access

Abstract
“Biopolitics” has become a popular concept for interpreting the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the term is often used vaguely, as a buzzword, and therefore loses its specificity and relevance. This article systematically explains what the biopolitical lens offers for analyzing and normatively criticizing the politics of the coronavirus. I argue that biopolitics are politics of differentiated vulnerability that are intrinsic to capitalist modernity. The situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is, therefore, less of a state of exception than it might appear; COVID-19 is a continuation and intensification of the capitalist biopolitics of differentiatial vulnerability. In order to critically evaluate this situation, the article proposes the concept of “democratic biopolitics” and shows how it can be used, among others, for a queer critique of the differentiatial vulnerabilities that are produced by the coronavirus and its capitalist governance. In contrast to widespread interpretations of democratic biopolitics that focus on collective care in communities, this article highlights the role of the state and of the redistribution of political power and economic resources as key for biopolitical democratization.

Keywords: biopolitics, democratic biopolitics, COVID-19, coronavirus, capitalism, queer politics, redistribution

Karsten Schubert’s website

Daniele Lorenzini, The Normativity of Biopolitics
Working draft of a talk delivered at the Dutch-Belgian Foucault Circle on 24 February 2021.

As was predictable, the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the emergence of a new series of analyses centered on Michel Foucault’s notions of biopower or biopolitics. In this talk, I won’t draw any distinctions between the two notions (because Foucault himself doesn’t), and just use them interchangeably to indicate the specific form and mechanisms of power that aim to protect, manage, and enhance the biological life of the population. However, the re-appropriation of the notions of biopower and biopolitics by politicians, journalists, and public intellectuals today also gave rise to many—more or less problematic—misunderstandings and misreadings of Foucault. If anything, I hope that my talk will shed some light on what these uses of Foucault’s notions of biopower and biopolitics misunderstand and overlook. At the same time, however, I wouldn’t want to limit myself to the bleak task of “defending” Foucault. That’s definitely not the point. Offering a reading of Foucault’s work on biopolitics that is as close as possible to his original aims and intentions should indeed be just the premise for a further, and more relevant, task: ask whether or not his analyses are still relevant to us, and explore ways in which they can be modified in order to address problems that are certainly different from those that Foucault was addressing more than forty years ago.

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Lisa Duggan, Ayn Rand and the Cruel Heart of Neoliberalism, Dissent Magazine, May 20, 2019

Excerpted from Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed by Lisa Duggan, published by the University of California Press. © 2019 by the Regents of the University of California.)

[…]

Neoliberal influence has been culturally deep as well as geographically wide. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, a multidisciplinary group of scholars have described the reach of neoliberal modes of governance into the conduct of everyday life. To counter the solidarity economies and social cooperation of organized workers, public-spirited officials, and professionals, neoliberals have promoted the Entrepreneurial Self who competes in the Aspiration Society. Everyone invests in their own personal and familial human capital, and all are responsible for their own risk-taking and rewards, or the lack of them. According to these conceptions, the poor are not a class, but a collection of individual failures. The rich are not exploitive parasites on the labor of the majority, but the very source of wealth and a boon to society. Except that, as Margaret Thatcher noted, “society” as such does not exist. The social is the context for individual striving. It is also the scene of the Neoliberal Theater of Cruelty, through which feelings of resentment, fear, anger, and loathing are enacted against the weak, who are a drain on the worthy. Cracking down on welfare “cheats,” “illegal” immigrants, and homeless “vagrants” can become a form of public satisfaction.
[…]

Smeets, Koen, Neo-Liberalism, Neoclassical Economics, and Foucault: Dominant Schools of Economic Thought in American Anarcho-Liberalism and German Ordoliberalism (April 3, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3684056 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3684056

Abstract
This paper examines the influence of American and German neo-liberalism on the dominant school of economics in their respective countries based on an extended version of Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics. The analyses of the American neo-liberal economists, or anarcho-liberalists, legitimised the extension of the basic neoclassical model to non-economic, social phenomena and invalidated governmental intervention in both economic and social phenomena. In contrast, the assumption of the German neo-liberals, or Ordoliberals, of markets as artificial, imperfect constructs validated setting the right conditions for the market by the government. This analysis demonstrates and draws lessons from the historical conditions under which a school with divergent assumptions from the neoclassical assumptions of perfect rationality and perfect competition became dominant in a neo-liberal political-economic environment.

