Foucault News

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

Michel Foucault, Political Spirituality as the Will for Alterity: An Interview with the Nouvel Observateur. Critical Inquiry Volume 47, Number 1, 2020. Translated and introduced by Sabina Vaccarino Bremner.

An interview with Michel Foucault in 1979 that was never published during his lifetime and was recently rediscovered in the archives. The interview, appearing for the first time in English and in its complete form, marks one of Foucault’s final public discussions of the contentious topic of the Iranian Revolution. In particular, Foucault clarifies what he means by “political spirituality” and addresses the respective relations between religion, revolution, and self-transformation.

Scheel, S.
Biopolitical bordering: Enacting populations as intelligible objects of government (2020) European Journal of Social Theory, 23 (4), pp. 571-590.

DOI: 10.1177/1368431019900096

Open access

Since Foucault introduced the notion of biopolitics, it has been fiercely debated—usually in highly generalized terms—how to interpret and use this concept. This article argues that these discussions need to be situated, as biopolitics have features that do not travel from one site to the next. This becomes apparent if we attend to an aspect of biopolitics that has only received scant attention so far: the knowledge practices required to constitute populations as intelligible objects of government. To illustrate this point, the article focuses on processes of biopolitical bordering: the delineation of the target population that is to be known via statistical practices. Drawing on the example of Estonia I show that methodological decisions involved in this work have important biopolitical implications as they affect the size and composition of the population, thus shaping the design of programmes of government aiming at its regulation. © The Author(s) 2020.

Author Keywords
Biopolitics; governmentality; performativity; politics of method; statistics

Kovács, G.
“I’m all that stands between them and chaos:” A monstrous way of ruling in A Song of Ice and Fire (2020) Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 7 (1), art. no. 70.

DOI: 10.1057/s41599-020-00562-3

Open access

The article explores Tyrion Lannister’s rule in King’s Landing in the second volume of A Song of Ice and Fire books, A Clash of Kings. In the reception of ASOIAF and the TV show Game of Thrones, Tyrion was considered one of the best rulers, and the TV show ended by making him Hand to a king who delegated the greatest part of ruling to him. The analysis is based on Foucault’s notion of monstrosity in power, which is characterized by a monstrous conduct and includes the excess and potential abuse of power. The article argues that monstrosity in his rule reveals deeper layers in Tyrion’s personality, which is initially suggested to be defined by morality. The article also comes to the conclusion that his morality limits the scope of his monstrous methods, which eventually leads to his fall from power. © 2020, The Author(s).

Sandset, T.
The ethical and epistemological pitfalls of translating phylogenetic HIV testing: from patient-centered care to surveillance (2020) Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 7 (1), art. no. 19.

DOI: 10.1057/s41599-020-0522-4

In both HIV science and public health policy, efforts to end the HIV epidemic are increasingly focusing on molecular HIV surveillance as a helpful tool for identifying, intervening in and controlling the disease. HIV surveillance is meant to identify clusters of genetically similar viral strains in near real-time in communities and areas where transmissions occur, and then to intervene by means of enhanced public health approaches. This article critically engages with how molecular HIV surveillance—a practice and technology portrayed as a benign public health intervention—empties and purifies many of the social and political contexts of HIV transmissions. McClelland et al. (Crit Public Health 1–7, 2019) see the rise of molecular HIV surveillance as a form of “repurposing” of clinical phylogenetic testing done in the context of HIV care. In this article, I argue that this so-called repurposing can be understood as a form of “translation”. Looking at how phylogenetic HIV testing has been translated from clinical, patient-centered use to a form of molecular HIV surveillance, I seek to map some of the potential ethical and epistemological pitfalls of such a translational process. More specifically, I look at the unintended consequences of translating a particular evidence-based practice—phylogenetic HIV testing—from one usage to another. To this end, I engage with Michel Foucault and his work on the biopower of medicine, exploring how such power disciplines subjects into undergoing a form of medical surveillance that influences norms and behaviors. Ultimately, I argue that the translation of phylogenetic testing from patient-centered care in the clinic to a form of epidemiological surveillance needs to be critically examined in order to avoid ethical and potentially detrimental consequences for HIV-affected communities. © 2020, The Author(s).

