Foucault News

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

David Beer, The Data Gaze. Capitalism, Power and Perception, Sage, 2018

A significant new way of understanding contemporary capitalism is to understand the intensification and spread of data analytics. This text is about the powerful promises and visions that have led to the expansion of data analytics and data-led forms of social ordering.

It is centrally concerned with examining the types of knowledge associated with data analytics and shows that how these analytics are envisioned is central to the emergence and prominence of data at various scales of social life. This text aims to understand the powerful role of the data analytics industry and how this industry facilitates the spread and intensification of data-led processes. As such, The Data Gaze is concerned with understanding how data-led, data-driven and data-reliant forms of capitalism pervade organisational and everyday life.

Using a clear theoretical approach derived from Foucault and critical data studies the text develops the concept of the data gaze and shows how powerful and persuasive it is. It’s an essential and subversive guide to data analytics and data capitalism.

Reid, D. (2019). Culture as Imperial Synapse: Pre- and Post-Foucauldian Approaches to Culture in British Imperial Historiography. Le Foucaldien, 5(1), 4. DOI:

The study of British imperial culture is heavily attributed to the field of “new imperial history” that became defined in the 1990s, yet theories of imperial cultures date back to at least the 1950s. Furthermore, a recent cadre of new imperial historians has broken away from what might be called “new imperial history proper” to suggest a revised theory of imperial culture. This paper compares the theoretical influences and the methodologies of these three approaches, which I have termed the materialist approach, the discursive approach, and the localized approach, in order to show how pre-Foucauldian and post-Foucauldian imperial histories are not so diametrically opposed between materialism and culturalism as is commonly perceived. Instead, this paper argues that these three approaches all adopt a theory of imperial culture, each different and yet each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Keywords: new imperial history , british imperial historiography , imperial culture , british empire

Special issue: The Politics of Life, European Journal of Social Theory, Volume 22 Issue 3, August 2019


Guest editors: Greg Bird and Heather Lynch

Special issue introduction

Introduction to the politics of life: A biopolitical mess 301
Greg Bird and Heather Lynch

Special issue articles

Postdemocracy and biopolitics
Roberto Esposito

Me, my self, and the multitude: Microbiopolitics of the human microbiome
Penelope Ironstone

Geopower: On the states of nature of late capitalism
Federico Luisetti

Esposito’s affirmative biopolitics in multispecies homes
Heather Lynch

The eroticization of biopower: Masochistic relationality and resistance
in Deleuze and Agamben
Hannah Richter

Religion and the spontaneous order of the market: Law, freedom, and power
over lives
Elettra Stimilli

From homo sacer to homo dolorosus: Biopower and the politics of suffering 416
Charles Wells

Vatter, M.
“Only a God Can Resist a God.” Political Theology between Polytheism and Gnosticism
(2019) Political Theology, 20 (6), pp. 472-497.

DOI: 10.1080/1462317X.2019.1618597

Sovereignty – based on a claim to irresistible authority – and “speaking truth to power” (or parrhesia) are evidently opposed and yet they seem to have a strange affinity with one another, at least if one follows Foucault’s last lectures on this motif of political philosophy. This article revisits Hans Blumenberg’s reconstruction of the meeting between the German poet Goethe and the French emperor Napoleon as an example of a parrhesiastic encounter between philosophy and tyranny. The article situates Blumenberg’s discussion of Goethe’s pantheism and polytheism in the context of his ongoing polemic with Schmitt’s conceptions of sovereignty and political theology. It argues that while both Blumenberg and Schmitt seek to offer responses to the Gnostic rejection of worldly power, a reading of Goethe in light of the discourse on parrhesia or frank speech lately revived by Foucault allows for the articulation of republican response to Gnosticism. © 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Blumenberg; Foucault; Gnosticism; Goethe; parrhesia; polytheism; Schmitt

Maher, R., Valenzuela, F., Böhm, S.
The Enduring State: An analysis of governance-making in three mining conflicts
(2019) Organization Studies, 40 (8), pp. 1169-1191.

DOI: 10.1177/0170840619847724

This article investigates the profound ambiguity of the state in the organization of contemporary business–society relations. On the one hand, there has been a decisive shift from government to governance, encouraging private actors, such as corporations, communities and NGOs, to address social and environmental concerns themselves, i.e. without the state’s involvement. On the other hand, however, the continued importance and relevance of the organized state is difficult to ignore. In this article we examine the role of the state in three cases of mining conflicts in Chile, one of the world’s most important mining countries. Through longitudinal, qualitative research of conflictive mining governance relations between state organizations, large corporations and local communities, we show that the modes of influence conducted by the Chilean state oscillate between direct, central steering (‘cathedral’) and indirect, dispersed vouching (‘bazaar’). Elaborating on Foucault’s concept of governmentality, we offer a hybrid theory of state organization, where the dematerialization of the state’s responsibility is seen not as the norm but rather as a particular mode of governance that sits alongside the underestimated, yet enduring, material involvement of the state. © The Author(s) 2019.

Author Keywords
Chile; extractive industries; governmentality; multistakeholder governance; political CSR; resistance; state

Stimilli, E.
Religion and the spontaneous order of the market: Law, freedom, and power over lives
(2019) European Journal of Social Theory, 22 (3), pp. 399-415.