Keywords: neoliberalism; neoclassical; Foucault; The Birth of Biopolitics; economics

González, D.E., Galmiche, G.P., Sánchez, A.C.M.
Michel Foucault and his speech beyond the philosophical: A political analysis in the light of philosophy [Michel foucault y su discurso más allá de lo filosófico un análisis político a la luz de la filosofía]
(2021) HUMAN REVIEW. International Humanities Review / Revista Internacional De Humanidades, 10(1), pp. 131–141.

DOI: 10.37467/GKAREVHUMAN.V10.3006

Abstract
This article sums up the constantly debated issue of philosophical knowledge about power, called by Foucault: critical analysis of modernity. An analysis linked to other thinker is produced, under the guidance of the French thinker and also a debate is conducted around questions generated by the heritage of modernity or what he called, today. The objective is to analyze Michel Foucault’s thought in the light of various authors, generating a necessary theoretical framework. The question is asked: is Foucault’s position applicable today?. © 2021, Global Knowledge Academics. All rights reserved.

Author Keywords
Biopower; Philosophical knowledge

The Telos Press Podcast: Kyle Baasch on Adorno and Foucault in San Francisco
By Telos Press · Sunday, December 12, 2021

In today’s episode of the Telos Press Podcast, David Pan talks with Kyle Baasch about his article “Critical Theory in the Flesh: Adorno and Foucault in San Francisco,” from Telos 196 (Fall 2021). An excerpt of the article appears below. In their conversation they discussed how Foucault’s aversion to Marxism relates to his notion of the individual as endlessly transfiguring itself through acts of creative self-invention; how Adorno interprets the freedom of the subject within the context of consumer culture and exchange society; the influence of Adorno’s experience as a heartbroken lover on his conception of happiness, particularly in Minima Moralia; how Adorno’s notion of happiness relates to the conception of harmony that Foucault criticizes; and the extent to which the two thinkers can be put into conversation. If your university has an online subscription to Telos, you can read the full article at the Telos Online website.

Karnovsky, S., Gobby, B., O’Brien, P.
A Foucauldian ethics of positivity in initial teacher education
(2021) Educational Philosophy and Theory

DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2021.2016390

Abstract
This article explores ways pre-service teachers learn to work upon their positive emotional conduct during an initial teacher education course. The article argues that education practice today promotes the acting out of positive emotions, creating conditions within which pre-service teachers ethically shape their emotional conduct. Utilising Foucault’s four-part ethical framework, the article draws on longitudinal research of pre-service teachers in Western Australia to analyse the crafting of emotional conduct through techniques of the self. The techniques the participants came to employ during their course learning aligned with a telos of the resourceful, positive, and professional teacher. The article argues that this ethical enterprise relies on a certain model of teacher subjectivity which is inseparably linked with normalising governmental power. Such disciplining of emotions, however, is neither one-dimensional nor deterministic; rather, work at the intersection of the government of others and of oneself. We argue this allows pre-service teachers the freedom to care for the self as they seek to foster their own ethical practices as teachers. © 2021 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.

Author Keywords
emotions; ethics; Foucault; initial teacher education

PhD Course: Foucault: Organization, technology, and subject-formation
Copenhagen 27/06/2022 – 30/06/2022

More information and registration: https://phdcourses.dk/Course/88149

Faculty
Marius Gudmand-Høyer, Associate Professor, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.
Sverre Raffnsøe, Professor, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.
Ute Tellman, Professor, Department of Sociology, Darmstadt University.
Kaspar Villadsen, Professor (mso), Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.

Prerequisites

Only PhD students can participate in the course.

Participation requires submission of a short paper (see more below). Papers must be in English. Deadline is 13 June 2022. We welcome PhD students who work with Foucault as well as PhD students who would like to integrate Foucauldian ideas.

It is a precondition for receiving the course diploma that the PhD student attends the whole course.

Aim

The course will provide the participants with:

a) An introduction to key analytical potentials reconstructed from Foucault’s authorship as well as the lecturers’ own research projects.
b) We will discuss different approaches to themes of organization, technology, and subject-formation, as they are deployed in state-of-the-art Foucault-inspired scholarship.

c) The particular way Foucauldian analytics can be applied in the participant’s research will be explored. Hence, both potentials and limitations will be discussed in relation to the participants’ current research.