Krasni, J.
How to hijack a discourse? Reflections on the concepts of post-truth and fake news (2020) Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 7 (1), art. no. 32.

DOI: 10.1057/s41599-020-0527-z

The aim of this paper is threefold: to perform a (meta)discursive archaeology of the concepts post-truth and fake news, to critically reflect on the change in the application of these concepts between the various domains of discourse such as public intellectual field or academic research and mainstream media, and finally to show how the concept of post-truth is now used against the very intellectual milieu it originates from. Whereas the first objective deals with the historical reconceptualization process, the second shows—drawing on the case of social networks—how the concept of fake news infects topics of public relevance, while the third demonstrates how ubiquitous the critique of the left and postmodern intellectual tradition is. This paper combines Foucault’s and Agamben’s approaches to reconstruct the changes and evolution of the concept and the knowledge that defines it. It considers various sources in which this discourse exists regardless of their ideological background—from intellectual discussions on its formation and critiques of the phenomenon it stands for, to journalistic materials which constitute the body of post-truth and fake news discourse today.

Antonelli, V., Bigoni, M., Cafaro, E.M., D’Alessio, R.
Railway systems and the ‘Universal Good of the State’: Technologies of government in the nineteenth-century Papal State (2020) Accounting History, 25 (3), pp. 375-402.

DOI: 10.1177/1032373219862615

Informed by Foucault’s concept of governmentality, the article focuses on the nineteenth-century General Commissariat for the Railroad Industry in the Papal State. Unlike in liberal States, where government intervention in the affairs of railway companies was limited, the pressing need to reinforce the Pope’s pastoral power, strengthen the bond between the believers and the Holy See and ensure equity and the efficiency of the new infrastructure meant that the Commissariat acted as a governmental centre of calculation. Accounting technologies in the form of budgets, cost accounting systems and penetrating audits enabled the government to intervene in the operations of private railway companies. The study analyses the role of accounting and auditing practices in the pursuit of non-liberal goals in an industry which is traditionally perceived as critical to the development of a liberal economy, and when accounting was traditionally used to maintain investors’ confidence in the capitalist system. © The Author(s) 2019.

Author Keywords
calculative devices; centre of calculation; governmentality; nineteenth century; Papal State; railroad industry

Druedahl, L.C., Kälvemark Sporrong, S.
More than meets the eye: A Foucauldian perspective on treating ADHD with medicine (2020) Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, 16 (9), pp. 1201-1207.

DOI: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2019.12.008

Background: Decision-making for using medicine treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is complex. Objective: The aim of this study is to investigate decision-making about ADHD medicine and its use among young adults with ADHD by exploring and analysing their beliefs, experiences and behaviours from a Foucauldian perspective.

Methods: Participants were recruited using convenience sampling. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with 7 participants, and 4 participated in a focus group; 1 took part in both. The interviewees were aged 22–29. Data were collected in Denmark from March to August 2016.

Results: Deductive analysis identified the sociological, bio-psychosocial and biomedical discourses as falsified, present and dominant, respectively. In a Foucauldian perspective, ADHD medicine use seems to be a disciplinary act intended to make the individual change his/her ‘undesirable’ ADHD behaviour. Interviewees’ descriptions show power as operating internally in the form of self-monitoring in an attempt at normalisation, as well as externally through society’s subjectification of them as young adults with ADHD. Although resistance towards using medicine as ADHD treatment existed, it was sparse.

Conclusions: The findings show that what may appear to be the choice of an individual on the surface can also be seen as a complex interaction of networks of power. Further, that medicine adherence also can appear to be disciplinary. Pharmacists can use these findings to improve how advice-giving about ADHD medicine may be perceived by young adults with ADHD. © 2019 Elsevier Inc.