DOI: 10.1177/1368431018803705

This article focuses on a religious structure that is intrinsic to the contemporary mechanisms that have enabled the global domination of economic power: faith in the market. Following Foucault’s transition from biopolitics to governmentality, this article articulates the mechanism that generates the ability for human beings to give shape and value to their lives. Through a reading of Schmitt and Hayek, as well as an updated reading of Weber’s thesis on the origin of capitalism, this article argues that we must turn our attention to the Christian motifs that shape our contemporary understanding of the ‘economy’. © The Author(s) 2018.

Author Keywords
biocapital; Christianity; economic theology; governmentality; neoliberalism; political theology

Nancy Luxon, Editor, Archives of Infamy. Foucault on State Power in the Lives of Ordinary Citizens, University of Minnesota Press, 2019.
Translated by Thomas Scott-Railton

Expanding the insights of Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault’s Disorderly Families into policing, public order, (in)justice, and daily life

What might it mean for ordinary people to intervene in the circulation of power between police and the streets, sovereigns and their subjects? How did the police come to understand themselves as responsible for the circulation of people as much as things—and to separate law and justice from the maintenance of a newly emergent civil order? These are among the many questions addressed in the interpretive essays in Archives of Infamy.

Crisscrossing the Atlantic to bring together unpublished radio broadcasts, book reviews, and essays by historians, geographers, and political theorists, Archives of Infamy provides historical and archival contexts to the recent translation of Disorderly Families by Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault. This volume includes new translations of key texts, including a radio address Foucault gave in 1983 that explains the writing process for Disorderly Families; two essays by Foucault not readily available in English; and a previously untranslated essay by Farge that describes how historians have appropriated Foucault.

André Béjin, Centre national de recherche scientifique; Roger Chartier, Collège de France; Stuart Elden, U of Warwick; Arlette Farge, Centre national de recherche scientifique; Michel Foucault (1926–1984); Jean-Philippe Guinle, Catholic Institute of Paris; Michel Heurteaux; Lynne Huffer, Emory University; Pierre Nora, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales; Michelle Perrot; Michel Rey (1953–1993); Elizabeth Wingrove, U of Michigan.

Nancy Luxon is associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. She is author of Crisis of Authority: Politics, Trust, and Truth-Telling in Freud and Foucault and editor of Disorderly Families (Minnesota, 2016).

Thomas Scott-Railton is a freelance French–English translator. He translated Disorderly Families by Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault (Minnesota, 2016).

Gordon Hull, Lessons from Agre on Privacy as Capture (Part 2): Can Foucault Get Past Panopticism?, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 5 August 2019

A couple of weeks ago, I noted my newly discovered appreciation for Philip Agre’s “Surveillance and Capture” and outlined why I think his development of capture (and retreat from surveillance) is particularly applicable to the privacy concerns surrounding big data.  Here, I’d like to suggest that Agre’s distinction is also helpful in understanding a frequently remarked limitation in Foucault.  The limitation is this: a Foucauldian model of disciplinary power treats Bentham’s panopticon as its ideal image.  That image, and the model it subtends, has come under sustained critique over the last twenty years in a scholarship inspired by Deleuze.  Let me start with a review before getting to what capture can tell us about Foucault and surveillance.

[…] Read more

Weili Zhao (2019) China’s making and governing of educational subjects as ‘talent’: A dialogue with Michel Foucault, Educational Philosophy and Theory

DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2019.1646640

As an imprint of Confucian culture, China’s education intersects state governance in making and governing educational subjects as ‘talent’, an official translation of the Chinese term ‘rencai’ (literally, human-talent). Whereas the English word ‘talent’ itself denotes ‘[people with] natural aptitude or skill’, ‘talent’ is currently mobilized in China not only as a globalized discourse that speaks to the most aspired educational subjects for the 21st century but also as a re-invoked cultural notion that relates to Confucian wisdom. Drawing upon Foucault’s biopower hypothesis and Confucian thought, this paper leverages upon China’s unique manipulation of ‘talent’ as certain skills and human subjects, both cultivable through education, to problematize China’s talent making and governing in two dimensions. First, it unpacks the various technologies of power entangled in China’s talent making and governing within its ‘state governance’ paradigm. Second, it unpacks Confucian thought as an archaeological prototype for China’s present talent appeal, meanwhile explicating their divergences in defining ‘human’, ‘talent’, and the human-talent interpellation. In so doing, this paper makes two arguments. First, the linguistic notion of ‘talent’ functions as a Foucauldian apparatus of biopower, making (up) new kinds of people and normalizing a certain population as the objective/object of China’s state governance. Second, CPC’s re-invocation of Confucian talent discourses is more of a rhetorical strategy than an authentic cultural renaissance gesture.

Keywords: Educational subjects, talent making and governing, biopower, state governance, technologies of power, Confucian wisdom

Niesche R., Gowlett C. (2019) Social, Critical and Political Theories for Educational Leadership. Series: Educational Leadership Theory. Springer, Singapore

This book makes the case for the continued and expanded use of social, critical and political theories in the field of educational leadership. It helps readers understand educational leadership by introducing them to a wide variety of theoretical and philosophical approaches and positions. The book incorporates a rich blend of ideas and concepts, and compares and contrasts the approaches discussed.

Table of contents (7 chapters)

Why Use Social, Critical and Political Theories in Educational Leadership?

Critical Perspectives in Educational Leadership: A New ‘Theory Turn’?

Michel Foucault and Discourses of Educational Leadership

Using Judith Butler to Queer(y) Educational Leadership

Bernard Stiegler: Technics and Educational Leadership as a Form of Psycho-Power

Entangling Karen Barad with/in Educational Leadership

The Inescapable Connection Between Theory and Practice

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