Course content

Michel Foucault’s work continues to offer a major source of inspiration for PhD projects across a wide range of disciplinary domains. This PhD course explores how Foucault’s work speaks to three broad themes in contemporary business school research and beyond: Organization, technology, and subject-formation. A key aim of the course is to provide an overview of analytical possibilities in Foucault’s work, effective for deploying such analytics in their own research.

Overall, Foucault’s thinking can help to inquire into the organizations, technologies and self-techniques that condition our contemporary experiences. First, Foucault’s genealogical approach (1977, 1984) works by tracing how contemporary forms of organization emerged from past struggles, political strategies, and accidental events. From this perspective, the prevailing modes of organizing can be better grasped by recovering their historical conditions of emergence. Struggles around definitions and uses of appropriate management, leadership, accountability, transparency or sustainability make up pertinent material for genealogical inquiry.

Foucault developed his own notion of technology during the 1970s, namely the concept of “the dispositive”. A dispositive is defined as a historical configuration, which connects discursive and non-discursive elements such as laws, practices, material artifacts, procedures, and techniques (Foucault, 1980). It designates a propensity in knowledge production and social practice as well as a “dispositionality” in how institutions emerge and transform. The concept has recently been introduced into Foucauldian scholarship, and it opens for analyzing how our practices – for example, risk assessments or anti-pandemic strategies – are conditioned by dispositives that have been formed in historical processes often spanning several centuries.

Finally, Foucault’s late authorship in the early 1980s, often termed his “ethical turn”, took him back to techniques of self-formation in Early Christianity and Greco-Roman antiquity. There, Foucault noticed a “technical” notion of ethics less defined by submission to universal moral codes and instead focused more on the self’s work upon the self. Perhaps, the urgent issues of our time call for developing another form of ethics rather than models rooted in legal frameworks and Christian morality. The recent emergence of responsible consumers, ‘life-long learners’, climate conscious youths, “freeganism”, and fluid gender identity could be analyzed with inspiration from Foucault’s work on ethics and self-formation.

The theme of this PhD course requires that the participants engage in some way with Foucault’s historical work, his analytical frameworks, or his approach to organization, technology, and subjectivity. Papers that are not exclusively Foucauldian but also derive from other thinkers and traditions are welcome too.

Teaching style

The goal is to sharpen the participants’ knowledge of Foucault’s analytical toolbox and how it can be applied in PhD projects. To that end we dedicate sufficient time to carefully examine and discuss the submitted papers. The aim of the lectures is, first, to clarify the ways in which Foucault worked with his analytics and, second, to demonstrate how to put the analytics to work in specific analysis. The aim of the workshops is to explore how Foucauldian analytics function in each participant’s paper – with the aim of strengthening, deepening and nuancing the participants’ research. In the workshops, participants are divided into smaller groups that will be supervised by one of lecturers.

All participants are required to submit a paper that deals with the key theme(s) of the PhD project in question (maximum 10 pages).

Papers (and 300 word abstracts) must be in English.

Tracey Potts, Clutter and place
(2020) The Routledge Handbook of Place, Edited By Tim Edensor, Ares Kalandides, Uma Kothari, pp. 486-495.

DOI: 10.4324/9780429453267-43

Abstract
This chapter explores the complex relationship between stuff and place as a way of interrogating the contemporary media obsession with decluttering. While the very idea of place connotes order (as in the maxim ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’), place is also made via material means, made inhabitable with stuff. Things might get in the way, becoming clutter, but, equally, there is no getting way from things. By critically examining the five common steps to a decluttered life, the chapter shows how the wildness of things is drastically underestimated in bestselling self-help guides. More, the magic of decluttering and of remaining clutter-free for life can be critically reframed as the operations of what Michel Foucault terms ‘technologies of the self’. Doreen Massey, with her notion of ‘throwntogetherness’, is, further, brought in to offer an object lesson to the likes of Kondo, showing how a messier encounter between people and things might help to allow clutter to speak back to, rather than simply unsettle, place. © 2020 selection and editorial matter, Tim Edensor, Ares Kalandides and Uma Kothari.

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