Author Keywords
ADHD; Adherence; Decision-making; Foucault; Medicine; Qualitative

Daniel Verginelli Galantin, A dimensão literária do diagnóstico do presente em Foucault, Trans/Form/Ação: Revista de Filosofia, v43, n.3 (2020)

DOI: 10.1590/0101-3173.2020.v43n3.05.p71

Open access
Neste artigo propomos uma investigação sobre a definição foucaultiana do papel da filosofia enquanto a construção de um diagnóstico do presente. Sustentamos que o pensamento de Foucault em torno à figura do diagnóstico incorpora algumas de suas considerações sobre a linguagem e literatura modernas. Destacamos essa apropriação notadamente os partir dos temas do apagamento do rosto, a relação entre linguagem e morte, e seu artigo sobre Georges Bataille. Para sustentar essa hipótese de leitura, elencamos uma série de encadeamentos e deslocamentos de ideias em textos de diferentes momentos de Foucault, o que sugere a existência de uma dimensão literária do diagnóstico. Terminamos apresentando algumas repercussões ético-políticas de todas essas considerações em alguns de seus textos derradeiros, de modo a sugerir que sua relação com o pensamento literário é profunda, podendo ser encontrada em suas considerações sobre história e sobre o funcionamento de seus próprio livros enquanto livros-experiência.

Palavras-chave: Foucault, Diagnóstico, Literatura, Experiência, Bataille

Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, Foucault against Neoliberalism?, Translated by Matthew Maclellan, Rowman & Littlefield, 2020

Use the discount code RLINEW20 to receive a 30% discount

In the late 1970s, Michel Foucault dedicated a number of controversial lectures on the subject of neoliberalism. Had Foucault been seduced by neoliberalism? Did France’s premier leftist intellectual, near the end of his career, turn to the right? In this book, Geoffroy de Lagasnerie argues that far from abandoning the left, Foucault’s analysis of neoliberalism was a means of probing the limits and lacunae of traditional political philosophy, social contract theory, Marxism, and psychoanalysis. For Lagasnerie, Foucault’s analysis was an attempt to discover neoliberalism’s singularity, understand its appeal, and unearth its emancipatory potential in order to construct a new art of rebelliousness. By reading Foucault’s lectures on neoliberalism as a means of developing new practices of emancipation, Lagasnerie offers an original and compelling account of Michel Foucault’s most controversial work.

Geoffroy de Lagasnerie is Professor of Sociology and Philosophy at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy in Paris, France.

Matthew MacLellan is an Adjunct Professor of Political Studies, Cultural Studies, and Philosophy at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Johnson, P.
Critique as ideology critique in a neoliberal age
(2020) Philosophy and Social Criticism, 46 (7), pp. 810-828.

DOI: 10.1177/0191453719860229

Neo-liberalism is not working but carries on regardless. A society and all of its institutions modelled on market logics and imperatives has produced system crisis and has lost widespread popular support. To account for neo-liberalism’s continuing grip, we must submit this project to ideology critique. Max Horkheimer offers some relevant insights into what this requires. Ideology critique needs to come up with a competing measure of progress, it has to demonstrate why this ought to be the standard and it needs to expose the means by which this alternative is blocked. This article suggests that the normativity that underpins a social democratic project is best placed to prosecute these key tasks in a neo-liberal and historicizing age. It draws upon two major accounts of the ideological battlefield that has been staked out between neo-liberal and social democratic projects, looking to Wolfgang Streeck and Michel Foucault to identify the cultural resources that are available to, and the blocking strategies that have to be negotiated by, ideology critique in neo-liberal times. Finally it, turns to György Markus’s fine-grained and critical reading of the tasks of ideology critique outlined by Karl Marx. This section puts ideology critique into dialogue with a social democratic normativity in order to better consider the traction of ideology critique in a neo-liberal age. © The Author(s) 2019.

Author Keywords
Foucault; ideology critique; Markus; neo-liberalism; Streeck

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